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10 reasons why GM won't feed the world

Von: Old Codger (oldcodger@anyoldwhere.net) [Profil]
Datum: 05.06.2008 08:51
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The Ecologist.

10 reasons why GM won't feed the world
Mark Anslow 01/03/2008

Genetic modification can't deliver a safe, secure future food supply.
Here's why...

1. Failure to deliver

Despite the hype, genetic modification consistently fails to live up
to industry claims. Only two GM traits have ever made it to market:
herbicide resistance and BT toxin expression (see below). Other
promises of genetic modification have failed to materialise. The much
vaunted GM ‘golden rice’ – hailed as a cure to vitamin A
deficiency –
has never made it out of the laboratory, partly because in order to
meet recommended levels of vitamin A intake, consumers would need to
eat 12 bowls of the rice every day.1 In 2004, the Kenyan government
admitted that Monsanto’s GM sweet potatoes were no more resistant to
feathery mottle virus than ordinary strains, and in fact produced
lower yields.2 And in January 2008, news that scientists had modified
a carrot to cure osteoporosis by providing calcium had to be weighed
against the fact that you would need to eat 1.6 kilograms of these
vegetables each day to meet your recommended calcium intake.3

2. Costing the Earth

GM crops are costing farmers and governments more money than they are
making. In 2003, a report by the Soil Association estimated the cost
to the US economy of GM crops at around $12 billion (£6 billion) since
1999, on account of inflated farm subsidies, loss of export orders and
various seed recalls.4 A study in Iowa found that GM soyabeans
required all the same costs as conventional farming but, because they
produced lower yields (see below), the farmers ended up making no
profit at all.5 In India, an independent study found that BT cotton
crops were costing farmers 10 per cent more than non-BT variants and
bringing in 40 per cent lower profits.6 Between 2001 and 2005, more
than 32,000 Indian farmers committed suicide, most as a result of
mounting debts caused by inadequate crops.7

3. Contamination and gene escape

No matter how hard you try, you can never be sure that what you are
eating is GM-free. In a recent article, the New Scientist admitted
that contamination and cross-fertilisation between GM and non-GM crops
‘has happened on many occasions already’.8 In late 2007, US company
Scotts Miracle-Gro was fined $500,000 by the US Department of
Agriculture when genetic material from a new golf-course grass Scotts
had been testing was found in native grasses as far as 13 miles away
from the test sites, apparently released when freshly cut grass was
caught and blown by the wind.9 In 2006, an analysis of 40 Spanish
conventional and organic farms found that eight were contaminated with
GM corn varieties, including one farmer whose crop contained 12.6 per
cent GM plants.

4. Reliance on pesticides

Far from reducing dependency on pesticides and fertilisers, GM crops
frequently increase farmers’ reliance on these products.
Herbicide-resistant crops can be sprayed indiscriminately with
weedkillers such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ because they are
to withstand the effect of the chemical. This means that significantly
higher levels of herbicide are found in the final food product,
however, and often a second herbicide is used in the late stages of
the crop to promote ‘dessication’ or drying, meaning these crops
receive a double dose of harmful chemicals.10 BT maize, engineered to
produce an insecticidal toxin, has never eliminated the use of
pesticides,11 and because the BT gene cannot be ‘switched off’ the
crops continue to produce the toxin right up until harvest, reaching
the consumer at its highest possible concentrations.12

5. ‘Frankenfoods’

Despite the best efforts of the biotech industry, consumers remain
staunchly opposed to GM food. In 2007, the vast majority of 11,700
responses to the Government’s consultation on whether contamination of
organic food with traces of GM crops should be allowed were strongly
negative. The Government’s own ‘GM Nation’ debate in 2003
that half of its participants ‘never want to see GM crops grown in the
United Kingdom under any circumstances’, and 96 per cent thought that
society knew too little about the health impacts of genetic
modification. In India, farmers’ experience of BT cotton has been so
disastrous that the Maharashtra government now advises that farmers
grow soybeans instead. And in Australia, over 250 food companies
lodged appeals with the state governments of New South Wales and
Victoria over the lifting of bans against growing GM canola crops.13

6. Breeding resistance

Nature is smart, and there are already reports of species resistant to
GM crops emerging. This is seen in the emergence of new ‘superweeds’
on farms in North America – plants that have evolved the ability to
withstand the industry’s chemicals. A report by then UK conservation
body English Nature (now Natural England), in 2002, revealed that
oilseed rape plants that had developed resistance to three or more
herbicides were ‘not uncommon’ in Canada.14 The superweeds had been
created through random crosses between neighbouring GM crops. In order
to tackle these superweeds, Canadian farmers were forced to resort to
even stronger, more toxic herbicides.15 Similarly, pests (notably the
diamondback moth) have been quick to develop resistance to BT toxin,
and in 2007 swarms of mealy bugs began attacking supposedly
pest-resistant Indian cotton.

7. Creating problems for solutions

Many of the so-called ‘problems’ for which the biotechnology industry
develops ‘solutions’ seem to be notions of PR rather than science.
Herbicide-resistance was sold under the claim that because crops could
be doused in chemicals, there would be much less need to weed
mechanically or plough the soil, keeping more carbon and nitrates
under the surface. But a new long-term study by the US Agricultural
Research Service has shown that organic farming, even with ploughing,
stores more carbon than the GM crops save.16 BT cotton was claimed to
increase resistance to pests, but farmers in East Africa discovered
that by planting a local weed amid their corn crop, they could lure
pests to lay their eggs on the weed and not the crop.17

8. Health risks

The results of tests on animals exposed to GM crops give serious cause
for concern over their safety. In 1998, Scottish scientists found
damage to every single internal organ in rats fed blightresistant GM
potatoes. In a 2006 experiment, female rats fed on herbicide-resistant
soybeans gave birth to severely stunted pups, of which half died
within three weeks. The survivors were sterile. In the same year,
Indian news agencies reported that thousands of sheep allowed to graze
on BT cotton crop residues had died suddenly. Further cases of
livestock deaths followed in 2007. There have also been reports of
allergy-like symptoms among Indian labourers in BT cotton fields. In
2002, the only trial ever to involve human beings appeared to show
that altered genetic material from GM soybeans not only survives in
the human gut, but may even pass its genetic material to bacteria
within the digestive system.18

9. Left hungry

GM crops have always come with promises of increased yields for
farmers, but this has rarely been the case. A three-year study of 87
villages in India found that non-BT cotton consistently produced 30
per cent higher yields than the (more expensive) GM alternative.19 It
is now widely accepted that GM soybeans produce consistently lower
yields than conventional varieties. In 1992, Monsanto’s own trials
showed that the company’s Roundup Ready soybeans yield 11.5 per cent
less on harvest. Later Monsanto studies went on to reveal that some
trials of GM canola crops in Australia actually produced yields 16 per
cent below the non-GM national average.20

10. Wedded to fertilisers and fossil fuels

No genetically modified crop has yet eliminated the need for chemical
fertilisers in order to achieve expected yields. Although the industry
has made much of the possibility of splicing nitrogen-fixing genes
into commercial food crops in order to boost yields, there has so far
been little success. This means that GM crops are just as dependent on
fossil fuels to make fertilisers as conventional agriculture. In
addition to this, GM traits are often specifically designed to fit
with large-scale industrial agriculture. Herbicide resistance is of no
real benefit unless your farm is too vast to weed mechanically, and it
presumes that the farmers already farm in a way that involves the
chemical spraying of their crops. Similarly, BT toxin expression is
designed to counteract the problem of pest control in vast
monocultures, which encourage infestations. In a world that will soon
have to change its view of farming – facing as it does the twin
challenges of climate change and peak oil – GM crops will soon come to
look like a relic of bygone practices.

Mark Anslow is the Ecologist’s senior reporter


1 http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid…21

2 http://www.greens.org/s-r/35/35-03.html

3 Telegraph, 14th January 2008, http://tinyurl.com/38e2rp

4 Soil Association, 2007, http://tinyurl.com/33bfuh

5 http://ianrnews.unl.edu/static/0005161.shtml

6 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/IBTCF.php

7 Indian Muslims, 20th November 2007, http://tinyurl.com/2u7wy7

8 New Scientist, ‘Genes for Greens’, 5th January 2007, Issue 2637, Vol


10 http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id™27

11 http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpWESSEX/Documents/usdagmeconomics.htm

12 http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id™27

13 http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/27/18463803.php

14 http://www.english-nature.org.uk/pubs/publication/PDF/enrr443.pdf

15 Innovations Report, 20th June 2005, http://tinyurl.com/3axmln

16 http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid†58

17 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMcropsfailed.php

18 All references from ‘GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory
Sham’, Mae-Wan Ho, Joe Cummins, Peter Saunders, ISIS report.

19 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/IBTCF.php

20 http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid…58


Nicole Payne- 02/04/2008 07:50:08
Thankyou for Article. It is imperitve that the public be informed of
such facts and issues. My husband and I are farmers in S.A. wheatbelt
and we never want to see them grown not only here but also World wide.
What nature intended for us is being manipulated by Monsanto and many
others. Perhaps they want sterility in human beings as we are now
(according to "THE PLANT" doco on SBS the other night) over populated
for the earth to keep up with our impacts we are causing. Keep up the
wonderful work. ..

surya- 18/04/2008 12:58:19
Both the articles-the abovementioned and the one that clearly spells
out how organic farming can feed the world- make compelling reading,
and deserve wide publicity, especially amongst the powers that be.....
hectorg- 21/04/2008 11:09:58
almost all of your sources are from "GM Watch", which doesn't appear
to be working. How do you explain the fact that over 10m farmers in 22
countries chose to plant ver 100m hectares of GM crops last year?...

NANDKISHORESHARMA- 25/04/2008 12:23:21
Great articl. Thankyou.On the name of agriculture we are loosing our
BIODIVERCITY.How one can belive that the food is not contamineted. To
achieve high production we are destring our fertile land.....

Fabian- 25/04/2008 17:41:44
I wonder if you ever considered what GM food actually means. Gene
manipulated food. Which is nothing else than wht nature does folks so
there is no reason to not have it. Second thing there is no statistic
saying that organic food could feed the increasing population of over
6.2 billion people, but there is one which says it can only feed 4
billion people. That suggests every one of you who thinks GM food is
crap, might further on contribute to the suffering of 2 billion
people. Thanks folks for such a commitment......

Prash- 03/05/2008 21:28:07
Excellent article. One of the most coherent and complete arguments
against GMOs that I can find on the web in a single, easily digestible
read. Well referenced too but it's a shame that the excellent
gmwatch.org has been mysteriously attacked. People need to realise one
very important fact: using genetically modified crops does not equal
making scientific progress and people don't resist them purely due to
a fear of technology or out of a respect for a "mother nature" deity
figure. Unfortunately, I see that many intelligent people read anti-GM
pro-organic arguments in this way. When trying to convince someone of
this you should never mention the beneficial effects to plants,
animals or the ecosystem before the effects on humans. The arguments
should always be made, as in this article, on the basis of
practicality and benefit to humans. It just so happens that everything
else benefits too and this is no coincidence......less

Tom Andrews- 23/05/2008 13:05:00
Great article. Thanks..

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