You may have run across this article “10 Reasons We Don’t Need GM Foods” on the FoodConsumer website. It’s been making its rounds on social media (Facebook and Twitter). I would like to address some of the inaccuracies in this article – point by point:
1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis
Well, surprisingly enough, I agree with this one. Or at least with the statement: GM foods ALONE won’t solve the food crisis. GM foods and genetically engineered (GE) crops aren’t a silver bullet in resolving problems with food security. I refer to Mark Lynas (former Greenpeace activist and author) who said in a recent talk he gave at Cornell University:
“[GE/GM] cannot build better roads or chase away corrupt officials. But surely seeds which deliver higher levels of nutrition, which protect the resulting plant against pests without the need for expensive chemical inputs, and which have greater yield resilience in drought years are least worth a try?” Mark Lynas (April 2013)
Hey, I’d say so. It is important to note that the introduction of GE crops (in particular) has enabled wider adoption of “no-till” farming (see a farmer’s perspective on this). No-till is a system which conserves soil moisture, prevents erosion, dramatically reduces nutrient and pesticide movement to streams and rivers, and reduces fuel use. All good, in my opinion.
Did you know that if we still farmed using the inputs and techniques that we did in the 1950s, we would need 2 billion more hectares available to produce what we produce today?
Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of “superweeds”, according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.
The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.
The report claims that hunger has reached “epic proportions” since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM “traits” have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.
Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens’ Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies’ justification that GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.
In China, where insect-resistant Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of pests that previously posed only minor problems have increased 12-fold since 1997. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology found that any benefits of planting Bt cotton have been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat them.
Additionally, soya growers in Argentina and Brazil have been found to use twice as much herbicide on their GM as they do on conventional crops, and a survey by Navdanya International, in India, showed that pesticide use increased 13-fold since Bt cotton was introduced.
By PAUL VOOSEN of Greenwire
Published: June 7, 2010
The Agriculture Department will approve for broad use tomorrow a genetically modified soybean engineered to contain healthier oils, the opening salvo in a biotech oil fight between DuPont Co. and its rival, Monsanto Co.
The high-oleic soybean, developed by DuPont and pending deregulation since 2006, is one of the first in a wave of bioengineered cash crops that are being altered for nutritional purposes. Currently, nearly all biotech crops grown in the United States have been altered for resistance to weedkiller or insects, traits that are rarely felt by consumers or commercial businesses.
The USDA deregulation is the "final step" in the approval process for Dupont’s soybean, which has already been approved in Canada and Mexico, said Bridget Anderson, a spokeswoman for Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont’s biotech seed business. The crop and its oil will continue commercial testing this year and should be ready for global use by 2012, she added.
The USDA approval is also the first play in a coming oil war between DuPont and Monsanto.
Currently, Monsanto has two varieties of biotech soybeans pending approval with USDA that also seek to modify the nutritional value of soybean oil, promising to eliminate trans fats and produce oil with omega-3 fatty acid — fish oil — for use in yogurt, granola bars and spreads.