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.
The April 23 Washington Post article about the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant Upgrade contains a number of false claims about the nature and safety of Class A sewage sludge/biosolids. Class A contains robust pathogens that have not been killed by the new process and which can regrow in cool and moist climates. It also contains an array of toxic metals and synthetic chemicals that are neither regulated nor monitored, including some that are highly toxic and can harm organisms in very small doses.
Every month, every industry, institution, and business in the Washington DC area is permitted to discharge 33 pounds of hazardous waste into Blue Plains. As these industrial pollutants are removed from the waste water, they concentrate in the resulting biosolids. To compare sludge with toothpaste and claim it is safe to put in your mouth is irresponsible. There is no similarity between pre-industrial night soil and modern sewage sludge. Field studies indicate that sludge pollutants can be absorbed by plants and get into milk of dairy cows that graze on sludged pastures.
There is nothing “forward looking” or “green” about spreading industrial waste on farms or in gardens.