Two scientific takes — by Devinder Sharma and by Marcia Ishii-Eiteman — on Foresight’s Global Food & Farming Futures characterize it as a taxpayer-funded advertisement for the biotech industry which ignores the science proving GM crops do not increase yield, do increase the use of pesticides causing superweeds and other problems, and destroy farmer independence.
GMO apologists ignore science – again
By Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PANNA
Britain’s Chief Scientist has come out trumpeting the need for genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed the world, and the UK media is falling all over itself with blaring headlines that echo this badly misinformed sentiment (see Guardian, Telegraph coverage).
The source of all the hullabaloo is the UK’s release this week of its mammoth Foresight report, Global Food and Farming Futures. Using the occasion to espouse what seems to be his personal opinion, Sir John Beddington- the Chief Scientist in question, argues that “It is very hard to see how it would be remotely sensible to justify not using new technologies such as GM. Just look at the problems that the world faces: water shortages and salination of existing water supplies, for example. GM crops should be able to deal with that.” “Should?” Is that the best you can do, Sir John?
In reality, after 25 years of research, no drought or salt-tolerant crops have yet been commercially developed, while yield declines, surging herbicide use, resistant superweeds, and a host of environmental-not to mention social-harms have been documented where GE crops have been planted. In contrast, ecologically resilient agroecological farming systems are known to perform well under the stressed conditions increasingly associated with climate change and water scarcity. For a scientist, Beddington does a remarkable job of ignoring the science.
So much hype
In truth, the UK report does not ever claim, as the newspapers and Beddington have, that “genetically modified crops are the key to human survival.” All it actually says is that “New technologies (such as the genetic modification of living organisms and the use of cloned livestock and nanotechnology) should not be excluded a priori on ethical or moral grounds.” But that sort of talk just puts people to sleep; it certainly doesn’t sell papers or keep industry happy.
The BBC at least has shown a bit more journalistic integrity, avoiding the GE hype and keeping to the report’s main message, namely that “the food production system will need to be radically changed, not just to produce more food but to produce it sustainably.” I couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, despite the relevance of its main message, there’s still much that is missing from the report, as Indian journalist and policy analyst Devinder Sharma and UK organizations GM Freeze and the Soil Association explain. When asked by BBC for his opinion of the report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, politely exposed the flaws in the report and concluded:
“We should realize that the insistence on producing more food is one that often has not benefited the small farmers, the poor in the rural areas in developing countries…. The problem with GM crops is that the patents on these crops are [held] by a very small handful of corporations, who will capture a larger proportion of the end dollar of the food that the consumer buys. [This] creates a dependency for small farmers that is very problematic in the long term. It may not be sustainable for small-scale farmers to be hooked up to such technologies…. Investing in small-scale farming rather than investing in large-scale heavily mechanized plantations is really the path we should now radically espouse.”
Too bad the UK fell short of the mark this time. We usually expect greater vision from across the Atlantic.
Read full post at PANNA