“If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” - Norman Braksick, 1994, president of Asgrow Seed Company (now owned by Monsanto).
Confused about Genetically Modified foods? Collossal promises have been made for GM food and yet, decades after research began, truly world-changing advances have not been achieved. Here are Sheepdrove's top 3 GM Mythbusters!
The myth: GM science will feed the world.
The reality: So far, no commercially-available GM crops have proven higher yield.
"If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world, tell them that it is not…To feed the world takes political and financial will." - Steve Smith, 1998, then the head of GM firm Novartis Seeds UK (now Syngenta UK).
"Yield is rarely what really matters: very few famines in modern history have been caused by an inability to grow enough food; it has always been secondary to wars and economic breakdown, often caused by the west's destruction of subsistence farming." - Colin Tudge.
"We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us." - Delegates from 20 African Countries to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN in response to Monsanto’s PR campaign.
The myth: GM crops are good for the environment.
The reality: Genes, by their nature, get passed on, and the ecological consequences of widespread artifically mixed gene sets are likely to be unpredictable. When studying wild relatives of oilseed rape in Japan, researchers have found 'escaped' genes and proteins associated with herbicide-resistance, developed by manufacturers like Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.
GM crops appear to have increased the overall levels of pesticide applications in the USA, although some reductions have been achieved when the crop was engineered to be toxic to insects (e.g. BT cotton). One of the basic problems is the blindness to the ecological consequences of over-reliance on herbicides to kill off those wild plants which compete with the crop... weeds build up a resistance through natural selection and the chemical doses thrown onto fields by the farmers just get heavier.
A study by Charles Benbrook points out the problems with herbicide-tolerant crops. Here is the report.
The myth: GM crops will improve nutrition for the poor.
The reality: GM technology has not solved any food health challenges. Here is one of the more desperate examples. Researchers at Texas A&M University created a calcium-rich carrot to prevent osteoporosis - unfortunately you need to eat 1.6 kilograms to meet your daily recommended calcium intake.
"The daily requirement for calcium is 1,000 milligrams, and a 100 gram serving of these carrots provides only 60 milligrams, about 42 per cent of which is absorbable," he notes. "A person could not eat enough of them to get the daily requirement solely from these carrots." - Dr Jay Morris, lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"There’s also a big – and in our opinion unwarranted – assumption in some of the coverage. And that’s the simple equation that antioxidants = good. .... that’s not what the science says." - Cancer Research UK (on GM purple tomatoes)
GM myths exploded by GMWatch.