GM Food Crops (Part 1)

Following are some views on GM food crops. What do you think and why?

“The Overall impact on pesticide use of just the GM crops currently available has been enormous. Reductions in pesticide use from just 8 GM crops in the US have been calculated at more than 21 million kg in the year 2001 alone. GM crops also increased yields by about 1 billion kg, saved more than $1billion in production costs, and reduced the use of tillage in agriculture. Virus-resistant papaya cultivars have saved the papaya industry on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii.

China has benefited more from agricultural biotech than any other country in the world, solely due to reduced insecticide use in Bt cotton.”

Rich Roush, September 2004

“Genetically modified food varieties by themselves are equally unlikely to solve the world’s food problems. In addition, virtually all GM crop production at present is of just four crops (soy-beans, corn, canola, and cotton) not eaten directly by humans but used for animal fodder, oil, or clothing, and grown in six temperate-zone countries or regions. Reasons are the strong consumer resistance to eating GM foods and the fact that companies developing GM crops can make money by selling their products to rich farmers in mostly affluent temperate-zone countries, but not by selling to poor farmers in developing tropical countries. Hence the companies have no interest in investing heavily to develop GM cassava, millet, or sorghum for farmers in developing nations.”

Jared Diamond, 6th January 2005 in

“GM crops at their heart are about corporate profits and this is the main objection that NGO organization have with them. They do not want people tied to corporations for their basic food. Witness the farmers in the US that are being prosecuted for saving seed. Also the results of cross-breeding with non-GM crops has not been fully tested and it is almost impossible to predict all the implications. Finally there is no way to stop bees from pollinating non-GM crops with GM crops’ pollen or stop birds eating GM seed and dropping it elsewhere. There have been cases of farmers being prosecuted for illegally growing patented crops that have drifted in from GM crops on the next farm.”

Ender, 27th May 2005 this blog

“GM crops may lead to corporate profits but then so do cardiovascular solutions, greenhouse management strategies,war and so on. What really needs to be said about GM crops is that they have become the sacraficial lamb for a raft of disgruntled, discontented minorities around the western world. It might be globalisation, green politics or organic farming that these people are so passionate about but their line in the sand as it were has become GM crops. Yet scientific discoveries (like the unravelling of DNA) will continue to forge new ways mankind to live smarter, healthier and more comfortable lives. And this is where leaders must recognise, pandering to a form of populism that fosters a distrust of expertise in technical issues is tantamount to leading or relying on ignorance.”

Chris Kelly, 30th May 2005 this blog

“GM food crops could be good, but they could also be bad. I’m torn. In a way I find it sad that we would need to come up with genetically modified crops to solve hunger issues around the world, I also think its good that science can solve difficult problems. I see GM foods as a high tech offering. As a means to solve problems, I wonder if there could be “better” solutions than GM foods to hunger issues, such as better land management, better understanding of climate, reduced social strife and better living standards in poorer countries. I put “better” in inverted commas because I know it is a subjective word, and can appreciate that other people will have a different idea of “better” to me.

I think that companies that push GM are doing so primarily for profit rather than helping to reduce hunger, which makes me skeptical of the benefits as companies report them (which isn’t to say that GM foods couldn’t reduce hunger). I don’t like the term ‘franken foods’ and find I have to filter through much of what I read in the papers on this issue because it is too polarised and emotional. I am similarly sceptical of many environment group claims on the issue. I don’t have a strong POSITION on this issue.”

Steve, 31st May 2005, this blog

“I have no ethical problems with GM foods. I suspect that both their present advantages and health risks have been massively overhyped.”

Ken Miles, 5th June 2005, this blog

What do you think?

6 Responses to GM Food Crops (Part 1)

  1. Stephen Dawson June 8, 2005 at 7:31 pm #

    In 1903 the first heavier-than-air machine achieved flight. A decade later aircraft were still custom-built, dangerous and had hardly any load-carrying capability. Now for five per cent of the average Australian income one can fly to London and back, being fed hot food and watching in-flight movies.

    It would be a very brave, or silly, person who insists that GM techniques should be stopped because of some inchoate fear. GM will happen. It will yield unimagined new products and possibilities. If preserving land or other resources are signalled through the market to be high priorities, GM will help hugely. Not this year, maybe not in the next decade, but eventually for certain.

    And, yes, GM food will happen. It may even become widespread. Other GM techniques and products will be developed. Because there is no way to stop it. Pandora’s box has been opened and its contents cannot be stuffed back inside. GM techniques will just get cheaper. And if one country, or a dozen, bans it, then it will just happen elsewhere.

  2. Graham Finlayson June 8, 2005 at 10:06 pm #

    I’m having an interesting week in relation to this subject. Firstly my initial visit from an inspector to start me on the road to “organic” accreditation, followed by two days away from home to do a ‘compulsory’ Chemcert course.Ironic that during the same week as my ‘passion’ for a healthier future for my land and family begins I am practically railroaded into doing a course that is all about absolving chemical companies of what little responsibility they have left.I received a large manual with information on all sorts of pesticides etc., many of which have been banned and had labelling changes detailing how they were great chemicals in their time but have since been proven a ‘tad’ more dangerous then first thought. The consequences of these mistakes have been massive and are world wide and indesputable. To say that GM is the answer to the problem because it uses less of something that is evil is wrong. It may be better but it is still wrong. We need an answer to food production that is long term regenerative and not just short term economically sustainable. If there are significant problems with GM in the future then it will be uncontainable and too late, unless of course a big Chem company comes out with an even more toxic ‘cure’. I may be ignorant Chris but I don’t mind erring on the side of caution with this much at stake….

  3. rog June 10, 2005 at 6:31 pm #

    Good on you Graham, its not easy going organic (I am a member of NASAA )

    The rewards are there.

    At the last national organic jamboree at Adelaide science was continually thwarted by politics – some were openly hostile to any scientific view that was contrary to their own ‘creed’. This was a setback – organic food is inherently a quality product – and the debate became contaminated with bias and prejudice.

    The organic movement could do themselves a real big favour by being a tad more positive, people get fed up with negative scare campaigns.

    The product is a quality product, leave the conspiracy theories in the compost heap and concentrate on the inherent values.

    BTW we have been buying only organic products for years, meat fish vegs whatever, toothpaste you name it and find it MOST cost effective.

  4. Graham Finlayson June 10, 2005 at 10:37 pm #

    I suggest to Stephen Dawson and any other pro GM devotee to try a little more reading….
    The book by Holly Dressel & David Suzuki called “Naked Ape to Superspecies” will maybe give you a more realistic perspective. The fact that he is a passionate genetic scientist, and has been for over twenty five years should be ringing all sorts of alarm bells. Of course there are many significant reasons why this should be happening but the political will is weak when confronted with the lucrative contracts and royalties to be garnered from big business.
    “The point is not that science is ‘bad’ – the charge that is too often made by the green movement and by journalists in the popular media -, but that there can be ‘bad’ science that ill serves humanity.”
    Mae Wan Ho, Geneticist.
    Jennifer, Have you read much of David Suzukis’ work?.
    “For those who care for the long term flourishing of genetics, it is as vital to raise questions and anticipate problems as it is to proclaim the potential benefits”
    He certainly has some strong views on the subject and does not shirk having a ‘go’ at the establishment.

  5. Aaron Edmonds June 20, 2005 at 8:14 pm #

    If oil over US$60/barrel does not inspire that of a sinking feeling in the organic movement, then nothing will. For the one thing that expensive oil will spawn an ever declining ability for consumers to pay for those things in life that are not able to be realistically classified as needs. We are seeing a ‘devolution’ of a needs based consumer system where expensive energy eats away the buying power of everyone on the planet. Organic food is already expensive and I would also argue its global marketing focus makes a mockery of the true principles of organic food production. I always find it funny when people try to tell me growing food plants that are not native to a country organically constitutes a sustainable food system. The problem with the world is there are far too many people who do not understand food production from an energy consumption perspective. Energy invested to energy returned. I know of only one truly sustainable food crops in the Australian perspective and that is the Australian sandalwood, whose system is legume based, perennial in nature and able to produce oil (energy) and protein rich nuts in agriculturally significant quantities. It is a shame it takes a 31 year old Australian farmer to be able to see the very real threat expensive and inflating energy prices have on global food security and even in affluent countries.

    The global food market currently consumes hand to mouth. That is foods are bought in bulk as they are needed to keep the costs of storage back with the producer. A significant rally in global oil prices will have at some time in the future a shocking effect within those countries whose food security comes from imports. At this point futures markets will rally and rally hard. Farmers abilities to produce globally are already being reduce by expensive inputs derived from fossil fuels. People say this could be solved by encouraging more organic systems but how do people think the half of the world that then begins to miss out on their daily nutritional needs will react.

    The organics industry, just like Greenpeace, is going to struggle to survive expensive oil! But then again, what would I know? I am just a farmer. Mind you I am backing myself on the sandalwood front! 😉 Good luck to all in their endeavours but do not ignore the threats posed by expesnive energy!

  6. Emerson Ciccarello May 9, 2006 at 1:03 pm #

    I believe that we as humans shouldn’t mess around with mother nature by changing the gentic structure of a plants DNA. Furthermore, by producing the GM crops, we are ruining the environment and by eating them we aren’t doing our body a favour. Being a 15 year old student that attends a private school in SA,i don’t have much say in any sort of politics or matters of national importance, but the truth is that bigger crops can’t way up to the impact this has had on the environment and our body. As means of conclusion i would like to extend my gratitude to you for trying to make a difference (a good one) in Australia, and quite possibly the world.
    Keep fighting for a GM free zone in Australia!!!

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