GM Foods To Feed The World? - Maybe Not.
by Ian R Thorpe.
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: science, climate, climate change, food, gm, crop, crops, genetic, modification, co2, agriculture, agribusiness, yield, harvest, water, fertilizern farming, subsistence, seed, plant
It looked a while ago as if we were about to see the start of the GM fight back? The science behind Genetically Modified food crops offering increased yields, greater resistance to drought, disease and excessive rail were thought to be as discredited as the fraudulent case that carbon emissions from human economic activity were solely responsible for climate chaos. The first sign of a Rocky Balboa style comeback by the GM foods lobby came in the form of a over hyped report by the Government’s Foresight Unit which appeared to endorse GM science as an important solution to world hunger. And then a Nobel laureate (ahem - aren't Nobel prizes awarded for skin colour or being 'on message' these days'?) Sir Paul Nurse, the new President of the Royal Society, used part of a BBC Horizon documentary to asking why the British public fails to endorse the majority scientific view that genetic modification is beneficial, useful and necessary.
Sir Paul's attitude is based on the assumption that ordinary punters are so inferior in intelligence to 'scientists' we have no right to question their edicts.
There has been a growing chorus among the chatterati of the left wing academic and media elite over recent years that GM technology is essential if the world is to be fed. If we take the claims for GM technology's advantages at face value this seems to make sense. The world’s population is racing towards 9 billion and as the number of people expands the amount of available arable shrinks. Cities sprawl and soil is eroded away or covered in concrete. The yields from harvests have to be increased.
As usual science pops up and offers a quick fix. We wil modify food plants, they say. Each plant will grow bigger and make more and bigger leaves, fruits, seeds or tubers and what is more we will make the plants more disease resistant and better able to survive drought of flood. Is the technology capable of altering the genetic structure of a plant to make it produce more? you might well ask.
Some people did ask. The world’s biggest ever agricultural study – the work of 400 scientists and 60 governments, headed by Dr Bob Watson, now Chief Scientist at the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture – concluded that GM was not the simple answer to poverty. In truth, it could even do more harm than good.
For a start there is the inconvenient truth that it is far from certain genetic modification does increase yields. As usual the science lobby of the academic elite try to claim the 'science is settled' and there is no point in further discussion of what is proved. As usual they are using the Goebbels / Alinsky tactic of telling a big lie and repeating it so often people believe it is the truth. The Daily Stirrer however recommends when readers see one of these sweeping statements from the science fraternity to ask as Marcus Tullius Cicero did over 2000 years ago, Cui Bono? Who benefits? Take a guess.
The biotech industry may cites evidence to support its claim that Genetic Modification does what it says on the box, but other studies actually show a decrease in yields. One, at the University of Nebraska, for example, revealed that five different GM soyas produced an average of 6.7 per cent less than their closest unmodified relatives, and ten per cent less than the most productive conventional soyas available at the time.
One of the favourite tactics of the Goebbels / Alinsky disciples is to cherry pick data and use only that which supports the case they want to make, destroying the inconvenient data so that their results cannot be verified.
The results of failed experiments in GM suggest two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, in the meantime, better and higher yielding conventional ones are being developed. And second, the fact that GM plants did worse than their nearest unmodified relatives suggests that the very process of modification lessens productivity. Add to that the Cui Bono factor, that the real reason the corporate funded science is so keen to silence the doubters. If the world turns to GM crops, seed will only be available from a few suppliers and these are branches of the same global corporations as own the biotech outfits working on developing GM plants.
Also we must not forget that any plant, GM or not, needs carbon dioxide, mineral nutrients (sodium, potassium, calcium and a host of others) to thrive and that the bulk of any life form is water. Bigger plants need more water (which is in increasingly short supply in many parts of the world.) So while the Warmageddonists are busy sucking CO2 out of the air, companies selling fertilizers and irrigation equipment (mostly subsidiaries of the same global corporations as will control the seed supplies.) stand to gain control of the entire food chain.
Cui Bono indeed.
Of course, it may well be that biotechnology will eventually overcome the technical obstacles to produce genuinely higher yielding crops. But even that will not necessarily answer world hunger. For increasing food production, though sorely needed, does not of itself solve hunger. India now has both a grain surplus, and hundreds of millions of hungry people, because the poor cannot afford to buy the food they need. GM foods are more expensive than conventionally grown ones. The GM zealots don't like to talk about that.
Any realistic hunger-beating strategy has to help poor people earn more – or grow more food for themselves from seed they put aside from the previous crop, for many of the world’s hungry are subsistence farmers and could never hope to be able to pay for commercial seed. GM seeds being more expensive than conventional ones so the technology helps richer farmers instead of the poor its supporters claim it will help. And richer farmers are increasingly agricultural companies owned by the global corporations that control biotech and seed distribution and also own the wholesalers who buy from farms and bring produce to the international markets in large enough quantities to interest the commodities traders.
If the GM scientists were to succeed in increasing yields thus increasing the power of the rich and powerful, the establishment are likely to use their increased economic power to drive the poor off their land, bulldoze the small farms and destroy the countryside. This happened during the Green Revolution, which greatly increased yields but often led to greater hunger. Or some of you might have read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
It is becoming more obvious that GM crops lead to problems with superweeds, and have other environmental drawbacks, while concerns that they may have health effects remain unaddressed by the science lobby, reluctant to investigate perhaps because they know the likely result. As with certain vaccines and with 'green' technologies like wind and solar power there simply have not been enough good, independent studies carried out to show whether they are justified or not.
None of this is necessarily irresolvable, of course. GM crops offer a way of speeding up the selective breeding programmes traditionally used to improve crop performance. Some may be developed and used in ways that will really benefit poor farmers and enable them to grow more food – though biotech companies have so far shown little commitment to making that happen. The health concerns may be shown to be baseless and some, so far unforeseeable, way around the environmental drawbacks may be discovered. But that is a long way from the facile conclusion of the scientific community that people who are not scientists cannot understand science.
The Foresight report was far less gung-ho than the media coverage suggested. GM crops are just one of a number of technologies it endorsed, including the much-traduced organic agriculture. Another technology that proved reliable in increasing yields and presented no undesirable consequences was the use of CO2 enriched air in glasshouse or polytunnel cultivation. Naturally the Warmageddonists will shout down any attempt to have an informed discussion on that one.
Government Chief Scientist Prof Sir John Beddington’s endorsement of modified crops, as the report was published, was far from unqualified. “If there are genetically modified organisms that actually solve problems that we can’t solve in other ways and are shown to be safe from a human health point of view, and safe from an environmental point of view,” he said, “then we should use them”. Few would quarrel with that – but so far, at least, these don’t seem to be available.
Just as the Warmageddonists, lacking coherent arguments to back up their quasi - religious campaign have relied on sneer and smear, ridiculously branding sceptics 'climate deniers' and in the U.S.A. associating healthy scepticism with right wing extremism or the religious fundamentalism of creationism, so they try to prevent rational discussion of the GM issue by claiming sceptics fear children who are fed GM foods will grow two heads or women who eat GM derivatives while pregnant will give birth to hideously deformed babies.
The best answer to such claims is hysterical laughter. Who is being irrational here? The people who ask intelligent questions or the people who become hysterical when the dogmas of their new religion of science are questioned.?
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See also: [ Daily Stirrer, June 2012
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