No silver bullet, except GM

December 2011

returning home after a day's work
Rice farmers in Africa. Photo by Martapigs on Flickr
The philanthropic and hugely wealthy Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation acknowledges that its goal of providing solutions to global food problems will not be easy: 
“Having enough nutritious food to feed a growing population is a complex challenge; there's no silver bullet”.
Strange, therefore, that the Foundation puts so much of its attention on quick-fix solutions, and so little attention on the key resources which will generate a lasting food supply.

Top of the Gates' list for promotion is GM: a silver bullet by its very nature.

The risks of 'pharm' rice

December 2011

Different types of rice. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Scientists in China have developed GM rice which could be used to produce an important human blood protein in the foreseeable future.

The protein is ‘human serum albumin’ (HSA), a major constituent of blood. It has wide, life-saving, clinical applications in treating, for example, burns and blood loss, and is necessary for the cell cultures used to produce vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

GM toxin everywhere

December 2011

Iowa Crops - Polk County
Corn crop in Iowa
Photo by Cwwycoff1 on Flickr
Back in 2007, a young American scientist dared to discover that certain aquatic insects suffered growth-retardation and increased mortality after eating Bt-insecticide-containing debris from GM crops.

News of environmental damage from biotech crops is a very sensitive issue: the researcher was subject to a barrage of professional criticism from the scientific community quite out of proportion with the limited study she had carried out.

Undaunted, however, Rosi-Marshall has continued her line of investigation, and continues to throw up uncomfortable facts about Bt-toxin in the environment. Her latest published offering concerns just where all the Bt generated by GM maize ends up.

Non-GM is beautiful

December 2011

Photo by Matti Matila on Flickr
In October 2011, an article appeared in the US press which had all the hall-marks of the Monsanto PR pen.

The 'news' is that Monsanto is going to bring us fresh produce like we've never seen before. This it will do by “marrying conventional breeding methods with its vast technological resources to bring about changes in fruit and vegetables” and “relying on a strategy similar to the one it tapped to dominate the world of commodity crops: use technology to speed up the breeding process”. All this success is to be achieved using non-GM methods which the anti-GM movement has been asking for for years and which, surprise, surprise, Monsanto is very capable of.

The GMO emperor has no clothes

December 2011
Illustration from The Emperor's New Clothes
From Wikimedia Commons
Remember the fable of the emperor who was so vain he happily allowed himself to be swindled? He eagerly believed two fraudsters when they told him they could weave a 'truly miraculous' cloth: a cloth which people who were not fit for their office or who were unpardonably stupid couldn't see. The emperor sent his most honoured minister to view the cloth as it was being prepared. Since the minister couldn't see it (not because he wasn't fit for his office, but because there was nothing to see), he cunningly asked the fraudsters to describe it to him so that he could go back to the emperor and not sound stupid. The emperor finally paraded in front of his people in clothes made from non-existent cloth. None of his ministers, nor his subjects, nor himself dared admit they couldn't actually see the miracle, except for one lone, innocent voice.

How many miraculous GM crops has the biotech industry cooked up which unpardonably stupid, irrational, emotional, Luddites can't seem to see? How often have we heard scientists or farmers reciting the words of the biotech industry to tell the ignorant masses (who can't seem to see them) of the wonders of GM? How often do politicians or scientists dare not speak out lest they invite the scorn of their colleagues?

Like that lone voice, who spoke out about what his eyes were seeing, a new 'Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs' has been published. The Report has compiled the experiences of major food and conservation groups (representing millions of people) from all over the world, and has laid bare the illusion of the miraculous GM cloth.

Spin glorious spin

December 2011

Newspaper colour
Photo by NS Newsflash on Flickr

Reporting on GM safety by the media “is often unreliable and unrepresentative of the available scientific evidence” (see GM SAFETY REVIEW: 2011 – October 2011).

By 'unreliable' is meant that, even if the press information comes directly from a Government Research Council, a University, a professor, a body with a respectable-sounding name, and even if you, the tax-payer, funded it, it may still be nothing more than “an elaborate piece of pro-GM propaganda” (GM Free Cymru)

Argentinian doctors report on pesticide effects

December 2011

Cielos y campos de la pampa Argentina 3 / Skies and fields from Argentina's pampa 3
Photo by Claudio. Ar on Flickr
Argentina has moved aggressively down an agricultural path of intensive, agrichemical-dependent, genetically modified monoculture.

In many areas, the main crops are limited to transgenic corn and soya, on which the herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine, and the insecticides cypermethrin, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos, are applied an average of 18 times (sometimes as much as 42 times) between October and March.

Pesticide use has escalated from 35 million litres in 1990 to 300 million litres in 2009, with glyphosate expected to account for 200 million litres in 2010. During aerial spraying, the drift of poisonous substances is uncontrollable and can continue over many hundreds of miles for several days.