GM reality checks

December 2013

Waiting For The Harvest
Soybeans. CC photo by Scott Robinson on Flickr
 2013 may well go down as the year of the GM reality checks. 

Reality Check No.1

GM crops increase the use of toxic chemicals in our food and in our environment. 

In August, the US Department of Agriculture quietly approved the first next-generation GM crop, Bayer's soya which is resistant to 'Balance' herbicide containing 'isoxaflutole' (IFT).   

IFT is classed as a “probable human carcinogen”, and is linked to liver and thyroid tumours and foetal toxicity.  The herbicide is persistent in the environment, including ground-water sources of drinking water. 

Right behind IFT in the GM/pesticide pipeline, a veritable “herbicide Armageddon” with matching GM crops is looming:
  • Dow AgroSciences is awaiting approval of 2,4-D-resistant maize and soya.  This herbicide has been linked to immune-system cancer and adverse reproductive impacts.
  • BASF is preparing an imidazolinone-resistant soya.  One form of this herbicide has been linked to bladder and colon cancer
  • Syngenta has GM soya resistant HPPD inhibitors (related to IFT) which have been linked to toxic effects in the liver.
  • Monsanto has its own GM soya and cotton resistant to Dicamba, a herbicide linked to cancer and developmental toxicity.
If you're really unlucky, you'll find yourself eating these traits stacked with our old friends glyphosate- and glufosinate-resistance, along with a cocktail of all the associated chemicals.  Also, as the grape-growers in Winsconsin have found to their cost, you might get any of these herbicides in any non-GM food grown near a GM field (that is, if your non-GM food has survived the spray-drift).


Reality Check No.2

GM crops are prone to disease and pests. 

A “tidal wave” of Goss's wilt is washing across the Corn Belt of America.  Goss's wilt is a bacterium which enters the plant through wounds caused, for example, by extreme weather.  It can cut yields by a half and in 2013 is expected to affect 10% of the total crops.  The blame is being laid on the biotech industry:
  • its constant focus on high-yields at the expense of the plants' immune-system and physical strength
  • the adoption of Roundup-based no-till farming which leaves the corn-stalks and the bacteria in the soil
  • the reduced crop rotation encouraged by GM-agriculture.
Also spreading through American corn-growing states is root damage from Western corn rootworm.  The corn with the problem  is GM corn with self-generated 'Bt' insecticide designed to kill this very pest. 

Brazil is facing its own plague of pest problems in the form of Helicoverpa (earworm).  This pest especially affects cotton, soya and maize (all dominated by GM varieties) and also sorghum, beans and tomatoes.  In the last season alone, the plague caused losses of 10 billion Brazilian Real.  The root of the problem is the excess use of chemical pesticides and GM 'Bt' insecticidal crops which have eliminated Helicoverpa's major natural enemy. 

COMMENT  Gene technology is clearly fostering a simplistic approach to agriculture which leaves pests and diseases laughing all the way to the banquet. 

Reality Check No.3

Gene pollution is out of control. 

Check out GENE POLLUTION UPDATE 2013 - November 2013 

Reality Check No.4

Forewarned is not forearmed. 

Reality Checks 1, 2 and 3 were predicted before GM even hit the shelves. 

Reality Check No.5

GM food safety testing still isn't happening 

One Scottish “pro-GM believer” a university professor of plant physiology who has been highly vocal throughout the GM crop era, recently asserted that “many hundreds” of GM feeding experiments have demonstrated safety.  His remarks were an attempt to refute the signs of serious harm found in a life-long study of rats fed a GM maize and the Roundup herbicide it accumulates[1].

According to the French food agency (ANSES) only two comparable studies exist.  One of these found health problems, and the other is impossible to evaluate because it's available only in Japanese. 

Reality Check 6

The public (you) are being insulted. 

As our food crops become increasingly polluted, toxic and infested, we're told it's safe.  But, the proof of safety is imaginary. 


It's about time all these Reality Checks were making GM change course.  How about some GM Reality Changes for 2014?


New Genetically Engineered Crop Will Sharply increase Use of Toxic Pesticide, a “Probable Human Carcinogen”, Center for Food Safety, 29.08.13
Tegan Wendland, Wisconsin's booming grape crop at risk from herbicide drift,, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, 8.09.13
GM Bt crop failures hit Brazil and US, Thin Ice, Issue 31, October 2013
Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Bt Resistant Rootworm Spreads, Institute of Science in Society Report 31.10.11
Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Farmers still Suffering from Bt Resistant Rootworm, Institute of Science in Society Report, 16.09.13
Stephanie Strom, A disease cuts corn yields, New York Times, 20.09.13
Leonardo Gottems, Brazil has lost 10 billion Real to Helicoverpa armigera, Agrolink, 18.07.13, and GM Watch 2013 articles
MDA warms farmers on appearance of the Helicoverpa caterpillar in crops, Ministry of Agricultural Development (Brazil), 9.08.13
Arpad Pusztai, Pusztai responds to Trewavas' attack, 7.03.02
Claire Robinson, Addressing claims on GM lab tests, Sunday Herald Letters, 6.10.13

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