Noise to drown out the science

March 2017

US law-makers have been urged by one outspoken anti-regulation journal editor to recognise that "a healthy economy with people employed is the cornerstone of a healthy population". That population, however, is "fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health" (Berry).

What the food industry does pay attention to is its own financial health, and any law-makers who try to make food healthier (so as to maintain that healthy population) are not good for its bottom line.

Science is fundamental to food quality, but industry and its lobbyists have worked out all sorts of creative ways to undermine inconvenient facts emerging from the lab.

Creating noise is the favoured tactic.

Fluttering into oblivion

March 2017

In 1995, the population of America's iconic and wonderfully colourful Monarch butterflies reached an all-time high. The following year, GM crops hit US fields with monocultures of GM 'Roundup Ready' plants doused with glyphosate herbicide and monocultures of GM insecticidal plants. These commodities mushroomed within a few years to cover a great deal of the 400 million or so acres of America's cropland.

Apart from the brief rally in the 2010-2011 season, Monarch numbers have declined steadily ever since that peak. Even optimistic estimates put the total loss at more than 80%, and the most recent tally recorded a further drop of 27% from last year's count.

Undefended maize

March 2017

The Green Revolution has been an exercise in creating extremes. We now have extreme uniformity in our staple crops and in our agricultural practices, with an extreme dependence on agrichemicals, and a globalised crop market (you can't get much bigger than that).

This has led to an extreme reduction in our crop gene pool, unstoppable pest problems, and a problem-solving mind-set limited to more-of-the-same single high-tech solutions to 'key' difficulties.

We now have food from crops which have been intensively bred for extreme yield with scant attention to whole nutritional value, taste or pest resistance.

In this one-size-fits-all agricultural system, the answer to poor soil is to add chemicals, and the answer to pests is to kill them with chemicals.

All maize is wormy now

March 2017

If you've been following the GM issue for a while, cast your mind back to 2006. A long-standing, respected British science journal gave its "Outstanding Paper Award for Excellence" to a study which could be better described as a pro-GM PR initiative dressed up as science.

To assess what influenced consumer purchasing decisions, the study offered 'Bt' insecticide-generating GM sweet corn for sale in a Canadian farm shop beside conventional sweet corn. One of the more blatant exercises in propaganda used during this 'study' was the descriptors attached to the two types of sweet corn: the conventional one was labelled 'wormy' followed by a list of the pesticides sprayed on it; the GM one was labelled 'quality' with the 'Bt' (insecticide!) part kept separate.

Fast forward ten years and check out how these two sweet corns would truthfully be labelled today. The wormy one is still wormy and still sprayed with multiple pesticides. And the quality one?

GM plants in the shade

March 2017

Up until now, genetic engineers have successfully provided us with crops full of weedkillers which may be toxic to humans too, and crops full of insecticides which may be toxic to humans too, and crops full of multiple varieties of both which are even more likely to be toxic to humans.  However, the claimed extra GM crop yield needed to feed the world has been elusive.

The basis of all the food supply for all animals (including humans) is the ability of plants to photosynthesise, that is, to use the energy in sunlight to build sugars using carbon dioxide gas from the air and water from the soil.

Biotech scientists trying to boost crop yields have focused on 'improving' photosynthesis, but the biochemical pathways involved are dynamically regulated in the plant and are highly complex, too complex so far for meaningful human intervention.

A new approach aimed at 'improving' photosynthesis indirectly, and funded by the Gates Foundation, has been quick to announce a successful proof-of-concept field-trial in the scientific and popular press.

Ban Glyphosate EU Citizens' Initiative

March 2017

Besides the obvious negative environmental impacts of the world's most widely-used herbicide, readers of GM-free Scotland will probably agree that,"expanding scientific evidence demonstrates that glyphosate is also a serious threat to human health" [1,2,3]. Also, because "EU Regulation 1107/2009 prohibits the use of pesticides when there is sufficient evidence in laboratory animals that these substances can cause cancer, based on IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) criteria ... EU approval for glyphosate must be withdrawn."