guy’s newsletter: GM jostling, hyperbole & inedible bananas

Last week our Prime Minister’s office issued an “independent report” calling for the UK to override EU regulations and start growing GM crops in the UK. What we were not told was that all of its authors had close links with the GM industry, as seen in the national press since the report’s release.

Even though I took the government to the High Court in the 1990s to challenge the legality of GM crop trials bordering our farm, I am not a Luddite. We have made such a mess of our planet that we need to harness science in the search for sustainable co-existence, but we must acknowledge how much we don’t know and that the most important science is the least understood; namely ecology.

Were Monsanto or Syngenta to come up with a perennial, nitrogen-fixing wheat, maize or rice, I would find it hard to argue against it. Yet after 30 years the GM industry has failed to deliver any substantial benefit. The debate doesn’t seem to have moved on and this report isn’t going to help, whatever its true motivations.

I remain marginally anti-GM, though mainly for sociopolitical reasons. Firstly I don’t like the world’s food supply being controlled by a small number of global corporations (Syngenta, Monsanto and DuPont already control 47% of the global seed market); I also lament the continued loss of nutrition, food culture, and the autonomy of small scale farmers that accompanies the drive towards globally traded monocultures.

In Uganda, where 30% of calories are consumed as bananas, a wilt resistant GM variety was widely promoted as an example of how GM could feed the world. According to the farmers I spoke to it was inedible; another case of hyperbole before reality. In the meantime simply better agricultural practices could increase output many-fold and farmers have found other means of living with wilt. Watch our film on my recent Uganda trip here to see how giving farmers independence rather than introducing dependence on GM and agri-chemicals is what is driving positive change.

Guy Watson

3 responses to “guy’s newsletter: GM jostling, hyperbole & inedible bananas

  1. Dear Guy,
    there is much more to food than its chemical content. There is much more to an organism than its DNA. We use logical deduction and ever progressing technology to analyse but we are in universal agreement that we cannot fully describe a system from its parts. So, we have no idea what really happens when the DNA of an organism is altered. All we see is a limited picture. With the best senario, which I agree with you is very far from what is happening now, GM technology would be able to put something on the plates of people. But that something is surely not food. So, we cannot for a moment associate GM technology with feeding hungry people. In my opinion it is also terribly wrong to rely on it for ecological solutions when itself is a potential ecological disaster. Let’s look for real solutions.
    Katerina Ridge

  2. Nicholas Jenkin

    I saw this link, recently:

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/12/13/-scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code#

    I can not begin to really understand its significance but what I do believe is the fact that as scientists have only just found such a fundamental aspect to DNA, what is the GM business through government trying to sell us? And what is more, isn’t there even more reason, now, to be suspect of a science that doesn’t even fully understand its own boundaries? What else will GM companies learn whilst trying to flog their existing wares worldwide?

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