The Guardian runs with a story on how the UK Government’s Chief Scientist, Professor John Beddington will push the idea of Genetic Modification of Food Crops :-
Plant-breeding down the centuries of agricultural history have given us wonderful natural foods, suited to their growing environments and healthy for human life. The process of selection, inter-breeding and nurturing new variations of plants has involved changes in the genetic code for some lines of species. But this “natural genetic modification” bears no relation to laboratory work to splice and dice genes in food crops across and within families of plants (and even animals).
“Articificial” or “laboratory genetic modification” relies on certain givens, assumptions and dependencies which we should all question, considering the future necessity to de-Carbonise Energy throughout our entire way of life.
1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are said to be designed specifically for various growing conditions, such as drought, or saline ground, arable land that is suffering inundation from the sea. Climate Change is brought in as a reason to explain why such modified crops are necessary. Yet there is little documented evidence that GMOs perform as advertised, and in fact there is some evidence that they do not. There is little reason to accept that GMOs would perform better in Climate Change-afflicted areas than the crops that have grown well there for centuries. Local farmers know when conditions are right to grow certain kinds of local crops, and when to grow others. It would be much better to enable local farmers to develop plans of crop management that take Climate Change into account when deciding how to plant for harvest and irrigate and fertilise. Rainfall is probably the first and most significant factor that impacts on the raising of food crops in most parts of the world. More information produced on a local scale about rainfall and drought would help, more than trying to introduce industrialised “high” technology GMO crops.
2. The UK science bodies have been working with corporate players in various fields, and seem to have decided on close collaboration with companies selling Genetically Modified food and fuel crops, probably to promote British business interests. There has been no critique of the whole industry of “Life Sciences” in terms of efficacy or achievement, or even whether the technologies are even appropriate in some cases.
3. Whenever there is discussion of “technology transfer”, helping poor undeveloped countries develop in a clean way by buying technology from rich developed countries, there is often talk of “competitiveness” of British industry, how clever we are; but little talk of patents. The industry of BioSciences, the catch-all term that includes Genetic Modification, has a strong need to create patentable, profitable techniques. By promoting GMOs as a solution for Climate Change, there is the underlying assumption that it’ll be good for British industry profits. What amazes me is the evidence of a completely incestuous relationship between “Life Sciences” companies and British research establishments, indicating clear evidence of the co-option of Science.
4. In the future, we cannot assume that agriculture will work in the way it does now. The need to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions and other Greenhouse Gas output means that intensive “factory” farming will eventually, sooner or later, fail. That means that rich or poor, nations will need to develop fully organic and Low Carbon Energy systems of food production, such as no-tillage, rainwater harvesting, Permaculture methods. The GMO companies are essentially not agricultural product companies; they are chemical companies, selling chemical fertilisers and weedkillers and so on, along with their super-dooper GMO seed. From what are these chemicals made ? Waste products from petroleum refinings and Natural Gas are heavily involved. What happens when the chemicals industry has to contract because the petroleum industry has to contract ? The contraction of the chemicals industry will contract the GMO industry. If people accept that GMOs are good for their harvests, regardless of the evidence, and switch to GM, then they will be forced to switch back later down the line. Genetic Modification as a technique proposed to improve crop yields is unsustainable.
5. The involvement of some of the richest people on the planet in the emerging GMO “greener revolution” tells me all I need to know about how companies like Monsanto and Bayer have been successful in their Public Relations campaigns. It doesn’t tell me if their “technology” works.