"Why we need GM crops"
Henderson is extremely close to pro-GM lobby groups like the Science Media Centre and Sense About Science, and in this article he draws repeatedly on SAS's recent GM guide - partly ghost written, as we now know, by a former Monsanto director.
Here are just a few of the pro-GM headlines Henderson's articles have generated:
*GM Resistance Is 'Threatening Cheap Food'
*Europe's stand on GM crops 'hitting the poor'
*BBC incited eco-terror on GM drama website
*Scientists rebut writer's claim of GM conspiracy
*Scientists condemn 'ill-informed, negative' Prince over GM crops warning
*Blair condemns protesters who thwart science
*GM crops are the only way to solve Britons' diet failings, say scientists
*GM Tomato 'Reduces Risk of Disease'
*GM Potato Vaccine Found For Hepatitis B
*GM bean could help prevent heart attacks
*GM mosquito bred to destroy malaria
*Scientists aim to beat flu with genetically modified chickens
*GM grass to put club golfers on par with the best
*GM Food is safe to eat, says Royal Society
*Attack on safety of GM crops was unfounded
*'Scaremongering' Lancet accused of causing harm to health and wasting millions
*Chief Scientist says atomic power and GM crops are the future
*Eating GM Foods Will Not Harm You, Says Official Report
*We Need GM Crops, Says New Chief Scientist
*Trials give clear signal for China to cultivate GM rice
You get the picture.
COMMENT on this article by GM free Ireland: Tell the lie often enough and it becomes the truth. There is no global food shortage, but unequal access to it. 30% of food is wasted in the North, and much of that which is not thrown out is overconsumed - there seem to be more obese people than malnourished ones in the world today.
As the U.N.'s International Assessment of Agriculture, Science and Technology found, agro-ecological and organic farming methods are the only sustainable way for the world to meet the food needs of its growing population. Industrial chemical monoculture agribusiness and GM crops are simply not the answer, despite the agri-biotech industry's propaganda and make-believe from writers like Mark Henderson who seems to be totally ignorant of the emerging global consensus on the future of food and farming.
Why we need GM crops
The Times (UK), 21 March 2009 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5944685.ece
*As the world's population soars, they may not be the least-bad option
The world is already a crowded place. Today's population of 6.8 billion represents more than 5 per cent of all the people who have ever lived, andthe figure is growing at a dizzying rate. The US Census Bureau recently revised its estimate for the global population in 2050 upwards to 9.4 billion. In 40 years there will be almost 40 per cent more of us.
Population growth is perhaps the biggest challenge the world faces today, touching on all sorts of issues. We will have to meet intensifying energy needs while curbing global warming. Competition for minerals and water - both potent sources of conflict - will increase. And it will force us to re-examine how we ensure that everybody has something to eat.
The last of these challenges will have to be resolved in one of three ways. The first option is to bring more wilderness under cultivation. The second is to transform yields from existing farmland, and the nutritional value of crops. The third, of course, is widespread starvation.
Almost everybody agrees that the second course is the most desirable, but that is where agreement generally ends. As a pamphlet published by the independent trust Sense About Science argues persuasively, this solution may require increased use of genetically modified crops.
Genetic engineering is often seen as something freakish and hazardous, as meddling with nature. That, however, is no reason to dismiss it. As the Making Sense of GM report says, farmers have been meddling with Nature for as long as there has been farming. The staples that are cultivated today, such as wheat and rice, are wholly unnatural. They differ from their wild relatives because they have different genetic profiles, altered either by selective breeding or by mutagens such as radiation.
Modern biotechnology allows scientists to achieve this genetic change in more targeted fashion. It is now possible to isolate genes that promote drought tolerance or bigger seeds and insert them into crops that are known to grow well in particular environments. All that has changed is the precision, power and speed of the techniques involved.
Like any technology, GM has risks. It is quite possible to use it to transfer allergens or toxins that might be harmful, or to create crops that damage biodiversity. The fact that a plant has been genetically engineered, however, says nothing on its own about how safe it is to eat or its impact on the environment. That all depends on which genes have been altered - and the same is true of so-called conventional varieties.
To ask whether GM crops are good or bad, therefore, is to ask the wrong question. What we should be aiming to assess is the quality of individual crops, GM or conventional, and their relevance to particular agricultural problems. Sometimes it may be possible to improve yields by educating farmers, better provision of credit, and innovative use of traditional varieties. On other occasions the GM product will turn out to be best.
Even when a new crop with enhanced yields does threaten biodiversity on the farm where it is grown, that may be no reason to rule it out. When more food is needed, the alternative will often be to plough up wilderness instead, at higher net ecological cost. The GM variety may sometimes be the least bad option.
There is much to be debated as the world learns to feed more mouths, and the answers will not always be straightforward. It would be wrong to claim GM as any sort of panacea, but equally wrong to shun a powerful technology because some of its applications might be harmful. Food security is not going to be easily achieved in a world of 9.4 billion people. We need every tool in the box.