Well done to Devi and Lisa B, our latest prize-winners, and to Todd, who has the highest overall score at the end of the first two quizzes.
More fun to come and in the meantime, we're off to see the biotech equivalent of the Wizard of Oz...
QUIZ 2: FARMING IN A GM WONDERLAND
1. Many pro-GM commentators hail the technology as the solution to the current food crisis because of its ability to reduce fertilizer use and help farmers cope with problems like drought, salinity or flooding. After 20 years of GM research, how many GM drought tolerant, or salt tolerant, or flood tolerant, or fertilizer-reducing crops are there on the market worldwide?
NOTES/SOURCES: See, for instance, the commentary by former EPA biotech specialist Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Genetic engineering - a crop of hyperbole, San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June 2008
2. There have been tens of thousands of articles in the world's media about 'miracle' crops genetically engineered for enhanced appearance, flavour, nutrition, or to be allergen-free, or to combat problems like obesity or to contain edible vaccines that protect against major diseases like cancer. How many of these GM crops are there on the market worldwide?
NOTES/SOURCES: In his book Genetically Modified Language, Prof. Guy Cook notes how a study he conducted of UK press coverage of GM found that largely uncritical stories about speculative GM solutions to intractable problems (e.g. GM allergy-free peanuts, GM apples to fight tooth decay) were widely published in all types of newspapers, even those with editorial lines skeptical of GM.
3. When published in April 2008, which appraisal of global agriculture, sponsored by the World Bank and the U.N., and undertaken on a scale comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that GM crops have at best variable impacts on yields and would not play a substantial role in addressing climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger or poverty?
ANSWER: IAASTD - International Assessment of Agricultural knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
NOTES/SOURCES: For a good short summary see, IAASTD: Overhaul of agriculture systems needed, GM crops not the solution, by Lim Li Ching, Sustainable Food Monitor, 2007.
4. More than 50% of the GM crops grown worldwide are farmed in the United States, and by far the most widely grown crop is herbicide-tolerant soyabeans. Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture trend data and numerous field studies, by roughly how much has GM soya increased yield for U.S. farmers compared to conventional (non-GM) varieties?
ANSWER: Zero - it may even have decreased yields compared to non-GM varieties.
NOTES/SOURCES: See, for instance, the commentary by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Genetic engineering - a crop of hyperbole, San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June 2008
5. Who said the following about GM crops when promoting them as a solution to the food crisis? "We've been using them for 10 years in the United States and they have a proven effectiveness in increasing yields, in lowering the use of fertilizer, in providing better water and soil management and also increasing taste and appearance. So, you know, those are all good things."
ANSWER: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.
NOTES/SOURCES: See: At UN summit, US offers three-prong approach to food crisis, Voice of America, 3 June 2008
6. What word did Prof. Dennis Murphy - the head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan, recently use to describe claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world?
NOTES/SOURCES: Prof. Murphy is quoted in this strongly pro-GM article, GM: it's safe, but it's not a saviour, Spiked, 7 July 2008
7. Monsanto and its supporters claim that GM crops have been widely adopted in countries like the United States because of their economic benefits for farmers. Which organization in its review of GM crop cultivation in the U.S. commented, "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of [GM] crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative"?
ANSWER: USDA - United States department for Agriculture (USDA/ERS)
NOTES/SOURCES: Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and William D. McBride, Adoption of Bioengineered Crops, Agricultural Economic Report No. AER810, May 2002
8. The Director of Corporate Affairs for Monsanto India says the increase in GM cotton acres there "bear testimony to the success of this technology and the benefit that farmers derive from it." According to Washington University researcher Glenn Stone's multi-year study of the behaviour of cotton farmers in a key cotton growing area of India, what underlay the rapid spread of GM cotton there?
ANSWER: Seed fads.
NOTES/SOURCES: Stone argues that far from farmers carefully assessing the technology before adopting it more widely, the process is more like a "craze". He argues that GM cotton has contributed to a disruption of farmers' process of learning, as they rely less on experimentation and observation and more on advertising and a kind of herd mentality where everybody copies everyone else, leading to blind adoption. See: Glenn Davis Stone, Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal, Current Anthropology, Volume 48, Number 1, February 2007
Articles about this research here
9. The wife of which South African farmer who has been flown around the world by Monsanto to preach the benefits of GM cotton and detail how it has transformed his family's life, admitted on camera that they made no profit from the crop?
ANSWER: TJ Buthelezi
NOTES/SOURCES: See the film, A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton in Global South
For a profile of TJ Buthelezi
10. What was surprising about the posters that appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh, India, featuring a man who said he'd gained great benefits from growing GM cotton and urging others to do the same?
ANSWER: He was not a farmer.
NOTES/SOURCES: He was found on investigation to be a paan shop owner - a roadside vendor of betel leaves and cigarettes. See: New report - Farmers lied to and lured into Bt cotton
11. Why was Gary Rinehart surprised to be publicly harassed over violating Monsanto's patent on GM soybeans, and subsequently to have the company file a federal lawsuit against him?
ANSWER: He was not a farmer.
NOTES/SOURCES: "Rinehart wasn't a farmer. He wasn't a seed dealer. He hadn't planted any seeds or sold any seeds. He owned a small - a really small - country store”¦", Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Investigation: Monsanto's Harvest of Fear, Vanity Fair, May 2008
12. What is the annual budget that Monsanto devotes to harassing, intimidating, suing - and in some cases bankrupting - American farmers over alleged improper use of its patented seeds?
ANSWER: 10 million dollars.
NOTES/SOURCES: See p.6 of the report, Monsanto vs US farmers, The Center for Food Safety, 2005
Here are all the answers to our second GM quiz: FARMING IN A GM WONDERLAND.