2.More caution needed in food production
EXTRACT: Quite simply, the GM route reinforces an outdated model of industrial, energy-reliant agriculture, wholly unsuitable for adapting to and dealing with the conditions that climate change and expensive, scarce oil bring for global food security. (ITEM 1)
1.GM route reinforces industrial, energy-reliant agriculture
Financial Times (Letters, 14 July 2008)
From Mr Richard Sanders
Sir, The take-home message from your article "A time to sow? GM food could curb cost of staples" (July 11) would appear to be that tomorrow (one day soon) a new generation of genetically modified crops will deliver the magical yield increases and crop ability to thrive in adverse conditions that we were promised by life science companies 20 years ago. The world will be awash with cheap food, hunger will be banished.
The truth is that these companies - Monsanto, Syngenta and so on - have so far failed to deliver crops capable of thriving in drought, salt or nutrient deprived conditions. Doubts about future delivery are fuelled by the over-hyped promise of their first generation Roundup-Ready and pest-resistant crops, which has not been met.
Truly independent observers such as the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) this year published a 2,500-page report based on peer-reviewed publications which concluded that the yield gains in GM crops "were highly variable" and that in some places "yields declined". Asked at a press conference if GM crops were the answer to world hunger, IAASTD director Prof Bob Watson (now chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said: "The simple answer is no."
The IAASTD concluded that for food and crop production "business as usual is no longer an option". It called for a shift to "agroecological" food production. Their assessment questioned GM's claims to be the solution to global poverty, hunger or climate change. In fact, large sections of the IAASTD favoured organic production, much to the irritation of the GM lobby.
The argument against GM crops has moved on from the frightening spectre of "Frankenfoods" and health scares. Quite simply, the GM route reinforces an outdated model of industrial, energy-reliant agriculture, wholly unsuitable for adapting to and dealing with the conditions that climate change and expensive, scarce oil bring for global food security.
The time has come to ask if undue research and commercial focus on GM foods and crops is diverting our attention from the development of truly reliable alternatives of sustainable (organic) agriculture that are capable of feeding a hungry world today and tomorrow.
The Organic Research Centre,
2.More caution needed in food production
The Guardian (Letters), July 14 2008
I agree with Rod Parker's need for a radical rethink of the balance between risks and benefits in relation to how we produce food (Letters, July 9). But where he considers that precautionary measures are suffocating innovation, I suggest that our precautions do not go far enough.
Like many other allotment holders, we bought in a load of farmyard manure last winter. Sadly, it was contaminated with a weedkiller containing aminopyralid, which apparently is excellent at killing broad-leaved weeds in grassland, but has devastating effects when the manure from livestock that have eaten treated grass or silage is used to fertilise ground for vegetable growing. The manufacturers specify clearly on the product label that any such manure must not be used for, or sold on for, fertilising land where sensitive crops will be grown. It seems, though, that farmers are either not reading these instructions, or ignoring them.
Allotment societies up and down the land are reporting numerous instances of this sort of contamination, which has resulted in widespread losses of crops such as potatoes, peas, beans, carrots and lettuce. While heads of state discuss food shortages, thousands of allotment holders look forward to no crops this year, and possibly next while the soil recovers - and all for a few less weeds among the grass.