GM crops have fallen into the wrong hands
The Observer, October 12 2008
In the GM crops dilemma, you propose that 'science, not fear' be the judge (leader, last week). But there is plenty of science on both sides: science in the service of corporate profit on the one hand; science in the service of human welfare on the other.
Then you list ways that GM crops could alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Yes, in the hands of genuinely neutral scientists, they probably would. But GM is firmly in the hands of the type of people who gave us tobacco lies, asbestos lies and weapons-of-mass destruction lies - the type who sought to create wealth by genetically modifying the banks. Should we trust them when they no longer trust each other?
The Soil Association has not misunderstood the science on the link between GM and allergic reactions, as Jay Rayner claimed (GM focus, last week). The reason we gave for the allergen risk of GM foods was the presence of the new proteins produced by the inserted genes, something no one in the scientific community would dispute.
The association between GM and allergic reactions is so well established that basic allergen testing is one of the few specific requirements of our flimsy regulatory process. Since the inserted genes usually come from other organisms such as bacteria, the proteins they produce are often new to the human diet. More worryingly, proteins that are safe when produced in some plants can become unexpectedly toxic when produced in others. GM is a risky technology that has no place in our food supply.
Kathleen Hewlett , policy researcher
Soil Association, Bristol
GM technology should not be released into the environment until proved to have no environmental and health risks. This stance is backed up by the Scottish Parliament's Health and Community Care committee report on the health impacts of GM crops, which argued that the basis for risk assessment is unsound.
With regard to the developing world, a recent UN report found that GM crops offer no panacea to future food needs and do not increase yields.
Potters Bar, Herts
As much as I understand the sincerity of the motives of those who are against crop gene manipulation (CGM), their anxieties arise from misinformation about the science and the understanding of genetics. In most cases of genetic manipulation, particularly in the case of CGM in agriculture, scientists have done what nature has been doing for a few billion years. Most geneticists would agree that the risks of CGM in agriculture, if adequately regulated, are minimal and manageable.
Many disagree with CGM in agriculture because of the involvement of corporations that have been aggressive in pursuing intellectual property rights or because of issues regarding 'termination seeds' which divests the control of raw materials from farmers to corporations. This is to conflate the issues of corporatisation and globalisation with CGM and hampers a necessary technology for addressing global food production and supply.
You promote the acceptance of GM crops to save lives. This may be true in the short term. In the long term, the world needs fewer mouths to feed. Fewer mouths will make it easier to achieve each of the objectives for a more sustainable world - food, energy, fresh water, minerals. Achieving this requires political will and effective worldwide persuasion.