2.Arable farmers 'upbeat about GM crops'
EXTRACT: The poor quality of this research does not reflect well on the Open University or ESRC, and FARM has to question whether this piece of research, canvassing the opinion of just 30 farmers, is really good value at GBP131,000? (item 1)
NOTE: Following on from the Sunday Telegraph piece - 'UK farmers want to grow GM crops' - there is continuing exploitation of the Open University research on farmers' attitudes to GM, even though the study is based almost entirely around the reported opinions of a tiny group of farmers (about half of whom had previously volunteered for GM crop trials), selected by SCIMAC - an industry organisation that promotes GM!
Take this headline, 'Shhhh...Farmers Love Frankenfoods', which tops a piece on the website of Reason Magazine, on how the Economic and Social Research Council funded study found British farmers feel GM may be the answer to their dream of producing high-quality food profitably in an environmentally sensitive way.
And UK biotech industry PR chief, Julian Little, has written to the Yorkshire Post to tell them how, 'A study into the attitude of farmers by the Open University this week, announced that farmers recognise the clear economic and environmental benefits of GM crops to themselves and the wider public. It demonstrated that new technologies are seen as a way to achieve high quality produce at a low cost for consumers, while being socially responsible.'
Farmers Weekly also has an article about the study headlined, 'Arable farmers 'upbeat about GM crops'' (see below), but at least this article quotes some of the damining comments about the study made by the FARM group.
Farmer Peter Lundgren has forwarded us FARM's full comments (item 1), and has expressed his own indignation at claims that th OUe research is representative of UK farmer opinion. He also points out the way in which this view has been encouraged by the ESRC press release promoting the research. Peter says, 'It's an appalling piece of blatantly biased research - 3 years old and unrepresentative - so why release it now? On a par with 'wormy corn'?'
Peter also notes that the study claims, 'All the farmers we spoke to believe that GM crops offer clear economic benefits to themselves and the wider public', even though Tom Rigby - one of the two token organic farmers added in with the GM triallers etc. - says he doesn't for one.
For more on the study: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8817
1.FARM's response to the OU study
FARM doesn't see that dressing up blatantly pro-GM propaganda as research is a helpful contribution to the debate.
FARM's main concerns:
a.. The research claims to be representative of UK farmer opinion but in reality represents the views of just 30 farmers, who were selected by SCIMAC and mainly from those who had hosted a FSE trial - hardly a representative sample of the majority of UK farmers.
b.. The survey was conducted in 2005 - so why has the survey been sat on for so long, and can a survey of farmer opinion nearly 3 years old be relevant now?
c.. What does come out of the farmers' responses is frustration at the failure of conventional breeding to give the yield increase needed to mitigate falling prices (as they were in 05) 'In many ways they tend to come up with a solution and it takes them a while to decide what it's a solution to.' But how much of the failure of conventional breeding techniques to increase yields significantly is due to the huge amount of time, expertise and money being diverted from conventional research into GM research?
d.. The FSEs looked at the environmental impact of GM crops and specifically excluded yield assessment. There is no scientific evidence that GM crops offer yield increases.
e.. The promised beneficial traits of pharmaceutical crops or crops tolerant to salt or drought have not come to fruition, whereas conventional breeding is quietly and successfully addressing a number of these issues.
f.. The poor quality of this research does not reflect well on the Open University or ESRC, and FARM has to question whether this piece of research, canvassing the opinion of just 30 farmers, is really good value at GBP131,000?
2.Arable farmers 'upbeat about GM crops'
Farmers Weekly interactive, 24 February 2008 http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2008/02/24/109553/arable-farmers-upbeat-about-gm-crops.html
UK arable farmers are generally supportive of GM technology, seeing it as a way of meeting the conflicting demands for cheap food produced in an environmentally friendly way, according to new research by the Open University.
The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and involved interviews with 30 farmers - mainly those who were involved with the Farm Scale Evaluations of GM crops, plus their near neighbours.
'Both farmers who have been involved in GM crop trials and those who have not, regard GM as a simple extension of previous plant breeding techniques,' said an ESRC statement. 'They do not think that GM raises any issues of principle.'
According to the study, the farmers interviewed believed GM crops were a step forward in helping them become more competitive in world markets.
'Particular advantages of GM crops were more flexible timing, fewer herbicide applications, simpler management and time and labour savings, so improving farm efficiency and hence profitability,' it said.
Further, the use of fewer and safer chemicals was seen to provide human safety and wildlife benefits.
But the report has been derided by sustainable farming group FARM, which described the findings as 'blatantly pro-GM propaganda'.
'The research claims to be representative of UK farmer opinion, but in reality represents the views of just 30 farmers, who were mainly from those who had hosted a FSE trial - hardly a representative sample,' said a spokesman.
'The survey was conducted in 2005 - so why has it been sat on for so long?' he added. 'Can a survey of farmer opinion nearly three-years-old be relevant now?'
'The poor quality of this research does not reflect well on the Open University or ESRC, and FARM has to question whether this piece of research, canvassing the opinion of just 30 farmers, is really good value at £131,000?'
But the BSRC insists that the report was fully peer reviewed and was graded as 'good'.
It also helped redress the balance, since most of the debate on GM technology has focussed on policies and acceptability with consumers. [perhaps under the foolish delusion that the customer is king and that their preferences matter.]
'Little work has been done with respect to farmers who would be the primary users of GM crop technology,' it said.
'While farmers acknowledged the wider debate around GM crops, their experience and knowledge has led to their view that the controversy surrounding GM crops is not a significant issue.'
Author: phil clarke