GM won't yield a harvest for the world
2.GM won't yield a harvest for the world - Mark Lynas
3.Africa does not need GM for food security - UN expert
NOTE: Note the important new analysis (see item 1) examining claims that GM crops will increase yields
Incidentally, readers of The Independent - the paper that broke this story - seem less than favourably impressed with the Government's renewed enthusiasm for GM crops - see their overwhelmingly hostile comments at http://blogs.independent.co.uk/openhouse/2008/06/have-your-say-g.html#comment
1. Brown and Woolas Short on GM Facts and History
GM Freeze, 19 June 2008
Prime Minster Gordon Brown's and Environment Minister Phil Woolas' calls for a re-think on GM crops in the UK to increase yields have been described by GM Freeze as "short on facts and history".
The group point out that four crops were extensively tested in the UK during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Government's scientific advisory committee advised Ministers that three of the crops (herbicide tolerant winter and spring oilseed rape and sugar/fodder beet) would cause long-term harm to farmland wildlife because they reduced weed cover and with it food and cover for insects and birds. The Government listened to the advise and announced the GM crops would not be approved . The fourth GM crop, GM fodder maize, was given the go-ahead by Ministers, but was withdrawn a month later by its developer, Bayer CropScience, for "commercial reasons", which was widely accepted to mean that the GM variety did not perform as well as contemporary non-GM bred strains of maize. Yields were not measured as part of the trials.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)  published its 2500 page report based on peer reviewed publications concluded that the yield gains in GM crops "were highly variable" and in some places "yields declined" (see briefing for fuller explanation). Asked at a press conference if GM crops were the answer to world hunger, IAASTD Director Professor Bob Watson (now Chief Scientist at Defra) said, "The simple answer is, 'No'." . The Government approved the IAASTD report on 9th June.
GM Freeze today publish new analysis examining claims that GM crops will increase yields  and that the causes of current food price rises. It concludes that they are due to with commodity crop speculators, rising oil prices, poor crops in some areas due to climate change and diversion of food crops into biofuels. Other new GM Freeze analysis published this week showed that conventionally bred crops still dominate world agriculture covering over 97% of agricultural land and 92% of arable land. .
Pete Riley of GM Freeze commented:
"Mr Brown and Mr Woolas seem to be dangerously obsessed with technical fixes for world hunger, which the IAASTD report has shown to be based on flawed analysis. Comments on GM crops in the UK and yield are short on facts and history. They should stop listening to industry propaganda that is shamelessly trying to exploit the current food price rises there is no evidence that GM crops have increased average yields. The reasons we have no GM crops in the UK are either that the Labour Government did not approve them or the industry withdrew approved crops on a voluntary basis.
"World hunger and food shortage are complex issues largely social and economic in nature. There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, it’s just that the economic system put in place by politicians has failed to ensure that that food reaches the people who need it most whilst other sectors of the population are becoming obese. The IAASTD process concluded that 'business as usual is not the answer' to world hunger. Unfortunately the Prime Minister and his Minister have not been listening so far".
Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065.
Please note GM Freeze’s new land line number 0845 217 8992.
1. From 1999 to 2003 Defra funded the Farm Scale Evaluations of herbicide tolerant spring and winter oilseed rape, sugar and fodder beet and fodder maize to test their impact on farmland wildlife.
2. See www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/advice/pdf/acre_advice44.pdf and www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/advice/pdf/acre_advice65.pdf
3. See www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/ministers/statements/mb040309.htm
4 See www.agassessment.org/docs/SR_Exec_Sum_210408_Final.pdf
5. See www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/exposed-the-great-gm-crops-myth-8 12179.html
6. See www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/89D_yields_briefing%5B1%5D.pdf
7. see www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/GM_crops_land_area_final.pdf
2. GM won't yield a harvest for the world
The Guardian, June 19 2008
The government is keen to reassess GM crops in light of the food crisis - but running to profit-seeking companies is not the answer
The biotechnology industry has never been shy of making outlandish claims on behalf of its products. Back in the late 1990s we were sold genetically modified soya and oilseed rape on the promise that it would feed the world. On closer examination, it became clear that these first-generation GM crops were more about intensifying chemical agriculture and sealing corporate control of the food chain than feeding starving babies in Africa. Consumers, especially in Europe, rose in revolt, and the industry was forced into retreat.
But big companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and BASF are not easily kept at bay for long. Now their PR-men have discovered a new line in emotional blackmail: that without GM crops we will be unable to produce enough food in an era of climate change. Transgenic crops will be able to grow in drought-stricken, saline areas, we are assured, helping to augment food supplies in an era of rapidly intensifying crisis. So is it time to follow in the steps of the UK environment minister Phil Woolas and reassess the potential of GM? As Woolas says: "There is a growing question of whether GM crops can help the developing world out of the current food price crisis. It is a question that we as a nation need to ask ourselves." So is he right?
I doubt it. For starters, the current food price crisis is only partly about supply. Yes, falling harvests have affected the amount of food available, and the recent severe flooding in the US midwest certainly won't help the situation. But, as with oil, rising demand is the biggest factor driving prices towards the stratosphere. As countries such as India and China get richer and adopt more western diets, they consume more meat, sucking grain off the market to feed growing numbers of livestock. The misconceived rush to biofuels has further intensified the problem, gobbling up vast quantities of corn and soya in order to produce the fuel Americans and Europeans need to feed their addiction to the car. Underlying all this, the human population continues to grow, adding another 80 million mouths every single year.
But look a little closer at the companies which are promising our salvation and which Woolas rushed to meet yesterday under the aegis of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council and their motivations seem somewhat less than altruistic. According to the Canada-based ETC Group, big biotech companies have already filed some 532 patents on "climate-ready" genes at patent offices around the world. I doubt these companies have any intention of giving out free seeds to the world's poorest farmers: instead, they seal up intellectual property rights in transgenic crops and force growers to pay a licence fee. Traditional practices of saving or exchanging seeds are of course forbidden. This concentration of ownership of the food chain is not going to reduce hunger; it is much more likely to intensify it.
I am not arguing that these companies are somehow bad or evil. It is their job to maximise profits anything else, and their directors would quickly be punished by loss-making shareholders. It is entirely natural therefore that they seek to retain ownership over their inventions, in this case by seeking patents on transgenic seeds. But on the other hand, they should not claim that their products are going to feed the world either allowing their public relations teams to create soft-focus adverts of hungry people being fed is utterly misleading.
There are also much deeper ethical questions around GM which have never been addressed and cannot be addressed by science, because they lie outside the scientific arena. One is the question of whether it is ethically justified to mix genetic material from completely unrelated organisms, like viruses and potato plants. GM proponents constantly argue that this is simply another stage on from traditional selective breeding techniques, but this is clearly untrue. Mixing DNA from unrelated species is an entirely different undertaking, and one which raises all sorts of new risks as well as deeper questions about humankind playing God. In my view, the technology moves entirely in the wrong direction, intensifying human technological manipulation of nature when we should be aiming at a more holistic ecological approach instead.
If something goes wrong with a transgenic organism, this raises a whole new category of risk. Traditional pollution whether of toxins like DDT or radioactive waste will mix and eventually be dispersed or broken down in the environment. Genetic pollution on the other hand is self-replicating because it is contained in living organisms; once released, it can never be recalled, and possibly never controlled as GM superweeds, bacteria or viruses run rampant and breed. I am not raising scare stories here: there are countless cases recorded internationally now where GM crops have begun to infest supposedly organic or GM-free fields.
It may be, as Woolas suggests, that we need to swallow these ethical and ecological concerns in an era where rapidly rising global temperatures and diminishing oil supplies are already putting serious constraints on food production. Would I be prepared to reconsider my opposition to GM so that a million Sudanese or Ethiopians don't have to watch their children starve as the rains fail once again? Yes, of course. But am I prepared to accept GM just so that rich consumers whether in Beijing or Birmingham can drive around in biofuelled SUVs? No. Which of these options is more likely is not about technology or science, it's about economics and social policy. And that requires us to keep asking difficult questions, and to not be browbeaten by emotionally manipulative advertising from profit-seeking corporations.
3. Uganda Business News in Brief:
Africa does not need genetically for food security
Wavah Broadcasting Company, 19 June 2008
The need to triple or quadruple the domestic food production in African countries does not call for the genetically modified seeds.
A United Nations food expert, Mafa Chipeta says that the African countries withsing to boost food production should be able to fulfill their needs through simple changes to agricultural practices which will cost them less than use of the genetically modified seeds.
Chipeta, a coordinator for the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, said that governments would need to reduce fertiliser prices, reduces taxes on farm inputs and modernize the ancient method of food production.
Chipeta says that more investments in irrigation and research in agricultural sectors is needed if African countries are to boost food production.
He also says that the continent must drop its reliance on food imports and learn to feed itself.
Africa imports about $25 billion worth of food and receives about a third of the world's food aid, despite being the most fertile continent.
Chipeta says Africa may have to triple or quadruple domestic food production over two seasons in order to meet the food needs of the continent’s populations