New report challenges GM industry myths
Tuesday 19 June 2012
The report GMO Myths and Truths is a detailed study covering everything from the genetic engineering technique through to an analysis of the benefits of GM foods and crops. The report is heavily referenced, allowing the reader to determine the validity of the authors’ conclusions. The section on GM crops’ impact on the farm and environment seriously questions the benefits of growing these crops, citing examples of increased pesticide use, pest resistance, inconclusive yield benefits and their value in feeding the worlds increasing population.
It’s a bit of a beast to get through weighing in at over 120 pages, although it’s not the weight that makes for uncomfortable reading but the detailed critique of many of the supposed benefits of GM technology and the fact that these have all been brought together in one report. What makes it even more difficult to ignore is the credentials of the authors concerned, these are not your light-weight anti-everything tree huggers but acclaimed scientists.
This should open up the debate at a high level on the benefits of GM crops and be essential reading not just for policy makers. The questions raised in this report are too numerous and serious to be simply disregarded.
In recent months, following the furore which developed around an acutely controversial GM wheat trial being grown at Rothamsted Research Institute in Hertfordshire, farming leaders and some politicians have waded into the GM fray, mostly to state their support for the biotech industry. The debate in April and May was centred on interplay between the Take the Flour Back campaign of GM-sceptics and the Rothamsted researchers who branded their adversaries ‘anti-science’ and ‘luddites’.
The Earth Open Source organisation, which released its report GMO Myths and Truths on Sunday, said it wanted to end the skewed view of the debate over GM as “a spat between emotional but ignorant activists on one hand and rational GM-supporting scientists on the other.”
The Earth Open Source researchers said their report aims to present a more nuanced view of the issue; one of the report’s authors, Dr Michael Antoniou of King’s College London School of Medicine, uses genetic engineering for medical applications but warns against its use in developing crops for human food and animal feed. Dr Antoniou said on Sunday, “GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger. I felt what was needed was a collation of the evidence that addresses the technology from a scientific point of view.
“Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world’s food needs.”
The report is available to read here.