GMOs – not just a ‘science issue’

October 9, 2014 by Pat Thomas

Many people think that GM is filling some real need in society That’s certainly how it is being ‘sold’ to the public.

But the truth is that genetically modified food is begin driven through not because we need it, not because our problems are caused by some terrible lack of GM food, but because people with their eyes on short-term financial gains see it as a potentially profitable niche market.

Haven’t we all had enough of that scenario – and the terrible damage that it does?

Shame on the UK government for giving its backing to some of GM’s boldest lies including that it will feed the world and that it is good for the environment.

In 2013, two days after then environment secretary Owen Paterson made his breathtakingly flawed speech backing GM, and not to anyone’s surprise, a national newspaper revealed the extent to which our government ministers and regulators have crawled into bed with the biotech lobby. Now, at least, we can fully understand their enthusiasm.

The science doesn’t lie

Scientific papers on GM cultivation in the US clearly show that GM crops have increased pesticides usage.  GM herbicide tolerant crops, designed specifically to be used with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate), are failing because weeds have developed resistance to the weedkiller. As a result herbicide use has increased hugely, and to prevent things getting worse farmers will now have to spray mixtures of other herbicides in addition to Roundup or hand pull weeds.

In addition to the development of superweeds, Bt maize in the US Midwest is plagued by insect pests resistant to the GM toxin produced by the plants.

Here in the UK Government-backed research showed that farmland wildlife is harmed by GM herbicide tolerant beet and oilseed rape, and the crops were banned in 2004. In the US research has shown that GM maize and soya crops are contributing to the decline of Monarch butterfly populations.

Feeding the world?

Likewise claims that GM crops are needed to feed the world because they yield more has no factual basis.

Research has showed that GM crops in fact have a “yield drag”, not increase, of up to 5%. Long-term research by the USDA has shown that GM soya and maize rotations produce lower yields, use more fossil fuels, fertilisers and pesticides and are more polluting to water than longer four-year rotations using a more diverse range of crops.

Whatismore, famine and malnutrition are not caused by lack of GM they are caused by speculation and market forces and by a lack of political backbone and the will to get food to those who most need it.

Bland assurances of safety

There are a lot of reason to be sceptical about GM and to absolutely not accept the bland reassurances of regulators who say it’s perfectly safe.

Such assurances are based on nothing more than wishing it to be true. No proper human trials have ever been conducted on the safety of eating GM food. Such trials as have been conducted in animals have shown disturbing results including tumours, sterility, growth retardation, damage to internal internal organs such as the liver and kidneys, and early death

Recently scientists in Australia and New Zealand have shown that GM wheat may cause that GM wheat may cause Glycogen Storage Disease IV, resulting in an enlarged liver, cirrhosis of the liver, and failure to thrive.

Children born with this disease usually die at about the age of 5.

In the US which grows half the world’s GM crops and where GM in in nearly every kind of food bar some fresh fruits and vegetables and some pulses, people are eating so much GM that it would be impossible now to conduct a proper trial. There would be no non-GMO control group large enough to fully test the effects of eating GM.

That is just one more good reason to keep the UK and the rest of Europe GM free – to ensure there IS some kind of control group to help us understand the health impacts of this nearly two decade long uncontrolled experiment in human eating.

GM is everyone’s problem now

We (and others like us) continue to campaign on GM because we know that there are still people out there who have not engaged with this problem. Probably they think it is too technical or complicated for them and they shy away from it in case they look stupid by speaking out.

This is as much the fault of the pro-GM lobby – which has steadily directed the GM debate away from the public arena and into the muddy waters of modern corporate-funded science – as it is activists who have allowed this drift to take place. It’s a drift as toxic as the drift of GM pollen and seeds from one field to another and it must be challenged.

Genetically modified food is everyone’s business and it we let it in the door in the UK and the rest of Europe it will be everyone’s problem as well.

We campaign because it’s one of the most profound social issues of our time. It dictates the direction of travel for our farmers, our environment, our money, our government policies, our foreign aid, our media mindsets, our diet, our health and out future.

Like air pollution and nuclear radiation it can be hard to see the immediate effects of GM, but they exist and they will be difficult to remedy if we don’t put our feet down now.

Bigger than science

More than just a science issue. Click to Enlarge

More than just a science issue. [GMO Manifesto courtesy] Click to Enlarge

We believe in good science. Having the research on your side is important. But science is not the be all and end all. Indeed there are campaigning groups asking serious questions about how much science – and particularly the influence of government ‘science officers’ – should be allowed to influence government policy

At the moment in the UK and EU our chief scientists are blatantly, some might say blindly, pro-GM – but these people are not elected officials, they do not represent the views or wishes of the public. There is some question as to whether they even represent good science.

But we should make no mistake that as citizens we also have – indeed have always had – a moral and ethical high ground when it comes to GM. The comments on our sister site GM Free Me, show a broad range of concerns about GM from a broad range of people. These concerns should not simply be tossed aside. Indeed the fact that it simply makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable is also a reasonable reason to take a pause on our breathless pursuit of a GM nation.

If and when you are finding the data overwhelming remember that. Stand strong in whatever you believe – or even feel – and together we can stop GM.