1902 views 5 commentslast update:6 Aug 2012

'Destroy all GMOs'

Dick Ziggers
“Hungary destroys all GMO maize fields” headed the news on this website on July 13. Since then the article scored the highest number of pageviews ever, outnumbering other news articles by more than tenfold. Fifteen years after introduction of GM-crops the issue still is a burning one.

The landscape in crop farming has changed in the last fifteen years; not that the crops in the fields look much different, but actual farming has changed due to the genetic modification of corn and soy plants. Genetic engineering has brought many beneficial things to farming and society, such as increased crop yields, no-till farming, continued outlook on a safe food supply, consumers have grown more indifference to GM and opponents remain and use stronger methods to get their opinion pushed.
 
The latter worries me the most, especially since an ( I thought respected) action group like Greenpeace started to destroy GM-test fields (in Australia), just because they think they can make the rules when governments take a slower pace in decision making. I have been a member for a long time, because they said they were fighting against environmental pollution and stood up for endangered species, but now they have gone too far and I have cancelled my membership.
Genetically modified crops cannot be removed from farming anymore. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists admits "that there have been no serious environmental impacts - certainly no catastrophes - associated with the use of engineered crops in the United States."
 
Down falls
Sure there are some environmental effects – which is logical – such as the emerging of herbicide resistant weeds. But one sees that also with the use of antibiotics bacteria develop resistance. And farmers should not be too enthusiastic in growing the same crop on the same field over and over again. Crop-rotation here is a key word. Unfortunately farmers more and more need old herbicides again to control weeds. From this point of view the herbicide tolerant trait in corn and soy is changing from a pesticide-reducing technology to a pesticide-promoting technology.
 
GM boom
The assortment of GM crops is about to multiply, far beyond the corn-soybean-cotton mainstays of the past 15 years. Soon coming to market are GM versions of bluegrass, sugar beets, cabbage, wheat and alfalfa, and the plants have more tricks on their tail. Future crops will require less water to grow, enhance certain flavours or are delivering health benefits to the consumer. Since there are only three major companies involved in crop biotechnology it is questionable how their balance is in serving the food chain and the shareholders. They ask a premium price for their advanced seeds and farmers might wonder if it is worth paying for all these new biotech bells and whistles. In the end they are the ones that decide what to grow on their land, but are left with only a few choices.
 
A speeding train
Biotechnology is a speeding train that cannot be stopped. You either hop on or stay behind. And if you stay behind you are not getting anywhere. It is therefore a pity that a country like Hungary is taking this one-track decision. The high viscosity in decision making in Europe, due to political standpoints, rather than scientific opinions is already causing concerns. Who does not remember Dolly the sheep, which was developed in Britain and caused global momentum in biotech research? Now only six square metres of potato field reflect the current progress in GM trialling in the UK.
Europe's restrictions on commercial growing of GM crops have increased costs of feeding plant protein to animals. Further delays and objections will abridge the EU of biotech science and competitive advantages. So I foresee that Hungary’s ban of GM crops is not more than a spasm in an attempt to please…, actually to please whom?

5 comments

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    Carol

    You really need to do more research on GMOs. These biotech corporations who only care about their bottomline are using human beings as their guinea pigs. There is so much research being done by those other than the ones making these DNA altering food, that show that genetically engineering food is dangerous to human health and their theory that they can feed more people, is propaganda and not fact based. Go to The Institute of Responsible Technology and read some of the studies. Monsanto and others like Monsanto do not care about feeding the world, they only care about profit and power. Sustainable farming, permaculture, aquaponics, biodiversity are the ways to go.

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    hector

    You have to be kidding. There has been very little scientific research conducted on the health and environmental consequences of GMOs. However, there is now work coming from the USDA demonstrating the very negative consequences of Roundup Ready crops (and herbicide) on soil and animal health. Hungary has made a wise decision.

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    Deb

    Carol is right, the author of this article really needs to start doing some real homework. Something beyond reading Monsanto's PR brochures.

    GMO crops are welfare crops which would not exist at all in a Free Market, since they cost more to grow than they are worth. American taxpayers are making up the difference, at both ends -- we subsidize the planting and harvesting through the Farm Bill, and we subsidize the sale of the unwanted end product when more billions are spent in "Food Aid" to other countries (translation: we dump our unwanted GMO crops on third world nations).

    Dumping our unwanted GMOs on other nations drives their farmers out of business (it is hard to compete with "free"). Whole farming villages in Mexico are collapsing for lack of income thanks to US flooding their markets with "free" GMO corn. Where can those farm families go, to earn the living we've denied them in their home villages in Mexico..? One guess.

    Read up on the devestating effects GMO crops have had in India. Read "Failure to Yield" and the 2011 UN Report on how to REALLY feed the hungry world in the future (hint: it ain't GMO's, and it ain't any kind of petroleum-based industrial agriculture model).

    Read up on the increasing body of scientific evidence documenting how Roundup is not only destroying our soil, but feeding GMO crops to livestock is sky-rocketing our livestock's infertility rates and rates of spontaneous abortion.

    Seriously, PLEASE do your homework. This article is just incredibly ignorant.

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    Lukas

    Up till now the greatest benefit of GMOs is the growing shareholdervalue of Cooperations like Monsanto. The promise that GMOs with altered ingredients would lead to a better nutrition hasn't been kept so far. Where is the "golden Rice" (enriched with Provitamin A)? Where are other crops with better ingredients. No profit to make with poor farmers, so no interest for the big ones.
    Let me be clear, I condemm these acts of destruction. This summer there were some fields of research destroyed by greenpeace activists. (Why they still carry the word peace in their name ist obvious to me)The work of some years has been demolished. I hope they get these boneheads jailed.
    But I think every country should have the right to decide wether they will allow gmos or not. The decision on a farm basis does not work in a small structured agriculture. The Neighbours will still get crosscontamination.

    The Question is: will you still hop on the train when it runs in the wrong direction?

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    em

    Clearly, judging by the many unharmonized desenting voices on this matter, a lot of research still has to be done. More information needs to be availed on the pro and cons. There sure are times where scientific inventions have not worked out as expected despite lots spent on R&D, publcity, marketing etc. Whatever the case may be with GM products, let support for scientific improvemnt on food production be cherished. Let's believe in the potential to improvement on a continous basis, not a one of thing; nor become content with the status quo defending the past at the expense of the future.

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