The polarised debate around GM crops, industrial agriculture and modern farming

It is a shame that many of those who care so deeply about the wellbeing of this planet and its people seem incapable of having a rational debate about modern food production. If they were, perhaps their voices would be heard by the corporations and governments whose policies they seek to change.
The following is a press release from the non-profit organisation GRAIN, promoting their most recent publication, The United Republic of Soybeans – Take Two:
A social and environmental catastrophe has settled like a plague over the countries of the Southern Cone – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Transgenic soya monoculture now covers 46 million hectares in the region.
The advance of GMO soya is displacing farmers and indigenous communities and poisoning land and people alike (600 million litres of toxic glyphosate is sprayed on these crops each year) while 500,000 ha of forest are lost to its expansion every year.
We are seeking to strengthen and articulate the comprehensive and coordinated mobilisation against this plunder through local resistance, public condemnation, the building of alternatives, and fighting back on all possible fronts
Note in particular the wording of the second paragraph, which strongly implies that the “environmental catastrophe”, “plague” and “plunder” is a direct result of GMO. This is hugely misleading and disingenuous.
The truth is that 46 million hectares have not been planted to soya in the Southern Cone because of GMO, nor are the forests being cut down because of GMO. Soya is planted because it is profitable, something which is only made possible by rising global food demand.
What’s more, it is monoculture and the use of glyphosate and the array of other herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers that underpin the Green Revolution that has enabled the world’s growing population to be fed. These technologies allow more intensive production of crops. Without them, the world would require more land to produce the calories that mankind demands. Even more forests would need to be cut down and even more subsistence farmers displaced from their land.
It’s easier to hate large corporations than to accept personal responsibility. But let us be honest with ourselves for a moment: if there is one culprit above any other that can be blamed for the plague and plunder, it is human greed. One in three adults on the planet are now overweight, far more than suffer from undernutrition, with the rate of obesity having doubled since 1980, now totalling 1.5 billion people, compared to the 925 million people who suffer from hunger. Without a doubt, our species’ gluttony is precipitating an environmental catastrophe.
Does GMO come with huge potential risks that need to be taken very seriously? Yes, but the risks to our planet from rising food demand are greater still.
Of course, any genetically modified crop should be subjected to rigorous testing before release, but GMO’s potential to radically change the environmental and social impact of food production should not be ignored or shouted down by intellectually bankrupt scaremongering. Imagine a wheat plant that could fix atmospheric nitrogen like a legume, thus reducing the need for fertilisers, with leaves that secrete a waxy substance like cacti and succulents to reduce evaporation, thus reducing the need for irrigation. The genes that would be the building blocks of a miracle wheat plant exist aplenty within nature.
A quick Google search shows how GRAIN’s anti-GMO propaganda has spread like (to steal phrase) a plague through news channels, the blogosphere and social media channels. GRAIN calls for “comprehensive and coordinated mobilisation …. local resistance, public condemnation and fighting back on all possible fronts”. Against what? Agricultural subsidies and cheap food? Obese people?
For a sustainable future to be possible we need to embrace all possible avenues, including those offered by science. To rule out technological solutions is madness. If GMO’s fundamentalist detractors succeed in stifling GMO research, it could be the planet that is hurt far more than Monsanto.
Most of all, mankind needs an honest, rational and intellectually rigorous debate around GMO.
Original source: Land Commodities

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