GM – the more we hear, the less we like

“Waiter, will you serve me a dish of genetically modified food?”

I don’t see anyone clamouring to eat it.

Genetic modification. Such a mild-sounding term. A bit of modifying here, a bit there – what could be wrong with that?

A lot. Genetic modification is a radical departure from traditional plant breeding.

Genetic modification is about taking a gene from one species and placing it in the gene pool of another species.

And why, pray? To help feed the world, as the GM companies would have us believe?

Um, no. Commercially developed GM crops have been ‘modified’ to survive being sprayed by the GM companies’ pesticides.

GM makes spraying intensive farms easier – just spray the field and what is left standing is your genetically modified plant.

The GM companies claim that their new technology cuts down on pesticide use.

A recent report published in the US has found that growing GM plants is actually increasing pesticide use.

Meanwhile here in old Blighty, the UK’s venerable scientific institution, the Royal Society, wants to invest millions of our taxpayers’ money into researching GM.

Stop this madness! We need to be spending our money on researching systems that DO work, such as organic farming, to find out how to make them even better.

Money invested in low-tech research is pitiful compared to money sunk in magic-bullet technologies – set to make corporations even richer than they are because – here’s the rub, so listen carefully:

Once a corporation genetically modifies a seed, the corporation can patent it. It owns the seed. 

And if that GM seed should land accidentally in a farmer’s field (and seeds do travel, borne by bees, or wind) then the farmer has to pay the GM corporation a licensing fee – viz the terrible case foisted on the 70-year-old farmer, Percy Schmeiser, in Saskatchewan, in Canada. And, according to the Soil Association, hundreds like him…

This week we heard the Food Standards Agency wants another go at persuading the British public that GM is OK.

The Food Standards Agency. That’s the same outfit that published a  flawed report in August stating  the benefits of organic food are “insignificant”. As I thrive on fresh organic food, this  incensed me. My post on the FSA’s report got the most comments ever.

So anyway, as I was saying, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants another go at brainwashing the British public.

The FSA is calling it a “dialogue project”.

The way we use words, eh. Obviously ‘dialogue’ was deemed innacurate – suggesting a two-way give-and-receive exchange of views. Which it is not. It’s a project. A dialogue project.

So a steering group of academics has been assembled so consumers “can be helped to make informed choices about the food they eat.”

Only two out of the 11 members of the steering group are known to be critical of GM technology, according to the Telegraph.

In fact one of the members, Professor Bryan Wynne, signed a letter to the paper saying (I paraphrase) the dialogue project was a waste of money anyway.

I like the sound of Prof Wynne.

I remember the government-led public debate on GM, called GM Nation.

The more debaters heard about GM, the more anti-GM feeling grew: “soaring to 90%” said Geoffrey Lean in this week’s Telegraph. Back in 2003 he reported how “Many regarded the debate as “window dressing used to cover secret decisions to go ahead with GM crop development”.”

The more we hear, the less we like.

9 responses to “GM – the more we hear, the less we like

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The more we hear, the less we like GM food « Real Food Lover -- Topsy.com

  2. Hi all,

    I’ve just read the article about GM in animal feed and one thing i don’t understand is, if the GM feed is so dangerous (and i think it probably is) surely this is going to cause too many problems for the livestock they give it to, to make it worth using? if it causes inflammed lungs, gut lesions and high mortality rate in offspring, surely they cant keep that up for long? it will become to expensive to keep the livestock if they keep gettting sick and cant produce offspring?

    Pete

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  3. I’m not sure the consequences of feeding GM food to livestock will be that obvious. The main side effect of GM foods seems to be allergies, caused by the presence of foreign DNA in the gut. In livestock that may manifest itself as an animal that does not thrive in which case the farmer will probably end its life.
    The GM foods tend to be the cheaper foods, those with the GM free labels are considerably more, and of course organic foods being the most expensive (I’m paying £400 /tonne for my poultry food).
    At the cheaper end of the market, the animals are probably intensively raised, and have short lives so the consequences of feeding GM food may not be seen.
    Quick point of accuracy re genetic manipulation, it doesn’t always mean inserting a foreign gene, in early GM crops such as the flavr savr tomato, the longer shelf life was obtained by taking the gene in question, flipping it and putting it back. So no risk of allergies at all. And sometimes foreign DNA can appear in a plant naturally – inserted there by viruses (as found in tobacco plants)

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  4. Peter – thanks for your interesting question.

    Sally, many thanks for answering it. And also many thanks for your points of accuracy.

    I know mutations/foreign DNA can occur in nature – but surely over a long period of time – not in one generation as in GM technology.

    I did not know about the gene-flip on Flavr Savr!

    However Flavr Savr did result in some worrying health results, according to Jeffrey M. Smith, the author of Seeds of Deception – here is the ref:
    http://www.organicworks.com.au/GMHealthrisks.htm

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  5. Hi yes can see why its used, so if we want healthy animals, people, environment we kind of have to find an economic solution to the problem, as that seems like a key motivator. I wonder what the cost to the NHS is of eating intensively farmed food, the cost to the farmer in vet bills, the cost of these outbreaks (foot and mouth etc ) not to mention the cost to the environment. Maybe if you added it all up it would all balance out to make it worth the government subsidising organic agriculture? that might be the day they genetically engineer pigs to fly?

    Pete

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  6. Jonathan Matthews

    Peter, I wonder if the gut lesions etc. you refer to are as reported in feeding trials. If so, then these will almost certainly have involved very juvenile animals and the GM feed will have constituted a very large part of their diet. This is for the obvious reason that this helps make any ill effects more discernible. Those effects are likely to be far less discernible with adult animals etc., certainly in the short term.

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  7. Thanks, Peter, for raising another issue – cost! The sums have been done – and show clearly that ‘conventional’ i.e .chemically-farmed food IS more costly if you factor in the NHS bills for food-related illnesses such as obesity, the cost of cleaning up pollution from farm chemicals etc. I will try to get the refs as soon as poss….

    Jonathan. Many thanks for your comment about the animal feeding trials and how they show up pr0blems earlier – as intended – by using infant animals in testing.

    There are also anecdotal reports of adult animals refusing to eat GM. I will try to find that ref too!

    The full Soil Association investigation into the health effects of GM crops in animal feed (2008) http://bit.ly/5WdOh4

    And the full Soil Association report on GM animal feed in the UK, Hidden Invasion (2007) http://bit.ly/7GsvR7

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  8. Well i might have to writ to Defra to complain then, because what are we paying them for in that case!!??

    Thanks

    Pete

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  9. Government may nominally serve the people, but seem more the servant of big business.

    However, it is always worth letting decision-makers know what we really think. I believe in the power of public opinion.

    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
    Customer Contact Unit
    Eastbury House
    30-34 Albert Embankment
    London
    SE1 7TL

    helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk

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