Britain will starve without GM crops

This was a recent headline in the SundayTelegraph.  It matters, of course, who was doing the reporting and what their remit was.  Another recent article was:

It is clear that there is another attempt under way to rehabilitate and push forward the cause of GM food.  We should remain extremely vigilant.  The terms of reference of committees that the government has set up have been chosen to ensure reports favourable to the production of GM crops.  It has been reported that, as a result of these restrictions, many participants in these committees have found that they have been unable to present scientific results that impact negatively on the findings and have been refused the option of including cautionary clauses in the reports.

There are 6 billion of us now and about 1 billion do not find enough to eat.  By 2050 the population is forecast to reach 9 billion.  If the increase continues, then in the not-too-distant future there will be a breakdown of law and order as people struggle to obtain food, water, shelter, energy etc.  Set against the almost certain increase in environmental degradation, pollution and the rise of sea level, there will be less inhabitable land and the prospects for today’s children is far from rosy.  We cannot expect technology, with its insatiable appetite for energy to save us from this catastrophe.  One child per family, worldwide, for the next several generations could, however, reduce the demands of the human race on the planet to a sustainable level and provide everyone with a high standard of living.  However, I am not optimistic about our future.

The second Telegraph article elicited many comments.  One in particular referenced the web site and the article entitled Vilsack Mistakenly Pitched "GMOs-Feed-The-World" to an Audience of Experts—Oops”. 

Vilsack is the American Secretary of State for Agriculture.  The following are excerpts from this article, but if you have internet access then I highly recommend that you read the complete story.

Vilsack was asked the following highly qualified question:

"The American Academy of Environmental Medicine this year said that genetically modified foods, according to animal studies, are causally linked to accelerated aging, dysfunctional immune regulation, organ damage, gastrointestinal distress, and immune system damage.  A study came out by the Unionof Concerned Scientists confirming what we all know, that genetically modified crops, on average, reduce yield.  A USDA report from 2006 showed that farmers don't actually increase income from GMOs, but many actually lose income.  And for the last several years, the United States has been forced to spend $3-$5 billion per year to prop up the prices of the GM crops no one wants.

"I'm wondering, have you ever heard this information?  Where do you get your information about GMOs? And are you willing to take a delegation in Washington to give you this hard evidence about how GMOs have actually failed us, that they've been put onto the market long before the science is ready."

The room erupted into the loudest applause of the morning.  In his answer, Secretary Vilsack, who has a history of favoring GMOs was trying to sound even handed.  Then he made a tragic mistake.  After a slight pause, he added in a warm tone, "I will tell you that the world is very concerned about the ever-increasing population of the globe and the capacity to be able to feed all of those people."

Moans, groans, hisses, even boos came from the audience who are among the top experts at actually feeding the world.  The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), is the most comprehensive evaluation of world agriculture ever undertaken.  It evaluated the last 50 years of agriculture in over 100 countries, and prescribed the methods that were now needed to meet the development and sustainability goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability.  And GMOs was not one of those needed methods! It was clear to the experts that the current generation of GMOs did not live up to the hype continuously broadcast by biotech companies and their promotional East Coast wing--the federal government.

Extracted from Autumn2009 Newsletter