Tag Archives: GM

GM food or die?

A major new report on the impending world food crisis was published today. While it is good to see the problems are being faced the author of the report, John Beddington, repeats the same old rhetoric that GM is the only way to solve the problem.

In an article in The Observer yesterday he is reported to have said that any objection to the use of GM is no longer valid on ethical and moral grounds. So, if we object the use of unproven and potentially dangerous products we are now unethical and immoral?

The argument is that by objecting to GM people will starve and the objectors will be responsible. Agrochemical companies, and their supporters, will use any way they can to further their cause and moral blackmail is their latest ploy.

The facts are clear; GM has never been used to ‘feed the world’ but is there to increase the profits of a very small number of multinational agrochemical companies. GM locks us into the unsustainable agrochemical industry which is part of the problem and not the solution. GM side effects are drastically played down and any opposition to the companies peddling GM products is ruthlessly eliminated.

Beddington was on UK TV today saying that we have to act now and cannot wait 20 years for a solution. On that we agree and, as I have said many times before, the answer is political. We have the means to grow huge amounts of food sustainably, now, but politicians refuse to act. We have the ability to make the UK far more self-sufficient in food but politicians choose to follow the free market model where countries grow what makes the best profit.

The same applies to the developing world. Does it make sense to import green beans from Africa rather than encourage countries to be self-sufficient? The argument is that with the money earned from exports they can buy food. How does that work when a lot of the growing is controlled by companies from the West?

The other major political step to take is to end financial speculation of food. Governments around the world cannot agree to curb banks excessive profits and bonusues so it is unlikely that they would even suggest ending profiteering from speculaion on food.

GM is not the answer and will only serve to prop up the strangle hold that the agrochemical companies have on the world food supply. Is it right that we should force a rotten system on developing countries under a smoke screen of ‘feeding the world’ when the main intent is further exploitation to make higher profits?

Spend more on food rather than holidays

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, has caused a stir by saying that we should spend more money on food than on holidays, according to The Telegraph. That is bound to be a headline grabber and bound to get a strong reaction but is he right?

Some years ago there was a statistic floating around which said that in the UK we spend 9% of income on food whereas in France it was nearer 19%. That says a lot about how food is valued. Some would argue that cheap food is almost a right but I would counter that by saying nutritious food is a right and not the useless pap that many companies sell as ‘food’.

How much we are willing to pay for meal also says a lot about what food means to us and generally we don’t value it all. In supermarkets food is sold on price and price alone, the cheapest being seen as the best. Low prices have to come from somewhere and it is the continual screwing down of farm gate prices which keeps the shop price artificially low. That benefits nobody in the long term as it leads to a precarious supply situation which easily creaks and breaks at the slightest problem.

Then there is organic food. For a long time organic has been branded by the opposition as a niche market and as high priced food for tuffs. The perception is that, at best organic is much more expensive and at worst a con which is no different to the chemical soaked alternative. Organisations like the NFU have vigorously defended conventionally produced food and have been quick to reinforce the niche market claims. What this has done if to create confusion and an air of suspicion in the minds of consumers.

The recent debates about food security have also jumped on the organic knocking bandwagon and made wild claims about links to starvation and organic farming. The argument is that we need even more intensive chemical farming combined with unproven technologies like GM. Government has joined that camp because it gives them an easy way out of a difficult and frightening problem.

What we really need is to increase food production in the UK and diversify the way food is grown. That does not mean super farms in the East of England supplying 98% of English carrots, cabbage or anything else. That is not resilient agriculture it is sheer lunacy. The prolonged drought in the East Anglia last year and the recent disruption to supplies during the cold spell have shown just how precarious our food supply really is.

Farmers need to be seen as a crucial part of society and valued for the work they do and not constantly knocked or seen as scapegoats for the bad practices of the retail sector.  Agriculture and horticulture need to be sold to young people as worthwhile and engaging careers. There should be incentives for young people take on small holdings of land to grow food sustainably without chemicals. Land should be seen for what it is, an absolutely crucial part of keeping us alive and not as an investment opportunity.

What about organics? A large scale move to organic agriculture is not just desirable it is essential to produce a sustainable production system that is not totally reliant on oil. It is no use tinkering with the existing system in way that increase or perpetuates reliance on fossil fuels all that will do is delay the inevitable crisis. We must begin to move to a post oil agricultural system with more local production and distribution.

The days of cheap food have gone. We will have to pay more for food and I sincerely hope that we recover our respect for what we eat. A more nutritious diet could make a huge difference to public health of this country. The best thing is that people might even begin to enjoy good food again instead of scoffing plastic meals out of plastic trays while walking around our cities.

In the end it is not about whether organic food is just for rich toffs it is about the facing the realities of declining oil supplies, climate change and population growth. Food production has to become sustainable and just has to be less dependent on oil.

Study Proves Three Monsanto Corn Varieties Pose Health Hazard

This new research from Europe proves what many of us have believed for a while, that GM food IS unsafe. What is particularly alarming is that GMO corn “… clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as damage to the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system.” And this is what the EU and UK government want to force on us after pressure from the US!

A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences demonstrates the toxicity of three genetically modified corn varieties from the American seed company Monsanto, the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (Criigen, based in Caen), which participated in that study, announced Friday, December 11.

“For the first time in the world, we’ve proven that GMO are neither sufficiently healthy nor proper to be commercialized. […] Each time, for all three GMOs, the kidneys and liver, which are the main organs that react to a chemical food poisoning, had problems,” indicated Gilles-Eric Séralini, an expert member of the Commission for Biotechnology Reevaluation, created by the EU in 2008.

It is interesting and alarming that this has not made a big impact on the UK press and media.

Read more

The press release from the Organic Consumers Association

Research paper in the International Journal of Biological Sciences

Stop Siddiqui!

This is from the Organic Consumers Association in the US but anybody can take action to stop this happening.

Islam Siddiqui has been nominated as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. If Congress confirms Siddiqui, he will no doubt continue to undermine public health, biodiversity, climate stability and food security as the “inside man” in the Obama Administration for his former clients at CropLife (a front group for genetic engineering and chemical-intensive agribusiness corporations including Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow Chemical).

Croplife America’s regional partner, Mid America CropLife Association, notoriously “shuddered” at Michelle Obama’s organic garden and launched a letter writing campaign in protest, saying that Michelle’s rejection of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the White House Garden was a slap in the face for Food Inc. and America’s chemically-addicted farmers.

Another Washington wheeler-dealer using the revolving door between government and big business, Siddiqui formerly worked for Clinton’s pro-biotech USDA. Siddiqui gained notoriety in 1997-98 as an insider pushing for the infamous proposed USDA regulations for national organic standards that would have allowed toxic sewage sludge, irradiated foods, and genetically modified organisms to be labeled “organic.” After a nationwide SOS (Save Organic Standards) campaign, led by the OCA and our allies, which generated an unprecedented backlash, Siddiqui and his cohorts backed down and withdrew their proposals.

It’s time to take down Siddiqui and his cohorts once again. We must tell the Senate to reject President Obama’s nomination of Siddiqui as the Agricultural Trade Representative.

TAKE ACTION

GM crops no panacea for food security: US scientist

This report from a leading US scientist says that GM is not the way to ‘feed the world’. No doubt he will now be vilified by the biotech companies and his research rubbished.

KARACHI: Senior US scientist Dr Michael Hansen has said genetically modified crops are not the panacea for food security. Rather, the answer to food security lies with small-scale, ecologically rational, sustainable agriculture that focuses on local food systems.

“If you look carefully at global data, the most engineered crop is soybean. Ninety per cent of US acreage, 98 per cent of Argentina acreage and 60 per cent of Brazil are engineered, […] Scientific data show that on an average Roundup soybean has 10 per cent lower yield than non-engineered soybean. So if you want to feed more people, genetically-engineered soybean will not be the answer…”

Read more

It is too late to shut the door on GM?

The Guardian is saying it is too late to keep GM out of the country. They argue that there is already a lot of GM soya in the food chain so more is inevitable.

Of the 2.6m tonnes of soya imported into the UK last year, nearly two-thirds was genetically modified. The vast majority of this came from the Americas and was used as animal feed, although most people remain unaware of it. GM soya oil is also now used in quantity in the catering industry, according to government reports.

I for one am not about the throw in the towel and am outraged that the government has let this happen. Why did they do that knowing that there was so much consumer opposition in the UK?

The cynics and conspiracy theorists will argue that the government has not been passive and have actively constructed a scenario that means we have no choice but to accept what the biotech companies want. They have systematically rubbished organic food and are now openly saying that they will judge the use of GM in food on a case by case basis. That is a change of policy that slipped through unnoticed without debate.

This is not about ‘feeding the world’ or combating hunger or increasing yields or any of the other nonsense that has come out of biotech company PR departments. The only reason that the biotechs want GM in Europe is profit, money loads and loads of it. They do not even bother about rigorous independent tests before releasing their products on an unsuspecting public.

Make no mistake, GM is untested. Any attempts at testing on animals have been dismissed and the scientists sacked. Look at the case of Dr Arpad Pusztai who tested GM potato on rats and found it caused problems in their digestive system. He was hounded out of his job and ridiculed. The rumours surrounding the case say that there was direct intervention from ‘number 10’ in the way of phone calls to the institution employing him.

What is also concerning is that the president of Garden Organic, the largest organic gardening charity in Europe, has changed his stance and is now supporting the ‘democratic’ use of GM. It is the technology that is the issue here, the forcing of alien genes into plants in a way that would never occur naturally, that is the issue and not just who owns the technology.

“If there were a “people’s GM”, I wouldn’t be against it” – Tim Lang, president of Garden Organic.

So are we to assume that opposition from the organic sector is crumbling? Absolutely not says Myles Bremner the CEO of Garden Organic; but there does seem to be a contradiction here just at the time when the organic movement needs to present a united front!

It is NOT too late to stop this nonsense. Ireland has recently declared itself GM free. Their Irish government see this as a way of increasing food security and developing a strong export market in GM free products.

Things are also changing in the US where a judge recently refused to allow a GM crop to be planted as it would prevent freedom of choice i.e. it would be impossible for neighbouring farms to grow non GM crops due to the pollution from pollen drift and pollen on visiting bees.

Why oh why is the UK government so set on forcing GM on us? Why are they risking our health and taking away our choices just so that biotech companies can make more money? The policy stinks more than the current expenses scandal!

See this site for some good information about why we just don’t need GM food.

Please do something now; write to you MP and your MEP telling them that you do NOT want GM to be forced on England (both Scotland and Wales have declared themselves to be GM free) – find your MP/MEP here.

Please help to stop GM, there are other more eco friendly ways to produce as much food as we need. Write to Hilary Benn, the driving force behind the rush to GM food in the UK. Tell him you do not want it and demand that all food is tested for GM contamination. His email address is bennh@parliament.uk or phone him on phone 020 7219 6714

In the Constituency:

Hilary Benn MP
2 Blenheim Terrace
Leeds
LS2 9JG
phone: 0113 244 1097
fax: 0113 234 1176

In Westminster:
Hilary Benn MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0A

Agriculture’s role in climate change

This is by far one of the best pieces I have seen on climate change and agriculture.  It’s from Pesticide Action Network North America.

U.S. agricultural interests “are reading the science [of climate change] wrong” according to Newsweek. “Based on rationales from ‘climate change isn’t real’ to ‘it will increase crop yields so it’s a good thing’ to ‘it will cost us money’ most of the country’s farming sectors along with their elected officials have staunchly opposed taking action to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” Meanwhile, climate science indicates that global warming will have, and in some cases is already having, disastrous effects on U.S. and global agriculture. Key among these are drought, more pests and bigger storms, all of which will lower rather than increase crop yields. Experts gathering for a workshop on climate change and sustainable agriculture in Anantapur, India — already intimately familiar with the myopia of industrial agriculture’s preoccupation with profit — are looking to leverage learnings from fifty years of a flawed “Green Revolution” into a climate-ready, sustainable agriculture. According to The Hindu article entitled, “Green Revolution left Soil Infertile,”  excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers have left over half the country’s cultivatable land so saline it can’t support food crops. Solutions for recovering from the Green Revolution identified at the workshop align with tactics for surviving climate change: a return to traditional, ecological organic farming methods.

And for those who continually say a new ‘Green Revolution’ i.e. GM is the only way forward this is from The Hindu:

Experts at a workshop on climate change and sustainable agriculture have opined that the Green Revolution has done more harm than good to the agriculture sector in the country from a long term perspective. They suggested the farmers to return to traditional practices in farming in order to make the vocation sustainable in future. [Read more]

The only way to respond to climate change is by moving to real sustainable agriculture. That means lower inputs and adaptations to new conditions. Any other response will starve the world not feed it.

Read more

Pesticide Action Network North America
Newsweek
– So Shall You Reap, “Many farming communities think global warming won’t hurt them. They’re wrong.”
The Hindu – ‘Green revolution turned soil infertile’

Petition against GM rice entering the EU

This is a message from GM Watch. If you do not want GM rice to enter the EU please sign the petition ASAP.

In a matter of a few weeks a major EU decision – on whether genetically engineered (GM) rice can enter Europe – will be made that could set a dangerous precedent. It could mean that GM rice will begin to be commercially grown, not just in Europe, but in the US, Asia and all over the world. Keep GM rice from ending up on your dinner plate – sign the petition at:  http://bit.ly/11oLY

and please pass it on to friends and family. Every signature helps! Need to explain to your family or friends why GM is a problem? Or not so sure yourself? Watch this great video: http://bit.ly/2Fyjc6

NFU manifesto to next government

There has not been a lot in the news about this new publication from the NFU, National Farmers Union, which for non UK residents is the trade body representing agriculture in the UK.

There is nothing really new in the manifesto. The NFU is looking to biofuels to increase farming profits but that seems a little odd as it would be at the expense of food production. It seems that even the slight hiccup in food supplies last year has not registered.

There are also references to investing in science and technology which is a thinly veiled reference to their desire to have GM approved.

When the whole system of food production and consumption relies on ‘the supply chain’ there are few alternatives to bigger and bigger farms growing ever increasing acreages of single crops.

Nets covering brassicas

Nets covering brassicas

During a recent holiday in Suffolk there was ample evidence of large scale monoculture at work. Huge fields with single crops in sandy and dry soils were being constantly irrigated. Looking at the soil it is doubtful it has seen any organic matter for a very long time. There was also no livestock to be seen except for a few cows in isolated fields usually near the coast.

That is not sustainable agriculture. The massive amounts of water, fertiliser and pesticides require huge natural resources which are not reflected in the cost of the food produced or the damage they do to soils.

Government and the NFU should recognise that climate change and peak oil are opportunities to move to smaller sustainable mixed farms with legislation to provide incentives for change. To be fair, under the current system such farmers would be priced out of the world market; put simply the supermarkets would go elsewhere. Not until a government has the guts to challenge the monopoly of a few large companies will we have viable sustainable farming. It might mean paying more of the real cost of production, but having a reliable, home grown sustainable food supply must be better than being at the mercy of shifting markets.

Through the back door

There is no effective campaign against the ‘back door’ introduction of GM or GMO foods in the UK. The government seem hell bent on getting it in and is supported by organisations like the NFU (National Farmer Unions.)

Biotech company executives were reported to have said that it is the ideal time to get their products accepted as NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) were too preoccupied with climate change. They were exactly right.

Having spoken to Greenpeace UK and the Soil Association recently there is little evidence of effective opposition to GM. Greenpeace are not actively campaigning and have adopted a ‘watching brief’. The Soil Association say they are opposing GM but there is little evidence of that as their GM web page was last updated in 2008. It seems that updating it is a low priority.

Should we care? A resounding YES is the answer. You might think that there are ways of avoiding GM food but once large scale imports are allowed into the UK and UK GM crops are approved we will not have a choice. It will not be a case of going to the supermarket and selecting non-GM products as it will be everywhere. Bread often contains soya flour as do many other manufactured foods and recent comments from supermarkets confirm that they want to use  GM versions to reduce costs. If the UK follows the US there will no requirement to label food products that contain GM ingredients.

There are good independent studies to show that eating GM food does cause problems for humans and farm animals. The biotech companies will refute that and say that their research shows otherwise. In the US GM food does not have to undergo any safety checks and is approved on the say so of the companies producing it, the same could easily happen here.

Growing your own will not be a guarantee of staying GM free. Pollen travels considerable distances and will inevitably cross pollinate any neighbouring crops. Forget about growing sweetcorn if you live within a few miles of miles of fields of maze.

Then there are bees. Honey bees will easily travel up to 5 miles for good nectar or pollen. If they happen to stop by your garden on the way back to the hive they will exchange pollen with anything they visit. That is their job. Bees are in enough trouble as it is without introducing other unknown and untested pollutants to their food.

What bothers me most is that we are being scared into believing that GM is the only way to avoid starvation or ‘feed the world’ as the PR people say. There are many objections to this but it takes a long time to debunk the myths and spin.

The other worrying development over the last few years is that biotech companies have been buying up seed companies. It is extremely dangerous to have the world’s seed supply in the hands of a few very large multinational companies. Why do they want to control international seed supplies?

The good news is that there are better ways to grow food. There are already very highly blight resistant potatoes around, I have been growing them for five years and have never suffered any losses from blight, more of that later. Then there is the recently developed strain of rice that can survive total submersion in flood water and still produce a crop. Both of these examples were developed normally without biotechnology although the GM companies seem to be so incensed that conventional breeding has beaten them that they  falsely claimed the new rice strain as theirs!

My appeal to you is to lobby Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association to redouble their efforts to campaign against GM food. Write to your MP, Gordon Brown and anybody else you can think of saying that you do not want GM food. Please do something or we will wake up one day to find GM food everywhere.