The case against GM crops Alissa Cook policy officer Soil Association
Areas of concern in regards to GM • Do we know enough about GE to allow GM food into the food chain. • What are the benefits of GM crops to the farming community? • Can GM crops benignly co-exist with non-GM and organic production?
Do we know enough? • Entering areas of science where there is still limited knowledge. • We don’t know how natural genetic processes work. • Science Review Panel: officially acknowledges the levels of uncertainty and gaps in knowledge.
Impact on health • Feeding trials only way to test impact but very few have been done. • A level of testing is carried out by companies -very little independent studies to verify the results. • Only 10 published studies into the health effects of GM.
Impact on environment • Results of FSE provide an insight • GM sugar beet and oilseed rape cause decline in wild plants and invertebrates > RSPB say should ban. • GM maize caused increase in weeds and some invertebrate species. But it was compared to system that was using a banned chemical. • Trials only evaluated one year of planting, problems emerge after a few years.
Impact on environment (cont..) • A recent study from Canada reports that GM Herbicide Tolerant oilseed rape is now one of the 10 top agricultural weeds. • Farmers now use herbicide mixtures of RoundUp and more toxic products e.g 2,4-D to “clean” fields.
Do GM crops live up to expectation? • Higher yields? • Cleaner fields? • Reduced herbicide use? • Reduced pesticide use? • Higher profits? • Why is the acreage of GM crops increasing?
Can GM crops benignly co-exist with non-GM production? • GM contamination has occurred throughout the food chain. • Means that GM crops are more problematic for the non-GM farmer.
Can GM crops co-exist with non-GM production? (cont.) • A survey conducted in Canada suggests that in regions where GM oilseed rape is grown, 97% of all certified OSR seed is now contaminated. • Canada has lost it’s organic OSR market and US farmers are struggling to supply non-GM maize markets.
Can GM crops co-exist with non-GM production? (cont.) • GM contamination has led to costly product recalls - the Starlink case is estimated to have cost the US $ 1 billion. • farmers have also been accused of having infringed company patents.
Is there a market for GM crops in the UK? • Surveys suggest not. • Results of the GM public debate • 95% worried about GM contamination • 93% believe not enough is know about long health effects • 86% are unhappy with the idea of eating GM foods and only 8% are happy to eat GM food. • GM crops will undermine consumer choice.
Conclusion • With the level of uncertainty why rush into growing GM crops. • Gloucestershire has a mixed and varied agriculture which shapes the countryside. • According to EC July 2003 recommendation; “ measures of regional dimension could be considered… if sufficient levels of purity cannot be achieved by other means”.