10 Reasons Why We Don’t Need GM Foods

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10 reasons why we don’t need GM foods

by BanGMFood.org. Co-authored and reviewed by scientific experts.

With the cost of food skyrocketing – hitting not just shoppers but the poor and hungry in the developing world – genetically modified (GM) foods are once again being promoted as the way to feed the world. But this is little short of a confidence trick. Far from needing more GM foods, there are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.

1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis

A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices.[1] GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels (crops grown for fuel rather than food) — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!

The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry.” — Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent[2]
The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bullshit.” — Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales[3]

2. GM crops do not increase yield potential

Despite the promises, GM has not increased the yield potential of any commercialised crops.[4] In fact, studies show that the most widely grown GM crop, GM soya, has suffered reduced yields.[5]

Let's be clear. As of this year [2008], there are no commercialized GM crops that inherently increase yield. Similarly, there are no GM crops on the market that were engineered to resist drought, reduce fertilizer pollution or save soil. Not one.” — Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, former biotech specialist for the US Environmental Protection Agency and former advisor on GM to the US Food and Drug Administration[6]

3. GM crops increase pesticide use

Official data shows that in the US, GM crops have produced an overall average increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops.[7]

The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true.” — Bill Christison, President of the US National Family Farm Coalition[8]

4. There are better ways to feed the world

A major UN/World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists, and endorsed by 58 countries, concluded that GM crops have little to offer global agriculture and the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change, because better alternatives are available.[9]

5. Other farm technologies are more successful

Integrated Pest Management and other innovative low-input or organic methods of controlling pests and boosting yields have proven highly effective, particularly in the developing world.[10] Other plant breeding technologies, such as Marker Assisted Selection (non-GM genetic mapping), are widely expected to boost global agricultural productivity more effectively and safely than GM.[11]

The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping, helping us understand crops better. That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture [than GM]. — Prof John Snape, head of the department of crop genetics, John Innes Centre[12]

6. GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat

Genetic modification is a crude and imprecise way of incorporating foreign genetic material (e.g. from viruses, bacteria) into crops, with unpredictable consequences. The resulting GM foods have undergone little rigorous and no long-term safety testing, but animal feeding tests have shown worrying health effects.[13] Only one study has been published on the direct effects on humans of eating a GM food.[14] It found unexpected effects on gut bacteria, but was never followed up.

We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences. — Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist

7. Stealth GMOs in animal feed — without consumers’ consent

Meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised on the millions of tons of GM feed imported into Europe do not have to be labelled. Studies have shown that if GM crops are fed to animals, GM material can appear in the resulting products.[15] As GM foods have been shown to affect animals’ health, eating such “stealth GMOs” may affect the health of consumers.

8. No one is monitoring the impact of GM foods on health

It is claimed that Americans have eaten GM foods for years with no ill effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the US and no one has monitored the consequences. With other novel foods like trans fats, it has taken decades to realize that they have caused millions of premature deaths.[16]

9. GM and non-GM cannot co-exist

GM contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GM rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the US rice supply and seed stocks.[17] In Canada, the organic oilseed rape industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM rape.[18] In Spain, a study found that GM maize “has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their coexistence practically impossible”.[19]

The time has come to choose between a GM-based, or a non-GM-based, world food supply.

If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it’s made, it can’t be reversed. — Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development[20]

10. We can’t trust GM companies

The big biotech firms pushing their GM foods have a terrible history of toxic contamination and public deception.[21] GM is attractive to them because it gives them patents that allow monopoly control over the world’s food supply. They have taken to harassing and intimidating farmers for the "crime" of saving patented seed or "stealing" patented genes — even if those genes got into the farmer’s fields through accidental contamination by wind or insects.[22]

Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell. — Tom Wiley, North Dakota farmer[23]

References from the text

1. “A Note on Rising Food Prices”, Donald Mitchell, World Bank report, 2008.

2. “Hope for Africa lies in political reforms”, Daniel Howden, The Independent, 8 September 2008, , accessed September 2008

3. “GM: it’s safe, but it’s not a saviour”, Rob Lyons, Spiked Online, 7 July 2008, accessed October 2008

4. “The adoption of bioengineered crops”, US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

5. “Glyphosate-resistant soyabean cultivar yields compared with sister lines”, Elmore, R.W. et al., Agronomy Journal, Vol. 93, No. 2, 2001, pp. 408–412

6. “Genetic engineering – a crop of hyperbole”, Doug Gurian-Sherman, The San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June 2008, accessed September 2008

7. “[http://www.biotech-info.net/Full_version_first _nine.pdf Genetically engineered crops and pesticide use in the United States: The first nine years]”, Benbrook, C., BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper No. 7, October 2004; “Agricultural Pesticide Use in US Agriculture”, Center for Food Safety, May 2008, using data from US Department of Agriculture

8. “Family Farmers Warn of Dangers of Genetically Engineered Crops”, Bill Christison, In Motion magazine, 29 July 1998, accessed October 2008

9. “International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development: Global Summary for Decision Makers (IAASTD)”, Beintema, N. et al., 2008, accessed October 2008

10. See, for example: “[http://www.agassessment.org/index.cfm?Page=IAASTD%20Reports& ItemID=2713 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development: Global Summary for Decision Makers (IAASTD)]”, Beintema, N. et al., 2008, accessed October 2008; “[http://www.unep-unctad.org/cbtf/publications/UNCTAD_DITC_TED _2007_15.pdf Feeding the world?]”, J. N. Pretty, SPLICE (magazine of the Genetics Forum), Vol. 4, Issue 6, August/September 1998; “Organic agriculture and food security in Africa”, United Nations report, 2008, accessed October 2008

11. “Marker-assisted selection: an approach for precision plant breeding in the twenty-first century”, Collard, B.C.Y. and D.J. Mackill, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, Vol. 363, 2008, pp. 557-572, 2008; “Breeding for abiotic stresses for sustainable agriculture”, Witcombe J.R. et al., Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 2008, Vol. 363, pp. 703-716

12. “Gene mapping the friendly face of GM technology”, Professor John Snape, Farmers Weekly, 1 March 2002, p. 54

13. Here is just a small selection of these papers: “Genetically modified soya leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality rate of rat pups of the first generation”, Ermakova I.V., EcosInform, Vol. 1, 2006, pp. 4-9; “Fine structural analysis of pancreatic acinar cell nuclei from mice fed on GM soybean”, Malatesta, M. et al., Eur. J. Histochem., Vol. 47, 2003, pp. 385–388; “Ultrastructural morphometrical and immunocytochemical analyses of hepatocyte nuclei from mice fed on genetically modified soybean”, Malatesta, M. et al., Cell Struct Funct., Vol. 27, 2002, pp. 173-180; “Ultrastructural analysis of testes from mice fed on genetically modified soybean”, Vecchio L. et al., Eur. J. Histochem., Vol. 48, pp. 448-454, 2004; “A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean: effects on liver ageing”, Malatesta M. et al., Histochem Cell Biol., Vol. 130, 2008, pp. 967-977; “Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine”, Ewen S.W. and A. Pusztai, The Lancet, Vol. 354, 1999, pp. 1353–1354; “New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity”, Séralini, G.-E. et al., Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol., Vol. 52, 2007, pp. 596-602.

14. “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract”, Netherwood T. et al., Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, 2004, pp. 204–209.

15. “Detection of Transgenic and Endogenous Plant DNA in Digesta and Tissues of Sheep and Pigs Fed Roundup Ready Canola Meal”, Sharma, R. et al., J. Agric. Food Chem., Vol. 54, No. 5, 2006, pp. 1699–1709; “Assessing the transfer of genetically modified DNA from feed to animal tissues”, Mazza, R. et al., Transgenic Res., Vol. 14, No. 5, 2005, pp. 775–784; “Detection of genetically modified DNA sequences in milk from the Italian market”, Agodi, A., et al., Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health, Vol. 209, 2006, pp. 81–88

16. “Trans Fats: The story behind the label”, Paula Hartman Cohen, Harvard Public Health Review, 2006, accessed October 2008

17. “[http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/risky-business.pdf Risky business: Economic and regulatory impacts from the unintended release of genetically engineered rice varieties into the rice merchandising system of the US”, Blue, Dr E. Neal, report for Greenpeace, 2007, accessed October 2008

18. “Seeds of doubt: North American farmers’ experience of GM crops”, Soil Association, 2002, accessed September 2008

19. “Coexistence of plants and coexistence of farmers: Is an individual choice possible?”, Binimelis, R., Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Vol. 21, No. 2, April 2008

20. "Choice: Less can be more", Roger Levett, Food Ethics magazine, Vol. 3, No. 3, Autumn 2008, p. 11, accessed October 2008

21. See, for example, Marie-Monique Robin’s documentary film, “Le Monde Selon Monsanto” (“The World According to Monsanto”), ARTE, 2008; and the [www.cbgnetwork.org website] of the NGO, Coalition Against Bayer-Dangers

22. GM company Monsanto has launched many such lawsuits launched against farmers. A famous example is the case of the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser. Just one article on this case is “GM firm sues Canadian farmer”, BBC News Online, 6 June 2000, accessed October 2008

23. “Monsanto 'Seed Police' Scrutinize Farmers”, Stephen Leahy, InterPress Service, 15 January 2004, accessed October 2008

External Resources

This article can be downloaded as a pdf to print out at home from the BanGMFood website.

Published October 2008 by banGMfood.org, a project of GMWatch. Copyright-free. Permission is hereby granted to print or reproduce this material.

Notes

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