Go Organic: Genetically modified wheat?By James Ashford
June 08, 2012
The thorny subject of genetically modified (GM) food has hit the headlines again.
Scientists at Rothamstead Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, made a public appeal asking protesters to engage in debate rather than uproot a field trial of GM wheat.
In the end the police intervened to stop the planned action and the trial continues.
The scientists believe their wheat, which uses a peppermint gene to deter aphids, could reduce the amount of pesticide used by farmers.
The protesters feel that field trials are unsafe and risk contaminating non-GM wheat.
My own view is that GM crops should not be grown in the open.
The risks of cross-contamination are simply too great.
The organic movement opposes GM food and there is little appetite for the end product among the general public.
Where they are being widely grown there have been some serious environmental problems.
While the scientists experimenting with GM crops may be well-intentioned they often overlook the unintended consequences of their work.
A study from Cornell University in 1999 found pollen from GM corn could kill the larvae of monarch butterflies.
And last year Bayer paid $750 million compensation to 11,000 farmers in the United States after their crops were contaminated by GM rice.
GM food is promoted as a way of feeding the world but moving to a system that promotes monoculture at the expense of bio-diversity actually threatens food security.
We already grow more than enough food to feed the world – the problem is that we distribute it unfairly. In the West we suffer from diseases of over-eating while elsewhere people die from malnutrition and starvation.
Our current agricultural system relies on the unsustainable input of artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides and the fossil fuel which powers the whole shebang.
GM simply extends this process in a way which is both uncertain and irreversible.
What we need to do is to find a way of moving to a sustainable agricultural model rather then one which floats on a sea of oil.