Thursday, November 19, 2009

Article: Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World

I just read a short article entitled Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World. The author, Bill Freese, points out some of the shortcomings of genetically-modified crops in terms of yield and economics. He doesn't even touch on the health issues, or on some of the long-term environmental issues. Because of this narrow focus, the article has the potential to reach a wide audience. Even folks who don't seem to care about health or the environment, or are unwilling to acknowledge the scope of the disaster that is unfolding, might still be open to hearing about yield and economics.

My summary:

Genetically-modified crops provide lower yield, fewer jobs, and huge profits for GM seed companies.

Some excerpts:

Hype notwithstanding, there is not a single GM crop on the market engineered for increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other attractive-sounding traits touted by the industry. Disease-resistant GM crops are practically non-existent. In fact, commercialized GM crops incorporate just two "traits" - herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance...

Herbicide-tolerant crops (mainly soybeans) are popular with larger growers because they simplify and reduce labor needs for weed control...According to the Argentine Sub-Secretary of Agriculture, this labor-saving effect means that only one new job is created for every 1235 acres of land converted to GM soybeans. This same amount land, devoted to conventional food crops on moderate-size family farms, supports four to five families and employs at least half-a-dozen...

What about yield? The most widely cultivated biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, suffers from a 5-10% "yield drag" versus conventional varieties, due to both adverse effects of glyphosate on plant health as well as unintended effects of the genetic engineering process used to create the plant.

For those who want to know about the rest of the problems with GMO:

This past weekend, at the annual conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation, I met a brilliant, kind, and utterly determined man named Jeffrey Smith. He is an expert on the problems with GMO--he wrote the book on the subject (literally). For a comprehensive, scientific, and astounding survey of the topic, visit his Seeds of Deception website, or check out his books, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.


withwithout said...

Not to mention that GM crops are designed to deal with conditions in the States, not in places like Africa which has its own set of problems.

If you are really interested in feeding the world, read John Jeavons's work on biointensive gardening:

But of course, there is no money in that for big business.

Alex Lewin said...

Withwithout, your point about the geographic specificity of GM crops is a good one, especially when it comes to the anti-"pest" variations, I would imagine.

I'm sure Monstanto et al. don't give a hoot about the suitability of their seeds for the conditions in poor countries. They just want to corner the market and make everyone dependent on them; after that, what difference does it make?

That's what scares Big Ag about organic, local, and specifically, paradigms like the very cool Biointensive page you pointed me to; there's nothing in it for them. If everyone wakes up and realizes that the old ways truly are the better ways, then Big Ag will not be able to continue growing.

I really think this is on the horizon. Let's keep our fingers crossed; and more importantly, let's get out there and do something about it, and support other people who are.