sábado, noviembre 29, 2008

Mae Wan Ho: GM not the way to sustainability


The evidence is clear: industrial agriculture is out; GM agriculture is worse and unsafe. Organic agriculture, on the other hand, can feed the world, and feed it well, as Catherine Badgley and colleagues in the University of Michigan have shown by a careful analysis of data already published [32], and as many other studies have confirmed in ISIS’ own report [33] (Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free). Especially relevant is the project carried out by Sue Edwards and colleagues at the Ethiopian Institute of Sustainable Development in Tigray over a period of seven years, documenting how compost produced yields 30 per cent greater than chemical fertilisers. (Not surprisingly, crops treated with chemical fertiliser did better than those that were not treated at all, so if this had been a Green Revolution project it would be claimed as a great triumph for chemicals.)

A couple of years ago, some ordinary rice in the USA became contaminated with GM rice that was being trialled. This was not picked up by the Americans, which shows how feeble their testing is, but was noticed in Europe. The authorities were slow to act, the UK worst of all [34] (GM Rice Contamination How Regulators Tried to Sidestep the Law, SiS 32), but the consumers would not tolerate it. You can see just how strongly they objected from a packet of rice found in a London greengrocer. The original label described the contents as “American Long Grain Rice”, but this apparently referred to the variety of rice, not its origin. So the distributor had covered it with a new label, informing the consumer that this was “Long Grain (Non USA Origin): Please Ignore All References to the USA”.

Can GM be stopped? Yes, it can, if consumers refuse to buy it and if farmers refuse to grow it. That little package of rice reminds you what can happen when consumers will not buy something they don’t trust and don’t want. And if consumers don’t want to buy GM, farmers have even less reason to grow it. Among the strongest critics of the lax US regulation and quality control that allowed contaminated rice to be exported were American rice farmers who saw their overseas markets disappear.

And when governments and industry give up devoting so much time, effort and resource to what even the IAASTD considers to be a side issue as far as feeding the world is concerned, we will be able to concentrate on measures that will really make a difference.

This article is based on lectures delivered at the International Conference on Climate Change, GMOs and Food Security, held on 1-2 October, 2008, in New Delhi. India, and the Forum on Genetically Modified Organisms: “Have GMOs Delivered?” held on 16 October 2008 in Manila, Philippines.


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