Jack Heinemann article in Indian press
Keep the pause button on GM pressed
JACK A. HEINEMANN
Science is the process of knowledge creation (or discovery) whereas technology is the means of knowledge application. This confusion causes some scientists to defend technologies that are questioned because they perceive questions on the technology as an attack on science.
Herbicide use is increasing in the U.S. since it adopted GM maize (corn), soybeans and cotton. Insecticide use is down by a small bit, but extremely high compared to countries such as France which do not use GM crops. Western Europe’s maize yields match or exceed the U.S.’ yields using less pesticide. The yields in wheat and oilseed rape are increasing at an even faster rate in Western Europe than in the U.S. and Canada. This indicates a dangerous trend: those countries choosing to innovate in agriculture using GM are demonstrating lower productivity increases and greater dependence on chemical inputs in all crops compared to economically and environmentally comparable countries choosing to not use GM crops.
Now every government research centre and public university seeks to compensate for the fall in direct public investment through licensing royalties from IP and the creation of partnerships with the private sector. This necessarily changes the kinds of questions they favour being asked by their researchers, the kind that will be supported by institutional resources or rewarded with promotion. With these policies in place we shouldn’t be surprised that every problem looks like it has a GM solution even to researchers who claim to have no entrepreneurial motivations.