Thursday, May 18, 2017

GM - A so far unfulfilled promise

"Although there already is enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world, the real problem is one of access, as most of the hungry do not have the means to buy or produce the food they need. Therefore, while US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will “save the world”, there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades," so wrote the authors of this IPS article. 

A report from the States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine  found that US GE crop yield gains have slowed over the years, leaving no significant advantage in yield gains compared to non-GE plant varieties. Over two decades ago, Western Europe largely rejected GE crops while North America – the United States and then Canada – embraced them. More than twenty years later, US crop yield gains are not significantly higher than in Western Europe. Since the adoption of GE crops, US use of herbicides has increased. This is in contrast to France, which bans GE crop cultivation, where the overall use of herbicides has been reduced.

Jack Heinemann, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, did a pioneering 2013 study comparing trans-Atlantic yield trends, using United Nations data. Western Europe, he said, “hasn’t been penalized in any way for not making genetic engineering one of its biotechnology choices.”

With the world’s population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, Monsanto has long promoted its products as a way “to help meet the food demands of these added billions,” That remains an industry mantra.“It’s absolutely key that we keep innovating,” said Kurt Boudonck, who manages Bayer’s sprawling North Carolina greenhouses. “With the current production practices, we are not going to be able to feed that amount of people.”

Matin Qaim, a researcher at Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany, commented, “I don’t consider this to be the miracle type of technology that we couldn’t live without.”

Michael Owen, from the Iowa State University, said that while the industry had long said GMOs would “save the world,” they still “haven’t found the mythical yield gene.”

Newer genetically modified crops claim to do many things, such as protecting against crop diseases and making food more nutritious. Some may be effective, some not. To the industry, shifting crucial crops like corn, soybeans, cotton and rapeseed almost entirely to genetically modified varieties in many parts of the world fulfills a genuine need. To critics, it is a marketing opportunity to make larger profits. 

 Bayer recently announced a deal to acquire Monsanto And the state-owned China National Chemical Corporation has received American regulatory approval to acquire Syngenta. The deals are aimed at creating industrial giants even more adept at selling both seeds and chemicals

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