In preparation for the release of a pro-GM report out on Feb 9th, the government and media have been softening us up with pro-GM rhetoric: How can we feed the world?
The fact that we, as a country, have never fed ‘the world’ and will never need to, is ignored in the rush to pave the way for full-scale adoption of GM farming in Europe. I just heard a news report telling me how we had to urgently adopt intensive farming and 'explore' GM possibilities, but then a spokesperson from the World Food Programme said the world currently produces double the food requirement for the world population (waste, lack of distribution and inequality of consumption to blame)and the only reason he thinks the government is trying to panic us, is to push the case for GM within Europe.
The Environment minister is Caroline Spellman – she was a director of a biotech lobbying group owned in part by her husband. No conflict of interest there then!
On Saturday, I went to an info day on GM, with talks and film by scientists, farmers and environmental campaigners who have been working in countries where GM farming is widespread. The big message they wanted to bring was that GM isn't working. Its failure is increasingly ackknowledged in the USA and that is why GM companies such as Monsanto are desperate to break into the European market, before we cotton on to that fact.
Food: We managed to get GM food off our shelves back in the late '90's, through camapigning and direct action. Instead, it's coming in through the back door. What most people don't realise is that almost all the animals that provide UK meat, poultry and dairy products, have been fed GM soya and maize. The UK imports over 1 million tonnes of GM soya feed/year and most of this comes from rainforest-cleared land in south America. That's 30 million tonnes into Europe/year. There's currently no legislation on labelling so we're not told we are consuming GM products.
Fuel: All petrol now contains agrofuel, mostly biodiesel made from GM crops. Again, it isn't labelled. It makes up 3.5% now, but while pretending to combat climate change, Eu law says this needs to rise to 10% by 2020. (Its reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is questionable.)
GM trees: Fast-growing, low lignin trees (floppy trees that can be broken down easer) are the next big thing. See GM treewatch The big sell-off of frorestry commission land means we will have little control over this and carbon credits will encourage the take-up. GM micro-organisms to break down the trees to create bio-fuel are the next focus although how you contain micro-organisms, I don't know.
Carbon credits: Because GM crops are sold as 'no-till' crops (not needing the land turned over cos the herbicides kill everything anyway), GM companies get tax breaks, carbon credits and subsidies, claiming their crops are carbon sinks!
What's wrong with it? Mono-culture, the growing of a single crop (mostly soya) over huge areas is damaging to the land, insects, other plants and people. The main crop, by the main pharmaceutical company, Monsanto, is 'Round-up Ready soya' which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Round-up herbicide. The idea is that you can then spray thousands of acres of crops and the only thing that will live is the soya. Trouble is, it hasn't worked out like that and now US farmers are saying at first one weed became resistant to it and they had to spray for that, now around 30 weeds are surviving the herbicide. Secondary pests are now becoming a big problem, needing more and more chemicals to combat them. Meanwhile, something in the genetically altered seed is messing with the brains of bees (I know - weird to think of bees' brains!) A beekeeper expert said the bee loses the ability to map an area and can't get back to the hive and transmit the information about food. The loss of bio-diversity is also devastating to other insects and the birds that live off them.
Farmers agreeing to go GM are tied into the system, forced to buy the herbicides Monsanto foists on them, not allowed to keep back seed for the following year, thereby ensuring they must buy new seed each year, which has since risen in price.
Because the GM seed is patented, they aggressively sue any neighbouring landowner whose crop gets cross-pollinated by wind-borne GM pollen. The neighbour is driven out of business and Monsanto gets to expand their empire still further. One farmer showed us a film he had made, interviewing GM farmers in the US. They all said it had been a big mistake. Suicides among small-scale farmers is widespread in India and South America, where people get deeply in debt when crops fail yet they are tied into buying in the new seed and herbicide. Ironically, the method of suicide used is often to drink the herbicide.
Of course, there will be no market for GM in Europe, unless we create it. If we refuse to buy GM food and kick up a fuss about existing GM livestock feed and fuel, we can stay free of the stuff. The website 'GM Freeze' gives help on writing to your MP on this issue.
Find out much more and in better-explained detail on the 'Stop GM' site.