Are we losing the battle against GM crops?

Rozie Apps & Maddy Harland
Thursday, 20th June 2013

Today the Environment Minister, Owen Paterson, is urging Britain to adopt GM crops. With Obama's administration quietly passing pro-GM legislation, PM editors ask if the tide is relentlessly turning towards GM agriculture?

The controversial topic of genetically modified crops will rear its head again today as Environment Minister, Owen Paterson, urges the UK to take the lead in a GM revolution.

There are many groups across the world fighting against the use of GM crops, with over 36 different countries taking part in rallies and protests in May against Monsanto, GM producers. Significantly, these protests were ignored by mainstream media. Scientists are experimenting with alternatives and research in Cambridge has led to a new wheat breed that has been cross-bred with 10,000 year old wild grass species, all without splicing a single gene.

Yet our government still wants to put more funding into GM crops, believing they are the answer to agriculture problems and the ever-increasing need for more food.

Owen Paterson has never hidden his support for GM crops, believing they will reduce the use of fertilisers, chemicals and improve efficiency. He wants Europe to catch up with the rest of the world in GM production. The Guardian reports that in his speech today he will say, "If we use cultivated land more efficiently, we could free up space for biodiversity, nature and wilderness. Research undertaken by a team at Rockefeller University found that over the course of the next 50 years, new technology, combined with improved agricultural practices aross the world, could release an area 2.5 times the size of France from cultivation."

The Daily Telegraph reported that the Lib Dems who were once strongly opposed to an increase in GM technology in food were now open to a change in policy. There is still a divide, with Lib Dem ministers believing party activists would oppose any relaxation while they believe a change should be considered. They also reported that David Heath, the Lib Dem farming minister, told farming groups last month that GM food was "one of the tools in the box" for increasing food production.

A senior party source told The Daily Telegraph that it should make the 'rational' case for GM technology amid a growing global population and demand for food. 

But anti-GM groups state there is no evidence that these crops can feed the world and tackle issues such as climate change, soil degradation and water shortages. Many people are shocked that the Environment Minister can take these views that seem to work against nature. In the past month he has also been in support of the badger cull even though scientists actively lobbied for it not to happen, saying that it was not an effective method of controlling TB in cattle. Research indicates that a cull would be more expensive than doing nothing and that the policing of a cull would be more expensive than vaccinating herds.

Paterson also recently denied the reality of climate change on Question Time which flies in the face of scientific opinion held by august bodies like the Royal Society. The evidence is there: Between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels rose 195mm (7.7in). From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3mm per year, with satellite data showing a rise of 3.3 ± 0.4mm per year from 1993 to 2009, a faster rate of increase than previously estimated. This is due to thermal expansion as ocean water warms, and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets that is happening at a far faster rate than scientists predicted.

So add it up: Initiating the badger cull against scientific evidence, granting fracking licenses despite strong evidence that fracking causes earthquakes and pollutes ground water, denying climate change publicly, and promoting GM. It is obvious who pulls Paterson's strings.

Maddy Harland co-founded and edits internationally acclaimed, Permaculture magazine – practical solutions for self-reliance and Rozie Apps is the Assistant Editor.

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Further resources

African Biotech Specialist Disputes Concerns Over Gentically Enginered Foods

GM Wheat to be Trialled in UK This Spring

Poland Says No to Monsanto But Allows Trading of GM Seeds

Nicholas Stern on Climate Change and the Alternative Route to Mitigation

Yields of Wheat cross-bred from Wild Grass Could Be Boosted by 30%