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GRACE Maher’s letter on genetically modified (GM) crops (June 24) is a great example of disinformation.
She uses a non-peer reviewed, highly inaccurate report published by an anti-GM lobby group from which she cherrypicks the data.
In fact, the report in question is not only missing key US Department of Agriculture data but actually does admit the fact there have been real pesticide reductions from certain types of GM crops with real savings to farmers (as outlined in Sheridan, C, Nature Biotechnology, February 2010, Volume 28, No 2, page 112).
The point Ms Maher ignores is that GM is simply a technology and, as such, can be applied to addressing a wide range of problems with varying degrees of success.
The success of GM applications in agriculture will depend not only on the nature of the applications but also on local conditions and local issues. For example, a GM soya variety with clear environmental no-till benefits in the US mid-west (92% of all soya grown in the US is now GM) might be useless in a sub-Saharan country.
GM is no silver bullet solution to the problem of food security, but it can be a powerful component of a sustainable solution. Why then would Grace Maher throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater?
A more enlightened approach has been taken by Bob Geldof, who has stated: “I just find hunger the worst, most anomalous, unnecessary death. So I’m a big GM guy and part of that is the notion that we can’t allow Africans to have genetically modified foods, despite the fact that the science has come on a lot, that there are safeguards. Is it the answer to everything? No, of course not, but it’s partially an answer when crops can grow in arid conditions. So if you develop something that’s a net boon to vulnerable people, give it to them. Give it to them!”
The key elements in feeding the world now and in the future will be increased public funding, the right policies regarding production and access to food, improved crop technologies (including GM) – all of which should be grounded in sound ecosystem management.
There is no reason why the best of GM and organic has to offer can’t be utilised pragmatically together under the banner of a next generation approach to sustainable agriculture.
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