With the cost of food on the rise — hitting not just shoppers but the poor and hungry in the developing world — genetically engineered (GE) foods are once again being promoted as the way to feed the world. But this is little short of a confidence trick. Far from needing more GE foods, there are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.
1. GE foods won’t solve the food crisis
A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. GE giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GE foods!
“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GE industry.”
“The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GE crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GE crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bull****.”
— Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the
2. GE crops do not increase yield potential
Despite the promises, GE has not increased the yield potential of any commercialized crops. In fact, studies show the most widely grown GE crop, GE soya, has suffered reduced yields.
“Let's be clear. As of this year , there are no commercialized GE crops that inherently increase yield. Similarly, there are no GE crops on the market that were engineered to resist drought, reduce fertilizer pollution or save soil. Not one.”
3. GE crops increase pesticide use
Official data shows that in the
“The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true.” — Bill Christison, President of the
4. There are better ways to feed the world
A major recent UN/World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists, and endorsed by 58 countries, concluded that GE crops have little to offer global agriculture and the challenges of poverty, hunger and climate change, because better alternatives are available.
5. Other farm technologies are more successful
Integrated pest management (IPM) and other innovative low-input or organic methods of controlling pests and boosting yields have proven highly effective, particularly in the developing world. Other plant breeding technologies, such as Marker assisted selection (non-GE genetic mapping), are widely expected to boost global agricultural productivity more effectively and safely than GE.
“The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping, helping us understand crops better. That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture [than GE].”
— Prof John Snape, head of the department of crop genetics, John Innes Centre
6. GE foods have not been shown to be safe to eat
Genetic engineering is a crude and imprecise way of incorporating foreign genetic material (e.g. from viruses, bacteria) into crops, with unpredictable consequences. The resulting GE foods have undergone little rigorous and no long term safety testing, but animal feeding tests have shown worrying health effects. Only one study has been published on the direct effects on humans of eating a GE food. It found unexpected effects on gut bacteria, but was never followed up.
“We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences.” — Dr Suzanne Wuerthele,
7. Stealth GE’s in animal feed — without consumers’ consent
Products from animals raised on millions of tons of GE feed do not have to be labeled. (Add that to the fact that in North America, no GE foods require GE labeling.) Studies have shown that if GE crops are fed to animals, GE material can appear in the resulting products. As GE foods have been shown to affect animals’ health, eating such “stealth GEs” may affect the health of consumers.
8. No one is monitoring the impact of GE foods on health
It is claimed that North Americans have eaten GE foods for years with no ill effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the
9. GE and non-GE cannot co-exist
GE contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GE rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the
“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GE foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GE. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to
— Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development
10. We can’t trust GE companies
The big biotech firms pushing their GE foods have a terrible history of toxic contamination and public deception. GE is attractive to them because it gives them patents that allow monopoly control over the world’s food supply. They have taken to harassing and intimidating farmers for the “crime” of saving patented seed or “stealing” patented genes — even if those genes got into the farmer’s fields through accidental contamination by wind or insects.
“Farmers are being sued for having GE organisms on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell.” —
Scientific references and sources for the information presented here can be found at www.banGMfood.org