As further problems with superbugs and superweeds are reported, DEFRA minister Paterson is to call for a fresh debate on GM crops

18 Jun

Yesterday Alistair Driver reported in the Farmers Guardian, that DEFRA Secretary Owen Paterson will call for a fresh debate on the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK in a speech on Thursday.

He noted that the UK Government has always been one of the biggest proponents of the GM crops within the EU, adding that Paterson, “an outspoken supporter of the controversial technology”, will highlight the need for a new direction in GM policy.

Superweeds

superweed chartDevinder Sharma (a Delhi analyst, trained in plant breeding & genetics) notes, “ever since genetically modified (GM) crops have been commercialised, the pace at which insects and weeds are developing resistance has hastened”.

He highlights agribusiness research consultancy Stratus report that nearly half of US farms report superweeds and reproduces its line chart adding that the problem has now spread to Canada, quoting the Manitoba Co-operator’s review of the Stratus survey:

“More than one million acres of Canadian farmland have glyphosate-resistant weeds growing on them.”

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Superbugs

Nature Biotechnology summarises the findings of a team of experts at the University of Arizona: “Analyzing data from 77 studies of 13 pest species in eight countries on five continents, the researchers found well-documented cases of field-evolved resistance to Bt crops in five major pests as of 2010, compared with only one such case in 2005. Three of the five cases are in the United States, where farmers have planted about half of the world’s Bt crop acreage”. Its chart:

superbug map
Dr Sharma concludes:

“For the industry, the development of superbugs and superweeds across the globe provides an immense business opportunity. GM companies are asking farmers to spray more stronger and potent chemicals . . .The top three GM companies now control over 70% of global seed sales and also dominate the pesticides market . . . .

“With millions of acres under GM crops being infested with superweeds and superbugs and the acreage growing with every passing year . . . (in time) superweeds and superbugs will turn into mankind’s biggest challenge”

He believes that this will happen, not in the distant future, but in our lifetime.

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