Many visitors to the site read an earlier post, Scientists risk getting into an arms race against nature, in which the FT editorial on GM crops was quoted and the advantages of avoiding frequent ploughing and crop rotation were dissected, arriving at the conclusion that ‘these may prove to be transient gains’.
An agricultural economist & emeritus professor of plant science (right) from the University of Oxford swiftly rebutted the charges made in a letter to the FT, which opens:
“Sir, Your editorial “Seeds of doubt: Europe is right to be cautious over GM crops” (July 22) is surprisingly wide of the mark”.
It correctly states that: “(A)ll forms of agriculture, genetically modified, conventional or organic, are not natural and therefore all farmers are engaged with a “fight with nature” to secure their production. This means that pests and weeds develop resistance to all forms of control that humans try to impose on them, and have developed, and continue to develop, resistance which renders an “arms race against nature” an inevitable consequence of humans trying to feed themselves. GM crop production systems are no different in this context to other forms of agriculture”.
But then restates certain myths widely used by the industry and its political allies:
- GM technology represents one of a number of tools available to help deliver the agricultural productivity improvements needed to feed a growing world population and is already making an important contribution to this goal through yield improvements.
- Important environmental/ecological benefits that have occurred with the adoption of GM crops, namely a near 500m kg reduction in the application of pesticides on the GM crop area between 1996 and 2011 and important cuts in carbon emissions, equivalent in 2011 to taking 10.2m cars off the road for a year (equal to 36 per cent of registered cars in the UK).
- By not using GM technology, greater ecological damage is more likely due to the maintenance of less efficient crop production systems and the need to rely on use of marginal land with low productivity that might otherwise be taken out of agriculture.
G Brookes, Dorchester, Dorset, UK, director of PG Economics and CJ Leaver, Oxford, UK, trustee of the John Innes Foundation, Emeritus Professor of Plant Science, University of Oxford, should read the list of Dr Michael Antoniou’s ‘Myths and Truths’, covered on this site.
Even better, go on to the full GMO Myths and Truths report.