‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Geoffrey Lean asks - do we need GM?

Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph asks whether we need GM crops. Do we need GM to feed the world? It's not as simple as it seems

He raises the question of whether we need to utilise GM technology in order to feed the world and references studies that suggest that GM may actually damage crop yields.

He writes that the "world’s biggest ever agricultural study – the work of 400 scientists and 60 governments, headed by Dr Bob Watson, now Chief Scientist at Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture – concluded that GM was not the simple answer to poverty. In truth, it could even do more harm than good." Lean suggests there are several problems with the belief that GM crops will be a solution to the growing pressure to increase crop yields in order to feed the worlds growing population.

1. GM takes such a long time to develop that advances with non GM crops through selective breeding programmes are often found to be more productive.

2. GM is focused upon making profit for companies and such companies are not very interested in providing food for the world's poorest farmers who cannot afford the technology. Lean writes that there is a tendency for GM to enhance the power of those wealthy enough to afford the technology, and even if it is successful it may only force the poor farming communities off the land. Poverty then is increased even if yields are increased overall and the poor may not be able to afford to buy food they once produced for themselves more cheaply.

3. GM may actually decrease the yield because the crops are not selected for yield, but for resistance to certain diseases. This may weaken the crops overall. GM crops may also lead to 'superweeds' in the struggle for life.

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