Stop Genetic Modification
The GM industry has been promising for decades that genetically modified crops will revolutionise farming, and even solve world hunger
But none of their promises have come to fruition.
There is little if anything to suggest the ‘next generation’ GM technology will be any different.
Meanwhile, GM remains a distraction from the critical issues facing food and farming that can’t simply be solved by tweaking genes.
What does GM really look like?
Nearly all commercially released GM crops are produced by three chemical companies:
- Syngenta, and
Despite the pro-GM lobby’s promises that these products would lead to decreased pesticide use, the truth has proven to be quite the opposite: The use of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller, Round-up, has skyrocketed since the introduction of glyphosate-resistant GM crops, becoming the most used weed-killer in the world.
The blanket spraying of these weedkillers on GM crops is associated with environmental damage in North and South America, from degraded soils to the loss of food plants for wildlife such as the iconic Monarch butterfly.
And these crops create herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’, trapping farmers into an increasingly expensive arms race where the only winners are the chemical companies.
There is also a long history of these GM crops contaminating other farms, which can be financially disastrous and poses a huge problem for organic farmers.
At present, there are no commercial GM crops grown in the United Kingdom
But we are still supporting these GM systems by importing them for much of our animal feed. If you buy:
- non-organic eggs,
- meat or
- farmed fish
from UK supermarkets, the chances are the animals behind those products were fed GM feed.
We need a shift in priority to food security
“GM is a huge distraction. It is diverting a massive amount of time, effort and attention from the really crucial issues facing food and farming - like looking after our soils. We have already degraded 25 to 40% of soils worldwide and unless we work very hard to reverse this damage, it will be impossible to feed the growing population healthily. GM is dangerous because it allows us to accelerate in the wrong direction for a short while longer.”Helen Browning, Soil Association Chief Executive
We need to see a shift in priority to solving our underlying food problems. Techno-fixes like gene editing mustn’t distract from this.
We need to:
- regenerate soils,
- diversify crops,
- use fewer chemicals,
- bring back wildlife and
- switch to foods that are better for us and the planet.
This needs a dramatic shift towards farmer-led innovation and agroecology to create a climate and nature friendly future.
Currently farmer-led research sees less than 1% of public research and development funding.
Find out what our asks to the Government are around this and others here.
Don’t believe the hype: New GM techniques
In July 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that new genetic editing techniques count as GM and must be properly regulated. We welcomed this move.
These newer techniques, which include so-called ‘gene editing’, continue to be regulated as GM in the UK following Brexit. In 2019/20, the Government announced an aspiration to change this, particularly for new techniques which interfere with DNA, but do not insert genes from foreign species.
But GM has a track record of failing to deliver. We are told that GM foods are needed to feed our growing population and to meet the challenges of climate change and pests, yet real world experience has shown that GM crops have not lived up to their promises. This booklet from Claire Robinson (Editor of GMWatch.org) and produced by the Sheepdrove Trust (pdf, 20mb) debunks the myths spread by the producers of GM products and the chemicals they rely on.
These newer technologies, like ‘old GM’ are perfectly suited to distract from what is really needed, and to end up concentrating corporate control, putting big agribusiness firmly in the driving seat. We only have to look at the US and Brazil to see what direction GM takes us in - low food and environmental standards, farmers faced with degraded soils that are far from resilient to climate change, and wildlife in crisis.
What are the risks of genetic modification?
‘This is a bottle that once opened, cannot be closed. To check the contents first, mistakes and all, is just scientific common sense’.
All GM techniques, new and old, should remain subject to risk assessment, traceability and labelling to ensure farmer choice, consumer choice and the safeguarding of health & environment. Regulation is needed not only for novel traits, but also for the process of DNA interference itself.
DNA interference is something all GM techniques do, including gene editing.
It raises a great deal of scientific uncertainty.
Recent research has raised more questions than answers, highlighting unexpected effects in all editing techniques, in the form of DNA errors and changes in gene expression. The repercussions are not well understood.
Newer ‘gene editing’ techniques raise another level of uncertainty given their completely novel ability to do a large number of different edits, allowing changes to quickly accumulate.
Organic food and farming
Organic standards adopt a precautionary approach to new technologies and prohibit GM.
The organic sector must be given the possibility and capacity to remain GMO-free.
To protect the income and livelihoods of organic farmers and processors, all contamination of non-GMO materials should be prevented by the GMO producer in line with the polluter pays principle.