Meacher blasts GM climate change claims (19/9/2007)

Climate of change for supporters of GM crops
The Guardian (Letters), September 19, 2007,,2171992,00.html

So the biotech industry is having another try. Having been defeated comprehensively in 2004 after the GM field-scale trials I set up, they have the gall to suggest (like the nuclear industry) that climate change might provide the way back in. Your report says an unnamed "senior government source" claims the tide will turn because, allegedly, GM crops are higher-yield and hardier to help feed the world's increasing population and will help provide biofuels to limit climate change. These claims are bunkum.

The most authoritative study on crop yields - by Charles Benbrook, an independent US scientist - found that over a five-year period yields actually fell and pesticide use increased to deal with superweeds. The real answer to feeding a growing world population, in addition to more widespread family planning, is reversing the gross maldistribution of land in developing countries, phasing out the US and EU agricultural subsidies that wreck the market for developing-world farmers, and ending the rich countries' discriminatory trade policies. Any role for GM is, by comparison, piffling.

The claim that GM will assist production of biofuels is equally mischievous. If it did this (which is unlikely), it would actually diminish the world's food supply, given the competition for land. If government officials were genuinely concerned about combating climate change, they wouldn't be making Monsanto's case to raise biotech's profits by cornering the world's food supply; they would be increasing the use of renewable energy, not expanding airports, and signing up industry to much tighter annual CO2 reductions.

Michael Meacher MP
Former environment minister


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