GM myths/Professor Orskov on Taverne (8/3/2004)

2.GM in the Real World - Professor Orskov on Taverne

Financial Mail (South Africa), 05 March 2004

Misleading marketing has created the myth that GM crops are more profitable and better for the environment

The graph showing hectares planted to GM crops worldwide (FM Focus February 27) is flawed. The source is the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), a lobby group funded by the biotech industry. Its statistics of areas with GM crops in the Third World have been shown to be inflated by 20 times or more when compared with other sources.

Readers should further note that US agriculture department figures calculate that in the past three years (2001-2003) more than 73m more pounds of pesticides were applied on GM acres than on non-GM acres.

It is also well documented that the world's most widely grown GM food crop, GM soya, yields 5%-10% less than non-GM varieties, while the adoption of GM technology by US farmers has resulted in their maize exports to Europe falling from US$305m in 1996 to $2m in 2001.

Misleading marketing has created the myth that GM crops are more profitable and better for the environment, while the British Medical Association has called for a moratorium on the release of GM crops until there is sufficient independent scientific data to prove they are safe for human consumption.

Mark Jonker, Botha's Hill, KwaZulu Natal

2.GM in the Real World
5 March 2004


I was astonished to read Lord Taverne's comments(How Science can save the world's poor, March 3.) and agree entirely with the comments made by Professor Roy Butterfield on 4 March.

For the past 20 years I have had the privilege of spending a considerable amount of time in many countries in Asia, Africa and parts of S America, on missions concerning rural development and rural poverty alleviation supported by both international  and national organizations. I have yet to see a situation where problems of poverty alleviation and hunger could be solved by the introduction of present day GM crops. I cannot help but feel that this premise is used as a convenient justification by GM promoters and advocates - their problem is not one of world hunger but of power and profit to satisfy shareholders.

There are so many solutions which are better and environmentally sustainable. One example is multicropping which is already used effectively in many countries where complementary crops are grown together e.g. leguminous crops with non leguminous crops. Harvesting times may not be the same and therefore more labour intensive but if labour is not a problem then a labour saving device is certainly not the solution. There may be weeding to undertake but then the weeds are often used as animal feed.

There are numerous such examples that can be further developed and supported. In Vietnam the herbicides and insecticides used in paddy fields are now being substituted by ducks which consume the insects and weeds- result - duck as well as rice production! Additionally fish have been introduced with a resultant increase, rather than decrease, of yield. So now they have duck and fish production as well as rice. Do they really need Roundup Resistant rice?

I hope one day Lord Taverne will have an opportunity to go out into the real world where there is poverty and hunger with his eyes wide open.

E R Orskov OBE
Professor Orskov is head of the International Feed Resource Unit in Aberdeen

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