The Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson has called concerns over the use of GM foods ‘complete nonsense’ and ‘humbug’ in an arrogant attack on public concerns of the government’s plans to relax regulations on GM food production in the UK, and their plans to get Europe to relax regulations.
In an outright lie (or through ignorance) Patterson said “While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind. We cannot afford to let that happen.”
Obviously Patterson has not researched the worldwide use of GM crops, which would show that GM crops have been BANNED or highly restricted in most parts of the world. There are very few countries which allow GM crops to be produced on the scale that Patterson and the rest of the government are proposing.
Eight European countries have banned the production of GM crops: Poland (the latest, in January 2013), Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, and Bulgaria.
In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and most of the countries in Europe have either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products.
Even though GM crops are produced in the US on a large scale, there was significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US’ food production chain.
The FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.
The claim that GM crops are more resistant to pests does not hold-up. Over time pests have adapted and become just as much a problem as they were to non-GM crops.
In India, continued use of GM modified cotton has significantly reduced the initial yield benefits famers saw during the first two years of use. The cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain a toxin called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is supposed to be a pesticide, and infestations have risen significantly.
The claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up in practice.
GM crops were engineered to be resistant to current weed killers, including Monsanto’s product Roundup. In theory, the crops would be resistant to the weed killers and the weeds would be wiped out.
The use of GM crops has produced highly resistant strains of weeds (called ‘superweeds’) and insects which have built up immunity to modern pesticides.
The weeds have developed resistance to the weed killers, and the biggest threats in the US are the giant ragweed and pigweed. Both of which grow at the rate of 2.5 centimetres a day and can reach heights of three metres. These weeds produced around 10,000 seeds at a time, and can smother GM crops in the same field. This has forced farmers to used highly toxic and dangerous older chemicals to try and contain pests.
Research by a Washington State University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996.
The leader of the research, Professor Charles Benbrook of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture said:
“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 per cent.
Things are getting worse, fast. In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides.
To stop corn and cotton insects from developing resistance to Bt, farmers planting Bt crops are being asked to spray the insecticides that Bt corn and cotton were designed to displace.”
In another study at the University of Arizona, the researchers found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (genetically modified organism).
The cost to human and animal health has been studied and well documented.
A study by the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) found that the process for approval of GM products was inadequate in the US and internationally. The impact on human health had not been properly assessed. The approval process failed to identify a viral gene which could be poisonous to humans.
The gene, which is known as ‘Gene VI’, is likely to cause unintended physical or biochemical changes according to the EFSA researchers.
The changes include the creation of proteins which are toxic to humans, and could trigger changes in the plants themselves, making the crops weak and more vulnerable to pests.
The crops are typically used to feed farm animals which produce meat, eggs and milk for human consumption.
The findings of the EFSA prove that the approval process for GM products has been fatally flawed for the past 20 years.
There has been no research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Attempts by independent researchers to analyse the effects have been obstructed by the GM seed producers, who often cite the commercial protection of their products as reasons for not releasing essential information for their products assessment.
Recently, scientists who have published studies critical of GM crops and food have suffered a wave of well-orchestrated attacks designed to undermine their work by supporters of the technology.
The commercial interest in GM crops is also of concern.
With agri-giant Monsanto owning 90% of the patents on GM seeds, there is very little market competition, which results in a monopoly that Monsanto has exploited.
Farmers using Monsanto’s products are forced to adhere to a highly restrictive contract.
Farmers can only use seeds for one crop, any remaining seeds must be destroyed, as must any seed material from the crop itself.
Farmers are prohibited from trading seeds, which (in the US) precludes many of the ‘seed banks’ from being financially viable – increasing costs to farmers.
Farmers must pay a ‘tech fee’ for the right to grow GM crops.
The GM traits are subject to patents, so any seed that contains any GM traits – no matter how the trait got into the seed – is subject to the ‘tech fee’, and failure to pay will result in a vicious legal onslaught by the biotech company.
Many farmers in the US have been bankrupted through using seeds that have been contaminated with GM traits though airborne pollen, seeds accidentally becoming mixed, and seed growing which may be from a previous crop.
Farmers become forced to use GM seeds because the risk of being subjected to legal action by the biotech giants is so great that farmers cannot afford to take the risk that non-GM seeds they use are free of GM traits.
In India, farmers using the Bt cotton seeds referred to earlier in this article, have found that although their yields went up, so did their costs.
The cost of producing the Bt cotton have gone up much faster than the price of cotton, leaving many of the farmers in debt.
The cost of Bt cotton seeds is between three to eight times the cost of conventional seeds. The difference in price is attributed to the cost of the seeds from the biotech company being significantly higher than conventional seeds, and the hike in price by the distributors. As the demand for the seeds increases because of restricted supply, so distributers increase the cost.
The Indian farmers are also having to spend significantly more on pesticides as pests become resistant to the Bt cotton. The cost per litre of pesticide is ten times what the farmers used to pay when they armed traditional crops.
For small farmers, the consequences can be tragic. When weak monsoon rains led to crop failures in 2005, hundreds of debt-ridden Bt cotton farmers in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra committed suicide by drinking pesticide. A PBS documentary on the suicides by Chad Heeter reported that the indebtedness was largely due to expensive genetically modified seeds and pesticides. And each growing season, the suicides of indebted cotton farmers continue to make headlines in India.
The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies has also been of considerable concern to those who have taken a closer look at the business of GMO.
In the US, Monsanto in particular has created links to government through significant donations to political campaigns, employing high ranking ex-government employees, and creating ‘sympathetic’ lobbying or advocate groups within the corridors of power.
Recently, there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm. Not even the US justice system can bring companies such as Monsanto to account.
The relationship of Monsanto with other governments and scientific institutions around the world also questions the validity of arguments for GMO products by these organisations.
In the UK, Genewatch UK revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting on the 26th June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public, to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, and encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.
Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said, “This dodgy deal shows breath-taking arrogance by Monsanto and its friends, who seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. It is shocking that the Government has done a secret deal to promote GM in Britain and abroad when US farmers are struggling to tackle superweeds and superpests caused by growing GM crops. Ministers should not prop up this failing industry by pushing Monsanto’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense.”
Monsanto have recently declared that they are giving up lobbying in the UK to concentrate on lobbying other markets. Since that announcement, we have seen government ministers and the Prime Minister become much more active in trying to convince the British public that GM crops are good for us.
The facts make the statements of Owen Patterson absolutely ridiculous and totally without foundation.
When he states that GM crops will reduce the use of pesticides – he is lying.
When he state that the use of GM crops will be better for the environment – he is lying.
When he says that the UK must become a global leader in GM crops – he is lying.
When he says that we must ‘back GM food or children will die’ – he is lying.
When he quotes ‘statistics’ they are manipulated – he is lying.
When he says that Britain should promote GM crops to stamp out world hunger – he is lying.
The only thing we can state for certain is that Owen Patterson and David Cameron are liars – there is irrefutable evidence which is much more credible than the so-called ‘evidence’ those two idiots use to smoke-screen their cosy relationships with biotech companies.
We can speculate that in the not-too-distant future someone from the current UK government will have a nice little job with one of the main biotech companies – perhaps after they lose the next election.