Wednesday 19th June 2013
A new study published this week, which compares US and European farms which grow largely genetically modified (GM) and non-GM crops respectively, finds better or equal yield and resilience in European farms (1). Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson is expected to make a major speech on Thursday, criticising EU regulation of GM crops and arguing that GM crops should be grown in England (2). In effect, the Government has done a deal with multinational companies such as Monsanto, to promote the use of GM crops (3).
"The only ones who benefit from GM crops are the companies who profit from the patents on the seeds" said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK "Claims that GM crops deliver higher yields, or are better suited to bad weather, or reduce the use of weedkillers, are PR messages that bear no relation to reality. The Government should not be wasting taxpayers' money on promoting and investing in GM."
The peer-reviewed study compares yield data for maize, soy beans, oil seed rape and cotton, which are largely non-GM crops in Europe (apart from a small quantity of GM maize in Spain) and largely GM in the USA. It also compares yields for wheat, which are non-GM worldwide. It concludes: "Despite the claims that GM might be needed to feed the world, we found no yield benefit when the United States was compared to W. Europe, other economically developed countries of the same latitude which do not grow GM crops. We found no benefit from the traits either".
The paper also found a major loss of genetic diversity in
crops, which was not due to GM crops per
se but to the ending of public sector breeding programmes, which were
replaced by commercial incentives for innovation such as patents on GM seeds.
There has also been a significant increase in the size of US farms. Reliance on
such monocultures makes crops highly vulnerable to epidemics of diseases such
"Ministers and farmers would be foolish to ignore warnings that extensive monocultures lack resilience to pests, diseases, droughts and floods. This is not a problem that is going to be solved by genetically identical GM crops, it requires higher resilience farming practices and more diverse varieties of seeds", said Dr Wallace.
Notes for Editors:
(1) Heinemann et al. (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Published online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.Ub9AU5zXryU
(2) Paterson to outline the case for GM crops. Farmers Guardian. 17th June 2013. [Registration needed] http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/business/paterson-to-outline-the-case-for-gm-crops/56406.article
(3) GeneWatch UK and GM Freeze Press Release: Monsanto meets ministers to push return of GM crops to Britain. 25th October 2012. http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=492860&als[itemid]=571449