GM crops not the holy grail

2013-04-15 00:00

I WAS somewhat surprised to read the article “Saving the planet?” written by Gwynne Dyer (The Witness, April 8), who is so well-informed.

I recently attended a lecture given by Professor Emeritus C. Jerry Nelson of the University of Missouri on “Intensive sustainability of agriculture, a modern perspective”.

In his address, he spoke of a new GM rice developed for the East which supposedly had greater benefits to farmers and consumers, but couldn’t compete in the marketplace even though it was cheaper than normal rice, as it didn’t have any flavour when compared with the normal product and wouldn’t sell.

Food production needs to be economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable, with great respect for the environment.

At another conference I attended in the United States, we were addressed by a weed management director employed by Monsanto to find solutions to the resistant weeds in some GM crops. In his words, he said: “Monsanto was deeply humbled by the failure of its Roundup Ready programme and the development of resistant weeds species.

“The Monsanto share price had tumbled, farmers were in a really tough situation dealing with the problems, farm property prices had decreased and properties were changing hands.

“The judicious use of pre-emergence herbicides from other chemical companies was essential in conjunction with the RR programme to try to control these mutant weeds.” The original Roundup Ready programme cost less than R225 per hectare, whereas the new programme now costs over R2 250 per hectare.

Professor Emeritus Don Huber of Purdue University studied glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup) interactions in crops and the soil for nearly 20 years before publishing his findings once he retired, and comprehensive documents are to be found on the Internet detailing his findings on the negative effects of this chemical on human, animal, plant and environmental health.

Very recent studies conducted in France show the long-term negative effects of GM food on animals. Google for further information.

What happened to the sanctity of food? It is meant to sustain us and heal us.

The World Health Organisation discovered a nutritional link to nearly every disease it researched.

The merits of a food crop should be measured by its true nutritive value, not by yield per hectare.

One can’t easily change the existing reality that GM crops exist.

We as consumers must insist that all foods are correctly labelled as to whether GM products are present in them or not, make our own decisions as to whether we want to eat them or not, and vote with our wallets. That will make the existing model obsolete.

It is up to us.

• Rory Milbank is an agronomist who follows responsible practices in crop and food production.

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