Letter: Engineered crops

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Before we swallow all the information served up by Monsanto in its glossy advertising we should reflect on past promises and mistakes. The Green Revolution (high-yielding varieties of staple foods) has increased our capacity to produce cash crops, but at a high cost to the environment. Companies who promoted high-yielding varieties in the 1970s are now saying they are using too much pesticide, and are championing genetic engineering.

In terms of feeding the poor, big technological solutions rarely work, as they have to be targeted at large growers in order to make profits. If you want to feed the world's poor the answer lies in small-farmer led technologies of soil and water conservation, access to land, and a diverse agriculture, as shown through countless development studies. This is in direct contrast to what Monsanto are offering. Genetic engineering (GE) is simply about controlling access to seed , and controlling the food we eat (they are now taking farmers to court in the US for stepping outside the complex legal contracts that bind them as GE growers).

Claims that Monsanto is seeking corporate power by selling farmers seed and pesticide are rejected as "irresponsible nonsense" by the company ("Biotech firms hit back at Charles", 9 June). The terminator gene, now owned by Monsanto, has the ability to switch off plant seed production. They describe it as follows. "It has the prospect of opening significant worldwide seed markets to the sale of transgenic technology for crops in which seed is currently saved and used in subsequent plantings." Can anyone else see the irony here, or is it just me?

MATT DUNWELL

Lower Lydbrook, Gloucestershire

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