If GM crops are bad, show us the evidence

It’s no longer tenable to call GM ‘unnatural’ and so inherently wrong

Share

It is nearly 20 years since the first GM crops were grown.

Some 28 countries cultivate them on a commercial scale, and many hundreds of millions of people now safely eat GM food – directly or indirectly – on a regular basis. Yet, to judge from the rhetoric of anti-GM activists – from the rough-cut environmentalists to the smooth-talking purveyors of organic food – you could be forgiven for thinking that medical catastrophe and genetic Armageddon are upon us, courtesy of the “Frankenfoods” revolution.

Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard, is not one to mince his words when it comes to genetically modified crops. To paraphrase his speech at McGill University in Montreal later today, Juma believes the time has come for the vociferous opponents of GM to put up or shut up. The use of transgenic crops, he points out, has to date prevented the spraying of 473 million kilograms of toxic pesticides, reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 23.1bn kg – equivalent to taking 10.2 million cars off the road – and saved 108.7 million hectares of land from being turned into farmland. Rather than creating environmental havoc, GM crops have, by and large, been better for the environment than growing the equivalent conventional crops, with relatively lower yields and higher chemical input.

Equally, no-one has died or fallen ill directly as a result of eating GM food. Studies showing that GM food damages the health of laboratory animals have been discredited. Contrary to what the pro-organic lobby would have us believe, it is actually more dangerous to eat organic food – as the 53 people in Germany who died in 2011 from eating organic beansprouts tragically discovered.

It is no longer tenable to say that GM technology benefits no-one but the multinational agrochemicals industry. Scientists in Africa are working on GM crops that could directly benefit Africans, such as a transgenic banana plant resistant to bacterial wilt disease, and a GM blackeyed pea that can fend off attacks by insect pests.

These are real technological breakthroughs that could help those who would otherwise find it difficult to grow enough food to sustain a rapidly growing population. To them, the real Frankenfood is the sort that never reaches their plates because of losses in the field or during storage.

Those who have actively opposed GM technology have frequently expressed anti-science rhetoric – hence the Frankenstein allusion – but it is now incumbent on them to produce the scientific evidence to back up their claims. It is no longer possible to argue on simplistic grounds that GM is “unnatural” and therefore inherently wrong – if we opposed everything that is unnatural we wouldn’t practice medicine for a start.

GM crops are cultivated for good reasons, supported by scientific evidence. It is time for GM opponents to accept the facts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?