Evidence Stacking Up Against GM

Isobel Tomlinson, Soil Association Policy and Campaigns Officer, outlines the arguments against GM technology

As the GM industry continues to peddle the myth that GM crops are needed to ‘feed the world,’ scientific evidence is stacking up showing the importance of agro-ecological farming systems, such as organic, in tackling hunger in the poorest countries.

The current model of GM production and sale is just not appropriate for poor farmers in countries where people continue to suffer from hunger - which are not in Europe or North America, but in continents like Africa and Asia. Research from the UN has shown that the adoption of organic and near-organic farming practices in Africa have doubled yields, improved access to food for both farmers and local communities, and raised incomes through the use of low-cost, locally available technologies and inputs.

The IAASTD report, the largest scientific farming study every conducted which included 400 scientists and has been approved by over 60 countries, saw no clear role for GM crops in feeding the world and backed organic agriculture and similar 'agro-ecological' approaches as part of a radical change in the way the world produces food.

The recent Foresight report on the future of food and farming, published by the UK Government Office for Science, estimated that the application of existing knowledge and technology could increase yields two-to–three fold in many parts of Africa. It too supported research in agro-ecology, as a way of getting substantial increases in productivity and sustainability.

Evidence is mounting too of the problems that growing GM crops are causing for farmers. Weed resistance to glyphosate has become a major problem in GM herbicide tolerant crops in North and South America, whilst the cost of GM seeds is cutting into farmers’ incomes in the USA.

Consumers in the Western world continue to reject GM food. The 'GM-Free' label is the fastest growing grocery label in the USA and the world’s second largest supermarket, Carrefour, recently made the move to label foods derived from animals fed a non-GM diet after research revealed that 96% of consumers backed honest labelling and 63% would stop eating products from animals reared on GM feed.