Archived news articles - 2008

The Straits Times (Forum), 15 May 2008

GM food crop yield less than its equivalent counterpart

By Richard Seah

IN RECENT weeks, there were some major news reports on genetically modified (GM) foods.

Around April 20, the University of Kansas released a three-year study which showed that 'GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields'.

Professor Barney Gordon said he started the research because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had noticed decreased yields. He grew a Monsanto GM soyabean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The GM crop yielded only 70 bushels per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM crop.

The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found lower yields from Monsanto GM soya.

On May 7, the European Union turned back a GM potato and two strains of GM corn. Even though the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had declared these foods to be safe, European commissioners directed the EFSA to conduct additional safety tests.

Why? Because leading experts from the World Health Organisation, the Institut Pasteur and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) had raised concerns that the GM potato could result in people and animals developing resistance to certain types of antibiotics while the GM maize could harm wildlife.

These reports were, to the best of my knowledge, not carried in the local media. Instead, we have a big article quoting the pro-GM lobby painting a Utopian picture of GM foods solving global food shortages 'GM crops a viable option for food crisis?' (Monday).

The article said GM crops could 'herald a second Green Revolution'. This sounds fantastic - except that, some 40 years after the first Green Revolution, those who examine it closely see more disasters than solutions.

While the first Green Revolution did increase grain production, it destroyed untold amounts of other food sources - particularly fish and aquatic life in rivers and coastal regions - through widespread pollution from pesticides and farm chemicals.

The article contradicts yet another recent report. In mid-April, results of the biggest study ever conducted on GM Foods - the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development - were released.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study, was asked if GM could solve world hunger. He said: 'The simple answer is no.'

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