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T: 0117 908 2121

October, 2015

Sustainability news with

Hamish Wills, Sustainable Redland

Genetically Modified Organisms and Sustainability GMOs are topical at the moment because the government wants to ease them into our farming, just like it wants to introduce fracking into our energy sourcing. You may feel that unlike fracking, it has little to do with sustainability, but I’m not sure I would agree. Sustainability is about maximizing diversity, independence and resilience, whilst GMO farming is about minimizing diversity, increasing

dependence and decreasing resilience. Dependence comes from being forced to buy expensive seeds every year from a very small selection of manufacturers (eg. Monsanto, Nestle, Cargill), minimizing diversity through herbicides and insecticides to which the seeds are resistant, and decreasing resilience through loosing forever the diverse seed banks farmers have used over the ages. And there’s the pollution problem too … what effect does pumping all these insecticides and herbicides have on us and our environment? And how could the seed companies who also make the pest controls get anywhere without the fossil fuel industry? So I think there’s a very close link between being GMO free and sustainability. I’m sure GMO companies would disagree. They would argue that it is only through their products that we can hope to feed the world. Look at

their rice seed with enhanced vitamin A, which they say will do everything necessary to counter that vitamin’s serious deficiency in South East Asia. But vitamin A is found in green vegetables. Why are these not prolific throughout the region? Could converting farming to cash cropping in the area have something to do with the problem, with perhaps developing a dependence on expensive imported seed? Then there’s the effects of GMO farming on our health. The manufacturers and government claim repeated studies have shown there are none. However most studies have been carried out by the firms without peer review because they refuse to release data. Since government scientists often have connections with lobbyists or the companies themselves, they cannot be relied on and to date there’s an absence of long term independent studies, though internet research shows

one is being coordinated by Russians, involving many independent European scientists. So the truth is, and despite what the government says, we don’t know what effects GMOs have on our health. Interestingly further internet research reveals that many GMO farmers in the US are going back to non GMO farming because of falling yields and herbicide resistance. If this is the case, we are already entering the post GMO phase, typically putting our government into the vanguard. What we don’t want to happen is for GMOs to be pointlessly released into our environment, which we then find we can’t control. Through decreasing diversity and resilience but increasing dependence, falling yields and unknown health effects, GMO food is the last thing we need.

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