Against GM Crops & for Organic Sustainable Agriculture
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho Invited Workshop Presentation at National
Justice and Peace Conference, 16-18 July 2010, Swanick, UK
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Announcing a new Report from ISIS. The most complete up-to-date summary of the dangers of GM agriculture in 52 pages. Buy Now, or download here
It has been 16 years since the first
genetically modified (GM) crop - Flavr Savr tomato for delayed ripening - was
approved for commercial growing in the USA. It was also the year that I became
a ‘science activist’ inspired by people like Vandana Shiva, whom you shall hear
this evening, and realising how science itself was falling prey to corporate
manipulation. Flavr Savr was soon withdrawn as a failure, but agbiotech
corporations like Monsanto had moved on to much bigger game.
What’s a GMO?
Let’s begin with the basics. The best definition of a GMO
that I can think of is an organism with synthetic genetic material inserted
into its genome. It is made in the laboratory without sex. The genome is all
of the genetic material of an organism, a copy of which is present in
practically every cell of its body.
as for example, a maize plant, is made of tissues, tissues of cells, and as you
go down the scale with an increasingly powerful microscope, you can see that each
cell has a nucleus containing a copy of all its genetic material - the genome –
packaged in structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome, when unwound is a
very long thread, called chromatin, and when you strip away the special
proteins from the chromatin, you end up with the double helix DNA, the genetic
material. The DNA is what gets chopped and changed in genetic engineering and
genetic modification. (For more, see  (FAQ on Genetic Engineering, ISIS Tutorial).
Genetic modification focussed on three major crops, soybean, cotton,
and maize, and two main traits: herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the enzyme targeted by the herbicide
- 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) - derived from the soil
bacterium that causes crown gall disease, Agrobacterium tumefaciens; and
insect-resistance, due to one or more toxins derived from another soil
bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). According to the industry-funded
group for helping people get the benefit of GM technology, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA), GM crops have been a great
success . They now cover 134 million ha worldwide.
Commercial planting of these crops began around 1997 in the USA, the heartland of GM crops, and increased rapidly thereafter. Though, thanks to strong
resistance from informed citizens in Europe and other parts of the world, GM
crops have remained confined, to this day, to less than 3 percent of global
agricultural land  with 79 percent of the area planted concentrated in the USA, Argentina and Brazil.
Actually thecase against GM crops has been there much
earlier and made by an Independent Science Panel that ISIS assembled in 2003
 (The Case
for A GM-Free Sustainable World, Independent Science Panel Report, ISIS
publication). It has grown much stronger since.
In the USA, GM crops now occupy 85-91 percent of the area planted
with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton. And it is now facing an
ecological meltdown from GM crops  (GM Crops Facing
Meltdown in the USA, SiS 46).
encouraged the use of herbicides sold as a package with the crop, resulting in
herbicide-resistant weeds that demand yet more herbicides. But the increasing
use of deadly herbicide and herbicide mixtures has failed to stall the advance
of the dreaded palmer superweed that stops combine harvesters and break hand
tools. At the same time, secondary pests such as the tarnished plant bug,
against which Bt toxin is powerless, became the single most damaging insect for
US cotton. The US corn belt, meanwhile, has been ravaged by yet another
secondary pest, the western bean
cutworm (Striacosta albicosta) .
To compound the ecological crisis, senior US scientists who
have researched glyphosate and Roundup (Monsanto’s formulation for glyphosate)
tolerant crops for decades have now revealed how the herbicide poisons crops
and soil [7, 8] (Scientists Reveal
Glyphosate Poisons Crops and Soil, Glyphosate Tolerant
Crops Bring Diseases and Death, SiS 47), it has led to a general
increase in the number of plant diseases in the past 15 to 18 years, especially
since herbicide tolerant crops were first planted and increased the use of
glyphosate 15 fold on all major crops. Four fungal pathogens have become more
active, especially Fusarium, which causes head blight of cereal crops, and
produces a mycotoxin that could enter the food chain. More than 40 diseases
have been reported with the use of glyphosate, and the number keeps growing. In
the soil, glyphosate ties up mineral nutrients and prevents them from being
taken up into the plant, it kills beneficial fungi and bacteria and encourages
serious pathogens to grow that causes sudden death and other plant diseases.
Planting herbicide tolerant GM crops is the surest way to spread diseases to neighbouring and subsequent crops.
The talk with complete references and
power point presentation is available for downloadhere
Ken Bourne Comment left 21st September 2010 20:08:11 Man will not progress without research and subsequent scientific discoveries. However, the use of these discoveries should be for the benefit of all, not for the monetary benefit of a few. I am not against any company making a profit if what they do is aids the world in general. If only some of the multinational companies would see that their bottom line would greatly increase if they followed the obviously beneficial approach of transforming our garbage, sewage, etc. into usable soil amendments, carbon dioxide sequestration by the use of carbon sinks, and the creation of renewable energy in the process. I would buy shares in any company that did that!
Rory Short Comment left 19th July 2010 16:04:10 GMO's are a massive problem but the mental paradigm that is happy with the approach to the world that has spawned GMO's is our root problem and whilst a significant portion of humanity is firmly in its embrace the unending mis-use of the discoveries of scientific research can be expected.
susan Comment left 19th July 2010 17:05:21 Rory the same people or mental paradigm you have suggested spawned GMO's is of course the same ambiguous party that has a globalization agenda of war, agriculture, and expansionism through resources. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/16/the_food_bubble_how_wall_street