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We’ve Been Sold a Lie for Two Decades About Genetically Engineered Foods

Published on December 6, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

 Reynard Loki / AlterNet

In 1994, a tomato known as Flavr Savr became the first commercially grown genetically engineered food to be granted a license for human consumption. Scientists at the California-based company Calgene (which was scooped up by Monsanto a few years later) added a specific gene to a conventional tomato that interfered with the plant’s production of a particular enzyme, making it more resistant to rotting. The tomato was given the all-clear by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Since then, both the United States and Canada have embraced the genetic engineering of food crops, while Europe has broadly rejected the use of such technology. Only five EU nations—the Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain—grow GE crops, and in such minor amounts that all five countries make up less than 0.1 percent of GE cultivation worldwide.

It appears Europe has been right all along to renounce GE crops. An in-depth examination recently published by the New York Times found that GE crops have largely failed to achieve two of the technology’s primary objectives: to increase crop yields and decrease pesticide use. Pesticides in particular have come under increasing fire in recent years, not only for their negative impact on human health and wildlife, but for decimating populations of key food crop pollinators; specifically bees, which we rely on to pollinate a third of food crops.

While consumer awareness of the effects of pesticides has grown, the ongoing battle over GE crops has largely zeroed in on whether or not such foods are safe to consume. But as Times investigative reporter Danny Hakim points out in his article about the paper’s analysis, “the debate has missed a more basic problem“—that GE crops have “not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”

Analyzing academic and industry research, as well as independent data, the Times compared results on the two continents and found that the “United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields—food per acre—when measured against Western Europe.” The paper also cited a recent National Academy of Sciences report that found “little evidence that the introduction of GE crops were resulting in more rapid yearly increases in on-farm crop yields in the United States than had been seen prior to the use of GE crops.”

New York Times: Behind the times?

For many farmers, researchers and activists, the Times’ conclusion was not news. Ronnie Cummins, co-founder of Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Minnesota, told AlterNet that the paper’s analysis simply “confirms what many of the world’s best scientists have said for years: GE crops have benefitted no one except the corporations selling the chemicals required to grow them.”

“I’m glad that the New York Times has now discovered what those of us in agriculture have known for 20 years, that the old and exaggerated claims of genetic engineering by Monsanto and their allies are bogus,” Jim Gerritsen, an organic farmer, told AlterNet. “They have not panned out and I’m glad that now the newspaper of record has made this clear to a lot of people.” Gerritsen and his wife Megan have owned and run Wood Prairie Family Farm in northern Maine for 40 years. “A lot of us have been saying this for a long time,” he said.

While it may not be news for those working toward a more sustainable food system, the Times story was unexpected. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, an environmental nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., told AlterNet that the Times piece is “a surprising ray of light illuminating the longstanding GE crops debate.” He said that the paper “for so many years had ignored the science about genetic engineering and bought the Big Lie” that Monsanto and its cohorts have been telling the public for so long: “that GE crops ‘reduce pesticide use, increase yield and are key to feeding the world.’”

Seeing through Monsanto’s propaganda

These recent findings fly in the face of Monsanto’s stated claim that “the introduction of GM traits through biotechnology has led to increased yields.” But the company is sticking to its guns. When shown the Times’ findings, Robert T. Fraley, the company’s chief technology officer, claimed the paper had selectively chosen the data in its analysis to put the industry in a bad light. “Every farmer is a smart businessperson, and a farmer is not going to pay for a technology if they don’t think it provides a major benefit,” said Fraley. “Biotech tools have clearly driven yield increases enormously.”

Read More HERE

 

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