Myth 6: Biotechnology solves the problems of industrial agriculture

Not true. Biotechnology offers no solution to these problems.

Marco Visscher| April 2003 issue

The belief in the sanctity of industrial agriculture is based on a blind faith in technology. Accordingly, agro industry followers were quick to come up with a solution to cover up the cracks in their canon: more technology. Or, more precisely, biotechnology. Unfortunately, a closer look at agricultural applications for biotech reveals that the agro faithful’s cries of hallelujah may have been premature.

Take agro giant Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup Ready seeds, which are resistant to their Roundup herbicide. These seeds – usually soybeans, cotton or sunflowers – allow farmers to use more herbicides without damaging their crops. Monsanto and other companies also produce seeds – corn, potatoes and cotton – that have been engineered to produce their own insecticides. All fine and dandy until one stops to consider the impact of these chemicals on the health of consumers and farmers, not to mention animals that may scavenge the crops.

Biotechnology also falls short when it comes to world hunger. Firstly, because there is already enough food being produced to feed the world’s population (see Myth 1) and secondly, because the seeds processed using biotechnology do not produce greater yields. A review of over 8,000 field studies reveals that Roundup Ready produces fewer soybeans than comparable natural varieties.

In fact, biotechnology can even indirectly cause hunger. Patents on genetically modified ‘terminator technologies’, that make seeds sterile after the crops are harvested, mean there is no point for farmers to save their seeds as they have done for centuries. Instead, they must buy new seeds every season from the biotech company. But scientists suspect that the genes that make the seeds sterile can blow over into neighbouring fields, accidentally making other crops sterile as well.

Biotechnology is also a threat to the environment. It has been proven that the introduction of genetically modified (GM) fish into an ecosystem can bring the host species to the brink of extinction within a few generations. It also appears that the pollen from GM corn can be fatal to the insects essential for the corn’s continued growth.

Finally, GM food not only has less nutritional value, but may also contain old and new allergens, that can lead to serious health problems for consumers. The United States government, that has not set a standard for testing and does not require labelling, has chose to ignore the health risks for now.

It would seem that the goal of producing safe and healthy food would be better served by restricting and not promoting biotechnology; at least until it has produced a product that unquestionably benefits nature or humankind. For the moment, requiring labelling is the least the government can do to allow consumers to make informed choices.

 

Solution News Source

Myth 6: Biotechnology solves the problems of industrial agriculture

Not true. Biotechnology offers no solution to these problems.

Marco Visscher| April 2003 issue

The belief in the sanctity of industrial agriculture is based on a blind faith in technology. Accordingly, agro industry followers were quick to come up with a solution to cover up the cracks in their canon: more technology. Or, more precisely, biotechnology. Unfortunately, a closer look at agricultural applications for biotech reveals that the agro faithful’s cries of hallelujah may have been premature.

Take agro giant Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup Ready seeds, which are resistant to their Roundup herbicide. These seeds – usually soybeans, cotton or sunflowers – allow farmers to use more herbicides without damaging their crops. Monsanto and other companies also produce seeds – corn, potatoes and cotton – that have been engineered to produce their own insecticides. All fine and dandy until one stops to consider the impact of these chemicals on the health of consumers and farmers, not to mention animals that may scavenge the crops.

Biotechnology also falls short when it comes to world hunger. Firstly, because there is already enough food being produced to feed the world’s population (see Myth 1) and secondly, because the seeds processed using biotechnology do not produce greater yields. A review of over 8,000 field studies reveals that Roundup Ready produces fewer soybeans than comparable natural varieties.

In fact, biotechnology can even indirectly cause hunger. Patents on genetically modified ‘terminator technologies’, that make seeds sterile after the crops are harvested, mean there is no point for farmers to save their seeds as they have done for centuries. Instead, they must buy new seeds every season from the biotech company. But scientists suspect that the genes that make the seeds sterile can blow over into neighbouring fields, accidentally making other crops sterile as well.

Biotechnology is also a threat to the environment. It has been proven that the introduction of genetically modified (GM) fish into an ecosystem can bring the host species to the brink of extinction within a few generations. It also appears that the pollen from GM corn can be fatal to the insects essential for the corn’s continued growth.

Finally, GM food not only has less nutritional value, but may also contain old and new allergens, that can lead to serious health problems for consumers. The United States government, that has not set a standard for testing and does not require labelling, has chose to ignore the health risks for now.

It would seem that the goal of producing safe and healthy food would be better served by restricting and not promoting biotechnology; at least until it has produced a product that unquestionably benefits nature or humankind. For the moment, requiring labelling is the least the government can do to allow consumers to make informed choices.

 

Solution News Source

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