THE GMO SCRAPBOOK: LOWER YIELDS, AND IS IT REALLY ABOUT SOLVING WORLD ...August 21, 2014
As readers can probably guess by now, this past week I have been focused on the subject of GMOs as a looming geopolitical issue between the BRICSA bloc and the West, especially in the wake of the recent Russian ban on all agricultural imports from the USA, EU, Canada, and Australia. But there's more looming on that score, as this article, shared with us by a regular reader here, Mr. F.S., indicates:
Of course, we're all familiar with the claim of big agribusiness companies that their product is going to ward off starvation, increase yields, and so on. But this, as the article avers, is wrong on two counts, and I want to draw your attention to these statements, but for a rather different reason than their rather obvious implications:
"As John Robbins writes, if Monsanto’s true goal is addressing hunger, then their seeds would be designed to fix the core problems that underlie the hunger issue, such as:
"-Able to grow on substandard or marginal soils
-Able to produce more high-quality protein with increased per-acre yield, without the need for expensive machinery, chemicals, fertilizers or water
-Engineered to favor small farms over larger farms
-Cheap and freely available without restrictive licensing
-Designed for crops that feed people, not livestock
"If GE foods were really a viable way to eliminate world hunger, then meeting these challenges would be a powerful argument in their favor, would it not? So, what does the science say?
"Monsanto gets a failing grade across the board.
"With nearly 100 million acres of GE food now planted worldwide, Monsanto’s crops have yet to do one thing to alleviate hunger, particularly for the world’s less fortunate. In fact, most of that acreage is devoted to growing corn and transgenic soybeans for livestock feed.
GE CROPS PRODUCE A HIGHER YIELD … RIGHT?
"No—their yield is actually lower. Overall, research has shown a 5 to 10 percent reduction in yield for GE soybeans versus the conventional variety. Other GE crops are performing equally poorly. These plants are weak, malnourished and fail with the slightest environmental stress or drought. Agronomists and plant scientists have made far greater advances in yields with conventional breeding methods than with GE crops.
"The yields of GE cotton have been particularly abysmal. Scientists have determined that growing GE cotton in the US can result in a 40 percent drop in income. In India, the situation is much worse with up to 100 percent failure rates for Bt cotton, leaving farmers in total financial ruin. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, more than 182,900 Indian farmers took their own lives between 1997 and 2007 as a result of GE crop failures—a staggering 46 farmer suicides each and every day."
Certainly Mon(ster)santo is not the only agribusiness company there are many others, but the claims remain similar. Indeed, I have blogged previously on this site about University of Iowa studies conducted on normal crops vs GMOs, and you'll recall that while GMOs initially appear to have higher yields, this falls off over time while normal seeds continue. In other words, over time, normal seeds out-produce their man-made rivals. And as many are aware, if the GMO-pushing agribusiness giants were really interested in the problem of increasing yield and alleviating world hunger, then they would have done precisely as John Robbins suggests, they would have engineered plants that could grow in substandard soils, without the need for herbicides and so on, done so without licensing (fat chance!), and designed crops for people not animals. (Let's not even get into the fact that it appears that an increasing body of evidence correlates increases of GMOs with decreases of bee populations.)
So why am I bothering with an article that essentially rehearses known concerns? Well, recall, that I have been advancing the hypothesis for a couple of years now, that eventually the BRICSA nations might make the GMO issue a geopolitical one, perhaps even a human rights one (if they play their cards carefully and deftly). To make this work, I suggested in last week's News and Views from the Nefarium that argicultural trade among the BRICS nations would have to expand and be formalized (which we have already seen with recent agricultural trade agreements between Russia and China), and once this was established, then BRICSA-wide standards for agricultural products would have to be negotiated. This would be driven, so I suggested, by the fact that the BRICSA bloc's two most powerful members - Russia and China - have already either questioned the whole GMO enterprise in Russia's case, or enacted partial bans on targeted products in China's case.
To make such a geopolitical use of the GMO issue occur, an effective propaganda will have to be organized, and that, I submit, this article outlines in spades: (1) the claim to be addressing world hunger and agricultural production can be challenged - strongly - simply on the basis of what types of products have been the predominant focus of the agribusiness giants, (2) the claim to higher yields is debatable, and (3) the falling yields indicate bad agricultural practice in the big corporate farms.
So we may add one more thing to watch in the coming months and years, and that is, if any of the BRICSA members start talking openly and persistently about these three factors when addressing their domestic, and international, agricultural policy. If so, then to my mind, folks, that's a clear signal that the GMO issue has become geopolitical.
See you on the flip side...