Tag Archives: GMOs

In gmo world, less = more

upside-down world

The “Masters of the Universe,” those mighty CEOs of the GMO world are so good at presenting their vision of a sustainable future. One of the main tenets of their faith in GMOs is that it has reduced the amount of pesticides applied to growing crops. For this reason, GMOs are a major boon for the environment.

Maybe not.

A new report — Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years — authored by Chuck Benbrook and just released by The Organic Center, tells a different story.

GE crops are pushing pesticide use upward at a rapidly accelerating pace. In 2008, GE crop acres required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties…this trend will continue as a result of the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Q. How do we know when we are going in the wrong direction?

A. When our solutions cause more problems than they solve.

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GMO: genetically modified organic

There’s a title that should get some attention.

This article seems to have generated some good discussion around the web. The issue is why GMOs aren’t allowed in the National Organic Program rules for certified organic growers? As this article points out, in some systems, GMOs — genetically modified organisms — actually allow more environmentally friendly farming. They paint it as the perfect marriage of organic and industrial ag.

To meet the appetites of the world’s population without drastically hurting the environment requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming.

This idea is anathema to many people, especially the advocates who have helped build organic farming into a major industry in richer countries. As reflected by statements on their websites, it is clear that most organic farming trade organizations are deeply, viscerally opposed to genetically engineered crops and seeds. Virtually all endorse the National Organic Standards Board’s recommendation that genetic engineering be prohibited in organic production.

But ultimately, this resistance hurts farmers, consumers, and the planet. Without the use of genetically engineered seed, the beneficial effects of organic farming – a thoughtful, ecologically minded approach to growing food – will likely remain small.

The same issue came up the other day when I ran into a corn researcher in the hall. We started talking about organic. He told me he could get behind organic more if they allowed GMOs. He didn’t understand what the big deal was. It’s just another method of plant breeding. What’s the scientific basis for not accepting it? I told him it wasn’t scientific at all, it was market based — people who buy organic expect their organic food to be free of GMOs. It crosses a line in most people’s minds. GMOs are perceived as UN-natural. And really, they are UN-natural. Sorry, that’s how I feel about it. A sequence of genetic code from a pig does not naturally slip itself into the DNA of an oyster. There’s no mechanism in nature for that happening (cross-species gene swapping). There might be a good reason for that, never the less, science shall not be thwarted as we cross any and all thresholds in our quest to re-create nature according to our purposes.
According to the corn researcher in the hall, GMO corn is being developed that has vastly increased nitrogen uptake capabilities. How do they do that? By changing the root system, making it bigger so it’s filling and drawing from larger volume of soil . Such a change would supposedly make the plant a more efficient nitrogen feeder AND more drought tolerant. Stack those traits with Bt, the production of a “natural” insecticide, and poof, you have the perfect variety for an organic system. I have to admit it’s an attractive proposition. It’s probably the type of modification that will save conventional agriculture from itself, a happy compromise that lessens industrial ag’s ecological footprint, while maintaining it’s high yield.

All that seems to paint a rosy vision for the future, but it still depends on definitive proof that all this gene-shuffling won’t backfire, causing some unforeseen ecological or human health nightmare.

Playing God is tricky stuff.

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Filed under agriculture, environment, natural, organic