Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Don’t Result in Better Crop Yields

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Don’t Result in Better Crop Yields

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They Just Increase The Amount of Poison We’re Exposed To

The controversy over genetically modified crops has focused on whether or not they were safe to eat. We have to ask ourselves what was the purpose for genetically modifying them in the first place. That was so they could be sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup and they wouldn’t die. Only the weeds would die. But this leaves the crops, mainly corn and soybeans, with a nice coating of poison. It won’t kill them, but it might kill you.

The next promise of the chemical corporations was that the use of GMO sprayed with weed killers would lead to a significant increase in crop yields, but that hasn’t happened either. The promise was that GMOs would “feed the world.” Monsanto and others pointed to the fact that the world’s population was increasing so we needed a far more abundant food supply, and the only way to get there was by means of GMOs liberally sprayed with RoundUp, the main ingredient of which is glyphosate.

Twenty years ago the US and Canada embraced the use of GMOs while Europe rejected them. Now it’s possible to compare results in the two regions to see if the use of GMOs actually produced higher crop yields. It didn’t according to a recent study. The net result is that Americans have been exposed to significant doses of cancer causing chemicals in return for basically nothing. Europeans on the other hand have been eating better and safer including more organics in their diets as a matter of course, de rigueur!

The New York Times reported:

An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany.

The US has fallen behind France in decreasing the use of pesticides on crops like corn, soybeans and cotton. So you’re eating food products liberally sprayed with poisons, and in addition you’re wearing clothes which were sprayed with poisons. Is it any wonder that there is more cancer? In France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage — 65 percent — and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.

By the way, do you know what chemicals are in your clothes? The San Diego Union said on November 2, 2016: “What’s in your jeans? A rogue’s gallery of unpronounceable chemicals whose effects on humans are suspect. Perfluorochemicals, phthalates, and azo dyes are among the substances that are widespread in making clothes.” Is it any wonder that cancer is so common? The article goes on to say that some American companies are taking a more European approach where more than 1,000 chemicals are banned. In the US only fewer than 50 are.

Would You Like a Helping of Agent Orange With Your Breakfast?

Genetically Modified Organisms

(Photo by Mike Mozart)

The use of insecticides in US crops has decreased slightly because they can be “programmed in” to the GMOs. However, the use of herbicides has increased since the only way to get rid of weeds is to spray the whole kit and caboodle. And this hasn’t really worked either since genetically adapted super weeds have taken over. Rather than get involved in an arms race with nature, it would make more sense to use natural methods of weed control and forget the spraying. But the US has to have a technological solution for everything. How else to employ all those chemists? After all they developed Agent Orange for use in the defoliation of Vietnam. Now with a slight modification they are using the same product to spray GMO crops in order to get rid of the weeds.

According to the New York Times:

Profound differences over genetic engineering have split Americans and Europeans for decades. Although American protesters as far back as 1987 pulled up prototype potato plants, European anger at the idea of fooling with nature has been far more sustained. In the last few years, the March Against Monsanto has drawn thousands of protesters in cities like Paris and Basel, Switzerland, and opposition to G.M. foods is a foundation of the Green political movement. Still, Europeans eat those foods when they buy imports from the United States and elsewhere.

Fears about the harmful effects of eating G.M. foods have proved to be largely without scientific basis. The potential harm from pesticides, however, has drawn researchers’ attention. Pesticides are toxic by design — weaponized versions, like sarin, were developed in Nazi Germany — and have been linked to developmental delays and cancer.

The companies that make the genetically modified seeds also make the poisons to spray them with. Now Monsanto, the largest seed manufacturer is in talks to merge with Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide giant. If they merge, their combined market capitalization would be around $100 billion.

Corporate Profits More Important Than Human Health

Dr. Martin Qaim a researcher at a German University said recently, “Currently available G.M. crops would not lead to major yield gains in Europe.” And regarding herbicide-resistant crops in general: “I don’t consider this to be the miracle type of technology that we couldn’t live without.”

GMO

(March Against Monsanto Vancouver, Photo by Rosalee Yagihara)

There is something to be said for the GMO products that reduce the need for pesticides. These products actually reduce the amount of poison that a consumer is exposed to. However, the use of herbicides increases the amount of poison a consumer is exposed to, and the use of such products has only been increasing in recent years. The goal of herbicide resistant seeds has been to sell more product, more RoundUp, more glyphosate.

As the use of RoundUp increases, weeds are becoming more resistant. This requires using more herbicides and different herbicides in order to get them under control. Growing resistance to Roundup is also reviving old, nasty chemicals. One is 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam War defoliant. Its potential risks have sounded the alarms for scientists and advocacy groups.

Despite the promised yield advantages from GMOs, data shows that there are none. For rapeseed which is used in the production of canola oil, Western Europe maintained a lead over Canada in yields. For corn, the trend lines between the two barely deviate. And sugar beets have shown stronger yield growth recently in Western Europe than the United States, despite the dominance of genetically modified varieties over the last decade in the US. Jack Heinemann, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand said that Western Europe, “hasn’t been penalized in any way for not making genetic engineering one of its biotechnology choices.”

Meanwhile the chemical corporations keep up their marketing efforts primarily directed at farmers who they say will be able to produce more with less effort by the use of their products. Monsanto has said that the corn seed of 2025 will have 14 traits and allow farmers to spray five different kinds of herbicide.

Organic GMOs?

Recent developments have suggested that there could be such a thing as organic GMOs. That is — the purpose of the GMO would be greater crop yields, but these crops would not be sprayed with herbicides or pesticides just like organic crops are not. There may be some possibilities along these lines. We’ll wait and see.

Mischa Popoff, a former USDA organic inspector, wrote to me recently:

Not only will GMO Golden Rice alleviate the suffering of millions, it could also – in point-of-fact – be grown organically! So I joined with 11 scientists and wrote an article last year in The Daily Caller about producing the world’s first organic-GMO crop. I then wrote a brief follow-up immediately after Mr. Trump won the presidency.

Would you please help get the word out about this? GMO Golden Rice has been given to the world, free of charge, by its inventor, Dr. Ingo Potrykus. All that stands in its way is the lack of political will.

However, as previously noted pesticides, unlike herbicides, can be engineered into the GMO seeds. Are these GMOs really harmless as opposed to GMOs which don’t have pesticides engineered into the very seeds? Maybe not. More study is required before this kind of GMO could be considered organic. Show me a GMO whose only goal is to increase crop yields without being engineered for herbicides or pesticides, and I’ll show you a GMO that could possibly be considered organic.

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John Lawrence graduated from Georgia Tech, Stanford and University of California at San Diego. While at UCSD, he was one of the original writer/workers on the San Diego Free Press in the late 1960s. He founded the San Diego Jazz Society in 1984 which had grants from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and presented both local and nationally known jazz artists. His website is Social Choice and Beyond which exemplifies his interest in Economic Democracy. His book is East West Synthesis. He also blogs at Will Blog For Food. He can be reached at j.c.lawrence@cox.net.

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