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The Scientific Alliance newsletter has an interesting update on GM food. The public no longer feels
the visceral fear of these crops that they did 13 years ago, even
in Europe. But finding ways for politicians to climb off their high
horses, without upsetting their masters in the Big Green
organisations, is not proving easier. Here are three extracts:
Many farmers seem to like GM crops.
Only 15 years after they were first commercialised, 148 million
hectares were sown with biotech seeds around the world in 2010, a
10% increase over the previous year. According to the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications
(www.isaaa.org), 15.4 million individual farmers grew GM crops,
over 90% of them in developing countries. This is not unexpected:
agriculture has evolved over the centuries by farmers trying and
adopting new technology if they see a benefit. Crop biotechnology
is just one more step on the road, and certainly not the
This anti-biotech activity has firm roots in
the broader environmentalist and anti-globalisation movements. For
most of the public, crop biotechnology is generally now a
non-issue, and greater availability of GM crops - without taking
away the critical element of choice - would be unlikely to cause a
real furore in many countries, except amongst the activist
minority. But that relies on governments taking the scientific
advice of EFSA and allowing more approvals...
How this situation will evolve is anyone's guess, but Europe
cannot pretend to be a GM-free island. The livestock industry
relies heavily on imports of GM soy to provide affordable meat,
significant quantities of GM maize are grown in Spain, and the
products of GM micro-organisms are widely used in food processing.
Now that the question of food security and affordability has
finally come back to the top of the agenda, there should be a
greater sense of realism among politicians that a utopian vision of
localised organic farming is a mirage except for a privileged few
who can afford to indulge themselves.