Originally published in August 2003 icon
GM crops in the UK; how we started the rot
GM foods, GM crops, GMO. Call them what you will. But the verdict of the official GM science review chaired by Sir David King, the Government´s Chief Scientific Officer has just been announced (August 2003). Broadly, it states that "there is no scientific case for ruling out GM foods per se". Michael Meacher, the former Environment Minister says that the review is merely based on assumption.
Here we attempt to summarise what little ´evidence´ there is....
Move Over, Darwin
Organic food, much prized by cancer therapists from lssels to Gerson, or Plaskett to Contreras, is under threat. This time from a unique form of pollution, a form that is believed to have polluted 11% of the total acreage in the USA already, and has some scientists estimating that in 10 years there could simply be no true organic food left in the USA at all.
This pollution is a genetic variant that a million years of evolution has failed to spawn. If Darwinian theory is to be believed, we are what we are today solely because of genetic changes, some enabling us to grow stronger, many simply generating weakness in organisms that fell by the wayside.
Well, all that is changing. Now scientists can make a genetic modification in the DNA of crops, one that may have happened a zillion times before; or is it something that has never happened in this format before? Either way, biotech companies believe genetically modified crops will benefit us all in the long run. But are they right or is this just the pursuit of profits by bullyboys in large offices?
Worse, as many people fear, are we not simply letting loose the equivalent of a computer virus into our green and pleasant land? A virus that simply cannot be stopped once it is introduced. We have already had the reports that cloned animals seem to be weaker than normally produced equivalents. Scientists who experiment can never say anything wfth certainty. After all, that is the essence of experimentation. What if the same is true for Genetically Modified crops? An experiment waiting to go horribly wrong? Not in the first five years but during the lives of our children or our children´s children? Armageddon, irreversibly programmed into the food chain?
If Darwinian theory is to be believed, we are what we are today solely because of genetic changes
Now, the biotech scientists are ready, I´m sure, to label me a scaremonger. One of them was quoted in the press only the other week assaying that the modified DNA would be broken down into its constituent parts long before it could cross the intestine wall and into your blood system. Frankly, that argument is rubbish. It´s simply not true even if we all had perfect guts, which we haven´t, without any leaks. If a microbe or a fungus can cross the gut
And then what happens? Can someone reassure me that there is absolutely no chance of a combination with any of my DNA in any one cell of my body? For what is cancer if it is not genetic modification?
The potential for chaos is clear. If Messrs Bush and Blair are looking for weapons of mass destruction, they could do well to start on the plains of the mid west of America.
It´s Decision Time
Notwithstanding the possibility that it could be too late already, this autumn there will be a Government decision whether or not to allow the commercial growing of GM crops in Britain. Sadly, yet again our Government demonstrates its abilities to focus on the wrong issues. Lord Sainsbury - the man who feels nobility (in the form of Prince Charles but of course, not himself) should keep out of political issues is lobbying hard for GM food in Britain. But then he is The Science Minister, he should know all about the facts on GM foods.
The arguement for GM?
The "pro" lobby has three main claims:
- Third world poverty decreases
- Productivity increases
- Herbicide and pesticide decreases
Except that the third world debt is more likely to rise with GM foods
Except that the third world debt is more likely to rise with GM foods as crop growers are not allowed to collect seed and thus have to buy new seed every year from the manufacturers. And to date, there is no confirmed research that productivity rises with GM food, while anyway, the World Health Organisation already says that worldwide we produce more food than we need.
Finally, so far there is absolutely no scientific evidence that less pesticides and herbicides will be needed. And anyway, the original idea was that since the chemicals killed some of the crops as well as the weeds and pests, the gene mutation would be incorporated to allow the same spraying to continue but with less food lossl So far so bad. Lord Sainsbury, you are onto a pretty poor start!
The "Let´s Wait Five Years For Test Results" Strategy
Here the main rationale seems to be a desire to see to what degree growing GM crops damages the environment.
If this had been a proper scientific test, the sort that Western Governments expect from quality clinical drug trials, there would have been pre-research evidence monitoring during the tests and a control.
After all Genetically Modified foods could well have a toxic, drug like effect on our bodies maybe not immediately but over time - no one has scientific evidence to counter that theory. So in the case of GM foods, the equivalent to clinical trials might have been to take a couple of fields in a distant part of Norfolk or Cornwall and measure various factors - like wildlife decline, or spread of pollen - at distances of 100 yards, 500 yards, 1 km etc against life in a normal equivalent and distant control region. That´s a proper scientific study.
After all Genetically Modified foods could well have a toxic, drug like effect on our bodies
Instead we have a patchwork of possible pollution throughout the country. Judges who have little knowledge of science, let alone wind effects or the abilities of birds and other wildlife to spread pollen, seen, to have made random decisions to allow GM foods 60 yards (or was it feet?), from a field growing organic food.
This is not science. This is nonsense. Michael Meacher did make a very strong case against all this - sadly this is his area of influence no more.
So what will we have measured. Lord Sainsbury? Did we do a stock check on wild birds before the tests? Will we study the pollen pollution at various distances afterwards? Did we attempt to localise the tests so that if the worst happens and there is widespread pollution, we still may have some natural organic crops left at the end of the five years? In the US 11% of organic farmers have experienced pollution to date.
Fortunately, Friends of the Earth have been looking into this for us. At a test site on Humberside, pollen has been found over a mile away. In research actually funded by the FoE pollen was found in a beehive three miles from a test field.
Already there are fears of superweeds because a number of weeds are actually closely related to some of the commercial crops, making cross-pollination that much more likely. Wild Turnip. Wild Cabbage, Wild Radish, Hoary and Brown Mustard are all weeds but there is already proven cross pollination by oilseed rape. And what do we intend to grow commercially? Genetically Modified oilseed rape.
In the UK this weapon of mass destruction could potentially create superweeds covering most of England and Wales. Why, oh why, are we even thinking of allowing it?
But What About My Health?
The BMA has already warned that there is not enough evidence to say GM foods are safe
The BMA has already warned that there is not enough evidence to say GM foods are safe. To date there has been no large scale scientific studies at all on the effects of actually eating the G3M crops! There´s a lot of scientific pooh-poohing along the lines of "well even if the DNA has been modified, you just break it down in the digestive process so it cannot harm you?" Who says? Our bodies have evolved, along with their DNA, to be in balance with our environments over the last few hundred thousand years. One of our biggest threats and the reason why cancer seems to be taking such a hold in the modern world - is that our environment has changed so dramatically over the last 150 years that our evolution cannot react fast enough!
So how is a five-year study supposed to tell us what the long-term effects on my (and my children´s) genetic code are likely to be?
Mao Tse Tunq was asked by a French diplomat, what he thought about the French revolution. His answer was, "it was too early to tell"! It´s a shame he is not our Science Minister.
Where crops are concerned our standard health measurements involve discussions on vitamins and minerals. An area completely overlooked is the life energy system. As soon as people talk body energy or auras to most medical people, eyebrows get raised and medical authorities become dismissive. But the fact is that natural organic food has large energy fields, non-organic foods have smaller ones, and five day old non-organic food (the sort you get in supermarkets) the least.
Which medical authority can disprove that when I eat a vegetable I gain its vitamins, minerals and natural energy? Maybe the energy consumed is even more important to my health than the vitamins and minerals.
Which scientific authority will tell me if GM food has the same energy level as organic food? If it doesn´t need pesticides then you would have thought this might be a benefit. But no one is looking in this direction.
I have this terrible feeling that in 50 years time our grandchildren will look back on current times in horror
I have this terrible feeling that in 50 years time, when the true importance of body energy, auras and magnetic fields to our everyday health is fully known and appreciated, our grandchildren will look back on current times in horror.
From America are coming the first reports of one potential problem. Some GM crops are designed to kill bugs. All bugs. So what happens to the good bugs in our tottch´ Already there are emerging stories that the good guys can be destroyed by GM foods.
As we saw in June 2003 icon, if you destroy the friendly flora, you open a Pandora´s box of problems. Fungi and microbes are free to multiply; they devour vitamins ordinarily destined to nourish you, produce toxins (even carcinogenic ones) and a waste alcohol on which cancer cells thrive.
From Canada. there is also a small scale research study on 280 male chickens. Half were fed with T25 (a Chardon GM LL maize from Aventis/Bayer) and over a 42 day test period the death rate in the GM sample was twice that in the control sample.
In a bizarre twist, this research study was actually submitted by the manufacturers as evidence for the GM maize´s safety!
Worse, the UK Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) actually approved it!
So please Mr Blair, let us not make a decision without real beefy scientific evidence, not merely on the crops but on the humans that eat them (who coincidentally are voters).
My children´s health is more important than the profits of a few US companies.
Oh, and let´s leave the decision until a sensible length of study has elapsed. For example, about 20,000 years.