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GM Foods

(5 Posts)
absentgrana Sat 09-Jul-11 13:27:08

All you posters on the Science and Natural History thread might well be able to help, but I thought it might be sensible to make this a separate issue and avoid – I was going to say hijacking – the thread, but perhaps cluttering would be a less contentious word.

I'm not against GM foods per se but don't know much about them. Tony Blair was an enthusiast and I have the impression the present government is fairly pro. (Not that I trust either of them.) Also some new testing has been authorised in this country, so I'd like to be better informed before this becomes an issue again.

If genetic modification is used as a way of "speeding up" what would otherwise be achieved by selective breeding – say drought-resistant wheat gaining pest-resistant wheat genes – that seems to be a Good Thing. If genes are combined from species that could never breed naturally – like the colourful piglets with the jellyfish gene – that seems a Bad Thing.

If seeds have to be bought every year because the owners of the gene ensure that they are sterile – that seems like a Bad Thing, especially for subsistence farmers.

However, if the seeds are sterile, does this rule out the possibility of cross-contamination of conventional and organic crops. It seems that it doesn't. I don't understand.

If GM food is eventually to be sold in this country, I should like it to be labelled as such so that I can choose whether I want to buy it.

Is it correct that lots of animal fodder already contains GM produce?

Okay – now I have exposed my profound ignorance – help! Please talk to me as if I were about ten years old.

twizzle Sat 09-Jul-11 14:24:46

absentgrana, I agree with you about the issue of cross contamination.

If there is no containment of GM crops then they could easily cause widespread contamination. GM pollen can travel on the wind, or via insects, and cross-pollinate non-GM crops.

What would be the consequences of cross contamination on crops and wild and domestic plants?

JessM Sat 09-Jul-11 14:54:34

This is a difficult one. I believe that Genetic modification of food plants can potentially solve major world problems. An example might be to increase the vitamin or protein content of staple cereals when a population is undernourished. Or staple crops that resisted terrible plant diseases. This could enable a poor farmer to feed her children adequately. Or modifying plants so that they produce drugs cheaply and easily - which may in turn protect endangered wild plants. There are potentially huge benefits. Some of these advances would not really be possible by old-style selective breeding.
The really annoying thing is that the original trail was blazed by Monsanto who focussed on a gene that would allow crops to be freely doused in their own pesticide "Roundup". We sell you the Roundup resistant seeds, fewer weeds, more productivity in your fields... So this was a very commercial and worrying. There was also much concern about selling farmers GM seeds that did not breed true - so they would have to go back and buy more next year, rather than save seeds from this years crop for next year's planting. Thus increasing dependence on multinational company. So a really bad start for GM that put many backs up.
The trouble is that the research to produce GM products is expensive and therefore likely to be produced under a commercial umbrella. And the companies will want to make a profit. That is what they do.
And you have to trial new crops in fields, so there is a theoretical chance of genes spreading on pollen to other fields or hedgerows where closely related wild plants are in flower. Unless you enclose the fields in tent that can prevent pollen grains escaping... not likely. However the harmfulness of this may not be great - if, say, wild mustard picked up a roundup resistant gene from oil seed rape plants... well it might promote the career of wild mustard as a weed i suppose...
So i am in favour of the research but also in favour of very tight legislation. And I would prefer to see more government or UN funded research and less commercial...

Baggy Sat 09-Jul-11 17:22:11

What jess says, pretty much. Killing off weeds (see the Monsanto example and use of Roundup) is worrying because, indirectly that seems to kill off a lot of wildlife, starting with the insects that live on the weeds, and carrying on all the way up the food chain. As with most human endeavours, the issue is not simple. I'm not against GM in principle (essentially, that is what selective breeding has been doing for quite a while) but I agree that commercial companies should not be in control of the process.

Faye Sun 10-Jul-11 00:12:25

I am very against GM crops and I am disgusted with Monsanto - Control the Food and You Control the People
An Australian Farmer lost his organic certification for his farm because of cross contamination with GM crops.
If Monsanto are behind any thing I would be very wary. Bit like another Murdoch and the media!