Tom Philpott at Mother Jones isn’t impressed by GM crops. That’s genetically modified crops, also called genetically engineered (GE) crops or biotech crops. Mr Philpott says that GM crops are failing.
On the strength of anti-pesticide promises, Roundup Ready crops which resist glyphosate, and Bt crops which make their own Bt toxin, have become the most popular crop varieties in the States. It’s probably no coincidence that ‘superweeds’ have evolved to resist glyphosate and ‘superinsects’ have evolved to resist Bt toxin.
Somebody called amaize, commenting on a blog post of mine, said that superweeds aren’t ‘super’ because they’d become herbicide-susceptible if the selection pressure were removed. That could be so. On the other hand, evolution works only on variation that’s already there. If a weed population consists only of Roundup-resistant weeds, they might stay as superweeds into the future.
Mr Philpott shows graphs of how much pesticide American farmers have been spraying in recent years. They’re spraying more. [Edit] My fellow blogger Daniela at The Noah Project tells us more about how Roundup is selling better and better.
Wasn’t this supposed to be what GM crops would prevent? I’ve mentioned before that I call this an arms race between the biotech giants (Monsanto and others) and the canny little weeds and insects. I’ve mentioned health risks associated with Roundup and I’m gestating a blog post about risks associated with Bt toxin.
This might be good news for the biotech industry, though. Food and Water Watch tells us that when you control the seeds market and your GM crops stop working, you can sell more pesticide. Food might get riskier, ecosystems might get damaged, people still might not get fed. But the cash registers ring.
Here in Europe we should listen to Owen Paterson, head of the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) when he tells us to be sure that we don’t ‘miss out’ and get ‘left behind’ the marvellously sprayed American agricultural industry. Never mind the other kinds of biotech and the non-biotech strategies to feed the world, as mentioned on this blog and in many other people’s words. Biotech such as Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) and non-biotech strategies such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Never mind fancy ideas like MAS and IPM. We need the good old GM crops! Yeah, right.