Is the GM crops war over? What’s next?

GM (genetically modified, genetically engineered) crops are a fact of life by now. In our interconnected world (remember the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, which might be finalised soon) I think that people who oppose GM crops may have lost this war. These arms races: biotechnology against evolution, corporations against people. What can we do now?

This week we’ve heard of a GM canola (oilseed rape, rapeseed, Brassica napus) resistant to the popular weedkiller Roundup (glyphosate) made by Monsanto, which ‘cannot coexist with organic and non-GM conventional crops’. Also this week, we’ve heard of a GM soya (soybean, Glycine max) resistant to an older and nastier weedkiller, 2,4-D (sold as Frontline) which has been submitted for approval by Dow AgroSciences.

This soya is necessary, we hear, because Roundup Ready crops aren’t working so well any more. Thanks to the evolution of ‘superweeds’. We hear also that Monsanto’s insect-killing Bt crops aren’t working so well any more. Thanks to the evolution of ‘superbugs’.

These particular stories are part of a much bigger picture. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) tells us that GM and other biotech crops are now being grown in nearly every part of the world. Where they’re not grown, notably here in Europe, GM products are imported for industrial uses and livestock feed.

The successful GM crops so far have been the crops which are currently popular. That makes business sense for Monsanto, Dow and the other chemical/biotech giants.

But some farmers keep growing biodiverse crops, raising biodiverse fish and insects, and some foragers and hunters keep gathering biodiverse wild foods. As the world’s population increases, at least for the next few decades (it’s expected to peak around 2050, then fall slightly) I think we need to think more broadly.

As the great Monkombu Swaminathan said, we should remember the ‘forgotten crops’. Or neglected crops, or orphan crops, however you call them

Is biodiversity the way forward for our hungry world? Yes, probably it is. Will people make this happen? I hope so.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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10 Responses to Is the GM crops war over? What’s next?

  1. Thought+Food says:

    Absolutely important to remember the forgotten crops, the indigenous crops that have disappeared from our diets but are nutritious and really important for being able to withstand extreme weather conditions.

    • argylesock says:

      Yes really. Just now, for many people the Big Three staples (rice, wheat, maize) are the most affordable. But 100 years from now, perhaps people will laugh at us for having relied on those crops. Schoolchildren in the future may learn how Monsanto, Dow et al f****d those crops until people had to remember the ways of their grandparents.

      You’re in the States, aren’t you? So you’ll be familiar with the Newfoundland cod, overfished until the ecosystem in those seas changed and will never return. Here in Britain we still have the North Sea cod, now recovering from several decades’ overfishing, but we’ll never again have the oyster beds that used to provide affordable food to working people. I have old cookery books in which oysters are included in beef dishes, just to bulk out the meat.

      I think that the cookery books of today may become history too. Those 21st century people! They ate rice, would you believe?

      • Thought+Food says:

        Interesting you mentioned oysters,there is a show currently on here ‘Years of living Dangerously” . (I wrote a post on it as well).Its about climate change and in one episode they show how oysters are literally wiped out in a bay which was one of the main harvest areas, so between indiscriminate use of resources and climate disruption, the future looks bleak indeed!! 😦

  2. Pingback: Is organic farming out of date? | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: Contamination Matters – Why GM crops can’t be managed at a national level | Science on the Land

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