photo: Luigi Guarino/Creative Commons
The Vatican's science advisors have come out in support of genetically modified crops, saying that they scientists have both the right and moral duty to produce them to help the world's poor, New Scientist reports. The 40 member group, led by the scientist who developed so-called golden rice which has extra vitamin A, said that there has not been one documented case where GM crops have harmed consumers or the environment. Because of this the group argues, "for the relaxation of what they say are draconian regulations preventing development of crops for the poor." Adding that "regulatory hurdles make it too expensive for anyone other than large multinational firms to develop crops benefiting the poor, such as drought-resistant cassava and yams."
No doubt that the world's farmers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and in other developing nations, need to develop more drought-resistant and climate-tolerant crop varieties. One glance at maps of areas with high levels of food security risk and where climate change is going to cause havoc with precipitation backs up that assertion.
But a quick survey of the literature on the actual effect of GM crops on crop yields reveals that the primary financial beneficiaries of GM crop introduction is not small-scale farmers but the multinational corporations and their ideological lapdogs (cough, Bill Gates, cough) pushing them as the best solution, and that GM crops on the whole have done little to improve crop yields beyond what can be done with conventional (and non-patentable) breeding techniques--as well as revival of the multitude of traditional crop varieties which have all too often fallen by the wayside in the rush to "modernize".
Quoted in the original, Friends of the Earth is right on when it comments, "We need food and farming policies that put the needs of people before the profits of a handful of GMO companies."
Even if it can be conclusively proven that there is no environmental and health risk from specific GM crops, the inherently unbalanced and inequitable situation created by a small number of multinationals controlling so much of the world's food supply--and putting an end to the age-old and vitally important for sustainable food security practice of seed saving--remains an intractable problem.
It is no true or lasting help to the world's poor to develop GM crops that are drought-tolerant if it just continues to keep them perpetually indebted to corporate overlords.
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More on Genetically Modified Crops:
Crop Failure Drives 1,500 Indian Farmers to Suicide
India Suspends First GM Food Crop Introduction - Environment Minister Wants More Tests
Ireland Says Not in This Country: Bans Genetically Modified Crops
While Bill Gates Wants Africa to Embrace GM Food, Italy Fines Franken-Maize Growing Farmer