View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

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What if we don’t grow more food?

The figures vary, but predictions about how much food we will need to produce in the future show an increase. This is largely due to population growth and changing diets. We won’t just have more people to feed, we will have more middle class people to feed. People tend to eat more meat and dairy products when they have more money at their disposal. If we feed crops to cows not people, we need to grow more crops.

But what happens if food production doesn’t increase? Do wealthy people have to go without meat, or do poorer people have to go without food?  Continue reading

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The nitrogen fix

We rely on high yields to feed a population of 7 billion, and these are made possible by our ability to create an ideal environment for the crop. Ironically, the methods used to do this can create conditions which are increasingly unsuitable for growing crops in.

To combat drought we add water, causing problems such as water shortages and soil salinisation. To ensure that a crop’s nutritional needs are met we add fertilisers containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Continue reading

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The ‘productionist’ outlook

I had an amazing time in Stockholm at the 2016 Nobel Week Dialogue, and it has left me with many things to ponder about food production and consumption.

Food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart spoke out against the ‘productionist’ outlook, questioning whether producing more food will solve our problems. We already produce enough food to feed the world’s population, yet still people go hungry.  Continue reading


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New Scientist vs Soil Association – this week’s organic spat

New Scientist’s recent article ‘Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet‘ inevitably caused a stir, and the Soil Association fought back with the accusation of ‘unscientific’. As the title suggests, there were some sweeping statements from New Scientist. The Soil Association’s response also had some bold claims, so I’m taking the opportunity to comment on a few of the claims from both sides and point out some logical flaws. Continue reading


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A brief intro to genome editing

For decades we have been slowly improving techniques for genetic modification, and now disruptive technologies could be changing the entire biotech landscape. Genome editing technologies have the power to make much smaller, more precise changes to genomes, and so theoretically can avoid some of the arguments against GM foods.

The changes don’t need to be the introduction of a new gene, and may be so small that it will be impossible to tell whether a crop has been developed using genome editing or conventional breeding. Continue reading