View from the fence

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


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December news

December was a busy month, here’s just a small amount of what I found in the news. Merry Christmas!

Is Africa ready for GM?
A new study in the journal Food Policy looked at the regulation and adoption of GM in Africa. One interesting suggestion in there was that countries may go through a Fiber–Feed–Food (F3) approach to adopting GM crops: Bt cotton is adopted first followed by GM crops for livestock feed while undergoing necessary assessments before producing GM foods for human consumption. Continue reading


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Enlightening discussions between an organic farmer and Monsanto

In doing some research for December’s news-roundup, I was very struck by a blog post from a Canadian organic farmer, Rob Wallbridge. He was given a guided tour of Monsanto which he approached with trepidation but with an open mind.

He said: “visiting Monsanto dispelled much of my trepidation about the technology of genetic engineering.”

I say: an organic farmer and Monsanto having an open discussion, that sounds like progress. Continue reading


What is evidence?

The internet is flooded with information about GM, but as I walk the tightrope of the middle ground I need to decide what actually constitutes reliable evidence. There are lots of accusations that sources are unreliable because they are from people who are book-burning luddites, or in the pocket of evil corporations.  It’s a convenient way to dismiss evidence which doesn’t suit you, but how do you know when this ‘evidence’ should be dismissed?

I want the debate to be about evidence, not about insulting other people’s motives, but at the same time I need to decide which evidence is reliable, and the motives of people presenting it are part of that decision. I often wish that I could do all the experiments myself, but sadly I have to rely on what I read. Continue reading


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Retraction of Seralini’s controversial toxicology study

This week a widely-criticised paper claiming negative effects of Roundup and Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize on rats was retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The author, Professor Seralini, stands by the results, but received a letter from the journal stating that “The panel had many concerns about the quality of the data, and ultimately recommended that the article should be withdrawn.”

Criticisms included inadequate numbers of rats to draw conclusions (especially as the strain used were extremely prone to tumours). There were also insufficient control groups (there should have been more rats fed on non-GM diets to see whether this was any different to those fed GM diets). The stats have also been questioned. Continue reading