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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Challenging assumptions about smallholder farmers

Recently I was lucky enough to spend time on Jeju island, South Korea. Last time I visited, oranges were being harvested in the snow. This time it was a heatwave, and groups of women were crouched in the fields planting seedlings together.

jeju-farming

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GM rice with the potential to fight rotavirus

Last week, a paper was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by scientists who have developed GM rice which protects mice from rotavirus. They engineered ‘MucoRice-ARP1’ by adding the gene for an antibody produced by llamas to fight rotavirus. The rice then has the potential to protect against rotavirus and to treat it. Continue reading


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GM news roundup: Ghana, the seed gap paradox and ‘inform & convince’

Debating GM crops – blog by Steven Hill

As someone who worked in research relevant to the use of GM in agriculture, Steven explains why his views have changed. Firstly, he now believes that the importance of GM to food security has been over-stated, though it may be important in specific instances such as producing crops able to deal with changes in disease. Secondly, he is keen to move beyond the ‘inform and convince’ style discussion which I covered in a recent post (and is arguably still being used by both sides of the debate).

The European Seed Gap – AgWeb

This article makes the interesting point that we have a paradox where we only two GM seed varieties are authorized for cultivation in the EU while 46 GM products are permitted for import. For me this connects with the interesting question of accountability in the food chain. If we think a particular variety of GM is safe why don’t we let our farmers grow it? If we think it isn’t then why do we have the benefits of buying it but let other countries accept any problems which may be associated with it?

Debate on growing GM crops rife in Ghana – SPY Ghana

GM trials have been approved for Ghana, which has no commercially approved GM varieties (although the law now allows GM in the food chain). Interesting article with the kind of ridiculous image we saw in the 90s. The director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research makes the point that if people are starving today they will take the risk of food which hasn’t had its long-term safety proven (good point – risks are all relative, but risks for environmental damage have different consequences).