View from the fence

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


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How to change someone’s mind

This new video from Wellcome is so relevant to the GMO debate: ‘How to be convincing: 5 tips for the next time you’re trying to change someone’s mind’.

Watching it is 0:45 seconds very well spent, but I can summarise the message as approach a debate from the other person’s perspective and not your own.

This was created as part of Wellcome’s ongoing #ExpertDebate about whether we have really had enough of experts. Join in on Twitter. Continue reading

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How can we change people’s behaviour?

I recently woke to the news that environmental activists were arrested for scaling the roof of New Zealand’s parliament to raise awareness of climate change (my alarm is set to the Today programme, so I guess I’m not alone). This didn’t fill me with hope. I’m not sure awareness is the problem – what we’re lacking is action.

Take healthy eating as an example – it’s widely known what a healthy diet looks like, and also widely ignored. So I was interested to read a Global Food Security blog post about research into behaviour change. What could make people  switch to a healthy, sustainable diet?

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‘Rewilding’ – new GM potential for organic agriculture?

Many wild relatives of crops have genes which protect them from drought, disease and other stresses. These are exactly the characteristics we want in our crops, so these genes have great potential for agriculture.

Organic agriculture is in particular need of new genetic resources because modern crop varieties are normally bred with conventional agriculture in mind. Without inputs which are banned in organic agriculture, these varieties often don’t thrive. Currently average yields are lower on organic farms, and new genetic resources could help reduce this difference. Continue reading


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‘All GM food is safe/unsafe’ is a fallacy

Stories of GM being bad for health rumble on (though Seralini is still winning on this one) and they need some context.

It is impossible to say all GM food is safe to consume or that all GM is dangerous – every variety is different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Even if a technique used for the modification proved to be dangerous (and I have no reason to believe it might be), this doesn’t mean that all GM food will be dangerous – ever more sophisticated techniques are being developed. Continue reading


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I smell (a badly treated) rat

Last year I blogged about the retraction of Professor Seralini’s toxicology study on rats claiming negative health effects of eating round-up tolerant GM maize. Well, last week it was re-published, in a lower-ranking journal.

The republication has been met with a fraction of the publicity from first time around (perhaps unsurprising given that it was basically the same paper with slight re-analysis and a more political slant). Continue reading


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January news round-up

Climate Change and Food Security: The Role of Biotechnology

Interesting thoughts on how GM crops could benefit Africa, with suggested actions including involving local people in decision making, public sector investment in GM rice and other crops which aren’t of interest to companies, and sharing results of regulatory tests between countries.

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

“Popular opinion masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of biotechnology companies.” A Hawaiian man goes on a similar journey of seeking the truth to mine. Continue reading


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Businesses and charities – what’s the difference?

Anyone searching for the #gmo hashtag on Twitter could be forgiven for thinking that nobody in the world supports GM unless Monsanto pays them – I have even had a LinkedIn message from someone speculating that I might order Monsanto to ‘put a hit on him’. I believe this paranoid mistrust of business is damaging to an intellectual debate. In my what worries you about GM poll my vote was that I was very worried about the social/economic aspects of genetic modification in agriculture, and I also know that global businesses have committed serious crimes. But I think we need to remember that:

  • Charities have to make money just as much as businesses do
  • Some businesses bring us amazing things
  • Just because your primary motivation is to make the world a better place, it doesn’t mean that you don’t end up making things worse

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