View from the fence

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

Genetically modified maize crop USA agriculture


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Can multi-national businesses make farming more sustainable?

To what extent are multi-national businesses trying to increase their sustainability? And how much power do they have to be successful? Based on a recent study, the answer to the first question seems to be ‘more than I thought’ while the second question has the opposite answer.

Opponents of genetically-modified foods often cite corporate control of the food system as a reason for their rejection. They are generally referring to Monsanto, but when researching for my book I discovered a far more complex picture. Continue reading

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Genetically modified maize crop USA agriculture


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Bad news in business and in Bangalore

I had two pieces of bad news when I turned my phone on yesterday morning  (not counting Trump bad news – I’ve become immune to that or mornings would be too depressing). A Whatsapp chat with my school friends explained that the violence in Bangalore had environmental causes, and a chat with my PhD friends informed me that Bayer had bought Monsanto. 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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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


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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