Sustainable Food Guide
|Environmental Practice at Work © 2014|
The debate about the role of Genetic Modification is returning, as some are claiming it is the answer to world hunger / food security, while others say it isn't. In 2013 most of the UK supermarkets (except Waitrose) decided to allow GM feed for the animals in their supply chains.
So we have opened up a new GMO debate site, where you can join in.
Genetically modified (GM) crops are those plants whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination. Genetic Modification (as it is called in Europe. In the US they prefer "Genetic Engineering") is a hot potato. People promoting GM technology believe it has the potential to answer a number of sustainability issues. These include drought and salt resistant strains. Those against GM food believe that, however well intentioned it may sound, there is the potential to create unpredicatable consequences. Look what can happen when you import a species to be useful only for it to end up a pest.This is the reason the "Precautionary Principle" was adopted by European Authorities. It was opposed by USA.
The science of GM develops according to the current ways of thinking. There two main ways of thinking - called paradigms, that are developing in agricultural sceince:
Productivist Paradigm: Monsanto says: "The real dilemma in the next decade is how do you grow more with less". BASF says: "There is this conflict of nutrition on one side, and renewable resources protecting the climate of the earth and the only solution is biotechnology." BASF & Monsanto are joining forces to develop GM in order "to boost farm productivity by 20 per cent". Do you know what this "productivity" means? (see Productionist Paradigm for more). The aim is to maximise 'in-field' yields on good land.
Agroecology Paradigm: This is the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. Agroecology seeks to use renewable sources of energy instead of non-renewable sources, biological nitrogen fixation, naturally-occurring materials instead of synthetic, manufactured inputs andon-farm resources as much as possible. This is not necessarily the same as "organic", which ow has srtict certification procedures. eg Integrated Pest Management schemes are part of agroecology. At present there are not many places, Cuba (Julia Wright) India (Rabobank) and China (Plant Biotechnology in China). who may have something to say about using GM as part of the sustainabilty agenda.
But look what is on the way - cheaper GM Technology, in DIY GM. As GM technology becomes more accessible to a wider group of people, many new issues arise. For more detailed roles that GM may play, have a look at Australian Center for Plant Functional Genomics.
GM & Sustaiinability
The issue of GM and sustainability is complex - there will not be two readers who agree on what we mean by sustainability, so how can we determine GM's role? We need to consider Health, Environment, Ownership, Food Security and International Law. If you want to follow these in more details, click the dumbells below.