Letter to The Spectator: GM contrarianism

Sir;

Matt Ridley’s statement (Diary, 14 May) that “GM allows the organic dream of drastic cuts in pesticide use to come true without high cost” must surely be disingenuous coat-trailing, or at least an instance of grossly unbalanced journalism. Before he ripostes that this was only a passing comment in a desultory diary, I should like to suggest that the subject of how we are going to feed ourselves and our descendants deserves better than a contrarian throwaway line.

Mr Ridley makes no reference to research (e.g. as quoted by Friends of the Earth in 2008) that indicates increased use of pesticides in conjunction with GM crops. Is he also unaware of the common assertion that one of the purposes of GM in cereals is to develop crops that are resistant to the side-effects of herbicides and some pesticides, so helping to expand the market for the agrichemical industry? Does he further wish us to believe that he is ignorant of the debate about monoculture farming: how it allegedly increases liability to disease and pests, which in turn encourages the use of chemicals that harm wildlife and soil microorganisms and degrade the soil structure?

As a meat-eating, leather-shoe-wearing Westerner, I should like those who come long after me to have the same options; it is not only the plastic-sandaled devotees of Gaia who are concerned about sustainability, or the integrity of our environment.

8 comments for “Letter to The Spectator: GM contrarianism

  1. May 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Interesting post. I too have doubts about GM, but IMHO Matt Ridley has presented the case for it quite well in a number of other pieces. I’d certainly be interested in an expanded version of the debate, if it’s appropriate for this blog.

  2. DSD
    May 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I’d strongly suggest if you’re going to quote scientific research on any subject, you pick quotes from a scientist rather than a watermelon advocacy group corrupted by EU money.

  3. May 19, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Agree with both the above.

  4. May 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

    It’s been pointed out in a few of the reports on this that a large part of the increase in pesticide use is down to one of the bigger pesticides losing it’s patent, meaning that a large number of other companies have started to produce it – driving prices down to less than half the original level.

    So a better comparison would not be “how much pesticide has been used on the GM crops compared to how much we used on the GM crops last year” but instead “how much has Pesticide use increased on the GM crops, compared to how much has Pesticide use increased on the non-GM crops”

    Plus if I’m being honest, I don’t trust anything put out by Friends of the Earth. They always miss out other important factors that might play a part in changing the data – almost like they have their own agenda… 😉

  5. ivan
    May 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

    My instant reaction was ‘if you believe what they (Friends of the Earth) say, then you are a bigger fool than I took you for’. It is akin to the IPPC taking papers from WWF and calling them science then using that argument to produce the biggest fraud of the century.

    • May 19, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Precisely, about the IPPC etc. It really does come down to who one’s sources are.

  6. Sackerson
    May 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Bit harsh to dismiss everything the FoE refers to (I’m not sure that it was their own research) merely because they referred to it. And although they have their own agenda, no doubt so do Monsanto et al. If that thing about the terminator gene is true then my skepticism (to put it mildly) about the agrichemical lot is even greater than about the lentil-knitters.

  7. May 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Shooting the messenger is hardly a strong argument. There are many groups that are opposed to GM crops, and they have evidence that backs up their stance. I dare say it’s easy to dismiss most of these people with a casual ad hominem, possibly because their opposition to GM sits together with other views on ‘green’ matters or the way we should live. But who else is going to fight this issue, other than these people?

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