Science for Profit

Scientific disinformation on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops is rife; more so and more blatant than any other area where science has become enmeshed with corporate profit. The battle to reclaim people's food rights intensifies worldwide as the failures and hazards of' GM Crops can no longer be concealed behind the relentless propaganda. Within the past 18 months or so, learned societies, science journals and sundry scientists have joined the fray, spreading false claims that the scientific debate is over and GM food is proven safe, that GM crops are great success with more miracles on the way, and needed to feed the world.

This most recent global disinformation campaign has been carefully orchestrated. Anne Glover, a molecular biologist at St Andrews University in Scotland, the European Commission's first chief scientific advisor appointed in 2012, has used a series of interviews with EurActiv news network to promote GM Crops. In an open letter addressed to Glover, Dr Brian John of GM-Free Cymru wrote: "Your claim that there is no evidence of adverse GMO impacts is a lie." He referred to a recent list compiled by GM Free USA consisting of more than 1400 scientific papers on various adverse health and environmental impacts of GM crops and related pesticides, and a statement signed by nearly 300 scientists declaring there is no consensus on the safety of GM Crops.

If there is any remaining doubt, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)—a developer and facilitator if not supporter of GMOs despite its role as regulator—has just released an economic review of GM crops based on cultivation since 1996 and paints a much less rosy picture.

One must look behind the hype and falsehoods at the real global status of GM versus non-GMs crops.

In 2013, China blocked an unprecedented 545000 tonnes of US corn, because it was tainted by an unauthorised GM variety MIR 162. In March 2014, Syngenta halted commercial sales in Canada of its GM rootworm resistant corn MIR 162 because China and Europe had not approved it. Not only are consumers demanding non-GM food, they want animal feed also to be GM free.

France has explicitly banned the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM maize MON 810 and is seeking permanent ban on planting any GM crop. Poland announced a complete ban on growing MON 810 in February 2014. Italy has already imposed its ban on the same in August 2013. Russia is preparing a bill to restrict imports of GMOs and completely ban the cultivation of GM crops in the country. In Australia, the Tasmania state government announced that the statewide ban on GMOs would continue indefinitely. In the United States, Big Island Hawaii has led the way in imposing a ban on testing and cultivation of GMOs. Towards the end of March 2014, the Karnataka government banned the sale of Bt and hybrid seeds from Mahyco—Monsanto’s Indian partners—following reports of crop failures of nearly 50% in 7 states, with losses amounting to Rs 230 crore (>US$ 49.3 million, 1 crore=US$ 214,431). The state government is pursuing legal action as well as banning and blacklisting Mahyco from supplying Bt seeds in the state.

In truth concerned people across the world are demanding non-GM food rather traditional food, not GM food.

But India under Modi's dispensation seems to be swimming against the tide. Modi's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar finds virtues in GM crops. So they are too eager to allow the notorious Monsanto and other seed giants to go for field trials of 12 GM crops including rice and wheat—the two major staples of Indians. A timetable for agrarian chatastrophe has already been announced but parties in opposition show no desire to oppose the government move. Tragically enough, left parties who are so vociferous about allowing foreign direct investment in insurance and banking look too naive to issue even press statements against this suicidal opening-up. Science seems an alien concept even in communist culture, albeit they never get tired in talking about scientific socialism in all their theoretical discourses.


Vol. 47, No. 27, Jan 11 - 17, 2015