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REGULATION & RISK ASSESSMENT: If GM Crops Can Feed The World, We Should Loosen Regulations



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   IF GM CROPS CAN FEED THE WORLD, WE SHOULD LOOSEN REGULATIONS

SOURCE:  Co.Exist

AUTHOR:  Ariel Schwartz

URL:     http://www.fastcoexist.com/3022681/heres-an-idea/if-genetically-modified-crops-can-feed-the-world-we-should-loosen-regulations

DATE:    11.12.2013

SUMMARY: "It's a familiar refrain at this point: the planet is heating up, weather is getting weird, and the human population is growing. How can we feed billions of people at a time when food systems are being disrupted by droughts, extreme heat, bitter cold, and other unpredictable weather events?"

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IF GM CROPS CAN FEED THE WORLD, WE SHOULD LOOSEN REGULATIONS

It's a familiar refrain at this point: the planet is heating up, weather is getting weird, and the human population is growing. How can we feed billions of people at a time when food systems are being disrupted by droughts, extreme heat, bitter cold, and other unpredictable weather events?

The London School of Economics argues that genetically modified crops could be the answer. Feeding the Planet in a Warming World, a new report from the school along with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, offers a handful of solutions to bring about agricultural resilience, including more public investment in agricultural innovation. But perhaps the most controversial is a call to make crops themselves more resilient--something that can be achieved most easily with increased genetic modification efforts and loosened regulations.

>From the report, a justification for GMOs:

    The projected growth in human population means that in order to maintain the status quo, agriculture will have to produce more food over the next 40 years than the combined total of all food produced from the dawn of agriculture to the present day. Adding to this monumental task, climate change is increasing the severity and volatility of weather patterns and environmental constraints around the world. Increasing crop productivity isn?t enough. Building climate resilient agriculture in addition to doubling crop productivity is one of the chief social, economic, and technological challenges of our time.

How can GMOs help? The report references GMO crops currently in development that produce higher yields with less water, like a new Monsanto corn crop that can be produced with 30% less water than traditional crops. Monsanto is also working on a drought-tolerant . Better agronomic practices, like precision irrigation and pest control, are helpful, according to the report, but just to a point: They "cannot deliver enough productivity enhancement to meet the anticipated need."

This is not as cut and dry as it seems. There is, of course, a large anti-GMO lobby that can recite a long list of reasons why GMOs aren't the solution. They often require lots of herbicides (superweeds are popping up as a result of weedkillers used on GMO herbicide-tolerant crops), and just a handful of big companies like Monsanto and Bayer control the whole market. Any potential health risks are still up for debate.

The London School of Economics report brushes these risks aside:

    A cautious research, regulatory, and policymaking approach was appropriate during the dawn of modern biotechnology. Since then, researchers, regulators, and policymakers have accrued a vast body of experience in the United States and around the world. Humans and livestock have consumed billions of meals without a single case of harm attributable to the biotechnology-derived nature of the material consumed.

As for those herbicide-resistant crops that are breeding superweeds?

    Herbicides--chemicals that kill weeds--have been a huge and widely beneficial advance in agronomic practice. It has largely replaced backbreaking hand-weeding and plowing that is massively disruptive to soil microbial ecosystems. Instead, no-till methods of weed control bring numerous environmental, stewardship, and ergonomic benefits.

The report makes some fair points. In particular, regulatory hurdles are making it difficult for rapid agricultural innovation to flourish and that policymakers need to make a concerted effort to push innovations through. GMOs might just be necessary to ensure a future where everyone (or almost everyone) has enough food to eat. But we need to ensure that in our haste to fix the planet's food problems that we don't inadvertently create new health and environmental problems--and hand over the entire agriculture industry to a select few companies.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   ENVIRONMENTALISTS WHO OPPOSE GM CROPS ARE UNSCIENTIFIC AND DANGEROUS

SOURCE:  Business Insider

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.businessinsider.com/environmentalists-who-oppose-gm-crops-are-unscientific-and-dangerous-2013-12

DATE:    11.12.2013

SUMMARY: "In August, environmentalists in the Philippines vandalized a field of Golden Rice, an experimental grain whose genes had been modified to carry beta-carotene, a chemical precursor of vitamin A."

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ENVIRONMENTALISTS WHO OPPOSE GM CROPS ARE UNSCIENTIFIC AND DANGEROUS

In August, environmentalists in the Philippines vandalized a field of Golden Rice, an experimental grain whose genes had been modified to carry beta-carotene, a chemical precursor of vitamin A.

Golden Rice is not produced by a corporate behemoth but by the public sector. Its seeds will be handed out free to farmers. The aim is to improve the health of children in poor countries by reducing vitamin A deficiency, which contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and cases of blindness each year.

Environmentalists claim that these sorts of actions are justified because genetically modified (GM) crops pose health risks. Now the main ground for those claims has crumbled.

Last year a paper was published in a respected journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. It found unusual rates of tumors and deaths in rats that had been fed upon a variety of maize resistant to a herbicide called Roundup, as a result of genetic modification by Monsanto, an American plant-science firm. Other studies found no such effects, but this one enabled campaigners to make a health-and-safety argument against GM crops--one persuasive enough to influence governments. After the study appeared, Russia suspended imports of the grain in question. Kenya banned all GM crops. And the French prime minister said that if the results were confirmed he would press for a Europe-wide ban on the GM maize.

But the methodology of the study, by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen and colleagues, was widely criticized and, on November 28th, the journal retracted the paper (see "GM maize, health and the Séralini affair: Smelling a rat"). There is now no serious scientific evidence that GM crops do any harm to the health of human beings.

There is plenty of evidence, though, that they benefit the health of the planet. One of the biggest challenges facing mankind is to feed the 9 billion-10 billion people who will be alive and (hopefully) richer in 2050. This will require doubling food production on roughly the same area of land, using less water and fewer chemicals. It will also mean making food crops more resistant to the droughts and floods that seem likely if climate change is a bad as scientists fear.

Organic farming--the kind beloved of greens--cannot meet this challenge. It uses far too much land. If the Green revolution had never happened, and yields had stayed at 1960 levels, the world could not produce its current food output even if it ploughed up every last acre of cultivable land.

In contrast, GM crops boost yields, protecting wild habitat from the plough. They are more resistant to the vagaries of climate change, and to diseases and pests, reducing the need for agrochemicals. Genetic research holds out the possibility of breakthroughs that could vastly increase the productivity of farming, such as grains that fix their own nitrogen. Vandalizing GM field trials is a bit like the campaign of some religious leaders to prevent smallpox inoculations: it causes misery, even death, in the name of obscurantism and unscientific belief.

Follow your principles

America takes little notice of this nonsense. But green groups in Europe, with the support of influential figures such as Prince Charles, have succeeded in shaping policy. Governments have hedged genetic research around with so many restrictions that much of the business has fled a continent that could be doing more than most to feed the world. Some developing countries--Kenya, India and others--have turned their backs on technologies that could literally save their peoples? lives. And European governments spend taxpayers? money financing groups encouraging them to do so. The group in the Philippines that trashed the rice trials, MASIPAG, gets money from the Swedish government. On moral, economic and environmental grounds, this must stop.

In the field of climate change, environmentalists insist that the scientific consensus should frame policy. They should follow that principle with GM crops, and abandon a campaign that impoverishes people and the rest of the planet.