Thursday, June 05, 2008

Is G.M food panacea to current crisis?

Since their introduction to the world in the 1990’s by the American’s, Genetically Modified crops have continued to elicit arguments about their human and environmental safety.

As the words suggest G.M crops difference with conventional crops is that their DNA has been scientifically altered or enhanced so to say, to make them more nutritious and climate specific etcetera.

Amongst their advantages are said to be that animals such as cows can be genetically modified to grow faster with less food and produce more milk with certain minerals i.e. vitamin C added to it. You can also increase/decrease the nutrient content i.e. the Vitamins. The GM crops are said to be economical for large scale farming as they take shorter time to produce. Moreover, farmers require less pest/herbicides in GM fields thus saving money. Similarly, the crops can be modified to be drought and salt tolerant or less reliant on fertilizer hence increasing productivity.

However, albeit no problems have been reported with GM crops, opponents argues that not enough research has been done on them and the fear is that their long-term implications are unknown. Such fears are best illustrated by the once thought in the 80’s to be safe cattle feed that later in the 90’s led to mad cow disease (cjd-the human form).
Opponents are further concerned about Animals/human food GM mix-ups as it happened in America where crops modified and restricted to increase animal productivity were found in the human food chain.
Yet, another persistent risk has been on the likely harm and poisoning of the birds, bees, caterpillars and butterflies food chain as a result of the GM pollen built to be resistant to certain pests/weeds.
Some have argued that the unintentional cross-pollination between GM crops and natural/wild plants could lead to the extinction of the latter or it could lead to creation of super weeds and super bugs that are indestructible.
It is widely accepted that the Capitalist corporate America who have patented the seeds technology and accompanying materials i.e. fertilizer which goes hand in hand with the seedlings are the driving force behind the GM agenda with the aim of maximise their profits. This brings to mind the implications on the poor of patented HIV and other medicines raising fears of similar replications with the G.M crops.
For those used to the commonly in third world, simple granary storage of seedlings or harvest i.e maize, beans for a rainy day or next plantation, forget about it, as G.M produce and seedling deteriorate under such methods and requires modern facilities i.e. freezers, and temperature regulations. Modern biotechnology is used which requires highly skilled people and sophisticated and expensive equipment and laboratories hence unaffordable for small-scale farmers.
Evidently, opponents points that since the crops DNA alteration is done using viruses and bacteria’s it is likely to lead to significant increase in allergies, toxins and diseases to human as little research has been undertaken in this area.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned arguments, GM crops are unlikely to be the panacea to current food crisis’s that have led to astronomical prices and threatened to engulf some countries; so far over 15 countries have witnessed food riots. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization lists 22 countries as particularly vulnerable, majority are in Africa.

Many experts’ points to very influential but ignored underlying factors that have triggered the current crisis amongst them are;

-The unreformed and distorted world markets
-Climate changes
-Rapid population growth.
-Unreformed traditional farming methods.

Mother Africa is a victim of the above four with limited influence/control on the first two issues but able to urgently address the other two yet as usual many are unresponsive and waiting for the disaster to strike. This is illustrated below.

Zimbabwe was until recently Southern Africa breadbasket but today a basket case wasn’t tragically comical for Mugabe to rant at the Rome UN food summit about U.K responsibilities on the current Zim’s predicaments? Does he genuinely believe his words? Talk of Freudian denial and reaction formation. Anyway, U.K response was swift and clear i.e.: "Robert Mugabe going to Rome for the food summit is like Pol Pot going to a human rights convention".


MainaT said...

Wlcome back JM.
The two main causes of the present food crisis are two.The growing China economy with something like 30m people moving into the urban areas, earning more cash than they did before and needing to be fed.
2ndly, commodity vultures (err traders...
On GM, the science remains unknown and largely untested and as you say, its very suspicious that for example GM grains don't produce any seeds that can be re-planted.

pesa tu said...

GM food isn't a panacea but the current crisis will push us towards them