28 May 2015 | Online since 2003

31 August 2012|Arable,Cereal,Crops,News

GM crops 'are not harmful' says EU scientist

The sustainable intensification of agriculture is essential if Europe is to produce more food and impact less on the environment, the EU’s first ever chief scientific advisor has told the NFU in an exclusive interview.

But Professor Anne Glover said Europe could only achieve sustainable intensification if we become more open-minded.

“What we do now will shape what happens in 2050,” said Professor Glover. “We do need to improve crop yields and we need to improve wastage before harvest. Farming needs to have less chemical and water input. This has to be achievable and we will achieve it, but we need to be more open minded about how we achieve it.”

Professor Glover referred specifically to European attitudes towards GM technology.

“If we just looked at the evidence base, we would have GM in the EU without a doubt. GM crops are subject to more scrutiny than any other type of agriculture,” she said, adding: “There is no substantiated evidence that I have ever seen that GM crops are harmful to the environment, animals or people”.

Professor Glover also said Europe must have a more strategic approach to pesticides which were expensive both in terms of cost to the farmer and their impact on the environment.

“We are not going to say goodbye to pesticides in the near future, but farming in 20-25 years will be quite different in terms of how we use chemicals. We need to think about resistant varieties, other types of organic planting and using agricultural management – there are genetically modified crops which would be pesticide resistant.”

She cited an example in China where the growth of GM cotton had reduced pesticide use by 50 per cent.

“If society wants no pesticides in food or water, we have to think about how we deliver it,” she said.

Professor Glover was previously chief scientific advisor for Scotland before she took her post as the EU’s chief scientific advisor in January this year.

The NFU, which was part of a strong lobby that called for an EU chief scientific advisor, said Prof Glover’s comments were a breath of fresh air.

Andrea Graham, the NFU chief scientific advisor said: “We have often criticised the European Union for pushing agricultural policies that are emotive and based on the precautionary principle rather than evidence-based and practical. We are encouraged by Professor Glover’s common sense approach to policy making and hope the European Commission will listen to her sound advice.”



31-08-2012 16:58 PM | Posted by: S. Bean
Interesting...While Professor Glover seemingly makes a good point, I think her statement fails to address the public's true fears about GM crops. There has been no research on the effects of GM food on human health, certainly not long term, and certainly not addressing the myriad issues that could also occur (i.e., food allergies).
Here in the U.S., most of our GM crops are designed to sell more of the company's products - take Round-Up Ready corn, which enables the farmer to blanket-apply herbicide without damaging the crop. This would result in more run off and non-target plant damage, ultimately, and certainly much higher sales for Round-Up and Monsanto.
GM crops have the potential to minimize the negative impacts of agriculture and to help end world hunger. However, here in the U.S., at least, GM crops primarily benefit the company that owns them and the industrial farming complex that is williing to increase profits at any environmental cost. They have demonstrated precisely zero benefit to the consumer or to the environment.

03-09-2012 13:38 PM | Posted by: Robert Morrison
Does the job description of the EU's Chief Scientist include the role of head cheerleader for the GM industry? (See http://www.gmeducation.org/blog/p149577-professor-glover-spolldancing.html)

Professor Glover is being remarkably disingenuous to say that there is no evidence that GM has any impact on the environment. The emergence of "superweeds" and the contamination of non-GM crops in the US are clear to see; evidence of pest resistance is now being reported; as are examples of health disorders in laboratory animals.

At present this does not amount to a conclusive case against GM but it is enough to maintain precaution and is certainly enough to require that publicly funded officials - which Professor Glover is - take a more sober and considered view about GM technology.

Her dismissal and that of the NFU’s Scientific Advisor, of the emerging evidence of problems and their declaration that GM is risk free is profoundly unscientific.

04-09-2012 09:03 AM | Posted by: Nat
Professor Glover is correct – we need to be more productive on the land we have and GM is one of the tools we have to achieve this.

Unfortunately there is still much confusion regarding GM crops and this isn't helped by anti-GM campaigners. Superweeds (which anyway aren't so super), often wrongly attributed to GM, are an example. I suspect many members of the public think that GM is a ‘cause’ of superweeds whereas it's simply an overuse of one type of herbicide. We know that resistance to chemical controls are a problem in all forms of agriculture.

12-09-2012 12:07 PM | Posted by: Nat
My problem with GM foods is not purely the proven damage that Roundup does to human health, but the fact that by allowing big pharma like Monsanto to patent these GM crops, we are handing our food supply to people whose only motive is profit. Monsanto have shown that they will happily drive people to suicide (Indian cotton farmers) and bring vexatious IP cases against farmers whose crops are contaminated by their GM crops grown nearby, knowing that they are protected by their vast profits and the bribes they clearly pay to politicians around the world. This, on top of intimidation tactics more suited to criminal gangs.

Publicly owned and properly researched GM science, I have no issue with. Handing our food supply to criminals makes no sense to me.

17-09-2012 19:59 PM | Posted by: Rhiannon
I read that two Danish non-organic farmers converted their pigs to non GMO soya and almost immediately saw improvements in the health of their pigs which saved them more money than the increased costs of the non GM feed http://www.toxicsoy.org/toxicsoy/news/Artikelen/2012/4/28_Health_damage_to_pigs_fed_on_GM_soy_files/Denmark%20Dossier%202.pdf

And that there has been a successful prosecution in Argentina following birth defects and illness resulting from heavy pesticide application to GM engineered crops ( http://rense.com/general10/arg.htm ).

Its not JUST the fact that GM crops are genetically modified that's the problem although there is clear science which illustrates the dangers of introducing genetic material from one species into another - with proven adverse impact in immune systems (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8347-gm-pea-causes-allergic-damage-in-mice.html)

It's also the fact that GM enables heavy applications of dangerous chemicals which leach into the environment and water courses and kill people.

And the fact that higher yields of crops as a result of heavy applications of fertiliser and pesticides have been shown to have lower nutrient value (the dilution effect) http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/44/1/15.full

And that soil erosion and compaction from intensive modern farming practises means that soil is disappearing in almost all parts of the EU faster than it can be replaced and that GM farming only encourages this unsustainable style of agriculture http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/farming/6828878/Britain-facing-food-crisis-as-worlds-soil-vanishes-in-60-years.html

And that the adverse pollution impact of intensive farming with heavy applications of both pesticides and fertilisers ends up 1000's of miles away in the oceans - killing a first class, free source of protein - fish (http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/dead-zone.htm)

Apart from those well established and scientifically researched conclusions - and apart from the fact that organic farming has been proven to result in greater yield stability in adverse weather (http://www.ifad.org/evaluation/public_html/eksyst/doc/thematic/organic/chap3/3.htm) and that selective breeding of natural seeds without GM results in greater disease resistance without the use of chemicals...(http://www.sarvari-trust.org/)... and that increasing crop rotation length and complexity increases organic yields by up to 30%....

apart from all of those little pieces of contradictory evidence to her position, Professor Glover could be right.
But what if she isn't?

17-09-2012 20:11 PM | Posted by: Rhiannon
Sorry - one of the links I posted was old and whilst still relevant not the one I meant to post

It related to the prosecution in Argentina - the reporting of the case is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19341093

The involvement of Monsanto in the exact same area planting illegal crops of GM corn 'resist6ant' to heavy pesticide application is what the other link referred to http://rense.com/general10/arg.htm

Illustrating the dangers of high pesticide applications to GM crops - and whilst I'm sure lots of farmers will instantly say 'well -they aren't applying the sprays properly' unfortunately the EU science to ensure water safety isn't properly developed yet, either

08-10-2012 20:07 PM | Posted by: Kev C
There has been no end of research that contradicts Professor Glovers assertions on human safety of GMO food. Take the very recent Professor Giles Seralini research paper which had highlighted the tumours that grew in rats fed with GM corn. Or as mentioned super weeds. Or the deliberate manipulation of data by Monsanto to hide the outliers in their in-house research papers because they would have shown up failings in the GMO on trial.
Then we have the refusal of most of the biotechs to allow independent research trials into the safety of their products. They complain that it would violate patents. Yet patents are there to protect physical products and intellectual property rights. So their refusal is certainly based on their fear of the truth being found out. They don't want the GMO's labelled in the US yet they happily agree with labelling in the EU. Why? Because they know fine well that the majority of the US population would refuse to buy and consume GMO food stuffs. And that would be financially suicidal to the biotechs.
GMO's are unsafe and untested by independent researchers with no vested interests. Until they are made safe and fully tested they should be banned under the precautionary principle. If it cannot be guaranteed 100% safe then it stays in the laboratory.

26-02-2013 17:47 PM | Posted by: tom
RE: S. Bean's comments on round-up ready corn
The answer to the question of does blanket spraying of crops with round-lead to increase run-off pollution the answer if flatly NO it does not. Why, pray tell? Because it requires less frequent herbicidal administration.

RE: Kev C's reference to work of of Seralini et al., I would counter that work is, scientifically speaking, pure garbage for, inter alia, the following reasons:

•‘All data cannot be shown in one report and the most relevant are described here’ – this is a quote from the paper, and indicates that these people are POTENTIALLY hiding something so beware conspiracy theorist this a two-way street.
•Small sample size
•Maize was minimum 11% of the diet – not balanced (saccrine causes cancer in male rat bladders too when they are given massive doses; such data are meaningless in the context of human consumption of GMOs; see cancer.gov on the mere association of cancer (under extreme conditions) with artificial sweeteners)
•No non-maize control?
•No results given for non-gm maize
•For nearly 20 years, billions of animals in the EU have been fed soy products produced from genetically modified soybean, mainly from Latin America. No problems have been reported by the hundreds of thousands of farmers, officials, vets and so on.
•The same journal publishes a paper showing no adverse health effects in rats of consuming gm maize (though this is a shorter 90-day study)
•Statistical significance vs relative frequencies - poor methodology.
•We also have to ask why the rats were kept alive for so long – for humane reasons this study would not have been given approval in the UK.
•In Fig.2, I assume the bars with a zero is for the non-maize control. Those bars don’t looks significantly different from the bars indicating 11, 22, and 33% of GM maize in the diet? Have the authors done stats on their data? Even with this poor methodology, this is an extremely unbalanced diet and cannot be translated to human consumption of GMOs in any meaning for way. This work does nothing more than undermine the credibility of the authors as scientists, and should be not be taken to mean anything.

19-05-2014 21:06 PM | Posted by: Shazza
I agree generally with the pints made above by Rhiannon, but have just followed her link to the bbc website re the successful prosecution of GMO farmers. They were convicted of illegally spraying in areas close to residential areas, not of causing any harmful side effects. The groups who pressed for the prosecution are convinced that there are harmful health effects, and all the evidence suggests there probably are, but these are not scientifically proven and the court did not find there were any. It may do in the future.

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