Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Thursday, June 21, 2018 12:54:17 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

Genetically engineered crops now big disappointments

By
19th-May-2017       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen :
Advocates of genetically engineered (GE) crops have long claimed that genetic engineering is necessary to raise crop yields and reduce human exposure to agrochemicals. Genetic engineering promised two major improvements: improving yields affordably to feed the world, and making crops resistant to pests to reduce the use of commercial chemical herbicides and insecticides.
Genetic modification of crops through natural evolution or artificial crossbreeding has been happening for millennia, giving rise to more productive or resilient crop species. Thus, the term 'genetic engineering' more accurately refers to the artificial introduction of genetic material to produce new GE varieties.
Trans-Atlantic divide
A report by the United States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine - picked up by the New York Times - found that US GE crop yield gains have slowed over the years, leaving no significant advantage in yield gains compared to non-GE plant varieties. Over two decades ago, Western Europe largely rejected GE crops while North America - the United States and then Canada - embraced them. More than twenty years later, US crop yield gains are not significantly higher than in Western Europe.
Since the adoption of GE crops, US use of herbicides has increased. In the US, decreasing use of some herbicides has involved large increases in the use of glyphosate, a key ingredient in herbicides used for GE crop cultivation. This is in contrast to France, which bans GE crop cultivation, where overall use of herbicides has been reduced due to EU efforts.
Glyphosate-resistant GE crops survive herbicide spraying while killing non-resistant weeds. However, rising weed resistance to glyphosate has led to the application of larger doses. For example, although land planted with GE soybeans has grown by less than a third over the last two decades, herbicide use has doubled. Herbicide use for maize production was declining before the introduction of GE crops, but has increased since 2002.
Glyphosate was assessed as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization. Some glyphosate-based herbicides also contain other more toxic herbicides - such as 2,4-D, a key ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam War defoliant - to increase their efficacy against resistant weeds.
Diversity declining
GE crops, typically with traits which tend to result in monoculture, have been promoted as more productive than non-GE crops. As farmers adopt GE crop varieties, others varieties are abandoned, and access to such seeds are increasingly in the hands of giant transnational seed companies rather than government facilities.
But when farmers lose confidence in GE crops or wish to turn to non-GE varieties for other reasons, they are no longer able to simply revert to their old non-GE varieties or to crossbreed them. Instead, they now need to buy seeds from these very same monopolistic transnational seed companies.
Similarly, the impact on ecological diversity, important for maintaining fragile ecosystems, cannot be underestimated. Biodiversity reduction fundamentally transforms ecosystems. Rich, diverse traditional farmer knowledge - of the use of plants and other natural resources to maintain soil and plant health, and to conserve water and other natural resources - is also being ignored in favour of 'hi-tech', genetically-engineered, agro-chemical and other 'industrial' solutions, which invariably engender new problems. For example, pesticides are intended to be toxic only to pests, but not to others, but most are carcinogenic or otherwise dangerous to human health.
While GE crops offer some benefits, unclear productivity advantages and rising pest resistance are reducing the edge it once claimed over conventionally developed crops. GE crops seem to be harmless, but there is still much uncertainty over their longer-term effects, including increased pesticide resistance and reduced diversity. The scientific ethic advising precaution in the face of uncertainty seems to have been abandoned in favour of profitable expediency, ostensibly to increase productivity and reduce agro-chemical reliance, neither of which have been achieved.
Corporate power growing
As many of the same corporations or conglomerates sell both GE seeds as well as the agro-chemicals needed to increase yields, the potential for other types of innovation is inevitably diminished. Recent mergers and acquisitions have further consolidated oligopolies selling both seeds and agrochemicals, exemplified by the acquisition bid for Monsanto by Bayer.
Not surprisingly then, companies have less incentive to develop new traits, or to invest heavily in tackling other problems when greater pest resistance increases sales of their pesticides and overall profits.
All this is often justified in terms of the urgent need to feed the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world. However, although there already is enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world, the real problem is one of access, as most of the hungry do not have the means to buy or produce the food they need.
Therefore, while US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will "save the world", there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades.
Proponents select evidence to support their exaggerated claims that GE varieties meet many needs in different parts of the world, although their actual track records are much more modest and chequered.
Much of the resistance against GE crops is due to the interests and methods of the agribusiness transnationals dominating food production, both directly and indirectly through their control and promotion of seeds, agrochemicals, etc.

(Jomo Kwame Sundaram is a former economics professor who served as a senior UN official during 2005-2015. Tan Zhai Gen is a University of Oxford biochemistry graduate currently involved in research. Both are Malaysians).

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Entertainment »

Race 3 inches towards Rs 200 cr mark


Salman Khan's film Race 3 is unstoppable. The film, which hit screens on June 15, is giving all sorts of reasons for the star cast to celebrate. The Remo D'Souza directorial had already crossed the benchmark of Rs 100 crore at the Indian box office. But interestingly, the Salman fever ...

Editorial »

Unfortunately government has no political leadership to restore peace in Chattogram Hill Tracts


THREE more activists of Parbatya Chattogram Janasanghati Samity (MN Larma) and United People's Democratic Front (Democratic) were shot dead at their homes in Rangamati and Khagrachhari districts between Friday and Sunday. Conflicts between different groups in Chattogram Hill Tracts have led to the death of at least 22 people in ...

Business & Economy »

Shibbir Mahmud, Chairman, Board of Directors of Islamic Finance and Investment Limited, presiding over its 236th meeting at its head office in the city recently. AZM Saleh, Managing Director, Rezakul Haider, Anis Salahuddin Ahmad, Vice-Chairmen, Anwar Hossain Chowdhury, EC Chairman, Md. Jahidur Rahman, Audit Committee Chairman, SM Bakhtiar Alam, Hossain Mahmud, Liaquat Hossain Moghul and KBM Moin Uddin Chisty, Directors of the company were also present.


International »

China-N Korea joint efforts to bring peace, stability in Korean peninsula, hopes Xi


Reuters, Beijing : Chinese President Xi Jinping told visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday that with the joint efforts of the two countries, the Korean peninsula will definitely be peaceful and stable, official news agency Xinhua said.Xi made the comments during a meeting at Beijing's Diaoyutai state guest ...

Football »

Putin missed Russia-Egypt match but 'happy' at win


AFP, Moscow :The Kremlin on Wednesday said Vladimir Putin did not watch Russia's surprise win over Egypt in the World Cup because he was on a plane but added that he reacted "very positively, like the whole of our country".  "Unfortunately, he did not watch the match itself. It so ...

City »

BNP Standing Committee Member Barrister Moudud Ahmed speaking at a prèss conference at the party central office in the city's Nayapalton on Wednesday in protest against his confinement by police in Noakhali.


Editorial »

Death of another prosecution witness : Too difficult to accept as an accident


NO sooner had the Eid vacation come to an end but another murder shocked us all. The decapitated body of Sumon Zahid, a witness in a war crimes case and also the son of martyred journalist Selina Parvin was found dead in the capital's Khilgaon the day before yesterday. There ...

Business & Economy »

A delegation headed by Farzana Chowdhury, CEO of Green Delta Insurance makes a courtesy call with Dr. M Khairul Hossain, the newly appointed Chairman of Security Exchange Commission recently. Additional Managing Director and Company Secretary Syed Moinuddin Ahmed and Deputy Managing Director Wafi S M Khan of the company were also present.


Football »

England beat Tunisia 2-1


AFP, Volgograd :Captain Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner, as England began their World Cup Group G campaign with a stuttering 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.  Gareth Southgate's men almost paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half ...

Football »

Harry Kane : England's new prince


AFP, Volgograd :Harry Kane rose emphatically to the World Cup challenge in England's opening match against Tunisia, scoring a last-gasp winner to give Gareth Southgate's side lift-off in Russia.It was a remarkable World Cup debut for Kane, who bore the added pressure of the captain's armband and the weight of ...

Entertainment »

I`m indebted to J.P. Dutta for life : Pooja Bhatt


Actress-filmmaker Pooja Bhatt said she is indebted to veteran director J.P. Dutta for not only making her a part of 'Border' but also for encouraging her to never change. 'Border' on Wednesday completed 21 years of its release and Pooja took to Twitter to thank Dutta for casting her in ...

International »

US won`t be made a migrant camp


President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would not become a "migrant camp" as he faced mounting pressure to stop families being separated as a deterrent to illegal immigration."The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility," Trump ...

City »

Pedestrians passing through a muddy road as the authority concerned does not repair the road for long time. The snap was taken from Bibir Bagicha area in the city's Jatrabari on Tuesday.


Editorial »

Save the flood victims and take adequate measures for post-flood rehabilitation


INCESSANT rainfall in the last few days has triggered floods in the country's East and South East districts. Thousands of people of Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Feni and Chattogram districts have been marooned as floodwater crawled to inundate their homestead and damage crops and livestock. The New Nation recently reported that Khowai, ...

Football »

A Mexico soccer fan celebrates her team victory against Germany after their group F match at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on Sunday.


 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news