A new study published by the Environmental Working Group has revealed that biotech’s claims concerning higher crop yields are based on a bunch of hot air.
How’s this high-flying claim made by the Biotechnology Industry organization:
“Agricultural biotechnology continues to increase crop yield and farmer income worldwide while supporting the environment.”
That example of hyperbole was published back in 2007. Since then there have been numerous other ‘studies’ claiming that Biotech had a genetically modified “mission” to feed the world with DNA splicing and dicing. Among those claims were that “transgene crops can feed more people with less land.” This claim is in stark contrast to an amalgamation of scientists who say that GM crops have “failed to yield” as promised.
Most recently, at a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee, those who don’t want GM foods labeled brought out their old standby arguments – among them, that GM seed yields more crops (and this, of course is the key to feeding the world’s 7.3 billion people.)
Included in the ‘witnesses’ for biotech was Professor Nina Fedoroff of Penn State University. (She is among the self proclaimed “experts” in the biotech field, like Kevin Folta and Jon Entine.) Federoff cited one of Biotech’s favorite articles published by a German agricultural economist to support her claims that GMOs have increased crop yields “by 20 percent.”
To give GM crops a fair swing – let’s see if they really have increased crop yields as biotech’s mouthpieces claim.
GM corn is arguably one of the most widely planted crops in the US. More than 80% of ALL corn crops now planted are thought to be genetically modified. Set aside the fact that this crop is grown mostly for animal feed and to take advantage of ethanol biofuel subsidies, not feed people, and companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta still shouldn’t be able to claim GM crops have resulted in higher yields with a straight face.
A major new paper found that average yields of GE corn in the United States from 1986 to 2011 were slightly lower than corn yields over the same period in western Europe, where GE crops were not grown. This study was not done by some no-name idiot either. The research was led by Jack Heinemann, a professor of genetics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
As I’ve pointed out before, Big Ag has their main influence in the US, and this also just happens to be one of the nations most responsible for wasting more than 50% of all the food we grow – so if Big Ag was really feeding more people, why are there still food banks all over the US feeding people who are still going hungry? According to Big Ag and Biotech claims, we should have more than enough food with their latest technologies to feed everyone!
Noentheless, Heinemann’s paper describes how there is no significant difference between the yields of GE corn and soy grown in the United States and the non-GE varieties in western Europe.
When you consider that GE corn and GE soybeans account for about 80 percent of the land area devoted to genetically modified crops the world over – that’s a pretty big statement. If your best crops are producing more yield, then surely your lesser known (papaya, eucalyptus, etc.) aren’t producing higher yields.
How exactly does Fedoroff and her biotech buddies get off claiming that GM is increasing yields? Can they compete with the farmer in California who is getting crazy yields using all organic practices, and in the process restoring the health of the soil in an area that is suffering from a draught? What about high-performance agriculture that increases yields up to 8 times without the use of biotech herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers? What about the Amish farmers that are bringing dead-soil back to life after biotech pesticide and herbicide damage by utilizing entirely organic methods, and enjoying record yields in the process?
Heinemann has thoroughly debunked the work that Professor Federoff loves to quote from. Heinemann explains that the data presented by the biotech industry to suppot their claims is not an accurate representation of the majority of GM crops currently being grown. Biotech used data on GE cotton grown in India, which in the beginning did contribute to higher yields, but since has died down, and in the process completely damages the soil and bioshpere, not the heavily grown Round Up Ready soy and corn that is planted all across America. There is a reason they ignored this acreage – it doesn’t fit their GM promoting propaganda.
It has also been pointed out that this particular German study didn’t account for farm management changes which could have changed crop yields, many of which had nothing to do with planting GE seed. For instance, did they use more fertilizer? Was their more irrigation?
Furthermore, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the “true yield increases for GE cotton in India were much smaller than the sponsoring seed companies claimed.”
What GMOs have done is to increase the use of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, increase the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, decimate bee and butterfly populations, started up an entire knew rash of super weeds across our fields, and caused untold damage to biodiversity and human health – so even if GM crops did increase yields – who cares? It wouldn’t be worth the cost to our health and our environment.
||Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.