Beyond GM is a new independent initiative working to raise the level of debate on genetically modified organisms.
They describe their background as being the two decades of the idea of GMOs being sold to the public as a way to fix the food system and feed the hungry. In practice, they say, after 20 years only four main GM crops – cotton, maize, soya and canola – have emerged. Around half of those are used to make biofuels, a large proportion goes to feed livestock, and the rest is used to create fats, sugars and fillers for processed foods.
Costs for the farmer are found to be between three and six times higher than conventional growing, with very variable results, a result, says Beyond GM, of a time when many still believed industrial farming was the way to provide enough food.
They add that GM foods are not cheaper, and not more nutritious. They may even be harmful. Indeed, 300 scientists from around the world have signed an open letter to say there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety and the weight of the evidence otherwise is cause for concern. For example, farmers are beginning to report that their animals get ill when they eat GM feed. Impaired immunity, gut and reproductive abnormalities have all bee reported. As a result the farmers have to spend yet more on medicines and vet bills.
Even so, biotech companies are lobbying for government regulators to agree more GM crops and foods and although the majority of the public oppose this, they are slipping through under the radar.
Beyond GM reports that the UK government plans to allow more open air trials and to encourage farmers to ‘go GM’ from 2017. In the EU the coalition that blocked the planting of GM crops has broken up and the European Parliament voted to allow individual member states to make their own decisions about whether to grow GM crops.
The UK government does not plan any post-marketing monitoring or co-existence measures to protect organic and non GMO farmers. And of course the crops require high levels of pesticides such as glyphosates, which remain as residues in foods. And because they become dispersed they affect more than the GMO crops. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, declared glyphosate a ‘probably human carcinogen’. Beyond GM says there is continuing research showing adverse effects on kidneys, liver, and reproductive organs, and that glyphosate is a hormone disrupter.
After the rejection of GM some years ago, supermarkets are now apparently beginning to stock food with GM ingredients as well as meat milk and eggs from animals fed on GM feed. Beyond GM plans to increase public awareness of the issues.