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CommentInsight & Opinion

Fear of GM crops does not stand up to facts

Henry Miller and Graham Brookes say the benefits outweigh risks, as experience shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 2:52am

People everywhere are increasingly vulnerable to the use of what Nobel Prize-winning chemist Irving Langmuir dubbed "pathological science" to justify government regulation or other policies. It is a speciality of self-styled public-interest groups, whose agenda is often not to protect public health or the environment, but rather to oppose the research, products or technology they happen to dislike.

For example, modern techniques of genetic engineering provide the tools to make old plants do spectacular new things. Yet these tools are relentlessly misrepresented to the public.

More than 17 million farmers in roughly three dozen countries worldwide are using genetically modified crop varieties to produce higher yields with fewer inputs and lower environmental impact. Most are designed to resist pests and diseases.

Critics of GM products insist they are untested, unsafe, unregulated and unnecessary. But the facts show otherwise.

After the cultivation of more than a billion hectares of GM crops - and the consumption in North America alone of more than two trillion servings of foods that contain GM ingredients - not a single case of injury to a person or disruption of an ecosystem has been found.

Far from being under-regulated, GM plants have been subjected to expensive and unscientific over-regulation that has limited the commercial success of the crops.

Commercial cultivation of GM crops offers many advantages. Consider, for example, that, because GM crops require less chemical pesticide, fewer farmers and their families risk being poisoned by run-off into waterways and ground water. Furthermore, lower levels of mycotoxins in pest-resistant corn mean fewer birth defects.

No-till farming techniques mean less soil erosion, less run-off of agricultural chemicals, and lower fuel consumption.

GM crops also have significant economic benefits. Higher yields and lower production costs have reduced global commodity prices, resulting in higher farm income.

But GM crops do not benefit only those who grow them. A 2010 study found that fields of insect-resistant GM corn have an "area-wide suppression effect" on insects, benefiting neighbouring fields.

Future generations of GM crops will bring even more benefits - but only if they are allowed to flourish. To that end, consumers must understand that GM crops hold great potential, while posing negligible risks, and governments must adopt regulatory policies that face facts and reject pathological science.

Henry I. Miller is Wesson Fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Graham Brookes is co-director of the UK-based PG Economics Limited. Copyright: Project Syndicate


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This article is now closed to comments

2 key issues here:
1- are Miller and Brookes on the payroll of industry? source of funding?
2- dynastic giant-vampire-squid GM companies like Monsanto, sucking on the face of humanity,
don't exactly inspire common folk to believe GM foods are best for them.
The facts are clear and they cannot be obscured by negative criticism aimed at the messengers rather than at the message.,Since 1996 some 1,250 million aggregated hectares have been planted globally to GM crops. and 160 million hectares in 2011 alone; of which half in developing countries. Studies in our Latin America area indicate that primary beneficiaries in percentage of total wealth created have been bt far farmers which adopted the technology and even meighbors who benefitted from lower insect population pressure.due to Bt crops. In all that time there has not been a single case report based on scientific analysis of damage due to consuming food from GM crops. In most of Latin America we consume GM food and food with GM ingredients as do 2,500 million people in 60 countries since without a hint of damage to any one since 1996. Labelling of GM crops is meaningless to us as it cannot be implemented as traceability problems are enormous and costly for each lot of nearly 30,000 brands and types of GM foods in current use. As a plant breeder with over 50 years experience in public, private and international programs I subscribe fully to the safe use worldwide of the genetic engineering technology in plant and animal improvemnent.
Alexander Grobman PhD, President of PeruBiotec, The Peruvian Association for the Development of Biotechnology formed of scientists, university professors, and professionals with experience in sciences related to biotechnology.,
Miller is a very well paid mouth for Monsanto, who are in bed with the US government. The Hoover think tank is a US government wart.
This reads like propaganda for the GM companies. I would be interested to know of any financial and/or personal connections between the authors of the article and GM companies. If the GM companies think the truth is good then why do they uniformly oppose labelling products made from GM products. Food is different from many other products. These authors are to be considered shills until proven otherwise.
This article does not stand up to the scientific facts. EU countries have banned the use of GM crops based on research they have done, not the conjecture of activists. Financially GM companies like Monsanto spend huge amounts of money getting positive articles written about GM. As far as I can tell neither of the authors of this piece have any scientific qualifications in the field of Genetically Modified Organisms (also know as GMO in USA and GM in Europe).
The editors of this paper have duty of care to check the facts before they publish this propaganda.


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