The report says: “New biological knowledge must not be allowed to fall into the same trap as established GM technology did in Europe. The cost of doing so would be catastrophic in terms of food production failing to increase to feed the world’s growing population.”
The report is enthusiastically seized on by The Times. It’s headline reads: “New GM plants could help to feed world – if Luddites don’t interfere, say farmers.” Refering to the Oxford report, The Times’ environment editor Ben Webster says it was based on interviews with 100 farmers and 50 agricultural experts.
Ben should make more of an effort to dig out the facts. If he had he’d realise that at a rival farmers’ conference in the same city – the Oxford Real Farming Conference – more than 100 farmers were asserting that ecological farming, not GM technology, offered the best future for British agriculture.
He might also have disclosed to Times readers that the anti-Luddite report was sponsored by the pesticide and biotech company Syngenta, and produced by land agents Bidwells. The established Oxford Farming Conference is now so heavily financed by corporate agribusiness that its reports can hardly be seen as reflecting the real interests of farmers or the nation. Yet the Times article makes no mention of the corporate string pulling.
At the rival Oxford Real Farming Conference – which this year attracted 450 paying delegates – speakers, including farmers from throughout Britain, reported their success using natural, biological farming methods. Decades of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides had done severe damage the UK soils, they explained. This why UK wheat yields had stagnated since the mid 1990s.
The answer was not to resort to the latest risky technology from biotech companies. Instead UK farmers needed to adopt systems that put carbon – and fertility – back into soils. Ecological farming – relying on natural soil processes rather than toxic chemicals – were able to produce all the food we need.
None of this was reported in The Times. Environment editor Ben Webster does his readers no favours by failing to dig out the real facts about UK farming and the damaging influence of companies like Syngenta.
Image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Transformation_with_Agrobacterium.JPG#file