A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

GM facts not fictions.....

I happen to like Gradgrindian facts, not emotive media fictions. Here are some telling facts about GM crops you may not have heard:-

(a) The estimated global area of commercial GM crops for 2002 (latest full statistics) was 58.7 million hectares (ha) or 145 million acres (i.e., around 2.5 times the land area of the UK). This was a 12% increase in 2002 on 2001, by an area of 6.1 million ha (15 million acres). Since 1996, the average yearly increase in area has been over 10%. This is one of the highest adoption rates for any new crop technology ever recorded. ("Does this make our little field trials seem just a fraction twee, I wonder? And the farmers sold their crops too!");

(b) Commercial GM crops are now grown in more than 16 countries by between 5.5 to 6.0 million farmers - up from 5 million farmers in 2001 ("Oh! I had been assured that no farmers wanted to grow GM crops. Odd some of our press saying that.");

(c) An increasing proportion of GM crops are grown in developing countries (27% by area in 2002). India commercialized Bt cotton for the first time in 2002, while Colombia (Bt cotton) and Honduras (Bt corn) grew a pre-commercial hectarage. China has benefited from the highest year-on-year percentage growth, with a 40% increase in its Bt cotton area, which now occupies more than half (51%) of the national cotton area of 4.1 million ha ("Oh dear! Environmental correspondents have told us over and over again that farmers in the developing world don't want this technology. Can our media be wrong? Surely, not!");

(d) Our worries over the cross-contamination of 'organic' crops in the UK from beet and oilseed rape are biologically fatuous. We grow no 'organic' oil seed rape, and the beet produces no pollen, being harvested in the first year (it is a biennial). And with regards to the production of so-called 'superweeds', see our super Guest Essay from Matt Ridley above. ("Just think of all those sleepless nights the newspapers have caused me! They have contaminated my dreams!");

(e) Anybody who has been to the US or Canada will have eaten GM in some form or another; GM enzymes have been empoyed in cheese production since at least 1990; and very soon, 60% of all soy-based products in the UK will include some product from a GM source. ("Hm! Time to open proudly an all-singing-and-dancing GM restaurant and to create a new niche market for the rational consumer! My! Wouldn't that shock those trendy newspaper food supplements that nobody reads? Oh! But would I be given the choice? Or would my kitchens be vandalised?").

Further interesting global GM statistics are available from the ISAAA Website. One final question: "Where will British farming be fifteen years on when novel and exciting new GM products, including consumer-orientated foodstuffs, biofuels, and green packaging, are being imported cheaply from the newly-developed world and from the new member states of of the EU?"

Just some facts and questions while our media goes into overhype.

And here is a good piece from Tony Gilland on Sp!ked: GM Crop Trials:Why?. Another fair question!

Time for my natural, organic, as-grandma-made-it, nettle tea, like Nature intended! Ouch, that hurt! Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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