Where’s the science in GM debate?

The GM debate continued during July 2007 in the Country magazines. The pro-GM lobby was repeating the same non-quantified statements of how good the GM solutions will be in production of food crops by Australian farmers. However, where is the science?

Therefore, Maarten Stapper wrote the following letter to the editors of the three main rural magazines. It was published in the July 26 issues of The Land, as Rush to disaster?, and the Stock & Land, as Where’s science in GM debate?

SIR:  Why does genetic modification (GM), involving the mechanic insertion of genes from unrelated species, remain in the news?

Why do we have this endless ping-pong game between pro- and anti-forces and why so much misinformation?

Segregation, for example, is impossible as already as far back as 2003, 50% of Canadian registered seed of non-GM canola varieties was contaminated with GM.(ed. paper ref.: Friesen et al. 2003, Agron.J.95:1342-47)

We can stop this game, with objective science giving us the real answers regarding environmental and food safeties.

Such studies, however, are not publicly available and have not been published in science journals. Only 30-90 day animal feeding studies and one- to three-year environmental studies during GM introduction have been published, so who is in control of GM science?

Safety concerns involve the long-term, generational effects of GM. Animal feeding studies should be conducted across four generations to determine the impact on health and fertility, and environmental studies across 10 years to determine cumulative impacts on microbes and insects, the foundation of life on Earth.

But GM is a commercial venture needing markets in the shortest possible time and federal regulators seem willing partners. GM is a short-term solution with long-term costs.

Single genes are but a small part in the complex system of nature. Genes are interacting and switching on or off due to circumstance.

For example, new diseases and pests are appearing with GM cropping. Fertility of farm animals is affected.Many weeds are now becoming resistant ten years after herbicide-tolerant GM crops were introduced. Insects will become resistant after, say, 20 years? What then?

Do we have to wait until problems become obvious on our farms? The costs of new technologies are borne by the users.

Dr Maarten Stapper, Belconnen ACT

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