John Bower's research covers agricultural
and environmental economic policy
the potentialies of GM technology, GM crops
are currently designed by large corporations
to sell their pesticides and to monopolise
the markets in seeds to the detriment, inter
alia, of largely Third World farmers who produce
their own. I don't think that banning the
current set of GM products would seriously
reduce the possibility of future genuine breakthroughs
in GM technology that would increase world
food security. At best the effect of a ban
would be indirect, reducing the profits of
Monsanto etc and reducing their ability to
fund research but I don't take that argument
very seriously either. (Sorry about your Monsanto
research grant; try the Research Councils).
I am not concerned about the effects of eating
GM crops on human health. It is amazing how
wide a range of things that humans can manage
to eat. And science demonstrates that if we
consume anything over a long enough period
or in large enough quantities it is detrimental.
to health. No doubt if I lived exclusively
on a diet of GM corn I'd develop a fatal condition
but I probably shall anyway on my diet of
organics.We weren't designed to live so long
or to be so wealthy!
However I am very concerned with impact of
GM crops on bio-diversity of the farmed environment.
All agriculture aims to reduce biodiversity
and modern agriculture has been very efficient
in this regard but GM (or rather the accompanying
pesticide) could constitute a step change.
The pesticides are designed to wipe all green
plants on arable except the crop. At least
until agricultural weeds acquire immunity
the effects of large scale GM technology could
be devastating for flora and in consequence
Since in Europe most terrestrial biodiversity
is associated with agriculture, and biodiversity
policy directed at retaining a specific set
of (obsolete) unintensive agricultural technologies,
GM has the potential to do enormous damage.
Escape of GM plants into other ecosystems
is also of concern. I realise that to maintain
and develop their market GM producers need
sterile strains but there is great scope for
unintended cock-ups and no serious economic
incentives to make GM producers averse to
this type of risk.
As at present constituted I see no social
benefits of GM technology and the potentiality
for large social costs. For my money that
gives a cast iron case for banning it. If
the Government believes that GM technology
has positive potential for human welfare,
it should fund the research.