Sunday 3 June 2012

I'm not a biologist, but this growing of experimental aphid-hostile GM  spring wheat crops in a field somewhere in the UK, for me, is an example of the reckless behaviour of capitalists in their frantic search for easy profits. The idea, so I understand, is that the GM wheat will give off an odour which will deter aphids and thus protect the plant from those insects. In the UK, however, there is no problem, according to some expert commentators, with aphids and spring wheat. The driver for the experiment, thus, is the possibility of selling the GM wheat on the market for big profits. The driver is not more efficient food production. Enough food is already produced to feed everyone on the planet - and yet 2.5 million children die each year of hunger. The problem is: Food is produced for profit not for need.  

There are plenty of examples where alien species of plants, animals, insects, bacteria, viruses etc have been introduced deliberately or accidentally  into an ecosystem only to cause unforeseen effects. For example, the cane toad was introduced to Australia to control pests. Now it too is considered a pest.  The poisonous tadpoles and skin of the amphibian kill native mammals when they ingest the stuff. As it turned out, the cane toad was ineffective at controlling the cane beetle - its intended victim.

It doesn't take too much imagination to envisage a situation where the anti-aphid pheromones produced by the GM wheat become general anti-insect pheromones, or anti-bee pheromones or some unforeseen other, when or if the GM material begins to cross over to other plant species.

There is also a general problem with GM.
It is the opposite of bio-diverse. A field of GM wheat will have only a single variety. Traditional farming in the way it developed grew food originating from a multiple of varieties. This variety, developed over centuries of agriculture protected the general stock of plants from the regular attacks by aphids and fungus etc. See the work of Martin Wolfe for an explanation of the strengths of biodiversity (of diversity in general in fact) for the benefit of sensible food farming.