Are dominant views still prevalent?
Brazil. Fondly regarded for its energetic, fun-loving people, its lively music, beautiful beaches and varied wildlife.
Perhaps less fondly, Brazil is also known for its political corruption and rainforest desecration.
We watched the magnificent opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
And then we recalled the furore around the state of readiness of the athlete’s facilities. That is Brazil, so many contrasts, so much waxing and waning.
Those contrasts were again highlighted for me in a book published last week by the Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development - an exploration of research on the risks of releasing genetically engineered plants to the wild.
Which contrasts with Brazil being the world’s second largest producer of transgenic plants.
Could it be that Brazil has reason to rethink its acceptance of GE plants?
The book, Transgenic crops hazards and uncertainties: More than 750 studies disregarded by the GMOs regulatory bodies, concludes that a moratorium on the cultivation and consumption of transgenic plants, is justified.
The author’s focus is on ‘‘the importance of maintaining biodiversity, safety and food sovereignty, and sustainable rural development’’.
So yes, there is a rethink going on in Brazil. Exposed are the poor science and the negligence of regulatory authorities who’s purpose is to protect public health.
This exposure applies not only to Brazil, but in other countries that have allowed GM crops and foods into its food supply and farming systems.
New Zealand is referenced five times in this book.
One study covered, suggests that threshold levels of glyphosate currently set by regulatory authorities do not adequately protect freshwater ecosystems.
Another explored how our food safety regulator considered GMOs within their risk assessment framework.
Another used the contamination of the New Zealand corn crop with GMOs, as a case study for the application of monitoring tools and their vulnerability to errors. It found (in 2004) that those tools failed to meet then emerging food safety requirements.
The book does not claim to be an exhaustive review of the scientific literature that points to risks and uncertainties around the use of GMO plants.
But 750 published articles that contradict some aspects of the dominant view held by regulatory agencies, is an indictment of those agencies past behaviours.
What remains to be seen, and requiring vigilance, is whether that dominant view is still prevalent.
John Allen is the director of Rural Connect
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