Seeds of hope

Finweek English Edition - - Letters - HANS LOM­BARD

THE LET­TER HEAD­LINED “Seeds of de­struc­tion” (23 Oc­to­ber), by Anony­mous, raises nu­mer­ous un­sub­stan­ti­ated fears over the safety of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GM) foods. The seeds are not de­struc­tive: in fact, they’re the only sig­nif­i­cant agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment of­fer­ing farm­ers higher yields and bet­ter qual­ity pro­duce. More food from the same land to al­le­vi­ate hunger in a world where more than 800m peo­ple go to bed hun­gry ev­ery night. Seeds of hope.

No food has been as rig­or­ously tested as GM. Af­ter three years of in­ten­sive re­search, the Royal So­ci­ety of Lon­don – one of the world’s lead­ing acad­e­mies of sci­ence – con­cluded that “ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion doesn’t make food in­her­ently less safe than con­ven­tional food” (Royal So­ci­ety re­port on hu­man health 2002).

Six in­ter­na­tional acad­e­mies of sci­ence con­curred: Brazil, China, In­dia, Mex­ico, the Third World Academy of Sci­ence and The Na­tional Academy of Sci­ence of the US.

Af­ter the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion had funded a bio safety pro­gramme over 15 years, in­volv­ing more than 400 sci­en­tists and cost­ing US$64m, it came to the con­clu­sion: “GM

food may even be safer than con­ven­tional food.”

South Africa has been grow­ing GM crops for 10 years. More than 60% of our maize is GM, soya 80% and cot­ton 90%. In the first nine years, cu­mu­la­tively, 14,673m met­ric tons of GM maize was pro­duced and con­sumed each year by 40m South Africans without as much as a tummy ache or any ad­verse ef­fects to the en­vi­ron­ment or an­i­mal health.

The al­le­ga­tion that Mon­santo pro­tects its seeds with ter­mi­na­tor genes/seeds is non­sense. There’s no such prod­uct pro­duced com­mer­cially any­where world­wide.

In 2007, 12m farm­ers in 23 coun­tries on six con­ti­nents planted 114,3m hectares of GM crops. A 12% growth, ex­ceed­ing or­ganic by mil­lions of hectares. Farm­ers aren’t stupid: they’ll not plant crops that are to their detri­ment.

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