Failed Promises of GMO

Thanks largely to Europe’s flat rejection of GMO seeds for the last twenty years, as compared to North America’s overwhelming welcome of them, the New York Times was able to conduct a thorough analysis of United Nations data on the two promised benefits of the infamous GMO products: increased crop yield and decreased pesticide usage.

The results, as many farmers already knew from years of experience, are that these promises have basically gone undelivered, and in some regards backfired entirely. But the Times’ report on their findings is valuable above all else for the hard numbers it provides, which they’ve crystallized into some very important points.

Happy farmer holding ripe wheat corns against field

First, yield. Analysis revealed that North American GMO crops showed no gains over non-GMO crops in European countries with comparable agricultural technology (France and Germany, among others). Furthermore, looking just at American crops of the same products but comparing GMO to non-GMO, again there were no gains.

The report looks specifically at corn, rapeseed, and sugar beets, comparing the yields in North American to yields in Europe. Corn was largely equivalent (although it’s worth noting that this one of the GMO producers’ headlining seeds, one they said would help feed the world), but both rapeseed and sugar beets saw increased yields in Europe and not in North America, which is a disappointment to say the least for GMO proponents whose mantra has been based entirely on crop yield.

Pesticide use—including both herbicides and insecticides—has actually increased, despite claims from Monsanto and others that the GMOs seeds would create plants that were resistant to pests. The report cites data that herbicide use in the US has increased by 21% in the last two decades, while it’s decreased by 36% in France. Soybean herbicide use has grown 250% since the introduction of GMO seeds. Use in corn was actually decreasing before GMOs, but doubled between 2002–2010.

The more cynical of us might look at these results, along with the fact that the same company—Monsanto—manufactures both the seeds and the herbicide (Roundup), and conclude that this was their intention all along: to boost sales of Roundup. Considering Monsanto’s incredibly shady history, it’s hard to disagree, but there’s something else at work here, too.

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Plants are, after years of exposure to the product, becoming resistant to Roundup, therefore farmers are using more of the product. What’s more, this increasing resistance is provoking chemical manufacturers to revisit formerly contentious compounds such as Dicamba and 2,4-D, an ingredient in the infamous defoliant Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War.

The takeaway? Clearly the GMO and pesticide industries are the only people seeing any increase in profit here. Bear in mind that GMO seeds are more expensive—sometimes almost twice as expensive—than standard seeds, and that an increased need in herbicides is also taking its toll on farmers. Without an increase in yield, where is the return on investment? Consumers in the US have always been averse to the crops, so much that non-GMO grown products proudly label themselves as such.

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Although the potential harm caused by the products themselves has never been scientifically proven, what has been proven many times over are the potential risks to health—including cancer—of the chemicals that are being used more and more as a direct result of GMO seed usage. That, of course, is unacceptable. Hopefully now, with this, and continued data, the US and Canada can finally see the error in their ways and ban GMO seeds across the board.

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19 thoughts on “Failed Promises of GMO

  1. Here’s hoping the US and Canada do wake up and at least reduce their use of GMO seed. Monsanto however will be doing everything in their vast power to protect their bottom line.

  2. I hate that it is becoming common for scientific circles to vilify anyone who would question the safety of SOME GMOs, as if it were proven somewhere that all GMOs are safe. We aren’t stupid. There is a large portion of us skeptics that understand that some GMOs are useful, safe, and are enjoyed by us almost every day. However, to dismiss any unease of new genetic tinkering is a quick way to invite a lack of proper testing and to get unintended results. Or in the case of Monsanto’s GMO soybeans, more herbicides and pesticides in our environment; and that’s not even talking about the possible harmful effects the actual bean may have in our food chain. It’s stupid to ban all GMOs as inherently unsafe, but it’s also stupid to scoff at a healthy dose of skepticism on a case by case basis.

    1. I’ve biologists in the family, and because of their hate of GMO plants, none are buying GMO seed. GMOs are worse than not good. US comsumers had them forced on us by ‘donors’ to the DNC. Europe and Asia banned most of them, especially on native crops. 9,000 Tarahumara Indians starved to death thanks to GMO corn. Monsanto paid ten billion to the survivors. Should say, WE paid it because we’re forced to buy GMO everything these days. Americans want to go more natural, instead, Monsanto is buying politicians, and increasing profits by sales of roundup and other chemicals it makes. We now have diseases in corn and other crops that were never a problem. What happens to the food when they come out like a plague, like they did in the 70s to corn, and a few years ago to hybrid and GMO tomatoes?

      1. Not to mention the donations to the RNC and their c-pacs. Those which allowed them to replace the environmental scientists at EPA with former mining executives with no background in environmental science at all.

  3. Science is almost as bad as Media, too much money from too many special interests.

    I guess that’s why “___(insert your belief)___” gave us the stubborn little guys and gals with integrity balls and loud voices!

  4. If GMO crops truly do NOT produce a higher yield and also require more herbicides AND cost more to grow, then there is no particular reason to BAN them, since no farmer in his right mind would grow them. He’d be losing money. Right?

    We also shouldn’t be complacent about conventionally grown non-GMO crops–they use chemicals, too, if you’re worried about chemicals.

    Personally, I’m for 100% organic, local; but what’s the point of BANNING things that aren’t even economically viable–according to the data?

    It’s also important not to lump all GMOs into one bucket: “these particular GMOs don’t work so BAN all GMOs”. That’s very short-sighted.

    1. The farmers in their right mind are as susceptable to the propaganda as anyone else. We’ve all been assured if we drink Pepsi One, we will look like Christy Brinkley.The marketing campaigns of the Big Chem’s have just as bewildering ad campaigns. When you dig around in the back corners of USDA, FDA and the UN studies you can find all the studies proving the limited capacities of ‘in their right minds’. In the classic work ‘Plowman’s Folly’ circa 1941 it explains in detail the self defeating practice of tilling and chemical fertilizers. It refers back to a publication by the group later known as the USDA published 1903. We had the Knowledge, experience and the technology to have avoided the dust bowl of the 30’s. It didn’t get near the exposure of the new tractors, plowing implements or “living better through chemistry”. Nor did it have anywhere near their marketing budgets. I have hundreds of references through reliable sources including, but not limited to the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the United Nations consortium on how to feed the world in 2030. There are many sane, level headed evidenced backed studies trying to get the word out. The people who own stocks in petro, chem, manufacturing own stocks in the media conglomerates too.

  5. Wishful thinking. I was just watching this great vimeo flick of Sepp Holzer explaining his system and I noticed a chemtrail reflected in his largest pond. Go figure how desperate they are getting as they attempt to hold on to their crumbling elitist pipe dream!!

    1. This is great to read. 1984 seed were sent to Etheopia.. this country struggled and struggled droughts to death and poverty beyound human imagination. Until the people realised that the GMO Seeds being given to them where drastically not worth buying.
      How inhumane can the US be. And how on earth dod they ever get to be the so called leading country on the planet.
      Why are so many country americanised .
      The downfall of our economy. …

      Bopefull this will be published more openly and people will “Wake up”

  6. I expect that as biotechnology becomes more accepted the current state of restrictions will be relaxed. When that happens, a democratization of the technology will occur. Currently, though the process of biotech isn’t beyond the capability of smaller companies or States, navigating the procedural labyrinth of getting a biotech crop on the market by ordinary folks is too costly.
    What this has led to is that only large companies with large resources have been able to use biotechnology.
    For example, despite clear signs that citrus greening disease (HLB) threatens citrus worldwide and resistance to the bacteria has yet to be found, a mid-size player in the industry has been able to finance the work in Florida. Using a spinach gene Southern Gardens was able to adapt oranges to obtain resistance. For those of us currently experiencing the total loss of a major world crop the benefits are enormous, even if we have to pay a royalty of a few dollars extra per tree.
    One day, perhaps Geoeff Lawton can fund such a project which could help develop a better range of fruit or nut trees which could fix nitrogen to increase the abundance of permaculture, or shade tolerant perennial small grains, or improved varieties of fruits which are prolific but currently inedible in their native state. If these were proven safe, developed without profit motive and non-patented there could be promises met rather than promises failed.

  7. I agree, GMOs are on the way out. I believe the trend is starting. Sonoma County, California has just banned the use of GMO seeds. Sonoma is a large agriculture region and I feel this is a big win. Think Global and start local. Do you have any news on other regions in the US going GMO free?

  8. Its a sad day when a website promoting the experimentation and development of old/new and innovative agricultural technologies to attain not only food security but sustainability comes in and denounces the tool that is genetic modification.

    Ask anybody who suffers from diabetes how they are still alive and they will say insulin. Insulin that is readily available and affordable because of genetically modified organisms. Look at the potential Golden Rice has of ending malnourishment in developing nations. Or the promise of GMO rice that has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of methane rice paddies give off (a greenhouse gas 20 times stronger than CO2) while at the same time increase yields. Even as conceptual ideas these are revolutionary, yet they have all already been developed. These are but a few examples that have potential to not only benefit humanity but the ecosystems in which we live.

    Now I cannot verify any of the information given in this article because they have not referenced it (which to be honest greatly reduces is credibility). But even if it were take as 100% truth that does not mean in any way that GMO’s are bad or shouldn’t be researched with great interest. All you have to do is look back in time at the enormous amounts of already genetically modified species we have developed over the millennia (pretty much everything you eat) and compare them to their wild counterparts and you can easily see the potential of genetic modification.

    Genetic modification is a tool, that is all. And like any tool in existence can be used in a constructive or destructive way depending on intent. I can use my car to drive to work to feed my family, or i can use it to smuggle drugs and guns into other countries. This doesnt mean cars are bad, it simply means the intent was bad. And this and only this is what should be addressed.

    GMO’s can and should be an important part of Permaculture, provided the intent of their use it to achieve food security and sustainable development. And as with any tool, GMO’s can most definitely achieve this give the right focus, intent and research & development.

    1. Sorry Steven,

      This article does link to the story from the New York Times in which they conducted the thorough analysis. We are not debating medical advances, we are discussing the promise that GMO will increase yields (by engineering the plant to be resistant to a particular insecticide), reduce costs etc. This piece, and the piece by the NY Times raises serious doubt about the GMO claims. This does not even touch on the legal minefield that occurs, should a neighbouring farmer plant gmo and some of those seeds blow over the fence and germinate in your own garden.

      Regards

      Web Team

      1. Hi I hope you’re well,

        Thanks for the reply and the link. Just to let you know I love your website and am a strong advocate for Permaculture. However I also strongly believe that modern technologies should be integrated into Permaculture systems. If Permaculture can be seen as a science then it is evidence based and is allowed to continually grow and evolve, unencumbered by bias or romantic notions.
        Take Hydrogen Fusion as an example, right now its pretty much useless as an energy source. However in time with the right research and development it has the potential to give us pretty much a limitless amount of clean energy. It creates no radioactive waste and is entirely environmentally friendly. GMO’s need to be seen in the same light. If companies use that technology for their own personal gain at others peril then that definitely should be addressed. But its not the GMO technology thats the issue there its the organisation. We need to allow GMO technology to grow and develop.

        Imagine for example if we could engineer legumes to be more efficient nitrogen fixers. We could integrate this new technology into our Permaculture system which would benefit the ecosystem as a whole. As Permaculturists we should foster these ideas and help to find innovative ways to integrate them into a sustainable, low maintenance and productive system.

        1. Hi Steven,

          Fully agree with your statement about science and that it grows based on evidence etc.

          However, Hydrogen fusion seeks to replicate the natural process’s of the sun to bind atoms together to release clean energy, rather than split atoms, more to it with pressure etc, but it is a naturally occurring event, that is not trying to be circumvented by science.

          GMO is dominated by a company, (that just had its own law passed prohibiting in general – litigious action against it) that seeks to OWN a particular, seed – all rights to it, etc. Modification to make them resistant to pesticides etc. So it does touch on your statement that personal gain is something that needs to be addressed. But that is another topic of should information and access to it be free.

          While we acknowledge that natural selection occurs, or the making of hybrid plant species via grafting etc, we can not state that at the current time the GMO is a betterment of these process’s. This is due to the structural changes being made at the molecular level with controversy about how those impact people being debated.

          Regards

          Web Team

  9. Its a sad day when a page promoting the experimentation and development of old/new and innovative agricultural technologies to attain not only food security but sustainability comes in and denounces the tool that is genetic modification.

    Ask anybody who suffers from diabetes how they are still alive and they will say insulin. Insulin that is readily available and affordable because of genetically modified organisms. Look at the potential Golden Rice has of ending malnourishment in developing nations. Or the promise of GMO rice that has the potential to enormously reduce the amount of methane rice paddies give off (a greenhouse gas 20 times stronger than CO2) while at the same time increase yields by up to 43%. Even as conceptual ideas these are revolutionary, yet they have all already been developed. These are but a few examples that have potential to not only benefit humanity but the ecosystems in which we live. This is all without even mentioning the huge potential in vaccine development and disease prevention, in humans and plants. For example certain mosquito species have been genetically modified to produce huge amounts of sterile males, which are then bred and released into the wild in huge numbers. This drowns out the wild males and as the sterile males mate with the female mosquitoes the mosquito population drops. This is a very effective and environmentally friendly way to control/prevent outbreaks of mosquito borne diseases such as malaria, zika, yellow fever etc. Its safe, effective and chemical free.

    Now I cannot verify any of the information given in this article because they have not referenced it (which to be honest greatly reduces is credibility). But even if it were take as 100% truth that does not mean in any way that GMO’s are bad or shouldn’t be researched with great interest. All you have to do is look back in time at the enormous amounts of already genetically modified species we have developed over the millennia (pretty much everything you eat) and compare them to their wild counterparts and you can easily see the huge potential of genetic modification.

    Genetic modification is a tool, that is all. And like any tool in existence can be used in a constructive or destructive way depending on intent. I can use my car to drive to work to feed my family, or i can use it to smuggle drugs and guns into other countries. This doesnt mean cars are bad, it simply means the intent was bad. And this and only this is what should be addressed.

    GMO’s can and should be an important part of Permaculture, provided the intent of their use is to achieve food security and sustainable development. And as with any tool, GMO’s can most definitely achieve this give the right focus, intent and research & development.

    1. I counted 34 cited sources in the New York Times article with active links to check out. Just Click on them. Meanwhile, here’s the one where the National Institutes of Health redacted it’s rebuttal of the world famous GMO cancer rats. This evidence based scientist’s work was fraudulently debunked by the NIH itself. The NIH further reviewed their findings and debunked their own debunking. The scientist won his defamation and slander lawsuit in a rare loss for Monsanto and their legal funds. The scientist was awarded a sizable amount. If you’d like details, I can find them in a little bit. The judgement of the court is a matter of public record. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27752412

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