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Is a ban on GM crops more harmful than growing them?

From The Guardian

Only one GM crop is currently grown commercially in the European Union – the insect-resistant maize MON 810.

A study published in the journal PLOS One this year found “on average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%”.

A strain of blight-resistant potatoes was removed from the approval process by agrochemical giant BASF after it became clear that even if it was found to be safe by Efsa, it was likely be voted down by EU politicians. The GM potato could have saved millions. Blight costs UK potato farmers around £60m every year in losses and the massive use of chemical sprays. Each hectare has £500 worth of fungicide dumped on it each season.

Joe Perry, chair of Efsa’s GMO Panel, says the cultivation of GM crops does raise legitimate environmental concerns. For example, the cultivation of MON 810 maize, which produces a protein that harms the insects that eat it, could create a super pest strain with resistance to natural plant defences. But Perry says most of these concerns can be ameliorated by management, rather than a ban. For example, controlling how much MON 810 is planted in one area.

It is Efsa’s job to assess the danger posed by GM crops to humans and animals as well as the environment. The EU, under the precautionary principle, has an obligation to also assess the benefits and then make an informed decision weighing the two against each other. But Perry says the EU has neglected to define the benefits, skewing the bloc’s policy.

For more on the GMO debate, check out the Feature Article in our November newsletter.

To read the full Guardian article, click here.