Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops - NYTimes.com

Just to show how "fair and balanced" I am, here is a link to a New York Times article about GMOs. It reports evidence that GMOs are no more productive than non-GM crops. And, secondly that in non-GMO countries (mainly the EU), pesticides and fungicides are used less than in GMO countries (mainly North America). 
I've been advocate of GMOs on this blog, so that news was news to me and sobering. 
Some quick comments:
1.  The article says nothing about the safety of GMOs. Assuming they are indeed safe (which is the preponderance of scientific evidence), what they're saying is that they're simply not effective. That is: don't bother spending your money on them. 
2. Perhaps there other factors at work. For example: would EU production be even higher if it did use GMOs or North American production lower without GMOs?
3.  I did a bit of a fact-check on world cereal production based on World Bank figures derived from the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Over the 53 years to 2014, countries using GMOs were 0.4% more productive per year. That doesn't sound like a lot. But as Warren Buffet is fond of saying, compounding has a magic effect on returns. 
Over the 53 years that 0.4% extra annual growth translates into 24% more cereals produced in GMO countries than in non-GMO countries. And that ain't trivial
4.  It says nothing about the positive medical effects of some GMOs especially for poorer countries. I'm thinking of golden rice, for example, which provides nutrients not available in non-GM rice. There are others that don't quite come to mind right now. 
Anyway, interesting article, with a number of powerful charts, if one is interested in the topic. (Which really ought to be everyone!).