While the science battle establishing the safety of GE crops has been won in large measure because of the dedicated efforts of scientists and farmer advocates, challenges remain among the broader public because of skepticism by an under-informed public and relentless disinformation campaigns by activists who have influenced public opinion and by extension, policy. Non-adoption of new breeding technologies is often politicized and driven by the special interests of advocacy groups to the detriment of the public: farmers in the developed world and smallholder farmers in developing countries.
Beyond The Science III is focused on helping consumers and the social scientists they trust for information understand the ethics, politics and social justice implications when access to new agricultural technologies are stymied by anti-development activists. This collaborative project discusses the social resistance to biotechnology through the prism of social scientists and global farmers whose access to current agriculture genetic technology and emerging gene-editing technology is challenged.
Over the next two months there will be a series of essays released, some authored by members of the Global Farmer Network. This webpage will be updated with the highlights, opening excerpt and linked back to the full original posting at the GLP website. We believe you find it useful, informative and hope you will check back regularly share it with others.
Update for Aug 8: There are now 12 essays released with the most recent at the end…
What are the Challenges Facing Modern Farming Around the World?
Mary Boote, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Farmer Network | June 11, 2018
- Agricultural biotech solutions are being denied to farmers with the developing world hardest hit
- Non-adoption is often politicized and driven by special interests of anti-corporate, anti-globalization and anti-technology environmental advocacy groups
- Food-deficit nations in Africa and elsewhere cannot so easily adopt the higher cost farming solutions popular in affluent nations
Kenya is on the brink of embracing biotechnology in agriculture. On the brink. Now I’m ready to say something new. We’ve been on the brink for too long.”
These words, offered by Gilbert arap Bor, a Kenyan smallholder farmer and lecturer at the Catholic University of East Africa- Eldoret, illustrate the frustration shared by many farmers -smallholder and large across Kenya and much of the African and Asian continents. With the safety of GE crops confirmed and supported by scientists, approved by every regulatory agency around the world, based on thousands of reports and 21 years of data, why does the war regarding the safety of these often life-changing crops continue to rage?
Have no doubt: The impacts of this ‘war’ are real, and they challenge farmers in the developing and developed countries around the world…
Will Gene Editing and Other New Breeding Techniques Provide a ‘Second Chance’ for Worldwide Embrace of Genetically Engineered Crops?
Jon Entine, Executive Director of the Genetic Literacy Project | June 12, 2018
- Anti-GMO activists, aided by Russian propaganda, have managed to block the developing world from adopting biotech crops, mostly through political action in Europe, Africa’s largest agricultural trading partner
- New Breeding Techniques (NBTs), particularly CRISPR gene editing that mimics natural breeding, may provide a regulatory work-around to open the door for a new generation of biotech innovation in the US, Europe and developing countries
- The ability of gene editing to create crops with higher yields, resistance to diseases, increased nutrition and more climate adaptability has spurred interest even among hardened organic skeptics of biotechnology
Responding to attacks from the anti-GMO movement,” an exasperated geneticist once said to me, “is like trying to stuff a squiggly octopus into a small box; whenever you think you’ve got it contained, you realize there is a tentacle dangling out somewhere.”
New Zealand Farmer on the GMO Moratorium’s Impact on Sustainable Food and Agriculture, and Hopes CRISPR Crops Won’t Face the Same Fate
Craige Mackenzie, Farmer in Methven, New Zealand [Global Farmer Network board member] | June 26, 2018
- New Zealand’s island status has intensified its commitment to sustainable farming
- ‘Wait-and-see’ approach to GMOs has morphed into a permanent moratorium, blocking innovations that would increase production of sustainable farming
- CRISPR technology could leapfrog opposition and quickly deliver real benefits to NZ’s production systems, the environment and out global markets
Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one.
How the Green Party-Led Anti-Biotechnology Movement Captured German Policy and Why it Endangers Germany’s Future Innovation in Gene Editing
Wolfgang Nellen, Emeritus Professor of Genetics, University of Kassel | June 27, 2018
- Green Party’s opposition to biotechnology innovation began with its rejection of GMO insulin
- Greenpeace pledges in private meetings to back science but then publicly promotes scare imagery and misinformation
- Anti-GMO activists focused on stigmatizing CRISPR and other mostly cisgenic New Breeding Techniques by distorting the science and linking them to transgenic GMOs
The German opposition to biotechnology crystallized and became the trademark issue of the country’s Green Party when Hoechst asked for approval for a manufacturing plant to produce GMO insulin…
A UK Farmer’s Perspective: What are the Consequences for Sustainability and the Public When Biotechnology Innovations are Withheld?
Jake Freestone, Farm Manager at Overbury Farms, West Midlands, United Kingdom [Global Farmer Network member] | July 10, 2018
- European politicians bows to activist pressure, voting to restrict crop biotech pesticide tools, such as glyphosate and neonicotinoids
- Bans and restrictions will roll-back sustainable farming practices
- Farmers feel they are heading backwards in time, forced to adopt less ecological practices that will result in higher food prices
How much would your life change if the government suddenly were to ban mobile phones?
Kenyan Farmer: On Cusp of a Biotech Revolution, Africa Faces Resistance from Europe and Anti-GMO Activists
- Kenya and much of Africa have been denied the tools of modern crop technology available in more industrialized countries mostly because of political opposition, often linked to European activists
- GMOs developed or in the pipeline to contain diseases like armyworm and climate change related challenges such as drought and flooding, but are stalled
- For Africa to fulfill its potential, feed its fast-growing populations, and perhaps even emerge as a global bread basket, crop biotechnology is essential
Farmers have good years and bad years. Here in Kenya, however, the good years never seemed quite as good as they could have been and the bad years have felt worse than necessary.
How Anti-GMO Advocates Hijacked German science, Blocking Agricultural Innovation and Threatening the CRISPR Revolution: A Farmer’s Perspective
Susanne Günther, Farmer, Blogger, and Winner of the InnoPlanta Prize for Objective Reporting on Modern Plant Breeding | July 12, 2018
- Germany, like most of Europe, is effectively blocked from growing sustainable genetically engineered crops although the EU remains one of the world’s largest importers of GMO crops
- Advocacy groups that have supported the illegal destruction of GMO research crops are now guiding rule making on New Breeding Techniques (NBTs), including CRISPR
- New coalition German government appears intent on crippling new biotechnologies, even in defiance of regulatory support from EU courts
There are tough times for farmers in Germany and much of Europe who want to take advantage of the most advanced and most sustainable agricultural technology. Anti-GMO advocacy groups demonize innovations…
Risk, Hazard and the Precautionary Principle: Why Europe Gets Crop Biotechnology and Chemical Regulation So Wrong
- European regulators that set rules governing exposure to farm chemicals used in tandem with genetically engineered crops (GMOs) confuse ‘risk’ with ‘hazard,’ defying basic science and stifling innovation.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer alone among agencies that evaluate risk view the ‘dose-response’ model as a medieval concept, replacing it with a more “caring” and “protective” concept: “the timing makes the poison”.
- Agricultural products are often banned or restricted if they pose theoretical hazards, only to be replaced by less effective alternatives, even though their toxicity profiles are more problematic.
This is the first article in a three-part series on risk and hazard…
Precautionary Politics: Europe Moves Backward into a Fear-Based ‘Dark Ages’ in Regulating Agriculture and Cancer Risks
David Zaruk, Founder of GreenFacts, Environmental-Health Risk Governance Analyst, Professor at Odisee University College | July 25, 2018
- The confusion between hazard and risk has led to bungled European regulation of three popular chemicals: glyphosate herbicide, ‘endocrine disruptors’ and neonicotinoid insecticides
- The EU precautionary principle has evolved into a tool to manage environmental and human dangers that places the burden on manufacturers to remove all potential hazards from a product, even when that’s impossible
- EU agricultural technology is stuck with an illogical policy tool that has become a global embarrassment among scientists and policymakers
This is the second article in a three-part series on risk and hazard…
In the Battle to Regulate GMOS, Gene Editing and other New Breeding Techniques, Who Has ‘Hazard Blood’ on their Hands?
David Zaruk, Founder of GreenFacts, Environmental-Health Risk Governance Analyst, Professor at Odisee University College | July 26, 2018
This third segment in the mini-series will look at the networks of highly-motivated campaigners manipulating policy and pushing the hazard-based approach for their own advantage. The series will conclude with six steps that farmers, scientists, innovators and the media can take to push back against the irrationalism that has gripped extremist elements in the environmental movement.
When a Farmer and a Dietitian are the Same Person: Telling Stories to Counter Misinformation about Biotechnology
Jennie Schmidt, Third-Generation Maryland Farmer, Registered Dietitian, Member of the Global Farmer Network | August 7, 2018
- Combining a knowledge of nutrition with that of a farmer increases the credibility of the message that conventional farming is safe and beneficial
- Personal stories can help educate consumers who are cut off from the food production system
- I’m still waiting for Tom Brady to take up my challenge to visit my farm and learn first-hand about the benefits of genetic engineering
The four most compelling words in the English language may be: “Once upon a time.”
When we hear them, we know we’re in for a story—and stories are the most powerful form of communication available to us.
Farmers don’t always appreciate this fact, especially when we’re discussing our own business of agriculture…
A Nutritionist Reflects on the Sad State of Health Education About GMOs and Farming at Schools and Universities
- Anti-GMO propaganda documentary films have become a prime source of misinformation
- Most teachers have no background in farming or health issues and readily pass along anti-biotechnology jeremiads as facts
- Scientists are frustrated trying to counter this tsunami of fear-mongering when the education establishment is uniformly in the thrall of anti-GMO propaganda