GM Free Cymru

GM crops and foods damage food security

Date Added to website 10th December 2013

GM-Free Cymru sent this off the the DEFRA Committee on 10th December 2013, as part of the consultation on Food Security. We will treat it as an Open Letter.

Consultation on food security in the UK and EU

Quote: "The new UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies seeks to exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity. GM technology is one option. Supporters argue that it has the potential to increase crop yields and contribute to a more resilient agricultural system. Others fear the unknown long-term environmental implications of this technology."

The above statement could have been made just the other day by Owen Paterson (1). It could also have been made more than a decade ago by the Government of the day, and it probably was. It indicates the poverty of DEFRA thinking and a naive acceptance of the assurances of the GM industry and GM research community that wonder crops are just around the corner, that that they will increase yields and productivity and enhance UK food sovereignty and food security. Well, those sentiments come from fantasy land; the wonder crops never do seem to actually come to fruition, and the evidence now shows that GM crops do not increase yields or reduce pesticide use, and do not improve farm productivity or profitability (2). More to the point, they are associated with both environmental AND health damage (the latter is ignored in the statement above.) Furthermore, an increasing dependence upon GM soy in the UK animal feed industry has REDUCED the UK's food security. It has greatly increased UK vulnerability to global price shocks and unforseen events -- especially important now that evidence for health and environmental harm associated with these crops is pouring into the public domain. For some years we have warned that the UK is sleep-walking into an agricultural / food supply disaster. The term "perfect storm" comes to mind.........

Please take on board the following points:

1. We have been intrigued to see recent press coverage of comments from the Secretary of State for the Environment relating to GM crops and foods. It is reported that he believes that GM crops have a considerable role to play in the alleviation of global food shortages in the future. It is fairly clear that he has succumbed to the deluge of recent pro-GM propaganda from the biotechnology multinationals and trade organizations. But we also fear that he has been given partisan, unscientific and out-dated information by his advisors, and we ask the Committee urgently to reconsider its position on this. How many times has Mr Paterson held discussions with NGOs and independent scientists who actually have concerns about GMOs and who cite firm science in support of their views? We suspect that the answer is "Not once."

2. GM lobbyists have been promising the miracles of GM technology for over 2 decades. These people are in possession of a solution in search of a problem. To date they have seriously failed to deliver on all of their promises relating to enhanced farm incomes, improved nutrition, increased yields, better pest control etc. Billions of euros have been invested across Europe, and millions of pounds in the UK, and still this technology is rejected by consumers, farmers, and policy makers all over the world. That is because there are NO consumer benefits: food made from GM crops is not cheaper, healthier, tastier or more attractive to look at, and neither does it extend shelf life (2). So why should anybody bother with it? Here is a question for the Committee: "Has anybody ever asked for GM food in preference to non-GM food?" We are appalled by the ongoing arrogance of politicians in this matter, who persist in saying: "You have to have GMOs whether you want them or not, because we say they are good for you." The only people they are good for are the shareholders of Monsanto and the other biotechnology corporations.

3. It is true that the era of cheap food is over - on account of rising production and fuel costs, and the diversion of huge quantities of food crops into the biofuels market. However, this also shows that we should be moving away from oil and chemical based food production such as GM and embracing sustainable methods like organic and low- input farming - based on renewable energy use and carbon reduction strategies.

4. Also, we part company with the Committee in its emphasis on "productivity" -- the American mid-western farming model, in which productivity is everything, has taken the "culture" out of "agriculture" -- it is about as far from traditional agriculture as it is possible to get, with major cost items externalised and conveniently forgotten about, no thought about long-term sustainability, and no awareness of what "stewardship" actually means. Furthermore, sovereignty has been sacrifice and replaced with a sort of corporate feudalism controlled by Monsanto and the other corporate giants. The NFU top brass might want us to go in that direction in the UK, but to do so would be crass and -- in our view -- even suicidal.

From a farming/food standpoint, international experience of GM cultivation has demonstrated the following:

(a) Yields have not increased as promised (2). In fact, since the hybrids used for GM breeding programmes are not always the highest-yielding varieties, GM crops can perform worse than their non-GM counterparts. Many studies from around the world have shown that apparent yield increases are short-lived and are based upon carefully selected comparisons with less effective non-GM lines. In fact, productivity increases have been greater in the non-GM farming context of Europe than in the GM farming system of the United Stetes. (3) In fact, an increased dependence upon GM varieties is associated with increased uniformity in regional farming systems -- and increased vulnerability to climatic fluctuations and pest attack. As ever, the greatest food security is to be found within systems that are diverse and adaptable. That is why mixed farming systems are much more stable.

(b) Reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers has increased - not decreased as promised (4). This is now confirmed by abundant studies, in spite of a constant stream of lies from the GM industry. The great majority of GM crops in the market place are designed for herbicide tolerance and for "chemical management" scenarios; it is through sales of complete seed / herbicide packages that the GM corporations make their money. And they are careful to ensure that they carry no liability for externalities like health damage costs and environmental remediation.

(c) Weeds and pests have developed resistance to GM crops and pesticides resulting in 'superweeds' and 'superbugs' that need even larger amounts (and an increased range) of herbicides and pesticides for their control (5). The "toxic chemical farming" scenario is thus reinforced, with unforseen ecological consequences.

(d) There have always been problems with cross contamination and cross fertilisation between GM and non-GM crops. These have led to lengthy law suits and are a potentially explosive problem if more GM crops are planted (6). It is now recognized that the coexistence of non-GM and GM crops is impossible. GM canola, which has many wild relatives, is impossible to contain (7).

(e) This technology is expensive and costly for farmers and makes them more dependent on the agribusiness giants in order to sustain a livelihood. They are "tied in" to corporate dependence by strict patent laws and "technology use agreements." They cannot save seed, and they cannot dispose of their harvests except through approved channels. Monsanto and other corporations employ quite brutal patent enforcement methods in all neighbourhoods where their GM crops are grown (8).

(f) There are proven health risks associated with GM technology, in spite of what the GM establishment tells us (9). There are many instances of domestic animal deaths following consumption of GM crops. Many independent studies (including those of Seralini, Carman, Malatesta and Ermakova) have found damage to the internal organs of animals fed on GM components, and they demonstrate that the public is right to be very seriously concerned about GM food safety. Advisory bodies such as ACRE, FSA and EFSA still refuse to acknowledge the serious nature of these findings, and stand widely accused of gross negligence.

(g) GM technology has not reduced levels of world hunger as promised. In fact, it has made poor farmers more indebted and less self sufficient, and consequently more vulnerable than ever before. Bankruptcies associated with BT cotton in India have caused many thousands of suicides (10). In the United States, where GM crops are grown on a vast scale, there has been NO reduction in "food poverty" and malnutrition amongst poor people.

(h) Consumers throughout Europe have consistently voted against growing GM crops. There are now thousands of "GM Free regions" across Europe, and a growing GM resistance movement (11). Consumers are aware of the failure of the GM industry to deliver on its promises, and they know that GM crops and foods bring them no benefits whatsoever. For many years the UK government has been telling people that GM crops and foods are safe and essential; now it is time for the government to start listening instead. For more than a decade the Government seems to have thought that public opinion on GMOs is based upon emotion, hysteria and a lack of scientific understanding. If we may say so, that assumption is arrogant and misguided. The members of the public have a very subtle and nuanced understanding of GM issues -- and if anything the "hysterical" rants relating to GM crops and foods come nowadays from none other than the Secretary of State!

(i) It is seldom acknowledged that one part of the "global food control" strategy employed by the GM multinationals is the purchasing of seed companies and their catalogues and the phasing out of locally adapted varieties (12). This means that biodiversity is irreparably damaged, and that vast swathes of countryside are planted with GM crop monocultures and with GM varieties that are ill-suited to local environmental conditions. This endangers food security and increases the risk of future famine (13).

(j) The GM corporations and the trade associations seeking to extol the virtues of GM crops are adept at spreading disinformation, practicing corrupt science in the approvals process, and vilifying scientists who seek to undertake independent research into GM crop safety and environmental impacts (14). They have shown over and again that they cannot be trusted, and yet governments unaccountably continue to accord them respect, and seek to "enable" their corporate global ambitions. Quite recently, the UK government stated that it would support Monsanto in court to further its ambitions to introduce an untested "stacked" GMO variety of maize into the European farming system.

(k) It is not just hydrocarbon prices that are rocketing upwards in the "peak oil" scenario. Petrochemical and feedstock prices are also rising inexorably, and Roundup (the weedkiller for which most GM crops are engineered) is more and more expensive (15). GM farming will soon be seen as an expensive luxury, if not an absurd aberration, caught up in an inexorable inflationary spiral.

(l) The GM industry, aided and abetted by the Government, has been partly responsible for a decline in scientific ethics and a disastrous decline in the public acceptance of science. Sir David King claimed some years ago that Britain had "lost" inward investment worth £2-3 billion because of our failure to adopt GM technology (16); on the contrary, because of the GM industry's strategy of "contamination by stealth" the UK taxpayer has already had to pay a substantial bill for the monitoring and remediation of contamination incidents involving failed and unauthorised GM varieties found in the food chain.

(m) Those who own GM crop and agrochemical patents refuse absolutely to accept liability for damage that might be caused to farming neighbours and members of the public, arising out of genetic trespass and contamination. Such risks are also uninsurable, as no insurance companies will provide cover (17). It must be concluded that in their view the risks of damage and litigation far outweigh any possible benefits that might come from GM crop plantings. In that context, it would be an act of sheer madness for any government to permit any commercial GM planting in the UK to go ahead.


In short, there is not the slightest chance that GM crops and foods will do anything to alleviate future problems associated with water shortages, famine and unrest and instability in the Developing Nations. If GM crops are forced on unwilling or reluctant recipients, there will be strongly negative consequences for public health, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. Corporate feudalism will be extended, and there will be dramatic social, political and economic consequences for all of us.

We urge you to accept the points made in the IAASTD report of some years ago (18), and to endorse a pattern of agriculture which is sustainable, independent of high chemical and energy inputs, and responsive to local needs and aspirations. This means that GM technology will have to be consigned to the scrap heap, where it properly belongs, even if Monsanto and the other biotechnology corporations squeal about their global ambitions being thwarted and even if a few GM technologists are forced to do something more worthwhile with their time.

Finally, we wish to comment on the recent research findings which link GM crops and Roundup herbicide to health damage in animals. A scientific paper published in September 2012 in the American journal Food and Chemical Toxicology demonstrates unequivocally that both GM crops and the herbicides used with them cause health damage and premature death in mammals (19). This research project, completed at the University of Caen in France, involved a prolonged (24 month) feeding study with the use of 200 rats divided into ten groups. It showed quite clearly that Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, is toxic to mammals even in minute doses, leading to kidney and liver damage, tumours and premature death. It also showed that Monsanto's GM herbicide tolerant maize NK603 is toxic in its own right, with or without the presence of Roundup residues. Animals fed on "clean" GM maize suffered from very similar toxic effects and from early deaths. By comparison, the control group of animals fed on conventional maize and clean water showed hardly any of the negative effects experienced by the test group animals. Like many of the classic scientific projects through the years, this one was essentially very simple, involving the continuous feeding of ten groups of animals over a 24-month period, using either GM or non-GM maize in their diets, and with or without the addition of minute quantities of Roundup in drinking water. The researchers simply observed and monitored, in a classic toxicology study, what happened to the animals. This was the first time such a long-term study had ever been reported on -- since conventionally all GM safety assessments are based on 3-month feeding studies, which are too short for chronic toxic effects to be fully revealed. In other radical departures, the researchers (1) refused to test glyphosate (the main constituent of Roundup) and insisted on testing the whole Roundup formulation; and (2) tested the actual GM maize instead of "surrogate proteins."

As the Committee will be aware, this study has been viciously attacked attacked by scientists who have links with the GMO industry, and even by those scientists from bodies like EFSA and ACRE who have in the past declared NK603 and Roundup to be perfectly safe. Professor Seralini has been personally vilified, and he and his colleagues have been accused of scientific fraud. The journal which published the paper after due process of peer review was bombarded with protests about the paper and eventually succumbed to this pressure, finally retracting the paper more than a year after publication. That was a black day for science, illustrating that Monsanto and its cohorts now effectively own not just large swathes of biotechnology research but also the means of scientific publication. It should be noted that the paper was retracted not because it contained fraud, data manipulation or misinterpretation (the authors are specifically cleared of any wrongdoing on all of those counts) -- but because it was deemed to be "inconclusive" as a cancer study (20). But it was never intended to be a cancer study; and how many scientific papers are actually "conclusive" enough to effectively eliminate the need for further research? The vilification campaign and the process by which the paper was retracted brings shame upon the scientific community, especially since nobody has come forward with any evidence to counteract or contradict the Seralini findings. On the contrary, the Seralini findings are supported in another study based upon US pig autopsies by Carman et al (21), by the findings of pig farmer Ib Pedersen in Denmark (22) and by the observations of veterinarians (23).

The research results reported in the Seralini paper are both dramatic and far-reaching; we predict that it is destined to become one of the most widely-cited and influential publications of the century, even though it is currently retracted. It is now impossible for the GM industry and bodies like EFSA to maintain the pretence that GM food -- with or without Roundup residues -- is safe either for human or livestock consumption. GM food is toxic. We have been saying this for a decade or more, on the basis of published science -- and the matter is now incontrovertible. We can manage perfectly well without GM in the human food chain in Europe, since few GM components are used. But what happens next within the EU livestock industry, which is heavily dependent upon the import of toxic GM soy from South America? We have warned over and again that over-dependence on a single protein source is both stupid and highly dangerous, and now the "perfect storm" is about to roll over us. We hope that the the UK Government and the Commission have got a Plan B in place, but somehow we doubt it.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian John for GM-Free Cymru


1)  Owen Paterson: the minister for GM hype, by Zac Goldsmith, The Guardian, 24
October 2013

(2) GM Crop Risk Assessment Challenges: An Overview 2. GM Crops and Water - A Recipe
for Disaster1. GE Crop Risk Assessment Challenges: An Overview Dr. Charles Benbrook
Food Safety News, May 6 2013
"Failure to Yield" by Dr D. Gurian-Sherman.

(3) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest

(4)  Benbrook, C. M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use
in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. Environmental science Europe, 24: 24
(doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24) gm_crops_increase_pesticid_13022008.html
848d689047cb466780256a6b00298980/3cacfd251aab6d318025742700407f02! OpenDocument

(5) EIB11/



(8) article_1817.jsp

Séralini, G-E., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M.,
Hennequin, D. & de
Vendômois, J.S. (2012). Long term toxicity of a roundup herbicide and a
genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 50:4221-4231.
Domingo, J.L. & Bordonaba, J.G. (2011). A literature review on the safety assessment
of genetically
modified plants. Environment International, 37:734-742
Rat feeding studies with genetically modified maize - a comparative evaluation of
applied methods and risk assessment standards
Hartmut Meyer and Angelika Hilbeck






(15) feeling-roundup-spike/

(16) Sir David's figure, widely reported in the media, has no foundation in fact,
and it was never backed up by his office in spite of frequent requests. In any case,
it is dishonest to use such a figure in the absence of a proper cost-benefit



(19)  Séralini, G-E., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M.,
Hennequin, D. & de
Vendômois, J.S. (2012). Long term toxicity of a roundup herbicide and a
genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 50:4221-4231.

Rat feeding studies with genetically modified maize - a comparative evaluation of
applied methods and risk assessment standards
Hartmut Meyer and Angelika Hilbeck

A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy
and GM maize diet
Judy A. Carman et al, 2013

(22)  GM Soy linked to health damage in pigs -- a Danish Dossier

Animal Health issues related to glyphosate and Roundup Ready GMO crops and feed