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Survey on GM crops betrays bias

1.Survey on GM crops betrays bias
2.Online comments on the article
3.The original article that caused the controversy
1.Survey on GM crops betrays bias
The Independent, 30 July 2012

In your GM survey, the question "Do you think the government should encourage experiments on GM crops so that farmers can reduce the pesticides they use" is misleading (report, 25 July).

It is predicated on the false claim that farmers use less pesticide when they plant GM crops. GM Roundup Ready crops have caused massive increases in glyphosate use worldwide. This is well-documented.

In the US, herbicide-tolerant cotton, soy and maize have encouraged growers to spray an estimated 174 million more kilos of herbicides than they otherwise would. In 2007-08 alone, herbicide use on GM crops there rose by 31.4 per cent. Worse, liberal use of pesticides on GM crops has led to the emergence of devastating Roundup Ready super-weeds.

GM crops won't liberate the world from pesticides. I can only assume that the GM lobby fed the questions to pollsters who dutifully swallowed them. The rest of us should be less gullible.

Joanna Blythman

It is not surprising to find strong support for testing of genetically modified crops in an opinion poll given that the question links GM corps to a desirable outcome, the reduction of pesticides. If you had asked whether respondents supported testing of GM crops in order that farmers could spend their lives in hock to big agribusiness you might have had a different response.

Peter Milne
2.Online comments on the article

[There are a lot of online comments on this article – the majority critical. Here are a couple of examples.]

charlie99: ...Talk about a loaded question to get the answer you want. Of course people want farmers to use less pesticides. To balance things out why not ask whether the govt should encourage experiments on GM crops so that farmers can use MORE pesticides. Because ultimately that is what farmers seems to end up having to do when they switch to GM crops and the increased productivity and protection from pests doesn't materialise. 

Elisa Trimble: We do not need GM crops or pesticidal farming – agroecological methods and IPM have outperformed both. Only problem is, there's no profit in it for corporations. Just a good livelihood for farmers, a clean environment, and healthy abundant food. Think I'm fantasising? Just read the IAASTD report...
3.Dramatic change as two-thirds now support GM crop testing
Andrew Grice
The Independent, 25 July 2012

Public opinion appears to be shifting in favour of the development of genetically-modified crops, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent.

Asked whether the Government should encourage experiments on GM crops so that farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides they use, 64 per cent of the public agreed and 27 per cent disagreed, while 9 per cent replied "don't know".

There was a significant "gender gap", with women more cautious about the trials than men. While 70 per cent of men believe that such experiments should be encouraged, only 58 per cent of women agree.

However, there were few differences by age, social class or parts of the country. Liberal Democrat ministers believe many of their party members might be hostile to a big push on GM foods. But there is little sign of widespread opposition among party supporters, whose views are in line with Conservative and Labour voters.

The overall findings are a boost to scientists who hope a more "softly, softly" approach to the development of GM crops in Britain will gradually win over a sceptical public. In the 1990s, there was controversy over what were dubbed "Frankenstein foods", and strong public opposition to multinational firms such as Monsanto.

Anti-GM protestors have sabotaged crop trials in Britain in recent years by digging up fields, but a peaceful demonstration was held in May at the Rothamsted Research Institute in Hertfordshire, where genetically-modified wheat is being grown. In the government-funded experiment, the crop has been modified so it gives off an odour not detectable by humans which deters greenfly and blackfly and could reduce the need for pesticides.

No GM crops are grown commercially in Britain, but imported GM commodities such as soya are used mainly for animal feed, and to a lesser extent in some foods.

Supporters believe GM crops could play a vital role in tackling global food shortages and rising prices. In 2011, they were grown by 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries on 160 million hectares an 8 per cent rise on the previous year.

Opponents claim the European Union, which licenses the commercial use of GM products, is preparing to bring genetically-modified animals to the European market because it is drawing up safety guidelines.

Pete Riley, campaign director of GM Freeze, said: "Why has the European Commission decided to spend money on this when times are so hard? European consumers have already rejected GM food, so why would parents want to feed their families on meat, fish and milk from GM animals, especially as the production of GM animals will raise additional ethical concerns?"

Anti-GM campaigners have criticised Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and his wife Melinda for using their foundation to fund a GBP6.4m project to develop GM crops at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.