GM Cropping Good or Bad
There is no doubt about the fact that GM crops give farmers an increased yield per hectare but wildlife very quickly vanishes from the area. My experiences are from several visits to Argentina where GM cropping is now common place.
When I first visited farmers in the pampas in 1994 I was amazed at the amount of wildlife there was on farms, birds and insects were everywhere.
When I returned to the same farms in January 2008 there were very few birds, the cropping had altered, there were no new crops but there were more soya beans and less grass. All the wheat had been harvested and there were very few weeds in the soya beans and those that were there were dead or dying, they had had their third application of Roundup. The maize was also looking very healthy and weed free. What amazed me most was the lack of birds.
I returned to Argentina again in March 2009 this time to some of the best and most productive land in the pampas, best silt land with 1000 mm of rain per year, real double cropping land. One farm I visited also hosted Monsanto’s main trial grounds. While I was there I met one of Monsanto’s scientists. As we chatted about the trials and cropping he told me that GM farming was altering the environment, it was driving wildlife away. I had seen it with my own eyes and now one of Monsanto’s scientists had confirmed it to me!
His statement wasn’t actually correct as birds return to the same area to breed each year, they don’t think there isn’t much food here and move on. They were bred there and that is their area. Their breeding productivity goes down because there are less insects and the population declines. There are less insects because there is no plant diversity, the crop is weed free. Each species of insect has it’s own specific host plant that it feeds on and it cannot live on any other species of plant. Any insects that may come and eat the maize will be sprayed as they will be reducing the yield of the crop or the crop has been specifically modified to kill the two most damaging species of insect on hatching.
Initially GM crops save chemicals and tractor operations but as the farmer gets into the system there will be plants from the previous crop growing which are resistant to roundup and if they are maize plants they will need two extra applications of herbicide and that might not kill them all.
We are told that we need GM cropping to feed the world but as I toured Argentina and Chile I could see that there were plenty of places that could be brought into cultivation or just farmed better without the use of GM crops. However bringing those areas which are farmed extensively into intensive farming will also reduce the wildlife.
There is no doubt that farmers can easily feed the world as it is now but whether we can in 30 years time as no one knows when we will run out of resources. The price of wheat only has to rise £20 or £30 / ton and farmers move up a gear throughout the world. That means more of the earths resources are used to make and apply chemicals to increase yields.
What we have to work out is how to produce more food without reducing wildlife as there is no doubt that the introduction of GM cropping into the UK will hasten the decline of wildlife in the British Countryside.