Blog para postagem e discussão de temas científicos e técnicos sobre biossegurança de transgênicos, sua geração e uso.
sábado, 26 de outubro de 2013
The Irrational Fear of GM Food
Raras vezes copio e colo um artigo neste blog, mas o caso em pauta é muito particular. Também dispensa comentários.Apenas um alerta: o artigo do Montagu insere-se em análise de risco, não é pertinente à avaliação de risco.(PPA)
Wall Street Journal Column: The Irrational Fear of GM Food
Billions of people have eaten genetically modified
food over the past two decades. Not one problem has been found.
By MARC VAN MONTAGU, 2013 World Food Prize Laureate
Farmers can now produce more crops in an environmentally sustainable way
at a lower cost thanks to the efforts of hundreds of scientists over the past
half-century. Seeds are developed in a laboratory and then field tested to
enhance nutritional value or resistance to drought, disease and herbicides.
Genetically modified crops are now planted on nearly a quarter of the world's
farm land by some 17.3 million farmers. More than 90% of those farmers are
smallholders who harvest a few acres in developing countries.
Society, the economy and the environment have benefited enormously from GM crops.
India has flipped from cotton importer to exporter because of insect-resistant
cotton. Herbicide-tolerant GM crops have stimulated no-tillage farming,
reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions. Insect-resistant GM crops
have cut insecticide sprayings by more than 25%—and as much as sevenfold in
some parts of India. In developing countries, GM crops have helped ensure food
security and bolster incomes for farmers, allowing parents to focus more
resources on other priorities, such as educating their children.
Such remarkable achievements are only the beginning. Dozens of better GM crops
are in the pipeline from companies, universities and public agencies around the
world. Crops in development include virus-resistant cassava, a starchy root otherwise
known as tapioca; nutritionally enriched rice that can help prevent blindness
and early death among children; nitrogen-efficient crops that reduce fertilizer
runoff; and many more.
These crops will continue to reduce hunger by bringing more bountiful and
nutritious harvests. They will also help the environment by mitigating the
impact of agriculture by conserving our precious, finite supply of fresh water;
freeing up land for other uses, like carbon-absorbing forests; preserving
topsoil; and reducing the use of insecticides and herbicides, thereby enhancing
These advancements are particularly timely given the environmental and
demographic state of the 21st century. Between now and 2050, global population
will rise by about one-third, to 9.6 billion from 7.2 billion, reducing arable
land per capita. Almost all of that population growth will occur in the
developing world, where about 870 million people are already suffering from
hunger and malnutrition, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization. And 100% of it will happen during a period of greater climate
volatility, which may place dramatic new stresses on agriculture.
The question of how to nourish two billion more people in a changing climate
will prove one of the greatest challenges in human history. To meet it, we
should embrace an agricultural approach that combines the best features of
traditional farming with the latest technology.
Biotechnology offers an unparalleled safety record and demonstrated commercial
success. Remarkably, however, biotechnology might not reach its full potential.
In part, that's because outspoken opponents of GM crops in the U.S. have
spearheaded a "labeling" movement that would distinguish modified
food from other food on grocery store shelves. Never mind that 60%-70% of
processed food on the market contains genetically modified ingredients. In much
of Europe, farmers are barred from growing genetically modified crops. Even in
Africa, anti-biotechnology sentiment has blocked its application. In Zambia,
for example, the government refused donations of GM corn in 2002, even as its
Opponents of GM crops have been extremely effective at spreading
misinformation. GM crops don't, as one discredited study claimed recently, cause
cancer or other diseases. GM cotton isn't responsible for suicides among Indian
farmers—a 2008 study by an alliance of 64 governments and nongovernmental
organizations debunked that myth completely. And GM crops don't harm bees or
In fact, people have consumed billions of meals containing GM foods in the 17
years since they were first commercialized, and not one problem has been
documented. This comes as no surprise. Every respected scientific organization
that has studied GM crops—the American Medical Association, the National
Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization, among others—has found
GM crops both safe for humans and positive for the environment.
As a plant scientist, neither I nor my fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureates,
Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robert T. Fraley, anticipated the resistance to
genetic modification and biotechnology. After all, nearly everything humans
have eaten though the millennia has been genetically altered by human
intervention. Mankind has been breeding crops—and thereby genetically altering
them—since the dawn of agriculture. Today's techniques for modifying plants are
simply new, high-precision methods for doing the same.
Resistance to biotechnology seems all the more unbelievable considering that
much of it comes from the same thoughtful people who tend to dismiss
climate-change skeptics as "anti-science." It seems to me that much
of the resistance to GM foods isn't based on science, but may be ideological
and political, based on fears of "corporate profiteering" and
To note one irony: The extreme opposition to genetic modification has led to
hyper-regulation of GM crops, which has raised the cost of bringing them to
market. Now only multinational companies and large research entities can afford
to comply with the rules. Smaller enterprises in developing countries are
ultimately hurt much more than large conglomerates.
Anyone who cares about alleviating hunger and protecting the environment should
work quickly to remove the bias against GM crops. A good first step is for
educated, scientifically literate people to avoid being taken in by the myths
about genetically modified food. These innovations have too much potential to
empower individuals and feed the world to be thwarted by falsehoods and
Dr. Van Montagu is founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant
Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium. He is the co-recipient
of the 2013 World Food
Prize, along with Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology
and Dr. Robert T. Fraley of Monsanto.