The Supreme court GM case

You may or may not have watched the two part Australian story, the last part of which went to air last night on ABC TV. 23rd March 2015

I’m not going to repeat the information given in that program other than to say that two neighbouring farmers have ended up in the Supreme Court over their rights and ability to follow two very divergent paths in farming practices. One farmer is growing GM canola, the neighbouring farmer is growing organic crops.

What I want to highlight are the reasons why this was never going to end well. Growing food is a dicey business, in past history Australian farmers tilled the bare earth, and watched in horror as their top soil blew away in dust storms, those of you who are old enough would remember Melbourne being thrust into darkness like sundown by thick red dust that blackened the sky and made it difficult to breathe. Luckily farmers have learned much during our mere 200 year history on this dry arid land and have begun to understand how the quality of land affects their ability to grown food. The purest form of farming in terms of health land and healthy crop is organic, however it is not the most cost effective nor does it necessarily yield as much, fruits for example are often not as big, nor as shiny.

Organic certification requires no chemicals to be used on the growing crop, or residue in the land for at least 3 or more years. The entire chain of food must be free from chemical or synthetic additives of any kind. Obviously as more people realize that we are what we eat, there is an increased demand for organic produce, and people are generally prepared to pay more for it, so the farmer can afford to produce less, as he gets a better price at the farm gate.

The other GM style of farming means putting trust in new biotech methods of food production. In short for the GM crop to be called GM, the seed has been produced from plants that have has their genetic structure altered. This absolutely never happens naturally, many people think that our selective breeding to achieve certain large fruits and different varieties is the same as GM. It is NOT.

To genetically alter something requires a very scientific interference, in this case the crop which would normally die if sprayed with the herbicide called Roundup or Zero if you get it from Bunnings. But the genes have been modified or switched off so that the plant is completely resistant to the herbicide. To get this attribute into the plant it has to be carried deep inside the cellular material and the only way to get it to accept that is by infection of some kind. Viruses and bacteria are capable of getting into the DNA in this way. So the DNA is injected and infected with a disabled virus, carrying the new information. This is so far, the only way science has found of getting the DNA to alter, without the organism dying.

As you can probably see now, this cannot happen naturally and must require creative high tech human interference. The GM crop grown from this technology is now able to be repeatedly and liberally sprayed during the growing phase with roundup, which will kill off any weed species, whilst leaving the resistant crop to grow on. You can see the appeal to the farmers, the harvest is bountiful and uncontaminated by any weeds, so resulting in a good harvest and the monetary rewards that go with it.

Just last week March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is under the auspices of the World Health Organisation published their findings on agricultural pesticides and herbicides that are probably carcinogenic to humans. You can read this for yourself by Googling WHO and IARC carcinogens. It lists many chemicals used on farms, starting with glyphosate which is the active agent in Roundup/Zero. It also lists malathion and diazinon in the same paragraph classing all 3 as probably carcinogenic to humans.

Tetraclorvinphos and parathion are in group B based on convincing evidence that these chemicals cause cancer in laboratory animals. The evidence comes from studies of exposure done in the USA Canada and Sweden published since 2001.The study report goes on to say that blood markers indicating chrosomal damage to micronuclei have been found after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby.

Not only does this information show justification for why these two farmers on adjoining farms are at loggerheads in such a serious way, but it also explains the multitude of consumers and lobby groups chanting “say no…GMO”   It stands to reason that well informed consumers do not want to be expected to consume pesticides and herbicides that are being used both in regular farming but more intensively in GM crops, when the human experiment on the consequences is actually us.