Biting into GM

Laura Stewart (Letters, 8 January should stop attacking farming methods she doesn’t like. Let farmers choose how they farm.

Stewart and the Soil Association should instead look more critically at the claims they make for organic farming. In the past decade, serious scientific investigation has disposed of most of them.

Compared with good conventional farms, organic food is no different nutritionally, soil structure and fertiliser pollution is no better, biodiversity increases seem limited to weed numbers and organic greenhouse gas emissions are threefold higher compared with conventional no-till farming.

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As for safety, 53 people died and 4,000 were made ill in 
Germany from eating organic fenugreek seedlings in 2011.

GM food safety has been ­established by hundreds or more of exacting and long-term animal tests. Many hundreds of millions of people consume GM food daily but none has died from it.

No-one tests organic food. 
Organic farming is not sustainable because it uses petrol to drive tractors and machinery and ­allows, when essential, use of minerals.

Both of these are mined from limited and thus unsustainable sources. Failure to replace the minerals in produce sold off-farm mines the soil. Because organic regulations prohibit routine mineral use, increasing numbers of organic fields have become mineral deficient.

Humans have fiddled with crops for 10,000 years to increase yield, usually by breeding from spontaneous mutants that are simply “natural GM”.

More recently, radiation-­induced mutations have been generated and these crops are used by organic farmers as well as others.

If GM crops are considered untrustworthy because they are produced by large corporations then logically we should ban, for example, penicillin or corn flakes because large corporations produce those too.

The attitude of the Scottish Government is based on superstition and poor biological education, in contrast to Westminster which prefers farming methods to be based on evidence and farmer and public choice.

(Prof) Tony Trewavas FRS FRSE

Scientific Alliance 
Scotland

North St David Street

Edinburgh