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The GM Food Debate

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Introduction

The GM Food Debate As a nation, we are currently undergoing a crucial and constant debate on the whether or not we should be using genetically-modified, or GM crops. This is not an argument against unnatural farming-what we call 'conventional farming' is not in itself, a natural process. The crops grown today are very different from their wild ancestors. Most UK crops originated in distant parts of the world. Since early times, average yields have increased massively. Early in the 20th century the UK wheat yield was around 2 tonnes per hectare; now it is typically over 7 tonnes per hectare. This is due to the use of fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, as well as the expertise of seed breeders. At the same time, however, there has bee a reduction in the number and diversity of the wildlife. In the last 30 years, 24 of the 40 bird species which breed on farmland have declined. ...read more.

Middle

GM maize protects itself against the corn borer and usually only one application of insecticide is needed to control other pests. Making crops resistant to insects and diseases and reducing weeds should lead to fewer crop losses. For example, worldwide 7% of the annual maize harvest is destroyed by the European corn borer, up to 20% in some areas. If Bt maize delivers its promise, maize yields in Europe and the US together could increase by 7-10 million tonnes. Fewer chemicals are used on herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GM crops. This in turn brings savings in the energy which would have been used to produce and transport those chemicals. There are potential energy savings on the farm too; the use of tractor diesel is reduced as fewer sprayings means fewer trips across the fields. More efficient processing saves energy. The GM tomato grown in the US stays firmer for longer which means less is lost during processing. ...read more.

Conclusion

The concern with GM crops is that increased use of a single herbicide on successive crops will lead to more weeds becoming resistant. Similarly, insects will develop resistant to toxins such as the Bt protein. There is also the chance that genes from GM crops may be accidentally transferred to non-GM crops. The chances of this are increased if the two crops are grown adjacent to each other. 'Organic' crops will lose their status if they do not remain completely free of all GM genes. People are becoming increasingly concerned that man's interaction with the environment has led to a reduction in the diversity of our flora and fauna. Some believe that GM technology could lead to a loss of biodiversity. In some countries, single crops are grown over a very wide area. These mono-cultures threaten biodiversity. The less successful crops are not grown so that available varieties are reduced. This also leads to a loss of the flora and fauna which thrives on them. ...read more.

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