I want to write about an issue that will have a detrimental impact on all living things including birds, insects, animals and humans….
Imagine a dystopian world where biotech and chemical companies control all food supplies. You cannot plant your own, they choose what you eat and the only food you receive is cancerous. It sounds like The Hunger Games gone wrong? This could be our reality by 2050.
The government in the UK is pro planting Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops and planting could start after September 2016. The EU has already voted allowing GMOs to be planted. This will lead to cross pollination which can occur up to 10 miles away. The biotech companies do not allow their plants to be used for seed the following year and so farmers must pay for seeds each year. In the USA, farmers whose crops are cross-contaminated should receive compensation but instead are being sued for growing the patented crop. It could happen here.
Allowing GMOs into Europe will destroy ecosystems, kill bees and ruin the landscape. The long term effect on nature as well as the birds, animals and insects feeding on GMO crops with their increased toxins is unknown. I feel passionately about saving our natural world and will fight to stop it being destroyed, particularly for the profit of a few companies. We need to lobby our politicians and supermarkets to ensure that food products containing animals fed GMO or their by-products are banned or at the least labelled.
GMOs are a short term approach creating long term problems. The biotech and chemical companies who make them first advertised them as normal crops that were slightly genetically altered to allow them to tolerate agro-chemicals and so overcome weeds and pests. However, as the insects and weeds grew immune to the chemicals used in GMO cropping, farmers were forced to buy more and more pesticides and herbicides; obviously, from the same chemicals companies. In the USA there are over 20 species of weed that are now resistant to herbicides with pest resistance also building up.
GMO crops with their increased toxins are a threat to our food and health. The poisons in them have been found in human breast milk and foetuses, which highlights that they may be transferred through the milk, eggs and meat of any animals (including humans) fed GMO food. Most chickens, pigs and dairy cows in the UK are now being fed GMO soya and maze. This means that any non-organic dairy product in the UK, including things like baby milk and chocolate, potentially has GMO content and may well contain residues of the chemicals used in GMO cropping.
Almost all the research on the impact of GMOs on the environment and human health has been carried out by the biotech companies themselves or by scientists linked to them. Policy makers and politicians are only relying on research and information produced by these companies. Without exception, the companies have refused to disclose any negative results from their research and studies have been for very short periods, with a typical length of study of only 3 months for food safety assessment. So no one knows what the long term effects of GMOs and their associated pesticides will be on us and our environment. Glyphosate, the active chemical in the herbicide Roundup used on 80% of GMO crops has recently been declared a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization.
You may be saying that if someone is against GMOs then just don’t eat them, but it is not that simple. In the USA, GMOs aren’t labelled, but it is not for want of it. Figures show that 91% of people over there want to know which foods contain GMOs. 53% say they would not eat GMOs if they could avoid it, but a shocking 80% of processed food in the USA has GMO in it. States where have tried to create a law that foods containing GMOs had to be labelled, the biotech and food industries have threatened to sue them. With the new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade agreement between the USA and the EU; that could be us in 10 years time. The UK supermarkets had promised to label all GMOs and had stopped selling them but they are now selling GMO fed animal products without labeling and potentially will be selling more GMO foods to us unlabelled in the future.
In 2013, Bangladesh became the first country in South Asia to approve the commercial cultivation of a GMO food crop. Brinjal was spliced with a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. In October 2013, Bangladesh’s national Committee on Biosafety approved cultivation of four indigenous varieties of brinjal incorporating a gene from the B thuringiensis (Bt) to make it resistant to attacks by various fruit flies, the bt brinjal. The scheme was backed by USAID finance and Cornell University and came after much protest from activists and was in stark contract to India and Sri Lanka banning GMO’s. The pilot was with 20 farms, with more than half having problems with the crop and in Gazipur near Dhaka, four out of five crops failed. These farmers were not told that there was any issue with the safety of the crops and all then sold their produce with out labeling as GMO. Many said that they only took the seeds because they had been offered free.
I care about the environment and our health. I find it difficult to understand why anybody would want to plant GMO crops in Europe or in Bangladesh, seeing how they have taken over the food chain in the USA. I also believe in the rule of law and can not see how it is right for companies to be able to sue governments trying to legislate to ensure that their citizen’s rights are upheld (the right to have food labelled) and their health protected. Our politicians here and in Europe can stop this and it makes me angry that they make these decisions without their own research. I will turn 18 years old, on the day of the next election, will be voting for a politician who prioritizes the health of their constituents and the environment above the financial gain of biotech companies. In 2050, I will be 52 years old with hopefully children of my own. What do I want our world to look like by then? I want a world where bees and insects can live safely alongside natural crops that do not harm our environment or health. I want a world where GMOs have not been planted in the UK and where the food we eat is free of them. I want a GMO free planet.
Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 year old young birder, conservationist, environmentalist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol, UK and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol’s most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter.