The Indie on Sunday's Environmental Editor writes in the Mail this morning on GM crops to do a pretty thorough demolition job on the biotech firms' claims. GM crops are not higher yielding, and are not the answer to third world hunger. There are no overall advantages in pest or disease resistance. The plants are sterile in the F1 generation, meaning farmers have to buy seeds every year from the biotech firms. And most damning of all, traditional methods of natural interbreeding have proved far more effective in producing cultivars with given characteristics than GM has.
If oil prices rise to $200 and beyond the cost of fertilizers and pesticides becomes prohibitive, and the choice may vector to cultivars with greater natural disease resistance but lower yields, or lower quantities of high yield cultivars. Guns or butter. Either way, the phenomenon of past few decades in which world agricultural productivity has matched extraordinary population growth has ended. And it doesn't matter if wheat is used to make biofuels, feed beef cattle or make bread; guns or butter again. It's the overall quantity produced that's critical, not the end use.
Those of us who grew up with the battle against famine in China, India, Africa and even the USSR - and remember, the cold war was won not with nuclear missiles but with US and Canadian wheat - need no reminder how fragile is our ability to feed ourselves. There was a comment from an old City man in last night's Standard to the effect that few of those now in the Treasury and the Bank were old enough to have had experienced a recession and were running about like headless chickens. The same applies to many now in government never having experienced the gutwrenching helplessness as millions in other nations faced starvation, disease and death.
I've written here before that my generation, a generation never called upon to go to war, never hungry, never having faced epidemic disease, and having enjoyed half a century of unprecedented economic and technological advance fuelled by cheap oil, may represent the fin de siecle of the 20th century, an extended Edwardian summer, and that as in August 1914 all this is about to fragment and disappear for ever. A government that makes a priority of both energy security and food security in all its actions is now more critical than ever; Brown and Labour are simply incapable of this. Getting them out of office is no longer a matter of Political preference but a matter of the gravest and most compelling importance for our national future.