SIRC – Media Watch 25-05-99
Other influences in the GM debate are obviously at work. Widespresd confusion and an inability to reach a consensus with regard to the future of GM planting actually serves to aid pressure groups' agendas. An acceptable level of risk is no longer really the issue here, for often the objections to genetic modification go beyond arguments centered on the threat to the environment. Two articles in The Gene Exchange illustrate this well. According to a survey conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation over 50% of the farmers that responded to their study reported using Bt sprays, but at the same time environmentalists, backed by organic growers have charged the EPA with negligence in their approach to Bt crops. The petition suggests that the EPA have not considered all aspects of insect resistance, cross pollination and Bt crops' effect on non-target insects. What would appear to be the case is that engineering plants with Bt genes has a significant damaging effect on the environment whereas spraying organic crops with Bt does not.
What many of GM's opponents seem to desire really is the cessation of GM technology altogether. They object to it on ideological grounds and play on environmental concerns to deliver their message. As the New Scientist suggests "They recognise what many others don't: that this controversy is really an emotional and political battle in a wider war against unfettered free trade, globalisation and the power of multinationals. And you don't win such battles with science. You win them with propaganda."
A common objection to the planting of GM crops is the level of cross-pollination to non-GM and in particular to organic crops. Organic lobbyists claim that as much as 1 per cent of their produce could become "tainted", but the industry itself is willing to consider food organic even if up to 5 per cent of it is produced non-organically. When it comes to a discussion of GM 'infection' these established guidelines are thus abandoned in favour of a level of nil tolerance.