Don’t put profits before sustainable livelihoods

The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the Guelph Mercury on December 3rd, 2012.

Re: Genetically engineered foods no threat to consumers — Nov. 13

GMO food labelling poses problems — (letter to the editor) Nov. 16

The grand adoption of genetically engineered (GM) food crops is a prime example of profits before sustainable livelihoods and science.

As far as I am aware, there remain no reported improvements in human and animal quality of life and health, increasing number of farmers (especially full-time on farm) and biodiversity since the introduction of GM food crop technology to agriculture in Ontario.

Admittedly, I am not a farmer who uses GM food crop technology, but I represent a view of a close follower of its influence in our society and a grower of produce that directly contributes to Guelph’s vitality. From my perspective, so far it appears all that can be said is that GM food crops have taken money out of the pockets of farmers and put it into someone else’s.

Producers of this technology promise higher yields, less chemical inputs, theoretically putting more money in farmers’ pockets, but in reality what I have observed is that as GM food crop acreage expands, the number of farms has declined.

Coincidentally, the average farm debt has increased steadily over the last decade while realized farm net income has decreased and off-farm income increased. According to the Statistics Canada farm survey, debt rose from $195,000 per farm in 2001 to $277,000 in 2010. Furthermore, I find it shocking that today in Ontario, on-farm income only contributes approximately 25 per cent to the total family income.

Modern farming using genetically engineered food crop technology is seemingly about expanding and consolidating farmland in monoculture production, requiring upgraded equipment to monster tractors to attain economies of scale.

So, what about quality of life and health? Are farmers led to believe they will no longer need to work off-farm if they invest in GM technology? Is this agricultural technology which covers more and more of our rural landscape each year really saving us money? Or are we impoverishing our farmers and rural landscape by supporting the GM food markets?

And a question that our economy doesn’t recognize as valuable, are there more monarch butterflies feeding or birds nesting in the corn fields?

For concerned consumers who have done their research and come to their own conclusions, Greenpeace has prepared a Canadian Shopping Guide to popular products on grocery shelves containing genetically modified ingredients.

They have also included alternative GMO-free products that can be purchased for those who don’t want to ditch their favourites. A more community-oriented action would be to check out the local Saturday market and ask any real farmer what they eat this time of year.

Erin Richan


Comments are closed.