GM Food Fight – letter from Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm


Andrew Cohen
The Editor
BBC Horizon

November 28th 2008


Dear Andrew
I was delighted to learn earlier this month that Horizon was to tackle one of the big science issues of our age, the debate for and against GM crops.

Imagine my disappointment then on transmission (Tuesday November 25th) when what had been heralded as quality analysis from the BBC Science Unit turned out to be PR (albeit subtle PR) promotion of how GM crops will “save the world”.

In this instance the Horizon team has produced a programme heavily biased to one point of view. Are you intending to produce a second programme looking at alternative, properly sustainable, agro-ecological solutions? Global food security is a complex scientific, socio-economic, political and cultural issue. Your programme has failed to do justice to this complexity because of the apparent editorial decision to focus on GM crop science as some sort of magical “techno-fix”.

I list below just some of the areas where your programme has veered from the path of high quality analysis that is expected from the BBC:

  1. Failure to look at alternative solutions to tackling food security and environmental problems in clearly set out in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) published in 2008
  2. Incorrect claims that GM herbicide tolerant crops have reduced pesticide usage ignore research to the contrary due to the development of weed resistance to herbicides.
  3. Incorrect claims that gene transfer between crops and wild plants were hypothetical when they have already been shown in the field in the UK, Mexico and Canada.
  4. Failure to examine fully the environmental, social and economic impacts of GM soya production in Argentina and elsewhere in South America.
  5. Omission of any mention of the use of patents to control global seed markets by the biotech corporations and the impact on farmers’ rights to save seed and on agricultural biodiversity.

The GM crop industry is famed for its ability to hype its research and its GM products. So far all that’s been delivered by Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF and the rest is promise after promise of a technology that will feed a hungry world. GM crops merely reinforce the world’s current model of an oil-based, energy intensive agriculture and do nothing to provide long-term sustainability.

I look forward to your reply and to another programme soon from the Horizon team that properly explores these complex issues.

Yours sincerely

Richard Sanders
The Organic Research Centre – Elm Farm



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2 Responses to “GM Food Fight – letter from Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm”

  1. Chris Says:

    Deceptive/false claim

    There is then shown a comparative test where “a weed killer” is shown to destroy the natural soya but not the GM soya. The deception here is not to mention that this weed killer was engineered precicely to do that, to kill all plants without the gene-modified resistance.

    This needs be informed to the broadcasting complains board!

    I suggest that the panorama program needs to investigate the political aspects which are clouding the judgements of the “scientists”

  2. BBC Horizon replies on GM programme « Feeding the World Conference Says:

    […] Andrew Cohen, editor of Horizon, has replied to the letter from Richard Sanders of the Organic Research Centre at Elm Farm. (Original letter below.) […]

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