Horizon (1964) s45e04 Episode Script

Jimmy's GM Food Fight

'My name's Jimmy Doherty and this is my farm.
' Morning, ladies! '120 acres of rural Suffolk '.
where we raise our livestock the old fashioned way.
Traditional farming, rare breeds, free range.
I suppose I've sort of turned the clock back on farming, in some ways, and it's working with nature, really.
That's how I see it.
'But elsewhere, food production is in crisis.
'We need to double the amount we grow in the next 50 years.
' I've never seen anything quite like that in my life.
'And I'm going on a worldwide journey 'to investigate one of the most controversial potential solutions.
' Let's see these top bananas! 'It's a journey that will take me from the most traditional farming systems ' It's unreal.
It's like going back in time.
to the cutting edge of genetic science.
' That's unbelievable.
Cathie, what have you done to these? Now, I love the way that I farm, but I am I am a realist and I realise that the way I produce food won't feed the world, and a lot of people think that the only way to do that is to use biotechnology, GM crops, and I'm not sure about that.
I don't know if it's safe or not, I don't know what the consequences are, but what if what if the answer to feeding the hungry is using biotechnology? Can GM crops save the world? So, I am actually now in the process of creating a genetically modified plant? Yes, you are.
My journey begins on the Argentinian pampas.
If you had to send me anywhere in the world, it would be here.
It's like a scene out of Bonanza.
It's brilliant, it's proper cowboy country.
This is my kind of farming - free-range cattle ranching on a massive scale.
It's got to be every boy's dream to do this.
The dust, the smell of the horses, these guys, and you really start to get I'm in Argentina.
This may seem a million miles from your local supermarket but the reason I've come to Argentina is to see a revolution that's happened to farming here.
It's a revolution that affects what we all eat.
And it's all down to these - genetically modified soya beans.
This single crop has made Argentina the GM capital of the world.
This doesn't look much at the moment because all the soya beans have been harvested, but you can imagine that this was just a huge field full of soya bean crop and, uniquely about this particular strain, is that it's been genetically modified to be resistant to a particular weedkiller, so you could put the weedkiller down, it kills all the weeds but not the crop.
And it's that fact that has led to a huge revolution in Argentina's agricultural output.
If you grow GM and ordinary soya side by side, it's impossible to tell the difference between them until you spray them with weedkiller.
This one small change means it's possible to grow the crop using less herbicide.
It's made soya farming much more profitable and I'm wondering if it's a technology that we should all adopt.
A lot of people, if they hear that, would think it's a bit strange because the way I farm.
You know, I'm all about traditional breeds, free range, that sort of whole wholesome thing, but in terms of science, and coming from a science background, I think the technology is fascinating and there needs to be lots of science done on GM so we've got a better understanding but I don't think it's right to straight away brush it aside as the devil's work because you can't have an opinion on something until you see all the facts, so I'm here to see the facts.
The first thing I want to see is the scale of the soya industry.
Oh, no! And to do that, I have to take to the air.
Oh, whoa! A dozen years ago, Argentina grew virtually no soya.
This year, over half their arable land, an area the size of Britain, will be planted with genetically modified soya beans.
Just below me here, all these huge fields are being prepared to sow the GM soya in, and the large-scale farmers have really benefited from the soya bean here because they get the most profit out of it when they grow it on this scale, and it is absolutely huge.
It is super-size farming.
I've never seen anything like it.
But there is a down side to the soya boom.
Huge areas of natural forest are being burned down and cleared to make way for more fields, and it's all being done to put food on our tables.
To see how the soya gets to us, I've come to the Vicentin processing plant Get out of the way! .
a vast factory where, every day, they take delivery of 20,000 tons of soya beans.
And this is what it's all about, the humble little soya bean, and what's inside it - the protein and the oil.
OK, this is Good lord, look at that.
The beans are ground up to produce soya meal.
It's the world's biggest source of vegetable protein and a vital component of animal feed.
I've never seen anything quite like that in my life.
It is just unbelievable.
It's like a volcano, it's like a mountain.
Yes, it's huge.
It's genetically modified soya like this that feeds the world's animals.
It could well have fed your Sunday roast and, without it, the world's livestock industry would collapse.
And this is all GM? It's all GM crops, yes.
Whether we like it or not, GM crops are already part of what we eat.
Look at that.
Ships coming in, all along here, they're loading up and clearing off, and they're going all round the world.
For me, it's blown me away a bit because I thought that GM was a bit on the periphery, but the globe is a consumer of GM soya, and it's funny because, you know, the people that think that GM doesn't affect the UK, it's quite naive thinking, that, and it's quite a revelation for myself because GM soya is going into animal feed, and I just wonder how many consumers in the UK have ever thought about indirectly eating GM food.
In countries like Argentina, the GM revolution is well underway but in Europe, the approach has been quite the opposite.
To shop in Britain, you'd never guess that nearly 10% of the world's crops are now GM because Britain has become a virtual GM-free zone.
I wouldn't normally go to a supermarket - this is the first time I've been in one for four years - but I've come here for a very special reason - to try and find some products which I can use to test British people's attitudes towards GM.
Well, most supermarkets in Britain are proudly GM free and they advertise the fact.
There's stuff labelled all over the place saying GM free and you have to look pretty hard to find anything that is made out of GM crops.
There we go sausages.
Wonder how many of the pigs were fed on GM soya.
This is what I'm after, tucked away in the world food aisle.
Vegetable cooking oil, and it's made out of genetically modified soya.
And this is probably one of the very few products in this whole supermarket that's got GM in it.
This is what I'm after.
The reason we don't have many GM products in our shops is supposedly because of public opposition, but are people really that anti-GM? I'm going to try and find out by asking the citizens of Norwich.
So, what we're doing here is, we're going to do a little comparison and see what people think of GM.
So I've got some sausages here.
One batch is cooked in non-GM oil, the other is cooked in GM soya oil, and we'll see what people think.
I've got a little experiment here.
I know that face.
I cooked this batch up in vegetable oil that's GM-free, the other one in GM cooking oil.
If I was to ask you which sausage do you like, GM or non-GM, what would it be? GM free.
GM free? Given the option, I'd go non-GM.
OK, why would you go non-GM? I don't think we should really be messing with things unless we absolutely have to.
I just don't like to think of things being too fiddled with, really.
Bit Frankenstein science? Yeah.
It's a bit new.
Maybe in 100 years, we'll know for sure it's safe or not safe.
Which one would you choose? The normal one.
The normal one, why? Because it's normal.
I don't like genetically modified crops or messing with Mother Nature.
Life is love, and messing around with love is not a good idea.
So, for you, messing around with the genetics is wrong? Is wrong.
The first thing that became very clear was that no-one wanted their sausages cooked in GM oil.
Ordinarily, I'd go for the GM free.
You'd go for GM free? Why would that be? Just prejudice, really, there's not a rational explanation for it.
But with a little information about the possible benefits of GM, most people were prepared to be more open-minded.
What if I said that this one could, potentially, the technology, could feed a lot of people round the world? Then I'd go for GM, I guess.
So this one could, potentially, be better for the environment, the GM one.
It could be better? Yes, because they use less pesticides on the land to grow this one, less herbicides on the land for this production system than the conventional one.
Well, then I would change my mind.
I'll go for a GM and eat it triumphantly.
It's perhaps not surprising that many people don't know what to think about GM.
There's been so many mixed messages about the subject.
Frankenstein food.
Customers loved it, actually.
Confusion and hysterics over genetically modified food The company Monsanto has launched a campaign to promote so-called GM foods.
It's time for us to say, "No, we don't want it " Genetic engineering could bring us healthier and cheaper foods For the past decade, a propaganda war has been waged over the advantages and dangers of GM.
Many people are using this research to continue the propaganda against genetically modified plants.
These crops offer us a safe, highly nutritious, affordable food While the pro side see it as a valuable tool that may help feed the world, the anti side see it as an unnecessary and potentially dangerous technology.
Clearly, the public are getting increasingly concerned about GM food.
It's something that we simply can't afford to take a risk about.
At times, the debate has resulted in confrontation.
In the late 1990s, a series of anti-GM protests destroyed experimental crops that were meant to test the technology.
It helped put an end to the planting of GM crops in Britain.
MAN SPEAKS IN GERMAN Elsewhere in Europe, the protest movement is alive and well.
Today, I've come to Bavaria, along with hundreds of activists from all over Europe who have come to protest at the planting of just a few small fields of GM maize.
Most, but not all of them, have come to protest peacefully.
The demonstration's sort of heating up at the moment and I've just got the nod that there's a small splinter group that are just going to veer off, and they are pretty determined to basically get into a field and physically remove the GM crop, and I can just see a movement.
There's a couple of girls and a guy in a white hat.
We've got to follow the guy in the white hat, so we've got to go.
Many of the protesters are farmers worried that the GM maize will contaminate their own crops, so they are determined to destroy the fields before they can flower and spread their pollen.
But to do that, they have to get past the police who have turned out in force to protect the crops.
As we make our way up, there's more and more police.
You can see these squad vans and there's more cop cars up there.
They all seem very peaceful, except something's happening.
HORNS BEEP All of a sudden, it's all kicked off and a whole group of people have sprinted off, and now they're going through this oilseed rape, heading towards the crop, and the police are pretty fast off the mark, so I think they're going to try and catch them.
THEY SPEAK IN GERMAN The police protect the GM field.
Why? Who is the criminal? We farmers and beekeepers, or the guys who who harvest and plant GM crops? I don't understand what the police is protecting here.
But it turns out the damage had already been done.
WOMAN SHOUTS IN GERMAN In a dawn raid, a separate group of saboteurs had managed to get into the field where they filmed themselves destroying the crop.
I don't know who's right and who's wrong, but it's obvious that this is the clash of two different worlds here .
and this is the result.
This is the battlefield.
For now, it seems pretty clear who's winning the battles.
Direct action like this, the work of a tiny group of activists, has had an enormous effect on the take-up of GM.
The threat of sabotage means that in many areas of Europe, few people are prepared to grow it.
I know this isn't an experiment, this is actually a cash crop, but even the experimental plots get pulled up, as well, which I don't know if that's the right thing to do because you can never understand what the consequences of GM are going to be unless you do the experiments.
I do have some sympathy with the anti-GM protesters but while I'm not sure we need GM crops, I'm also not convinced that they are as scary as they believe.
One thing I do know is that modifying plants is nothing new.
We have been doing it for thousands of years.
None of the crops or vegetables we grow are truly natural.
They're mutated forms of wild plants that have been selectively bred over thousands of years.
In some parts of the country, like up here on the white cliffs of Dover, Look, amongst all this grass here Now, this scruffy little plant here is, in fact, wild carrot, but to get at that, we're going to have to dig it up, and get this spade and dig in.
Now, you're not usually allowed to dig up wild plants but we have got special permission from the National Trust.
And in there .
is the wild carrot.
Now smells like carrot, and the leaves certainly do as well, but it's tiny, absolutely miniscule.
Imagine if you were going to chop that up and have it with your Sunday roast! Let's have a little taste Carroty flavour .
stringy slightly bitter quality to it.
I think I'll put that back in the ground! You can clearly see how much we've changed the carrots we buy in our supermarkets, but what I've really come here to find is an inconspicuous wild plant that has been bred over the centuries to become a huge part of our diet.
Here we go, this is what I'm looking for.
Now, this is wild cabbage and it grows all along here, and it's amazing that from this one plant, over hundreds of years of selective breeding, we've got a whole array of vegetables, and the first was this loose-leaf cabbage.
It's not a huge leap of imagination to see how that's changed but then we go on.
Different varieties of cabbage, like this crinkly leafed variety here, and then this densely packed cabbage, and that's just like a big bud, the But it's not just cabbage.
Broccoli cauliflower kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts have all been bred from wild cabbage.
They're all classified as the same species, but none of them could survive outside the protection of a farmer's field.
In the wild, plants produce bitter-tasting chemicals or have spines to protect themselves against predators, but for us humans to eat a plant like that, we don't want all that, so we've bred them over generations to get rid of all that, to produce vegetables like this, but, of course, we've rendered them defenceless so they only really survive if humans look after them and grow them.
If you think about it, man has been tinkering with plant breeding for thousands of years and all the crops that we grow and eat are basically man-made, so is GM just an extension of that process? Or is GM pushing the boundaries of nature too far? To find the answer, I've come to the John Innes Centre, one of the world's leading independent plant research institutes.
I trained as a scientist, so I've been in plenty of labs but it's my first time in one where they do genetic modification.
Hi, Wendy, I'm Jim.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
'I've come to see Wendy Harwood, who has promised to show me how the GM process works.
' People are obviously concerned about GM and is it good for you, is it bad for you, but there's a big gap in people's knowledge of what is GM.
I mean, basically, what is GM? GM is modifying a plant by taking a gene from somewhere else, so it could come from anywhere, and introducing that gene, that piece of DNA, into the plant.
We do that in order to change a particular trait in the plant.
So, absolutely anything that, that's living on the planet, we could take the genes from? In theory, yes, we could do, but in practice, most of the genes that we work with are plant genes going into a plant.
So you're taking genes from different species, different organisms and putting them together.
I mean, isn't that unnatural? It is a surprisingly natural technique, the method we're using, because we're actually using a natural bacteria called agrobacterium, but the amazing thing about this is that this bacteria has the ability to transfer a bit of its own DNA, its own genetic information, into the plant, and of course that's exactly what we want to do.
Agrobacterium is often referred to as nature's genetic engineer because that's what it does.
Normally, agrobacteria use their ability to infect plants to make them grow crown galls, the perfect habitat for the bacteria to live in.
Their secret lies in a ring of DNA called a plasmid.
This extra chromosome carries all the genes the bacteria need to infect the plant cells with a section of their own DNA.
In nature, the transferred genes turn the plant cells into factories for producing the bacteria's food.
What the scientists are able to do is remove and replace the bacterial genes.
Using this technique, it should be possible to put any gene into almost any plant.
The first step is to remove the embryos from the barley seeds.
Now, let's just try and get hold of this.
This is really fiddly, cos tiny, tiny little things we're dealing with, tiny seeds, and a little tiny embryo inside.
Swine! No Ah, put it in here? Yes, that's great.
'Then comes the vital stage of applying the bacteria with a drought-tolerant gene.
' OK, I need just a tiny drop? Yes.
On each one? Tiny drop on top of each each one of these.
So, I am actually now in the process of creating a genetically modified plant? Yes, you are, yeah.
That's huge.
It's getting bigger and bigger.
And that's that.
Well, that wasn't that difficult.
No, it's fairly straightforward.
I thought it was going to be a lot more complicated.
You imagine some sort of, you know, some sort of massive machine or highly technical It's actually quite simple.
Yeah, it's very simple.
As you said, it's using a natural process, using this bacteria, so it's very straightforward.
The process doesn't work on every embryo, but once they germinate, the seedlings that have incorporated the gene can be selected.
Right, OK, now we can see some later stages of the process.
They look different, don't they? There's green on that one.
The plants are developing, they're beginning to form roots and you've got strong little shoots.
This is it, this is the GM.
That is a little GM.
plant in here.
Yeah, GM barley plant.
A GM barley plant.
And so this barley plant in here should have resistance to certain plant stresses, including drought? Yes, that's right, yeah.
Wow! 'But as well as producing plants that may grow better, 'scientists also hope that GM can help produce food with real health benefits.
'Professor Cathie Martin is another scientist at the John Innes Centre.
'One of her latest creations is a startling-looking tomato.
' Wow, Cathie, what have you done to these? Unbelievable! The difference in colour! Normal tomatoes here, and then you've got these, that look like the most purple, deep-chocolate-y Maltesers.
What have you done? We've been engineering them to make them more nutritious, so a lot of berries contain high levels of pigments, which are called anthocyanins, which are very good for you, but people don't eat a lot of berries and they're quite seasonal, so we've been able to engineer high levels of the same compounds in these fruit, so that people can get the levels that they need, that they would otherwise get from blackberries and blackcurrants in tomatoes instead.
The whole idea is that we can help to protect people against certain major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, by providing dietary antioxidants.
Can I cut one of these open? Yeah, please do.
It's unbelievable.
Look at that colour! Just for a thing of beauty, they're amazing, aren't they? Well, they'd make quite a nice salad! I should prefer that colour.
I mean, when would people be able to start buying this crop here? When regulations allow us to do it, and that means that we have to go through a lot of tests because it's a genetically modified crop.
But conventionally, you don't need testing? It can go straight to the market and people can eat it? Yeah.
But yet you have to go through rigorous testing? Yes.
How does that make you feel? Because you've spent a lot of time doing this.
Um sanguine.
I want what I have produced to be useful and beneficial to people, but I want people to be reassured that they are safe to eat, and while there's concerns because they're genetically modified, then we should go through the appropriate testing.
Despite Cathie's hopes for her tomatoes, it's uncertain if they'll ever make it to market.
In 12 years, the EU have only licensed one GM crop to be grown commercially, and that's maize, like the variety I saw in Germany.
For now, at least, the scientists have lost the battle over GM in Europe.
'It's been won by anti-GM campaigners like Lord Peter Melchett, 'policy director of the Soil Association.
' Why don't you like GM crops? What have you got against GM? GM is a really uncertain, imprecise, risky technology, and you put it out into the countryside, into soil which we don't understand, where we haven't even identified everything that lives in it.
They don't know what they're doing, and we shouldn't take that risk.
That's my fundamental objection.
So, for you, it's an unknown? It's an uncertainty with tremendous risks attached to it, and it's something, you know, like grey squirrels, like the Romans releasing rabbits, once they're out there, you can't get it back.
And, for you, what are the potential risks for growing these crops in the wider environment? They reduce wildlife, there are real risks to human health which haven't been investigated, and there are risks to every other sort of farming that doesn't want to use GM because it's going to be contaminated.
It comes in and blasts away - organic, for example.
So you couldn't have GM farming in the village up the road, and then have organic farming next door? Not if they were growing the same crops as we were.
But if GM has the potential to help produce more food, shouldn't we investigate it further? No, we're facing completely different challenges now.
We're facing the challenge of climate change, incredible horrible problems we face, and we've got to really change the way we produce food radically.
GM has no part to play in that.
It's on the way out.
Good thing, too.
But there is a place you can go where attitudes to GM are very different.
In America, genetically modified crops have been widely planted for more than ten years.
So far I've seen different stories, in terms of GM.
I can see how it could offer great potential in the future.
I've seen how it has affected the country's economy.
You know I've seen a bit of the bad side but, for me, in theory at least, the science is absolutely amazing and it offers an element of hope, but there's a couple of things that really bug me.
One is the effect on human health over a long period, if we're eating the stuff, and two, the effect on the environment, which we don't really know about yet.
So I've come to the US of A, which is basically the homeland of GM crops, to find out a bit more, and I've heard that you can find GM crops growing in pretty unusual places.
In the heart of Pennsylvania, on America's east coast, live the Amish, a devout religious society whose way of life has been unchanged for decades.
It's unreal! no machine whatsoever, obviously no tractor or whatever.
It's like going back in time, going back 60-odd years.
The Amish are the epitome of sustainable farming.
Fugitives from religious persecution in 17th-century Switzerland, they settled in the US determined to preserve their way of life.
The Amish avoid most mod-cons.
Few of their homes have electricity, and they certainly don't watch television.
But that doesn't mean they're opposed to all new technology.
I'm here to see an Amish farmer called Gideon, and because of his religious beliefs, he can't be filmed directly in the face so we have to film him from behind, which is fine, but the unusual thing is, despite all that religious belief and not being filmed, he grows GM crops.
The machines that you use in the fields, they're all horse-drawn aren't they? There's no tractors used in the fields? No.
But I think a lot of people would find it surprising that you use GMOs Why do you use genetically modified organisms? We have to keep farming in a way that our farms are both profitable and practical.
As a church group, you know, we are not opposed to to GMOs.
It's just a tool that we're using in the same way that we use pesticides.
Pest control is important for all farmers, but especially so if you rely on horse-drawn machinery.
So some Amish farmers like Gideon grow a variety of corn known as BT, that's modified to resist insect attack, specifically from a caterpillar called the corn borer.
The corn borer is a major problem.
What's the consequence of it? Well, a corn borer is a worm or a caterpillar which will actually bore up through the stalk of the corn and weaken that stalk to the point where the top of the corn stalk is now dying.
So the heads of the corn would just drop off? They'll break off and hang there, and if you have a whole field like that, and you're wanting to harvest that with our harvesting methods, it's very tough, it's very hard work, so we will use this BT corn to make our harvesting methods more practical and easier.
And as you can see, we're getting very high yields and we're getting great returns per acre.
And for you, you know, working with the land, maintaining the soil, if you thought GMO crops were going to harm your soil, you wouldn't use them? No, we wouldn't.
If we would know this is going to harm our soil and our health, we would discontinue to use them.
We are committed to passing our farms onto our next generation and have them passing it on to the next generation.
We're not ruining our soils.
So what would you say to someone who'd say that, you know, the use of GMO crops is wrong, it's going to lead to an environmental disaster? I would probably say they're misinformed, they don't know what they're talking about.
That's short and blunt.
The GM revolution has already happened here.
It's not just the Amish.
They're really a tiny cog in the grand scheme of things.
American farmers plant more GM crops than anywhere else in the world.
One thing I've got from coming to the US is just realising the sheer scale of the farming here, in terms of GM, because 80% of the soya, the cotton and the corn is GM crops.
That's 55 million hectares turned over to GM plants and that tells me that, for the farmers, it's working.
They wouldn't be growing it if it didn't make economic sense for them.
And because the GM plants have been growing here for ten years, if there are any downsides to it, this is the place to find them.
One of the big fears about GM crops is the long-term effect they can have on the rest of the environment.
It's what spurred on the protesters in Germany, and to be frank, it worries me too.
So I've come to the deserts of Arizona.
In this one state, they plant nearly 60,000 hectares with GM cotton.
Like the maize the Amish grow, it has been modified with a BT protein to protect it from insect damage.
Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist at the University of Arizona, has spent the last decade studying the impact of GM cotton on the local insect populations.
Hi, you must be Bruce? Hey, nice to meet you.
I see you're trapping out here.
What are you collecting? We're collecting adult moths of the pink bollworm.
The name is from the caterpillars, and the caterpillars are pests of cotton that you see over here.
So what actual damage do these moths do to the crop? Well, it's not the moths that do the actual damage, but the females lay eggs on the cotton plants.
When the eggs hatch, caterpillars crawl out.
They bore into the bolls of cotton and they can completely destroy the yield of the cotton plants.
Wow, what a difference.
So, I mean, the key to controlling them, for you, is what? Now we have genetically modified cotton that produces a protein that kills the caterpillars, and before we had this, the farmers were spraying as many as six, eight, ten times a year with conventional insecticides to try to control this insect.
But now, with the genetically modified cotton, they hardly spray at all.
That's got to be good for the environment, surely? Absolutely.
It's good for the environment, good for farmer workers' health and it's good for their bottom line.
They save money.
Every year the farmers in Arizona are saving millions of dollars from the insecticide that they're not spraying on cotton that they used to.
It surprised me to find that GM crops can be better for the environment, but using so much less insecticide has got to be a good thing.
But there are also other concerns about GM crops' impact on nature.
One of the biggest is gene flow.
Pollen from GM plants can cross-fertilise other closely related species and can spread the modified genes into the environment.
Gene flow is a real concern, and there have been documented cases of it around the world.
So far, the insecticidal BT genes from GM cotton haven't crossed into wild plants, but the scientists have to consider the consequences if it does happen.
One possibility is that the wild plants would now be protected against certain insects, by the BT protein.
Now, depending on the nature of that wild plant, that could be a problem.
So this unbalancing the natural state of things - is this something that you'd worry about? It wouldn't be of primary concern.
I think that the way to think about it is to weigh the benefits against the risks, and so we have a known gain in reducing insecticide use, and we have a hypothetical problem, something that hasn't been seen yet.
I think, because it's a new technology, it's great to be vigilant and keep in mind potential negative consequences, but essentially there have been no health or ecological problems associated with growing GM crops, despite the fact they've been grown in dozens of countries now for more than a decade.
So do you think that GM crops could feed the world? I think GM crops can HELP to solve the problem of feeding the world, but certainly not alone.
I think we should think about producing food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and if GM crops can help us do that, then I see that as a benefit.
But the question that concerns me most about GM crops is, are they safe to eat? There are 300 million Americans who had better hope they're safe because they've been eating them for more than ten years, even though some worry they might cause allergies, or even cancer.
Doug Gurian-Sherman is a biologist from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organisation that campaigns for greater regulation of GM crops.
So we can do that with no problem.
Thank you.
Thank you.
In terms of GM, do you think the average American realises how much GM is in their food? Well, no, because for one thing, it's not labelled, so there's nothing to tell them that they're eating a GM food, so most Americans really don't know.
Well, in that case then I've got my lunch here, burger and chips.
Now, take me through this, and what has GM? Well, the fries will have been fried in oil that has a good chance of being genetically engineered from genetically engineered oil crops, like soya bean or corn.
The cheese, dairy cows are often injected with genetically modified growth hormone to increase their production, so that's likely modified.
The burger, if there's filler, soya extender, that would be genetically modified.
And these things? Well, those are corn fritters, so you're getting a high dose of it.
That's pretty much probably pure genetically modified corn.
And then, other things that we hope are not, like tomatoes, we grow in field trials where contamination is not monitored, but we have seen incidence of it, so it's even possible that through contamination, there could be some.
And what about the bread? The bread has got things probably like dairy products and soya lecithin and other things that come from genetically modified crops.
And what about if I was to put You're stuck there, too, because the sweetener in it is likely to be high-fructose corn syrup.
It's pretty much replaced sugar as our sweetening agent of choice because of low cost.
And what about the soda? Stuck there too, because you've got high-fructose corn syrup is the sweetener.
So there is no, really, escaping.
It's pretty tough.
And you're not If you don't know and if you're not paying close attention to it, you're inevitably going to be eating genetically modified ingredients.
So in terms of eating GM food, the sort of big burning question I've got, is it safe to eat it? Are there any dangers? Well, I try to avoid eating genetically modified crops, not because I think these crops are necessarily harmful, but because I'm not confident in their food testing enough to know and to be confident as to whether they are or not.
For example, in our Food And Drug Administration, there's no set tests, there's no long-term testing.
There's no required testing in animals to see if the animal is going to be harmed, which we can extrapolate potentially to humans.
And some people would say, "Well, we Americans have been eating this "for ten years and nobody's gotten sick.
" Well, for one thing, we clearly don't know that.
You cannot determine whether or not these crops are causing any harm unless you're going out and actively surveying the population and doing the right kind of studies.
Do you think we should turn our back on GM technology? Do you think it's too much to worry about? I think, until we have a safety testing regime in place for food safety, we should really slow down and think twice about commercialising these crops.
Despite Doug's fears, 50 scientific reviews have reached consensus that the GM crops currently on the market are safe.
But some GM varieties grown in the laboratory have caused allergic reactions in animals, and while any doubts remain, I wonder if it's worth taking the risk.
So far, when you look at the risks and who's taking the risks, compared to the benefits and who's getting the benefits, well obviously, straightaway the benefits are the large-scale farmers and the companies that are developing it.
They're getting the benefits.
The risks are taken by everyone that lives around the crops and eats the crops.
You know that's, that's an imbalance to me and if this technology is here, we're arguing and talking and discussing about this technology, and is it right, is it wrong, should it be here? It's here and I think the benefits need to be for the people who really need it.
If I could see people saying, "Do you know what? GM has changed my life.
"My children are fed, it's saved us.
" If I could see that, or the potential for that, then I don't know, you'd have to really question the downsides of it then.
I'm still not sure we need GM crops in the developed world.
Our farms are incredibly productive and no-one here is in danger of starvation.
But that's not true everywhere.
There are parts of the world where food production needs to increase dramatically.
I've come to Uganda, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the whole of Africa, but they still have it pretty tough compared to European standards.
But if you think about it, 1% of the UK's population is connected with primary food production, i.
, agriculture.
We have plenty of food in the shops and we never go starving.
Here in Uganda, 80% of the population are connected with farming and agriculture, yet they still go hungry.
African agriculture has been a disaster in the last 40 years.
While in the rest of the world, food production has increased by over 50%, in Africa, productivity has been steadily falling with the result that 30% of the African population is permanently undernourished.
No-one is suggesting that GM is the only solution to Africa's problems, but if GM technology is to be of benefit anywhere, it's here.
But what they need are improved varieties of local crops and in Uganda, the main source of food is the East African highland banana.
That's a great sound, isn't it? 'Many Ugandans, like Margaret Sejenda, are subsistence farmers.
'The bananas from her small plantation provide her food 'and most of her income.
' Look at that, you don't often see bananas in such big bunches, but this is such an important crop to Uganda.
I think the average Ugandan eats about 450 kilos a year, which is about 2,000 bananas per person, and they're completely different to the bananas we get at home.
We're used to bananas being soft and sweet, they're pretty tough, quite hard It's quite clayey.
That isn't very nice at all.
Yeah, you wouldn't want that in your packed lunch, really.
To make the bananas palatable, they need to be cooked, and preparing banana porridge, or matoke, is a daily ritual.
Would I make a good banana peeler? It's just You peel them just like a potato.
'The bananas are peeled and then steamed in their own leaves 'until they dissolve into a starchy mash.
' Excellent, so now that'll just cook, leave it.
'It's what most Ugandans eat for every meal.
' Now it's ready to eat, isn't it? It is ready for serving.
Wow, thank you.
OK, first, first matoke.
That's quite fibrous, isn't it? Lots of starch.
Can you put this in with the sauce? Yes.
I see, so it sponges up a lot of the flavour.
Oh, that's better.
But there is a problem with Uganda's bananas.
They're falling victim to disease.
Now this is a banana tree that's suffering from a disease called black sigatoka, and I can tell that, one, because it's got a tiny bunch of bananas compared to all the other trees around here, literally I'd say 50% less, which is incredible, and the way I can tell it's got black sigatoka is that this dry leaf here, I mean, look at that This leaf is completely dried out before the fruit is ripe.
So what that's doing is it's removing the only source of energy this plant has got.
It captures the sunlight in its leaves, converts it to starches and sugars that then go into the fruit.
Obviously if that's disabled, it can't produce enough fruit which is bad news for the farmer.
'Black sigatoka is threatening all Uganda's banana crop, 'with particularly serious implications for small farmers like Margaret.
' Sigatoka has infected all of these trees here, so it means this side of your plantation, the bananas you're not going to have many, are you? If you don't fight this disease, by within by three years in time, you will get no, we will be having no banana.
Really? Because they will go, then the harvest will be like this size and you see if you start getting this size from the farm, you'd be going Out of business.
The business will be going.
A strain of banana resistant to black sigatoka is desperately needed.
But because bananas are seedless and sterile, you can't cross-breed them and that makes developing new varieties very difficult.
One potential solution is to use GM techniques to insert the necessary genes into the bananas.
That's exactly what they're trying to do in the hills outside Kampala.
Here at the National Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Dr Wilberforce Tushemereirwe is running one of Africa's first GM trials.
I'm Jim.
Oh, good to meet you.
I've come to see your bananas.
You're welcome.
So tell me, when I look round here, coming through the facility, there's lots of gates and fences and you've got barbed wire.
Why have you got such security? We have a problem of people in the neighbourhood, farmers, sometimes the workers, wanting to steal the plants.
They come and pinch the plants? To smash them up because they don't want GM crops? No, no, no, they want to steal them to go and plant them.
Yes, they think the plants from the station are very good because we have picked good varieties from here.
So instead of coming to smash the plants up, they want to steal them to actually grow them? Yes, yes.
Farmers know that the solutions will come from the station and their problems are really immense.
Well, let's see them, then.
You are welcome to the trial.
Let's see these top bananas.
In the trial plot, GM and ordinary bananas are grown side by side to see how they compare.
It's hoped that the GM plants will remain uninfected, as they have been enhanced with a fungal-resistance gene from a surprising source.
We have picked a gene that confirms resistance in rice.
So you've taken a gene from the rice plants and put it into the banana? Yes.
And that gives it the resistance? That gives it the resistance because rice itself resists this disease.
But isn't there conventional ways of controlling black sigatoka so you don't have to use GM? Like fungicides? Yes, you could use the fungicide but in our circumstances, like in Uganda, fungicides would be too expensive for farmers to afford.
Let me say, maybe in Uganda there might be some crops where genetic engineering is not necessary, but there are some crops where genetic engineering is a must, and banana is one of them.
The first results are expected in May.
But even if the trials are successful, it will be at least ten years before the first GM bananas can be grown by Ugandan farmers.
They could be a real shot in the arm for African agriculture but they also need to be approved by their policy-makers who have shown signs of adopting European attitudes towards GM.
The attitude in Europe has negatively influenced our planners, some of our policy-makers, to believe that maybe there is something wrong with genetic engineering, and we feel that is very unfortunate, because the needs of Africa are different from the needs of Europeans.
In Europe, you have too much food, you have plenty of food and many options, but in Africa we have a shortage of food.
We need to increase food.
The population is going up, productivity is going down.
It's a very serious situation we face in the future.
The effects of European attitudes on African policy The effects of European attitudes on African policy was seen most starkly during the southern African famine of 2002.
With millions at risk of starvation, thousands of tons of GM maize sent from the US sat unused, rejected by four governments who believed the GM seed would contaminate their fields.
The president of Zambia even suggested it might be poisonous.
We would rather starve than get something which is going to be toxic.
But this was the same grain that the Americans had been happily eating for years.
It was a reminder of the global nature of the world food trade, and how the decisions we make about what we grow can have life-or-death impacts elsewhere.
My trip round Uganda has been fascinating because for the first time I've seen the application of GM technology, where it's potentially put more food on the table, which is fantastic.
In terms of GM bananas, it could increase their production by 60%, so imagine what this technology could do in the future for the whole of Africa? I mean it could put a lot more food in people's bellies.
But if this technology is all it's meant to be and delivers all it's promised to do, it's a bit sad that Europeans' views of it could stunt the development of where it's most needed, in countries in Africa.
Come on! My journey into the world of GM has been a real eye-opener, and the one thing that stands out for me is how it's an issue that's divided the world.
In Europe, people are prepared to take the law into their own hands to protest against the technology.
But in much of the rest of the world, they're planting it on more and more land each year.
But which is the right way to go? I don't think the crops that are being grown at the moment are going to save the world.
They're good for farmers and they're good for profits, but while there are lingering doubts about GM, we need to proceed very carefully.
But we do need to proceed.
The prospects of food that could help prevent cancer, or resist drought or even disease, show the potential that GM technology could have.
I think it's madness that we turn away from this technology.
It's maybe not here at the moment but 10, 15, 20, 50 years' time, I mean that technology could be so useful.
I mean, it has great potential to feed the hungry but that will only ever happen if we carry out some experiments and I think if you're for GM or against it, surely you've got to be FOR understanding.
Whatever your argument is, you've got to be into finding out, knowledge, and without testing, we'll never know.
We'll live in the darkness.
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