He's at it again. More anti-science drivel. The Telegraph just reported Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest-ever environmental disaster. This from a twit who thinks that crops should be planted according to astrological signs. Someone who believes homeopathy works. Sigh. Here he goes:
[Prince Charles] accused firms of conducting a "gigantic experiment I think with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong".
"Why else are we facing all these challenges, climate change and everything?".
Well, it's certainly not because of GM crops that have only been planted for, oh, the last ten years or so. So really no connection there. It gets worse though:
"Look at India's Green Revolution. It worked for a short time but now the price is being paid.
"I have been to the Punjab where you have seen the disasters that have taken place as result of the over demand on irrigation because of the hybrid seeds and grains that have been produced which demand huge amounts of water.
Without the green revolution he would have been seeing instead, starvation on a massive scale. Would he prefer that? Only worked "for a short time"? Like 40 years? Easy to say when you've never faced starvation, or even moderate hunger.
What follows would be comical, if this nonsense wasn't getting so much publicity:
"Look at western Australia. Huge salinisation problems. I have been there. Seen it. Some of the excessive approaches to modern forms of agriculture."
But this is not a result of the dreaded GM. As was reported by EMBO in PubMed, Salt of the Earth:
[Secondary salinisation] is particularly true for Western Australia, where the fundamental cause of salinity is the replacement of perennial, deep-rooted native vegetation with shallow-rooted annual crops such as wheat. The problem is further exacerbated by primary salinisation where salt in sea spray is carried inland by prevailing winds and deposited by rainfall at a level of up to 200 kg/ha/year in some coastal areas. [My bold.]
So it's not GM that is causing the salinization, it's growing non-indigenous crops. Admittedly that may be a product of over aggressive modern farming, but certainly not GM. In fact, as suggested by the above report, GM may actually be able to help, by engineering crops that are not only resistant to high salt levels, but that may actually remove excessive salt from the ground:
‘this is potentially a very important discovery which suggests that under the high salt growth conditions used by Blumwald, over-expression of a single protein can produce salt tolerant plants which retain the ability to produce edible crops’. Not only do the tomatoes thrive in the saline conditions, they also actively take up excess salt into their leaves. The possibilities, therefore, for bioremediation are obvious and indeed, Blumwald revealed that results in press show that plants can accumulate up to 6–7% of their dry weight as sodium. ‘A farmer can clean the soil, grow a crop and make a profit all at the same time’ [My bold.]
So GM could be a solution to the salinization problem in Western Australia then? Well, not exactly since in 2004, Western Australia banned all GM crops. Hum. So why does Charles think GM is responsible for the salinization? Oh I forgot. GM opponents don't need a rational reason to be against GM. And for proof of that you have to look no further than the last three paragraphs of The Telegraph article:
Only two weeks ago British GM researchers lobbied ministers for their crops to be kept in high-security facilities or in fields at secret locations across the country to prevent them from being attacked and destroyed.
They spoke out after protesters ripped up crops in one of only two GM trials to be approved in Britain this year.
Scientists claim the repeated attacks on their trials are stifling vital research to evaluate whether GM crops can reduce the cost and environmental impact of farming and whether they will grow better in harsh environments where droughts have devastated harvests.
And there you have it. GM opponents are not interested in any actual tests to see if GM is safe or not. On the contrary, they want to sabotage the trials - any trials - that might just possibly contradict their religious insistence that all GM farming must immediately stop. Any person genuinely interested in the truth about GM would welcome more independent scientific trials that would let us learn more about GM technology - both the good and the bad. Anyone genuinely interested in the truth about GM would not be frightened by what such trials might reveal. GM opponents are just plain anti-science - they start with the conclusion they want and then go look for the evidence to fit. Rarely a reliable method. And Prince Charles, with this ignorant tirade, just fuels more nonsense.
Charles is quoted in the article saying, "if that is the future, count me out." If only we could, Charlie, if only we could.
Update August 14
See today's rebuttal from the Financial Times. Especially see the last three paragraphs where they skewer both his Indian and his Western Australian scare nonsense.