Governments using flawed food production data to justify GM expansion

Governments and pro-agribusiness groups are using flawed data on food production requirements to push for an expansion of GM food crops, claims a new report from the Soil Association.

According to organic charity the future direction of food and farming both in the UK and globally is being driven almost entirely by two frequently quoted statistics. It says experts such as the UN Secretary General as the UK Government’s chief scientist, along with the environment secreatry, Hilary Benn MP, the Conservative Party, the National Farmers’ Union and Monsanto, are united in saying that food production must rise 50% by 20390, or that it needs to double by 2050.

But the Soil Association claims these widely used statistics are based on a “big fat lie” Telling porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production, says those claiming we need to double global food production by 2050, or 50% by 2030, are “wrong about the figures, are wrong about what the figures apply to, and are wrong to claim that achieving these figures will mean we will feed the hungry or end starvation”.

The report traces the doubling claim back to a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. But using the FAO’s own figures, the Soil Association says the forecast increase needed in production would be closer to 70% by 2050, not 1200%. Furthermore, it reveals that the scientific paper which the ‘50% by 2030’ claim is based on appears to have been withdrawn by the authors.

In a statement, the Soil Association says: “These apparently scientific statistics are leading to an assumption that we need vast increases in agricultural production to feed the projected population of 9 billion by 2050. Many commentators are using this inflated claim to justify the need for more intensive agricultural practices and, in particular, the need for further expansion of GM crops.”

Commenting on report’s findings, Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “The ‘big fat lie’ of needing to double global food production by 2050 has dominated policy and media discussions of food and farming, making it increasingly difficult for advocates of sustainable farming methods, such as organic, to convince people we can actually feed the world without more damage to the environment and animal welfare.

“Many of those misusing the statistics in the FAO paper to argue for massive increases in food production in both UK and globally, appear to be unaware that they are in effect condemning many in developing countries to ill-health and early deaths, because they assume the spread of our unhealthy, Western diet to developing countries. In addition, these projections assume an increase of over a billion cattle, which would lead to massive increases in emissions of global warming gases.”