Pollan: GM debate will be dead within the decade


Food activist Michael Pollan says the GM debate will be dead within a decade.

The discussion about genetically modified crops – a lifeline for sustainable agriculture and the world’s swelling population, or a poisonous invasion of the food chain led by greedy, multinational seed monopolies, depending on who you listen to – will be dead in ten years, according to journalist and food activist Michael Pollan.

Pollan, who addressed a full house at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday night, said anticipated GM breakthroughs – particularly higher crop yield – hadn’t born fruit.

“Most people don’t realise that GM doesn’t increase yield of most crops,” he said.

“We’re yet to see the GM product that the computer people would call the ‘killer app’.”

Pollan, who ruminated on issues such as the value of localising diet and the role of supermarkets in mainstreaming organic produce, said conventional breeding had achieved more gains in terms of improved crop yield.

He pointed out that scientists who worked for Monsanto Company in the United States, which is now one of the world’s largest producers of GM seed, were once bullish about GM advances that could be made. These days, they had little to say on the matter.

“None of their earlier thoughts have turned up. I think it’s been harder than they thought,” he said.

“In ten years we won’t be talking about it [GM]. It hasn’t been that successful.”

Pollan said he didn’t believe GM food was “fundamentally evil”. However, it should be adequately labelled.

The contradiction in the argument that GM crops were advantageous was that producers weren’t willing to be transparent in food labeling.

“If it’s so good, tell us about it,” he argued.



Filed under Food Issues

17 responses to “Pollan: GM debate will be dead within the decade

  1. milkmaidmarian

    Interesting blog post, thanks! We’re not allowed to use GM feed for our dairy cows but I’ve often wondered which is lesser of the two evils – the extra chemicals needed for conventional cropping or the GM factor.


  2. Snap, Rachel! I flew to Melbourne to see him in a full house there. It’s good to see he varied his talk as he focussed largely on the scourge of nutritionism in Melbourne. There is no doubt that he has done much to generate discussion around food, food production and big food in the last few years. It’s good to see!


    • He’s certainly an engaging speaker.
      He covered off a good half dozen topics, but he had a good interviewer in Rebecca Huntley.
      I’m glad the Melbourne event was similarly successful.


  3. Interesting! I guess we would hear more about it if it were successful. Food discussions are so interesting and yet they are so important too.


  4. Sounds so very interesting. Before reading this and Amanda’s posts, I had not heard of the guy. I know, where have I been!!!


  5. Shirley

    I hope he’s right! In the short-term our food future is not looking too healthy with the GM food approvals in the pipeline. Google FSANZ Application A1073 for the latest GMO “food” pending approval: soybean genetically engineered with triple-stacked genes to tolerate three chemicals 2,4-D, glufosinate ammonium and glyphosate. Also see Applications A1042 and A1046: double-stacked GMOs already approved for consumption in Australia and NZ.


  6. Shirley this is so horrendous to contemplate, and I hope Milk Maid Marion is reading your and Nick Sattar’s great posts .


    • I’ve been astounded in the past at the GM applications going through FSANZ and it’s so difficult to understand some of the information.
      I stumbled across it a while back when i was undertaking some research and always meant to go back and try to absorb it. I must admit, i was scared off and haven’t been back since. I’d love to get to the bottom of it all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s