"Green wall of silence"


04 September 2023
Organic and environmental groups raise concerns regarding biological controls.

RISKS and concerns surrounding bacteria-based biological solutions have been highlighted in a new report by Friends of the Earth.

The report entitled ‘Genetically Engineered Soil Microbes: Risks and Concerns', references a ‘green wall of silence' associated with lack of transparency and regulation in the application of GE microbes and a need for the UK Government to impose legislation for clear labelling on foods that use GE products.

The Organic Farmers and Growers group says the report highlights "huge practical and ethical concerns" regarding biological controls.

OF&G's Chief Executive Roger Kerr said scientists currently understand little or nothing of more than 99% of the billions of microbial species found in soil, and their complex inter-relationships with other living organisms.
The passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 earlier this year gave a green light to pesticide and biotech companies to develop and release genetically edited (GE) microbes, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi found in soil, with the aim of enhancing agricultural capabilities.

A similar practice is being commercially used across farmland in the US.

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Friends of the Earth and OFG believe the emergence of a GE approach that alters essential biology raises major concerns and Roger believes it paves the way for ‘regenerative greenwashing'.

"We're all now well versed in the damage caused by traditional pesticides and fertilisers that were marketed as ‘completely safe'. The same level of corporate involvement in promoting these so called ‘precision-bred organisms' (PBOs) is frankly terrifying," he said. "We must be extremely circumspect about their use."

He said regenerative farming is not regulated and "wide-open to unscrupulous commercialisation".
"Without a strong regulatory framework to assess the long-term outcomes of introducing GE microbes, the unintended consequences could be catastrophic. If things do go wrong, it's almost impossible to detect these organisms, let alone retrieve them," he said. "To reverse climate change and biodiversity loss, we need a transformational shift. Adding GE microbes to an already-failing industrial farming system by tricking them to act more like chemicals doesn't harness the true power of the natural world, it further perverts and violates it.

"The FOE report clearly and repeatedly advocates for organic farming practices which it states are already scientifically proven to ‘achieve the benefits that proponents of GE microbes claim for the technology'. If we blindly pursue the GE dream and fail to call out the barefaced regenerative greenwashing in the sector, we risk unleashing an irreversible disaster. If we are to truly meet the challenges ahead there must be a massive shift towards genuine sustainable farming practices with strong and clear ethical and environmental protection for us all." 

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