Tuesday, August 25, 2015 by Greg White
More and more evidence is mounting that non-genetically-modified crops are healthier and more sustainable than GM crops. That is at least the conclusion of a provocative new study published in the journal Food Policy, which found that non-GM soybean meal chains are better for both farmers and the environment in comparison to GM soybean meal chains.
Soy is a particularly important crop when it comes to Brazil’s family farms. More than one-third of Brazil’s soybean crops come from family farms. Brazil’s family farms tend to be very small, ranging from 5 to 20 hectares. They are responsible for growing a variety of products, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and livestock. They also happen to be one of the biggest suppliers of GM soy and non-GM soy in the world.
Many countries rely on Brazil for their soy. Although Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers of GM and non-GM crops, the biotechnology behemoth Monsanto has faced difficulties marketing their seed in some regions of the country. Some health-conscious countries, like some in Europe, have tried to block GMO products because of health and environmental concerns.
Soybeans aren’t a common side dish at the dinner table, but many people do indirectly consume them. Soybeans are crushed into animal feed, which is consumed by animals that we end up eating. The fat in soybeans is also used in many vegetable oils.
Monsanto’s infamous Roundup Ready soybeans, which are genetically engineered to withstand Monsanto’s flagship herbicide, are contaminated with significantly more herbicide residue than non-GM soybeans. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. Glyphosate-resistant crops were ostensibly intended to reduce herbicide use; however, due to a spike in resistant weeds, herbicide use has actually increased in glyphosate-resistant crops. Multiple scientific studies have found that glyphosate is linked to a host of health problems, including cancer, nerve damage and birth defects. For this reason, many consumers are opting for non-GM soybean.
The authors of the study wanted to compare the sustainability of different crops so that business stakeholders could improve food production, consumers could demand food that is environmentally friendly, and policy makers could intervene to meet the demands for food from a global perspective.
The researchers assessed the relative sustainability of two Brazilian meal chains: non-genetically-modified (non-GM) soybean and genetically modified (GM) soybean. The authors of the study found that non-GM soybean had a lower use of biocides, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in comparison to GM soybean. In addition, the researchers found that non-GM soybean made a higher profit than GM soybeans. Due to this, the researchers concluded that the non-GM soybean meal chain was more sustainable than the GM soybean meal chain.
“Our results show that the non-GM soybean meal chain is more sustainable than the GM chain. Quantity differences (TFP component) include a lower use of biocides, i.e. pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, in the non-GM chain. The main price difference (TPR [Total Price Recovery] component) is associated with the price premium paid per ton of non-GM soybean meal, which reflects consumer preference for non-GM products,” concluded the authors of the study, as reported by GMWatch.org.
In addition to having lower amounts of pesticides and higher price premiums, non-GM soy is more nutritious than GM soy. Organic soybeans tend to have significantly more zinc and protein than GM soybeans. Furthermore, according to another study, non-GMO crops use 30 percent less fossil fuel energy and conserve more water than conventional farming.
The study adds further evidence that non-GM soybean crops are more sustainable than GM soybean crops. The authors of the study added that their comparative analysis of GM crops versus non-GMOs should be extended to other major soybean producers, including China, Argentina and the United States.