“BIODIVERSITY AND BIOSAFETY KEY TO FOOD SECURITY” “TRANSGENICS WILL NOT MEET OUR FOOD SECURITY NEEDS”

National Seminar on GM Crops and Food Security asks for a Biosafety Law to be enacted

 New Delhi / Ahmedabad, February 15, 2013: The 2-day national seminar on “GM Crops and Food Security” jointly organized by Jatan Trust, Gujarat Vidyapith and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh concluded in Ahmedabad today by calling for a Biosafety Law to be enacted in the country. Speakers emphasized on Biodiversity and Biosafety being key to food security of the country, whereas the current aggressive promotion of transgenic crops is jeopardizing this.

Speaking on democratizing the debate and decision-making around GM crops, Kartikeya Sarabhai of CEE (Centre for Environment Education) pointed out that debate on GM crops cannot be just about production and yields, and that the discourse around food security as well as GM crops has moved on. “The debate on GM crops is around sustainability of farm livelihoods, sustainable use of environmental resources, control over critical resources like seed resting with community, farmers and consumers having a choice, socio-cultural and ethical issues to be addressed and so on. Talking about GM crops only in the context of improving yields is inadequate and inappropriate”. He stressed upon the need for an informed debate in which all citizens should be able to engage, since this is a matter pertaining to something as fundamental as Food. He pointed out that creating a debate is not about being “anti-science”, but asking for holistic science. A multi-disciplinary approach, which includes social sciences, is needed, since this is about livelihoods and development, he stressed. He called for independent studies and said that research approvals should be conditional on making the findings public.

Earlier inaugurating the seminar, Sri Mohini Mohan Mishra, National Secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said that in all his travels across the country and meeting farmers, he has realised that they aspire for their control over the very basic resources of farming – soil, water and seed. “In BKS, we believe that India does not need GM crops. Unfortunately, farmers have become victim of glorified propaganda of the Biotech industry. It is a pity that today non-Bt Seeds of Cotton are not available in the market”, he said.

Dr M H Mehta, former VC of Gujarath Agriculture University (GAU) and Chair of Science Ashram, speaking at the seminar, stressed on the need for focusing on economical and environmental friendly model of agriculture to feed the hungry. This will need an agro-ecological approach and not a GM crop based model. He pointed out that while science and technology need to be encouraged, any technology needs to be holistically viewed and the overall consideration of public good and wisdom must prevail.

Explaining how woefully inadequate the GM crop risk assessment is in India, Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign pointed out that our testing systems are simply not stringent enough and even the prescribed procedures are not followed by the companies or universities. Many scientific studies, including the ones conducted by the biotech companies themselves have shown adverse impacts on health and environment. In India, when the biosafety data of Bt brinjal was brought into the public domain, the inadequacy of the tests and the carelessness of the scientists doing the research, and the regulators reviewing biosafety came to the fore. This is not the way to do science, she stated.

Dr Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, presenting a fact sheet on issues related to Food Security in India, emphasized that there is enough evidence to say confidently that if land use planning is rationalized, land ownership issues are resolved, appropriate agronomical practices are introduced, nature’s own resources are used as farm inputs, the world can produce enough for the growing population.

Speaking on “Science & Technology for Food Security”, Dr Rajeswari Raina of NISTADS (National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, which is a science policy institute of CSIR) pointed out that what we need is “good science”. She explained that ‘good science’ is one that works towards economic, ecological and social progress, something that can tell us whether the existing evidence is enough or not, in terms of risk and impact assessment related to technologies like GM, in addition to giving due recognition and space to other knowledge domains and cultural values that ‘formal science’ has not studied thus far.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, said, “Transgenic technology is an unnecessary risk and costly distraction, while solutions for issues in our farming lie elsewhere. In the name of public sector research, resources are being mis-utilised, while something inherently unsafe will remain unsafe, whether it is from the private sector or the public sector”.

Dr Minoo Parabia, renowned botanist, biodiversity expert and Member of State Biodiveristy Board made a presentation on the rich biodiversity of Gujarat, including agro-diversity and expressed caution against transgenics. Dr Atul Mehta, senior rice breeder pointed out that while GM crops are being aggressively pushed, need assessment is sadly lacking, by presenting data of past 50 years to show that pest incidence (stemborer) on rice was low even though corporations are trying to push Bt rice as a solution for a problem that does not exist.

Speaking on the faulty framework of the proposed Biosafety Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA showcased how improvements in the regulatory regime over the years will be lost if BRAI Bill is allowed to be enacted. “Sustained civil society action, including judicial activism, in addition to the Bt brinjal public debate led by Mr Jairam Ramesh, the then MoEF, brought in some improvements; through the BRAI Bill, the Government of India is trying to lower the regulatory bar which is objectionable and unacceptable”, she said.

Earlier, latest scientific evidence related to adverse impacts of GM crops were shared by Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India. The Seminar also had presentations from the Biotech seed industry representatives, who presented on Bt Cotton in India and GM crop adoption in other countries. Participants of the seminar also included senior scientists from agriculture universities of the state, civil society members, seed and food industry representatives, members of various farmers’ unions and government officials, in addition to Members of the State Biodiversity Board.

For more information, contact:

Kapil Shah: 094-270-54132

Sridhar Radhakrishnan: 099-953-58205

Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550

Seed Giants vs US Farmers

As Challenge over Seed Rights Approaches Supreme Court, New Report Exposes Devastating Impact of Monsanto Practices on U.S. Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 12, 2013 – Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds Investigate Role of Seed Patents in Consolidating Corporate Control of Global Food Supply

Today, one week before the Supreme Court hears arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save our Seeds (SOS) – two legal and policy organizations dedicated to promoting safe, sustainable food and farming systems – will launch their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers. (download)

The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.

Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  “Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain.”

Among the report’s discoveries are several alarming statistics:

  • As of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states.
  • Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
  • Seed consolidation has led to market control resulting in dramatic increases in the price of seeds. From 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; for cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent.

The report also disputes seed industry claims that present seed patent rules are necessary for seed innovation.  As Bill Freese, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety and one of the report’s contributors notes:  “Most major new crop varieties developed throughout the 20th century owe their origin to publicly funded agricultural research and breeding.”

Additionally, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers reports a precipitous drop in seed diversity that has been cultivated for millennia. As the report notes:  86% of corn, 88% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans farmed in the U.S. are now genetically-engineered (GE) varieties, making the option of farming non-GE crops increasingly difficult.

While agrichemical corporations also claim that their patented seeds are leading to environmental improvements, the report notes that upward of 26 percent more chemicals per acre were used on GE crops than on non-GE crops, according to USDA data.

Further, in response to an epidemic of weed resistance to glyphosate, the primary herbicide used on GE crops, Dow AgroSciences is seeking USDA approval of “next generation” corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, an active ingredient in Agent Orange.  Monsanto is seeking approval for GE dicamba-resistant soybeans, corn, and cotton.

At the launch of the report via teleconference today, experts from the Center for Food Safety and Save our Seeds were joined by Mr. Vernon Hugh Bowman, the 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer who, next week, will come up against Monsanto in the Supreme Court Case.  When asked about the numerous comparisons being drawn between his case and the story of David and Goliath, Mr. Bowman responded, “I really don’t consider it as David and Goliath. I don’t think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong.”

In December of 2012, the Center for Food Safety, and Save Our Seeds submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Bowman, which supports the right of farmers to re-plant saved seed. Arguments in the case are scheduled for February 19th.

For the full report: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf

More information on the CFS and SOS can be found at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

 

GM crops: Promises outweigh perils?

President of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh in Gujarat, Maganbhai Patel, ardently opposes cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in India. But on his farm in Modasa (Sabarkantha), Maganbhai harvests castor, groundnut, potatoes and well, BT Cotton, too. In a long comment on why GM crops need to be avoided at all costs, he said that after a decade of BT Cotton in Gujarat, multiple reports reveal per hectare yield is falling and fertilizer costs increasing.

However, when asked why he cultivates Bt Cotton, he says: “My dear, I don’t have an option. In
Gujarat, it is difficult to get any good quality non-Bt cotton seeds.”

Approximately 97% of seven million bales of cotton produced in Gujarat are from the genetically-modified seed. This cash crop has virtually swept Gujarat’s countryside in the last decade. Going by the increase in per hectare yield of cotton and, therefore, of huge profits, Gujarat farmers with an entrepreneurial bent of mind are now keen to experiment with more GM crops. But as anyone who has even a slim understanding of the issue will agree, this is fraught with dangers.

For the uninitiated, the Union ministry of environment and forest refused to allow the harvesting of GM crops in India after an elaborate public hearing process across the country three years ago. On Saturday, the country ‘celebrated’ three years of moratorium on Bt Brinjal.

The subject has always provoked contentious debates. In recent times, GM crops have been debated as much globally as in India, following a turnaround by the European anti-GM activist, Mark Lynas, who has ‘unconditionally’ withdrawn his crusade against the controversial technology.

Besides, field trials have been stopped in the country for now following concerns about the technology raised by the Supreme Court-appointed technical experts committee. And that perhaps explains the urgency to this debate right now.

A ‘National Seminar on GM crops and Food Security – Issues and Prospects’ has been organized on February 14-15 at Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad. Further, the theme of National Science Day on February 28 this year is ‘GM Crops and Food Security – Issues and Prospects’.

The government is confused, scientist are divided, the anti-GM lobby is gaining traction amid the chaos, and seed marketing companies are getting desperate.
The international media is abuzz with debates, and true enough, this has trickled down to Gujarat as well. In a way, Gujarat has been the laboratory of GM crops in India, with the apparent runaway success of Bt Cotton mentioned earlier. If the fears related to genetically-modified food have any basis, Gujarat will be among the first states to be severely affected.Over and above the proliferation of Bt Cotton in our food chain through cattle feed and cottonseed oil, reports of multiple field trials of GM Maize, Brinjal and unconfirmed reports on GM Rice have come in.
Anand Agriculture University conducted field trials of Maize in 2011-12 and Brinjal 2009-10. Activists claim more field trials could have taken place “clandestinely directly with the farmer.” Without scientific monitoring and regulation, open field trials pose the danger of contaminating the surrounding fields and damaging the local ecology.

There is a very vocal section of activists who doubt the technology and actively campaign against it. Three years ago, they tasted victory in the moratorium on Bt Brinjal and, along with it, other GM crops as well. Their argument is that the technology claims to address the problem of low productivity but raises serious concerns about the technology’s long-term impact on human health, sustainability, ecology and environment.

Director of Center for Environment Education Kartikeya Sarabhai rues the fact that in India the debate about GM food is going back to the basics of productivity after reaching a certain level of maturity during the Bt Brinjal consultation process. “It has come back to productivity but that is not the only concern. There is tremendous pressure to restart this debate and I would wish the debate includes bio-safety, environment and ecological vulnerability, long term cost-benefit analysis, farmers’ independence and dependence on multi-national companies for GM seeds,” he said. CEE was the central monitoring authority for organizing public hearings across the country led by the then MoEF, Jairam Ramesh.

A very proactive anti-GM crusader in Gujarat, Kapil Shah of Vadodara-based Jatan Trust, claims the whole argument that people will go hungry if GM crops do not come to the rescue of human kind, is extremely exaggerated.

“The problem basically is of wastage, storage and distribution of farm produce. Every day we hear cases of tons of food grains going waste because of hoarding by big corporate houses with the help of politicians. Food scarcity is an artificially created phenomenon. 85% of GM maize goes for industrial use. According to data in the public domain, 12% people in United States faced food insecurity before GM crops were introduced; after GM, 15% people face food insecurity,” he said.

Seed marketing companies and pro-GM crusaders like Lynas quote ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ to defend their position. However, Shah instantly picks a hole in this argument claiming,“We want to believe science, but a close scrutiny invariably reveals they have been compromised. We are open to science, but it fails to reassure us that it is an unbiased independent opinion,” he says.

http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report_gm-crops-promises-outweigh-perils_1798675

Battle lines harden over GM crops

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130209/jsp/nation/story_16541614.jsp#.URdabR1ciYV
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

New Delhi, Feb. 8: The biotechnology industry and an environmental group have hardened battle lines over the future of genetically modified food crops in India on the third anniversary of the indefinite moratorium on GM brinjal imposed by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

The agricultural group of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE) today said it was “disappointed over the continued delay” on GM brinjal, and warned the government’s “indecisiveness” was making it difficult for the industry to continue investing in research.

The agricultural focus group of ABLE has urged the Union government to end the moratorium on GM brinjal to draw benefits from crop biotechnology.

Sections of scientists believe India will need to quickly adopt GM crops to boost production despite land shortages and climate and environmental stresses.

But an environmental group campaigning against GM crops said there was substantial evidence from several countries to suggest that the adoption of GM crops “has not meant greater improvements in food security”.

The group that calls itself the Coalition for a GM-free India said multiple factors influenced food security and figures from many countries suggested there was little correlation between GM crops and food security.

“Argentina is the third-largest grower of GM crops but has seen no significant difference in its hunger situation during its years of expanding GM crops,” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convenor of the coalition.

“While Brazil, the second-largest grower of GM crops, shows a decline in hunger, the pace of this decrease has decelerated during the years when area under GM crops expanded,” he added.

But crop biotechnologists say there is ample evidence GM crops have benefited both farmers and nations. “(GM) cotton has completely transformed India’s cotton industry,” said Seetharama Nadoor, executive director of ABLE’s focus group on agriculture.

“(GM) cotton has been one of the most rapidly adopted crops in the country, a great example of the potential. If we are to become globally competitive in agriculture, predictable regulatory frameworks that support research and timely approvals are critical,” Nadoor said in a statement today.

Ramesh had on February 9, 2010, imposed an indefinite moratorium on the release of GM brinjal after examining documents submitted by sections of the industry as well as several scientists who had urged caution and sought more rigorous evaluation of GM food crops before their release.

But sections of the biotechnology industry have consistently argued the decision to impose the moratorium was “not based on science”.

In October last year, the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister had released a statement that seemed to question the moratorium imposed on GM brinjal.

The council had said India would need to adopt a “judicious blend” of traditional breeding and GM technology to combat land shortages, low productivity, drought and post-harvest losses.

Farmer unions speak out in Hyderabad on GM crops on National Food Safety Day

On National Safe Food Day (Feb 9, 2013), Farmer Unions and Civil Society groups in Hyderabad declare that GM crops are not required for Food Security, and demand that the government should implement Parliamentary Standing Committee and Supreme Court Tech Committee recommendations

Several farmer union leaders and civil society groups came together at press meet on National Safe Food Day to speak out about GM crops, 3 years after they raised strong concerns about Bt Brinjal which led to the Centre declaring a moratorium on Feb 9th, 2010. This day is being observed as National Safe Food Day by groups across the country.
The following points were highlighted:
(1) We reject the claims of the Bio-tech industry lobby groups and their agents pretending to speak on behalf of farmers, that farmers are demanding GM crops. As farmer organizations representing millions of farmers in Andhra Pradesh, we declare that what farmers are demanding is strong regulation of seed companies including quality, price and royalties on seed, and farmers’ rights over seed (instead of intellectual property rights by companies).
(2) We reject the claim that GM crops are essential for food security and for increasing food production. As farmer organizations representing millions of farmers in A.P., we assert that what is required for food security is urgent measures to ensure remunerative prices, provide support systems for farmers, incentives for food crops rather than risky commercial crops, and preventing diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. Instead of acting on these real demands of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture is batting for the GM, seed and pesticide industries as indicated by the recent conference in Delhi.
(3) In the 3 years since the Bt Brinjal moratorium, various recommendations of the Minister of Environment and Forests, such as establishing independent testing laboratories, independent regulatory and monitoring body, incorporating long-term tests for bio-safety and health impacts of GM crops, etc. have not been implemented. Still, there is a clamour from the biotech companies and Ministry of Agriculture for releasing GM crops.
(4) The Parliamentary Standing Committee and Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee made detailed, well-studied recommendations on GM crops – including stopping certain field trials and permitting certain trials only after bio-safety has been established. These recommendations should be implemented immediately by Govt of India.
(5) The BRAI Bill which is designed to fast-track the approval of GM crops should be set aside, and a new National Bio-Safety Law should be adopted to regulate GM crops.
Several programs with farmers are being taken up to raise awareness about GM crops in the next one month in various districts.
Pasya Padma from A.P.Ryotu Sangham, Sai Reddy from Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Kiran Vissa from Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Dr.Ramanjaneyulu from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, and Dr.Narasimha Reddy from Chetana Society participated. Sarampalli Malla Reddy, National Vice President of All India Kisan Sabha, and David Showry, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Morcha (BJP) fully supported the statement but could not join due to health and unavoidable reasons.

 

The GMO Seed Cartel: Ken Roseboro

How biotechnology companies monopolize seed markets, escalate seed prices, and eliminate farmer choice

http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/february2013/the-gmo-seed-cartel.php

This is the first of a 2-part series

The introduction of genetically modified crops has corresponded with increasing monopolization of seed by biotechnology companies and higher seed costs that have led to tragedies in some countries, while pushing out conventional, non-GMO seeds, and reducing farmer seed choices. These impacts are being seen in the United States, Brazil, India, the Philippines, and South Africa, and even Europe.

Seed monopoly

According to Philip Howard, a researcher at Michigan State University, economists say that when four firms control 40% of a market, it is no longer competitive. According to AgWeb, the “big four” biotech seed companies—Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences—own 80% of the US corn market and 70% of the soybean business.

Monsanto has become the world’s largest seed company in less than 10 years by capturing markets for corn, soybean, cotton, and vegetable seeds, according to a report by the Farmer to Farmer Campaign. In addition to selling seeds, Monsanto licenses its genetically modified traits to other seed companies. As a result, more than 80% of US corn and more than 90% of soybeans planted each year contain Monsanto’s patented GM traits.

Other factors that have led to industry domination by a few players include purchase of smaller seed companies by larger companies, weak antitrust law enforcement, and Supreme Court decisions that allowed GM crops and other plant materials to be patented, while prohibiting seed saving by farmers.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated Monsanto’s dominance of the seed market after holding public meetings in 2010 where farmers described the company’s practices. But at the end of 2012, DOJ announced it had “closed its investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the seed industry.”

Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute, told Mother Jones food blogger Tom Philpott, “To have a two-year investigation and close it without a peep in our view does a disservice.”

Tamara Nelsen, senior director of commodities at the Illinois Agricultural Association, compares Monsanto to Microsoft, a company that was prosecuted by DOJ for anti-trust violations. “Ninety-three percent of soybean production is Roundup Ready,” Nelsen told Nature Biotechnology. “It’s still like everyone is on a Microsoft system—at least, that’s how farmers feel.”

Escalating GM seed prices

Another indication that the seed market has become monopolized is the escalating prices for GM seed. Moss points out that in competitive markets, technologies that enjoy widespread and rapid adoption—such as GM crops—typically experience steep declines in prices.

The opposite has occurred with GM crops. Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, writes that from 2000 to 2010 as GM soybeans came to dominate the market, the price for seed increased 230%. The cost for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready2 soybeans in 2010 was $70 per bag, a 143% increase in the price of GM seed since 2001.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the average per-acre cost of soybean and corn seed increased 325% and 259%, respectively, between 1995 and 2011. This is roughly the time period when acreage of GM corn and soy grew from less than 20% to more than 80-90%

Moss says that the escalating prices for GM seeds are outstripping increases in grain prices earned by farmers, resulting in farmers being squeezed by higher costs with less returns.

“Destroying the lives of many farmers around the world

Problems resulting from escalating prices for GM seed are seen most dramatically—and tragically—in developing countries. According to a study by Consumers International, an estimated 270,000 small-hold farmers in the Philippines are being forced to grow GM corn and ending up in debt. The cost of corn seeds has risen 282% from its introductory price and accounts for 18-21% of a farmer’s total cost of production. Farmers are at the mercy of seed suppliers and lenders who are one and the same in the country and refuse to provide lending unless the farmers grow GM corn.

The impacts of high GM seed prices are even worse in India where more than 250,000 peasant farmers have committed suicide since 1998, or about one every 30 minutes. Indian farmers grow GM Bt cotton, which accounts for 95% of all cotton acres in the country. According to a report by the New York Times, the seeds can cost between 700 to 2,000 rupees ($38) per bag or about three to eight times the cost of conventional seeds. Similar to the situation in the Philippines, Indian farmers go into debt to buy the expensive GM seeds and pesticides. If their crops fail, many farmers kill themselves by drinking pesticides.

The suicides began before the introduction of GM cotton, but GM cotton has exacerbated the problem, according to an advisory from the Indian government, which stated, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011–12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” A PBS documentary, “Seeds of Suicide,” has also implicated expensive GM seeds and pesticides in the indebtedness and resulting suicides.

According to John Vandermeer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, genetically modified seeds are “destroying the lives of many farmers around the world right now.”

(Part two of this series next month will focus on restricted availability of non-GMO seeds and reduced farmer choices in the United States, Europe, Brazil, and South Africa)

References:

  • Philip Howard. “Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Seed Industry: 1996–2008.” Sustainability 2009, 1(4), pg. 1266-1287.
  • Sara Shafer. “Behind the Seed Scene.” AgWeb. July 28, 2012.
  • Kristina Hubbard, Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering. “Out of Hand: Farmers Face the Consequences of a Consolidated Seed Industry.” December 2009.
  • Tom Philpott. “DOJ Mysteriously Quits Monsanto Antitrust Investigation.” Mother Jones. December 1, 2012.
  • Charles Benbrook. “The Magnitude and Impacts of the Biotech and Organic Seed Price Premium.” December 2009.
  • Daniel Grushkin. “Threat to Global GM Soybean Access as Patent Nears Expiry.” Nature Biotechnology. January 2013, Vol 31: 10-11.
  • Vivekananda Nemana. “In India, GM Crops Come at a High Price.” New York Times. October 16, 2012.
  • Z. Haq. “Ministry Blames Bt Cotton for Farmer Suicides.” Hindustan Times. March 26, 2012.

30 Years of genetically engineered plants – Consequences of commercial growing in the US

http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/765

Munich/ Berlin 01.02.2013
Today in Berlin a new report was published presenting a critical assessment of the consequences of the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered plants in the US. The first genetically engineered plants were created 30 years ago in Europe and the US. Commercial growing in the USA began almost 20 years ago, but in the EU, acceptance of these crops is much lower. Nevertheless, companies are asking for further authorisations for cultivation, including in the EU. In the light of this development, past experience in the USA was assessed and recommendations made for the future handling of this technology in the EU. Some of the principal findings are:

Consequences for farmers: Because the weeds have adapted to the cultivation of the genetically engineered plants, farmers are experiencing a substantial increase in both working hours and the amounts of herbicide they require. Cultivation of insecticide-producing plants have led to “an arms race in the field” against the pest insects, which have adapted quickly. Genetically engineered plants have been created to produce up to six different toxins. Costs for seeds have increased dramatically, without there being a substantial increase in yields or significant savings in the amounts of spray required.

Impact on the seed market: The seed industry in the USA is largely dominated by agrochemical industries such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. In future, it has to be expected that developments in the USA will be strongly influenced by the interests of agro-chemical companies pushing for the cultivation of genetically engineered plants.

Consequences for producers who avoid genetically engineered crops: Contamination with non-authorised genetically engineered plants has already caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the USA.

Consequences for consumers: Consumers are exposed to a whole range of risks regarding unintended substances from plant metabolism, from residues from complementary herbicides and from the properties of additional proteins produced in the plants. As yet, there is no way of monitoring the actual effects that consumption of these products might have.

Effects on the environment: The cultivation of genetically engineered plants is closely associated with a substantial increase in the amounts of herbicide required. In addition, there is also an increase in environmental exposure to certain insecticides. In particular, the cultivation of herbicide-resistant plants leads to a reduction in biodiversity. Genetically engineered rapeseed has already managed to escape from the fields into the environment from where it cannot be withdrawn, and from where it evades any adequate control.

The study was commissioned by Martin Häusling, Member of the Green Group in the European Parliament. The English version of the study is published by Testbiotech.

The full report is available at http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/TESTBIOTECH%20Cultivation_GE_%20plants_US.pdf