12 Apr 2009

Fact file on GM crops

Just a quick blog to highlight this useful fact file on GM crops below but first a bit on the latest re UK Government then on some controvesy in the Catholic Church.

Photo: Russ cartoon kindly reproduced with permission

It was in the late 1990s, New Labour led by Prime Minister Blair, Biotech corporations and some scientists celebrated GM crops as the solution to world hunger and various diseases. The citizens said: 'No! We do not want GM food!' Instead of honouring that, both Blair and now Brown’s governments have continued to push GM - the latest move is to commission a new study which many believe is in the hope that it will give them the answer they want ie GM is safe and will solve hunger problems.

However already we have a plethora of good studies which have refuted claims by the Biotech companies that GM crops will play a significant role in alleviating global hunger. For example Columbian priest Se├ín McDonagh writes: "In April 2008, a report from the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was published. It was a very extensive report involving the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organisation, agronomists from many government agencies, civic society groups and scientific bodies. More than 400 scientists were involved in the research which took four years to complete. It maintained that GM crops were controversial and that they will not play a substantial role in addressing the challenge of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, food security, poverty and hunger. It did not rule out a role for GM crops in the future, but highlighted the problems which the current regime of patenting crops has had for farmers and researchers. The report maintained that the most pressing agricultural need is to support small-scale farmers who operate in diverse ecosystems. These farmers need better access to education and more appropriate technology designed to improve farming in a particular location. Micro-credit schemes are needed to protect farmers from loan-sharks. Robert Watson, the director of IAASTD, and chief scientist at the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, responded to a question from a reporter with The Daily Mail: “Are GM crops the simple answer to hunger and poverty?” with the words, “I would argue, no.”"

In November 2008, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the UN Environment Programme produced a report that found that, contrary to claims that the only way to increase agricultural output is through modernising agriculture, organic farming holds the key to food security in Africa. In February 2009, Friends of the Earth International published a substantial report on Food Sovereignty; Who benefits from GM crops? It concluded that, “GM crops cannot, and are unlikely to ever contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.” Firstly, hunger is chiefly attributed to poverty, not lack of food production. Secondly, the vast bulk of GM crops are fed to animals, not to the world’s poor. Thirdly, GM crops do not increase yield and they often lead to a greater use of pesticide. Fourthly, the real beneficiaries of GM crops are the biotech corporations who have make huge profits from selling expensive seeds and pesticides.

Catholic Church and GM

Pope Benedict XVI has given African bishops a draft document that specifically attacks producers of genetically modified foods, in the context of a more general condemnation of multinationals for "invading" Africa and damaging the environment by "defiling God's creation". See more here - and here an important Synod document also wants re GM. Yet a closed-door meeting is to be held at the Vatican in Rome in May to discuss a campaign backing GM crops. In spite of the concern over GM crops in Catholic circles, it is claimed that the meeting will give GM the "moral high ground of the Vatican" - see here. GMWatch note: The Pontifical Academy has regularly been hijacked to punt industry interests such as nuclear power, without it in any way reflecting official blessing. The news coming out of Africa, where the Pope has just released a working document highly critical of GMOs, clearly shows that not only do the aims of this meeting of GM lobbyists not have official blessing, they are actually immoral.

Facts in the File

1.ARE GM CROPS TAKING OVER GLOBAL AGRICULTURE?
2.ARE GM CROPS EXPANDING IN EUROPE?
3.WHAT GM CROPS ARE BEING GROWN?
4.DO GM CROPS MATCH THE HYPE?
5.ARE GM CROPS REDUCING PESTICIDE USE?
6.WHO BENEFITS FROM GM CROPS?
7.WHO'S MILKING THE FOOD CRISIS?
8.QUOTE: SELLING THE DREAM
9.FACT FILE SOURCES

1.ARE GM CROPS TAKING OVER GLOBAL AGRICULTURE?
*GM plantings make up a mere 2.4% of global agricultural crop land
*nearly 80% of the global area planted to GM crops was in just three countries - the US, Argentina and Brazil
*the US alone plants over 50% of the world's GM crops
*less than 3% of cropland in India and China is planted with GM crops, almost exclusively just 1 crop - GM cotton

2.ARE GM CROPS EXPANDING IN EUROPE?
*in the 27 countries of the European Union, GM crop cultivation represents a mere 0.21% of agricultural land
*the number of hectares of GM crops fell last year in Europe
*EuropaBio inflated the figures for GM crops grown in Europe by almost a quarter to mask the decline
*the area of GM crops being grown has actually fallen in Europe every year since 2005

3.WHAT GM CROPS ARE BEING GROWN?
*most investment has gone into a small number of crops and traits targeted toward large-scale commercial farming
*only four crops - soya, maize, cotton and canola (oilseed rape) - comprise virtually 100% of GM agriculture
*GM rice, wheat, tomatoes, sweetcorn, potatoes and popcorn have all been rejected as unacceptable in the global marketplace
*GM papaya cultivation in Hawaii has been declining over several years

4.DO GM CROPS MATCH THE HYPE?
*none of the GM crops on the market are modified for increased yield potential
*some studies show GM crops reduce yield
*disease-tolerant GM crops are practically non-existent
*the GM industry has not marketed a single GM crop with enhanced nutrition, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance or any of the other 'beneficial' traits long-promised by the industry
*there are no commercially available GM crops designed for biofuels

5.ARE GM CROPS REDUCING PESTICIDE USE?
*almost all GM crops involve just 2 traits, mainly just one trait - herbicide tolerance
*herbicide tolerance is found in over 80% of all GM crops planted worldwide
*GM crops have contributed substantially to increased pesticide use
*most new GM crop varieties are also pesticide-promoting
*GM crops have caused an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds
*this is encouraging the use of more toxic petsicides, including ones banned in some European countries

6.WHO BENEFITS FROM GM CROPS?
*the real beneficiaries are the GM companies which profit from patents, expensive GM seeds, and increased pesticide sales
*Monsanto is the world's largest seed firm
*Monsanto holds a near monopoly in the biotech "traits" incorporated in GM seeds
*Monsanto is the world's fifth largest pesticide firm
*Monsanto markets Roundup, the world's biggest selling pesticide
*Monsanto controls roughly 60% of the market for glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup)
*Roundup is used in conjunction with Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready seeds'

7.WHO'S MILKING THE FOOD CRISIS?
*The World Bank attributes 75% of global food price inflation to "biofuels"
*Monsanto has been at the heart of the "biofuels" lobby, particularly the lobby for corn ethanol
*The price of Monsanto's GM triple-stack corn will reportedly increase by around 35% in 2009 - by $95-100 per bag, to top $300 per bag
*The average price for soybean seed, the largest GM crop in the US, has risen by more than 50% in just two years from 2006 to 2008 - from $32.30 to $49.23 per planted acre
*Retail prices for Roundup herbicide have increased from just $32 per gallon in December 2006 to $45 per gallon a year later, to $75 per gallon by June 2008 - a 134% price hike in less than two years

8.QUOTE: SELLING THE DREAM
"All those dreams... the blind will see, the lame will walk... has turned out to be science fiction. They are basically chemical companies selling more chemicals. They've been able to spread these herbicide-promoting plants around because it is more convenient for farmers who can just mass-spray their crops. But they've given absolutely nothing to the consumer while causing more chemical pollution and contamination."
-- Andrew Kimbrell, lawyer and executive director of the Center for Food Safety (USA)
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8854

9.FACT FILE SOURCES
Almost all the facts in our fact file are taken from "Who Benefits from GM crops?: Feeding the biotech giants, not the world's poor", Friends of the Earth International (2009)
Full report:
http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Who_Benefits/full_report_2009.pdf
Executive Summary:
http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Who_Benefits/Exec_summary_2009.pdf
EU briefing:
http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Who_Benefits/EU_briefing_2009.pdf

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