A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating that genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver on its advertised promises.
Advocates of GMOs claim that biotechnology increases yields, reduces chemical usage, controls crop pests and weeds, and delivers “climate ready” traits such as drought-tolerance. However, the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that this technology has failed on all fronts.
For example, GMO proponents often hail the success of GM cotton in South Africa’s Makhatini Flats. But after initial, highly visible headlines of success, this report reveals a different story. Instead of thriving crops and increased farmer incomes, after five years, the majority of farmers growing GM cotton are in debt due to the high costs of seed, chemical, and other farm inputs. Concurrently, the volatility of the cotton market means that farmers cannot rely on predictable, steady incomes. The essays contained in this Global Citizens Report confirm that such experiences are repeated in many countries and regions. The story of Indian farmer indebtedness and over 250,000 suicides further emphasizes the tragic costs of this failed GM technology. (The essay from India thoroughly reviews this tragedy.)
Super Weeds, Super Problems
Farmers and agronomists throughout the world are alarmed by the growing epidemic of weeds developing a resistance to the herbicide, glyphosate, used on GM crops. These “superweeds” have evolved resistance to glyphosate as a result of the intensive use of this herbicide. From November 2007 to January 2011, infested acreage in the U.S. has more than quintupled, from 2.4 to 12.6 million acres. In Brazil, researchers have reported that nine species have developed tolerance to glyphosate.
And now super pests are also becoming a major hazard. Rootworms are developing a resistance to GM corn in Iowa and Illinois. And, Monsanto, the undisputed leader in GM seed and crop technology and ownership, has, after several years, finally acknowledged that a bollworm pest has developed resistance to its Bt cotton in India.
Another common story detailed in this Global Citizens Report describes how GM technology is pushed by intensive lobbying and marketing efforts, “revolving door” influences, and funding of research and educational institutes. As noted in the report from the U.S., the leading proponent of GM crops—top food and agricultural biotechnology firms spent more than $547 million lobbying Congress between 1999 and 2009. The report from Argentina documents that representatives from biotechnology corporations—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and Pioneer—sit on a prominent national panel that directly advises the government agency that approves field trials and commercialization of GM crops.
Finally, the report documents increasing scientific evidence and warnings from scientists that GMOs may be harmful to human health, ecosystems and also have failed to increase food production. It highlights that, in contrast to GM seeds and crops, agroecological farming systems are proving to be the real answer to food insecurity. A recent study by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food reported that agroecological systems doubled crop yields over a period of three to 10 years in field tests conducted in 20 African countries. The report also cites numerous other studies confirming high yields and reduced chemical use in other regions of the world due to agroecological farming methods.
Owning at least 90 percent of GM seeds and crops, Monsanto is viewed as the leader in promoting this technology and thus its role is particularly highlighted in these voices from the planet reports.
The report will be launched around the world during 2011 and 2012, and began with a launch in San Francisco on October 13.
The report was published by Navdanya (India), Navdanya International, the International Commission on the Future of Food, with the participation of the Center for Food Safety. The report consists of contributions from groups around the world.
Originally published by the Center for Food Safety