Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another GM Crop Report

Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of "superweeds", according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.

UK Guardian

Yeah, what do they know?

The report claims that hunger has reached "epic proportions" since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM "traits" have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.


In China, where insect-resistant Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of pests that previously posed only minor problems have increased 12-fold since 1997. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology found that any benefits of planting Bt cotton have been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat them.

Additionally, soya growers in Argentina and Brazil have been found to use twice as much herbicide on their GM as they do on conventional crops, and a survey by Navdanya International, in India, showed that pesticide use increased 13-fold since Bt cotton was introduced.

I don’t think it was supposed to work that way. (For non-farmers: Bt cotton is genetically engineered cotton plants that have Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) genes inserted. Bt is used as a pesticide to combat bollworm. These cotton plants are supposed to contain the pesticide so that one doesn’t have to add it externally.)

The report, which draws on empirical research and companies' own statements, also says weeds are now developing resistance to the GM firms' herbicides and pesticides that are designed to be used with their crops, and that this has led to growing infestations of "superweeds", especially in the US.

Yes, that was bound to happen. That was a no-brainer from the get-go. Just like the “superbugs” that developed in concert with increased use of penicillin in human medical treatments. It’s a common problem in pest control, which is why people have had to develop other methods and combinations of methods, and why monoculture crops are so problematic.

Superweed. Sounds good though.

There was also a 2009 study claiming that Bt cotton destroys the soil and linking that to farmer suicides in India. Although, to be fair, I imagine continuous planting of huge tracts of cotton eventually destroys the soil no matter what kind is planted. The history of modern cotton farming in America is actually an interesting subject riddled with rampant greed, fraud and government welfare to very rich cotton farmers. (I especially like the part where a large producer collected government money to take cotton out of production and used it to set up another large production site in Australia. Those government welfare programs that pay farmers not to plant are pretty awesome deals for the farmers, for one thing because they found they could simply take their poorest producing land out of production and make a similar income as always from the crop plus collect government money too, the but that’s another story.)

The study accuses Monsanto of gaining control of over 95% of the Indian cotton seed market and of massively pushing up prices. High levels of indebtedness among farmers is thought to be behind many of the 250,000 deaths by suicide of Indian farmers over the past 15 years.

Yes, that does say 250 thousand.

Ten common weeds have now developed resistance in at least 22 US states, with about 6m hectares (15m acres) of soya, cotton and corn now affected.

Consequently, farmers are being forced to use more herbicides to combat the resistant weeds, says the report. GM companies are paying farmers to use other, stronger, chemicals, they say. "The genetic engineering miracle is quite clearly faltering in farmers' fields."

But Monsanto is making out like a bandit. And that was the point, wasn’t it?

The companies have succeeded in marketing their crops to more than 15 million farmers, largely by heavy lobbying of governments, buying up local seed companies, and withdrawing conventional seeds from the market, the report claims. Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, the world's three largest GM companies, now control nearly 70% of global seed sales. This allows them to "own" and sell GM seeds through patents and intellectual property rights and to charge farmers extra, claims the report.

Yes, they own it. A farmer cannot save seed to plant. That would get him sued, and he would lose.

Vandana Shiva, director of the Indian organisation Navdanya International, which co-ordinated the report, said: "The GM model of farming undermines farmers trying to farm ecologically. Co-existence between GM and conventional crops is not possible because genetic pollution and contamination of conventional crops is impossible to control.

Monsanto would like you to know this is all bullshit.

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