Genetically-modified crops are not delivering on the promised benefits of increased yields, reduced pesticide use or tackling world hunger, Friends of the Earth claimed today.
In a report released to coincide with the biotech industry’s annual release of figures on GM crop cultivation, the environmental group said damaging pesticides are on the increase as a result of widespread farming of the plants.
And rather than tackling poverty in developing countries much of the GM crops grown – the vast majority of which are in the US and South America – is used for animal feed or for biofuels, the report said.
Genetically-modified soya, maize and cotton make up 95% of the total acreage of GM and none of the crops introduced so far has increased yield, enhanced nutrition, drought-tolerance or salt-tolerance, the report said.
Because they are genetically engineered to be tolerant of pesticides they allow farmers to spray herbicides more frequently – which in turn encourages the growth of herbicide-resistant plants.
The report claims widespread take-up of GM crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate and the emergence of weeds tolerant of the chemical have caused a 15-fold increase in the use of the herbicide between 1994 and 2005.
The herbicide is not replacing other products, Friends of the Earth said, and increased used of pesticides also has adverse health and environmental impacts.
According to the Who Benefits from GM Crops? report the use of the pesticide atrazine, banned in the EU because of links to health problems such as breast and prostate cancer, has increased by 12% on maize in the US from 2002 to 2005.
Friends of the Earth also claims GM products have not increased food security for the world’s poor, with none of the crops on the market modified for increasing yields.
‘Failed to deliver’
Friends of the Earth International’s GM coordinator in Nigeria, Nnimmo Bassey, said: ‘GM crops have failed to deliver the long-promised benefits of the biotech industry.
‘Instead, increased pesticide use caused by these crops threatens the environment and communities around the world.
‘The biotech industry tells Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population.
‘But the majority of GM crops are used to feed animals in rich countries, to produce damaging agrofuels, and don’t even yield more than conventional crops.’
And because GM seeds can be patented, a handful of multinationals including Monsanto – which already own most of the world’s commercial seed – are increasingly pushing the biotech versions and phasing out cheaper, more conventional seed, the report said.
GM has failed so far to take hold in Europe, with less than 2% of the maize crops in the EU genetically modified. Some five countries have banned Monsanto’s maize because of environmental impact fears.
Friends of the Earth GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: ‘It is now clearer than ever that Europe is right to take a precautionary approach to GM crops.
‘They are not the solution to the urgent environmental and economic challenges facing farmers both in Europe and in developing countries.
‘More and more evidence is showing that around the world green farming methods are providing real solutions whilst boosting local economies and creating jobs,’ she added.
Industry-body the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) is expected to detail today the growth in GM crops and the contribution the biotech crops are making to tackling world hunger and poverty.
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