(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2010) Claims by the biotech industry that genetically modified (GM) crops combat climate change are exaggerated and premature, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth International. The report, “Who Benefits from GM Crops?,” examines industry claims and finds that GM crops actually increase carbon emissions while failing to feed the world. There is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other beneficial traits long promised by biotech companies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinks the public does not care about GM crops and is accepting comments through this Wednesday, March 3, 2010 on allowing GM alfalfa in the U.S.
The Friends of the Earth International report exposes the fact that globally GM crops remain confined to less than 3% of agricultural land and more than 99% are grown for animal feed and agrofuels, rather than food. GM crops are responsible for huge increases in the use of pesticides in the US and South America, intensifying fossil fuel use. The cultivation of GM soy to feed factory farmed animals is also contributing to widespread deforestation in South America, causing massive climate emissions.
Ongoing concerns about the negative impacts of GM crops mean many governments are still cautious about adopting them. India has placed a moratorium on the planting of its first GM food crop due to widespread concerns about its health, environmental and socio-economic impact. In Europe the area planted with GM crops has declined for the fifth consecutive year for the same reasons.
Millions are being spent by governments on GM crops. Promoted as a solution to climate change, they could be funded in the future through the United Nations (UN) climate emission reduction Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The UN Organization for Food and Agriculture is currently hosting a conference in Guadalajara, Mexico from March 1-4, 2010 in support of the biotechnology industry.
“GM crops are being promoted as a solution to feed us in a warming world, when in reality they are wiping out forests, damaging farmers’ livelihoods and increasing harmful emissions,” said Friends of the Earth Europe GM campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran. “Given the damaging track record of GM crops to date, and unfulfilled promises to feed the world, we would be well advised to disregard claims that GM crops can combat climate change.”
In South America, a cocktail of pesticides are being applied on GM soy, which is poisoning communities and contaminating the environment. GM crops, and the corporate control of seeds, are also hindering the development of real solutions by starving them of funding and restricting farmers’ access to seeds and knowledge. Genetically diverse, ecological farming and traditional knowledge have been identified as key to facing future challenges.
“The reality is that GM farming is not a success story. Small farmers across the world are already using planet-friendly methods to feed themselves and cool the planet,” said Friends of the Earth International food coordinator Martin Drago. “These methods must be supported rather than environmentally and socially destructive GM farming.”
Beyond Pesticides opposes the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because of the dangers they pose to human health and the environment. Two 2009 reports show that the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops in the United States has actually increased pesticide use but failed to increase yield. Recent studies have also linked GMO consumption to organ failure. Organic agriculture does not permit GM crops or the use of synthetic herbicides, and focuses on building the soil—minimizing its effect on climate change. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ GM program page.
TAKE ACTION: Public Comments Needed To Stop Genetically Engineered Alfalfa in the U.S. The USDA says consumers do not care about genetic contamination. If you disagree, tell them they are wrong by this Wednesday, March 3, 2010.