Let the World Learn from North American Farmers' Experience with GMOs

Prof. E. Ann Clark reviews the real scientific surveys that contradict every claim made by British academics regarding the benefits of GM crops in their government-funded ‘study’

I cannot fathom how British academics can still be quoted as saying that GM crops allow farmers to grow “high-quality food profitably”, in an “environmentally sensitive way”, and to attain “high yields while using less herbicide” [1] (see "UK Farmers Upbeat about GM Crops" Debunked, SiS 38). Roughly 99 percent of GM land on the planet is sown to just two traits - herbicide tolerance (HT) and Bt, which causes plants to synthesize their own insecticide. Nothing about quality.

Objective evidence of profitability is equally sparse, particularly if one factors in the lemon effect of lost markets due to the global rejection of GM. British growers might want to look for an article by Ian Mauro and Stef McLachlan at the University of Manitoba, Canada, due to appear in the journal Risk Analysis [2, 3] (Canadian Farmers’ Experience Exposes the Risks of GM Crops, SiS 38) This is the first ever publicly available survey in a peer reviewed journal of how Canadian farmers have been impacted by GM technology. It includes a quote by a Canadian farmer who said: “The loss of [European] markets due to GM had a huge financial impact. This was likely larger than the cost of controlling volunteers or benefit of easy weed control.”

This same 2003 survey of 370 farmers found that the greatest cited benefit among technology users (n=298) was operational, including timing and efficacy of weed control, facilitating farming of a larger landbase. Among 10 ranked benefits, increased yield was 6th and increased revenue ranked last. Among 10 cited risks, of greatest concern were loss of markets, loss of farmer rights under the Technology Use Agreement, higher seed costs, and lawsuits. Remember Percy Schmeiser (see Box)?

Schmeiser versus Monsanto

Percy and Louise Schmeiser are Saskatchewan canola growers and seedsavers. Monsanto accused them of patent infringement when the RR gene was found in some of the canola plants on their land. All allegations of theft or ‘brownbagging’ were withdrawn at the outset due to lack of evidence [4, 5] (Schmeiser's Battle for the Seed, SiS 19). The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which reached a split decision [6], and the Schmeisers did not have to pay Monsanto anything. In 2007, the Schmeisers received the Right Livelihood Award, generally regarded as the alternative Nobel Prize for their “courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights” [7].

The Schmeisers are not alone. By 2005, Monsanto had filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers, and 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies have had to fight for their lives to avoid paying additional court costs, attorneys’ fees, and in some cases, costs incurred by Monsanto while investigating them [8] (Monsanto versus Farmers, SiS 26). The Center for Food Safety estimated that Monsanto has been awarded over $15 million by judgments granted in their favour.

So how about yield? Pay attention, British growers, to a recent USDA retrospective on GM in the US, which stated [9]: “Currently available GE [genetically-engineered] crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars.”

Read the rest of this article here http://www.i-sis.org.uk/americanFarmersGMOs.php



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