Study Based on Farmers’ Experience Exposes Risks of GM Crops

ISIS Press Release 24/04/08

The first study of its kind in North America, possibly in the world, shows how the risks of GM technology outweigh the benefits especially in the longer term. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Canada, along with the United States and Argentina were the first countries in the world to commercialise GM crops. But more than a decade later, risk assessment for GM crops is still ignoring farmers’ knowledge and their years of experience in growing GM crops.

Ian Mauro and Stéphane McLachlan at the University of Manitoba, Winnepeg, in Canada, have now completed a study of farmers from Manitoba and across Canada based on interviews (n=15) and survey by mail (n=370) conducted between 2002 and 2003. It is especially useful in identifying the actual risks and benefits for farmers who are not yet committed to growing GM crops.

“We’re very pleased with this study.” Mauro says. “Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we’ve documented the benefits and risks associated herbicide-tolerant (HT) canola. We found that farmers have been primarily placed at risk due to the proliferation of HT volunteers. Smaller farms and those with a longer history of GM canola use were at highest risk.”

Canadian farmers rapidly adopted HT canola following its commercial release in 1995. Three varieties of HT canola have been introduced: Roundup Ready (RR), Liberty Link (LL) and Clearfield (CF), tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate, glufosinate and imidazolinone respectively. RR and LL are genetically modified, whereas CF has been created by induced mutation. Currently, they represent 96 percent of the 5.25 million ha of canola grown in Canada: approximately 50 percent RR, 32 percent LL and 14 percent CF. The great majority are grown in the western Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Thus, Canadian farmers have a great deal of experience in growing HT canola, and that’s what Mauro and McLachlan decided to focus on.

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