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ActionAid says GM crops could push poor farmers into debt, but CropGen disagrees

(Thursday, May 29, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Paul Waugh, Independent: Genetically modified crops will not tackle world hunger and could threaten the livelihoods of Third World farmers, a new study has said.

The report is published today by the charity ActionAid, before the start of the Government's long-awaited debate on GM next week.

US President George Bush claimed last week the EU had blocked efforts to use GM crops to fight famine because of "unfounded, unscientific fears".

But the research found that the new technology threatened to push poor farmers deeper into debt. Using evidence from Asia, Africa and Latin America, the report concludes that rather than alleviating world hunger, GM is likely to lead to more hungry people, not fewer. Matthew Lockwood, ActionAid's head of policy, said: "GM does not provide a magic bullet solution to world hunger. "

Among the findings are that GM seeds are more suited to the needs of large-scale commercial, rather than poor farmers, and that expansion is driven by corporate profit of four multinationals - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and DuPont.

Farmers are not allowed to save GM seed from one harvest to the next. "Terminator technology", which produces sterile seeds, is also being developed. There is also "no consistent evidence" that GM crops yield more and require fewer chemicals.

In Pakistan, ActionAid has investigated how poor farmers have been enticed to buy GM cotton seeds. The results have been disappointing, with many farmers losing their crops.

The US biotech industry spends $250m a year promoting GM. "What is causing world hunger is poverty and inequality. Money would be far better spent tackling these problems than poured into GM technology," said Adriano Campolina Soares from ActionAid Brazil.

CropGen response to ActionAid Report:
http://www.cropgen.org/databases/cropgen2.nsf/?Open

London, 28th May 2003 Contrary to ActionAid's report1, GM technology is delivering real results in the developing world right now. In 2001, 75% of all farmers who grew gm crops were small (two hectares or less) resource-poor farmers from the developing world2:

South Africa

Small-hold GM cotton farmers in the Natal region, are experiencing:

* yield increases of 25%
* 80% decrease in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social (health, less back-breaking work, less time tied to the land) and economic benefits

Small-hold (average size of farms being 2.5 hectares) GM maize farmers in the Natal region, are experiencing:

* yield increases as high as 220%
* decreases in pesticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits

China - GM cotton grown by 4 million small-hold farmers e.g. The Yellow River cotton growing region in Northern China:

* yield increases of 5 - 10%
* 50% decrease in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits. (In 2001, GM cotton increased annual farmer income by 300/hectare)

Indonesia - GM cotton is being grown by thousands of small-hold farmers in the South Sulawesi province

* yield increases of 200% upwards
* 75% decreases in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits

India - Over a four year period (1998-2001) field trials of GM cotton in seven states resulted in:

* average yield increases of 60%
* 70% reduction in insecticide use
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits

After years of field trials, commercialisation of GM cotton commenced in India in 2002. If the success of the Indian experience is projected to South and Southeast Asia and Subsaharan Africa, where pest pressure is also high and chemical pest control alternatives are limited, then the yield effects of GM crops have the potential to be just as high and result in huge environmental, social and economic benefits3.

GM maize and potato, which have direct relevance to food security in the developing world, are being developed and in some countries already commercialised. GM rice and sweet potato are also on their way.

-ends-

References:

1. GM Crops Going against the Grain: http://www.actionaid.org/ourpriorities/foodrights/gmtechnology/gmcrops.shtml

2. James, Clive. 2002. Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001; Feature: Bt Cotton. ISAAA Briefs No. 26. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.

3. Qaim, M., Zilberman, D. 2003. Yield Effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries. Science. 299: 900-902.