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Seeds of Doubt: 
North American farmers' experiences of GM crops 

Soil Association 17sep02

[ Press release below ]

Executive Summary 

BRIEFING PAPER 

The Seeds of Doubt report was written by Gundula Meziani and Hugh Warwick. It was launched in 13 different countries on the 17th September 2002.

The UK government and farming community will soon make a fundamental long-term decision: whether to allow genetically modified (GM) crops to be commercially grown in the UK. The picture the biotechnology industry has painted of GM crops in North America is one of unqualified success, after six years of commercial growing. The objective of this report was to assess whether this image is accurate and if not what problems have occurred. We present interviews with North American farmers about their experiences of GM soya, maize and oilseed rape, and review of some of the independent research.

The evidence we have gathered demonstrates that GM food crops are far from a success story. In complete contrast to the impression given by the biotechnology industry, it is clear that they have not realised most of the claimed benefits and have been a practical and economic disaster. Widespread GM contamination has severely disrupted GM-free production including organic farming, destroyed trade and undermined the competitiveness of North American agriculture overall. GM crops have also increased the reliance of farmers on herbicides and led to many legal problems. 

Six years after the first commercial growing of GM crops, the use of genetic engineering in global agriculture is still limited. Only four countries including the US and Canada grow 99 per cent of the GM crops grown worldwide, and just four crops account for 99 per cent of the global area planted to GM crops. In the UK, we have a choice over whether to remain GM-free.

Our findings show that GM crops would obstruct the government from meeting its policy objective that farming should become more competitive and meet consumer requirements. It would also prevent it from honouring its public commitment to ensure that the expansion of organic farming is not undermined by the introduction of GM crops. The Soil Association believes this report will contribute towards a more balanced and realistic debate on the likely impacts of GM crops on farming in the UK and assist an informed decision on the commercialisation of GM crops. 

Farming impacts 
The direct impacts of GM crops on farmers in North America are examined in chapters 3 –6 , 8 and 9. Many of the claimed benefits have not been seen in practice and several unforeseen problems have emerged:

Contamination 
In chapter 7 we look at GM contamination, which has been the single greatest problem. Widespread GM contamination has occurred rapidly and caused major disruption at all levels of the agricultural industry, for seed resources, crop production, food processing and bulk commodity trading. It has undermined the viability of the whole North American farming industry:

Economic impacts 
The economic impact of GM crops is the focus of chapter 10. GM crops have been an economic disaster. As well as the lower farm profitability, GM crops have been a market failure internationally. Because of the lack of segregation, they have caused the collapse of entire exports to Europe and a loss of trade with Asia:

Legal issues
GM contamination has led to a proliferation of lawsuits and the emergence of complex legal issues (chapter 11 ):

Farmers ' response 
The severe market problems have led many North American farmers to seriously question the further development of GM crops (chapters 10 and 11 ):

A full copy of the report can be purchased from the Soil Association website www.soilassociation.org 

source: http://www.soilassociation.org/sa/saweb.nsf/librarytitles/seedsofdoubt_summary.html 17sep02


GM CROPS ARE ECONOMIC DISASTER SHOWS NEW REPORT

PRESS RELEASE


EMBARGOED UNTIL 11.00AM TUESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER

Genetically modified crops have been an economic disaster in the USA and Canada according to a new report published by the Soil Association.

The Soil Association estimates that GM soya, maize and oilseed rape could have cost the US economy $12 billion (£8 billion) since 1999 in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls. Farmers are not achieving the higher profits promised by the biotechnology companies as markets for GM food collapse. Widespread GM contamination at all levels of the food and farming industry is the major cause of these difficulties.

Severe problems with GM crops has led to over 200 groups representing farmers and the organic sector in the USA and Canada to call for a ban or moratorium on the introduction of the next major proposed GM food crop, GM wheat. Some politicians in the USA are so concerned that in May this year, legislation was introduced to Congress to address the economic, market and legal issues.

The Soil Association's report is the first to reveal the serious widespread impacts of GM crops in North America on the food and farming industry, where three-quarters of the world's GM food is grown. It is the most comprehensive review of the situation to be produced from a non-biotechnology industry perspective.

Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's Policy Director said: "A decision will be made next year whether to allow GM crops to be grown commercially in the UK. With agriculture still suffering a deep economic crisis, the temptation to seize a new technology is great.

"GM was introduced to the USA when farmers were financially vulnerable. The biotechnology industry's claims that their products would bring benefits were widely accepted, but GM crops have now proved to be a financial liability. Growing GM crops in the UK will undermine the competitiveness of British agriculture.

"We hope farmers in the UK will take our findings seriously. Most of the world is GM-free and there is no market for GM crops in the EU.

"The Soil Association hopes that this report will result in a better informed public debate, and a more independent, less pressurised decision about the possible commercial growing of GM crops in the UK. We can still avoid the mistakes made in the USA and Canada, but only if we don't open the can of GM worms that commercial growing of GM crops represents.

"The Government is publicly committed to ensuring that the expansion of organic farming is not undermined by GM crops - our report shows that the two cannot coexist."

Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops, is available from the Soil Association Mail Order Department on 0117 929 0661, mtrowell@soilassociation.org or from http://www.soilassociation.org/gm price £12.


Ends

Notes:

 
Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops

Main findings

 

 

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