GM crops criticized for ‘feeding profits, not the poor’

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm crops Genetically modified food Genetically modified organism

Friends of the Earth International has accused biotech firms of using genetically modified crops to feed profits instead of the world’s poor while increasing costs for US farmers, in a report released Tuesday.

The report, Who Benefits From GM Crops?,​ outlined how agribusiness corporations have seen increased profits on the back of rising grain prices, even as the world’s hungry were hit by the food crisis.

It is particularly critical of Monsanto’s ‘Roundup Ready’ seeds, which are modified to be resistant to Roundup, the world’s biggest selling herbicide, also marketed by Monsanto. The report claimed that the company is incorporating the ‘Roundup Ready’ trait into nearly all its seeds, so that farmers who once bought insect resistant maize, for example, now find that it also has the herbicide resistant trait.

“This trait penetration strategy means higher profits from both seeds and Roundup sales, and ensures farmers’ dependence on GM traits and Roundup,”​ said the report.

The two most prevalent GM traits are insect resistance and herbicide tolerance, with the latter accounting for 82 percent of global GM crops acreage in 2007.

It added that Monsanto’s total revenue is expected to increase from $8.6bn in 2007 to $14.9bn in 2010 and highlighted that GM seeds cost two to four times as much as conventional seeds, with the US planting 50 percent of the world’s GM crops.

Increased costs

The report was co-authored by Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.

He said: “Thanks largely to Monsanto, U.S. farmers are facing dramatic increases in the price of GM seeds and the chemicals used with them.”

In addition, GM crops have long been promoted as a possible solution to world hunger, but Friends of the Earth said the kinds of GM traits promised, such as increased yield or enhanced nutrition, still do not exist.

It added: “Disease-resistant GM crops are practically nonexistent, and are grown on a tiny scale.”

Small-scale missing out

Moreover, the report claimed that higher seed and chemical prices take GM crops even further from the reach of less wealthy farmers, both in the US, where the use of GM favors large-scale farming, and in the developing world, where small-scale farming is the norm.

Friends of the Earth International chair Nnimmo Bassey said: “GM crops are all about feeding biotech giants, not the world’s poor. GM seeds and the pesticides used with them are much too expensive for Africa’s small farmers. Those who promote this technology in developing countries are completely out of touch with reality.”

Attitudes to GM crops vary across the world, with people in the US, Canada and Japan generally positive about their use, while Europeans tend to hold a more negative view, according to a report from the Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Chemical Engineers published last month.

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