GENTECH archive


GM giants 'will force the world into famine'/ BM items a threat to organic farming

TWO separate items.

Christian Aid demands a five-year freeze on technology and calls for block
on 'suicide seeds'


GUARDIAN (London) Monday May 10, 1999

Genetically modified food: recent reports, links and background The
introduction of genetically modified crops to the world's poorest
countries could lead to famine instead of feeding more than 800m hungry
people worldwide, says Christian Aid.

In a major report today the charity argues that GM crops are 'irrelevant'
to ending world hunger, will concentrate power in too few hands and will
strip small farmers of their independence.

It also condemns 'suicide seeds' that contain a terminator gene which
makes the next generation of seeds sterile, forcing farmers to buy new
seed every year. Currently, 80% of crops in the developing world are from
saved seed. Christian Aid says the consequences of such massive influence
on the world food supply could be one of the most serious developments in

It says: 'GM crops are . . . creating classic preconditions for hunger and
famine. A food supply based on too few varieties of patented crops are the
worst option for food security. More dependence and marginalisation loom
for the poorest.'

The report, which used research in Brazil, India and Ethiopia, is a major
challenge to the life sciences industry, led by a handful of giant
chemical and agri-business firms.

Companies like Monsanto, Novartis and the British corporation Zeneca argue
that GM technology will play a major role in ending hunger. None was
available for comment yesterday.

GM crops of soya, maize, tobacco and cotton are grown widely in the US,
China, Argentina and Canada. But the report says the market will move
south where more than 50 other crops are being tested in more than 30
developing countries.

Predictions by the Rural Advancement Foundation International, a Canadian
agricultural research group, says GM crops will jump from less than 20m
hectares (50m acres) today to more 800m hectares by 2002. More than 600m
hectares will be in poor countries.

The report says the major corporations are moving swiftly into developing
countries. In Brazil, Monsanto has spent more than $1bn in buying seed
companies and plans a $550m factory to produce pesticide compatible with
its GM soya crops.

In India it has big holdings in the country's largest seed company and
invested more than $20m in the country's leading science institution. It
has also paid more than $1bn for the international seed operations of
Cargill, the world's largest private grain sales company.

The big five GM corporations have patents in more than 90 countries on
different versions of terminator technology. The US department of
agriculture has a 5% share in one version of the terminator gene, and
predicts that 'it will be so widely adopted that farmers will only be able
to buy seeds that cannot be re-germinated'. There have been riots and crop
burnings in Brazil and India.

Christian Aid says that large farmers are the only ones to benefit from GM
technology. Indian research showed that land reform and simple irrigation
can boost crops by 50%, against 10% increases from GM crops. Christian Aid
called for a five-year freeze on GM crops and for new resources to be put
into sustainable and organic farming.
INDEPENDENT (London) May 9

Stop GM Foods - Genetic threat to organic food

By MARIE WOOLF, Political Correspondent

GENETIC contamination of various kinds is inevitable if GM crops are grown
here commercially, according to unpublished research commissioned by

And organic farmers could face ruin if GM crops are allowed to be grown on
a commercial scale in Britain, says the report, now being studied in
Whitehall. It warns that organic crops are certain to be contaminated by
GM plants because their pollen can spread far beyond the boundaries of

The conclusions of the report, written by biotechnology and agriculture
experts at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, have severe implications for
Britain's burgeoning organic food sector.

Organic food is defined as being "pesticide and additive free" in Britain
and any kind of genetic engineering is banned by the Soil Association,
which regulates organic farming.

The report says organic farmers should set standards for acceptable levels
of pollution by GM plants and that a system for checking for contamination
should be put in place.

"Neither source of contamination, either pollen or seed, can be entirely
eliminated, so acceptable levels have to be decided on," says the report.

But organic farmers say that the report supports their view that GM crops
pose a serious threat to their livelihoods. They argue that consumer
confidence in organic food would inevitably be undermined if even limited
contamination was tolerated.

The report, Organic Farming and Gene Transfer from Genetically Modified
Crops, examined data from trials of GM crops to see whether the proposed
"buffer zones" between fields of GM and organic crops would protect them
from contamination.

It asserts that the proposed barriers around ordinary crops could result
in up to one per cent of organic plants becoming GM hybrids.

The Soil Association has said that a six-mile barrier is the minimum
guarantee that organic crops are not tainted.

"We are determined to maintain the purity of organic crops in the UK and
this is why we have set ourselves against GM," said Richard Young of the
Soil Association. "The boundaries between GM crops are totally inadequate
to protect organic farmers from GM crops. We are about sustainable
agriculture working in harmony with nature - not altering it for a
quick-fix solution."

GM pollen can travel large distances on the wind, and is also carried by
bees. GM seeds can also fall off trucks and farm machinery during
transport or be left in the ground, leading to the growth of stray plants.

Ministers have promised to protect Britain's growing organic farming
sector from the threat from GM crops. But environmentalists say that
organic farmers are being betrayed.

"The Government seems to be about to renege on its promise to protect the
organic farmer from genetic pollution," said Pete Riley of Friends of the
Earth. "Non-organic farmers hoping to get into the expanding GM free
market are also vulnerable to this type of contamination. with organic
produce no level of GM contamination is acceptable."


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