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Independent Report Slams
The Benefits of GE Crops

NEW REPORT - Yields and profits down, agrochemical use up:
the great GM food gamble exposed

Seeds of Doubt: North American farmers' experiences of GM crops is
available from the Soil Association, price £12. tel: 0117 914 2400 or
www.soilassociation.org
---
UK report casts doubt on North American GM crops

LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Genetically modified crops in North America
have been an economic disaster, which has caused some farm groups there
to call for a moratorium on GM wheat, the next proposed crop to be
altered, a report released on Tuesday said.

The study by the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic
organisation, estimated that gene-altered maize, soya and rapeseed may
have cost the U.S. economy $12 billion since 1999 in farm subsidies,
lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls.

Scientists have said that the advent of such crops could be the answer
to world hunger, but the report said claims of increased yields have not
been realised overall -- except for a small increase in some maize
yields.

The report said farmers are not achieving the higher profits promised by
the biotech companies as markets for GM food collapse, citing widespread
GM contamination at all levels of the food and farming industry as the
source.

"Within a few years of the introduction of GM crops, almost the entire
$300 million annual US maize exports to the EU had disappeared, and the
US share of the soya market had decreased," the report said.

"The lost export trade as a result of GM crops is thought to have caused
a fall in farm prices and hence a need for increased government
subsidies, estimated at an extra $3-$5 billion annually," it added.

MORATORIUM

It found that severe problems with gene-spliced crops has led more than
200 groups representing farmers and the organic sector in North America
to call for a moratorium on the introduction of GM wheat.

For the last several years, leading biotech company Monsanto has
stressed the benefits its genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat can
bring to farmers.

The herbicide resistant strain, for which Monsanto is currently seeking
regulatory approval, could mean efficiencies and potentially higher
yields for farmers, according to the firm.

Public opinion in Europe is wary of gene-altered crops after a string of
food safety scares, including mad cow disease, and there is a three-year
de facto ban in place on approvals of new GM varieties.

Soil Association Director Peter Melchett said the report came as a
timely note of caution to Britain ahead of a decision due next year on
whether to commercialise GM crops following its three-year field test
programme.

"With UK agriculture still suffering a deep economic crisis, the
temptation to seize a new technology is great," he told the media at the
report's launch.

"GM technology 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," he added.

Melchett said he hoped the report would result in a better informed
public debate, and a more independent, less pressurised decision about
the commercialisation of GM crops in the UK.

Britain's government formally launched a public debate on the issue
earlier this year, but trust in biotech companies took a battering
recently with the disclosure of small impurities in field trials for
oilseed rape, which threatened to derail the government's field trial
programme on the environmental impact of such crops.

The blunder also prompted UK environment minister Michael Meacher to
break with the government's broadly GM-sympathetic government line,
saying that the country was being pressured by the U.S. to allow
commercial planting of gene-spliced crops.

"I do think it's right that there are people in the government who are
beginning to see that you cannot both promote organic farming and
promote GMO's at the same time," Melchett said.

© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained
In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise
distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.

GM CLAIMS HIT BUFFERS
BBC Wildlife Magazine
Yields and profits down, agrochemical use up: the great GM food gamble
exposed as decision time for the UK nears.

A new report is challenging the biotech industry line that GM crops will
benefit farmers. Seeds of Doubt, published by the Soil Association, says
that increased yields and profits and reduced agrochemical use have not
materialised for farmers in the US, one of only four countries where GM
crops are grown commercially.

The only independent research looking at the impact of genetic
engineering on yields has found that they actually decrease by around 6
per cent, while agrochemical use has increased as farmers apply greater
amounts of herbicide to crops that are resistant to it. Profits are
being eroded as market prices decrease, because the GM 'brand' has lost
its international market.

The Soil Association commissioned the report because of concerns about
the future of organic farming in the UK. It's now clear that there is no
place for GM technology in organic agriculture. When it was first being
discussed, ministers said they would ensure that organic farming was not
compromised by the introduction of GM crops. Now, the Government wants
to find out what levels of contamination are acceptable.

The lessons from North America are disturbing. Canada has lost its
entire organic oilseed rape industry to GM contamination in a few, short
years, and the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has launched a lawsuit
against the GM company responsible.

The report comes at a crucial time for the future of GM technology in
the UK. The Government is expected to decide in June 2003 whether to
push ahead with commercialisation, and though it has launched a public
debate on the issue, many believe that Tony Blair has already made up
his mind that it should go ahead.

The Soil Association is calling on ministers to be cautious. Patrick
Holden, the organisation's director, is unequivocal. "From the evidence
in this report, proceeding down that road would be utter folly," he
said.

 

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