GE Crops are an Economic Disaster
|September 24, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Major Investigation Concludes Strongly Against GM Products
GM CROPS ARE ECONOMIC DISASTER, SHOWS NEW REPORT
We are thrilled that someone has compiled an analysis of the actual economic effects of genetically modified crops. The verdict is clear and sharp — GM crops are terrible and unjustified and have cost taxpayers heavily.
Our thanks to the Soil Association for making this important new report. Here is their announcement, along with a selection of details.
New Report “Seeds of Doubt” Shows Economic Failure of GM Crops
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.”
- Over the three years 1999, 2000 and 2001, the USA paid out an estimated total extra $10 billion (£6.5 billion) in farm subsidies for maize and soya (as ‘Loan Deficiency Payments’ and ‘Market Loss Assistance’) as a result of the low prices caused by the loss of trade due to GM crops. The loss of foreign trade due to GM crops totalled an estimated $1-2 billion (£0.6 billion – £1 billion) . The StarLink corn incident has cost an estimated $1 billion (£0.6 billion) including the product recall.
- GM oilseed rape, maize, soya and cotton have been grown commercially in North America since 1996. They are all used in vegetable oils and animal feed, and soya is widely used in processed food.
- The report is based on interviews with organic and conventional farmers in the Mid-West states of America in January and February 2002, as well as evidence from independent academics, advisers and industry analysts in the USA and Canada.
- Nestle, Unilever and Heinz, plus the major UK supermarkets have a ban on GM food ingredients in own brand products. Many are now also using GM-free animal feed.
- GMOs are prohibited in organic farming and food processing in view of their incompatibility with the principles of organic agriculture, their unrecallable nature and the potential risks they pose to the environment and human health.
Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops
- Lower profits for farmers growing GM crops: The profitability of growing GM herbicide tolerant soya and insect-resistant Bt maize is less than non-GM crops. This is due to the extra cost of GM seed (which can be up to 40% higher), the lower market prices paid for GM crops, and reduced soya yields.
- Collapse of export markets: within a few years of the introduction of GM crops, almost the entire $300 million (£200 million) annual US maize exports to the EU and the $300 million annual Canadian rape exports to the EU had disappeared due to market rejection. The US share of the world soya market has decreased while non-GM producing countries have seen an increase.
- Increase in government subsidies: US farm subsidies were meant to have fallen over the last few years. Instead they rose dramatically, paralleling the growth in GM crops. The lost export trade as a result of GM crops is thought to have caused a fall in crop prices and a need for increased government subsidies, estimated at an extra $3-$5 billion (£2 – £3 billion) annually.
- Lower yields: the claims of increased yields have not been realised overall except for a small increase in Bt maize yields. The main GM variety (Roundup Ready soya) yields 6-11% less than non-GM varieties. A farmer in Mississippi was awarded over $165,000 (£100,000) in damages from Monsanto for low GM soya yields.
- Widespread contamination of non-GM crops: contamination has caused major problems throughout the food and farming industry in just a couple of years, including the loss of nearly the whole organic oilseed rape sector in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Non-GM seeds varieties are difficult to buy, and even these may turn out to be contaminated. Those who are successful in sourcing non-GM seeds risk having their crops contaminated by neighbouring GM fields. Many organic and other GM-free maize farmers have lost sales or received lower prices because of contamination at a potential cost of over $90 million (£60 million) annually.
- Premiums for non-GM crops: farmers who are successfully growing non-GM crops are reaping benefits, with one farmer reporting that organic soya is selling at a 200 per cent premium.
- A proliferation of lawsuits and the emergence of complex legal issues: biotechnology companies are suing many farmers for infringing company patent rights, saying that they have unlicensed GM plants on their land. A non-GM farmer whose crop was contaminated by GMOs was sued by Monsanto for $400,000 (£260,000). Farmers are turning to the courts for compensation from the companies for lost income and markets as a result of contamination. In Canada, legal action has been launched by the organic sector in Saskatchewan because they cannot supply the organic rape market with GM-free rape, which could cost biotechnology companies millions of dollars.
- Increased use of herbicides: Contrary to claims from the biotechnology industry, farmers are now more reliant on herbicides (weedkillers). Certain crops have been engineered to be resistant to specific herbicides to enable farmers to spray weeds without damaging crops. Although it was claimed that only one application would be needed per crop, several are being made. In addition, weeds are developing resistance to these herbicides, and rogue GM plants that grow after a harvest (volunteers) have appeared and spread widely. In particular, GM oilseed rape volunteers the GM crop most likely to be introduced in the UK have spread quickly, and some plants have become resistant to several herbicides through cross pollination. As a result, farmers are making more frequent applications and reverting to older and more toxic chemicals.
- GM food recalls: the most expensive recall concerned GM Starlink which was approved for animal feed, but not human consumption. However, it was found in food products such as taco shells and the recall cost to Aventis is estimated to be up to $1 billion (£0.5 billion). In 1998, cross-pollination from GM maize was suspected of contaminating organic maize in Texas. This was only discovered once the maize was shipped to Europe as organic tortilla chips, costing the small company more than $150,000 (£100,000).
“Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops” is available from the Soil Association Mail Order Department. Telephone 0117 929 0661, or email email@example.com or go to http://www.soilassociation.org/gm
For a nice summary of the report, click here
Be sure to see Fred Foldvary’s editorial on Genetically Manipulated Food
So now the facts are in. GM crops are an economic failure and taxpayers are being forced to make huge corporate welfare handouts to agribusiness corporations just to compensate them for their GM-caused losses. This situation is one of the greatest and most dangerous scandals of our generation. What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!