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FoE's damning report on GM crops

PUBLISHED: 08:52 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 08:21 28 March 2014

FEBRUARY 11, 2008: Genetically Modified (GM) crops have led to a massive increase in
pesticide use and have failed to increase yields or tackle world hunger
and poverty, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth. The report coincides with the annual
release of biotech industry figures on GM crop cultivation around the
world.

Friends of the Earth International's GMO coordinator in Nigeria, Nnimmo Bassey said: "GM crops have failed to deliver the long-promised benefits of the biotech industry. Instead, increased pesticide use caused by these crops threatens the environment and communities around the world."

"The biotech industry tells Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But the majority of GM crops are used to feed animals in rich countries, to produce damaging agrofuels, and don't even yield more than conventional crops."

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said: "It is now clearer than ever that Europe is right to take a precautionary approach to GM crops. They are not the solution to the urgent environmental and economic challenges facing farmers both in Europe and in developing countries. More and more evidence is showing that around the world green farming methods are providing real solutions whilst boosting local economies and creating jobs."

Friends of the Earth International's report "Who Benefits from GM crops?" 2008 says that:

* The adoption of GM crops has led to a significant increase in pesticide use

* Government studies show a 15-fold increase in the use of the herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate) in the United States and an almost 80 per cent increase in Brazil. This is resulting in increasing numbers of glyphosate-resistant weeds around the world, leading to higher production costs for farmers as well as concerns about the environmental impact.

* The US also reports increasing use of more toxic pesticides, including one banned in Europe:

• The increase in glyphosate is no longer displacing other herbicides in the US. From 2002 to 2006 the use of 2,4,D (a component of agent orange) on soybeans more than doubled

• The use of atrazine (banned in the EU due to links to health problems) on maize increased by 12 per cent in the US from 2002 to 2005.

* GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty

• The vast majority of GM crops commercialised so far are destined for animal feed for the meat and livestock markets in rich industrialised nations rather than for feeding the poor. GM crops, as part of the intensive farming model, contribute to small farmers losing their land and livelihoods and do not alleviate poverty.

• Industry often claims that genetically modified cotton (Bt cotton) has boosted overall cotton yields thus contributing to poverty alleviation for farmers. However, close examination of these claims shows that favourable weather conditions, a shift to irrigation and the introduction of improved seed that is not genetically modified explain the improved yield. Also, in several countries, farmers who paid a premium for Bt cotton seed ended up spending as much on chemical insecticides as farmers growing conventional cotton.

* Overall, GM crops do not yield more than other crops

• Even the US Department of Agriculture admits that no GM crop on the market has been modified to increase yields. The main factors influencing crop yield are weather, irrigation and fertilizers, soil quality and farmers' management skills.

* GMOs continue to fail in Europe

• Less than 2% of the total maize grown in the EU is genetically modified and five EU countries have now banned Monsanto's maize because of growing evidence of its negative environmental impact. A review of biotechnology in the European Union in 2007 confirmed that the GM crop sector is not performing well. On the other hand, green farming methods such as organic farming are creating more jobs, boosting rural economies and are safer for the environment.

A Question & Answer document focused on showing that GM crops do not help meet the Millennium Development Goals of halving hunger and poverty by 2015 is available at:

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/who_benefits_questions.pdf

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