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Published on October 24th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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GM Crops Don’t Deliver What They Promise (REPORT & VIDEO)

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You consistently hear about how GMOs can help save the world. You hear how they can help poor farmers. You hear that they are greener (more environmentally friendly). You hear that the world needs them….

But who do you hear all this from? (GMO companies and the politicians they buy.)

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, *slams* these claims. He reports in the video below that GM crops are not good for small farmers at all. They are created for the large monoculture farms of agribusinesses (and chemical companies which, conveniently, also produce the GMOs). The require the use of tons of herbicides and pesticides, which is worse for the environment.

Meanwhile, promises of drought-resistant and salt-tolerant crops have not been fulfilled. Check out the video below (if it’s not loading for you, try refreshing the page or go to the UK’s Guardian to watch it):

Also, yields are not nearly what they were said to be. With the extra costs of the seeds and the pesticides and herbicides, that leaves farmers in a worse situation than they would have been.

Bassey says we should all pay close attention to what’s happening in India and take it as a lesson. (In India, which has adopted GMOs much more so than most countries, has had ~250,000 farmers commit suicide because of the horrible situation going GMO put them in and their inability to deal with the disappointment and trapped downward financial spiral.)

This video interview comes on the heels of a new report by “20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people,” the UK’s Guardian reports.

The report claims that hunger has reached “epic proportions” since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM “traits” have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.

Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens’ Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies’ justification that GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.

In China, where insect-resistant Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of pests that previously posed only minor problems have increased 12-fold since 1997. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology found that any benefits of planting Bt cotton have been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat them.

Additionally, soya growers in Argentina and Brazil have been found to use twice as much herbicide on their GM as they do on conventional crops, and a survey by Navdanya International, in India, showed that pesticide use increased 13-fold since Bt cotton was introduced.

The report, which draws on empirical research and companies’ own statements, also says weeds are now developing resistance to the GM firms’ herbicides and pesticides that are designed to be used with their crops, and that this has led to growing infestations of “superweeds”, especially in the US.

Ten common weeds have now developed resistance in at least 22 US states, with about 6m hectares (15m acres) of soya, cotton and corn now affected.

Consequently, farmers are being forced to use more herbicides to combat the resistant weeds, says the report. GM companies are paying farmers to use other, stronger, chemicals, they say. “The genetic engineering miracle is quite clearly faltering in farmers’ fields,” add the authors.

For much more, watch the video above, view the report (The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes), or read more of the Guardian story.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tao-Jones-Exchange/337908435465 Jamie Jones

    What happened to the videos? They are “unavailable” ?

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      Thanks for mentioning this, Jamie! Zach’s working on it. Sometimes, embedding Guardian videos is a little wonky. He said that refreshing will sometimes help, and he’s going to add a link to a site where you can view them if you can’t get them to work here. Thanks again!

  • http://www.healthyplants.org Rich

    This is the biggest rubbish I have heard in a long while. Do you still believe that the Eath is flat? Get with the program – read up on the science and consider that in 40 short years there will be 9 billion hungry bellies on this planet. GMOs are a good way to feed them. Please show me proof that GMOs are dangerous. Can you cite one example of GMO poisoning any one? Or causing a person to grow an extra toe, or nostril? Stop this fear mongering and study up on the subject you have ignorantly attacked.

  • Pingback: Occupy Our Food | Fishink

  • GH

    Once again, I am convinced that some people have no clue what a GMO actually is.

    First up, the notion that they’re all a big corporate thing. Tell me, which chemical company produced BipCassava, Golden Rice, Rainbow papaya, HoneySweet plum, or Super Sorghum? Which company produced the University of Ghent’s disease resistant potatoes or CSIRO’s low GI wheat? Which big chemical company developed the Bt rice in Iran, or the BXW resistant bananas being developed in Uganda? Who made the GE peppers and tomatoes being studied in China, or the GE grape rootstocks that were being studied in France?

    And the issue mentioned of only limited traits being released, that couldn’t have anything to do with the excessive regulations could it, or all the fearmongering, shouting down, and outright liew about GE crops? That is one of the most frustrating anti-Ge arguments out there. Ever think that maybe there was more publicly funded research out there besides a papaya? I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this one applied to Golden Rice, despite it being ready to go. Might makes right I guess. Then again, given how many GMO trials have been trashed, it isn’t surprising. And FWI, that isn’t entirely true that there are no drought resistant GE crops on the market yet. Ever consider what nice side effect not having borers munching on your roots might have? Yep, Bt crops also display some drought resistance due to this. And Monsanto is looking to release drought resistance corn in 2015 I believe. Of course, when that happens, just watch the goalpost move and people will complain that GE crops have failed to deliver something else, just like an anti-vaxxer or climate change denialist would do.

    Speaking of which you know there’s nothing separating you from them right? Your words are different but your tactics are the same.

    What I really loved is the notion that other insects are now problems AND that GE crops require more pesticides. Why do you think mirid bugs are a problem now? Because Bt is a very specific protein and they don’t spray nearly as much anymore! They have a higher amount of insect biodiversity
    on fields where pesticides have been replaced with GE crops It just boggles the mind that they make the claim that more insects are becoming problematic AND that GE crops require more pesticides (although its hard to say what they mean given that they appear to be using weed killing and bug killing chemicals practically interchangeably….yeah, now that’s a sure sign of competence, maybe I’ll start going to a doctor who used kidney and liver interchangeably)..

    And I have a hard time reading anything that uses the term ‘superweed.’ The term is glyphosate resistant weed. If you can’t get by without using misleading and emotionally charged rhetoric don’t be surprised when you’re not taken seriously. Yes, resistance is a problem. They are not resistant to anything besides glyphosate. Other herbicides and weed removal methods will remove them. It doesn’t affect you if you don’t use GE crops. They have caused an increase in the herbicide they resist (duh), but it was at the cost of worse herbicides. Resistant pests have been an issue long before GE crops. The fact that these is such strong selection pressure, that these methods are used so much, should tell you how farmers feel about these GE crops.

    what else is there? Farmer suicides? Nope. Not happening due to GE crops, and while there is an increase, it is not statistically significantly different than that of the rest of India, in fact Bt cotton growing farmers in some areas have much lower suicide rates than those in other parts of India. Oh, here’s an interesting tidbit, the suicides are worse in Maharashtra where the farmers can’t sell out of state, than they are in Gujarat, where they can….but I’m sure the problems is something simple and easy to blame, like GE crops not something complected and little known outside of India, like political policy.

    And even if everything you believe is true, it still is irrational to oppose GE crops. Genotype affects phenotype, case closed. You like biodiversity and polyculture? Good, so do I. Support cassava, taro, yacon, oca, sago, teff, fonio, quinoa, salicornia, chaya, kokihi, nopales, melinjo, marula, yellowhorn, rosita de cacao, grains of selim, jujube, pawpaw, goumi, mulberry, kaki, quandong, cassabanana, kutjera, jabuticaba, lemondrop mangosteen, rose apple, pacay, salak, canistel, ect ad nasium. Oh, my standard angry growl about biodiversity: if you found yourself with no clue about most of those undercultivated crops are, YOU and you ignorance are part of the monoculture problem, far more than any plant improvement technique. If you aren’t doing what you can to advocate the further use of these species, then there’s the problem, not GE crops, and if you though about the years of breeding they don’t have, maybe you’d consider biotechnology as a solution to improve and promote such crops….but that would require doing away with black and white dichotomies such as the one that supposedly exists between biodiversity and biotechnology. You know what the difference between the two really is? One seeks to utilize all available genetic resources. The other seeks to utilize all available genetic resources. And if you’ve got a specific issue with GE crops? Speak it. Say what the issue is, what specifically is causing the problem, how it got them, and how to fix it. Biochemistry or it didn’t happen. But that’s a lot harder than making a claim and linking to some discredited hack while ignoring scientific consensus, isn’t it? I think deep down we all know why the best the anti-GMO movement can come up with is vague, incomplete, and misleading. Meanwhile I can detail the shikimate pathway and explain how herbicide tolerance works, or talk about the cry protein’s mode of action, or discuss the shutdown feature employed by viral resistance traits, or talk about a few transgenic anti-fungal methods that have gotten great results in field trials, explain the pathway that produces beta carotene in Golden Rice, or even talk about how non-browing GE apples work. Can anyone explain to me what in GE crops makes them dangerous, how it got there, what it its genetic basis, what biochemical pathway produces it, what it’s structure it, and what its mode of action is? And it’d be nice to know why only genetic engineering causes it and not every other plant improvement technique (induced polyploidy, mutation/sport selection, embryo rescue/wide crosses, somaclonal variation/ radiation or chemical mutagenesis, ect) or natural horizontal gene transfer (and lest we forget odds are nothing is transgene free…the viral DNA in the human genome says we sure aren’t). Bonus points if you can explain why the genetic engineering used to study the finest points of molecular biology has produced countless facts applicable to medicine and other fields, yet once you get into the public eyes, it suddenly turns dangerous and unpredictable. Sure, go on and on with the easy accusations, but then stop before getting to the good part? Come on, if I’m so wrong, someone shut me up. If I’m wrong, I want to know the truth so that I can change my mind. I’ll be embarrassed, but I will do a 180 and join the march against GMOs with only a few answers. But mind you, I’m looking for some very detailed and robustly supported answers. I’m not holding my breath though.

    I could go on, but I’ve taken time enough and you can’t reason someone out of a position they weren’t reasoned into to begin with. And guess what happens in the meantime? You can’t walk with your eyes closed and expect no consequences, nor can you keep your eyes closed to science and expect no consequences. The guy above is right. GMOs are needed. No, they’re not a cure all or silver bullet, nor are they the only part of the solution, but trying to feed the world sustainably without them is like trying to build a house without a level. Its absurd, just like the time I wasted typing this. Is there anyone actually interested in learning about this or is the standard greenie crusading feel good nonsense all any once cares about anymore?

    Ignorance of biotechnology here and apathy towards biodiversity there. Ugh, I don’t like where things are going.

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