CropGen is a biotech industry funded lobby run by pro-GM UK academics. Its press release (below) in response to yesterday's Action Aid report shows the extent to which spin guides CropGen's statements.
Quite apart from only dealing with one GM crop (cotton), almost every element of CropGen's press release, on 'how GM technology is delivering real results in the developing world right now', is seriously open to question.
CropGen's press release claims major benefits from GM cotton for:
*South Africa - but recent reports by SAFeAGE and Biowatch suggest:
- that any benefits may have more to do with new resources (educational and financial) being made available to the farmers than GM crops;
- that there may be serious debt problems and even suicides in the area;
- that Monsanto research into GM crop performance in the area was suppressed;
- and that the irrigation system in the area is being manipulated to facilitate cotton growing at the expoense of other famers and with dire consequences for the local and downstream ecology.
*China - but a report from the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences released in June last year concluded:
- that GM cotton is permanently damaging the environment
- that it is killing the natural parasitic enemies of the insect it targets
- and that it is encouraging other pests.
*Indonesia - but a leaked letter from Monsanto shows:
- its GM cotton operation in Indonesia is totally unprofitable
- it's seeking to wind it down unless and until it can get the removal of regulatory controls by the Indonesian government.
There have also been complaints and demands for compensation from farmers arising from poor harvests and inconsistent seed supply by Monsanto. http://ngin.tripod.com/040602a.htm
*India - CropGen claims average yield increases with GM cotton of 60% and a 70% reduction in insecticide use 'resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits'. BUT the Qaim and Zilberman research (based on data provided by Monsanto-Mayhco) that CropGen's claims rely on is hugely controversial and has faced serious criticism even from GM supporters.
An Indian scientist working for biotech company Syngenta has said of the research CropGen quotes, "This kind of shoddy publication based on meagre and questionable field data... do more harm to science and technology development, perhaps set GMO technology backwards." http://ngin.tripod.com/260203b.htm
Research and reports by Indian state governments, NGOs and associated scientists and economists all give the lie to CropGen's claims.
They show that the GM Cotton harvest in India in 2002 was a serious failure. There are demands for compensation from farmers and India's regulatory committee has subsequently not allowed GM cotton to be commercialised in the northern states of India. (For a comprehensive account see: http://flonnet.com/fl2011/stories/20030606005912300.htm)
CropGen also refers to "years of field trials" in India but CropGen fails to say that those trials have themselves been a major source of controversy regarding length, adequacy and findings - some of which are said to have been predictors for the problems that have occurred: http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=7191
Bt Cotton Belies Promises: Research
Economists' Report Card On Bt Cotton
Not one word of any of this is mentioned by CropGen who even say, "If the success of the Indian experience is projected to South and Southeast Asia and Subsaharan Africa... then the yield effects of GM crops have the potential to be just as high and result in huge environmental, social and economic benefits."
Cropgen response to ActionAid report
May 28, 2003
Contrary to ActionAid's report, GM technology is delivering real results in the developing world right now. In 2001, 75% of all farmers who grew gm crops were small (two hectares or less) resource-poor farmers from the developing world2:
Small-hold GM cotton farmers in the Natal region, are experiencing: yield increases of 25%
80% decrease in insecticide sprays resulting in environmental, social (health, less back-breaking work, less time tied to the land) and economic benefits
Small-hold (average size of farms being 2.5 hectares) GM maize farmers in the Natal region, are experiencing: yield increases as high as 220% decreases in pesticide sprays resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
China - GM cotton grown by 4 million small-hold farmers e.g. The Yellow River cotton growing region in Northern China: yield increases of 5 - 10% 50% decrease in insecticide sprays resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits. (In 2001, GM cotton increased annual farmer income by £300/hectare)
Indonesia - GM cotton is being grown by thousands of small-hold farmers in the South Sulawesi province yield increases of 200% upwards 75% decreases in insecticide sprays resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
India - Over a four year period (1998-2001) field trials of GM cotton in seven states resulted in: average yield increases of 60%
70% reduction in insecticide use resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
After years of field trials, commercialisation of GM cotton commenced in India in 2002. If the success of the Indian experience is projected to South and Southeast Asia and Subsaharan Africa, where pest pressure is also high and chemical pest control alternatives are limited, then the yield effects of GM crops have the potential to be just as high and result in huge environmental, social and economic benefits3.
GM maize and potato, which have direct relevance to food security in the developing world, are being developed and in some countries already commercialised. GM rice and sweet potato are also on their way.
1.GM Crops - Going against the Grain:
2.James, Clive. 2002. Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001; Feature: Bt Cotton. ISAAA Briefs No. 26. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
3.Qaim, M., Zilberman, D. 2003. Yield Effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries. Science. 299: 900-902.
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