This new publication looks at the intersection between the development of genetically modified (GM) sugar cane and transformations in the global sugar industry. April 2009.
When in August 2002, the government of Zambia rejected a shipment of humanitarian aid because it contained genetically modified corn, it unleashed a new debate: Is the use of genetically modified foods justified in the alleviation of hunger in the world’s poorest countries?
Genetic engineering of foods -a process whereby specific information is artificially transferred from one type of organism to another, regardless of the species- is one of the most disturbing and criticized aspects of biotechnological development. The industry that practices this technology claims that it is a way of contributing to feed the world, as if the hunger problem were the result of a lack of, instead of a maldistribution of, food.
The aim is to alter an organism’s natural properties. For example, human genes have been spliced into pigs and fish to make them grow more rapidly. Genes are often transferred from one species to another; for instance, scorpion toxin genes have been inserted into corn in order for the plant to develop its own insecticide.
Pesticide-producing transgenic crops (e.g. corn) force pest populations to develop pesticide-resistance, which will lead to an increase in the use of toxic chemicals, whose residues will in turn accumulate in foods. Companies, for their part, are already preparing for such an outcome and demand that the authorized levels of residues be raised. All of this could bring about an uncontrollable situation.
Humans are already consuming GM foods, such as soy and corn. Both products are used in over 60% of the foods processed. Transgenic soy and corn can also be used unprocessed as feed for animals intended for human consumption.
This transgenic onslaught is headed by the transnational corporation Monsanto, the very same company that created and produced the Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war. Monsanto has developed, for example, the Roundup-Ready soy, designed to be resistant to the herbicide "Roundup", also manufactured by Monsanto. Some of this company’s fields have been destroyed by activists opposed to genetic manipulation of foods.
Civil society is promoting a strong campaign against GM foods and in favor of protecting genetic resources, advocating food security and sovereignty. The campaign denounces the motives behind genetic modification as primarily commercial and political, and warns that it is not yet clear how GM food consumption will affect human health. The campaign calls for a moratorium on the marketing of GM products until the consequences of genetic manipulation are known.
Critics of genetic engineering say that the new patent laws are giving inventors of genetically modified crops a dangerous degree of control over food sources. In addition, several scientists have expressed their concern because they believe that genetic engineering is inherently hazardous and could produce new toxins in food crops or even generate new allergies among consumers.
At the same time, the campaign demands that all GM products that are already marketed be properly identified so that consumers know exactly what they are buying. Right now in many countries where GM products are sold -particularly in the South- it is not mandatory to label these products as such.
The rural people in developing countries are often far removed from many important decision-making processes. Production and consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a topical issue and could impact on socio-cultural systems of rural populations in developing countries. Involving the rural people in decision-making on GMOs was discussed during this moderated e-mail conference hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum from 17 January to 13 February 2005.
The Paper concludes that the possible costs, benefits and risks associated with particular GM crops must be assessed on a case by case basis. The Paper also discusses the impact of European regulations on GM crops in developing countries, and makes recommendation about policy, regulation and trade. Issues raised by food aid, micronutrient-enriched GM crops and the impact of GM crops on biodiversity are also considered.
This report explores how decisions are made about GM food crops in five developing countries - Brazil, India, Kenya, Thailand and Zambia - by drawing on current research and interviews with more than 100 people. PDF document. June 2005.
This report was distributed by campaigners in Montreal at the start of the second Meeting of the Parties of the Biosafety Protocol, a key international meeting on GM crops trade. It argues that tougher measures are needed to prevent contamination of conventional food by genetically modified organisms (GMO). Namely, clear labelling and segregation. PDF document. May 2005.
The Ecological Society of America has evaluated the ecological effects of current and future uses of field-released genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), as described in this position paper. GEOs have the potential to play a positive role in sustainable agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, bioremediation, and environmental management, both in developed and developing countries. However, deliberate or inadvertent releases of GEOs into the environment could have negative ecological impacts under some circumstances. For example, fast-growing transgenic salmon that escape from aquaculture net-pens might jeopardize native fish populations. Ecological knowledge about potential environmental effects of transgenic organisms is crucial for understanding and avoiding these types of risks.
Use of bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton – a pest-resistant genetically engineered variety pioneered by Monsanto - is spreading rapidly in the major cotton growing regions of China. Many environmental campaigners argue that it is inappropriate for farmers in developing countries. Do their arguments hold up?
This paper brings together a wide reading of the current agricultural research on genetically modified organisms, and data on planting, use rates and yields, focusing specifically on three crops: Roundup Ready (RR) soy, Bt cotton, and Bt corn. With a view to drawing out the implications for crop management strategies in the U.S. and Argentina-the two biggest users of the new technologies-it first looks at rates of adoption, herbicide use rates and yield data (pdf version).
The world’s largest study of the potential impact of genetically modified crops on the environment has produced an ambiguous set of results result. Ironically, this conclusion should make future decisions easier.
Association of public and private members that work in more than 100 countries to mobilize cutting-edge science to reduce hunger and poverty, improve human nutrition and health, and protect the environment.
A UK-based not-for-profit organization to promote critical public understanding of science and to engage both scientists and the public in open debate and discussion, providing inputs into the GM debate.
The 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is held in Bonn, Germany, from 19 to 30 May 2008. Held together with the 4th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, these meetings are the main decision sphere on issues such as the threat on biodiversity posed by agrofuels, GM trees and the use of terminator seeds.
The eighth Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) promised to take major decisions regarding the conservation of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. Curtitiba, Brazil, 20-30 March 2006. Coverage by Choike.
Says reviewer Jennifer A. Thomson: "This is a gem of a book. It is clear and concise, it makes the complex seem simple without losing the essential truths, and, as far as I can tell, it is accurate, with no innuendo, no half-truth and no wild extrapolation".
The document details how the offer of GM food aid by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the latest move in a ten-year marketing campaign designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa.
A new report by Friends of the Earth International part of a series called “Who Benefits from GM Crops?” shows that planting genetically modified (GM) crops is causing an increased use of harmful pesticides in major biotech crop producing countries. February 2008.
As genetically modified soybeans take over vast tracts in South America and reports flow in of genetic contamination of local corn in Mesoamerica, grassroots resistance to biotech crops has also grown. The protests form part of people's movements across the hemisphere that tie together a rejection of neoliberalism and agribusiness, and call for land reform, food sovereignty, and sustainable agriculture. December 2007.
Moves have been set in motion to introduce the world's first genetically engineered rice containing human genes which its proponents claim will help save the lives of millions of children suffering from diarrhea. But concern groups have questioned the need for such a rice, indicating that this might be a sheer marketing ploy in the name of saving lives. May 2007.
A new report released by Greenpeace maintains that genetically engineered rice will cause more problems than it can possibly solve. Given the risk and the existence of more sustainable practices, transgenic rice is unnecessary. The report, 'Future of Rice' says that genetic engineering when compared to other rice breeding methods and to traditional rice growing practices is "ineffective, unpredictable, expensive and risky". December 2006.
The raging worldwide controversy over genetically engineered (GE) crops and products continues to grow. Proponents claim these novel crops are helping feed the hungry. But a growing number of critics, which include environmentalists, farmers, intellectuals, indigenous peoples, students, academics, biologists, agronomists and people from all walks of life and from all over the world, hold that genetic engineering presents serious social and ecological questions that the proponents have not addressed adequately. May 2006.
This report reviews cases reported in the public and scientific literature of contamination, illegal plantings and releases of GM organisms, and negative agricultural side-effects since GM crops were first grown commercially on a large scale in 1996. March 2006.
The potential for genetically modified (GM) crops to threaten biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture is substantial. Megadiverse countries and centers of origin and/or diversity of crop species are particularly vulnerable regions. The future of sustainable agriculture may be irreversibly jeopardized by contamination of in situ preserved genetic resources threatening a strategic resource for the world’s food security. (PDF document). January 2005.
In 1978, the governments of the world gathered under the aegis of the World Health Organisation to sign the Alma Ata Declaration promising "Health for All by 2000". But this promise was never taken seriously, and was sidelined in subsequent health policy discussions. Among the most important conditions for health is people's right to food and adequate nutrition. GM crops guarantee neither food security nor equitable access to food, quite the opposite says this note from the Editor by Dr.Mae-Wan Ho. September 2005.
Hybrid rice, a new technology Asian governments are aggressively promoting to feed their population, is not wanted, not needed and will end up destroying rural areas. A new report by GRAIN, "Fiasco in the Field: An Update on Hybrid Rice in Asia", shows that hybrid rice is being rejected by farmers across Asia. "Hybrid rice is expensive, heavily reliant on fertilisers and pesticides, and a very poor techno-fix to increase yield," according to the report. The main countries turning to hybrid rice are China, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh and India. March 2005.
The first decade of the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops was a resounding failure for biotech companies. The first GM crop was commercialized in 1994, and now, ten years later, the promises made by the biotech industry and its powerful lobby groups have still not materialized. Meanwhile, the global opposition to GM crops continues to swell. February 2005.
Argentina, once the "bread-basket" of the world, has been transformed since 1997 into a GM soya republic. Within the past decade, more than 160 000 families of small farmers have been driven off their traditional mixed/rotation farms to be replaced by large-scale soya monocultures. November 2004.
The first decade of the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops was a resounding failure for biotech companies. The first GM crop was commercialized in 1994, and now, ten years later, the promises made by the biotech industry and its powerful lobby groups have still not materialized. Meanwhile, the global opposition to GM crops continues to swell (pdf version).
The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle.
The body of jurors of the International Popular Tribunal of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) called together for a session of debate on March 11th, 2004 hereby decided unanimously that there is not enought scientific evidence to prove that genetically modified organisms will not harm the environment, biodiversity, and human health.
Amidst the enthusiasm for genetic engineering, there has been little space for critical reflection. Is this new technology appropriate for African agricultural systems and what are the implications if it is taken up? By Devlin Kuyek.
Scientific and other developments since 1999 have confirmed the concerns over the safety of genetic engineering, GM crops and food security. At the same time, the successes and benefits of all forms of sustainable agriculture are undeniable (pdf version).
The battle over genetic engineering is being fought across the world, between those who champion farmers' rights to seeds, livelihood and land, and those who would privatize them. Food First, together with the Pesticide Action Network, has brought together a range of views from critics of GE food.
Within the past decade in Argentina, 160,000 families of small farmers have left the land, unable to compete with large farmers. GM soya has served to exacerbate this trend towards large-scale, industrial agriculture, accelerating poverty.
Representatives of indigenous and farming communities released the results of their own independent studies and conclusions on the presence of transgenic contamination in nine Mexican states: Chihuahua, Morelos, Durango, Mexico State, San Luis Potosi, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and Veracruz.
In an article published in January 2003 on the website of FAO's Agriculture Department, Louise Fresco, the head of Department and FAO Assistant-Director General, responds to questions about world poverty and hunger, globalisation and biotechnology in the context of the food and agriculture sector.
A website produced by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) providing information, news, documents, electronic forum, events, glossary and links. Also available in french, spanish, chinese and arabic.
These questions and answers have been prepared by WHO in response to questions and concerns by a number of WHO Member State Governments with regard to the nature and safety of genetically modified food. PdF format.
Countries in Southern Africa whose populations are facing a devastating drought should carefully consider current scientific knowledge before rejecting food aid containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Dr. Jacques Diouf said.
The main purpose of this expert consultation is to provide advice to FAO/WHO and their Member countries on the safety assessment of foods derived from GM animals, including fish, and to discuss other potential risks associated with these foods.
Ethiopia has been hit by more droughts and is facing famine in parts of the country. Nevertheless, the long-term solutions to the challenge of ensuring food security for all lie with Ethiopian farmers themselves, who are practicing many forms of sustainable agriculture.
On August 16th 2002 the Zambian government announced that it would not accept 27,000 tonnes of food aid from the US to feed about two million of its people stricken by famine, because the food contained genetically modified grain.
The report explains how the rising grain prices behind the world food crisis have allowed biotech giants like Monsanto to dramatically increase the price of GM seeds and chemicals they sell to farmers. (PDF). February 2009.
ETC Group's report warns that - rather than a solution for confronting climate change - the promise of so-called "climate-ready" crops will be used to drive farmers and governments onto a proprietary biotech platform. May 2008.
While there is no denying that Africans deserve support in their struggle to address hunger, disease and climate change, science and technology are no "silver bullet" to resolve Africa's problems. Yet, when the G8 meets this June in Germany they are expected to announce a new research agenda that will again propose scientific solutions to the world's (and, particularly Africa's) social problems. April 2007.
A new report released by Friends of the Earth International shows that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to address the main challenges facing farmers around the world, and more than 70% of large scale GM planting is still limited to two countries: the US and Argentina. January 2007.
Two leading US private charitable foundations – Rockefeller and Gates - have proclaimed a "new" Green Revolution for Africa. $150 million are to be poured into the continent in the form of new seeds, and in efforts to get small farmers to grow them. Yet none of this is new. It is the same recipe, using the same ingredients, and pushed by the same agency that perpetrated the original Green Revolution starting in the 1950s. It failed in Africa then because it failed to listen to – failed even to ask – the indigenous farmers, who had worked their land for generations. September 2006.
As world leaders prepare for the Group of 8 (G8) summit next week, Consumers international is warning that genetically modified food is not the ''miracle solution'' to world hunger and malnutrition. July 2005.
When the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) meets this year in Philadelphia, Monsanto and its colleagues will not be gathering to talk about how to save the world. The goal of this industry, like any other, is to make a profit by convincing consumers that we need what they're selling. Despite claims from the biotech industry, GM foods cannot end world hunger, and new studies add to the evidence that they may pose a serious threat to human health. June 2005.
The United States government is forcing genetically modified (GM) crops onto countries around the world. This new report shows how the US agency for international development (USAID) is a central part of its multi-pronged strategy. April 2005.
This publication by the Africa Center for Biosafety, Earthlife Africa, Environmental Rights Action - Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Grain and SafeAge makes the case that non-GM food aid is both possible and desirable. It argues moreover that non-GM alternatives exist at national, regional and international levels, and that donors should make these available to Sudan and Angola (pdf version).
"FAO is retrogressing from the global momentum against genetic engineering in food and agriculture" says Sarojeni Rengam of the International Planning Committee (IPC) Asia of the NGO/CSO, referring to Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) recently launched report -The State of World Food and Agriculture 2004- endorsing genetic engineering in the midst of Monsanto's withdrawal of genetically modified (GM) wheat due to strong opposition from North American farmers.
Genetically engineered crops are coming to Africa. Tom Maliti looks at the facts behind the hype, suggesting how africans can avoid being Western guinea pigs and turn this inevitability to their own advantage.
When Zambia rejected a US offer of Genetically Modified food aid, it was hailed and slammed in almost equal proportion. In this opinion piece, the director of Panos Southern Africa -Fackson Banda- says the policy dilemma confronting Zambia has thrown up urgent questions about the GM debate.
This paper recasts the debate over biotechnology by moving past overly general hyperbole, and instead empirically evaluating current experiences with genetically modified crops in Africa. The debate is moved from hypothetical risks, to actual results. PDF format.
Desperate biotech corporations are deserting academic research despite massive bailouts from our governments. It is high time to redirect public investments away from this financial and intellectual dead-end, says Dr. Mae-Wan Ho.
The interests that are seeking to impose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) include many of the same corporations that have tried to overwhelm the food supplies of the US, Canada and Latin American countries alike with unsafe, largely untested products of biotechnology. By Brian Tokar.
Public policy on food safety is being privatised, as transnational traders and distributers further take over the food market around the world and impose their own private safety and quality standards favouring the introduction of GMOs. July 2008.
Global incidents of genetic contamination from genetically modified (GM) crops are on the rise, while the companies responsible ignore the consequences states the new "GM Contamination Register Report 2007" released by Greenpeace International. (PDF document). March 2008.
For the past two months, the Latin American press has been inundated with news of a fresh offensive by Monsanto in several Latin American countries. The US transnational corporation appears determined to complete the invasion of GM (genetically modified) crops throughout the continent and to crush the resistance that has arisen in response to the company’s attempt to control and dominate Latin American agriculture. June 2007.
Bilateral free trade agreements are seen by the agricultural biotechnology industry as an important conduit for spreading genetically modified organisms (GMOs) around the world. Through bilateral agreements, they seek to stitch up from below what they have been unable to achieve (so far) at the WTO. June 2006.
Syngenta South Africa (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of Swiss Agrochemical giant, Syngenta, applied for commercial approval to import the grain of its GM maize into South Africa, for use in the production of ethanol. This briefing by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) expresses concern over the use of GM maize for bioethanol in South Africa, arguing that it poses a biosafety risk and that bioethanol has not proven to be energy efficient. June 2006.
The Latin America countries growing soybean include Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and
Uruguay. Soybean expansion in Latin America is mostly related to biopolitics and the power of multinationals. (PDF document). March 2006.
The first significant planting of genetically modified (GM) crops took place in 1996. Ten years on, GM crops have failed to deliver the promises made by the biotech corporations. Moreover, the introduction of GM crops has increased the biotech industry’s control over the seed supply, most notably by Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company. The last decade also shows that Monsanto has an undesirable influence over agriculture and food policies in many countries. (PDF document). January 2006.
The top 10 multinational seed firms control half of the world's commercial seed sales (a total worldwide market of approximately US$21,000 million per annum). Corporate control and ownership of seeds - the first link in the food chain - has far-reaching implications for global food security. With control of seeds and agricultural research held in fewer hands, the world's food supply is increasingly vulnerable to the whims of market maneuvers. (PDF document). September 2005.
The “biofarms” (or the biofarming practice) function as test fields for transgenic organisms used for medicine development. Activists and researchers call out a public debate and ask for caution regarding biological farms. Contamination may affect the food supply. August 2005.
Argentina, one of the world's major producer and exporter of GM soya, has decided to suspend talks with biotechnology giant Monsanto over the design of a payment system that would allow the company to collect royalties on the pervasive use of its popular soybean seeds. July 2005.
The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the lower courts’ rulings that Percy Schmeiser infringed Monsanto’s patent on the transgene that confers resistance to glyphosate herbicides such as Roundup. The judgement, by a narrow 5-4 margin in favour, was given on 21 May 2004. It marked the end of an uphill legal battle for the Saskatchewan farmer.
Rice, the staple food crop for more than half the world’s population, among them the poorest, is the current target of genetic modification, an activity that has greatly intensified after the rice genome was announced two years ago. Since then, all major biotech giants are investing in rice research. At the same time, a low-input cultivation system that really benefits small farmers worldwide has been spreading, but is dismissed by the scientific establishment as "unscientific". This is one among several recent innovations that increase yields and ward off disease without costly and harmful inputs, all enthusiastically and widely adopted by farmers. A war is building up between the corporate establishment and the peoples of the world for the possession of rice. The food security of billions is at stake, as is their right to grow the varieties of rice they have created and continue to create, and in the manner they choose. July 2004.
The vast majority of those growing genetically modified (GM) crops are small-scale resource-poor farmers, according to a new study that appears to counterbalance claims that GM technology only benefits large land-owners and food producers.
One year after the Mexican Government announced that maize in two states was contaminated with GM varieties, neither Mexico nor the international genetic resources community have taken constructive, coherent steps to arrest, fully assess, or ameliorate the contamination.
The African Centre for Biosafety objection challenged the results of the trials that say GM potato will benefit farmers, which it said were flawed both in their design and interpretation and questioned the socio-economic benefits of this potato to local commercial and small holder farmers in South Africa. (PDF). September 2008.
The presence of illegal genetically modified (GM) rice in commercial rice imports from the US has found its way to many countries, the latest being Ghana and Sierra Leone. Tests initiated by Friends of the Earth the environmental group, show contamination in long grain rice with LL RICE 601 believed to have originated from food aid from the US of which Africa is a major recipient. The following report describes the situation and the measures taken across the globe to stem the menace. January 2007.
A World Trade Organisation (WTO) decision that called European safety bans on genetically modified food (GM) illegal under its global trade rules could usher in a new phase of potentially hazardous "Frankenfoods" worldwide and further erosion of local protections, say environmental and advocacy groups.
Although GM crops were grown on over 80 million hectares in 2004, there is no global monitoring system. Because of this failure of national and international agencies, GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International have launched this joint initiative to record all incidents of contamination arising from the intentional or accidental release of genetically modified (GM) organisms. It also includes illegal plantings of GM crops and the negative agricultural side-effects that have been reported.
The Second Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) to the Cartagena Protocol was held in Montreal on 31 May-3 June. The meeting was supposed to take a final decision on the detailed requirements on how to identify and document shipments of genetically engineered commodities. However, the move was blocked by just two countries that sided with the GM industry - New Zealand and Brazil- provoking the NGOs outrage. Brazil, was once upon a time a member of the like-minded Group of Developing Countries but it seems domestic approval of commercialized plantings of genetically engineered soya, have clearly led it to break ranks with protecting the environment, health and socio-economic interests of developing countries. June 2005.
The second European Social Forum, held in and around Paris from 12-15 November 2003, brought together some 50 000 from across Europe and beyond to articulate an alternative vision of the world based on international cooperation, human development and social justice. Different initiatives and strategies to maintain the pressure for a GM-free Europe were discussed at a workshop, ‘How to Keep Europe GM-Free?’
On 21st April, United States made its first submission to the World Trade Organization’s dispute panel in its case challenging Europe over its moratorium on commercial GM food and crop approvals which the European Union introduced in 1998. The US claims that Europe’s approach discriminates against them unfairly. The outcome of the case will not only have impacts on Europe, but also on whether other countries can regulate GM crops and foods.
A nanotech research initiative in Thailand aims to atomically modify the characteristics of local rice varieties — including the country's famous jasmine rice — and to circumvent the controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Nanobiotech takes agriculture from the battleground of GMOs to the brave new world of Atomically Modified Organisms (AMOs).
The University of California, Davis, is recalling about 30 tomato seed samples, distributed during the past seven years to research colleagues in the United States and abroad, after recent tests showed that the seed was not the intended variety, but rather a very similar variety developed through biotechnology.
The tiny zebra fish that lives in aquariums, a popular laboratory animal, was genetically modified to produce a fluorescent red pigment, and is being promoted for sale as a household aquarium pet, the "glofish". The glofish caused a stir in the United States because regulation of such transgenic pets is murky and none of the major regulatory agencies: FDA, USDA or EPA has been willing to take the lead in regulating the glofish (even though USDA does deal with pet animals).
A team of African scientists set up by the 14 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to investigate the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods has concluded that they pose no immediate risk to humans and animals.