New report: GM crops failing to tackle climate change

23 February 2010

10% drop in genetically modified crops grown in Europe

Brussels, 23 February 2010 – On the day of the release of annual industry-sponsored figures, a new report from Friends of the Earth International reveals that claims made by the biotech industry that genetically modified (GM) crops can combat climate change are both exaggerated and premature. [1]

The report, 'Who Benefits from GM Crops', examines the evidence for these claims, and exposes that GM crops could actually increase carbon emissions while failing to feed the world. This is because GM crops are responsible for huge increases in the use of pesticides in the US and South America, intensifying fossil fuel use. The cultivation of GM soy to feed factory farmed animals is also contributing to widespread deforestation in South America. [2]

The report also exposes that globally GM crops remain confined to less than 3% of agricultural land and more than 99% are grown for animal feed and agrofuels, rather than food.

Ongoing concerns about the negative impacts of GM crops means many Governments are still cautious about adopting them. India has placed a moratorium on the planting of its first GM food crop due to widespread concerns on its health, environmental and socio-economic impact.

In Europe, the area planted with GM crops has decreased for the fifth year in a row – a reduction of more than 10% since 2008. This reflects continuing public and political concerns on the negative impacts of GM crops. In 2009, the EU's largest member, Germany, became the sixth EU country to ban the planting of GM maize, making the area planted in the EU with GM crops less than 0.05% of total agricultural land. [3]

Friends of the Earth Europe GM spokesperson Kirtana Chandrasekaran said, "The number of fields growing GM crops in Europe continues to dwindle while at the same time more and more Europeans are demanding farming that benefits both people and the planet. European Governments would be well advised to steer clear of GM crops in tackling climate change and put their energies into boosting planet and people friendly farming instead."

Despite many decades of research there is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other beneficial traits long promised by biotech companies. [4]

GM crops also hinder the development of real solutions to hunger and climate change by starving them of funding and restricting the access of farmers to seeds and knowledge. Ecological farming and traditional knowledge have been identified as the key to facing future challenges. [5]

Friends of the Earth International food coordinator Martin Drago said, "GM crops are being promoted as a solution to climate change, when in reality they are wiping out forests, damaging farmers' livelihoods and increasing harmful emissions. The reality is that GM farming is not a success story. Small farmers across the world are already using planet-friendly methods to feed themselves and cool the planet. These methods must be supported rather than environmentally and socially destructive GM farming."

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For more information on the chain of destruction stretching from factory farms in Europe to the forests of South America: http://www.feedingfactoryfarms.org/

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NOTES

[1] The Friends of the Earth International report launch comes one day ahead of the annual release of the 'Global Status of Commercialized Biotech' report of the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) - which promotes GM crops as a key solution to hunger and poverty.

'Who Benefits from GM Crops'

[2] Recent US Department of Agriculture data has shown that in 2008, GM crops in the US required over 26% more kilograms of pesticides per hectare than conventional varieties. A 2007 study by a Brazilian governmental agency found that the use of glyphosate increased 80 per cent from 2000 to 2005. In Argentina, more than two hundred thousand hectares of native forest disappear every year, mainly due to the expansion of GM soy plantations.

[3] Monsanto's GM maize MON810 is the only GM crops permitted for cultivation in Europe. Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland and now Germany have banned MON810 on environmental and health grounds.

[4] 99% of biotech agriculture consists of four crops with just two traits, herbicide-tolerance and/or insect-resistance. The vast majority of GM crops in the pipeline are also herbicide tolerant or insect resistant crops.

[5] UNEP, 2008 Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.

IAASTD, 2008 Agriculture at a Crossroads Key findings

 

    • Agriculture

      Food and farming in Europe and its global impacts

    • Agrofuels

      Plant-based fuels from agriculture. Also known as biofuels

    • EU-US trade deal

      What’s at stake in negotiations for a transatlantic trade agreement

    • Food speculation

      Betting on foodstuffs, and how to regulate it

    • GMOs

      Genetically modified crops and organisms

    • Land

      Measuring Europe’s land footprint and tackling the drivers of land grabbing

    • Nature

      Standing up for our right to nature

    • Nature

      Standing up for our right to nature

    • Resource use

      Europe’s consumption of land, materials, water and carbon

    • Shale gas

      Unconventional oil and gas, and the ‘fracking’ process

    • Tar sands

      Unconventional oil, also known as oil sands

    • Water use

      Measuring Europe’s water footprint