Socio-economic impacts of GM crops

In Europe, the authorisation process for genetically-modified (GM) crops is based on the assessment of risks for health and the environment. Evidence from the food industry and farming experiences worldwide, however, shows that the cultivation and trade of GM crops also has far-reaching social and economic impacts; making the real costs of GM crops expensive for tax-payers, farmers and companies involved in producing our food.

Conventional and organic farmers, bee keepers, seed developers, as well as the whole food production chain, are constantly threatened by contamination from GM crops. The little protection farmers receive is weak and partial. In the food sector, contamination is not covered by any European regulations. Instead, European policy requires mostly non-GM stakeholders in the food industry to pay for measures to secure their GM-free status; in effect, those that suffer from contamination are forced to clean up at their own expense, while the polluter profits.

The costs of segregating GM and conventional crops, as well as for testing, currently falls on the conventional and organic sectors, distorting the market in favour of big agribusiness and unsustainable farming practices. Biotech companies, traders and other GMO users must take responsibility to prevent contamination to ensure that the conventional and organic market can flourish without unjust financial burdens.

Biotech companies are also slowly taking control of the food chain, obtaining patents on genetic traits used in conventional and GM crops. These powers enable them to exert tremendous power over the market to maintain repeated sales year on year, shifting the balance of economic power towards the biotechnology companies. As a result, farm-saved seeds are under threat – as well as local varieties of crop plants and agricultural biodiversity.

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for:

  1. Strict and compulsory anti-contamination measures in all European countries. All costs to prevent contamination must be covered by the polluters.
  2. The socio-economic impact assessment of GMOs must be integrated into the European Union’s approval system. These costs and measures have to be assessed for all crops before they receive market approval in the European Union.
  3. Guaranteed liability of polluters. Farmers, consumers and taxpayers need guarantees that companies bringing GM crops to the market will be strictly liable for any harm they may cause.