Greenpeace report exposes high costs of Genetic Engineering of crops

Quezon City, Philippines. 03 February 2010. Greenpeace today called on the Philippine government to promote and invest in ecological farming practices as a solution to the challenges facing the country’s agriculture sector. The call was made at the launch of a new report, “Counting the Costs of Genetic Engineering”, which documents the agronomic and economic failures of genetically engineered (GE) crops from around the world.

The report highlights how farmers around the world have suffered economically due to the high prices of GE crops and reduced yields due to field failures, while the public rejection of GE crops has led to the agriculture industry spending millions of dollars for separation of GE crops from conventional crops.

The case studies include the great Bayer rice scandal when, in August 2006, rice markets worldwide were rocked by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that the US rice crop had been contaminated by unapproved Bayer GE rice (LL601), genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant. The chain of events that was unleashed impacted not only US farmers and processors, but also rice shippers, importers and retailers the world over, costing the US rice industry more than US$1.29 billion.

“Two decades of countless trial failures, contamination scandals and stories of farmers suffering from the effects of GMO propagation attest to the fact that GE crops are very risky, unstable and a threat to people and the environment,” said Daniel M. Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It is time that governments and institutions like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) abandon GE research and field trials, and instead focus valuable time, money and resources on real, reliable solutions. The Philippine government, for example, should junk favourable policies for GE crop commercialisation, and instead assess the future of agriculture. It should follow and abide by the recommendations of the International Agriculture Assessment for Science and Technology Development (IAASTD) on the pursuit of ecological farming practices.”

The first ever comprehensive global assessment of agriculture development, conducted by the IAASTD, recently concluded that business-as-usual is not an option for the future of agriculture, and that GE crops are not a priority for feeding the world. Instead, to ensure a healthy, habitable world in coming decades, it recommends the promotion of the role and knowledge of small farmers and a systems-oriented approach adapted to local conditions and cultures. The IAASTD further indicates that the most effective strategy to adapt agriculture to climate change is by growing a greater diversity of crops and increasing genetic diversity of the crop varieties.

“It is a well known fact that diverse ecological farming and modern conventional plant-breeding are the best ways to respond to the vagaries of climate change in agriculture,” said Natwipha Ewasakul, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of GPSEA in Thailand. “Genetic engineering cannot and will not be able to provide a solution to farmers to fight climate change, as commercial GE crops remain focused on crops that are resistant to herbicides, or that produce an insecticide — traits that are not related to climate change adaptation. Ecological farming, which protects soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering, is the only way to ensure healthy food for today and tomorrow.”