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GMO Mumbo-Jumbo

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO) has intensified in recent months. On one side of the debate is scientific evidence that GMOs are not delivering on their promise, and on the other side is ideological propaganda by the genetically modified seed industry and scientists whose careers are locked into the GMO trajectory.

The technical expert committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India, made up of India's eminent and independent scientists, has clearly recommended in its report to the apex court a ban on open field trials of genetically engineered crops till a robust regulatory mechanism is put in place.

After two decades of commercial applications, data clearly shows that GMOs do not increase yields and do not decrease the use of agrichemicals, but have instead created super-pests and super-weeds. It is because of these failures and the fact that GMOs are linked to patents, which translates into royalty extraction and high prices, that GMOs worsen the economic status of farmers.

India has witnessed more than 2,84,694 farmer suicides in a span of 17 years, between 1995 and 2012. The worst off is Maharashtra, which has the maximum area under cultivation of genetically modified Bt cotton. According to P. Sainath, a journalist who has covered farmers' suicides systematically, "The total number of farmers who have taken their own lives in Maharashtra since 1995 is closing in on 54,000. Of these, 33,752 have occurred in nine years since 2003, at an annual average of 3,750. The figure for 1995-2002 was 20,066 at an average of 2,508." Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced.

Farmers chose Bt cotton not because it was the best alternative but because all other alternatives were destroyed. The seed varieties were replaced. The Central Institute for Cotton Research has not released any public varieties since Monsanto entered the market, and most Indian seed companies are locked into licensing arrangements with Monsanto. Nor is it true that yields have increased. Yields of cotton in the pre-GMO period reached 1,200 kg in good years. After Bt cotton was introduced the yield has stagnated at 500 kg.

As the University of Canterbury research team led by Prof. Jack Heinemann has shown, North American crop production has fallen behind that of Western Europe, despite US farmers using genetically modified seed and more pesticide.

According to the researchers of University of Canterbury, the main point of difference between the regions is the adoption of GM seeds in North America and the use of non-GM seed in Europe. The failure to control pests has led to an increase in pesticide use.   


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