Claims of Increasing Global GE Acreage Under Question

Claims of Increasing Global GE
Acreage Under Question

8 January, <>

Last week we were told, "American farmers will shrug off European and
Asian concerns about genetically modified food and boost U.S. biotech corn
plantings by more than 13 percent this year..." [Reuters survey: US
bio-corn plantings to soar in 2002 (Reuters)]

This emerged from a straw poll conducted by Reuters at the American Farm
Bureau Federation's annual meeting, which "found no slowdown in American
agriculture's embrace of gene-spliced corn and soybeans despite concerns
abroad about unknown risks to health and environment."

We were also told last week that the "Global GM Crop Area Continues to Grow
and Exceeds 50 Million Hectares for First Time in 2001". This arose out of
"The Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops, conducted
by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the ISAAA Board of Directors" (ISAAA Press

The press release, which even led to an article in the UK's Daily Mail, also
reported on the many benefits to farmers around the world and the fact that
"The number of farmers that benefited from GM crops increased from 3.5
million farmers in 2000 to 5.5 million in 2001."

But anyone who's ever wondered about the accuracy of such polls suggesting
farmers can't plant GE crops fast enough, and relating vast acreages grown
and still vaster acreages pending in the light of farmer benefits, might
like to consider the following.

1. The Reuters story was based solely on a sampe of 321 farmers at the
American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting - not the kind of place
you'd find many farmers with doubts about GE crops!

2. As for the credibility of what the farmers apparently told Reuters,
consider the implcations of this later Reuters piece correcting one of the
poll's findings:

"WASHINGTON - Monsanto Co. was cited as saying on Friday that an unapproved
genetically engineered soybean variety had never been sold to U.S. farmers
despite a survey of growers that indicated some 1,775 acres of the beans
were planted last year.

Kimberly Magin, Monsanto soybean director for industry affairs, who added
that the variety was still in an experimental phase, was quoted as saying,
"Bt soybeans are not commercially available and they are not being planted
MONSANTO Reuters [via Agnet], January 11, 2002]

The Reuters poll also found farmers who said they intended to plant 1,515
acres of the unavailable Bt soybeans for the 2002 crop!

3. As for the Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops, the
author, Clive James is the Chairman of the ISAAA - an organisation largely
supported by cash from the GM industry. Donors include Aventis, Monsanto,
Novartis, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Novartis are on the board as were Monsanto
previously. In no sense, then should the report be considered as coming from
an independent source.

4. Indeed, in many respects the report reads rather like a sales pitch for
GM crops with an especial emphasis on the extent to which GM crops have been
enthusiastically taken up and the apparent benefits.

But these turn out to be based largely on producer estimates. How much these
estimates may be worth can be readily gauged by contrasting producer
estimates with more objective assessments.

For instance, the 1998 Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic
Crops reported GM soy yield improvements of 12% for American farmers. Yet
the results of over 8,200 US university-based controlled varietal trials in
1998 showed an almost 7% average yield reduction in the case of the GM soya
crop. In other words, the controlled trials findings were diametrically
opposite to the estimates in the report. [for more on this see:]

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