“GM Crops a Danger to India’s Food and Nutrition Security”

’GM lobbyists’ claims of yield advantage for GMOs unfounded, state international scientists’

Hyderabad, September 27th 2012: GM crops do not provide a solution to current and coming challenges. These include climate change, increased losses from pests, increasing population, scarce water and expensive energy and fertilizers. Analysis of Monsanto’s new drought-tolerant maize shows that conventional breeding is about 10 times faster at providing drought tolerance than GM.

Analysis of U.S. corn and soybean production over a 12 year period through 2008 reveals that conventional breeding and production methods are responsible for 86 to 100 percent of yield gain, respectively, which means that the contribution of GM is negligible.

Addressing a media conference here on the question of whether GM crops can meet India’s Food Security and Export Markets, eminent scientists from around the world, including Hans Herren, member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the World Food Prize, co-chair of the U.N. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), said that there is indeed no evidence to show that India’s food security needs would be met by transgenic crops. Instead, what are needed are more diverse and resilient cropping systems that address India’s agricultural challenges such as water scarcity and recurring droughts and soil degradation. The following main points were raised by the group of scientists:

– Even in a country like the USA, seen as a success story with the longest history of GM use, analysis shows that engineered genes in crops like Bt and herbicide-tolerant corn have provided only around 3-4% yield increase. Genetic engineering contributed only 14% of the yield increases seen in the maize crop in America during 1996-2008, based on peer-reviewed research. The herbicide-tolerant gene in GM soy provided no yield gains. Yield increases in these crops have been mainly contributed by traditional breeding and other agricultural practices. The engineered gene in GM drought tolerant corn is estimated to increase productivity by only around 1.2%.

– On the other hand, “super weeds” (glyphosate-resistant or herbicide-resistant weeds) are now known to infest millions of acres in the USA. There has been a cumulative pesticide use increase by about 174 million kg even though GM crops are often promoted as pesticide-reducing crops. The GM industry answer to this crisis is new herbicide resistant crops that are designed to use older and even more toxic herbicides. Insect resistance development to GM crops has been shown by several recent studies.

– There is also evidence to show that in developing countries of South America, food security parameters online slots like calories/person/day are actually declining in GM adopting countries like Argentina and Paraguay (two countries which have more than 40% of their agriculture under GM crops) while non-adopting countries like Chile and Peru are posting improvements in food security.

– Most importantly, GM is an extension of the existing industrial model of food production which has caused natural resource degradation. This includes loss of crop diversity, over use of water, as well as pollution that reaches the ocean. , It also results in loss of critical ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control needed by many food crops to realize their yield potential. Furthermore, the industrial system uses 10 units of energy for every unit of food energy produced, as opposed to agroecological practices where for every input calorie, the return is three to 30.

– Evidence also shows that investing in GM crop research is a significantly costlier option than conventional crop breeding, at a time when public sector agri-research funds are dwindling. In this sense, investing in GM is wasteful. On the other hand, ecologically-based farming methods reduce environmental impacts, water, fertilizer and pesticide use.

– In India, there is evidence that agro-ecological approaches not only give similar or better yields than technologies like transgenics, but also reduce input costs, use less water and energy, increasing net returns for farmers. The Andhra Pradesh experience of ecological farming on a large scale of 3.5 million acres clearly demonstrates that this does not burden the taxpayer whereas chemical/GM-based farming involves huge subsidies.

“How we grow our crops, what kind of crops will be grown, where and by whom are in fact the critical questions”, said Prof Herren. “India must invest in rural infrastructure and institutions. Agriculture of the future must be regenerative and sustainable. What we really need is a paradigm shift where a holistic approach drives our interventions in agriculture without reductionist solutions hogging the centre-stage and taking away precious resources.”

Dr Walter Goldstein of the Mandaamin Institute said: “The path of adopting widespread use of GMO technology in the USA has been accompanied by greater consolidation of resources and power for a few seed companies, higher seed prices, greater risk for farmers and less choice in varieties with hardly any increase in productivity.”

Quoting data on productivity contributions from transgenic crops in the USA, Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that conventional breeding and farm management continue to greatly out-perform transgenic technology.

Prof Jack Heinemann pointed out: “A comparison between America and Western Europe with similar growing conditions reveals corn yields that are not significantly different, despite the US opting for GM corn. And when it comes to future yield projections, Europe is outpacing US without resorting to GM.”

For more information, contact: Aruna Rodrigues: 98-263-96033 / HYPERLINK “mailto:arunarod@gmail.com” arunarod@gmail.com

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