14 May 1999
Christian Aid claims GM crops won’t feed world
By Jonathan Riley
INTERNATIONAL charity Christian Aid has attacked claims made by biotechnology firms that genetically modified crops will solve world food shortages.
In a report released this week, the charity said that GM crops would not help to feed the worlds hungry.
Andrew Simms, co-author of the report, Selling Suicide: Farming, False Promises and Genetic Modification in the Developing World, said: “The false promise of genetic modification is that it will benefit small farmers. The reality is that high-tech farming may make them more vulnerable.”
He said the developing world, and whether it would adopt GM technology, had become a battleground. “The enormous marketing clout of the main biotechnology companies makes this a story of David and Goliath, with the small farmer, whether in India or Brazil, facing an overpowering push to embrace the new technology,” said Mr Simms.
The report said that one of the most worrying characteristics of GM seed production was “terminator technology”, which renders the crop infertile.
That means farmers cannot collect seed for the following years crop. But 80% of crops currently planted in the developing world are from farm-saved seed.
Seed-saving is so fundamental to Indian rural society that any threat to the practice is a threat to the society itself, the report states.
Christian Aid also fears that biotechnology companies will drive a hard bargain with poor farmers.
At the moment, Brazil is free of GM crops. But a concerted drive by all the major biotech companies may soon change that, it said.
“In the US and Canada hundreds of farmers are being sued for allegedly holding their own seed banks of GM varieties,” said the reports second author, Dulce Maltez.
“If the farmers of North America can be challenged in this way, what will happen to the millions of far more vulnerable poor farmers of the south?” he said.