GM-crops are economic failures

I have just read the executive summary of the report Who benefits from gm crops? an analysis of the global performance of gm crops (1996-2006) released by the Friends of the Earth in January 2007.

Here is my summary and the main conclusions of the report:

The main market for GM crops is US in which maize, cotton, canola and soybean have been given traits to render them herbicide resistent (mainly Glyphosate), insect resistent (mainly Bt), both herbicide and insect resistent. This has lead to an increase in herbicide resistent weeds leading to farmers spraying more and more. Also the yields are lower than conventional non-gm crops. The farms have increased because it is so expensive to use both pesticides and GM-crops, but even then net income has decreased. Also, non-GM farmers complain over increasing difficulty in finding non-gm seeds.

GM-soy beans have increased in South America mainly for exportation of cattle feed. This has lead to increase in pesticides. Again lower yields due to increase in pest resistance and also GM soy is less tolerant to droughts.

Bt-cotton in China shows lower net income than non-gm cotton in China, India, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, western Africa and Latin America. All over the same result. Lower yields and increase drought intolerance and increase in secondary pests.

In 2006 in India 7 regions jointly filed law suits towards Monsanto for excessive royalty fees. In December 2006 the case was still at India's Supreme Court.

In Indonesia Monsanto paid bribes to government official to get their Bt-cotton on the market. The Bt-cotton was later withdrawn from Indonesia because complaints over the inefficiency of the Bt-cotton and the excessive price of the Bt-cotton seeds.

In West Africa, and all over the world, poor farmers cannot sell to the US cotton market because they cannot compete with the heavily subsidised American cotton. At the same time US wants to force every one to use GM cotton seeds that are much more expensive than normal cotton.

All over the world Monsanto actively works against saving seeds to be used for future farming that has been practise in all countries for centuries.

Experiences after more than a decade of commercial planting of GM crops lead FOEI to draw the following conclusions:

The GM crops commercialized on a large scale in a few countries in the world since 1996 have not addressed the main agricultural problems and challenges facing farmers in most countries of the world, and have not proven to be superior to conventional crops.

GM crops have been released quickly and widely without an adequate evaluation and understanding of their performance or of their health, environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Small-scale farmers and consumers have not benefited from the introduction of GM crops.

GM crops commercialized today have on the whole increased rather than decreased pesticide use, and do not yield more than conventional varieties. The environment has not benefited, and GM crops will become increasingly unsustainable over the medium to long term.

To date, GM crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty. The great majority of GM crops cultivated today are used as high-priced animal feed to supply rich nations with meat. More than four out of every five hectares of GM crops are engineered to withstand the application of proprietary herbicides sold by the same company that markets the GM seed, and have little if any relevance to farmers in developing countries who often cannot afford to buy these chemicals.

Monsanto has been the main beneficiary of the commercialization of GM crops in the United States.

Large-scale farmers in the US and Argentina have benefited from a ‘convenience effect’, particularly in soybean production. However, it is questionable whether this ‘convenience effect’ means greater net economic returns compared to those derived from conventional soybean production.

There are a lack of comprehensive studies on the performance of GM crops in every country that has commercialized them, and this consequently calls into question their claimed benefits.

See also entries on Bt-cotton and GMO.

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