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    This is the opening excerpts from the Report. There is a link at the bottom of the page to the full report, in .PDF format.

    The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World

    Independent Science Panel

    Drafted by
    Mae-Wan Ho and Lim Li Ching

    with contributions from
    Joe Cummins, Malcolm Hooper, Miguel Altieri, Peter Rosset, Arpad Pusztai, Stanley Ewen, Michel Pimbert, Peter Saunders, Edward Goldsmith, David Quist, Eva Novotny and others on the Panel

    Draft 10 May 2003, London

    Contents (of the full report)

      Part 1: No Future for GM crops

    1. Why Not GM Crops?
    2. Escalating Problems on the Farm

    3. Part 2: GM Crops Not Safe
    4. Science & Precaution
    5. Safety Tests on GM Foods
    6. Transgene Hazards
    7. Terminator Crops Spread Male Sterility
    8. Herbicide Hazards
    9. Horizontal Gene Transfer
    10. The CaMV 35S Promoter
    11. Transgenic DNA More Likely to Spread
    12. Horizontal Transfer of Transgenic DNA
    13. Hazards of Horizontal Gene Transfer
    14. Conclusion to Parts 1 & 2

    15. Part 3: The Manifold Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
    16. Why Sustainable Agriculture?
    17. Higher or Comparable Productivity & Yields
    18. Better Soils
    19. Cleaner Environment
    20. Reduced Pesticides & No Increase in Pests
    21. Supporting Biodiversity & Using Diversity
    22. Environmental & Economic Sustainability
    23. Ameliorating Climate Change
    24. Efficient, Profitable Production
    25. Improved Food Security & Benefits to Local Communities
    26. Better Food Quality
    27. Conclusion to Part 3

    Statement of the Independent Science Panel
    List of Members of the ISP-GM


    Members of the Independent Science Panel (ISP) on GM have had the opportunity to review extensive scientific and other evidence on genetic engineering over the past decades. Many are among the 579 scientists from 71 countries who have signed a 'World Scientist Statement and Open Letter' [1], initiated in 1999, which called for a moratorium on the environmental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a ban on patents on living processes, organisms, seeds, cell lines and genes, and for a comprehensive public enquiry into the future of agriculture and food security.

    Scientific and other developments since 1999 have confirmed our concerns over the safety of genetic engineering, GM crops and food security. At the same time, the successes and benefits of all forms of sustainable agriculture are undeniable. The evidence, now assembled, makes a strong case for a worldwide ban on GM crops to make way for a comprehensive shift to agro-ecology, sustainable agriculture and organic farming.

    The evidence on why GM crops are not a viable option for a sustainable future is presented in Parts 1 and 2 while Part 3 presents evidence on the successes and benefits of sustainable agricultural practices.

    Part 1: No Future for GM crops

    1. Why Not GM Crops?

    GM crops are neither needed nor wanted There is no longer any doubt that GM crops are not needed to feed the world, and that hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, and not by inadequate production of food. According to estimates by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, there is enough food produced to feed everyone using only conventional crops, and that will remain the case for at least 25 years and probably far into the future [2].

    Furthermore, as Altieri and Rosset have argued, even if hunger is due to a gap between food production and human population growth, cur-rent GM crops are not designed to increase yields or for poor small farmers, so they are unlikely to benefit from them [3]. Because the true root cause of hunger is inequality, any method of boosting food production that deepens inequality is bound to fail to reduce hunger [4]. More importantly, GM crops are not wanted, and for good reasons.

    GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits, they are causing escalating problems on the farm, and evidence of the worst hazards has accumulated despite the notable lack of research on safety. At the same time, extensive evidence has emerged on the success of sustainable approaches to agriculture, which makes clear what the rational choice for the nation ought to be.

    The world market for GM crops has been shrinking simultaneously as the acreage increased sharply since the first GM crop, the Flavr Savr tomato, was planted in the United States in 1994, a product soon withdrawn as a commercial disaster. During the seven-year period from 1996 to 2002, the global acreage of GM crops increased from 1.7 million hectares to 58.7 million hectares. But only four countries accounted for 99% of the global GM crop acreage in 2002. The United States grew 39.0 million hectares, (66% of global total), Argentina 13.5 million hectares, Canada 3.5 million hectares and China 2.1 million hectares [5].

    Worldwide resistance to GM reached a climax last year when Zambia refused GM maize in food aid despite the threat of famine. As we are drafting this report, an indefinite hunger strike is in progress in the Philippines, led by a member of the ISP, Roberto Verzola, Secretary-General of the Philippine Greens, in protest of the commercial approval of Monsanto's Bt maize. The Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), which co-ordinated the drafting of this report, has written to ask the Philippine President to reconsider her decision, and has sent her a copy of this report.

    The agricultural sector led the dramatic decline of the biotech industry, before the industry peaked in 2000 on the back of the human genome project. ISIS has summarised the evidence in a special briefing to the UK Prime Minister's Strategy Unit on GM, submitted in response to its public consultation on the economic potential of GM crops [6]. Things have got worse since for the entire industry [7].

    A report released in April 2003 by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors [8] gave Monsanto the lowest possible rating with the message that agricultural biotechnology is a high-risk industry not worth investing in, unless it changes its focus away from GE (genetic engineering, synonymous with GM). The report states, "Money flowing from GE companies to politicians as well as the frequency with which GE company employees take jobs with US regulatory agencies (and vice versa) creates large bias potential and reduces the ability of investors to rely on safety claims made by the US Government. It also helps to clarify why the US Government has not taken a precautionary approach to GE and continues to suppress GE labelling in the face of overwhelming public support for it. With Enron and other financial disasters, the financial community apparently bought into company stories without looking much below the surface." ..." Monsanto could be another disaster waiting to happen for investors", the report concludes. GM crops failed to deliver the benefits GM crops have simply not delivered the promised benefits. That is the consistent finding of independent research and on-farm surveys, reviewed by agronomist Charles Benbrook in the United States since 1999 [9, 10] and other studies have borne this out [11]. Thousands of controlled trials of GM soya gave significantly decreased yields of between 5% to 10%, and in some locations, even 12 to 20% compared with non-GM soya. Similar reductions in yield have been reported in Britain for GM winter oilseed rape and sugar beet in field trials.

    GM crops have not resulted in significant reductions in herbicide and pesticide use. Roundup Ready soya required 2 to 5 times more herbicide than other weed management systems. Similarly, USDA data suggest that in 2000, the average acre of RR maize was treated with 30% more herbicide than the average acre of non-GM maize. Analysis of 4 years of official USDA data on insecticide use shows a pretty clear picture [10]. While Bt cotton has reduced insecticide use in several states, Bt corn has had little if any impacts on corn insecticide use. USDA data show that corn insecticide applications directly targeting the European corn borer increased from about 4% of acres treated in 1995 to about 5% in 2000.

    The greater cost of GM seeds, the increased herbicide/pesticide use, yield drag, royalties on seed and reduced markets, all add up to lost income for farmers. The first farm-level economic analysis of Bt maize in the US revealed that between 1996 and 2001, the net loss to farmers was $92 million or about $1.31 per acre. A UK Soil Association report [12] released in September 2002, estimated that GM crops have cost the United States $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination.

    It summed up as follows:

    "The evidence we set out suggests that virtually every benefit claimed for GM crops has not occurred. Instead, farmers are reporting lower yields, continuing dependency on herbicides and pesticides, loss of access to markets and, critically, reduced profitability leaving food production even more vulnerable to the interests of the biotechnology companies and in need of subsidies."

    These studies have not taken into account crop failures elsewhere in the world, the most serious in India last year [13]. Massive failures of GM cotton, up to 100%, were reported in several Indian States, including failure to germinate, root-rot and attacks by the American bollworm, for which the Bt-cotton was supposed to be resistant.


    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION - Here's the link to the report released by Independent Science Panel

    © ISP-GM
    May 2003

© Safefood Campaign