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GM crops failing to tackle climate change: report

24 February 2010
by foeeurope -- last modified 05 May 2010

On the day of the release of annual industry-sponsored figures, a new report from Friends of the Earth International reveals that claims made by the biotech industry that genetically modified (GM) crops can combat climate change are both exaggerated and premature.


The report, 'Who Benefits from GM Crops?', examines the evidence for these claims, and exposes that GM crops could actually increase carbon emissions while failing to feed the world. This is because GM crops are responsible for huge increases in the use of pesticides in the US and South America, intensifying fossil fuel use. The cultivation of GM soy to feed factory farmed animals is also contributing to widespread deforestation in South America.

The report also exposes that globally GM crops remain confined to less than 3% of agricultural land and more than 99% are grown for animal feed and agrofuels, rather than food.

Ongoing concerns about the negative impacts of GM crops means many Governments are still cautious about adopting them. India has placed a moratorium on the planting of its first GM food crop due to widespread concerns on its health, environmental and socio-economic impact.

In Europe, the area planted with GM crops has decreased for the fifth year in a row – a reduction of more than 10% since 2008. This reflects continuing public and political concerns on the negative impacts of GM crops. In 2009, the EU's largest member, Germany, became the sixth EU country to ban the planting of GM maize, making the area planted in the EU with GM crops less than 0.05% of total agricultural land.

Friends of the Earth Europe GM spokesperson Kirtana Chandrasekaran said,
"The number of fields growing GM crops in Europe continues to dwindle while at the same time more and more Europeans are demanding farming that benefits both people and the planet. European Governments would be well advised to steer clear of GM crops in tackling climate change and put their energies into boosting planet and people friendly farming instead."

Despite many decades of research there is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other beneficial traits long promised by biotech companies.

GM crops also hinder the development of real solutions to hunger and climate change by starving them of funding and restricting the access of farmers to seeds and knowledge. Ecological farming and traditional knowledge have been identified as the key to facing future challenges.

Friends of the Earth International food coordinator Martin Drago said,
"GM crops are being promoted as a solution to climate change, when in reality they are wiping out forests, damaging farmers' livelihoods and increasing harmful emissions. The reality is that GM farming is not a success story. Small farmers across the world are already using planet-friendly methods to feed themselves and cool the planet. These methods must be supported rather than environmentally and socially destructive GM farming."

Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for sustainable and just societies and for the protection of the environment, unites more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International.

Who Benefits from GM Crops? - report from Friends of the Earth International