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Genetically engineered agricultural products were released on the market without a fair and open process to assess the risks on human health and the environment or the social and economic risks to farmers and rural communities.
Family farmers' livelihoods and independence will be further compromised by genetic engineering. Genetic engineering empowers corporate agribusiness to accelerate capital and chemical intensive agriculture at the expense of family farmers and rural communities around the world, increases corporate concentration in agriculture, and poses unknown risks to the safety and security of the food supply.
Genetic engineering disrupts traditional agricultural practices creating social upheaval in rural communities and threatening agrarian cultures throughout the world.
Consumers worldwide are rejecting genetically engineered foods, driving down farm prices. This will force significant numbers of family farmers out of business.
Family farmers have been unfairly forced to assume liability for genetically engineered products that were not adequately tested before being released into the environment and food supply.
The corporate ownership of genetic resources and the corporate use of genetic engineering in agriculture is not designed to solve the problems farmers face in agriculture such as increased weed resistance, growing staple crops on marginal land, or making traditionally bred crops available to farmers worldwide, but rather to enrich corporations.
Genetically engineered seeds increase costs to farmers, have failed to perform as promised by corporate agribusiness, and, in some cases, yields have been lower and crops engineered to be herbicide tolerant have required increased use of herbicides manufactured by the corporations that market the seeds.
The "terminator" gene, which renders corporate seeds sterile and was developed with USDA resources, is an unconscionable technology because it destroys life and destroys the right of farmers worldwide to save seeds, a basic step necessary to protect food security and biodiversity.
- Genetic engineering defined*:
- Genetic engineering involves taking a gene from one species and splicing it into another to transfer a desired trait. This could not occur in nature where the transfer of genetic traits is limited by the natural barriers that exist between different species and in this way genetic engineering is completely new and incomparable to traditional animal and plant breeding techniques. Genetic engineering is also called biotechnology. Another name for genetically engineered crops is genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
(*Reference: Genetic Engineering, Food and our Environment by Luke Anderson, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, Vermont).
Fact Sheet on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
Rapid rate of consolidation in the seed industry
- Two major companies in the United States, DuPont/Pioneer and Monsanto, control the bulk of the seed industry in the US. About five global partners control the seed trade in the world.
Support of genetic engineering technology by taxpayers
- In March 1998, the USDA and Delta & Pine Land won a patent on a technique for genetic seed sterilization in 87 countries. The USDA has supported private sector companies and land grant universities in their research on genetic seed sterilization techniques. RAFI-USA. http://www.rafiusa.org/.
Monsanto does not want to give farmers choices
- Monsanto has been cracking down on farmers who save and replant seeds containing their "patented technology," and also farmers who "brownbag" those seeds (save seeds and sell them to other farmers).
- 85% of farmers worldwide still save seed.
- In the U.S. Monsanto has opened more than 475 seed piracy cases, generated from over 1800 leads. Rick Weiss, "Gene Police Raise Farmers' Fears," The Washington Post, February 3, 1999.
- According to Monsanto's Kate Marshall, more then 250 of these cases are under active investigation by five full-time and a number of part-time investigators, and Pinkertons, a private detective firm.
- A two-tiered price system for crops has developed: a higher price for traditional, urnnodified crops and a lower price for genetically engineered crops. For example, ADM is paying some farmers 18 cents less per bushel for genetically engineered soybeans than for traditional product. Melody Peterson, "New Trade Threat for US. Farmers, " New York Times, 8/29/99.
- Many companies have announced they will not put any genetically engineered crops into their products including Gerber, Heinz, Iams, Grupp Maseca (Mexico's leading producer of corn flour), and Edeka (one of the largest supermarket chains in Germany).
- Consolidated Grain and Barge Company and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) have called for segregation of GM and non-GM crops.
Rewards for Farmers?
- Charles Benbrook's study on Round-Up Ready soybeans shows that the amount of herbicide used for these beans is two to five times the amount of spraying for conventional beans. The same study shows a yield drag of 4.6 bushels for Round-Up Ready soybeans. "Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998," Contact: (208) 263-5236.
- Recent data from the University of Wisconsin shows that Round-Up Ready soy yields are consistently lower than those of best-performing conventional varieties.
- Infestations have to be high enough to cut yields by at least five to eight bushels per acre before Bt-corn is economically competitive and justifies the extra expense on GE crops. M. Sears and A. Schaafsma. 1998. "Responsible deployment of Bt corn technology in Ontario."
For more information contact the National Family Farm Coalition at (202) 543-5675