lunes, enero 29, 2007

Editorial de GRAIN

New from GRAIN
January 2007

The latest issue of Seedling is now available at:

And two photo essays are available (details below):


Every day the biotechnology companies bombard us with their publicity. We are told that eight million farmers throughout the world are already enjoying higher yields and lower production costs because of the benefits of genetically modified crops. And forever dangled before us is the carrot of far greater improvements in the future. We are promised that within a decade the biotech companies will have designed crops that will deal with drought, salinisation and all the other problems that we are likely to be facing as the result of global warming and climate change.

But how true are these claims? Have hybrids and GM crops really reduced costs and increased yields? And is this kind of farming sustainable? It is often difficult to probe behind the hype of the biotech companies and to find out what is happening on the ground. In this edition, we have an extensive first-hand report from China about the real impact of hybrid rice, which now covers well over half of the area under rice cultivation in this vast country. Another article brings together reports from many different countries -- Burkina Faso, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and the USA -- about the impact of Monsanto's genetically modified Bt cotton, which has now been on the market for a decade. The reports uncover profound concerns among the farmers and a worrying lack of transparency among the advocates of the new technologies. In both cases, it is clear that, even if the new crops bring short-term benefits (and this is not always the case), these can soon be outweighed by serious long-term problems in both the financial and agronomic viability of the new varieties.

The biotech companies' response to the plethora of problems is to come up with another round of technical fixes. We are already hearing about the second -- and even third -- generation of GM crops engineered to deal with the problems created by the first generation. And so it will continue.? Not surprisingly, many farmers throughout the world are increasingly sceptical and are returning to the tried-and-tested practices of agro-ecological farming. Support is growing for the concept of food sovereignty -- the idea that communities have the right to define their own agricultural, pastoral, labour, fishing, food and land policies, in accordance with their own ecological, social, economic and cultural circumstances.

In this edition, we talk to two different proponents of food sovereignty, one in Africa, one in India. Not surprisingly, their strategies are different, for they come from very different parts of the world, but they agree on one essential point -- the need for local farmers to be the ones who decide which crops they cultivate, what farming methods they use and how their produce should be marketed. In February advocates of food sovereignty from the five continents will be meeting in Mali for the Forum for Food Sovereignty.

We are planning in 2007 a special issue on biofuels, the new craze that is sweeping through the world. The biotechnology companies are moving quickly to produce genetically modified crops especially tailored for the manufacture of ethanol and other biofuels. We would like to receive any comments or information that you, the readers, have on this topic. We plan to publish a list of the ten most useful documents on biofuels, and would welcome suggestions.