viernes, junio 13, 2008

GM Foods the Problem, Not the Solution

By Julio Godoy

BONN, May 23 (IPS) - The food crisis has prompted some looks towards genetically modified food production as a solution. That in turn has led to stronger warnings over the consequences of such food for health and the environment.

These concerns have been raised in Bonn again as more than 3,000 delegates from 147 countries met for the UN conference on biosafety. The conference has sought to ensure safe use of modern biotechnology.

Feeding the debate, scientists, farmers and environmental activists in many countries continue to warn that genetically modified agriculture presents a risk, and not a contribution, to food production.

In France, organic farmers are complaining that genetically modified (GM) plants are poisoning their plantations. Julien and Christian Veillat, two farmers who grow organic maize in the Breton locality of Villiers-en-Plaine some 400 kilometres west of Paris, say their fields have been contaminated with GM maize, even though the nearest GM crops field is 35 kilometres away.

The contamination was established during a routine analysis late in April by an organic agriculture cooperative near the Veillats' village. Following the detection, the organic maize was diverted for use as cattle fodder.

The Veillats have now filed a legal complaint against the central government in Paris. "The contamination could only have come from the GM maize," spokesperson for the local association against GM agriculture Georges Castiel told IPS. "At the organic cooperative, they control the seeds very carefully."

Jean-Pierre Margan, producer of organic wine in the Provence in the south told IPS that contamination of organic farms is a constant problem. "Particles of GMOs are transported by wind and water, and can be carried very far away, and contaminate your plantation even if you have worked hard to protect it from every risk," he said.

Serge Morin, deputy president of the local government in the province of Poitou Charentes said it is necessary that "the French state revises all procedures concerning GMOs, including the immediate stop of all open air GM plantations. In addition, all organic farmers whose plantations are contaminated should be paid indemnities."

Such instances have led renowned chefs and wine producers in France to launch a public campaign to prevent the spread of GMOs in food and beverages.

"We don't have the scientific competence to intervene in the debate on the health consequences of GMOs," they wrote in a public letter addressed to the French parliament. "But we consider that, in accordance with the precautionary principle in questions of food and health, GMOs must simply remain banned from our tables." Similar campaigns are under way in other European countries.

Several scientists and environmental activists say that apart from the health concerns, GMOs are not a solution for food scarcity either.


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