Relying on GM Crops to Battle Climate Change 'Suicidal,' Indian Activist Charges
LONDON - Faced with growing demand for food and increasingly unpredictable weather, many developing nations are debating whether to relax restrictions on the use of genetically modified crops.Seed developers promise that a coming generation of genetically modified (GM) food crops will have climate-resilient features, from drought resistance to saltwater tolerance.
But widespread adoption of GM varieties by small farmers would be "suicidal in terms of climate change," said Vandana Shiva, an Indian social activist, environmentalist and proponent of small-scale farming.
"The (GM) system is more about companies making money from farmers than food security," she told AlertNet in an interview in London.
Adopting GM crops puts small farmers at greater financial risk because they often have to borrow money to buy more expensive GM seeds. If their crops fail, particularly repeatedly, they can find themselves unable to repay the loans, she said.
Worldwide, crop failures are increasingly harder to predict because the climate is becoming more erratic.
In recent years there has been an unprecedented spate of suicides by heavily indebted cotton farmers in Central India, Shiva said. More than three quarters of the suicides, her research shows, have been committed by farmers using GM cotton seed and struggling to repay loans.
GM suppliers sell their seeds on the condition that farmers buy fresh seed each year - something many growers can't afford if their crop fails. A decade ago, 80 percent of Indian farmers saved part of their harvest as seed to plant the following season's crops, Shiva said.