GM Crops Bring Bare Benefit to Farmers
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network has released the fourth report of its GMO Inquiry 2015 project entitled “Are GM crops better for farmers?” Farmers are the main customers for GM crops, but are generally not consulted before GM crops are approved for field trials or commercial release.
The main GM crops grown are corn, canola, soy and cotton, mostly bearing either or both traits of herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Six major companies— Monsanto (US), DuPont (US), Syngenta (Switzerland), Dow (US), Bayer (Germany), and BASF (Germany)—develop GM crops. They control 63 percent of the global commercial seed market and 75 percent of the agrochemical market. In 2007, their GM crops accounted for 98 percent of global GM acreage, with Monsanto's traits accounting for 85 percent.
The report finds that this high level of corporate concentration in the seed market has meant higher prices, limited choices for farmers, a narrowing of genetic diversity in crops, and stagnating innovation. Meanwhile, net farm incomes in Canada have not increased because farm expenses, including the cost of GM seed, have increased substantially. Legal control over seeds, in the form of patents that prevent farmers from saving, exchanging and reusing seed, has also increased. In addition, there are no clear patterns to show that GM crop yields have increased more than those of non-GM crops; in fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Moreover, the so-called benefits of herbicide tolerance are now being overturned due to the new costs of managing the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. In Canada, there is no assessment of the potential economic consequences of introducing new GM crops including the costs of GM contamination, which farmers have had to bear in past episodes.
The report concludes that 20 years of GM crops have benefitted the companies that sell GM seeds, but have not always benefitted farmers. It calls for a democratic decision-making process to assess what role, if any, GM crops should play in our food and farming systems. The summary of the report is reproduced below.