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Transgenic Crops

23 October 2001

23 October 2001

Transgenic Crops

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (PSRG) note the annual survey of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. ISAAA claims transgenic crop acreages will increase 10% this year and farmers have embraced genetically engineered crops which are delivering the promises given.

RAFI, an independent monitoring organization, claims acreages are levelling out and data from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service does show the 2000 corn acreages were less than 1998. Data from the USDA shows some biotech promises are not being kept.

In a survey of members across several States, the American Corn Growers Association asked, “Would you grow more or fewer GE crops?” The ‘more’ respondents ran 7.1 to 15.4 percent, the ‘fewer’ 64.6 to 100 percent.

US corn exports to the European Union for the marketing year 1995-1996 totalled 2.8 million tons, down to 2300 tons for 2000-2001 (USDA). Agricultural Statistics Survey data (1998) indicates there is no economic benefit to growing engineered insecticidal corn (Duffy and Ernst 1999).

The transgenic corn variety, StarLink - approved in 1998, though not for human foods - was identified in a taco in September 2000. Over 300 products were recalled, the USDA allocated $US20 million to buy contaminated seed for incineration, and the developer, Aventis, has spent over $US90 million in compensation, faces multiple lawsuits and will sell its CropScience division.

USDA data shows that, despite 71% of transgenic crops being engineered for chemical resistance and promising chemical reduction, there has been no reduction. For example, an average 11.4% more herbicide is used on RoundupRready® soybean crops, than on conventional soybeans; in some cases, 30% more.

The US lost 14.3% of its share of the export soy market between 1995 and 2000 whereas Brazil's share climbed 10.7% by supplying non-GE soybeans. US soy value is buoyed up by almost 70% in subsidies and a Purdue University study concluded GE soy offers little advantage to farmers.

Canada’s Globe & Mail reported that its government acknowledges the problem of transgenic canola volunteers. Chemical and DNA tests have confirmed some canola volunteers are now resistant to three chemicals, Roundup, Liberty and Pursuit, and multiple-chemical spraying does not kill them.

Apart from the main transgenic crops (soy, corn/maize, canola and cotton) biotech companies are reported to be withdrawing or not releasing transgenic crops because US consumers and export markets, particularly the EU and Japan, will not accept GE crops. Some noted are flax (Triffid), canola (Quest), potatoes (NatureMark & NewLeaf), corn (StarLink) and tomatoes (Vegadura, Vegaspeso ["FlavrSavr®]).

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