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Biotech Lies
03-21-2013, 09:47 PM,
Biotech Lies
Quote:Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?

—By Tom Philpott
| Wed Feb. 13, 2013 4:06 AM PST
According to the biotech industry, genetically modified (GM) crops are a boon to humanity because they allow farmers to "generate higher crop yields with fewer inputs," as the trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) puts it on its web page.

Buoyed by such rhetoric, genetically modified seed giant Monsanto and its peers have managed to flood the corn, soybean, and cotton seed markets with two major traits: herbicide resistance and pesticide expression—giving plants the ability to, respectively, withstand regular lashings of particular herbicides and kill bugs with the toxic trait of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Turns out, though, that both assertions in BIO's statement are highly questionable. Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook has demonstrated that the net effect of GMOs in the United States has been an increase in use of toxic chemical inputs. Benbrook found that while the Bt trait has indeed allowed farmers to spray dramatically lower levels of insecticides, that effect has been more than outweighed the gusher of herbicides uncorked by Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology, as weeds have rapidly adapted resistance to regular doses of Monsanto's Rounup herbicide.

And in a new paper (PDF) funded by the US Department of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin researchers have essentially negated the "more food" argument as well. The researchers looked at data from UW test plots that compared crop yields from various varieties of hybrid corn, some genetically modified and some not, between 1990 and 2010. While some GM varieties delivered small yield gains, others did not. Several even showed lower yields than non-GM counterparts. With the exception of one commonly used trait—a Bt type designed to kill the European corn borer—the authors conclude, "we were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects." Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop.

Then there's the question of so-called "stacked-trait" crops—that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes—for example, Monsanto's "Smart Stax" product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call "gene interaction" in these crops—genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn't interact, "the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects," the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. "We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked," they write. Most of those effects were negative—i.e., yield was reduced.

Overall, the report uncovers evidence of what is known as "yield drag"—the idea that manipulating the genome of a plant variety causes unintended changes in the way it grows, causing it to be less productive.

More encouragingly, the authors found that crop yields for GMO varieties are more stable year-to-year—that is, their yields fluctuate less than those of conventional varieties. As a result of this stabilizing effect, the authors conclude that "our results show how transgenic technology can improve farmers' ability to deal with a risky environment," especially given "current concerns about the effects of climate change on production uncertainty in agriculture." Simply by planting Roundup Ready or Bt crops, they claim, farmers face less risk from yield fluctuations.

That may be true, but it's a long way from "generating higher crop yields with fewer inputs." And it's not clear at all that GMOs' marginal advantages over conventional seeds when it comes to risk mitigation trump the benefits offered by organic ag in that department. Here's how the authors of a major paper published in Nature last year put it:

Soils managed with organic methods have shown better water-holding capacity and water infiltration rates and have produced higher yields than conventional systems under drought conditions and excessive rainfall.

Quote:ISAAA inflates GM figures by "staggering 400%!"

ISAAA inflates GM figures by "staggering 400%!"

Monday, 25 February 2013 22:28

EXTRACT: "The ISAAA in its desperate attempt to bolster the popularity of GM crops in the media, has overestimated the spread of GM crops in SA by a staggering 400%!"

NOTE: For more on ISAAA
For what's wrong with ISAAA's claims about Europe
GM Industry Called to Account: ISAAA's report mischievous and erroneous
ACB, 25 February 2013

The Africa Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has dismissed the findings of the biotechnology industry's flagship annual report, published by the GM industry funded "NGO", the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), as mischievous and erroneous.

According to the report, South Africa's GM crop area increased by a record 26% or 600,000 hectares over the last 12 months. However, Mariam Mayet, director of the ACB points out: "The ISAAA in its desperate attempt to bolster the popularity of GM crops in the media, has overestimated the spread of GM crops in SA by a staggering 400%! According to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the combined maize and soybean cultivation in South Africa increased by less than 150,000 ha over the stated period and the area planted with GM cotton has declined by 3,000 ha."

In fact South Africa has witnessed an increase in non-GM maize cultivation. Between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 growing seasons, the area of non GM maize cultivation increased by 38% (or 210,000 ha). "It is likely that the issue of insect pests developing resistance to the toxins produced by GM maize is a major factor behind this shift away from GM maize in South Africa." Said Mayet.

The ISAAA further claims that developing countries planted 52% more GM crops than industrial countries and small farmers were the main beneficiaries. However, this includes the extensive mono-crops planted in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. "GM production particularly in Latin America occurs on vast industrial estates. The industry has always promised that GM crops would help small farmers, but the soya barons in Brazil and Argentina are not our idea of 'small'" said Gareth Jones from the ACB.

The reality is that 2012 was truly the biotech industry's 'annus horribilis.' The ISAAA is ominously silent on the need for long-term feeding studies identified by the international scientific community following the damning results of the Seralini GM rat study; the 24 million ha of US farmland over-run with glyphosate resistant weeds; or the new GM crops in the pipeline, engineered to be resistant to even more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, Dicamba, and glufosinate, to deal with this catastrophe.

"The $45 million the biotech industry spent to fight against GM food labelling in California illustrates the double standards by which it operates. While claiming to be eradicating hunger and achieving environmental sustainability for the public good, the biotech industry has denied the same public any rights to free choice when it comes to the food they eat or the systems of agriculture they want." Said Jones.

The ACB wants answers from the GM industry on the following:

If GM crops are so good for small farmers, why did the Indian state of Maharashtra ban GM cottonseed sales in 2012 – does it have anything to do with the near 40% crop failure fuelling a wave of suicides?
If GM crops are so badly wanted by African countries, why did Kenya ban imports at the end of last year?
Why is there so much controversy about exactly how much GM is being grown in Egypt and Burkina Faso? Even the ISAAA admits Egypt grew less GM last year, and Burkina is reported to have banned Bt cotton altogether pursuant to farmers abandoning GM cotton in that country; and If GM crops are the answer to our global food crisis, why did BASF pull out of Europe altogether last year?

Gareth Jones 081 493 4323
Mariam Mayet 083 269 4309

Notes to editors:

ISAAA's financial supporters include:
CropLife International (an umbrella lobby group for biotech companies)
Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Pvt. Ltd (Mahyco), India (a subsidiary of Monsanto)
Bayer CropScience Ag
US Department for Agriculture
US Soybean Export Council

Information on South Africa maize and soya cultivation from the Crop Estimates Committee:
GM seed information from the South African National Seed Organisation annual reports:
ACB (2012). Setting the record straight on the Seralini GM maize rat feeding study: Why the SA government must urgently intervene.
'Glyphosate-resistant weed problem extends to more species, more farms', Farm Industry News. 29th January 2013.
“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after
equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. ” -Nikola Tesla

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." -Jimi Hendrix

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