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GM crops are economic disaster, new report says

Editor's note: Readers of this report by the Soil Association should bear in mind, when they arrive at the section dealing with international trade and subsidies, that determining the exact amount that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing -- in essence masking the full effect -- markets lost because of rejection of modified crops is difficult. To get a better handle on this, the General Accounting Office should heed the advice of the American Corn Growers Association by investigating the issue. (See "GMOs becoming 'Grain Market Outcasts,' holding down U.S. corn exports again;" http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=905.

(Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Genetically modified (GM) crops have been an economic disaster in the USA and Canada according to a new report published by the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic organization. Engineered soybeans, corn and canola are estimated to have cost the US economy at least $12 billion (8 billion) since 1999 in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls. Farmers are not achieving the higher profits promised by the biotechnology companies as markets for GM food collapse. Widespread GM contamination at all levels of the food and farming industry is the major cause of these difficulties.

The severity of problems with GM crops has led to more than 200 groups representing farmers and the organic sector in the USA and Canada to call for a ban or moratorium on the introduction of the next major proposed GM food crop, GM wheat. Some politicians in the USA are so concerned that in May this year, legislation was introduced to Congress to address the economic, market and legal issues.

The Soil Association's report is the first to reveal the serious widespread impacts of GM crops in North America on the food and farming industry, where three-quarters of the world's GM food is grown. It is the most comprehensive review of the situation to be produced from a non-biotechnology industry perspective.

Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's Policy Director said: "A decision will be made next year whether to allow GM crops to be grown commercially in the UK. With agriculture still suffering a deep economic crisis, the temptation to seize a new technology is great.

GM was introduced to the USA when farmers were financially vulnerable. The biotechnology industry's claims that their products would bring benefits were widely accepted, but GM crops have now proved to be a financial liability. Growing GM crops in the UK will undermine the competitiveness of British agriculture.

We hope farmers in the UK will take our findings seriously. Most of the world is GM-free and there is no market for GM crops in the EU.

The Soil Association hopes that this report will result in a better informed public debate, and a more independent, less pressurised decision about the possible commercial growing of GM crops in the UK. We can still avoid the mistakes made in the USA and Canada, but only if we don't open the can of GM worms that commercial growing of GM crops represents.

The Government is publicly committed to ensuring that the expansion of organic farming is not undermined by GM crops - our report shows that the two cannot coexist."

Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops, is available from the Soil Association Mail Order Department on 0117 929 0661, mtrowell@soilassociation.org or from http://www.soilassociation.org/gm for a price of 12.

Source: Soil Association