1.SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER
2.The GM Bubble - ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting
"somewhere in the world this week or next a farmer will plant the 1 billionth acre of genetically enhanced crops. This is a huge milestone for the world," says Dean Kleckner of Truth About Trade
However, according to Val Giddings of the Biotehnology Industry Organisation (BIO), in Washington D.C., ''We're approaching the 500 billionth acre of crops improved by biotechnology being grown around the world," he claims.
One billion - five hundred billion????? That's some difference!
WHAT'S GOING ON?
In fact, both of these figures might just as well be plucked out of the air because the organisation that's sypposedly been doing the counting - ISAAA, an industry backed lobby group - has repeatedly been exposed as inflating the figures on global GM crop cultivation.
In the latest instance below, while ISAAA has been claiming 500 000 ha are under GM cultivation in South Africa, it seems that's probably a 60% inflation of the real figure!
See item 2 for much more of the same.
1.MONSANTO GRABS SOUTHERN AFRICAN SEED MARKET BUT SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER
MEDIA ADVISORY BY: SOUTH AFRICAN FREEZE ALLIANCE ON GENETIC ENGINEERING (SAFeAGE)
3 May 2005
Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa-According to research conducted by the African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa's commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and cotton has been grossly exaggerated by the biotechnology industry for propaganda purposes.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an industry supported organisation, consistently tries to inflate the figures of GM plantings around the world to support the argument that GM crops are here to stay. Despite South Africa's permissive GMO laws, Monsanto South Africa has estimated production of its GM maize (MON 810 and NK603) in South Africa to constitute no more than a total of 6-7% of the area under maize, less than the ISAAA's estimate of 15-20% of GM maize grown during 2004.
South Africa does not produce enough cotton for domestic needs and has to import the shortfall each year. In 2003/04 the area planted to cotton was less than one-fifth of the area under cotton in the late 1980s. Despite the dominance of Monsanto's GM cotton varieties, no more than 30 000 ha was planted to GM cotton in 2003, even though it represents 75% of the cottonseed planted in that year.
South Africa's soyabean industry is similarly small and no more than 41 000 ha of Monsanto's GM (glysophate tolerant) soya was grown in South Africa during 2004. However, during 2001-2005, just more than 67 000 tons of GM soya was imported for animal feed; equivalent to about 8% of South Africa's domestic soyabean production over the same period.
This brings the total land under GM crops in South Africa to around 300 000 ha and not the 500 000 ha claimed by ISAAA.
Despite its historical status as a net exporter of maize, South Africa has become reliant on imports from Argentina and the US of enormous amounts of GM maize. GM maize imports during the period 1999-2005, estimated to be in access of 2.6 million tons (MON 810, Bt11, Bt176 and TA25) are equivalent to over 7.5% of the domestic production in South Africa in the 2001-2004 growing seasons. Almost all GM seed imported into South Africa contains Monsanto’s technology.
The study also shows that South Africa is being used as a base from which to distribute GM food aid to the region. South Africa has also become an important country for GM seed bulking (propagating seed in volume for commercial use) and a base to produce GM seed for international distribution for experimentation/consumption.
Alarmingly, the study shows that Monsanto, the globally dominant company in the agrochemical, seed and agricultural biotechnology sector has about 45% of the South African maize seed market share and almost the entire market share for wheat seed. In 2005, Monsanto had at least 15 yellow maize, 11 white maize, 17 wheat, 4 soybean and 5 sunflower varieties on the market. The recent acquisition of Seminis, the global vegetable company, with nearly 60 vegetable and melon seed varieties registered by Seminis South Africa gives Monsanto an entry point into the vegetable seed market,
As the engine for the distribution of commercial seed into Southern Africa, control by Monsanto over South Africa's seed supply means control over Southern Africa's commercial seed supply. Monsanto has identified Brazil, India and South Africa as focal points for its efforts to expand into the developing world.
The South African government supports genetic modification in agriculture and has also used its own infrastructure and resources to encourage positive attitudes in the public. The state's support has allowed South Africa to become a base for expansion into Africa, for export of GM seed around the world and as an experimental base for new GM crops not approved elsewhere.
The full report "A Profile of Monsanto in South Africa" produced by the African Centre for Biosafety, April 2005 is available on www.biosafetyafrica.net
For further information contact:
Glenn Ashton (SAFeAge) 083 403 6263
Mariam Mayet, (African Centre for Biosafety) 084 68 333 74
Stephen Greenberg, Researcher, 083 988-2983
In South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety (www.biosafetyafrica.net)
Biowatch South Africa (www.biowatch.org.za)
Earthlife Africa (www.earthlife-ct.org.za)
GM Free Africa (www.gmfreeafrica.org/gmfa_main/)
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (Safeage) (www.safeage.org)
Other useful info on Monsanto
Consumers International (www.consumersinternational.org)
Corporate Watch (www.corporatewatch.org)
Corporate Dirt Archives (www.corporations.org/corplist.html)
Monsanto South Africa (www.monsanto.co.za)
Monsanto Watch (www.monsantowatch.org.uk)
Millions Against Monsanto (http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html
Multinational Monitor (www.multinationalmonitor.org)
2.The GM Bubble
Science in Society issue 22, summer 2004
Subscriptions +44 (0)20 7383 3376 or online at www.i-sis.org.uk/subscribe
Claire Robinson questions ISAAA's inflated figures of GM crop uptake and planting
"India a key GM crop cultivator" ran a headline in the Times of India back in January. "India has made it to the list of top ten transgenic crop-growing nations," the paper reported, alongside what it called the "glowing figures" on "the global acreage of transgenic crops" and the number of farmers planting them - seven million in 18 countries, up from six million in 16 countries in 2002.
The Times of India was not alone in its breathless account of GM crop expansion. Headlines around the world declared, "Frankenfood flourishing" and "Biotech crops continue rapid global growth". Every January, similar headlines appear when the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Association (ISAAA) publishes its "Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops." They are drawn directly from press releases sent out by ISAAA's agri-centers around the globe plus country-specific media briefings via worldwide teleconferences. ISAAA stands at the front line of a major public relations war, and as with all wars, the first casualty is the truth.
Fortunately, a few are not taken in. India's Financial Express reported that despite ISAAA's hype about India being "a key GM crop cultivator", the actual area planted with India's first GM crop, Bt cotton, is minuscule in terms of the total area devoted to cotton in India. According to an internal report of the country's agriculture ministry, "In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectares, representing only 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04, with good monsoon rains, the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectares. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectares under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers."
As well as engaging in selective spin about the popularity of GM crops among farmers, ISAAA stands accused of pumping up the planting figures. ISAAA's Southeast Asia director, Dr Randy Hauteau, while briefing the media, quoted ISAAA figures for Bt cotton plantings in India in 2003-04 of 100,000 hectares - a nearly 10% inflation of the agriculture ministry's figures. When questioned about the data and methodology underlying this claim, the Financial Express reported that Hauteau refused to comment. Hauteau was also unable, the paper reported, to justify claims made in the ISAAA study that "in 2003-04 almost one-third of the global biotech crop area was grown in developing countries."
Although ISAAA's figures are quoted routinely by official bodies and even governments, the organisation is vague about how its figures are generated, referring only to their being "based on a consolidated database from a broad range of sources, including government agencies and other organizations in the public and private sector".
But Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex has shown the questionable validity of ISAAA figures. Analysing GM cotton farming in South Africa, he notes, "ISAAA implies that small farmers have been using the technology on a hundred thousand hectares. Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe - an industry coalition - suggests 5,000 ha of 'smallholder cotton.' The survey team [from the University of Reading, UK] suggests 3,000 ha." In other words, ISAAA's GM plantings figures are 20 times higher than even those claimed by a biotech industry source and more than 30 times greater than those from an academic survey.
ISAAA's figures claiming increased profits to South African farmers from Bt cotton are also dubious, deGrassi points out. ISAAA argued that switching to Bt cotton allowed farmers to make an extra US$50 per hectare, whereas the University of Reading survey team found that farmers gained only US$18 in the second year. But deGrassi notes that in the first year, "Bt cotton non-adopters were actually $1 per hectare better off".
As well as exaggerating the extent of GM plantings and profitability, ISAAA has given misleading figures on yields that have been discredited by subsequent scientific research findings. For instance, ISAAA's "Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops" for 1998 claimed yield improvements of 12% for GM soy over conventional soy, as reported by American farmers. However, a review of the results of over 8 200 university-based controlled varietal trials in 1998 showed an almost 7% average yield reduction in the case of the GM soy - the diametric opposite. It later transpired that ISAAA's figures were based on nothing more substantial than producer estimates.
Who pulls ISAAA’s strings?
ISAAA is supported by cash from the GM industry. Its funders include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and the BBSRC (the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). In other words, ISAAA's reports should not be considered as coming from an independent source.
ISAAA's multi-million dollar budget is matched by high-profile industry board members past and present, such as Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of AusBiotech Alliance and advisor to the World Bank. ISAAA has no representatives, however, from farmers' organizations in areas like Africa.
One of ISAAA's goals is to "facilitate a knowledge-based, better informed public debate." To that end, ISAAA has three "Knowledge Centers": the "AmeriCenter" based at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the "SEAsiaCenter" in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines; and the "AfriCenter" in Nairobi, Kenya. ISAAA's Africa office was originally headed by Florence Wambugu, the Monsanto-trained scientist who hyped the company's GM sweet potato around the globe until it was exposed as a failure earlier this year (see "Broken promises", this series).
Aaron deGrassi says that in Africa the ISAAA has "spun off a number of innocuously named pro-biotech NGOs", such as the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum and the African Biotechnology Trust. Pro-biotech Western aid agencies have joined with these organizations to quietly conduct one-sided conferences at upmarket venues around the continent, such as Kenya's Windsor Golf and Country Club, aimed at swinging high-level officials in favour of GM.
But critics allege that these forums are facades for large corporations; the NGOs consist of little more than a website and a few staff. In a report on ISAAA's activities in Asia, GRAIN concluded that its role was one of "promoting corporate profit in the name of the poor".
Claire Robinson is an editor with GM Watch www.gmwatch
Farmers give GMOs cold shoulder in South Africa / ISAAA hype exploded - again!
1.SA FARMERS GIVE GMOS COLD SHOULDER