Christian Aid – UK

Christian Aid is concerned about the possible effects of genetically modified (GM) crops on developing countries and on the poor in those countries – so many of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and an adequate and reliable food supply.
Our first contribution to the GM debate, Selling Suicide: Farming, False Promises and Genetic Engineering in Developing Countries, published in May 1999, showed how a handful of GM corporations are gaining increasing control over global food supply, and it also raised questions about the safety of the technology itself.

This ongoing controversy, and the unresolved issues which lie behind it, justifies our continuing support to a call for a moratorium on commercial applications of GM crops to allow time for the issues to be further researched, discussed, agreed and implemented, not only at the national level but globally, particularly in terms of how they affect developing countries.1

Proponents of GM crops argue that they could prove highly beneficial to poor farmers, and could help developing countries meet their future food needs:
– Increased drought resistance could enable crops to be grown on unirrigated and currently marginal lands, and reduce reliance on scarce water supplies.
– Engineered pest resistance could reduce reliance on expensive and environmentally damaging chemical pesticides, both in the growing and storage of crops.
– Making it possible for certain plants to use atmospheric nitrogen to help them grow into major food crops such as cereals could increase yields and reduce or perhaps even remove the need for chemical fertilisers.

The possibilities appear to be endless.
However, it is not at all clear whether or not such benefits can or will be delivered without accompanying and unacceptable costs, either in terms of the technology itself or in terms of how it is controlled. Nor is it clear what the balance of benefits and costs might be, or, most importantly, for whom.

Christian Aid is concerned that:
– Too much significance is placed on GM crops in terms of their ability to end hunger in the developing world . It has been claimed that GM crops are necessary for the future food security of poor people in developing countries. Such claims are misleading because they ignore the complexities of overcoming poverty and food shortages in such countries. The solutions to hunger and food insecurity lie mainly in overcoming social and economic barriers that limit poor people’s ability to buy or produce and sell food. A costly technology such as GM crops, owned by powerful corporations, risks increasing such barriers, leading to more inequality, poverty and food insecurity.
– Too much control over the world’s agriculture and food system is ending up in the hands of a small number of purely commercial interests. The development and marketing of GM technology, including patented seeds tied to proprietary agrochemicals, is leading to a smaller and smaller number of companies having more and more influence over food production and the global food system. There is no mechanism at international level to prevent this trend continuing and developing countries also lack the power to stop it.
– Too little is known about the possible environmental, ecological, health or nutritional effects of GM crops, particularly in developing countries. As in many areas of science and its application, there are differences of opinion and indeed strong disagreements among those involved in GM crops. However, in this case the disagreements are not just academic. The widespread use of particular GM crops and foodstuffs may risk serious damage to the environment – to both wild and agricultural biodiversity – as modified genes are spread by cross-pollination, for example. They may even pose a threat to human health.


Tooling Up for Hydroponics

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