GM crop yields lower than conventional crops, benefits to farmers

By Angela Cole,2014-11-26 10:15
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GM crop yields lower than conventional crops, benefits to farmers


    Coordination Paysanne


    European Farmers


    Agricultural biotechnology: yield, competitiveness, jobs and environmental impact

    Input to Resolution 2006/2059(INI)

    November 2006

Contents: 1. GM crop yields

    2. Pesticide use

    3. Pesticide resistance and environmental impact

    4. Reduced soil erosion and fossil fuel use

    5. Health impacts of increased herbicide use

    6. Genetically modified crops: EU competitiveness and job creation

    7. EU food production chain

    8. Food and feed quality

    9. Impacts on global poverty and malnutrition


    The European Parliament‟s Agriculture Committee will later this month be debating and voting on the resolution Biotechnology: Prospects and Challenges for Agriculture in Europe” (2006/2059(INI)). This resolution could iform the European Parliament‟s input into the mid-term review of the 2002 EU Biotechnology Strategy.

    The Strategy, which is likely to set new targets, covers all biotechnological sectors. It is crucial to assess each one individually in relation to its risks and its opportunities. There is much debate and controversy surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops, including acknowledged scientific uncertainty about impacts on farmers‟ livelihoods, the environment and human health. This briefing summarises research which farmers‟ organizations, the organic sector and environmental NGOs urge you to take into account when you discuss and vote on the above-mentioned Resolution.

Background context

     iiThe Agriculture Committee report is based on a paper written by UK consultants. It is important to note that while

    the report states that “modern biotechnology….has huge economic, commercial, social and environmental implications in Europe and globally” the background paper focuses solely on potential beneficial implications and ignores the costs associated with the technology, including those already incurred due to contamination incidents. The paper also ignores the lack of market in the EU due to public opposition to GM foods, and does not address the benefits of more sustainable farming methods, and the knock-on impacts on such systems if GM crops are adopted more widely. Furthermore, the central assumptions on the uptake of GM crops worldwide are based on data and projections from the biotechnology industry-sponsored ISAAA. Analyses by several authors have found iiiISAAA data to be significantly inflated in countries such as South Africa, Asia and the US.


1. GM crop yields

    First-generation genetic modifications address production conditions (insect and weed control), and have not been modified to increase yield. Yields of both GM and conventional varieties vary depending on growing conditions, iv Furthermore: such as degree of infestation with insects or weeds, weather, and region of production.

    ; A 2003 report published in the journal Science states that “in the United States and Argentina, average vyield effects [of GM crops] are negligible and in some cases even slightly negative”.

    ; The UN Food and Agriculture Organization‟s 2004 report on agricultural biotechnology acknowledges that viGM crops can have reduced yields.

    ; In 1998 several universities carried out a study that demonstrated that, on average, Roundup Ready soy viivarieties were 4% lower in yield than conventional varieties.

2. Pesticide use

    The growing of GM crops has resulted in increased herbicide use. In his exhaustive 2004 analysis of US Department of Agriculture pesticide usage data, Dr. Charles Benbrook at the Northwest Science and Environmental viiiPolicy Centre, a leading expert on GM crops, concludes that GM soy, maize, and cotton have led to a 122 million pound increase in pesticide use in the US since 1996, with a huge increase on herbicide-tolerant crops and a modest decrease on insect resistant crops.

3. Pesticide resistance and environmental impact

    ; Until the widespread adoption of genetically modified Roundup Ready crops, there were just two confirmed

    cases of glyphosate-resistant weeds. But by 2005, a growing list of weeds required applications of other, ixoften more toxic, herbicides. Argentina may offer a lesson to the world in this respect. Roundup Ready

    soybeans comprise 99% of Argentine soybean hectarage. Roundup use on soybeans alone in Argentina

    has climbed from virtually zero in 1995/96 to 40 million kilograms in 2003/04, and 11 glyphosate-tolerant xweed species have now been found in Argentina. The decreasing efficacy of Roundup is due in large part xito the overuse of this single herbicide as the key method for managing weeds on millions of hectares. This

    underscores the fallacy of the „one size fits all‟ approach so prevalent in modern-day farming. xii; A recent paper by the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba, reports that transgene

    escape has become so frequent in Western Canada that farmers now expect the unintended presences of

    GM oilseed rape in their crops. After only three years of commercial growing multiple herbicide resistant

    volunteer oilseed rape plants were reported and after five years, farmers began to complain of GM oilseed

    rape plants contaminating their fields. xiii; The UK Government‟s Farm Scale Evaluations of GM crops found that growing GM oilseed rape and

    sugar beet had a negative impact on wildlife than conventional equivalents. A follow up study also showed

    the first GM “superweed” in the UK. GM oilseed rape cross-bred with a common weed, Charlock, producing

    a herbicide resistant charlock plant. xiv; In 2005, a paper published in the scientific journal Pest Management Science