Counting the Costs of Genetic Engineering

Publication - 26 January, 2010
As the biotechnology industry continues to hail GE (genetic engineering) as the solution to innumerable problems, the grim reality unfolds in our fields and in the market place. The stories contained in this dossier document these failures, both agronomic and economic, and highlight specific examples of solutions that will lead to a more sustainable agricultural future for our planet.The report is split into three sections outlined below. You can download the entire report on this page, or follow the links below to download individual cases.

Executive summary: Field failures - GE crops have repeatedly failed in the field. Some failures are related directly to the engineered trait, for example supposedly insect-resistant plants being attacked by insects, while others are more unpredictable. Certain GE crops have shown sensitivity to high temperatures. There are also mounting impacts of the reliance on a few basic inputs that are essential to most GE systems –herbicide-tolerant weeds are causing farmers in the US to weed by hand. With the high price that farmers pay for the GE seed and the other inputs required to grow GE crops, these are failures that farmers can ill afford.

Economic failures - While farmers have suffered economically from the high prices of GE crops and reduced yields due to field failures, the rest of the agricultural market has notescaped unscathed. With strong public rejection of GE crops, additional costs for the separation of GE from conventional crops are unavoidable. Even with the best segregation, however, contamination has been unavoidable, and one contamination event alone cost every sector of agricultural industry millions of dollars.

Solutions - Ecological farming is becoming increasingly accepted as a solution to the challenges facing global agriculture. The most comprehensive global assessment of agriculture, the International Assessment of Agriculture Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), has supported ecological farming as essential for supporting small-scale farmers (who produce the majority of the planet’s food) and providing for future generations.

Greenpeace is campaigning for ecological farming, which ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow. Ecological farming protects soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity and does not contaminate theenvironment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering.

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Number of pages: 22

Counting the Costs of Genetic Engineering

Go to Individual cases:

Problems with genetically-engineered crops in the field

Herbicide resistance forces farmers to weed by hand

Genetically-engineered cotton fails to perform in Colombia

Genetically-engineered soya yields less

The costs of staying GE-free

Rice producers pay for accidental release of Bayer’s genetically-engineered rice

GE contamination devastates Canadian linseed industry

Genetic engineering enforces corporate control of agriculture

Genetic engineering not a priority for agriculture, International Assessment concludes

Diverse farming protects against climate change

Kenya overcomes pests and weeds with ecological solutions

Benefits of diversity in rice farming