The annual ISAAA media-hype fest is underway

Here's an antidote.

GM propaganda misleading
Network of Concerned Farmers
12 January 2005

ISAAA, a major PR organisation funded by GM companies has released a report claiming a massive global uptake of GM crops but Australian group, the Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) claims the reasons for GM uptake is misleading.

"It is not that farmers benefit from GM technology, farmers are not being offered anything that can not be achieved with non-GM biotechnology," said Mrs Newman, National Spokesperson for the NCF.

"Figures show the area of GM has increased in certain countries but this is because most of these farmers have relied on heavy subsidisies from governments or from the GM companies themselves."

Last year a report prepared by the Soil Association revealed that North American subsidies have increased in direct proportion to the area of crops grown and still it has been predicted that US farm exports will plunge a further 10 percent this year due to lower prices and increased competition.

Mrs Newman explained that US and China rely mostly on government subsidies to compensate for increasing costs and decreasing commodity prices caused by overproduction. US taxpayers paid around US $1.6b in subsidies to soybean growers last year and this figure is predicted to rise to US $2.5billion this year as there is a government agreement to compensate farmers if the price falls below US $5.80 per bushel. Five years ago, International Cotton Advisory Committee reported that both Chinese and US cotton farmers relied on government subsidies for up to half of their income in order to counter falling cotton prices and the prices have continued to decline.

Developing countries, such as Argentina, have been supplied free seed, chemical, machinery and expertise from the GM companies which has transformed primitive but sustainable farming practices into what has been reported as a soybean monoculture causing massive exodus of traditional farmers and crops. The NCF is concerned that the tradeoff is the "package" of patented GM crops with contractual agreements that will guarantee corporate returns on future investments at a significant cost to farmers.

"Overproduction of single commodities based on false economy has caused a glut of production and subsequent dropping of worldwide prices. As the canola price is hedged on the soybean price, canola prices have also been influenced by the spiralling soybean prices. Farmers can not afford any increase in costs or decrease in commodity prices."

The NCF believe that because Australian farmers have cheaper non-GM alternatives and good agricultural practises, farming would be more sustainable without GM crops.

"Australian farmers will need a market edge to sell our products with premiums in order to maintain viability. Farmers will have difficulty competing with heavily subsidised countries as the commodity price continues to fall but differentiating our product to cater to consumer non-GM demands will allow greater market access and possibly premium prices."

"GM crops are not the success claimed, it is exploitation of agricultural resources and it is not sustainable for farmers."


Julie Newman 08 98711562 or 0427 711644
Juliet McFarlane 02 63822509
Network of Concerned Farmers

*Note: Despite only a small percentage of GM cotton being grown in Australia, ISAAA has previously shaded all of Australia as growing GM.
*Note: The main crops involved are cotton and soybeans that mainly escape labelling legislation. Cotton is oil and oil is not required to be labelled in most countries, and soybeans are mainly used for stock feed and a cheap high protein filler in processed foods and therefore escapes labelling).
*Funding: ISAAA :
*In 2004, Mark Buckingham admitted Monsanto funded at least 25% of ISAAA for the 2003 report.
* Misleading?: ISIS reported "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."
*GM canola area for Canada, not 90% as claimed but PG economics reported 68%
*R&D influenced by Corporate investment
*International Cotton Advisory Committee
* US trade "U.S. farm exports will plunge by 10 percent to just over $56 billion in 2005 as soaring crop production around the world lowers prices and results in greater competition for U.S. farmers, the Agriculture Department predicted Monday." more
* North American experience
*"Subsidies have been a major factor in influencing prices with the major production countries being paid around 20 US cents per pound in subsidies resulting in direct assistance between '99-2000 of $US 2,065 million to US farmers and $US 1,534 million to Chinese farmers. ICAC 2000 identified "The fact that in some major producing countries, one third to a half of the returns to cotton farmers are from government subsidies".
*2004 US Soy Subsidies
"South America's soy surge has already driven down global prices and hit U.S. taxpayers in the wallet. The target price for soy under U.S. federal farm price support programs is US$5.80 per bushel of soybeans, and the government compensates farmers when prices are lower. Because soybeans have fallen below that price, this year U.S. soy farmers will receive an estimated US$1.6 billion in subsidized income support. That could rise to US$2.5 billion or more next year if expected record South American crops drive prices still lower."
"According to Buenos Aires agro-ecologist Walter Pengue, who specialises in the impact of GM Soya, such scenes could soon become commonplace, turning the world's most fertile arable plains into barren wasteland." "Not only would they supply the seeds and weedkiller; they would throw in the necessary machines and send experts to teach them to use the new technology."
There were only five countries that grew about 98 percent of the $44 billion of commercial genetically engineered crops in 2003-2004. Those five countries were: the United States ($27.5 billion), Argentina ($8.9 billion), China ($3.9 billion), Canada ($2.0 billion) and Brazil ($1.6 billion).
*Monsanto collects royalties from Argentina

Who is ISAAA? Source:

ISAAA - International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) is funded by Northern developers of GMOs, with the aim of helping developing countries in the South take up GM technology.

Funders include Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and the BBSRC .

ISAAA's multi-million dollar budget is matched by high-profile 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 farmer organizations in areas like Africa.

One of ISAAA's goals is to 'facilitate a knowledge-based, better informed public debate.' To help it achieve its aim 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, Florence Wambugu headed ISAAA's Africa office before establishing her own biotech advocacy organisation - A Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International.

Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies 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 African Biotechnology Trust. Pro-biotech Western aid agencies have joined with these organizations to quietly conduct one-sided conferences at up-scale venues around the continent, such as Kenya's Windsor Golf and Country Club, aimed to swing high-level officials in favor of GM. But critics charge these forums are facades for large corporations. The NGOs consist of a website and a few staff, they charge.' 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'.

ISAAA’s chairman is Clive James. ISAAA's annual reports on the global uptake of GMOs, 'Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops', commissioned by the biotech industry and conducted by James, are widely reported in the media. However, there are serious question marks overe the accuracy of their claims as regards the extent of the uptake of GM crops around the world and the supposed benefits experienced by producers. Many claims are made purely on the basis of producer estimates and some have been shown to be contrary to the findings of properly controlled scientific studies.

Aaron deGrassi provides an example of how questionable ISAAA figures are in relation to GM cotton farming in South Africa: '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 suggests 3,000 ha.' In other words ISAAA's figures are 20 times higher than even those claimed by a biotech industry source.

It is also possible to compare some of the figures in previous ISAAA's Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops with scientific research findings. For instance, in the 1998 Global Review a figure of 12% was given by American farmers for GM soy yield improvements. 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, ie the diametric opposite.