19 December 2000 www.rafi.org
RAFI announces the release of a new RAFI Communique, entitled: "Biotech's Generation 3." Highlights from RAFI's new 18-page report on Generation 3 (genetically modified products that will offer perceived health and nutrition benefits for consumers) appear below. The full text with footnotes and graphics is now available on the RAFI web site: http://www.rafi.org
** Biotech's "Generation 3" **
What's in the GM pipeline? How will it work? Who will control it? What does it mean for farmers, consumers and policymakers?
The Issue: After choking on its first generation of genetically modified (GM) crops - and frantically fearful that its second generation is equally indigestible, the biotechnology industry is desperately seeking a success story - a genetically modified product that will have broad consumer appeal and obvious nutritional benefits.
GM crops were planted on approximately 43 million hectares in 2000, but GM foods have not proven to be cheaper, better tasting, safer or more nutritious. With nothing to gain, it's not surprising that consumers, processors, retailers and farmers have retreated from the biotech bandwagon. Now, the biotech industry is hoping that the next generation of biotech products, Generation 3, will dazzle consumers and dissolve societal concerns.
What is Generation 3? Broadly speaking, biotech's third generation refers to GM products that will offer perceived health and nutrition benefits for consumers - primarily affluent people in industrialized countries. Already in the pipeline are genetically modified plants and animals that produce drugs, vaccines, and plastics; Generation 3 also includes Vitamin-fortified fruits, vegetables and grains such as AstraZeneca's highly-touted "Golden Rice."
Financial Stakes: Industry analysts predict that the global market ($2.5 billion in 1999) for GM seed will be relatively "flat" for some years, and could even drop to $2 billion by 2003. Nevertheless, many analysts still expect the GM market to recover and soar to $25 billion by 2010. Global sales of nutritionally-enhanced food products are currently $65 billion (without genetic engineering). The combined science-driven bio-based market (including healthcare, personal care and food as well as specialty manufactures) could exceed $15 trillion by the year 2027 - the largest consolidated economic power on earth.
Who will control Generation 3? The lure of a technologically-integrated $15 trillion system will attract whole new corporate configurations. The Gene Giants (Monsanto, DuPont, Aventis, Syngenta, Dow, etc.) may slip down the food chain when the food & beverage corporations and/or the grocery retailers buy into Generation 3. Massive consolidation makes it difficult to predict who will gobble whom in the binge buying now underway. Even the life insurance industry could become a player. RAFI examines several scenarios for the "Food Chain Gang" of the future.
Implications: Generation 3 is the disassembly of the food chain. Plant parts become component chips in an "agriceutical" system capable of generating "identity-preserved" ingredients from numerous and diverse GM commodities that are increasingly climate and season insensitive. The practical and policy impacts for civil society organizations, farmers and governments are enormous and far-reaching:
* Patents and Plant Breeders' Rights could become irrelevant when processors or retailers exercise global brand (trademark) control over food/health products.
* The Biosafety Protocol could become meaningless as the distinction between farm and pharma blurs in a "dis-aggregated" economy where biosafety becomes a tool for corporate control, and when transgenics becomes "intra-genics."
* Anti-trust and trade regimes, in a market dominated by global technopolies, must be completely re-thought in order to protect farmers and consumers. Commodity associations and unions could be rendered useless in an era of BioSerfdom that will include consumers.
RAFI (the Rural Advancement Foundation International) is an international civil society organization based in Canada. RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is concerned about the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact of intellectual property on farmers and food security.
RAFI International Office 110 Osborne Street, Suite 202 Winnipeg, Manitoba R3L 1Y5, CANADA www.rafi.org