Parts of the article below (item 1) verge on the fantastical, not to say the nonsensical, eg "GMO fertilizers for the culturally important wagwag rice variety will be used to allow farmers to harvest even during the off-season" and "Another Filipino GMO is the cotton bollworm". (item 1)

However, in other respects it conforms to the standard patern of GM propaganda pieces, particularly in the developing world. We're told that if Bt corn acreage dramatically expands in the Philipinnes then the country will move from being a net importer to an exporter of the crop.

The Bt corn we are told generates higher yields, which improve farmers' incomes. "The experience of corn farmers since December 2002, when Bt corn was approved for cultivation in the country, was positive, with yields rising by 37 percent and profits zooming by 60 percent."

These are dramatic benefits and they contrast notably with US Dept of Agriculture findings which show, amongst much else (see item 2) that GM crops do not increase yield and may actually reduce yields and that Bt corn has had a negative economic impact on farms!

Item 3 deals with the way GM crops are being promoted in the global South.

2.GM crop data was not so rosy
3.Hyping GMOs to farmers

Source: AgBioView Newsletter (

CEBU CITY - Dr. Emil Javier, former University of the Philippines (UP) president, does not buy the idea promoted by some groups that the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture would worsen the living conditions of farmers nationwide.

In fact, Javier is batting for the propagation of biotechnology products like Bt corn nationwide, saying that these crops have practically little need for pesticides and generate higher yields, and these would improve farmers' incomes rather than reduce them.

Javier said the experience of corn farmers since December 2002, when Bt corn was approved for cultivation in the country, was positive, with yields rising by 37 percent and profits zooming by 60 percent of P10, 132 per hectare.

He said that these developments augur well for corn farmers, particularly in Mindanao, who have been batting for the wider cultivation of Bt corn.

Originally, only 129 hectares of farms were devoted to the cultivation of corn but the figure has reached about 30,000 hectares today.

Javier said a study undertaken by Prof. Jose M. Yorobe of the Department of Agricultural Economics of UP Los Baños showed that Bt corn has already gained wide acceptance among farmers.

Moreover, the same paper disclosed, farmers interviewed in four major Bt corn growing areas in Isabela, Camarines Sur, Bukidnon and South Cotabato said they substantially reduced the use of incentives, thus adding more to their incomes.

The superior financial performance by farmers using Bt corn has become a magnet for other cultivators, prompting Javier to say that "Bt corn cultivation would reduce corn importation."

Without biotechnology, the former UP president said, "we will import more corn, even rice and other agricultural products. The reverse will happen if we promote Bt corn and other genetically-modified agricultural products."

Javier predicted that the country would become an exporter of corn and other products if the Philippines continues to expand hectarage devoted to GMOs.

If this does not happen, the country will suffer perpetual dependance on corn imports, noting that at present, "it is cheaper to import them from the US than to get them from Mindanao."

To obviate this expensive possibility, Javier says the hectarage devoted to Bt corn will have to increase from the 30, 000 hectares devoted to the crop today.

Dr. Saturnina Halos, chairwoman of the Biotechnology Advisory Team (BAT) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), says that the country is also developing a Filipino GMO rive even as the popularity known IR-64 variety has become resistant to tungro and BB.

It has also been genetically engineered to carry more Vitamin A, which combats blindness.

There is also GMO papaya, which is protected from viruses and has longer productive lives, she added.

Another Filipino GMO is the cotton bollworm.

Banana and tomato vaccines are being developed to boost the resistance of fruits to viruses even as GMO fertilizers for the culturally important wagwag rice variety will be used to allow farmers to harvest even during the off-season.

Halos said that with GMO fertilizers, farmers can still harvest 140 cavans per hectare.

2. GM crop data was not so rosy

Letter Published in 'Farmers Weekly', 16 August 2002 (Numbers in brackets refer to footnotes provided here only, for further reference; title of letter produced by Farmers Weekly.)

GM crop data was not so rosy

The article "Data shows economic success for GM crops" (Arable, July 12) is misleading.

It quotes claims from a US National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy study part funded by Monsanto and the Biotechnology Industry Organisation. [for more on the NCFAP see: ]

With the exception of Bt insecticide cotton, often planted where little integrated pest management is used, examination of USDA governmental data released in June gives a different picture.

First, GM crops do not increase yield potential and may reduce yields. [1]

Second, Bt insecticide GM corn has had a negative economic impact on farms. [2]

Third, GM herbicide-tolerant crops have produced no reduction in herbicide active ingredient applied. [3]

Fourth, the reports says: "Change in pesticide use from the adoption of herbicide-tolerant cotton was not significant." [4]

Fifth, for herbicide-tolerant soya, active ingredient of herbicide applied has increased. [5]

Sixth, it states: "The adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans does not have a statistically significant effect on net returns." [6]

It adds: "Using herbicide-tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption". [7]

The report comments that "the soybean results appear to be inconsistent with the rapid adoption of this technology" and that "An analysis using broader financial performance measures... did not show GE crops to have a significant impact." [8]

It concludes that: "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative." [9] The report does not refer to unreliable promotional advice fed to farmers.

The Prime Minister claims to seek a scientific debate on GM crops. Unless there is a willingness to look at all the scientific data and to avoid hype from vested interests, we are unlikely to get one.

Mark Griffiths


[1] p21 of USDA report

[2] p30 of USDA report

[3] p28 of USDA report - see graph. Note Farmers Weekly edited out from the letter the word 'overall' from what should have read 'no overall reduction'. The USDA graph in fact shows a very small reduction in herbicide active ingredient applied in the case of herbicide-tolerant corn. However, other analysis of USDA data published in a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry does not indicate any such reduction, but rather a substantial increase. In addition, a report by BBC Newsnight June 2002 has revealed that American farmers are now changing the way they grow herbicide-tolerant corn by tank mixing a wider range of chemicals than originally intended. It is therefore unlikely that the small reduction reported by the USDA in this report will survive in future statistics.

[4] p28 of USDA report - see note to graph.

[5] p27 of USDA report. Note that the report says "The estimated active ingredients applied to corn, soybean, and cotton fields also declined by about 2.5 million pounds...". However, all but a small fraction of this is accounted for by Bt cotton. The only positive contribution from a herbicide-tolerant crop is in the case of corn (and even this is questionable; see note [3] ).

[6] p23 of USDA report

[7] p29 of USDA report. This relates to soya beans, the largest GM crop. Data is not provided for other crop types.

[8] p23 of USDA report

[9] p24 of USDA report

3.Hyping GMOs to farmers
- excerpt from Marina Littek's interview with Jonathan Matthews of GM Watch
[for the rest of theinterview and all the links to source material: ]

Marina: GM Watch has focused heavily on the industry’s campaign [in the global south].

Jonathan: Among the many issues we'd always focused on were the agronomic and economic problems with GM crops, which were a world away from all the hype about these wonder crops that were going to feed the world.

Just how flawed this technology was, even at the most practical level, was much less widely appreciated in those early days than it is now, even by opponents of the technology. People had often accepted that there must be some truth in the claims of major benefits for farmers.

We used the NGIN list, and a Farming News section we created on the NGIN website, to popularise the material of UK land agent, Mark Griffiths, and the work of a leading independent agronomist in the US, Dr Charles Benbrook, which showed the poor performance of GM crops in terms of both yields and chemical use. Benbrook later said we were a major gateway to Europe for his work.

Q: But if there are these problems with the crops, why do Brazilian farmers, for instance, smuggle in GM seeds from Argentina to grow them? What's the attraction?

It's various things but it's not what the biotech boosters would have you believe, or even what some of the farmers will tell you. Part of my background is in psychology and one thing that quickly teaches you is that you don't just accept the reasons people give for their actions without checking it out.

The GM soya that some Brazilians have been smuggling in is incredibly convenient - it really suits a certain sort of farmer. It’s a kind of junk agriculture where you really don’t have to pay too much attention to what's going on in your fields. You just plant the seeds at a certain time and pour the Roundup all over the place and you know it will kill absolutely everything apart from the crop - or at least that’s what happens at the beginning. Junk farming is like fast food and microwave cuisine - it may not be good for you in the longer term and it may be destructive of precious culinary traditions, knowledge and skills, but it's a real time saver and people get hooked by that convenience.

As with other destructive habits, though, there's a gap between what GM crops may really have to offer and what those growing them believe. And that's mainly to do with the power of hype and fashion - something that, sadly, farmers and governments and scientists are no more immune from than the rest of us. Donald White, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, describes what’s going on as "a herd mentality". "Everyone has to have a biotech program", he says, and that chimes in with a University of Iowa study on why farmers are growing GM soya. That study found that while increasing yields was cited by the majority of farmers in the study as the reason for planting GM soya, the research showed they were actually getting lower yields!

And this isn't peculiar to Iowa. An annual review of the uptake of GM crops for 1998 reported yield improvements of 12% for farmers in the US growing GM soya, based on their own estimates. But a review of over 8,000 university-based controlled varietal trials involving GM soya in the US for that same year showed almost exactly the opposite - yield reductions averaging 7%. In other words, you've got a nearly 20% gap between perception and reality.

But even though the reality of GM crops is lacklustre, the industry's PR machine works overtime to maintain the fiction that it’s a glittering success. A week before the publication of the most recent Benbrook report showing how much GM crops have increased, rather than decreased, pesticide use, up pops a report from an industry funded institute saying the exact opposite. It's beyond belief that that timing was accidental. That institute was funded to do that job of work, precisely to smother what Benbrook - a scientist who for 7 years presided over the National Academy of Science’s Board of Agriculture - was disclosing.

And that same kind of hype and concealment's going on right around the world. You've got people like Prakash telling farmers in Africa GM will double their production. In India you've got Monsanto pumping out studies and claims that GM cotton is great for Indian farmers, sales are up etc., etc., and at the same time you've got carefully conducted research in India showing the diametric opposite. You've also got protests going on and even stories of farmers killing themselves because their crops failed, but Monsanto's PR machine captures far more of the headlines.

There's an extraordinary schizophrenia. You've got Indian politicians talking up biotech because they think it makes them look progressive and like they’re doing something for the country, at the same time that you've got angy farmers going on the rampage because of the problems they're getting from just this one GM crop [ and even taking a Monsanto official hostage until they extracted a promise of compensation]. In Indonesia Monsanto had to pull GM cotton out completely because of all the problems, and yet I regularly see claims that Indonesia is one of the Asian giants embracing GM!

Q: You've also investigated how the industry manufactures support in the South.

A few years back I wrote an article called The Fake Parade exposing how a widely reported pro-GM march by farmers in South Africa was actually carefully orchestrated by pro-corporate lobbyists and how it fitted into a wider pattern of manufactured support from the South. We’ve got special sections on the website just tracking the corporate lobbyists active in Asia and Africa because they are such a problem there. In fact, in countries like South Africa they're practically running the show - and that’s partly why the biotech industry’s headed down South.

You've got "experts" there who are up to their ears in industry interests and yet who are being allowed to play a leading role in developing regulatory protocols and legislation governing GM crops. It's because of this that South Africa's become the industry's open door to Africa. One of these lobbyists was quoted the other day saying, "If the activists don't get their way, we're going to see biotech crops spread right up through Africa".

Then on top of the industry and its tame scientists, you've got the US using diplomatic pressure and bilateral trade agreements, and you've got USAID pouring money into GM crop-related schemes. They're all trying to browbeat African and Asian governments into accepting weak biosafety regulations and GMOs.