Why is Inter Pares concerned with GMOs?

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West African farmers in a Cotton Bt field in India
West African farmers: Their research will be providing an important counterbalance to how the GMO industry often lauds its success Credit: Deccan Development Society

GMO cotton failure in Burkina Faso: Farmers speak out

For the past two years, over 500 farmers from the different cotton-growing regions in Burkina Faso have documented their experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton. This three-year farmer-led research initiative, called “Bt Cotton and Us: The Truth from our Fields,” is providing an important counterbalance, as Burkina Faso was the first country in West Africa to adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and industry often lauds its success when promoting GMOs in other countries. 

Watch what these farmers have to say about GMO Cotton:


Why is Inter Pares concerned with GMOs?

Inter Pares works to support and promote food sovereignty and ecological agriculture. Through our work with small farmers in the global South and here in Canada, we have come to understand the risks and consequences of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for family farms, biodiversity and social justice. Here, in brief, are a few of the reasons Inter Pares is concerned about GMOs.

  • GMOs are the intellectual property of corporations and such patents take control of seeds out of the hands of farmers, who must buy them each season for planting. Genetically modified seeds can be very expensive and are most often used with expensive pesticides, locking farmers into a model of chemical-intensive farming. These increased costs for farmers are often not compensated for with increased yields.
  • Efforts are underway to introduce “Terminator technology” which are plants that are genetically modified to only produce sterile seeds. This would make it impossible for farmers to save seeds for replanting.
  • Developing GM seeds in the lab is extremely expensive, while small farmers create far more new plant varieties, adapted to various soil and climatic conditions, at a fraction of the cost, and without the problems of patenting and corporate control.
  • The increasing use of a small number of patented GM seeds is decreasing agro-biodiversity. The loss of this crop diversity poses serious risks to global food security.
  • GM seeds can easily spread, to contaminate wild plant varieties and farmers’ fields.
  • The possible health and environmental impacts of GMOs have not been adequately studied.
  • There are ethical concerns about the patenting of living organisms.

GMOs in Canada

Twenty years ago, the Canadian government approved the first genetically modified crops and foods. Today, there are four GM crops grown in Canada: canola, corn, soy and sugar beet. In 2001, the Royal Society of Canada was tasked with providing advice on a series of questions related to the regulation of new GM food products. Entitled Elements of Precaution, the report and its recommendations were largely ignored. Major concerns about GMOs remain. What are the real impacts of GMOs on our environment, on our food and farming systems, on our economy, on our democracy, and on our health?

The Canadian government has not monitored or shared detailed information to answer these questions. To shed light on these questions, Inter Pares is working with the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) through the GMO Inquiry 2015. This ambitious initiative brings together research in Canada and from around the world, including the experiences of farmers, to understand the impacts of GMOs over the past two decades. Find out more: www.gmoinquiry.ca

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