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The ISAAA “Rose-tinted” GM Survey and What’s Left Out

Immediate release (20 Feb 2013)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze described the annual report of the status of GM crops around the world as “rose-tinted” and said it fails to describe the growing opposition and problems with GM crops.

GM crops still only occupy a tiny percentage of global farmland (3.4% of all farmed land) and are only grown by a small minority of farmers (17.3 million out of a total 513 million (3.4%). One fewer country grew GM crops in 2012 compared to 2011 (28 down from 29). Brazil alone accounted for nearly two thirds of the increase in global area in 2012. In the US expansion slowed to less than a 1% increase in 2012.

Many key facts are completely ignored or glossed over by the latest International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) report published today.

In Europe the ISAAA missed:

  • The complete withdrawal of BASF from the EU market due failure to capture market share for the GM industrial starch altered potato Amflora. [1]
  • A ban on commercial growing GM crops in seven EU Member States. [2]
  • GM crops are only grown in five out of 27 Members States in 2012. [3]
  • A reduction in area of GM maize grown in four of the six countries
    where it is grown. [4]
  • A steep decline in the number of GM test site applications in Europe from over 100 in 2009 to 41 in 2012. [5]

In the Americas GM crops resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate (Monsanto brand name Roundup) remain the lead product followed by insect-resistant crops (Bt crops), but the ISAAA didn’t report:

  • In a 2012 industry survey forty-nine percent of farmers reported glyphosate resistant weeds (superweeds). [6]
  • Since Roundup Ready crops were introduced in 1996, 11 new glyphosate resistant weed species in maize, soya and cotton crops in the US. [7]
  • Growing weed resistance to glyphosate in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in RR crops. [8]
  • Six US states report growing resistance to Bt crops in rootworm pests in GM maize. [9]
  • Peru has a 10-year moratorium on GM crops in place. [10]

In India the ISAAA report left out:

  • Biopiracy charges have been made against a Monsanto-owned seed company. [11]
  • The State of Maharashtra banned Bt cotton seed sales following crop failure and very high farmer suicide rates. [12]
  • A nationwide 10-year Moratorium on Bt Brinjal (aubergine) has been introduced. [13]
  • Bt resistant bollworms have been confirm in Gujarat. [14]

In Africa the ISAAA missed out:

  • Kenya banned GM imports in 2012. [15]
  • 400 farmer, consumer and business organisations have called on the African Union to ban GMOs. [16]

The ISAAA also missed the long-term ban on GM oilseed rape in South Australia. [17]

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

As usual the industry-funded ISAAA report is rose-tinted and fails to describe the growing opposition and problems with GM crops. Globally farmers and governments are beginning to see that GM crops are failing to deliver promised benefits and in fact are creating new problems.

In the US, the home of GM crops, weed resistance is now a major problem in the all three main GM crops, cotton, maize and soya, to the extent that a new arsenal of weedkillers is being assembled to deal with them. So much for claims of cheaper and simpler weed control.

Increasingly smaller farmers in India are regretting falling for Monsanto’s sales patter as the Bt cotton varieties don’t meet their needs as farmers with limited access to irrigation and chemical inputs. New pest problems are also emerging.

ISAAA’s attempt to blow the trumpet for GM crops becomes less and less convincing as the years progress. Many governments recognise that GM crops are not providing the solutions and they are looking to other approaches like Marker Assisted Selection used in conventional plant breeding. However the UK government seems more than happy to repeat the ISAAA-style rhetoric at every opportunity!



[1] BASF, 29 January 2013. “BASF to expand its plant biotechnology research
into fungal resistance in corn”

[2, 3 and 4] Friends of the Earth Europe, February 2013. “GM crops irrelevant in Europe: Greener farming eclipses GM”

[5] GMO Safety, 18 May 2012. “Plant Research in Europe: Few New GM Plants

[6] Farm Chemicals International, 5 Feburary 2013. “Glyphosate Resistance Spreads in the US

[7 and 8] Heap, I, 20 February 2013. The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds. See

[9] University of Illinois Extension, 28 September 2011. “New
reports of severe rootworm damage in Bt corn

[10] Agricultures Network, undated. “Peru: Ban on GMOs comes into effect

[11] The Hindu Business Line, 29 January 2013. “National Biodiversity Authority files case against Monsanto-Mahyco

[12] The Times of India, 9 August 2012. “Maharashtra bans Bt cotton seeds

[13] OneWorld South Asia, 10 February 2010. “India bans cultivation of Bt brinjal

[14] Monsanto, 5 May 2010. “Cotton in India

[15] USDA Global Agriculture Information Network, 27 November 2012.
Kenya Bans Genetically Modified Food Imports Gain Report 27th November 2012” (pdf)

[16] Third World Network Biosafety Information Service, 27 November 2013. African Civil Society Calls on the African Union to Ban Genetically Modified Crops