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Will GE crops feed the world?

Monopolising the seed market and denying farmers their ancient right to save, exchange and replant seeds is not a solution to poverty.

A United Nations report involving 400 scientists concluded that GE crops were not a solution to soaring food prices.(1) It found little evidence to support claims that GE crops increase yields. In fact, the report warned that the patents associated with GE crops actually pose problems.

World hunger will only end when the underlying causes of poverty are addressed. Poverty prevents people from securing their basic right to food either because they have no means to purchase food or they have no access to the farmland and natural resources necessary to meet basic food needs. GE crops do nothing to address the poverty that causes hunger. In fact, they threaten to make it worse by putting the control of the world’s food supply into the hands of a few giant multinational companies.

In developing countries, straightforward solutions that empower the poverty stricken are among the most effective ways to reduce hunger and secure sustainable livelihoods. For example, a major study from the United Nations concluded that organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades. The study analysed 114 projects in 24 African countries, finding that yields more than doubled where organic, or near-organic, practices were used. That increase in yield jumped to 128% in east Africa.

High-tech agricultural technical packages, in contrast, are expensive and often accentuate inequalities, contributing to landlessness and food insecurity.

Ending world hunger also requires confronting bad land stewardship practices that lead to permanent environmental degradation. GE crops that tie farmers to using chemicals promise to make this situation worse, not better, as well as posing new environmental risks.

1. The report was commissioned by the UN–World Bank International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology Conference in April 2008.

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