by Lisa Garber
British scientists at the John Innes Center recently won a $10 million grant from the Gates Foundation. Where’s the money going? Not surprisingly, as Gates owns over 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock, the organization is putting even more money into genetically modified cereal crops (corn, wheat and rice, to name a few).
The pledge seems righteous at face value to some, but what the Gates Foundation failed to mention is that countries like Hungary, France, India, and Poland have battled GMOs because not only do GM seeds and pesticides decrease yields over time, but GM is bad news for farmers and consumers everywhere. Putting farmers in Africa in the pockets of the likes of Monsanto and other GM companies will only lead to crop monoculture, soil depletion, water contamination, pesticide-resistant insects, and a powerless local population of sick and impoverished farmers.
And this should be of no surprise to Bill Gates, who has openly stated that Monsanto’s GMOs are the ultimate ‘solution’ to world hunger yet continues to ignore the bounty of evidence showing that they do just the opposite — crushing soil yields and impoverishing local farmers.
Perhaps even more devastating is the rising suicide toll associated with the use of Monsanto’s seeds, with a farmer committing suicide every 30 minutes thanks in part due to GMO seeds.
Gates Foundation Ignores Fact that “GM is Failing to Deliver”
The John Innes Center’s aims include engineering crops capable of harnessing nitrogen from the air. Peas and beans do this naturally, but cereal crops—as raised by conventional farmers—require chemical ammonia spread upon the field.
Opponents of GM like Pete Riley, campaign director of GM Freeze, decry that “GM is failing to deliver.” He adds, “If you look in America, yields haven’t increased by any significant amount and often go down. Now we’re seeing real, major problems for farmers in terms of weeds that are resistant to the herbicides which GM crops have been modified to tolerate.”
This is old news to farmers in north India, where earlier this year the Maharashtra state government demanded compensation from a German seed company when unsatisfactory yields of their cotton hybrids disadvantaged small farmers.
“Productivity in north India is likely to decline because of the declining potential of hybrids; the emerging problem of leaf curl virus on the new susceptible Bt-hybrids; a high level of susceptibility to sucking pests,” said Keshav Raj Kranthi, head of the Central Institute for Cotton Research. In a paper published in June 2011, Kranthi added that GM crops consume more water and nutrients, depleting the soil and requiring farmers to purchase more fertilizers (putting more money in the hands of the likes of Monsanto).
The High Cost of GM
If the earth suffers, people suffer. In February, a court in Lyon, France railed against GMOs by finding Monsanto guilty of failing to put warning labels on Lasso weedkillers, the use of which caused neurological damage like memory loss and headaches. Dangers of GM end up literally on our—the consumers’—plates; consumption of GM crops has been linked to weight gain and organ disruption.
More courts across the world are fighting genetically modified food, but one wonders how much of an effect they will have in the face of behemoth agribusinesses.