So much for Monsanto’s claims

…of saving the world with its Frankenfoods. From the Beeb:

Sustainable farming methods can help the poorest farmers in developing nations out of poverty, new research suggests.

Scientists found that techniques such as crop rotation and organic farming increased crop yields by an average of 79%, without risking future harvests.


The study, possibly the largest of its kind, looked at more than 280 projects in 57 of the world’s poorest countries.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

[…]

One of the report’s co-authors, Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, UK, said the findings challenged the dominate view that the West knew best when it came to agriculture.

“Most people think it is bad news from the south,” Professor Pretty said, “but in many ways farmers in developing country are leading the way.”

[…]

“People are using a variety of integrated pest management techniques; making the best of biodiversity like predators, parasites and multiple cropping,” Professor Pretty told the BBC News website.

“In essence, it allows the ecosystem to deliver the pest management services.”

No genetic modification required. Nature does the work herself, when people are intelligent enough to let her.

And on a related note:

Just four countries plant 99 percent of the world’s genetically engineered (GE) crops, despite more than a decade of hype about the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.

The United States, home of the agricultural biotech giant Monsanto, represents 55 percent of the world’s GE crops, while Argentina, Canada and Brazil account for the rest.

Long trumpeted as the solution to world hunger, some biotech supporters have scaled back their claims and now say the technology will make a substantial contribution to ending hunger. But just when or if that contribution will ever arrive is not clear.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), GE technology has increased the incomes of 7.7 million resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA, says that “6.4 million of these are Chinese peasants growing Bt cotton on tiny farms. They use it because it cuts the number of insecticide sprayings from 30 times a season to half that.”

“Our report shows that while they spend 70 dollars per hectare on the GM (GE) technology, the saving on insecticides and labour nets them 60 dollars per hectare,” he said.

In the ISAAA’s annual global status report issued on Jan. 12, it claimed that 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. Although labeled an “anti-poverty group” by some media, the ISAAA is in fact a biotech industry-supported lobby organisation.

“No one has any idea where they are getting their numbers from,” said David MacDonald of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian NGO. Where there is solid independent government data, such as in the United States, the ISAAA numbers are inflated by five to 10 percent, he charged.

MacDonald told IPS that the group’s reports do not cite any sources or references, nor would most governments have this kind of information. “We and other NGOs have been trying to get independent confirmation of this data for years, without success,” he said.

James responded that, “We spent 10 years getting key contacts in business, industry associations and governments to compile our data.”

“We don’t identify sources because our database is proprietary,” he added.

Since no other global figures are available, the ISAAA numbers are widely quoted and referenced — the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation cites them. An international survey on the commercial cultivation of GE crops in the Jan. 13 issue of science journal Nature is based on ISAAA data.

However, Nature interprets the data rather differently. “Only a few countries have wholeheartedly embraced a transgenic future,” writes Peter Aldhous, chief news and features editor.

Despite billions of dollars invested in research by governments and industry over more than 20 years, only three crops — cotton, maize and soy — account for 95 percent of GE acreage. These three crops are either herbicide-resistant or contain Bt insecticide.

I notice the much-hyped “golden” rice, supposedly the answer to the world’s hunger problems (to hear the Frankenfoodies tell it), isn’t even mentioned, either.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in all this.

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