The impact of 10 years of legalized transgenic crops in Brazil
Report by the GM-Free Brazil Campaign
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 1, 2013
About 80 people from different countries of the Americas, Asia and Europe gathered last week in Curitiba to take stock of the impact of the 10 years of the legalization of transgenic crops in Brazil. At the end of the meeting participants proposed a series of alternatives and joint actions and came out with a expanded and strengthened network.
The general consensus of the analysis is that the promises that the adoption of transgenic crops would increase food supply, generate more productive plants and reduce the use of pesticides were not fulfilled. On the contrary, during the period of expansion of genetically modified (GM) crops the number of undernourished and malnourished people has increased in the world, as well as raised the use of pesticides. And new traits which would be opened by varieties were limited to herbicides resistant plants and plants that produce their own insecticide (Bt). From the health point of view, it has already been proven that those Bt toxins can reach the human bloodstream and also accelerate the development of tumors. At the farm level, the large adoption of Bt plants plus technology failures has led to the development of resistant pests and the emergence of new pest insects, as can be seen today in the cotton plantations billionaire injury in Bahia state, Brazil.
The main herbicide used transgenic crops, glyphosate/Roundup, is classified as being of low toxicity, but studies show that the product blocks the mechanisms of DNA repair and cell cycle of embryonic development and induces teratogenic action during the development of invertebrates. The poison still increases the chance of miscarriage. In the Chaco region of Argentina, for example, intensive production of GM soybeans increased by 400% in the last 10 years the cases of neonatal malformations.
The food crisis triggered in recent years feeds a “discourse of scarcity”, which, it is claimed, could only be alleviated by the expansion of industrial agriculture. The fact is used by the sector to justify the need for more and more crop areas, expansion of border, change of the forest code legislation and so on. The need for more food cannot be automatically associated with the need for increased production, as shows the alarming rates of food waste recently announced. But this argument is associated with the growth of the human population and the role that countries like Brazil, Argentina and others meet in supplying China with raw materials, including soybeans, taking those savings to a stage of ”reprimarization“.
The advance of this technique is pulled not by development of its scientific basis, but rather by the needs and possibilities that the own technique features or more specifically, by the needs placed by the market. Today, millions of acres in Brazil are covered by transgenic seeds and it is increasingly difficult to find GM free corn-based product in a supermarket, yet, very little is known about what actually these genetic modifications result in the plant and even less about how to control the effects of this genetic scrambling. The situation is aggravated by the fact that experts pushing the GM technology are in regulation bodies. Not by chance CTNBio has just refuse to hold a public hearing to discuss the effects of the release of GM soybeans and corn resistant to 2,4-D herbicide, product known to be carcinogenic. In fact, this product is on the agenda precisely because Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean no longer works as before and left behind an increasing number of superweeds. In the wake of 2,4-D come other plants for use with Dicamba, ammonium glufosinate, imidazolinones and others.
In addition to promoting the sale of pesticides for soybeans, corn and cotton, industry is also seeking to modify other species, such as sugar cane, sorghum, eucalyptus, orange and also mosquitoes. New techniques are presented, as synthetic biology, which manufactures its own components of the DNA to manipulate, but follows clear from any form of risk assessment or regulation. On the other hand, grows the consciousness that is not only necessary, but also possible, to support other ways to produce healthier foods that do not destroy the environment. The latest example comes from the publication of the National Plan of Agroecology and Organic Production, released on October 17 by President Dilma and several of her ministers. Now, the challenge is to put it in practice and make their proposals happen throughout the country. If that happens, in 10 years we can take stock with very different results from that done for this decade with investments in GM crops.