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Published May 14, 2008 08:22 AM

Global agriculture report says GM crops not a solution

A landmark assessment of global agriculture says industrial agriculture has failed and that genetically modified (GM) crops are not a solution for poverty, hunger, or climate change. 

Some 60 governments signed the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)’s final report in April in Johannesburg, South Africa. The IAASTD report, the first of its kind ever produced, calls for a fundamental change in farming practices, in order to address soaring food prices, hunger, social inequities, and environmental disasters. 

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It acknowledges that GM crops are highly controversial. IAASTD director, Robert Watson, chief scientist at the UK food and farming department DEFRA, said much more research was needed to prove whether GM crops offer any benefits and do not harm human health and the environment. 

Biotech companies Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF withdrew from IAASTD because it did not back GMOs as a solution to reduce poverty and hunger.
The comprehensive report was produced by over 400 scientists from around the world over a 3-year period.

The study was sponsored by a number of major international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNESCO.
Among the 22 findings of the report that call for a new direction for agriculture are the conclusion that industrial large-scale agriculture is unsustainable because such farming is dependent on cheap oil and causes negative impacts on ecosystems. 

The report also warned against the expansion of biofuels, saying turning food crops into fuels could exacerbate food shortages/
It recommends small-scale farming and agro-ecological methods as the way forward if the current food crisis is to be solved and to meet the needs of local communities, declaring that indigenous and local knowledge play as important a role as formal science. 

The United States, Canada, and Australia were the only governments in attendance not to sign. Despite being among the stakeholders who selected the report’s authors, they accuse the assessment of being “unbalanced” and are attacking the authors’ independence.

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