Keep up with the latest news and comment on genetically modified foods          

GM soy increases poverty, threatens health in South America - farmer advocates

NOTE: Excellent article from the Swedish press about the disastrous effects of GM soy cultivation in South America.

EXCERPT: Jorge Galeano and Jaime Weber laugh, surprised, when they hear about the Swedish GM debate in which GM soya is described as a solution to world hunger and a path away from dangerous pesticides.

"The multinationals are talking about solving climate problems and food supply through GMO, but they are really only interested in making money," says Jorge Galeano.

"Their methods destroy traditional farming that provides food for our population and replaces it with soy, which goes into animal feed to provide meat for the West."

"In Brazil the toxic and hazardous pesticides paraquat and endosulfan are still used. It is a myth that these are not used on GM crops. GM soybeans are sprayed just as much with paraquat [as non-GM]," said Jaime Weber.
---
---
Small-scale farmers will lose their jobs
Henrik Ennart
SvD (Sweden)
October 24, 2010
Below is English translation of Swedish original at:
http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/smabonder-forlorar-jobben_5557791.svd

The conversion of South American agriculture to large-scale, industrial farming of genetically modified soya harm the environment, increasing poverty and threatening human health, two leading advocates for small farmers' rights told SvD during a visit to Sweden.


Jorge Galeano and Jaime Weber laugh, surprised, when they hear about the Swedish GM debate in which GM soya is described as a solution to world hunger and a path away from dangerous pesticides.

"The multinationals are talking about solving climate problems and food supply through GMO, but they are really only interested in making money," says Jorge Galeano.

"Their methods destroy traditional farming that provides food for our population and replaces it with soy, which goes into animal feed to provide meat for the West."

Jorge Galeano grew up in a poor peasant family in eastern Paraguay, and has personally experienced how thousands of the country's small farmers, including relatives and neighbors, were forced off land they cultivated for generations.

In 2005, he led the resistance when some 40 families refused to move from their farms in the Vaqueria district of Paraguay. The families were chased away, their houses burned down, and two of his friends were shot dead by armed paramilitary forces. Other close friends have simply disappeared.

Today, Jorge Galeano is secretary of an organization that defends the rights of small farmers and that visited Sweden at the invitation of the Nature Conservation.

He describes how fields that once grew crops for the traditional cuisine - potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils and legumes - have been transformed into vast fields with only a single crop: GM soy. Soy is exported as cheap feed for animals in Europe and the USA.

In areas where one farm worker used to cultivate one hectare, one person in a tractor manages 500 acres alone. This efficiency has forced hundreds of thousands of the continent's small farmers to migrate to urban slums. In Paraguay, the number of people living below the poverty line has risen to 27 percent as a result of many farm workers losing their jobs.

The environment is also affected. New roads lead right into the sensitive areas of the Amazon and the Cerrado, the vast savannah with fragile ecosystems and vulnerable nutrient-poor soils.

"We have come to Sweden to talk about how small farmers are affected by GM crops. We would like a development that protects life, nature and diversity, and that does not concentrate wealth in the hands of a few," said Jorge Galeano.

Along for the ride is Jaime Weber, national coordinator in Brazil for the organization Rap-Al. He works for sustainable and non-toxic organic agriculture as well as supporting the restoration of intensively cultivated lands, which after a few years are abandoned because they have been turned into desert.

"In Brazil the toxic and hazardous pesticides paraquat and endosulfan are still used. It is a myth that these are not used on GM crops. GM soybeans are sprayed just as much with paraquat [as non-GM]," said Jaime Weber.

The overwhelming proportion of Monsanto's GM soya is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which it also controls. This means that fields can be sprayed without damage to soybean plants. But the frequent use of Roundup and monoculture soybean cultivation has led to many weeds developing resistance. Therefore, the transition to GMO cultivation is accompanied by a dramatic increase in the use of both Roundup and other dangerous pesticides in Paraguay and Brazil, as in Argentina.

Jaime Weber says that large farms are regularly flout safety distances when spraying so nearby residents are affected: "Both the spraying of conventional farming and GMO cultivation [pose] severe health risks to farm workers and those living around the fields."

[BOX: Facts
Soy cultivation has in the past decade has increased very rapidly in South America where beans are often grown in vast monocultures.
Soy provides large amounts of high-grade protein and about 80 percent of world production is used as feed to cows, pigs and chickens to make them grow fast.
The U.S. accounts for 32 percent of world production, closely followed by Brazil (28 percent) and Argentina (21 percent).
In Brazil around 1.2 million hectares of forests are cleared in the Amazon region for the cultivation of soy. In Argentina, soybean is grown on about 18 million hectares, which represents more than half the country's cultivated area.
The use of GM soy has increased very rapidly and accounts for 77 percent of world production. GM soy is virtually the only variety grown in Argentina, Paraguay and western Brazil. GM-free soy sauce is now largely only available from parts of Brazil. ]