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Feeding the World

The promise that genetically modified crops can “feed the world” is largely used by the biotechnology industry to encourage widespread acceptance of this controversial technology, but it is disconnected from the complex reality of world hunger and the limitations of GM crops themselves.Feed the world report ad

The argument that this technology can solve the problem of world hunger, or be a tool towards ending hunger, is compelling but false. Experience with GM crops shows that the application of GM technology is more likely to enhance and entrench the social, economic and environmental problems created by industrial agriculture and corporate control.

  • GM crops on the market are not designed to address hunger
  • GM crops do not increase yields
  • GM crops do not increase farmer incomes
  • GM crops increase pesticide use and harm the environment
  • GM crops are patented and owned by large corporations

Click here for the full report

Click here for the summary pamphlet

Updates

June 2015: Non-governmental and farmer organisations from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda strongly condemn the go-ahead given by the South African GMO authorities for Monsanto to commercially sell its genetically modified “drought tolerant” maize seed for cultivation in South Africa. According to the groups, there is no evidence showing that the drought tolerant trait even works.

Other Resources

Non-governmental and farmer organisations from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda condemned the decision by the South African government to allow Monsanto to commercially sell its genetically modified “drought tolerant” maize seed. According to the groups, there is no evidence showing that the drought tolerant trait even works.

“For Your Own Good”, by the African Centre for Biodiversity. April 2016. “The GM industry is expanding its grasp to African traditional crops such as cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, cowpea, banana as well as rice under the guise of philanthropy.”

“GMOs: Fooling – er, “feeding” – the world for 20 years” by GRAIN. May 2013. Debunks the myths summarized in five points: GMOs will feed the world; GMOs are more productive; they will eliminate the use of agrochemicals; they can coexist with other crops; and GMOs are perfectly safe for humans and the environment.

“Primer on the Global Food Crisis” by USC Canada. 2012. “The food crisis is not a scarcity problem; it’s an access and distribution problem, fundamentally linked to the way our food is produced. Simply put, our global food system is unfair and no longer works. It needs a dramatic transformation. How we grow our food matters.”

Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World by Bill Freese (Centre for Food Safety), GeneWatch. Jan/Feb 2009.

Who Will Feed Us? ETC Group, November 2009.

Ten Reasons Why Biotechnology Will Not Ensure Food Security, Protect the Environment and Reduce Poverty in the Developing World. Miguel A. Altieri & Peter Rosset, AgBioForum, Volume 2, Number 3 & 4, 1999.

“Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century.”- Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. See this and other quotes across the years.

International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) asked how agricultural practices and policies can reduce hunger and poverty, improve health and rural livelihoods, and lead to fair and sustainable development around the world. The IAASTD identifies policy, research and investment options to transition towards more sustainable food and agricultural systems in future. The Assessment was conducted by over 400 scientists and development experts from more than 80 countries. It was sponsored by four United Nations agencies, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. The IAASTD findings were approved at an Intergovernmental Plenary in April 2008 and published in 2009. The full reports can be found here.

Biotechnology and Sustainable Development, Issue Brief on IAASTD, Pesticide Action Network North America, August 2010

The World Agriculture Report 2008: Results and Recommendations, Briefing on IAASTD, Greenpeace, May 2008

Peasants Feed the World

Eighty-five percent of the world’s food is grown and consumed within national borders and/or the same eco-regional zone. Most of this food is grown from peasant-bred seed without the industrial chain’s synthetic fertilizers. Peasants breed and nurture 40 livestock species and almost 8000 breeds. Peasants also breed 5000 domesticated crops and have donated more than 1.9 million plant varieties to the world’s gene banks. Peasant fishers harvest and protect more than 15,000 freshwater species. The work of peasants and pastoralists maintaining soil fertility is 18 times more valuable than the synthetic fertilizers provided by the seven largest corporations.

There are 1.5 billion on 380 million farms; 800 million more growing urban gardens; 410 million gathering the hidden harvest of our forests and savannas; 190 million pastoralists and well over 100 million peasant fishers. At least 370 million of these are also indigenous peoples. Together these peasants make up almost half the world’s peoples and they grow at least 70% of the world’s food. Better than anyone else, they feed the hungry. If we are to eat in 2050 we will need all of them and all of their diversity.

– From Who Will Feed Us? ETC Group, November 2009.

Quick figures:

  • 85 % of the world’s food is currently grown and consumed within national borders
  • 90% of the 525 million farms in the world are still less than 2 hectares in size and occupy 60% of global arable land.
  • 1.4 billion people still eat from farmer saved seed.

– From Gene Giants Seek “Philanthrogopoly”, ETC Group, March 2013.

Ecological Agriculture Can Feed the World

Sustainable Peasant and Family Farm Agriculture Can Feed the World, Via Campesina, 2010

10 Reasons Why Organic Can Feed the World, Ed Hamer and Mark Anslow, The Ecologist, 2008.

“Agroecology and the Right to Food”, Report presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, March 2011. Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 per cent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 per cent for all African projects. Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3 to 10 years.”

How to Feed Billion on a Small Planet. November 19, 2013: A webcast featuring Miguel Altieri from the University of California (Berkeley) – a widely published, leading authority on agroecology – speaking about ecological agriculture as a key solution to food insecurity, hunger, and climate change. How to Feed 9 billion on a Small Planet: watch the Youtube presentation and discussion.

Agroecology Will Feed the World. Infographic. Growing evidence shows that agroecology will feed the world. Business as usual will not.

Agroecology infographic