Big players desert biotech project
Mannheim – German chemical company BASF, Swiss agribiotech specialist Syngenta and US market leader Monsanto have resigned from a large international project for developing solutions on how to feed the world’s growing population. The three biotech giants said that they would no longer be supporting the project, since a recently released project report failed to back genetically modified crops as a tool for reducing poverty and hunger. The companies argued that the report should back their GM technology as a measure for securing future food supplies because it can boost yields and make plants more resistant. Instead, the report highlighted the risks of GM crops, and said they could pose problems for the developing world. The “International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development” (IAASTD) is based on the work of 4,000 scientists and experts from around the world, and is the body that focuses attention on food issues in much the same way the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for global warming. Bob Watson, director of the project said he was “very disappointed” by the companies’ move. “Our goal was to have them included”. The draft report says there is a “wide range of perspectives on the environmental, human health and economic risks, and benefits of modern biotechnology, many of which are as yet unknown”. It also says it is not clear whether GM crops actually increase yields, and warns that use of the technology in the developing world could concentrate “ownership of agricultural resources” in the hands of the companies involved, as well as causing problems with patents.