Global Policy Forum

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)


Picture Credit:
Christian Science Monitor

Biotechnology is redefining agricultural production. This new technology combines the "best" genes of many natural life forms to create specialized organisms. The main beneficiaries of this technology are US agribusiness companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, who are pressuring the rest of the world to accept GMOs and adopt this technology. Concerned NGOs are critical of GMOs, arguing that the threats to human health and biodiversity are too high and the lack of international labeling standards hinders people's right to choose. Many of these NGOs support mandatory labeling, long term safety testing, more stringent government regulation and full corporate liability for damages caused to the environment and food supply.



GM Lab Creates Chicken that Cannot Spread Bird Flu (January 14, 2011)

Scientists at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have managed to produce genetically modified chickens that are resistant to avian flu. Unfortunately, this advance does not tackle the underlying cause of the problem - birds should not be crammed into inhumane factories where they are susceptible to disease. Mechanized farming models, which produce conditions ripe for new viruses, should be spurned in favor of alternative production systems. (The Independent)


A Growing Problem: Is There a Future in India for Genetically Modified Seeds? (March 11, 2010)

India's public debate on the role of GM crops intensifies as Monsanto reports that its engineered cotton seed has not prevented pest attacks as expected. Many perceive a role for GM crops in India where the agricultural sector suffers from declining availability of arable land and resources, as well as drought, pests, and rising salinity. Concerns remain, however, over the effects of GM crops on biodiversity and public health. Farmers in India are also concerned about excessive dependence on multinational seed companies, whose nonrenewable seeds add to farmers' indebtedness. (Wharton Knowledge)


Food Security and Global Warming; Monsanto versus Organic (January 16, 2009)

Monsanto hails its genetically engineered drought-tolerant corn as a solution to food security in the face of global warming. But research findings reveal the flaws of genetically engineered crops, which suffer yield losses under the erratic weather patterns caused by climate change. This article argues that agricultural policy must prioritize needs of food-insecure famers, not profit-driven agribusinesses. Organic farming practices require fewer energy inputs and withstand impacts like drought more efficiently. Organic farming offers smallholder farmers a more accessible and affordable option to exorbitantly priced GM crops. (Grist)



British GMO Protests Highlight Global Divide (August 4, 2008)

The biotechnology industry and some world leaders promote high-yielding Genetically Modified (GM) crops as a solution to the global food crisis. However, environmentalists argue that these crops are harmful to human health and the balance of the ecosystem. The use of GM crops remains widespread despite protests around the world. This Worldwatch Institute article argues that there is a lack of research on the topic that prevents consumers from understanding the negative impacts of GM crops.

Genetically Modified Crops and the Future of World Agriculture (June 17, 2008)

Under pressure to address rising levels of global food insecurity, some world leaders are promoting Genetically Modified (GM) crops. While GM crops may have some benefits for disease resistance, important questions regarding their health and environmental risks remain unanswered. Specifically, researchers have not entirely investigated the potential toxic threat posed to wildlife by pest-resistant GM crops. Although China has increased its investments in biotechnology and the European Union is relaxing its restrictions on GM crops, NGOs continue to call for a global ban. (Earth Trends)

Genetically Engineered Trees Hotly Debated at the UN Biodiversity Convention in Bonn (May 27, 2008)

Acknowledging the negative environmental and social impact of Genetically Engineered (GE) trees, a UN convention banned their release in 2006. But countries such as the US, Brazil, New Zealand and South Africa continue to ignore the decision. And, corporations favor deregulation to meet the growing demand for paper, biofuels and plastics. However, NGOs demand a global ban because the use of GE trees will shrink native rainforests, reduce insect life and speed up global warming. (eGov Monitor)

Family Seed Business Takes on Goliath of Genetic Modification (May 25, 2008)

This article reports on one Canadian family business that is challenging the power of large producers of genetically modified (GM) seeds. GM companies claim that their patented seeds deliver higher yields, and benefit the farmers who use them. But, buyers of GM seeds sign a contract that bans them from replanting seeds after harvesting the crops. By cataloguing and selling seeds, this small family business propagates local varieties of non-GM seeds. (Common Dreams)

Artificial Foods and Corporate Crops: Can We Escape the "Frankenstate"? (May 2, 2008)

This article criticizes the effect of industrial agriculture on global food security. The author points out that a few large corporations have patented or genetically modified most of the plants humans rely on for their basic needs. These corporations use chemical and genetic technologies to "dominate agricultural production from seed to stomach and to profit from every bite." In addition, industrial food production exhausts Earth's basic biological support systems, and makes the planet more vulnerable to climate change. (AlterNet)

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear (May 2008)

Monsanto, originally a chemical giant with a dubious environmental and public health record, has recast itself as an "agricultural company" with a mission to "make the world a better place for future generations." Monsanto claims that its genetically modified (GM) seeds can improve crop productivity, "alleviate poverty, and feed the hungry." This article discusses the company's aggressive efforts to maintain its monopoly in the global seed market and consequently, its enormous control over world food supply. (Vanity Fair)

Exposed: The Great GM Crops Myth (April 20, 2008)

Studies show that genetically modified (GM) plants do not produce higher yields than conventional plants. This lower productivity is due to two factors. First, in the time it takes to genetically modify a plant, better and stronger conventional ones can develop naturally. Secondly, it seems that the process of modifying itself suppresses productivity. These conclusions are a setback for those that insist GM is the key to solving world hunger. (Independent)

Agriculture and Development (April 2008)

An international research project consisting of 900 representatives from multilateral organizations, civil society, national governments, the private sector and scientific institutions has produced a report that evaluates the "relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge, science and technology" (AKST) on development. This summary of the International Assessment on Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report concludes that small-scale farmers and their traditional agricultural knowledge should play a greater role in production. Also, the report criticizes genetic modification (GM) in agriculture, pointing out that research on long-term effects of GM is lagging behind. The study warns that patenting genetic modifications undermines local farming practices and concentrates the ownership of resources. (GreenFacts)

A New Philanthro-Capitalist Alliance in Africa? (March 31, 2008)

This article analyzes the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA aims to end poverty and hunger by restructuring Africa's food systems. But, this reform may ultimately serve the interests of agribusinesses like Monsanto, by creating a new market for genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals. AGRA's philanthro-capitalism overrides local agricultural techniques by focusing on global market-based "solutions." This diverts attention from the role that global markets systemically play in creating hunger and poverty in the first place. (Pambazuka)

Monsanto U: Agribusinesses Takeover of Public Schools (15 February 2008)

This Alternet article reports that the Bush administration is cutting funding for agricultural research at public universities. Universities must now rely on rich agribusiness conglomerates for research funding. While public institutions do the research, the private sector asks the questions, and influences the answers researchers give them. The author fears agricultural research will thus cater to the wishes of the private sector, resulting in "chemical-dependent, genetically modified, bio-engineered agriculture."

Who Benefits from GM Crops? (January 2008)

Friends of the Earth opposes the way in which GM crops are widely promoted as "good for consumers, farmers and the environment." In this report, the authors systematically assess the impact of GM crops around the world. The organization concludes that based on the available evidence in 2007, GM crops have had "neutral or negative environmental, social and economic impacts."



The New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs? (May 2007)

The African Centre for Biosafety criticizes The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA's projects aim to alleviate poverty and hunger by creating a market-based agricultural sector in Africa, enabling agrochemical and genetically modified (GM) seed companies to enter the market. The Centre fears such agribusiness will undercut traditional agriculture, create dependency on expensive inputs like GM seeds, and weaken African biodiversity. This "Green Revolution" could worsen, rather than address, the structural problems that undermine African farmers.



America's Masterplan Is to Force GM Food on the World (February 13, 2006)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) penalized the European Union for banning genetically modified (GM) food imports between 1999 and 2003. The penalties will please the highly subsidized US food corporations, while discouraging resistance to GM food imports all over the world. (Guardian)



Africa Needs Food Security, Not Experimental Crops (July 1, 2005)

Although biotechnology corporations "and some governments"are promoting genetically modified (GM) crops as a "miracle solution" to world hunger, the use of GM crops could "do more damage than good." Rather than investing millions of dollars in a "grandiose biological experiment" without a clear idea of how it will help African farmers and consumers, governments and corporations should investigate alternative, region-specific solutions to poverty and hunger. (Inter Press Service)

We Need GM Food Like a Hole in Our Kidneys (June 21, 2005)

Corporations such as Monsanto have been touting genetically modified (GM) food as the answer to global hunger, and the "future" of agriculture. However, in fact, studies show that GM foods pose a threat to human health. GM foods cannot alleviate hunger; but may actually have the opposite effect, as they are more expensive for farmers to grow and allow corporations to have greater control over farmers' income. (Common Dreams)

EU Nations to Ban Suspected GMO Corn Imports (April 15, 2005)

The European Union plans to ban imports of suspect US corn gluten animal feed after a Swiss agrochemical company inadvertently exported genetically manipulated corn from the United States to Europe without approval. In theory, the measure would only target an unapproved genetically modified organism called Bt10, but since there is currently no effective method of testing for the organism, the ban would effectively shut out all corn gluten imports from the US. While the US called the ban an "overreaction," environmental campaigners have welcomed the move. (Associated Press)

The End for GM Crops (March 22, 2005)

A final trial of a four-year series of experiments in the UK has found that genetically modified (GM) crops can be harmful to wildlife. The powerful herbicide that the scientists used with GM rape killed wild flowers that are important to the diet of many birds. According to experts, the unsuccessful trial almost certainly seals the fate of GM in Britain, at least in the foreseeable future. (Independent)

UN Agency Accused of Distributing GM Foods (February 17, 2005)

A group of Central American NGOs accuses the World Food Programme (WFP) of distributing genetically modified food as part of its aid efforts in the region. An independent laboratory also found small amounts of genetically modified corn unauthorized for human consumption in the food aid. WFP denies allegations of handing out any unapproved foodstuffs, saying "all the products meet the health standards of the donor countries." (Inter Press Service)



Africa's Hungry Are Fed Bad Policies (December 30, 2004)

Poor countries' reliance on western policies risks growing further as the US pushes for the global embracement of genetically modified (GM) products. For long, rich countries' conditionalities and trade and economic policies have narrowed down poor countries' options for dealing with food crises. This article concludes that Africa's embrace of GM products will rather stem from a lack of options, than from voluntary action. (YaleGlobal)

Defending a Vanishing Moratorium: GMOs and the WTO (December 3, 2004)

The World Trade Organization's agreement on "Technical Barriers to Trade," which excludes production processes and production methods from trade rules, endangers the European Union's moratorium on US-exported genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The author argues that European workers and citizens who reject corporate agro-food imposition of GMOs must challenge the "false issue of [GMOs and] WTO-compatibility." (Focus on the Global South)

Asia Holds the Key to the Future of GM Food (December 2, 2004)

If there was a global election on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with US and Europe as the "frontrunners," Asia would be a swing state - the decisive place of the battle. The region has the world's largest consumer base and the greatest number of farmers. Therefore, argues this YaleGlobal article, its embrace of US acceptance or European reluctance to GM crops will decide the global future of genetic food technology.

Greenpeace Releases GM Corn Study (October 19, 2004)

Greenpeace accuses the US government of burying a report from the Commission on Environmental Cooperation of North America, which recommends that Mexico enforce strict controls over US and Canadian genetically modified (GM) corn. The Commission warns that GMOs may threaten the diversity of Mexican "land races" of corn. (El Universal/Herald)

World Food Day: Iraqi Farmers Aren't Celebrating (October 15, 2004)

Iraq's new agricultural legislation, which the US has helped in crafting, jeopardizes the country's food sovereignty. The patent on life forms will make seed savings illegal, pushing farmers towards dependency on seeds from transnational agribusiness corporations. (Grain)

Monsanto Victory Plants Seed of Privatization (October 5, 2004)

In 1990, Canada created the Plant Breeders Rights Act in order to encourage corporate seed research and allow farmers to buy certified seeds from companies. As a result, agro-business corporations can claim intellectual property rights and demand payments on seeds that farmers grow. While the private sector applauds the rewards for innovative corporations, farmers protest what they view as a shift towards privatization. (Inter Press Service)

Can Biotech Crops Be Good Neighbors? (September 26, 2004)

Farmers raising organic crops lose their certificate as unwanted genetically modified pollen and seeds "contaminate" their harvest. Cross-pollination and intermingling of seed is a complex problem, which grows with the advancement of biotechnology: the uncontainable flows of genes from one crop to another do not only affect crops, but could potentially create serious health problems. (New York Times)

Europe Halts Controversial GM Maize (September 20, 2004)

EU members have rejected a European Commission (EC) proposal to import genetically modified maize, produced by US Biotech company Montesanto. In spite of this, the EC might approve the product. Friends of the Earth criticize the Commission for pushing GM products on European markets, and call its actions "undemocratic."

The Gene Revolution: Great Potential for the Poor, But No Panacea (May 17, 2004)

The poverty reduction potential of transgenic crops is the focus of the Food and Agricultural Organizations' (FAO) report - 'The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-04'. The report emphasizes that the private research sector needs to focus more on developing crops that benefit the poor instead of only satisfying the market of rich countries. Unfortunately it lacks a thorough discussion on the environmental and health related risks posed by Genetically Modified Organisms. (Food and Agricultural Organization)

Venezuela: Chavez Dumps Monsanto (May 5, 2004)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops in Venezuela, canceling a contract with Monsanto, a US agribusiness company. Chavez argues that to achieve food sovereignty, Venezuela must stop relying on transnational corporations and strengthen its local production, particularly of indigenous species. (Green Left Weekly)

US Seeks £1bn from Europe over GM Ban (April 27, 2004)

The US has demanded that the European Union (EU) abandon its ban on the growing of genetically modified crops and pay at least US$1.8 billion in compensation for export losses in the past six years. The Guardian argues that this case, which has gone to the World Trade Organization for resolution, may spark a damaging trade war between the US and the EU and "split the international community."

GEAC Approves 12 More Bt Cotton Varieties (April 16, 2004)

Undeterred by ongoing controversy over the safety of genetically modified crops, the Indian government has approved large-scale field trials and seed production of 12 varieties of cotton hybrids, developed by US company, Monsanto. (Indian Express)

Revealed: Shocking New Evidence of the Dangers of GM Crops (March 7, 2004)

A House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has found that genetically modified (GM) material has contaminated two-thirds of all crops in the US, sparking a new debate on the danger GMs pose to human health. (Independent Digital)

UN Announces New Measures to Boost Safety in Trade of Genetically Modified Organisms (March 1, 2004)

The 87 member states of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety have adopted new requirements on labeling GMOs. However, this new effort however only binds countries party to the Protocol, leaving out many key agricultural producers such as the US. (UNEP)

Bad for the Poor and Bad for Science (February 20, 2004)

This article argues that the basis for persuading farmers in poor countries to use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a deep and racist "failure to appreciate traditional farming." The article disputes claims that GMOs are necessary to alleviate famine, recommending that instead we assist the world's small farmers. (Guardian)




Links and Resources

Cartagena Protocal on Biosafety

A UN treaty to protect biodiversity against the risk of genetically modified organisms, requiring that traders clearly label GMO products when exporting to those countries partied to the Protocal.

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 70 diverse national member groups. Friends of the Earth challenges the current model of economic and corporate globalization , and promotes solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

GM Watch

GM Watch is a news and research service that reports on the growing concerns about genetic modification.


GRAIN is an international NGO, which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.


Greenpeace is a leading environmental organization that uses peaceful direct action to expose global environmental problems.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)

Based in Minnesota, the IATP provides critical views of international trade policy, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and intellectual property rights, environmental issues, and more. The site includes many valuable links to other sites in the field of international trade, trade law, and the like.

Pew Institute on Biotechnology and Food

The site provides balanced information and dialogue on genetically engineered foods for consumers and policymakers.

The World Trade Organization

An international organization that deals with the rules of trade between its member nations.

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