GM maize ashes for his way

Edição XI | 03 - Mai . 2007

Ivo Marcos Carraro - carraro692@gmail.com

            The Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OBC) participated in the public audience on 20 March 2007 at the premises of the Federal Senate. The audience had been called by the CTNBio, which had publicly manifested its support to the commercial release for the event genetically modified maize, once the legal procedures established by the Brazilian legislation be met. The OBC, through its representative in the public audience Dr. Ivo M. Carraro, justified its position stating that the rapid adoption of genetically modified crops observed on a global scale since 1996 has resulted in several benefits to farmers that have adopted the technology, especially small-scale farmers. A recent report has shown that 10.3 million farmers in 22 countries grew genetically modified crops, of which 90% (9.3 million) were small-scale farmers with limited resources, who saw their income increase by the utilization of transgenic crops.

            

                Process of manual maize sowing


            This can be considered as one of the main benefits of transgenic plants and will contribute to a reduction in poverty, aimed at lowering it to  50% by 2015, as established by the United Nations in the Aims for Development in the Millennium document. The contribution of biotechnology to these objectives is still modest in comparison to what it should represent through the present decade of trade with GM plants. The biotechnology potential is real and the cumulative area sown with GM crops during the first ten years, has reached 577 million ha, which ratifies that the benefits have become evident and have awaken the interest of growing numbers of farmers around the world. The OBC represents the agricultural branch of the Cooperative Organization in Brazil, uniting 1549 cooperatives that involve more than 886,000 farmers throughout the country. Small-scale farmers, with areas below 10ha, represent 68% of the total and they are eager to test technological innovations that can increase their profit.
           The philosophy governing the cooperative system is based on the free adhesion of its members, which is  equally applicable to farmers at the time of  choosing the type of agriculture to be applied in their property. Aside from their role in promoting social development, cooperatives are involved with the economic development of its members, constantly promoting the improvement of the efficiency in agriculture production. Likewise, they should always be aware of new technologies that could be of interest to their members and biotechnology is certainly one of the most important options. As a result of the success of transgenic crops, the OBC has publicly endorsed the adoption of genetically modified products in Brazil.
             The public audience on GM maize aimed at discussing the events tolerant to herbicide and insect pests and it's worth noting that maize in Brazil was the second crop in area sown for the 2006 growing season, losing only to soybean. Of the total area sown with genetically modified crops, 25.5 million ha (25%) was sown with GM maize, and the figures show that these species, which has already over a decade in the market, does not pose any hazards to the environment or to human health.
             GM maize tolerant to insects helps to the control of important pests that reduce the crop's performance in Brazil and has the potential for higher yields, as a result of being able to maintain a plant population that will ensure the adequate plant population. Pest control is exercised without affecting any other insect species that are harmless to the crop, which is environmentally friendly and protective to the native populations of insects that can eventually be agents for biological control. They would otherwise be affected by the spraying of wide-spectrum insecticides, as well as part of the local fauna.
 
            “The philosophy governing the cooperative system is based on the free adhesion of its members, which is equally applicable to farmers at the time of choosing the type of agriculture to bethe be applied in their property.”
 
              These are facts that have been duly established by studies and the experience gathered through the commercial use for more than a decade, endorsing the safety of the event maize tolerant to insects. Among the benefits of cropping transgenic species are the effective protection against target pests with no collateral effects on the environment and a higher potential for profit to small-scale farmers. The reduction in the use of insecticides implies concomitant reductions on the total number of chemical containers to be disposed, as well as in the number of sprayings to be executed, volume of water to dilute the active ingredient, fuel consumption, etc. The environmental and socio-economic impact of GM crops during the first ten years of their presence in the market show the reduction in the use of pesticides as the most relevant effect. The decrease of 4.1% between 1996 and 2004 was equivalent to a reduction of 7 million kg of insecticides.
              In relation to transgenic crops tolerant to herbicides, the main examples are for the species tolerant to glyphosate, a product that has been extensively characterized. The main benefits follow the trend exhibited by insect tolerant plants, e.g. a reduction in the total volume of herbicide needed to ensure the control of the insect pest population to grant the appropriate development of the crop. For maize tolerant to glyphosate, that reduction is of about 1.5 million kg of the herbicide and together with direct drilling and other conservationist practices, increase the list of benefits derived from the use of biotechnology products.
              The reduction in the volume of active ingredient is of 3.4%, equivalent to 37 million kg of saved herbicides, 4% less environmental impact than that of conventional maize. The reduction on C02 emissions is yet another positive outcome of GM crops (9 billion kg less released to the atmosphere in 2005), showing that this technology can effectively contribute to reduce global warming.
           For herbicide-tolerant crops, research is currently assessing the possibility of including other biotechnological events through new molecules, a process that encourages competition among companies and industries working in the biotechnology business, which is considered positively by the OBC in terms of business opportunities for its members. All of these benefits, briefly summarized on this article, were the relevant factors that led OBC to endorse the approval of GM crop use in Brazil, at this time focused on the transgenic maize event. The OBC also stated its rejection to violent actions by environment activists, which have targeted CTNBio members.
              The CTNBio researchers targeted by the activists are responsible for the different evaluation process that lead to the experimental and commercial release of transgenic products. To conclude about any specific event, scientists resort to the information provided by companies and institutions as well as that available in the literature. The CTNBio technicians have the endorsement of the OBC, due to their independent views and actions, which is in the interest of science, agriculture and the country's development.


 

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