Notes from Rio+20’s Peoples Summit on GM food crops & sustainable development

The People’s Summit at the Rio+20 event on Sustainable Development was a forum for global civil society on the future and survival of humanity and our world. Concerned citizens came from all walks of life in order to share knowledge, experience, and put aside differences in order to help solve humanity’s urgent problems, together. Many felt that solving these problems now rested with an organized civil society, for the international political process does not seem to be effective for dealing with such a complex, urgent problem, that affects each of us. In fact, this sentiment was also increasingly heard in the official UN conference. For many, Genetically Modified (GM) food was a topic of great concern. Many, particularly those who had had experience of it in their lands, or had been involved in research on it, considered it to be a dangerous global threat to food security which threatens farmers’ rights and livelihoods.

I heard that many of the farming communities that had been badly affected by this technology had believed the promises of higher yields and incomes from the GM crops. However, instead, the farmers often faced mounting debts incurred by the GM crops. This saw many lose their farms and land and was recognized as the cause of the suicide epidemic in farming areas of rural India. Yet the stories of these shattered farming communities have been sufficiently silenced, for they are no competition to the multi-million dollar global industries that wield such power and influence. The issue of property rights/ownership of the seeds & crops seems to be another major issue affecting both farmers and food security.

Another concern that was discussed there was that once GM crops are accepted in a country, GM crops are then often planted on land leased to non-local companies/ people by the local farmers/landowners. When lawsuits have arisen from problems that these GM crops have incurred, those who planted the crops, leave. This has left the farmers/land owners who’d leased out their land, facing the high costs from lawsuits, sometimes requiring them to sell their land and other assets to pay costs. Ireland now appears to be under threat of this technology. I wonder how this would affect our farmers and food security, if we become a GM crop-growing nation? It would change people’s perception of Ireland as a clean, green food producing country

Juliet Duff