GM food will not ease hunger

A A A

Britain's top aid charities have told the Prime Minister that genetically modified foods will not solve world hunger, but may actually increase poverty and malnutrition.

Their intervention – in a joint submission to the Government's official debate on GM crops and foods – strikes a devastating blow at a central plank of its support for the controversial technology.

Tony Blair and key advisers have wholeheartedly supported the claims of the biotech industry that GM crops are needed to feed the world. Two years ago a Cabinet report claimed they could win the war against hunger, and the year before the Government's then hugely-influential scientific adviser, Lord May, said it was his main reason for supporting them.

But Prince Charles provoked private Prime Ministerial fury by describing this argument as "suspiciously like emotional blackmail".

The new submission – signed by the directors of Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, Cafod and Action Aid, and sent to Mr Blair's Strategic Unit in the Cabinet Office – puts the moral and practical authority of leading anti-hunger crusaders behind the prince and against the Prime Minister.

The charity leaders say claims that GM crops will feed the world are "misleading and fail to address the complexities of poverty reduction". They acknowledge that the technology may have "potential benefits" but are concerned they will not help the small farmers and poor people in the rural Third World where their groups have practical experience.

They call on the Prime Minister to take a "precautionary approach" to the technology, rather than giving it his enthusiastic support.

The charities say GM crops are likely to create more poverty. They point out that hunger is not caused by a shortage of food, but because the poor cannot afford to buy it.

In the past, new agricultural technologies like the Green Revolution have tended to be taken up by rich farmers. They increase production and force poor farmers out of business.

The charities fear that introducing GM technology will have even more catastrophic effects because it is dominated by a few multinational companies. Salil Sheehy, the director of Action Aid, says: "Farmers will be caught in a vicious circle, increasingly dependent on a small number of giant multinationals."

But in a remarkable initiative, the World Bank last week brought together Oxfam and Greenpeace with the biotech giants Monsanto and Syngenta to try to reach an agreement on the technologies needed to feed the world.

The meeting in Dublin – which also included ministers and officials from 19 governments and representatives of eight UN agencies – decided to start a series of consultations which could lead to the most comprehensive international assessment of the risks and benefits of biotechnology, organic farming and other new agricultural techniques.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Data Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of this mu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - £40,000 - £70,000 OTE

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: (Senior) IT Business Analyst - London - European projects

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness