Global South Expert Groups Slam Unsafe GMO Wheat as Low Yield Failure

Posted on Mar 10 2024 - 10:08pm by Sustainable Pulse

In a joint document, organisations from Asia, Africa, and Latin America state that HB4 GMO wheat from the Bioceres company has not been tested for safety and is less productive than conventional wheat. This story is reported by the Argentine journalist Dario Aranda in a Spanish-language article in the publication Pagina12. The following report by GMWatch is largely based on Aranda’s article.

The organisations, from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, denounced the harmful effects of GM wheat, which is already being consumed in Argentina and threatens to reach other countries. In a detailed 14-page document, social movements, peasants and indigenous peoples requested the intervention of United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs due to the risks to food, health and the environment posed by the GMO produced by the Bioceres company. They affirmed that there are no independent studies confirming its safety, denounced the dangerous herbicide glufosinate ammonium, which it is engineered to tolerate, and stated that the GM wheat is less productive than conventional wheat.

“No to GM wheat. Global alliance seeks UN intervention against the cultivation of GM wheat HB4”, is the title of the article from the international organisation GRAIN, which reports on the unusual – and irregular – way in which GM wheat has been approved in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay – on the basis of supposed studies by the company that markets it, and with confidential documentation.

No Reliable Studies

Among other fundamental aspects, the organisations point out that the population of Argentina is being fed with flour containing a GMO that lacks health studies and, moreover, is contaminated with the agro-toxic glufosinate ammonium (more lethal than the well-known glyphosate and banned in the European Union).

“The approval of HB4 wheat has caused much concern in a broad sector of society, because its planting and consumption will violate human rights, such as the right to life, to health, to adequate food and food sovereignty, to a balanced and pollution-free environment, to access to land and territory, to the right to self-determination of peoples and local communities,” says the document, which was addressed to seven UN Special Rapporteurs.

As a result, it requests that they urge the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to suspend authorisations for the cultivation of HB4 GM wheat. The addressees are Marcos Orellana (Rapporteur on Toxic Substances and Human Rights), David Boyd (Human Rights and Environment), Michael Fakhri (Right to Food), Pedro Arrojo-Agudo (Right to Drinking Water), Olivier De Schutter (Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), Francisco Cali Tzay (Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and Tlaleng Mofokeng (Right to Health).

Right to Food

GM wheat was developed and is marketed by the Argentinean company Bioceres-Indear, where the Conicet and Universidad del Litoral scientist Raquel Chan played a key role. Argentina’s National Biotechnology Commission (made up exclusively of agribusiness promoters, including multinational managers) gave the go-ahead in 2018, behind closed doors and without publishing the studies in any scientific journal. The final approval came in May 2022, when Julián Domínguez (then Minister of Agriculture) gave the green light to Bioceres-Indear’s request (the administrative signature was provided by Luis Contigiani).

In March 2023, the Bioceres-Indear company reported that 25 mills were already mixing GM wheat with conventional wheat for free distribution. This is a fact of global significance: For the first time genetically modified wheat is in mass consumption foods (bread, pizzas, empanadas, noodles and all uses of flour). And, even more seriously, the population has no way of identifying whether it is eating a GM product or not: in Argentina there is no GM labelling.

Elizabeth Bravo, a member of the organisation Acción Ecológica de Ecuador and one of the promoters of the document addressed to the United Nations, recalled that Argentina is a wheat exporting country and highlighted the risk for Ecuador’s population: “Wheat is fundamental in the diet of Ecuadorians, as it is for many other peoples in the world, because it is present from breakfast to dinner. It would be terrible if we started eating wheat that is genetically modified and also has major pesticide residues such as glufosinate ammonium.”

A Technology Gap

Leonardo Melgarejo is a member of the Citizen Science Movement in Brazil and a member of Uccsnal (Union of Scientists Committed to Society and Nature in Latin America). He stressed the enormous gravity of the fact that there has been no scientific evaluation of the impact of the GM wheat on the health of the population. “This GMO has become an international problem, which is why this joint action has been taken by organisations from three continents. This wheat contaminates the basic food of the population and will undoubtedly contribute to land grabbing into the hands of a few, and to the impact on water, peasant life and Indigenous peoples,” he said.

Fernando Frank, a researcher from Argentina, agronomist and member of Uccsnal, pointed to a central issue that exposes the corporate and media hype about Bioceres wheat. “HB4 wheat is a production failure. It is a scandal because, in addition to the negative impacts on health and food, they are selling a technology that promises to produce more but in reality produces less, as confirmed by the data certified by the state,” said Frank.

Frank and Melgarejo are two of the authors of the scientific publication “Controversia por el pan nuestro día de cada día” (“Controversy over our daily bread”), published at the end of last year, which confirms that GM wheat is less productive than conventional wheat. Signed by researchers Gabriel Bianconi Fernandes and Rubens Onofre Nodari, the paper, with tables and figures from the Argentinean Ministry of Agriculture, shows that GM wheat is less productive than its conventional variant. “The yields (of GM wheat) were significantly lower than the country’s wheat average. The conclusion is that the higher yield of the HB4 variety – the main advantage announced by Bioceres – has not been proven in the field,” the scientific study confirms.

As the organisations’ joint document points out, data from the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture shows that in the 2021/2022 season, HB4 yields were very low – 2.42 tons per hectare, 17% less than the average.

Aranda reports that in 2020, more than a thousand scientists connected with the main Argentine research agency Conicet and 30 public universities in Argentina condemned the approval of HB4 wheat and warned of the risks to the health of the population and even to agricultural production and human rights. “This authorisation refers to an agribusiness model that has proven to be harmful in environmental and social terms, is the main cause of biodiversity loss, does not solve food problems, and further threatens the health of our people by threatening food security and sovereignty,” began the letter, addressed to the national government and the Conicet authorities.

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Sustainable Pulse is a global news outlet covering sustainable agriculture, GMOs and pesticides.

2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Nsaba Buturo March 11, 2024 at 18:01 - Reply

    I am trying to introduce legislation in our Parliament but it is an uphill task!

  2. Janet Bolton March 12, 2024 at 18:27 - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information. As always, those who are less able to make other choices are the ones who are being used to promote another toxic food product.

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