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Study reveals drawbacks of GM corn

Famers tell of rising prices, environment and health concerns

Study reveals drawbacks of GM corn
Environment group Greenpeace protests entry of Bt-corn in the Philippines (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace) reporter, Manila

August 24, 2012

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A new study claims that small farmers who plant genetically modified corn, known as Bt-corn, frequently end up indebted and worse off. "News that farmers now prefer planting genetically modified Bt-corn should not encourage the Department of Agriculture to promote the controversial crop," said a statement today from the IBON Foundation, the independent peoples’ advocate who carried out the survey. IBON conducted it earlier this year in partnership with Masipag, an agricultural scientists’ group. It concluded that smallholder corn farmers , estimated at about 270,000 around the country, often end up bankrupt and indebted to traders. Marlon Malong, one of the farmers interviewed for the survey, said: "Corn farmers have no choice but to plant GM corn because the traders only sell GM corn seeds." The study found that the cost of the seeds has increased by 282 percent from the introductory price. The herbicide, which used to be packaged with the GM corn seeds, is now sold separately. Several farmers noted that after initially good harvests, crops need increasing volumes of fertilizers and agro-chemicals because of increased pestilence. This adds further to the cost and has an adverse impact on the land. Some also complained of high interest payments on the loans offered to them by seed traders, who also act as financiers. "I was jailed for a day because I failed to pay the financier," said Emily Alcasaren, a corn farmer in the town of Maayon in Capiz province. Health issues were raised by a number of interviewees.  Some farmers claimed to have experienced stomach pains, diarrhea, chest pains, itching and skin allergies reportedly after prolonged exposure to Bt-corn. Farmers and their families also reported numbness of lips and tongue after eating young GM corn. However, government and agriculture officials say they are encouraging farmers to shift to the genetically modified version because it offers higher yields and production costs are purported to be lower. Related reports Greenpeace seeks end to GMO trials
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