Genetically modified seeds hurt farmers’ finances, activist says

Seeds that resist pests, weeds yield more crops, Monsanto Canada rep counters

A handful of corporations possess a great deal of influence over farmers worldwide, says scientist and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Shiva, a leading opponent of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and the patenting of seeds, spoke at a Nov. 15 event at the University of Toronto about seed autonomy.

That small number of corporations collect royalties on their GMO seeds, which are patented and subject to intellectual property rules, Shiva said. This, she said, creates a new reliance for farmers who often get stuck in debt to pay those royalties.

“They want every farmer in every season everywhere in the world to buy their seeds so they can collect royalties,” Shiva said.

That’s not the case, said Trish Jordan, public affairs director with Monsanto Canada, an agricultural products company.

“Farmers have the freedom to use whatever seeds they want,” she said. “They are choosing to use GMO seeds because they get a much bigger yield of crops because it is much more resistant to pests and weeds.”

Melanie Golba, an organic farmer with Plan B Ogranics in Hamilton, Ont., said she’s concerned about the future health of consumers of food grown from GMO seeds.

“We don’t know what kind of harmful effects these GMOs will have on the human body long-term,” Golba said. “We have never before in history eaten food that has had its DNA tampered with.”

So far there has been no evidence that GMO food is harmful to people, Jordan said.

“People who are concerned about this have the choice to buy organic,” Jordan said.