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Counting the hidden costs of GM food

Consumers get no benefits from genetically-modified (GM) food, according to the international environmental charity, WWF. The organisation also said that the use of genetic modification in agriculture simply increases the costs to farmers and the public.

At a news conference in the Swiss capital, Berne, the WWF called for a freeze on GM food production.

Bernadette Oehen, who is responsible for the WWF's GM food campaign, said that farmers who use GM should count the extra costs. The organisation commissioned a study from the Institut Ernst Basler in Zurich, which compared six different products, some of which were GM and some GM-free.

The study looked at three scenarios: the first in which farmers did not use GM technology, the second in which its use was limited (as is the case currently in Switzerland), and the third in which it was unrestricted.

The costs of GM affect both farmers who use the technology, as well as those who refuse to do so. Seeds and feed for GM-free producers are more expensive, as are the time-consuming techniques necessary to ensure no GM contamination of their products.

However, the initial gains which farmers using GM make, such as a reduction in outlay for pesticides, are counterbalanced by the cost of preventing unwanted cross-pollination between controlled GM plants and non-GM varieties.

Farmers opting for GM also have to spend time making reports to the authorities, under current rules governing GM production.

The WWF also said that the costs associated with GM food would increase if GM production moves from the trial stage to become standard practice.

They said the study showed that costs associated with the control of GM agriculture, of research, and of keeping the public informed, would all be passed on to consumers.

swissinfo with agencies


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