SWISSAID is convinced that the use of genetic technology in agriculture is untenable for social, economic and environmental reasons. The experience of our partner organisations in India and Colombia shows that growing genetically modified crops brings farmers no advantages at all. On the contrary, this technology makes existing problems even worse and is threatening the very existence of smallholders in agriculture. However, in many developing countries, the survival of small farmers is essential to ensure that the population has food to eat. The 300 million or so families who manage small farms produce 80 to 85 per cent of the food in those countries.
The Argentinean experience is that genetic technology is capital intensive and entails the concentration of agricultural production under a small number of huge agribusiness companies. Small farmers are unable to compete with agribusiness and are forced off the land and out of work. If farmers in the third world produce less food, more people will go hungry, because large-scale monocultural cultivation produces crops for export rather than feeding the local population.
Furthermore, genetically modified plants are patented, which means that farmers lose control of their most important capital. They lose their independence, together with the long-held right to exchange seed with other farmers and reserve seed for the next sowing, and many farmers become trapped in a never-ending spiral of debt.