Vandana Shiva: “New GMOs based on the old paradigm, patents in the hands of a few”

A new report by Navdanya International states that new genetic techniques are the same as old GMOs and serve to circumvent rules on traceability, labeling and risk assessment

“The so-called New Genetic Technologies, the new GMOs, are based on the old, now outdated paradigm of genetic reductionism and genetic determinism. This is the continuation of the attempt to ‘program’ biology, despite the fact that today there is already a profound scientific understanding of the fact that living organisms and biological systems are complex self-organizing systems”. Vandana Shiva says this to Adnkronos, commenting on the new report by her organization Navdanya International entitled “Nothing new in the new GMOs”.

“The new GMOs modified with genetic editing still use the old Agrobacterium techniques as vectors for the introduction of genes”, explains Shiva, who denounces that “the new GMOs, like the old ones, are introduced on the market with a single objective : expanding the monopoly on patents. The same chemical multinationals that had begun to control seeds through patents and GMOs are now grabbing new patents on GMOs modified with gene editing”.

The usual “poison cartel”, as Vandana Shiva defines it, holds most of the patents for the new GMOs, as well as for the old ones: Corteva (Dow Dupont) owns about 100, Bayer Monsanto 60, Basf 18 and Syngenta 6. “The fight against multinational monopolies is increasingly based on reclaiming sovereignty over seeds”, exhorts the Indian physicist and activist.

Navdanya’s report recalls that in Italy, “one of the EU member countries that has historically always had the strongest position against GMOs”, after several attempts in June 2023 crops with genome editing were approved. “A legislative decree was presented to the Italian parliamentarians for approval to deal with the drought emergency in the country”, but, the report points out, “an amendment was inserted in the folds of the provision for the use of genetically modified crops under the pretext of their alleged ‘drought resistance’”.

“Made in Italy or Made in Lab?” ask the authors of the report, who highlight how “Italy is proud of its food and its cultural heritage, but uses precision agriculture and genetic technologies to manipulate the Italian agri-food system . The new technologies are defined as ‘assisted evolution’ because genome editing is presented as an accelerated version of natural evolution”. In reality, according to Navdanya, it is to all intents and purposes “GMOs modified in the laboratory”.

Genome editing techniques, is the message launched by Navdanya, are nothing more than the second generation of GMOs, and the big multinationals exploit them to circumvent the rules and extend patents, using the fight against climate change, the food security and pesticide reduction.

In July, the report recalls, the European Commission launched a proposal to exclude a large part of organisms genetically modified through gene technologies from the rules currently in force on GMOs which provide for traceability, labeling and risk assessment . But all over the world “politicians and big companies are trying to give a moral and scientific basis to the development of these highly dangerous technologies”. In reality, the advent of these technologies “allows companies to expand patentable material and to mobilize previously inaccessible parts of nature to generate economic output for their own benefit.”

To do this, “limited laboratory data would be chosen as confirmatory evidence” that these techniques would be the solution to global threats. “The lobbies”, the report continues, are moving to change the rules on GMO labeling, so as to replace definitions such as “organic” or “GMO free” with “healthy” or “sustainable”. But “the lack of traceability of genetically modified organisms and the elimination of genetic material put the survival of organic and agroecological agriculture at risk, together with traditional and indigenous agrodiversity”, directly threatening “food sovereignty”.

Furthermore, it is unknown what the incidence of the so-called “cross-contamination” could be: any “genetic upheaval or destruction that could occur due to an altered organism could rapidly transfer to a wild or conventional species leading to a domino effect”.