Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 03:00 GMT 04:00 UK
GM could 'impoverish poor farmers'
ActionAid fear some GM crops could further impoverish subsistence farmers
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
A UK development agency, ActionAid, says it is concerned at the potential impact on the world's poor of genetically-modified (GM) plants.
AstraZeneca, the UK's largest agrochemical company, is holding its annual general meeting in London on Friday. An ActionAid report examines the 52 GM crop patent applications made since 1993 by AstraZeneca.
The company trebled its spending on biotechnology research to $60m from 1997 to 1998.
'Cycle of dependence'
Its patent applications include:
And it rejects ActionAid's suggestions that its work on GM plants offers nothing to subsistence farmers, and could create environmental risks.
No to terminator technology
The charity does have some praise for the company: "Encouragingly, AstraZeneca recently confirmed to ActionAid that it will not commercialise its "terminator" (plant sterility) technologies, saying it recognises that these would undermine farmers' traditional practice of seed saving.
"The company also ruled out using its 'verminator' (rat gene technology) in its processes."
But ActionAid wants AstraZeneca to commission an independent study on the impact on farmers in developing countries of its patents before starting to sell its products.