Governments should empower–not deny–farmers the ability to do their best

 

Des Moines, Iowa –Gabriela Cruz is passionate about many things: the family farm that she and her sisters work and manage on the eastern border of Portugal; the use of soil conservation to combat the erosion that annually tries to steal their land from them; and access to the technology that will allow her to prevail in the future.

 

 

Those passions, and Cruz’s drive to change attitudes of European governments that block farmer-access to genetically modified (GM) crops, led to her selection as the 2010 winner of the Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award.

The award, given by Truth about Trade and Technology (TATT), seeks to recognize “strong leadership, vision, and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity, and availability of agricultural products around the world.”

TATT hosted a Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable Oct. 12 and 13, prior to events in Des Moines, IA related to the World Food Prize. The Roundtable is organized by TATT, and is supported by the Council for Biotechnology Information, CropLife International, and the National Corn Growers Association. Sixteen farmers from five continents participated in the roundtable discussions.

The 48-year-old Cruz began planting GM corn in 2006 as a way to reduce her costs for controlling insects.  She could reduce her use of pesticides and the number of tillage trips in the field by optimizing GM traits in corn. Less tillage was important to Cruz, who is president of the Portuguese Association for Soil Conservation.  Soil loss in the erosion-prone fields of southern Europe can average 17 tons of top soil annually.

“Biotechnology offers one of the most promising solutions to many emerging challenges in feeding the world’s growing population,” Cruz says.

For example, the International Panel for Climate Change forecasts increasing dryness for the Mediterranean region where Cruz farms (already water prices have risen by 40%.)

“Scientists can generate crops that make more efficient use of water, as well as add characteristics that allow us to fight off weeds that compete with desired crops and suck water and nutrients from the soil.”

“Yet, these innovations will remain fantasies for farmers in Europe as long as our governments listen to misinformed activists and journalists that crowd out the responsible views of scientists, Nobel Prize winners and farmers.”

Cruz says her family has seen how GM crops can improve their quality of life, and she wants more of that for herself, her sisters, her workers, and the women who farm in other countries.

“Around the world, women cannot take advantage of biotechnology because of Europe’s hostility to GM crops.  This especially affects African women farmers because they are highly dependent on trade with Europe,” Cruz says.

Cruz received the Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award on Oct. 13, 2010 in Des Moines, IA, at a Global Farmer Awards luncheon that followed two-days of discussion by farmers around the world.

The Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award was established in 2007 in honor of Dean Kleckner, the chairman of Truth About Trade and Technology.  The award is given out annually in conjunction with the Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable.  The first winner of the award was Rosalie Ellasus of the Philippines, the 2008 winner was Jeff Bidstrup of Australia;  and in 2009, the award went to Jim McCarthy of Ireland.

Cruz manages a 700-hectare farm in Elvas, Portugal that has been in the family for over 100 years.  The farm operation includes livestock, as well as maize, wheat, barley and green peas.  No-till or reduced till methods are use on the whole farm.

 

Interview:

 

AgWired – Gabriela Cruz presented Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award