Saturday, February 27, 2010

World Domination Trumps Science in the GMO Industry

One of the most scary things about genetically modified organisms (GMO) is that they are not being pushed because there is scientific evidence that they are a potentially useful tool in improving global food security. Firstly, global food security is not primarily a problem of a lack of food, it is a problem of unequal access to food. Secondly, GMOs have been shown to lead to decreased food security, for several reasons. Yields are not higher, they are the same or lower. GMOs do not show any signs of being resistant to drought or pests. And overuse of pesticides has given rise to pesticide resistant weeds, just as critics predicted it would.

Scientific evidence for or against GMOs is irrelevant because the GMOs are all about world domination. The issue is one of geopolitics rather than science. It is an attempt by some of the most powerful multinationals in the world to gain control of all the arable land in the world. When you grow GMOs, you use GMO seeds and GMO products. You can't save the seed for the next growing season and the amount of fertilizer you need every year will increase because of soil degradation. The amount of pesticides you will need also increases because of ever growing resistance. If you try to return to growing conventional crops, they will become contaminated and there is a risk that the GMO manufacturer will either claim royalties or prevent you from growing the crop. And you will find your markets rather limited too, as Canada has found.

India may have successfully rejected the genetically modified brinjal (aubergine or egg plant) by putting a moratorium on its production. But India rejected the crop because of the flawed scientific arguments that were used to try to force it on the country. If the science is irrelevant, the moratorium is merely a political matter. Already the powerful and well paid pro GMO lobby there is busying itself with laws and regulations that will prevent people from criticizing GMOs with threats of fines and prison sentences. Ironically, they say that you are not permitted to criticize GMOs without scientific evidence.

There is no scientific evidence to show that farmers should not become indentured slaves to these multinationals. It is a human rights issue, not a scientific issue. The scientific arguments against GMOs have been available for years but they are dismissed, out of hand, dismissed by a lot of sales pitch and political bluster. Those opposed to GMOs are branded Luddites and said to be anti development and denying people in developing countries access to this life saving technology. US soya farmers, Canadian cotton farmers and Indian cotton farmers know just how life threatening this technology really is.

There was a facetiously titled programme on the BBC recently called 'Food Fights'. It wasn't about GMOs, specifically, it was about large scale land grabbing by rich countries, multinationals and investment portfolio administrators to grow food, biofuels and anything else they need in developing countries. It is clear that this land grabbing is not even intended to benefit those in developing countries, yet the programme gives the impression that it is a viable answer to global food insecurity. The programme is not completely biased, but it allows some palpable falsehoods to remain unscrutinized.

For a start, this sort of land grabbing is said to be the only alternative to the present situation, where developing countries depend to a large extent on food and other kinds of aid. The only real alternative for developing countries is for them to become self sufficient and self reliant, which is the opposite to what this neo-colonialism offers. Rich foreigners are not looking for an alternative, they are looking out for their own interests, regardless of the costs to those in the countries where they propose to extract everything they can get.

Although it is not a GM crop, the example of sugar cane fields is examined because sugar cane is one of the favoured biofuel crops planned for Kenya. Even before biofuels and stories about food insecurity started, sugar cane was grown on farms as if the farmers were nothing but indentured slaves. This is still the case. The sugar company supplies all the inputs and does all the mechanised tasks. Once they have extracted what they want, the little that is left goes to the farmer. Often, farmers produce the sugar cane at a loss but there is no other cash crop with a ready market. In some cases, they lease the crop on their land to the sugar company to get some ready cash. Come the harvest, they have nothing left after they have paid their bills.

Farmers in this sort of situation already know what it means if foreign interests take over large tracts of arable land in Kenya. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, referred to as 'marginal' is threatened with this kind of incursion. And those who object are referred to as Luddites, anti-development, whatever. Those using this 'marginal' land will be dispossessed and the whole ecosystem that the land supports will be destroyed. And GMO manufacturers don't even need to lease or buy the land, like the sugar companies.

But this is the sort of world domination that GMO manufactures want. They don't want people to be able to produce their own food or to choose what farm inputs to use. They want farmers to effectively give over their land to a multinational that will tie the land into a system that will be virtually irreversible. Yields will decrease and input costs will increase, but the farmer will be forced to continue purchasing products from that multinational, and that's the important thing. Human rights, food security and environmental destruction are irrelevant to multinationals. As for the science, it is a handy political tool sometimes, but other times, it just doesn't give the right results.

[The possible contribution of GMOs to antibiotic resistance is discussed in this interesting article. While it doesn't fit into the above posting so well, it is of particular significance to countries that have a very high HIV and TB burden because these countries also have reduced access to drugs and often have to make do with older versions, for which pathogens are more likely to develop resistance in the near future.]


1 comment:

Simon said...

Several of the articles in the link below are relevant to the above posting: