Saturday, April 10, 2010

Food Security Means Non-GM Food

Not content with contaminating their own country with genetically modified organisms (GMO), American GMO patent holders are busy getting politicians and other powerful people to help them in their quest to contaminate whole continents, such as Africa. African countries haven't proved to be the pushover that these GMO multinationals would like, but there are powerful people willing to give them a helping hand, such as Bills Clinton and Gates.

Despite spewing out the mantras about free markets and lowering barriers to trade, patenting is the ultimate form of protectionism. Owners of American GMO patents don't even need to grow their contaminants in America to reap vast profits. They can simply palm them off on poor farmers in far away developing countries, for whom GMOs are entirely inappropriate, and rake in the cash royalties.

The two Bills are supporting what is known as the Global Food Security Bill. Despite the name, this bill aims to foist GMOs on people in developing countries by dressing them up as aid. The idea is not a new one; public money is used to open up new markets for these thugs and they pocket the profits. Only the very rich and powerful will benefit from all this. But isn't that what aid is for?

For many years now, millions of dollars of 'aid' money has gone into developing a genetically modified sweet potato in Kenya. Strings have also been pulled to get some laws adjusted so that such crops can be commercialized. The problem is, this potato hasn't really taken off. Local varieties have performed far better in trials. To add insult to injury, breeders in Uganda have developed a virus resistant sweet potato using traditional methods while working on a shoestring.

GMOs of any kind would be a disaster for Kenya and for any other country. Just look at the problems the US, Canada, India, Argentina and Australia are having with their contaminants. But the organisms are particularly dangerous for developing countries. The last thing small farmers need is crops that cost a lot to grow (GM seeds are far more expensive than conventional ones), that develop serious yield and pest problems and that systematically destroy the ecosystem. But that pretty much sums up GMOs.

Anyone interested in reducing hunger should encourage sustainable agricultural practices that are appropriate for small farmers, because most farmers in developing countries are smallholders. They should steer clear of expensive and inappropriate technologies, such as GMOs. These were developed for rich, large scale farms, although they don't even seem to be benefiting them. For every advantage claimed for GMOs so far, conventional breeding practices have surpassed those claims. GMOs are not just unnecessary, they are highly undesirable.


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