Friday, April 16, 2010

Oxfam Abandons Development, Goes for Corporate Lobbying

It is easy and sometimes even right to criticize NGOs, especially big, well funded ones, for spending a lot of money on dubious programmes, such as technical aid that may only benefit a handful of rich Western 'experts'. But when it turns out they are using their money to support one of the most destructive agricultural processes to date, genetically modified organisms (GMO), it's hard not to be very angry. Yet Oxfam America seems to have been nobbled by the biotechnology industry and its supporters, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Of course, Oxfam have pulled out the poverty and food security cards to make it look as if GMOs are just the solution they need. But production of GMOs requires industrial scale farming practices. Although these are found in developing countries, those involved are not poor farmers. Most farmers in developing countries are subsistence farmers. They cannot afford the sort of inputs required by GMO farming and where they have fallen for the lies and taken on GMOs, they have ended up in debt. In addition to the inputs being very expensive compared to non-GM inputs, yields at the subsistence level have not been higher, indeed, they have often been lower. So GMOs, despite claims to the contrary, do not scale down.

This is not to suggest that large scale GMO farming has been successful either. In the handful of countries where this has been practiced, the US, India, Australia, Canada, Argentina and a few others, yields may have increased for the first few years. But input costs have also risen, especially pesticides and fertilizer costs, and yields flatlined or decreased after that. US GMO farmers, especially, are finding out what it's like when superweeds take over, weeds that develop resistance to even huge applications of herbicide. And Indian farmers have found what it's like when pests develop resistance to the GMO industry's noxious sprays. Even Canada is realising what it's like to face blacklisting by many of the countries who have been buying their agricultural outputs because of contamination by an organism that has been banned there for years.

So what does Oxfam think they are doing, trying to trick the very people they are supposed to be helping? This may be related to funding they have received from Rockerfeller and Gates, who are wedded to the GMO industry till death do us part. Frankly, I think if Oxfam is willing to take funding from organisations that only have the interests of multinationals at heart, they should not be receiving public funding. They have, effectively, jumped ship. They should be treated accordingly. They should no more be considered to be independent or to be benefiting poor people in developing countries that they would be if they had decided to accept funding from the armaments industry. Of course, I don't know whether they already receive money from the armaments industry or not.

Farmers, especially those working small and medium sized farms in developing countries, need ecologically and economically sustainable farming practices. They certainly don't need expensive and highly damaging technologies that render the farmers slaves on land whose quality is fast diminishing. GMOs will increase food insecurity, dependency, poverty and low health. Ultimately, people will die as a result of embracing GMOs. And Oxfam, along with their friends in the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, will be responsible for the resulting poverty, death and destruction. The latter two were set up to wreak destruction, despite their stated ambitions. But I don't believe Oxfam was set up for this, I believe they have more recently been injudicious in their choice of funders. Perhaps there is time to rethink this and, if necessary, send back the blood money they have received. Alternatively, they can admit that they are no longer involved in development and concentrate on promoting and lobbying for the systematic destruction of whole societies, economies and ecosystems. And then they may as well accept money from the armaments industry, while they are at it. It could make the job quicker.

Incidentally, the experience of African countries so far with GM crops is not good. Millions have been spent over a long period in Kenya to produce a GM sweet potato but nothing has been delivered yet that can outperform conventionally bred versions. South Africa found that Monsanto had blundered somewhat by supplying them with 'free' genetically modified maize that didn't produce any grain. But the industry is still doing everything it can to force more GMOs on South African farmers. Attempts to introduce GM cotton in West Africa have met with the same problems as GM cotton everywhere and Monsanto has even admitted that it has failed in India. However, their solution to this problem is that farmers buy a new and more expensive version of the failed crop. I assume West African cotton growing countries will receive the same privilege.

None of the arguments that Monsanto and the rest of the GMO bunch use to defend the technology work. The evidence has always shown that conventional crops and farming practices are the only ones that work and that are sustainable. This is especially true for small farmers, those who are most likely to suffer from poverty, food security and environmental degradation problems. It is to be expected that Monsanto and other interested multinationals will lie, cheat and pay through the nose (also known as lobbying) to make us think otherwise. And why wouldn't they when they receive so much public money to do this. But we also have to be aware of the influence of the rich privately owned institutions, such as the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, who are supporting GMO. And sadly, we have to add Oxfam into the equation, unless they suddenly remember who it is they are supposed to be working for.


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