Sunday, November 7, 2010

Would You Buy a Second Hand Story From These People?

For some reason, the British TV station 'Channel 4' appears to see itself as a kind of defender of the rich, powerful multinationals who would do anything it takes to impose genetically modified organisms (GMO) on the world. I wonder how much it was worth to the channel and the stooges who contributed, unwittingly or otherwise.

I haven't been able to see the documentary. People in Africa are no more considered to have anything worth saying about their future now than they ever have been. Nor do mainstream media feel the need to let them know what decisions others are making on their behalf. But one thing is for sure, it is people in African and other highly impoverished countries that have the most to lose if GMOs take over.

And they will take over, if the multinationals succeed. GM is a case of either/or. Not only is it impossible for GMO and non-GMO crops to co-exist without the non-GMO crops becoming contaminated but the biggest seed companies in the world want to reduce supplies of non-GMO seeds until GMO becomes completely dominant. There will be no way to reverse this once it has been achieved.

The documentary, apparently, accepted the multinational's accusations of the green movement 'causing starvation' by opposing GMOs. Which GMOs would have been made available to Africans over the last ten years or so during which the seeds would have been available? There are no GMO foods available that produce higher yields or grow in sub-optimal conditions, except in the publicity of various interested parties.

On the contrary, to date, the only known crops with such traits are conventionally bred ones. Not only are conventionally bred and organic crops and methods safer and cheaper, they are also very successful. And this is exactly the problem for the multinationals. They don't want people in poor countries buying something without a patent, something that is not their 'intellectual property'. Such things are far too affordable.

So far, GMOs have only sold well in a few countries, all of which are regretting it now. The US has bought into GM more than any country and they are reaping the 'benefits' of dwindling yields, increased use of pesticides, contaminated land and superweeds. These are all things the multinationals have denied exist but you only need to read up on what's happening in what used to be the most productive places in the US.

The documentary was discussed online for some time before it was aired and one (former) environmentalist defended his stance by saying he was in favour of the work the Gates Foundation was doing in relation to the 'Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa' (AGRA). Perhaps the poor fool thinks that Gates and his stacks of money is in some way different from the bunch of multinationals in question. But he is behind their work and always has been. Intellectual property is his specialty.

So the green movement, far from being behind mass starvation, has always, as far as I know, been opposed to the further impoverishment of Africa. Hopefully they have also been opposed to the antics of the great pseudo-philanthropist as well. But perhaps channel 4 wanted to pay the green movement a back-handed compliment by suggesting that they could prevent some of the most powerful and most ruthless institutions in the world from achieving the global monopoly on food production that they crave. Sadly, I don't believe the green movement is quite that powerful!

It's interesting what big, monopolistic technologies have got wrong over the years. Norman Borlaug, one of the architects of the first Green Revolution, probably thought that increasing technology, bigger farms, factory farming practices, massive reductions in labor, etc, would be all fine and dandy, that there would be no poverty or starvation any more. But it has long been clear that any benefits that might have come from the revolution are now a distant memory, that there is still an awful lot of poverty and starvation, even in India, where it was said to have been a success.

It's also interesting that articles about GMO, especially when they deal with opposition to the technology, always feel the need to use the term 'frankenstein foods'. This has never been anything other than a tabloid term, a straw man argument. Most environmentalists would not use the term and their objections are more based on the lack of evidence for the safety of GMOs and the lack of evidence that they will have any of the advantages claimed for them.

On the other hand, proponents of GMOs have been using the same claims about increased yields and numerous other 'advantages', even though none of them have materialized yet. It reminds me of the overused claim one used to hear about nuclear power, that it was 'too cheap to meter'. We know that was a lie, but many are now trying to increase dependence on nuclear power on the back of the claim that it is 'green'. Next they'll be telling us that it is clean, cheap, safe and whatever else.

If people are concerned to separate the claims and counterclaims reported by what is a heavily biased media, they need to do a very small bit of research while at the same time bearing in mind that many sources will lie. They need to ask why a person or institution would make certain claims, what the evidence supporting those claims are and what they think might be right or wrong from the point of view of those likely to be most affected, and perhaps most vulnerable, to the effects of something like GMOs.

I recommend a perusal of La Via Campesina's website and Wikipedia's article on food sovereignty as a good summary. The majority of working people in the world are either rural peasants or dependent on the work of rural peasants. Does a technology entirely controlled by a few rich multinationals really sound like something that contributes to food sovereignty?


1 comment:

Simon said...

Here's an article that extends and adds to some of the themes I only touch on above:

I got it from GMWatch's site, follow the link above to find more.