Friday, February 18, 2011

No Thanks, GE foods.

I support nature driven evolution and human selective breeding. I find there to be next to no convincing arguments in favor of transgenic organisms. The only positive arguments being presented are from the companies who hold patents and otherwise have financial interest in the success of GE seeds. These pro-arguments seem to be based on fabricated evidence and are inundated with financial greed biases.

Ecosystems involve incredibly complex feedback loops, and anyone that purports to know enough about them to create a new organism and let it loose in the world is clearly a blazing idiot. Especially without any long-term studies. Haven’t they watched enough dystopian future movies to get the picture? The future of that worldview is written. It sucks. Do we really need to find out how much? If you’re still questioning, go read Margaret Atwood.

So we have these plants and bacteria and animals into which profit driven scientists have inserted DNA using carrier bacteria to have some sort of ease of farming. Then, with next to no independent research into the effects of these plants on human health or ecology, they are served to our children in cafeterias and let to spread in ecosystems. There have been studies that have tracked consumption of just one GMO meal, which actually transfers the modified DNA into your gut bacteria and your internal organs. In the case of Bt corn, this could produce the Bt toxin in your gut itself.

I fully recognize that my point of view is based in what some might call “environmental extremism”. This term devalues and ignores an opinion that seeks a brighter future by preserving what the entire world relies on to survive. Those who amorally push GE foods without research are putting corporate earning and some vague promise of world economic improvement over the actual wellbeing of planet and people. These same people satanize dissent of this viewpoint.

Already there is a large problem with patent laws granting GE seed patent holders to sue farmers who are “growing GE seed without permission,” which can include contamination from neighboring farms. Monsanto has reserved the right to test farmers fields without their consent, and sue them if any genetically identical species are found. This is intended to prevent farmers from saving the GE seed, and protecting profits for the patent holder. This is by itself unjust, but it is even more so used on farmers that are using these seed unintentionally. There is also heresay of this happening to poor farmers in developing countries, who in no way have the money to pay such legal fees. Many farmers settle out of court because they do not have the money to pay such fees.

Farmers in Haiti who had been gifted GE seeds by Monsanto marched and burned the gifted seeds, recognizing them as a threat to their own indigenous food and seed security. That action was certainly a statement for the actuality of Monsanto’s conduct versus what they purport to be doing. The paternalistic view that these technologies will “save the third world” and “solve world hunger” is ignorant and damaging.

Marion Nestle exposes an important truth about humanitarian efforts using transgenic foods: “The Gates Foundation is now the major funder of GM projects involving nutrient-enriched indigenous crops. Such technological approaches, advocates maintain, are doomed to fail unless they also address the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition.”[1] The poverty in many “developing countries” can be directly traced by economic restructuring in the 80’s under Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), and to earlier Imperialism that initially weakened their economies. One of the pertinent changes brought by these policies was the transition to large-scale export agriculture from small-scale local agriculture. In other words, previously food-bearing land was converted to industrial commodity production, indigenous farming techniques discouraged, and small farmers put out of work and land. “Indigenous knowledge has fed, clothed and healed the world for millennia,”[2] Says Gurdial Nijar, legal advisor of the Third World Network, and could continue to do so, though the opportunity has not been given. Food insecurity is a product of this historical agricultural imperialism, and the forced use of patented, transgenic crops will only serve to exacerbate food issues. A major component of food security is the control of seeds, and ability to save seeds. Farmers cannot legally save GE seed, and therefore will become dependent on purchasing it annually at their own economic disadvantage. This dependence threatens food security. It’s not about growing more food; it’s about how food is grown, who is growing food and who has control of the seeds that go into and the products that come out of growing food. GE crops will fail to solve hunger because they seek a higher yield, but not to better food or wealth distribution. The people who could not afford food before will not be any more able just because there is more food. Inequality is at the root of hunger, not supply.

Not only do GE crop supporters ignore the inevitable failure of their efforts, but they are ignoring the statements of countries around the world denying that GE crops will help them. “Representatives of 20 African countries, including Ethiopia, have published a statement denying that gene technologies would help farmers to produce the food they needed.”[3]

This is not a walk-in-the-park issue. It rouses the very roots of the world’s conflicts, and ancient dynamics of dominance. It unintentionally sheds light on dark recesses of greed that threaten to slip out of memory. If we value the future, equality and justice, we will not let these aberrations go. We will march in the streets and expose the elephant in the room like a bull in a china cabinet.

Works Referenced

Nestle, Marion. Safe Food; The Politics of Food Safety. University of California Press, Berkely, CA; 2003.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods; Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books. Berkely, CA; 2002.

Rosset, Peter. “Lessons from the Green Revolution.” Posted April 8th 2000. Food First.


[1] Nestle, Marion. Safe Food. P. 280.

[2] Qtd. Pitchford, p. 20.

[3] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Page 20.