Wednesday, December 5, 2007

For GM crops

" The broader driving force behind the excessive regulation of GM crops, however, is the cult of "back to nature," which has also inspired the propaganda against agricultural biotechnology as a whole. This cult has many manifestations. One is the popularity of organic farming, which is based on the manifestly false principle that artificial chemicals are bad and natural chemicals good. Another is the rising fashion for alternative, non-evidence based medicine. The dogmatic opponents of GM crops in Europe believe that interference with the genetic make-up of plants is essentially a moral issue. It is to be condemned as part of mankind's sinful attempt to control nature, which contributes to global warming, to epidemics of cancer and all the blights of modern life.

Why is a technology which has so much to contribute impeded by regulations that make no sense? Part of the blame lies with the large agrobusinesses. They initially welcomed elaborate regulation to discourage competition from small companies that could not afford the cost. Indeed, they successfully resisted every attempt by advisers in the Reagan administration to regulate each GM crop simply as a new product, rather than by the process by which it was derived, an approach that would have treated GM and conventionally grown crops similarly and made more scientific sense. But the large companies won, and the concentration of agricultural biotechnology in the hands of a few giants, like Monsanto, is the result. Furthermore, although tight regulation was backed by some supporters of GM who believed it would reassure the public, it has had the opposite effect. If governments appear to think it necessary to take extreme precautions, the public will conclude that the technology must be dangerous. A third element has been mistrust of multinationals. This has intensified opposition to GM crops because it is widely felt that companies are the main, if not the only, beneficiaries—and that, since they are responsible for most of the development of the crops, this must be subject to the strictest possible regulation. The inept PR that accompanied Monsanto's introduction of GM crops to Europe was also bitterly criticised by other agrobusinesses." (thanks D.)

This article makes the case for GM crops. It is well written, and some of the points made are correct. He touches upon the role of corporations and makes a big issue of the famine reducing capabilities of GMOs. Even if we accept the presented evidence that GMOs are not harmful to nature and to health (controversial because one needs to ask: where do the genes that have been transferred come from?), lets remember that developing GM crops is an expensive business. R&D departments in major corporations invest in it. They are not going to do it for the poor, and not going to distribute it for free. Moreover, the min causes of famines are economical and political. There is enough food to go around, but those who need it cant have it if we don't change our lifestyles (and we wont have it ourselves soon). There is not enough food for all if we accept that there are rich and poor and that the rich have no responsibility towards the poor in society. For too long we have relied on technical fixes. we know now that for environment, technical fixes wont work, and that it is at the level of policy that we have to act. i dont have more time today, but this issue is interesting and well worthy of debate. For instance, the US agricultural economy is intimately linked to GM crop. A ban on them would be disastrous for US food exports, and for thousands of subsidized farmers.

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