Thursday, February 18, 2010


It was to be expected, I suppose, that the advocates of
genetic engineering would seize on the economic
shenanigans of recent times to promote the case for the
monsantification of world food production. To quote
the London Times, quoting the UN Food & Agriculture
Organization, ‘the combined effects of high food prices
and the global economic meltdown have pushed more
than 100 million people into poverty and hunger.'
Therefore—so the argument goes—the introduction of
more and more GE crops is essential if we are to ‘avert
a global food crisis.’ Only that way, it seems, will
enough food be produced to feed the world's growing

This insidiously sinister line of reasoning should be
resisted. First, there is only a ‘crisis’ because of the
industrialization of food production by those whose
primary concern is not feeding the world’s hungry but
making exorbitant profits out of controlling the food
chain from top to bottom. Second, to quote Gandhi,
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but
not for any man’s greed. I don’t know when he said that,
but it must be at least 60 years ago and I’ll wager a solar
system to a planet that it’s as true today as it was then.
Third, without even getting into the ecological risks of
genetic engineering, it's essentially about monoculture,
not agriculture, and that ain’t good for the Earth. Period.
Fourth, every time someone says what a good idea GE
food is, allow yourself to wonder how it is that every
extension of GE planting equals greater profit for
Monsanto and other giant bioindustrial corporations—
not for the peasants who actually do the planting and
harvesting. And all the heartstring-plucking in the world
about starving millions is as sincere as a McDonald's ad.

All of which makes the Listener’s February 6 cover story
even more of a disgrace than it would be at any other
time. Nina Fedoroff, science adviser to Hillary Clinton,
is given a free ride to make her case for GE with the
urging her on at every stride, eg, ‘She is one of
the leading campaigners trying to tear down the taboo
against GM foods.’ Taboo? Tear down? Spare us, please.
But no; the story continues more or less in the same
vein, with little attempt to place Fedoroff’s view in
context. The article was published under the byline of
staff writer Sarah Barnett but those familiar with her
good work for the Listener will, I’m sure, refuse to accept
that she could have wholly written what here appears in
her name. I don’t. It reads like a piece cobbled together
by someone senior to her. In which case, whoever did it
ought to have put their own name to it, not hers.

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