"..simply embracing [this technology] with the oppressive economic and political system that comes with it will never solve poverty and malnutrition. On the contrary. It is the very same politics, economics and logic that are behind the global biotechnology industry that have created so much marginalization, poverty and environmental degradation all over the planet. Science should not be blind to such political reality."
By Marit Stinus-Remonde
Environmental black prop
Manila Times 09/05/2001, the Philippines
After the fake e-mails, here comes an open letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The biotechnology lobby is at it again.
And as has become a tradition, it is not very clear who is behind it. The fake e-mails that were circulated some weeks ago used the names of KMP and Greenpeace. However, the e-mail addresses were created by somebody who had nothing to do with these organizations. The messages were meant to create confusion as to the stand of these groups. The real author never surfaced. Earlier, Searice, another anti-biotech NGO, was the subject of similar fake e-mails.
Last year, its e-mail directory was hacked, and black propaganda sent out to everybody in the directory, including the organization's fo-reign partner Last April 27, an open letter to President Arroyo, signed by 15 scientists, mostly women, coming from various public and private research institutions, appeared in two national dailies. The ad urged the President to reverse her position on genetically modified organisms. It listed the various advantages of adopting modern biotechnology while downplaying the risks. It will be recalled that President Arroyo and Agriculture Secretary Leonie Montemayor have both come out with statements critical of biotechnology.
There is nothing strange about placing a paid ad in a newspaper. There is nothing unusual in using a paid ad as a venue to express one's opinion. What is unusual about this open letter to the President is that it is reportedly the Office of the President that paid for it. The Office of the President paying for an open letter to the President? Sounds strange indeed. This information came from one of the signatories during a recent forum in Cotabato.
The lady scientist was asked who paid the ad- after all, it is not cheap to take out a full-page ad in two of the country's leading dailies. And obviously, neither the scientists who signed on to the open letter nor their respective institutions are known for their wealth.
One can agree or disagree with the statements made in the letter. The issue of modern biotechnology is not black and white. This is where the scientists fail to see the point of the anti-GMO activists. This is not merely a question of science. This is not even a question of moral and ethics. This is not a matter of fear of the unknown. Surely, there is a lot of uncertainty about the long-term impacts of releasing genetically-altered organisms into the environment. But who wouldn't be willing to take a chance if we could really solve our problems of malnutrition and poverty with this technology?
The point is that there is nothing unknown or new about biotechnology. The corporate interests and propaganda behind the push for biotechnology are all too familiar.
There may be many well-meaning scientists working towards discovering that miracle technology that can eradicate malnutrition and poverty in a sweep. But the developments and commercialization of modern biotechnology are not driven by a desire to help. They are driven by a desire to make more money. The big global corporations behind biotechnology are in it for big profits. Controlling the markets is an important part of the strategy to make more profit.
Do we want to give up control over our productive resources, our seeds, our foods? Is it okay with us that our farmers will have to buy their planting materials from foreign corporations? Do we not mind what we eat or couldn't we care less? The lady scientists "submit that consumers be allowed [a] choice. However, labeling should not place an additional burden to the poor whose only choice is what they can afford."
The biotechnology lobby and their friends allege - even in public forums - that labeling could make our food products as much as 36 percent more expensive! Labeling in Europe never made products more expensive. It is a myth that labeling makes food more expensive.
The lady scientists obviously try to project a bleeding heart for the poor and marginalized. They stress population pressure and poverty as the best reasons why modern biotechnology is needed.
But food production, agricultural productivity, and poverty are as much influenced by politics than by technology. Our farmers are not poor because their technology is old. They are poor because they have been deprived of their right to own and control productive resources. They are poor because they have never been given the support that farmers in other countries take for granted. Marginal farmers are forced to till soils that are not appropriate for tilling. The soil is poor not because of the lack of biotechnology but because of decades of indiscriminate logging and excessive use of agro-chemicals. Malnutrition persists because of poverty, not because the food we eat isn't fortified with vitamins.
Surely, modern biotechnology can help. It has potentials. But simply embracing it with the oppressive economic and political system that comes with it will never solve poverty and malnutrition. On the contrary. It is the very same politics, economics and logic that are behind the global biotechnology industry that have created so much marginalization, poverty and environmental degradation all over the planet. Science should not be blind to such political reality. (c) Copyright 2000. The Manila Times.
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