6 November 2002
Just read the items below if you're in any doubt as to how the biotech industry and its supporters, including those in the US administration, are seeking to turn Southern Africa's tragedy into an opportunity to attack anyone they feel is in their way - environmentalists, European governments and consumers, whoever.
NB item 2 - an article entitled 'Green killers and pseudo-science' - is right at the top of Monsanto India's website.
What makes this campaign so shameless is that the U.S. has the ability to supply non-GM food but is choosing not to do so. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain are available, both in America and elsewhere. But instead famine in Africa is being exploited to gain political and commercial leverage - see:
"European policy on GM products could potentially result in starvation in Africa" (item 1)
"Green fundamentalists are killers. Their opposition to genetically modified foods is killing people in famine-hit Africa today, and could threaten Indians in the future too... Like Hitler, [Greenpeace & Co.] express horror at the mixing of species. They do not want to allow people to choose what to plant or eat... they say it is up to proponents of GM foods to prove these are not unsafe. This is eerily Hitlerian too: condemn without evidence, and ask the condemned to prove their innocence. Is this not like asking every Indian Muslim to prove that he is not pro-Pakistani? Or asking every Jew to prove that he does not condone the killing of Jesus Christ? Is it not an insult to common dignity?" (item 2)
"Soon, it won't be Europe against America, but Europe against the world. The final European biotech embarrassment is over terrorism. The destruction of the World Trade Center should teach Europe, as well as America, that the world can't peacefully exist half-rich and half-poor. If Europe's elites can't help the Third World to get higher standards of living, they could lose their own elite status, one way or another." (item 3)
1. European policy could cause starvation in Africa
2. Green killers and pseudo-science
3. Europe's "Precaution" Means Stagnation
1. European policy could cause starvation in Africa
Excerpt from 'US dismisses potential EU relaxation of GM ban', Agence France Presse, October 28, 2002
same wording used in 'USA slams EU relaxation on GM as inadequate'
just-food.com 29 Oct 2002
The United States has said it is especially disturbed that the European policy on GM products could potentially result in starvation in Africa. Several southern African countries, particularly Zambia, have refused genetically modified US corn to help millions of famine-threatened people.
Washington says their stance has been influenced by the European stance on GM food, as they feel their export markets could be in peril.
2. Green killers and pseudo-science
SWAMINOMICS / SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2002 12:02:07 AM
Green fundamentalists are killers. Their opposition to genetically modified foods is killing people in famine-hit Africa today, and could threaten Indians in the future too.
The USA has rushed food aid to southern Africa in the form of maize, the staple diet of the region. But Zambia has refused to distribute this maize to its starving population.
Why? Because some of the maize may be GM, and may be used by farmers as seed. The US has used GM food for years with no ill-effects. But the European Union, under the influence of Greenpeace and other fundamentalists, has banned the import of GM foods.
Now, Zambia and other southern African countries traditionally export maize to Europe. They fear Europe will ban such exports if there is any suspicion that they have planted any GM maize. So they face a dilemma. If they reject food aid, people will starve. But if they accept food aid and jeopardise future maize exports to Europe, that too could cause farmer starvation.
Greenpeace and its supporters are responsible for this outrageous state of affairs. They spearheaded the ban. Vandana Shiva, a leading Indian opponent of GM foods, was recently honoured by Time magazine as a heroic Third World defender of traditional agriculture.
But at the Johannesburg green summit, Shiva was given a very different award: The Bullshit Award for Sustaining Poverty. This was bestowed on her by a group of Third World activists and farmers demanding the freedom to choose seeds, to choose technology, and to trade unhindered by bans. Their citation says that, in a closely contested race, Shiva narrowly beat Greenpeace and some others. I personally think Greenpeace should have won hands down. It has surely done more damage, especially in Africa.
Shiva has hit back at her critics, such as Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute. In an interview with CNSNews.com, she declared that Mitra and others were people whose minds have been bought with money.
This is pure McCarthyism. I and many of my colleagues in journalism agree with Mitra that opposition to GM foods is indeed a recipe for impoverishing farmers.
The traditional organic farming which Shiva recommends is the very technology that led to mass starvation in India for centuries, with up to one-tenth of the population perishing in periodic famines.
Mass starvation was finally ended by the green revolution, which brought in modern genetics and chemical inputs. GM takes scientific innovation a step further. GM foods have not affected public health in any country, including the ultra-health-conscious USA.
GM plants are laboratory crosses across genomes. But nature too is replete with crosses across genomes. This is one way species have evolved for millions of years. To condemn such crosses as dangerous or unnatural is pseudo-science of sort that led Hitler to fulminate against the mixing of races.
Hitler believed that the Aryans were a superior race. He was aghast at the thought of Aryan blood mixing with the inferior blood of Jews or blacks. His belief that crosses across races would produce genetic horrors had no scientific basis. Yet he banned the mixing of races, and sought to eliminate (as a Final Solution) those he deemed inferior and dangerous.
Greenpeace and Co. extend this same argument to plants. They claim that natural species are pure and superior, while GM varieties are inferior and dangerous. Like Hitler, they express horror at the mixing of species. They do not want to allow people to choose what to plant or eat. They want an outright ban.
They provide no proof that GM foods are dangerous. Instead they say it is up to proponents of GM foods to prove these are not unsafe. This is eerily Hitlerian too: condemn without evidence, and ask the condemned to prove their innocence. Is this not like asking every Indian Muslim to prove that he is not pro-Pakistani? Or asking every Jew to prove that he does not condone the killing of Jesus Christ? Is it not an insult to common dignity?
Science punctures the notion that natural foods are safe and GM foods are not. Science has proved beyond all doubt that a wide variety of natural foods kill. Butter, cooking oil, chocolate, cream and fried foods in general cause cardiac disease, hypertension and cancer. Desserts of all sorts, from ice-cream to gulab jamun, are full of cholesterol-raising ingredients. Alcohol kills. Tobacco kills. All these are products of natural plants. Yet green fundamentalists insist that the real danger is from GM plants.
Shiva claims that proponents of GM foods are third-rate scientists, corrupt politicians, and pawns of multinationals. Really?
According to Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute Centre for Global Food Issues, the proponents of biotechnology include the World Health Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation, six national science academies, the US Department of Agriculture, American Medical Association, American Dietic Association, and 19 Nobel prize winners, including Norman Borlaug, founder of the green revolution.
3. Europe's "Precaution" Means Stagnation by Dennis T. Avery
The Hudson Institute Online, USA, November 1, 2002;
Must America fight a trade war with its European allies over genetically enhanced crops, even as we recruit their support for regime change in Iraq? Fortunately for America but unfortunately for Europe, their opposition to biotech food is fast becoming a global embarrassment, affecting even the Europeans themselves. Countries in southern Africa are refusing to distribute life-saving U.S. corn donated for the starving drought victims. European-led activists (especially Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth) have successfully mounted a scare campaign to convince African leaders that the corn is "poison." (This is the same corn Americans have been eating for years with no ill effects.)
In Africa's devastated rural areas, the activists' anti-biotech rally cry, "Better dead than GM fed," is a prophecy, not a slogan. An offended observer in Johannesburg wrote scathingly that the European message was clear: "You darkies must starve until the white Bwanas in Europe decide that biotech food is O.K."
Europe has been trying for years to bar Africans from using the high-yield farming inputs (especially fertilizers and fungicides) that made Europe well fed. Africans have recoiled at the innate racism of this policy thrust. The European stance was in honor of the organic farming ideal that provides only about 2 percent of Europe's food, but nearly all of Africa's. Recently, Europe has been trying to insert its "Precautionary Principle" (PP) into the World Trade Organization rules, knowing this would stifle the development of "American" biotech crops. However, a PP would also have blocked the invention of most non-farm technologies such as autos and electricity. The Precautionary Principle does not represent leadership for a world still three-quarters poor and poorly fed. The anti-biotech activists say their campaign will "preserve nature." However, the hunger in southern Africa is driving its desperate inhabitants to hunt down anything that flies, crawls, or swims for their stewpots. The region's normal hunting of "bushmeat" has escalated now that food is scarcer than AK-47s. (Thanks to Euro-leadership, Africa is currently projected to clear wildlands greater than the land area of Texas in the next 20 years-for more low-yield, subsistence farming.)
Europe's fixation with its farm surplus is a danger to the world's forests and wildlife all over the planet. An EU agricultural attaché recently told me that Europe's exports of grain and livestock products were helping to protect the whole world from hunger. But the EU exports only about 15 to 20 million tons of grain annually-less than 2 percent of the world's grain consumption. World grain demand is likely to be 350 million tons per year larger in 2050 to supply high-quality diets for 8 billion affluent people and their pets. Since we're already farming half the global land area not covered by glaciers and deserts, we'll need to triple all farmers' yields per acre with new technology, or plow down nearly all of the earth's land surface. Even the European Commission is worried that the anti-biotech campaign will hurt Europe economically. Many of Europe's best high-tech jobs have been driven from 'the Continent" by the Greenpeace takeover of public policy. Many of these bellwether jobs have moved to the United States, further marginalizing Europe's medical and research establishments for the future. Meanwhile, China is building a huge genetic engineering establishment, pursuing biotech crops and transformations more eagerly than the Americans. They've now been joined by India, which had been doing the research, but delayed field release until last year when a cotton bollworm plague broke open the regulatory roadblock by forcing the release of pest-resistant biotech cotton.
Soon, it won't be Europe against America, but Europe against the world. The final European biotech embarrassment is over terrorism. The destruction of the World Trade Center should teach Europe, as well as America, that the world can't peacefully exist half-rich and half-poor. If Europe's elites can't help the Third World to get higher standards of living, they could lose their own elite status, one way or another. Meanwhile, U.S. biotech research just made Muslim agriculture sustainable for the first time in ten thousand years with crops that actually remove the salts that have been inexorably poisoning the long-irrigated soils of the Middle East. Does the Precautionary Principle offer any answers to such critical problems? Does Europe?
This article appeared in the Knight-Ridder Tribune on October 3, 2002. Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of Global Food Issues for Hudson Institute.