Some thoughts from GRAIN on GM crops in 2004

GM Contamination was at the centre of the push for and resistance to GM crops last year. There's little doubt that industry is deliberately pursuing contamination to make the global acceptance of GM a fait accompli. It wants people to believe that the only option left is to 'manage' the co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture-- turning non-GM agriculture into a tightly regulated system governed by onerous contracts that leaves farmers more vulnerable to the power of agribusiness.  But the inevitability of GM contamination is clarifying things for the resistance against GM crops. We've seen how GM canola has wreaked havoc in western Canada. We've seen what's happened to the maize of the indigenous peoples and peasants of Mexico. We've seen how GM soya has devastated Argentina and forced the GM door open to neighboring countries. We've seen GM cotton spread out of control in India and we shudder at the looming introduction of GM rice. We increasingly understand where the biotech industry is taking us: to a two-stream system of global food and agriculture - a GM free niche market for the very rich and a GM polluted supply for the rest of us - with the same small number of corporations  controlling both streams, from seed to supermarket.

The very science behind GM is increasingly being questioned for being too simplistic, reductionist and outdated. In direct contradiction of industry propaganda, studies from last year confirmed that 'junk DNA' is essential to biological function, that shooting genes into cells does more harm than good and causes many unintended consequences and that the promised yield increases and pest tolerances from GM crops are empty. Desperate to get their technology pushed into the farmers fields anyway, governments and companies turn to ever more unscrupulous tactics: bribes, threats of trade sanctions, bilateral and multi-lateral arm-twisting, smear campaigns, etc.

But the good news is that in the face of mounting aggression from the biotech lobby and the complicity of national governments and international agriculture organizations, people are organising to reject GM. In 2004, GM-free zones continued to expand across Europe and around the world. Small farmers in Kenya and Mali took clear stands against the heavy GM push in their countries. Indigenous peoples in Mexico have taken matters into their own hands and are building long-term strategies for decontamination and the survival of their traditional agriculture. More than 650 civil society organisations and 800 individuals from more than 80 countries came together to denounce the FAO for its "war on farmers not on hunger" in its pro-GM annual report on the state of food and agriculture. The past year made it clear that there is very little 'middle of the road' left between those pushing GM and those opposing it. The emperor has no clothes: co-existence isn't possible; the costs of the technology vastly outweigh the benefits; and the only way to get it accepted is by force. 2005 will see more of this, and the challenge to all of us is to further strengthen the resistance from the bottom up.