GM vested interests exacerbate food crisis
1.ICSA says food crisis exacerbated by GM vested interests
Leitrim Observer, 16 May 2008
ICSA [Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association] President Malcolm Thompson has said the current food crisis will be exacerbated by the vested interests of global GM companies, following comments made by Olivier de Schutter, UN Food Envoy, who described food shortages affecting 100 million people as a "Silent Tsunami".
Mr De Schutter criticised the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few large multinational companies that provide seeds and fertiliser, process food and distribute it.
"Mr De Schutter has hit the nail on the head. ICSA have been saying for years that regardless of the health benefits or otherwise of GM food, and most people would agree that the jury is still out on that one, it is economic suicide to put our business and livelihoods in the hands of these enormous conglomerates who basically own the right to produce the seed that farmers need. Small farmers worldwide are struggling to stay in business, and the idea that they will no longer be able to harvest their own seeds spells disaster for them", said the ICSA President.
"These companies are trying to patent genetic material that has been used for centuries, and taking away the most basic rights of farmers in the process. We cannot have the world being held to ransom by these corporations, who are acting only in the interests of shareholders."
By Breda O'Brien
The Irish Catholic, 15 May 2008
In March, there were a spate of media report that the Vatican had named seven new deadly sins. Of course, no such thing had happened. Bishop Giancarlo Girotti, and official of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was merely musing aloud in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano about social sins, and their increasing importance in a globalised world.
The author of Ecclesiastes suggests in his first chapter, written several centuries before Christ, that there is nothing new under the sun. With apologies to that royal philosopher, the infinite variety of ways in which humans can conspire to damage their fellow human beings never fails to amaze me. Certainly, there are no new sins, but we are very inventive about new variations on old sins.
Ever since the advent of farming, some 10,000 years ago, seeds and domestic animals have been central to that enterprise. For most of that time, the idea that seeds could be patented, or that farmers would not be allowed to save seed for the next season, would have been seen as bizarre.
It is still an essential part of life, especially in the developing world. Farmers plant in the spring, harvest in the autumn, then save and clean the seeds in winter to re-use the following spring.
It takes a certain kind of perverse genius to intervene in that natural cycle for commercial profit, but the giant Monsanto corporation has done just that. It developed genetically modified seeds that would resist its own herbicide, 'Roundup', offering farmers a convenient way to spray crops without damaging them.
Monsanto then patented the seeds. It has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds, and has won 674 biotechnology patents. Farmers who buy this seed must sign an agreement not to clean and re-use it.
Incidentally, most of the information from this article was gleaned from the May edition of Vanity Fair, which led to an interesting conundrum. Remember that old excuse of males for reading Playboy, that they only bought it for the articles? I feld a bit like that, given that the cover of Vanity Fair features Madonna, in all her almost fifty-year-old glory, wearing a corset and thigh-high boots. The things I have to do for research!
The article paints a deeply disturbing vision of a company ruthlessly enforcing its patents. Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers co-ops, seed dealers, anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds.
As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners and co-ops, infiltrate community meetings and gather information from informants about farming activities. Innocent farmers, who have never bought Monsanto seeds, have been threatened with court action, simply because GM seeds from neighbouring farms have blown onto their land and grown. The majority of the farmers cave in and settle. The prospect of going to court against a global giant with deep pockets is simply too much for them.
Monsanto seeds are estimated to account for 90% of soybean production, used in products without counting. People who wish to avoid GM products in the US have virtually no possibility of doing so.
There is great resistance to GM food in Irelandm, not least because it threatens Ireland's image a producer of green food.
Monsanto now manufactures an artificial hormone, known as rBGH, that makes cows produce more milk. Some US milk producers had grave doubts about it, and advertised that their cows are not treated with it. Unsurprisingly, sales soared for non rBGH milk.
Monsanto turned its guns on these milk producers, claiming that to advertise that the cows were not treated with this bovine growth hormone was to suggest that there was something damaging about their product. They want such advertising banned, on the grounds that they have scientific proof that ther is no harm to cows, or to people, who consume milk from treated cows.
However, according to Vanity Fair, Monsanto admitted that possible side effects include lameness, disorders of the uterus, calving difficulties, and mastitis.
As someone reared on a farm, it strikes me as profoundly wrong that a giant corporation should have the ability to patent seeds, especially for plants that are resistant to such a toxic blend of chemicals. Pity, too, the poor cows that are forced into even greater milk production. Perhaps it might strike readers as far-fetched, but to me, these are variations on old, old sins. The sins of greed and attempts to play God have been around forever.
Monsanto have just invented a new twist on these old sins. When will we learn that such attempts always end in tears?