I am very distrustful of genetic foods, not because it’s necessarily inherently evil, but because I do not trust for-profit companies to have our best interest at heart, and in a Monsanto-dominated world, it will be used to destroy not just the farmers, but our health.
But what if GM foods can be combined with organic agriculture, and divorced from dangerous private interests, does it become acceptable then?
Here is a position on the issue, an excerpt from a editorial by Pamela Ronald in the Boston Globe.
It is followed by the counter-argument from Herve Le Crosnier. Please note Herve is a French-language speaker, and the text may be less than perfect in English, but still eminently readable and cogent.
“To meet the appetites of the world’s population without drastically hurting the environment requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming.
This idea is anathema to many people, especially the advocates who have helped build organic farming into a major industry in richer countries. As reflected by statements on their websites, it is clear that most organic farming trade organizations are deeply, viscerally opposed to genetically engineered crops and seeds. Virtually all endorse the National Organic Standards Board’s recommendation that genetic engineering be prohibited in organic production.
But ultimately, this resistance hurts farmers, consumers, and the planet. Without the use of genetically engineered seed, the beneficial effects of organic farming – a thoughtful, ecologically minded approach to growing food – will likely remain small.
Despite tremendous growth in the last 15 years, organic farms still produce just a tiny fraction of our food; they account for less than 3 percent of all US agriculture and even less worldwide. In contrast, in the same period, the use of genetically engineered crops has increased to the point where they represent 50 to 90 percent of the acreage where they are available.”
Hervé Le Crosnier:
I’m sorry, but I can’t follow the way suggested by Pamela Ronald.
First of all, we have to understand what really genetic food is. the way seed are industrially produced from the 30’s of the preceeding century is two fold:
– one to have the only yield in focus : no matter the taste, nutrition quality, social quality of plants… If so, nature and farmers, from milleniums are doing their best to get an equilibrium between yield and nature preservation
(in all senses : between plants and animals, and between men and women living on rural area, with their social environment).
– the other is hold up on reproduction. From hybrids to GMO, plants are everyday considered as “property” of the one who selected it. No matter if centuries or milleniums of peasants have pre-selected the vast majority of agricultural plants. This means a yearly toll for peasants (and their consequences, as massives suicides of indian farmers), and erosion of biodiversity (the “catalog” of authorised alimentary plants). With the call to intrants to replace nature biodiversity in each one field… and many other consequences, especially on the role of women in rural communities who for centuries uses this diversity for family food and healing… i have no enough place to write).
Next we have to look at the way ahead for the biotech. First they produce buggy GMO, especially those who are pest-resistants (more buggy again because they tend to use more and more pest in fields).
Then they say “we need to stop propagation of these buggy plants”. So it’s GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) the most known technic be the “Terminator”, thanks to “etc group” for naming this technology with a popular and understandable name. Every year at the CBD, there’s tentative to uphold the moratorium on theses technologies…
In laboratories now is the “biocontainment” : plant are genetically engineered to become dual systems : they need an adjuvant to realize their maturity, and then can change their own genetic trace to be as they were not GMO. European Union is pushing studies that way in the “transcontainer project”.
This technologies put the responsability into the hands of the farmer, who must add it’s chemically produced adjuvant at the very good time if they want their plants to be commercialisable. No matter what nature and climate variations is.
Then will come synthetic biology. Nature will be an industrial process, and not only a partner in nourrishing and clothing people. This will be the upstart of “sugar capitalism”.
Any scientist approach which don’t take in count the whole story is finally an agreement with the hold-up against nature and rural communities by a very few big concentrated monopolies, acting all along the agricultural chain. And emerging from the North biotech giants, these monopolies, with all their action on the intellectual property instances (WTO, WHO, WIPO,…), are a jiu-jitsu for introduce a new world domination, we can call bio-imperialism.
There is another very important problem with the buggy reasoning of Pamela Ronald : it’s the acceptation of the inacceptable. If politics, and collective decisions can’t help changing the way we produce food, so we have to accomodate.
This buggy reasoning is also the one of those who think that politics and collective decisions are not able to deal with the climate change, and reorient our world way of living.. so they will get to a B plan : geo-engineer the whole earth. Not only this is crazy world wide buggy experience, as the LOHAFEX shows on the first part of 2009, but it’s also a one that depossess people of their own power on their own individual and collective living. The exact contrary of the organic farming experience, which is a fruit of the new Communalism of the 70’s.
Sorry to desagree so radically with this approach, i think it will led the movement in such a wrong direction, as for the future of farming (always remember this is more than half of the world population) and the one of every other who have to eat every day, and accomodate global changes.