Linda Kaucher of Stop TTIP UK recently alerted us to the fact that the US government is determined to go into battle with any country that tries to restrict imports of its genetically-modified food.
Its position is that if there’s no concrete scientific evidence to show that it’s bad for human health, then it shouldn’t be restricted. We have two objections to that. The first is that research should be over the longer term if we’re going to find out just what the consequences of GM crops might be in terms of human health, but especially ecology. We’re tired of new technologies being accepted because they make money, and only later is the environmental problems that they cause revealed. But our second objection is much more important – it’s that GM crops are entirely unnecessary. There is no global food shortage, only a money shortage amongst some people. This will be made worse by the adoption of GM food, as the reason that it exists at all is to concentrate even more wealth (as well as control over our food supply) in the hands of multinational corporations. If we’re serious about providing healthy, sustainably-produced food for everyone, we should be concentrating on helping small farmers. Small farms produce much more food per acre than giant, monoculture, factory farms.
Over to Linda:
Here is an article showing the determination of the US Trade Representative to force countries to accept GMOs, via the World Trade Organisation or any other means. Actually the WTO already ruled against EU resistance to GMOs some time back. The US wants what it calls the ‘science-based’ approach, whereby if there is no proof of harm, then a GM product or a chemical etc is allowed onto the market – and, in trad terms, into others countries’ markets. Such positive ‘proof’ is difficult to achieve when effects are long term and difficult to isolate, as with the effects of foods, but especially when most research is carried out by the corporations or by industry-funded academics, as is the reality.
With regulators accepting this as the ‘evidence’ as is shown in the exposed ‘Monsanto papers’ to be the case, with much more, there is little chance of safety restrictions emerging to challenge corporate interests.
This corporate-captured approach to regulating means that safety regulations on food, chemicals and cosmetics are much weaker in the US, with much less banned, and GMOs are in 70% of what is sold in supermarkets.
Forcing acceptance of US GM exports is being framed as a counter to US rural poverty.
Anyway, the Agribusiness industry was the strongest voice in the now defunct TTIP negotiations. And so we can expect huge pressure on our safety standards here especially in regard to GM and especially with a UK government (whichever) inclined to open the UK to GM products.
GM Freeze is the combined campaign here against GM, including for GM.2 to be included as ‘GMOs’. (GM.2 – whereby genes of same organism are manipulated, rather than genes introduced from another organism. The industry is arguing this is not ‘GM’ so should not be subject to GM precautions).
Contact GM Freeze to get their excellent quarterly newsletter on GM developments and campaigning
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1John Harrison September 14th, 2017
I’m approaching this as someone in favour of genetic modification in principle. What I find unacceptable is the way it has been perverted to benefit the global chemical industry like Monsanto. Allowing imports of GM foods from the USA may benefit their large corporate farmers (whose ecological record stinks) and will certainly benefit Monsanto etc. but it won’t benefit small family farms.
This is purely the desperation of our government to do a trade deal at any cost as we leave the EU
Allowing imports without control from the global market is a massive step back for animal welfare, food quality, the local farming industry and our longer term food security.
2Dave Darby September 14th, 2017
Hi John. I think we’ve had this conversation before, but I’m surprised you support it. It’s supposed to end food shortages, but there are no food shortages, just money shortages. The way to end hunger is to build a world of small farms. Small farms produce more food per acre, and anyone who has access to land will never go hungry (barring catastrophic environmental change, which granted, isn’t out of the question). It’s a solution to a non-problem, or at least a different problem – a problem for the corporate sector, i.e. how do they get to control more of the world’s food supply.
3Peter Green September 14th, 2017
Whilst I am fully in support of this article, I am somewhat against the words ‘attack’ and ‘battle’. What with the state of humanity waging war all over the place this seems a little over the top. I doubt the tangerine twit will be nuking us if we don’t bend over!
The title smacks of lame scream media to me. Just my thoughts/feelings, keep up the otherwise great work! ?
4Dave Darby September 15th, 2017
I only hope that the GM industry sees it the same way, but unfortunately I don’t think they do. Nukes, no, but they will be extremely aggressive in spreading their noxious technology. Attacks don’t have to be physical – a cyberattack is still definitely an attack. I’m not saying that non-compliance will result in cyber- (or financial) warfare either, but if we don’t see this as a battle for control of the food industry, we will provide extremely easy pickings for Monsanto and their allies. Scream media? Maybe. I don’t think ‘the Trump administration is going to be quite upset if we don’t by their GM food’ would cut it, really.
5Andrew Rollinson September 15th, 2017
I think that “attack” and “battle” are appropriate. All physical “wars” have been fought because of trade. History does not appear to be changing. Capitalism is inherently about war: between people for jobs, between corporations for profit, between dynasties and empires for trade.
6Peter Green September 15th, 2017
Fair point well made (And Dave’s).
“The Trump administration is going to attack us” just seems so over the top, but maybe it’s not…
I think I’m weary of words and phrases being used incorrectly. Like the use of the word ‘literally’ when the person is clearly not being literal.
Words loose their power or even plain simple meaning sometimes.
7Andrew Rollinson September 15th, 2017
As I get older I am finding it easier and easier to see conspiracies in almost everything. As I have travelled up and down the UK in the last few years, everywhere I see the urban sprawl of cheaply built “town-houses”, and these are not built on former industrial sites, but on farmland. One can see the land being “prepared” years in advance, as it is left to run to seed then the surveyers come in and then the roads and houses. There is obviously a financial reason for why farmers are selling their land, and I know the reasons why the houses are being built – more rates income for councils, more immigration so that there is a greater workforce pool to keep wages low, profits for the big building companies – but is this part of the plan to concrete over all the most fertile places so that we have to buy GM foods and crops? Having lived in the north of Scotland where the land has very poor fertility, and then coming back to England to see this makes me really see this as an absolute crime. And, then in places like Africa, mass land grabbing by global corporations has been going on for years.
8Andrew Rollinson September 15th, 2017
Yes, I agree with you Peter. This also bothers me, particularly with the misuse of “love”, and “vital”. But I’ll not say anymore so as to keep this “on-thread”.
9Dave Darby September 15th, 2017
I don’t think it requires conspiracy. If everyone acts alone or in collaboration with others, using the profit- and interest-driven logic of capitalism, these are the sort of things that are going to happen. Employ as few people as you can, capture (there I go again) the largest market share that you can, produce as much as you can, as cheaply as you can, paying as little as you can, then try to shift it by using advertising to persuade people that they need it. Grow as quickly and as big as you can, throw some money at the political system, give a few politicians a job, get them to draft legislation that benefits you and your ilk. If you don’t do those things, you’re not going to be as successful as you could be if you did. Everybody knows these things, without having to conspire. Having said that, yes, all people conspire to a certain extent – if you’ve ever been part of any group of people, you know that they do. That’s not going to be any different at the top of the corporate sector. But I don’t think there’s some evil master plan. All they have to do is to follow the internal logic of capitalism, and you get what we’ve got.
10John Harrison September 15th, 2017
I thought I was clear that I’m against the corporate perversion of GM to lock in farmers and promote the sales of chemicals like Glyphosate. There are some risks with it as a technology but these are controllable. GM does offer massive potential benefits though and the luddite approach that a lot of the anti-GM community display is not constructive.
Some of the potential benefits – grain crops that fix nitrogen like legumes, crops requiring less water to thrive, crops with in-built disease resistance. The sort of benefits from these are increased yields with less or nil requirements for fertilisers, crops that can be grown in arid areas for local populations, obviating the need for chemical controls for diseases.
In the past government research stations developed new varieties that were freely available to all but now they businesses in effect and beneficial developments can be sold off to the highest bidder who may have reason to suppress them to avoid the benefits above.
11Dave Darby September 17th, 2017
Hi John. I’m absolutely with the Luddites on this. They didn’t smash the new looms because of the technology, but because of who owned them. It’s the same with GM. Ivan Illich called it ‘conviviality’. Is it a technology that we can own? For example, solar power, yes, nuclear power, no. GM is tool that corporations use to try to grab more of the world’s food supply, and is a very, very dangerous path to go down.
I haven’t focused on safety or ecological concerns, but we really have no idea what kinds of problems might be caused in nature, by messing with technology we don’t have the wisdom for. People tend to be dazzled by new tech, but don’t think about the implications in terms of ecological damage or giving more control of all the essentials of life to the corporate sector.
This is interesting too – http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987893/royal_society_must_end_its_partisan_unscientific_support_for_gm_crops_and_food.html
But for me, if it’s a technology that’s being developed by and for the corporate sector, and can only really be controlled by them, then I wouldn’t support it under any circumstances.
12John Harrison September 17th, 2017
I know we won’t agree on the actual technology’s potential benefits but there is absolutely no reason why it should be controlled by corporations – except that our government has hived off so much to the private sector. Would it not be better for us (as a country) to produce things like this that cost relatively tiny amounts and give them to the world?
13Dave Darby September 17th, 2017
What’s the mechanism by which control can be taken away from corporations (in the real world)?
See here – http://www.mintpressnews.com/iraq-war-monsanto-cargill-dow-chemical-took-iraqi-agriculture/216614/
and here – http://oilgeopolitics.net/GMO/Iraq_and_seeds_of_democracy/iraq_and_seeds_of_democracy.HTM
and here – https://www.grain.org/article/entries/150-iraq-s-new-patent-law-a-declaration-of-war-against-farmers
for what happens when the West ‘gives’ technology to the world.
Iraqi farmers, with a 7,000-year history of seed saving, can no longer save or share their own seeds. Iraqi agriculture has been taken over by Monsanto, Cargill and Dow, using vassal politicians.
The government hasn’t ‘hived off’ anything. The government does as it’s told. The corporate sector gave us the NHS after WWII because they were afraid of communism sweeping Europe, and now that threat has gone, they’re taking it back, along with everything else.
GM doesn’t reduce pesticide use, it increases pesticide use, and doesn’t increase yields – https://www.lowimpact.org/new-york-times-gm-crops-require-pesticides-dont-increase-yields/
They sell us a vision of technology solving a food shortage problem that doesn’t exist. The more people who fall for it, the easier it will be for them to take over the entire global food market. People are kicking against it via community-supported agriculture, veg boxes, farmers’ markets, community-supported bread, fish and meat, food co-ops and DIY. GM is not part of that solution, it will prevent that solution.
14Dave Darby September 17th, 2017
Governments will only be allowed to ‘control’ any industry in the research and development phase (as you say), so that taxpayers fund it. When it’s profitable, it’s taken by the corporate sector, never to be returned, unless it needs bailing out.
15John Harrison September 17th, 2017
I’m afraid your response doesn’t seem to make any sense as a response to what I said. I’ve already said the corporate perversion of the technology is a bad thing and that it would be nice if we developed some of the truly beneficial solutions and gave them away. The word give as in donate, free, no strings attached
16Dave Darby September 18th, 2017
I’m asking by what mechanism we would do that – i.e. how do we wrest control from the corporate sector (what I’m getting at is that it’s impossible). The links to what happened in Iraq were to illustrate how the technology is actually going to be spread.
17John Harrison September 18th, 2017
If it’s impossible to win then we may as well stop trying – and that’s a bleak prospect indeed.
18Dave Darby September 18th, 2017
I mean wrest control of GM technology from the corporate sector. As you know, I’ve got plenty of ideas about wresting overall control from the corporate sector (that may well turn out to be pie-in-the-sky, but hey, if you don’t try…..). But where we’re at right now, there’s no way to wrest control of GM from the corporate sector. So the only solution is not to use it. Which is absolutely fine by me, because it’s a solution to a non-problem (i.e. food shortages). It’s a technology that’s designed to help the corporate sector hoover up the whole of the food sector – and nothing else. The means to prevent them isn’t technological – it’s just building a non-corporate food sector (CSA, veg boxes, DIY etc. etc.), and persuading people to use it. And this is happening – slowly. There’s no other way.
19Peter Green September 18th, 2017
There’s a lot of ‘rational’ talk here and scientific ‘facts’, but I doubt anyone here would disagree that a certain amount of gut feeling (which actually does have scientific support!) is also valid and I for one have for many, many years, ‘felt’ that G.M. is bad, very bad. Then I found out that it’s not even needed, as Dave points out.
Add into that the nature of the companies doing the work and their appalling track record, I think my feeling (!) is bang on!
Letting largely untested G.M. crops out of the lab into the enormity of the natural world strikes me as not only daft but bloody stupid, especially given that it’s not even needed…
20Ian Malone October 14th, 2017
GM crops are grown by killing every thing else, weed killer is safe because experts do not know the damage it causes , they refuse to provide insurance and it becomes a public debt when found out.
Science is tainted, there are examples all over the globe showing what goes wrong ,clever words cannot replace extinct species , genetics can change many things but science must be accountable and cost must be shown .
The loudest might make the most changes but that does not make them right .
The public of London drink tap water , mention “BROMIDE ” and a broken society and we have a debate worth showing on tv