A blog about arts and societies around the world

Genetically Modified Organisms: They shall not pass!

Genetically modified (GM) food seems to always come back in conversations these days. Should we? Should we not? Some people have become very emotional about this debate. The green skeptics on one side and the ‘necessary to feed a rapidly increasing population’ camp on the other side; not to forget the big crowd in the middle, who are naturally suspicious without knowing much about the issue. What is really at stake here?

I will not write an endless article about a matter where I’m not a specialist. I will leave that to the real experts. However I do read a lot about it. My motives are simple: the future of our children and our planet; and those are not light concerns.

As mentioned in the mainstream media, the European commission authorised last Tuesday (2 March 2010) the trade of several genetically modified organisms: the Amflora potato created by German company BASF, and a few varieties of the MON 863 corn designed by the infamously famous Monsanto firm.

So far, and many of us might not be aware of this, Europe has been one of the strongest opponents to GM food in the world. Any trip to North America or some other parts of the world will confirm it. In Canada for instance, GM ingredients can be found anywhere, from chocolate bars to beer via baby food and so on. No indications can be seen in any labels, and the reason for that is the infamously but this time not so famous principle of substantial equivalence, which Monsanto obviously pushed for approval. To sum it up, according to that principle, conventionally grown food equals genetically modified food, which makes the latter one totally safe to consume.

I will not get into the fact that we don’t know the long-term consequences for both humans and the Earth. Those have been mentioned over and over again by the above-mentioned experts. But one thing really struck me. A potato is potato. By that I mean, it doesn’t belong to anyone. You can’t patent it. However we are now in a situation where a potato doesn’t belong to nature anymore: it belongs to a company.

Once again, that’s the good old corporatist logic. Those who claim GM food will be needed to feed the world are wrong. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated the world currently produces 1.5 times the food required to feed the planet. In other words, we have enough food for everyone but because of free market ideas, companies would rather destroy excess of food than giving it for free while others claim they design food for humanity’s own good.

Claude Bourguignon, a French agricultural engineer, sums it up quite well in his excellent book, Regenerating the Soil: From Agronomy to Agrology. Bourguignon asserts that farmers have collapsed under the burden of productivity. They have lost touch with the essence of what the soil is and they now ignore how to grow in a natural and viable way. A mere understanding of how the soil works then becomes the only required knowledge to ensure sustainability. This sentence will sound very naive to some but in the end, what’s missing is just the love of the earth.

But what is this article doing in a cultural blog, you may ask. Actually, everything is linked. When the Touareg artists Toumast sing their love for their land that is currently abused by French uranium giants Areva, they fight the exact same people who cut trees all over the world to produce GM soya. Let’s get rid once and for all of these globalised corporate ideologies. I do not claim to belong to any political camp. I only want my children, your children to see how beautiful our planet is, how tasteful a strawberry can be, and may they never have to use any of these Monsanto ersatz that would just mark the end of it all.

More on the subject:

Claude Bourguignon, Regenerating the Soil: From Agronomy to Agrology

Khadija Sharife, GM: The food of the future? http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/60523

GMO shopper’s guide in North America: http://gmoguide.greenpeace.ca/shoppers_guide.pdf

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