The British government appears hell bent on ramming the GM biotech sector’s poison done the throats of the British people. Food and Farming Secretary Owen Paterson has been called a puppet of the sector and is either ignorant of or is wholly misrepresenting the efficacy and health impacts of GMOs (1), while Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor of the European Commission, has been accused of presenting lies as facts over the GM issue (2).
Now the British government’s Chief Scientist, Mark Walport, has insisted that EU rules banning the commercial cultivation of GM crops have to be changed to feed the world:
“We take it for granted that because shelves in supermarkets are heaving with food there is no problem. But we have limited agricultural land around the world and in the UK.
Climate disruption and population growth are increasing the pressures on food supply. The challenge is to get more from existing land in a sustainable way, or people will go unfed.”
In a recent letter to PM David Cameron, he said:
“We should have confidence in the scientific evidence which concludes that, when properly controlled, GM products are as safe as their conventional counterparts.”
Genetic scientist Jonathan Jones has weighed in by claiming:
“How anyone could think this is a bad thing boggles the mind. We need to better explain that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the GM method.”
Perhaps Paterson, Glover, Walport and Jones would like to turn their minds to a vast body of scientific evidence that serves to make their claims look ridiculous. If Walport places so much faith in scientific evidence, here is some for him to chew on.
GMOs and glyphosate, which is used in conjunction with many GM crops and in increasing quantities as more GM crops are planted (3,4), are associated with birth defects and infertility (5), autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s (6), celiac disease and gluten intolerance (7), Morgollons disease (8) and a wide range of other diseases (9,10).
In terms of solving hunger, his argument is flawed too: more traditional methods of producing food produce lead to greater results and are genuinely sustainable, unlike chemical-industrial agriculture and GMOs which are clearly not (11,12,13,14,15).
Predictably, however, much of the mounting evidence about the negative impacts of GMOs is dismissed by the GM sector as ‘bad science’ appearing in bogus (yet peer reviewed) publications, whereas the ‘independent’ studies that the sector’s mouthpieces choose to quote are carried out, funded or somehow supported by from the industry itself.
GMOs and the imperialist mindset
If Paterson et al really want to address hunger, they need look no further than the type of corporate-driven economic plunder being pursued under the guise of neo-liberalism (16) and the associated nature of the global system of food production and distribution (17), which by creating indebtedness and destroying food sovereignty is skewed to benefit rich nations and creates and sustains hunger and food poverty and unnecessary ‘population pressures’ in parts of the world.
Paterson et al may like to take a hard look at the imperialist policies being pursued by rich nations under the banner of ‘globalisation’ or ‘spreading democracy’ via militarism or ‘free’ trade if they or the corporations they are backing are keen to talk about feeding the world and a world of plenty for all. Those policies, whether applied to Ukraine (18), India (19) or imposed on ordinary people in the EU (20) or elsewhere are aimed at concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a corporate global oligarchy. The type of solution they propose for food poverty is the type of solution that springs from an engrained imperialist mindset, however unwitting that mindset may be. We already live in a world of plenty – appropriated from those who are denied it.
As if to underline that fact, many people in Britain are going hungry, one of the richest nations on the planet, not because of a lack of food, but because they are being impoverished as a result of the very policies outlined above (21). It’s a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the world.
Such people (Walport, Paterson, etc) could spend their time more usefully by lobbying against such policies as opposed to lobbying for the corporations and the US state that fuel this system and which seek to profit from using tampered with food as a weapon to control food producers, food consumers and nation states.
New pro-GM ‘independent’ report
Walport and Jones’s statements came on the back of a report from a government advisory body released last week. It was presented as an ‘independent’ report in a bid to speed up the use of GM food in the UK, regardless of the fact that British people do not want it (22). However, according to the Mail Online (23), all five authors of the report have a vested interest in promoting GM crops. Little surprise then that they call for GM crops to be fast-tracked into Britain.
The academics who authored the report were selected by the Council for Science and Technology, the body that advises the British Prime Minister on science policy issues. According to Sean Poulter and Ben Spencer of the Mail Online, no information was given during the press conference about the report regarding the five scientists, beyond their names and the institutions they work for.
One is a consultant for Syngenta, which gives his academic department research funding. Syngenta is behind a GA21 GM maize or corn, which could go into farms as early as next spring, making it Britain’s first commercially grown GM crop. Another author works for the Sainsbury Laboratory, which is at the centre of Britain’s GM research. It is part-funded by Lord Sainsbury, who is one of the country’s biggest supporters of the technology. And another author was a founder member of CropGen, which describes its mission as “to make the case for GM crops and foods.”
The study suggested GM crops could save the hungry in the developing world from starvation and create new plants resistant to disease and pests – similar to the usual PR that the GM sector spews out in its glossy brochures. The authors argued that current EU regulation should be re-drawn to allow the UK to go it alone and plant the crops, even if the rest of Europe objects.
Claire Robinson of GM Watch has said:
“By no stretch of the imagination can these people be described as independent scientists. Their views should be treated with the same scepticism we would apply to any sales pitch.”
Critics say the timing of the release of the study and a supporting letter from Mark Walport, are highly suspicious. The details were sent to PM David Cameron in November, but Walport and ministers delayed going public until now. Walport claimed that the regulations, which have so far kept commercial GM cultivation out of Britain, are not fit for purpose and need urgent changes.
Owen Paterson, who is little more than a mouthpiece for the GM sector, is trying to convince the EU to allow Britain to plant GM crops even if other states want a ban. The Mail Online says the publication of the supposedly independent study calling for exactly this policy is expected to prove useful in those negotiations.
Director of GM Freeze, Liz O’Neill, asserts:
“A group of scientists with financial interests in the success of GM wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in November, but waited four months to tell the press about it: just in time for EU discussions about regulation. Something certainly smells a bit fishy.”
Dr Brian John, of the group GM Free Wales, said:
“This extraordinary report, published very conveniently to coincide with Owen Paterson’s attempts within the EU to dismantle GM regulations and to repatriate powers to the UK, is in turns naive, biased, disingenuous, cynical, and downright dangerous. We find it incredible that five senior scientists can have been so dismissive of the work of scores of independent scientists who have discovered that GM organisms are directly and indirectly harmful to mammals and to the environment. In the world of science there should be respect for those whose findings are ‘inconvenient.”
The Science Media Centre, which released the report, insisted the authors were independent. A spokesman said:
“They are not employed by government or industry, and each works for different publicly funded universities and research institutes. For better or worse, it’s not unusual any more for universities and institutions to get bits and pieces of funding from government, charities and industry – indeed many can only access public money on condition that they raise a proportion of their funds from commercial or private sources. This does not automatically undermine their independence.”
One of the authors of the report by the, which advises the government, argued that the debate had been skewed by an anti-GM ‘neurosis’ which has slowed progress.
Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning argued:
“It’s really just not good enough for a group of scientists who have a strong interest, it seems, through their funding sources, in persuading a reluctant public to accept the growing of GM crops in the UK, to be the ones who attempt to write the rule book on how that should happen.”
Does Britain or for that matter the world want to hand over its entire food sovereignty to US agribusiness, which wants to control the entire system of food production and distribution (24)? Recent events in India indicate how GM sector puppets in high political office are narrowing our choice (25). People are already dying as a result of the chemicals being inserted into and sprayed onto their food. GMOs offer more of the same and also provide the opportunity for the US to hold virtually every country on the planet to ransom once its corporations own all food, from lab to seed to table.