Monday, October 5, 2009

A Problem Masquerading as a Solution

Defenders of genetically modified organisms (GMO) never tire of trying to find new ways to trick people into buying their destructive products. If it's not famine, it's drought resistance, increased yield, higher nutritional value and who knows what else. But these defenders don't bother to mention the downsides of all these 'advantages'. Why should we believe that some of the wealthiest, greediest multinationals in the world would want to benefit the poorest and most vulnerable?

For instance, in the article linked to above, we are told that cassava can be modified to resist a serious virus that destroys crops on a huge scale. What is not mentioned is that most of these viruses only affect crops grown on a very large scale. And GMO versions of crops are only feasible when grown on a large scale.

What these idiot defenders fail to get into their thick skulls is that most farmers in developing countries are small scale. They farm a few acres at the most. GMOs have not been shown to be scalable. On the contrary, the 'results' achieved have mostly been in carefully controlled conditions and the techniques are for large scale, industrial production. Small farmers cannot afford to buy overpriced seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. And when their land has been contaminated and rendered completely unproductive, they cannot afford to buy new land. These are just a few 'improvements' that GMOs don't include.

GM companies may, like drug pushers, get farmers hooked on their products with 'free' seeds and other materials. But this will be in expectation of huge returns and farmers will have no way of getting out of the vicious circle they will end up in. Just think of those nice people at Nestle, whose endeavours to get mothers using baby milk formula result in countless deaths every year. Once normal crops have been replaced by genetically modified monocultures, the land will be contaminated for an indefinite period. Levels of biodiversity will be reduced irreversibly.

It's nauseating to hear these claims about how good GMOs are for people in developing countries. They are the people likely to suffer most. GM companies certainly seem to believe in poisoning the earth from the grassroots up. Sphere: Related Content


  1. Unfortunately I think you have fallen into the trap of associating anything genetically modified with being "unnatural" and therefore bad. Pretty much all the food we eat has been genetically modified from it's original form. Corn certainly doesn't look like it did when agriculture began, humans have been using selection processes for thousands of years to modify crops into what we are familiar with today.

    I'm not defending these corporations and their techniques, however I can't help but to try to defend the terminology and it's misuse, although I do acknowledge that it's pretty much entrenched these days.

    Hopefully one day the term "genetically modified" will used with a bit more care, rather than being brandied about as an umbrella phrase for all things evil.

  2. Thank you for your comment, although it seems to have little reference to the posting. I don't use the terms 'natural' or 'unnatural' and I am using GMO to refer to modified organisms that could not occur in nature or without employing gene splicing and other techniques, which I expect you will agree have not been around for thousands of years.

    Nor do I associate things that could be considered unnatural to be bad. Even the process of genetic modification may not be a bad thing in itself. However, GM companies use their products to ensure that farmers are effectively buying their intellectual property and therefore they have a very big say in what a farmer using GMOs can and can't do. The farmer becomes locked into a technology while thinking that it is just another variety of some plant or animal.

    I'm afraid neither you nor anyone else can legislate over how people use words and phrases and like most words, 'genetically modified' is rather fluid and can mean different things depending on the context. Perhaps you have fallen into the somewhat pedantic error of thinking that words have clearcut definitions when language just doesn't work that way.