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Perhaps some of you caught the Internet furor as “a GMO activist recants on GM food” – largely heightened by a classic Wente Globe and Mail commentary. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/an-activist-recants-on-gm-foods/article7018634/?service=mobile)
And if you were curious enough to look deeper into her story you might have taken a read through Lynas’ full speech. (http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/lecture-to-oxford-farming-conference-3-january-2013/)
And if you were even more interested in what was backing his arguments – which it seems Wente was not- you would search through his speech for any pieces of measured analysis or balanced reading of a range of related agro-ecological “science” rather than simplistic hyperbole and ideology. But that would have been hard to find. Perhaps you might have wondered where his script was coming from as it sounds so strategically crafted, and a great deal like the new messages being generated in the PR departments of current Biotech giants. You might have thought to yourself, “what a dream for biotech PR: a former anti-GMO activist proclaiming the error of his ways!”
Or this just a new PR strategy? As Jodi Koberinski points out below – it seems it actually EuropaBio, representing Europes Biotech companies, who is writing the script. A leaked October 2011 recruiting letter from EuropaBio, shows they are actively seeking and paying spokespeople such as Lynas, and crafting his talking points.
I think most of us who hope to eat and grow food today and tomorrow would LOVE true, independent and science based analyses of GM along side other technologies as well as a reasoned and informed discussion of what we need technologies for and the costs and benefits of our range of options – for both new technologies as well as agro-ecological practices.
Just in case you were looking for a response to Wente’s almost-infuriating-if-it-wasn’t-so-devoid-of-any-facts-or-grouding commentary – I thought I would share with you an OP ED Submission crafted by Jodi Koberinski (ED of Organic Council of Ontario). Please share with others.
Op Ed Submission:
The New Environmentalist and the Old Ideologies
Jodi Koberinski, Executive Director of the Organic Council of Ontario
Margaret Wente announces a new “science” not “ideology” based environmentalism in Mark Lynas while criticizing eco-feminist Vandana Shiva’s anti-GMO stance. Yet Mr. Lynas’ speech at Oxford on GMOs is riddled with ideology.
Let’s be clear: biotech companies are not about “feeding the world”, they are about controlling seed. So how can Mr. Lynas’ speech which is factually impoverished produce accolades from Ms. Wente? How can she read such misinformation and hear it as “science”?
Conflicting world views are at play: the reductionist, commodified, mechanistic world view; and the worldview of collective responsibility, the commons as championed by Dr. Shiva. Her concept of “Earth Democracy” requires life-oriented, scientifically sound approaches to policy and regulation where ecosystems are concerned. The economy serves life, not the other way around.
Ms. Wente outlines what she admires in Lynas as an environmentalist: technology can be a force for good, and environmental responsibility is compatible with human betterment and economic progress. Yet Dr. Shiva’s environmentalism embraces these truths- for example, her research farm produces twice the nutrition per acre of monocultures: is this not better for people and the economy?
And therein lies the rub. What does Ms. Wente mean by “human betterment” and “economic progress”?
Where are the conversations about assumptions and what problems needing solving? Rather than responding to disinformation, we need to address root assumptions to act responsibly as global citizens.
Just because Dr. Shiva’s ontological framework differs from Mark Lynas’ doesn’t mean Mr. Lynas speaks “truth” and Dr. Shiva speaks “ideology”. Rather, Ms. Wente and Mr. Lynas share a framework. It is therefore invisible to them both.
We reject GMOs not because we are anti-science: biotech is anti-science. Biotech won’t allow experimentation or inquiry, let alone regulation. We reject GMOs because it’s what good science requires.
Ms. Wente identifies GMOs as a moral issue. Brewster Kneen wrote Farmageddon asking the moral question “just because we can do this, ought we?” What problem is biotech the solution to that agro-ecological approaches can’t solve?
Ms. Wente takes exception with Dr. Shiva’s tweet dealing with GMOs as a moral issue. Dr. Shiva suggests allowing farmers to plant GMOs is akin to permitting rapists to rape. “To seize and take away by force; an outrageous violation”. Rape. The GMO farmer can violate his/her neighbours’ crops with offending GMOs the farmer did not choose to grow with impunity. There is no consent. It is an act of force, a violation. How is this so outrageous? Let’s not pretty it up with words like “cross contamination”. It’s only outrageous if one doesn’t understand farming.
Blind ideology is at play. Does Ms. Wente buy Mr. Lynas’ assertion that the cost of developing biotech and corporate concentration are due to green opposition? Guess who crafted that talking point? EuropaBio who reperesents big biotech wrote it, along with the 20+ fallacious claims Lynas makes.
In late 2011, EuropaBio sought spokespeople for its PR campaign to re-educate Europeans on GMOs. They book the engagements, the interviews, they write the bylines, the letters to the editor. There isn’t anything wrong with having spokespeople- its secrecy that’s troublesome, as revealed in EuropaBio’s leaked October 2011 recruiting letter describing how the campaign is being entirely funded and coordinated by the group.
Let’s be clear: GMOs are about control, not about feeding the world. Trotting out the ideologically-based “2050” Myth is tired.
Loblaw Sustainability Chair Dr. Ralph Martin’s analysis shows we could “feed the world” without the mythical 75% production increase by addressing underlying issues: post-harvest handling and food waste (40% of what is grown- wasted); appropriate protein sources and calorie intake; emancipation of women; and political will to distribute food equitably and apply appropriate technology. FAO itself states that argo-ecology, not “biotechnology” will meet the demands of the next 100 years.
Indian farmers watched cotton prices increase 8000% since bT cotton was introduced. Communities have endured a quarter million farmer suicides in India’s cotton belt due to crushing debt created through the GMO seed-chemical dependence cycle and failed Monsanto promises of yield and quality. GMOs are not about helping poor farmers or feeding the world. If the “new” environmentalism of Mr. Lynas can’t come clean, let it at least stop repeating this lie.