Dr. Mae Won Ho is a brilliant and fearless truth teller. Her science is impeccable and her voice is loud and strong when it comes to telling the truth about dangerous make believe science. Nowhere is she more vigorous in alerting us to the absurdities and deadly consequences of corporate junk science and junk policies than in the area of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs.
The following article is a must read, must share one which I urge you to forward to as many people as possible so that they can join forces to make sure that all legislators understand that the FDA and USDA are not protecting our interests and Congress must take the reins from them before their criminal negligence kills us all.
The reallity is that stark.
GM is Dangerous and Futile
We Need Organic Sustainable Food and Energy Systems Now
New genetics research invalidates the science underpinning the $73.5 billon global biotech industry and confirms why genetic modification is futile and dangerous; we must implement organic sustainable food and energy systems now Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Invited Lecture at Conference on Future of Food: Climate Change, GMOs and Food Security, 1-2 October 2008, India International Centre, New Delhi
A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS membersâ€™ website. Details here
An electronic version of this report with full references can be downloaded from the ISIS online store. Download Now
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I am deeply and doubly honoured to be part of this important conference on Mahatma Gandhiâ€™s birthday, because it was Vandana Shiva and Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher who inspired me and turned me from an ivory tower academic into a science activist. Consequently, I was thrown out of my university and liberated to join civil society in fighting corrupt science and protecting good independent science.
Food Futures Now , *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free, How organic agriculture and localised food, and energy systems can potentially compensate for all greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities and free us from fossil fuels â€œChange to gene theory raises new challenges for biotechâ€
The headline appeared in the business section of the International Herald Tribune 3 July 2007 . The article went on to say: â€œThe $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded.â€
It was referring to the findings of project ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA elements), organised by the US National Human Genome Research Institute. A consortium of 35 research groups went through 1 percent of the human genome with a fine-tooth comb to find out exactly how genes work.
To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a â€œtidy collection of independent genesâ€ after allâ€¦Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood.â€
The Human Genome Research Institute said that these findings will challenge scientists â€œto rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.â€
The author of the article Denis Caruso commented that, â€œthe report is likely to have repercussions far beyond the laboratory. The presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built.â€ She went on to point out that gene patents and safety assessment based on the same paradigm are also in trouble.
She is right on all counts. I pointed that out 10 years previously when a plethora of findings in molecular genetics had already invalidated the genetic determinist paradigm underpinning the biotech industry. In fact, the paradigm had begun to unravel almost as the industry was starting up twenty years earlier.
The Brave New World of GM Science
In Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, the Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business  first published in 1997/1998 I explained why the science behind GM is wrong and obsolete, and hence dangerous; a story elaborated further in Living with the Fluid Genome  published in 2003.
Genetic engineering of plants and animals began in the mid 1970s in the belief that the genome (the totality of all the genetic material of a species) is constant and static, and that the characteristics of organism are simply hardwired in their genome. This was encapsulated in the Central Dogma of molecular biology. The genetic information goes from DNA, the genetic material, to RNA, a kind of intermediate, to protein which determines the characteristic involved, such as tolerance to herbicide, for example. One gene determines one trait, so you can transfer one gene and get exactly the trait you want, be it herbicide tolerance, or resistance to insect pest.
But geneticists soon discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and â€˜fluidâ€™. It is constantly in conversation with the environment, and that determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by how much and for how long. Moreover, the genetic material itself could also be marked or changed according to experience, and the influence passed on to the next generation. Most of that was known by 1980, long before the Human Genome Project was conceived.
The best thing about the Human Genome Project is to finally explode the myth of genetic determinism  (The Myth that Launched a Thousand Companies, SiS 18), revealing the layers of molecular complexity that transmit, interpret and rewrite the genetic texts  (Life Beyond the Central Dogma series, SiS 24). The ENCODE project has confirmed and extended the complexities especially with regard to what constitutes a gene. Traditionally, a gene is a sequence of DNA that codes for a protein with a well-defined function. This idea has been well and truly shattered ; as Barry Patrick wrote in the Science News  â€œgenes are proving to be fragmented, intertwined with other genes, and scattered across the whole genome.â€
The genetic engineerâ€™s idea of a gene is presented in Figure 1. It has a regulatory signal, a promoter that says to the cell, go and make lots of copies of the coding sequence that would be translated into a protein, and a terminator that says stop, end of message. This is what genetic engineers put into cells to make a genetically modified organism (GMO).
A gene expression cassette, the genetic engineerâ€™s idea of a gene
Figure 1. A gene expression cassette, the genetic engineerâ€™s idea of a gene
Instead, within the human genome, and indeed other mammalian genomes, coding sequences are in bits (exons) separated by non-coding introns, and exons contributing to a single protein could be in different parts of the genome. Coding sequences of different proteins frequently overlap. Regulatory signals are similarly scattered upstream, downstream, within the coding sequence or in some other distant part of the genome. Coding sequences occupy just 1.5 percent of the human genome, but between 74 and 93 percent of the genome produce RNA transcripts , many now known to have regulatory functions. So much so that the project of mapping genetic predisposition to diseases, the original rationale for the Human Genome Project, has now run into serious trouble.
David M. Altshuler, associate professor of genetics and medicine at Harvard Medical School and his research team showed that the risk for type 2 diabetes involves more than a mutated gene. Instead, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and other deadly ailments involve non-coding DNA as well as in genes . â€œWeâ€™re realizing that things happening â€˜somewhere elseâ€™ in the genome, not in genes, are playing critical rolesâ€ in sickness and in health, Altshuler said.
David B. Goldstein at Duke University is very pessimistic. He said the effort to nail down the genetics of most common diseases is not working : â€œThere is absolutely no question that for the whole hope of personalized medicine, the news has been just as bleak as it could be. After doing comprehensive studies for common diseases, we can explain only a few percent of the genetic components of most of these traits.â€ For schizophrenia and biopolar disorder, there is almost nothing, for type 2 diabetes, 20 variants, but they explain only up to 3 percent of familial clustering, and so on.
Goldstein added: â€œwe have cracked open the human genome and can look at the entire complement of common genetic variants, and what do we find? Almost nothing. That is absolutely beyond belief.â€
That is just what I predicted soon after the human genome sequence was announced [10, 11] (Human DNA ‘BioBank’ Worthless, SiS 13/14; Why Genomics Won’t Deliver, SiS 26)
Fresh attempts are now made to redefine a gene either in terms of a protein product  or a transcript , neither of which are satisfactory or would save the industry. All patents on genes based on the old concept are no longer valid; ultimately because the patent is awarded on a supposed function attached to a DNA sequence. But as genes exist in bits interweaving with other genes, so are functions. Multiple DNA sequences may serve the same function, and conversely the same DNA sequence can have different functions. Again, I have explained Why Biotech Patents Are Patently Absurd .
Despite the bewildering complexities of how the genome works, individual processes are precisely orchestrated and finely tuned by the organism as a whole, in a highly coordinated molecular â€˜dance of lifeâ€™ thatâ€™s necessary for survival.
In contrast, genetic engineering in the laboratory is crude, imprecise and invasive. The rogue genes inserted into a genome to make a GMO could land anywhere; typically in a rearranged or defective form, scrambling and mutating the host genome, and tend to move or rearrange further once inserted. Transgene instability is a big problem, and has been so right from the beginning. There is fresh evidence that GM crops grown commercially for years have rearranged [15, 16] (MON810 Genome Rearranged Again. Transgenic Lines Unstable hence Illegal and Ineligible for Protection, SiS 38). This is a real opportunity to challenge the validity of all biotech patents. Another key issue is safety. Transgene instability means that the original transgenic line has turned into something else, and even if it had been assessed as â€˜safeâ€™, this is no longer the case.
The genetically modified genes are a big hazard because they do not know the intricate dance of life that has been perfected in billions of years of evolution. Thatâ€™s ultimately why genetic modification is both dangerous and futile.
Thirty years of GM are more than enough
Weâ€™d had 30 years of GM and more than enough damage done, as detailed in the ISP Report The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World  and the dossier GM Science Expose : Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, Violation of Farmers Rights  we compiled for the European Parliament in June 2007. And more evidence has been piling up since. Why has this been allowed to go on? W documented how national and international regulators and advisory bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority not only routinely ignore the precautionary principle, but also actively abuse science, sidestep the law, and helping to promote GM technology in the face of evidence piling up against the safety of GM food and feed  (GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham, ISIS scientific publication).
Let me summarize the evidence stacked up against GMOs.
* No increase in yields
Successive reports [17, 18, 20] confirm that the yields of all major GM crops varieties cultivated are lower than, or at best, equal to yields from non-GM varieties. Studies from 1999 to 2007 consistently show that GM soya decreased yields by 4 to 12 percent compared to non-GM soya, while Bt maize yields from 0 to 12 percent less than conventional isolines. Up to 100 percent failures of Bt cotton crops have been recorded in India  (and amply confirmed by the farmer witnesses who are here today). New research from the University of Kansas found a 10 percent average yield drag for Roundup Ready soya , and extra manganese is needed for the soil Scientists from the USDA and the University of Georgia found growing GM cotton in the US could result in a drop in income by up to 40 percent [22, 23] (Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38)
* No reduction in pesticides use
USDA data showed that GM crops increase pesticide use by 50 million pounds from 1996 to 2003 in the United States . New data paint an even grimmer picture: the use of glyphosate on major crops went up more than 15-fold between 1994 and 2005, along with increases in other herbicides  in order to cope with rising glyphosate resistant superweeds . Palmer 3pigweed is a major concern in Georgia, with farmer there having to mow cotton down in fields with glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth . And following close on the health of that is glyphosate resistant giant ragweed . Roundup tolerant canola volunteers are top among the worries of Canadian farmers [27, 28] (Study Based on Farmersâ€™ Experience Exposes Risks of GM Crops, SiS 38)
* Roundup lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells .
Roundup is more toxic than glyphosate, and it is used in more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted in the world.
* GM crops harm wildlife
UKâ€™s farm scale evaluations have found that GM crops harm wildlife ; more recently a study led by Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois in the United Stated, found that wastes from Bt corn impaired the growth of a common aquatic insect [29, 30] (Bt Crops Threaten Aquatic Ecosystems, SiS 36). This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is evidence that GM crops, especially Bt crops contribute to the demise of the honeybee worldwide because it compromises their immune system and make them exra-susceptible to attacks by parasitic fungus (31) (Parasitic Fungi and Pesticides Act Synergistically to Kill Honeybees? SiS 35).
* Bt resistance pests and Roundup tolerant superweeds render the two major GM crop traits practically useless .
A recent review concluded that  â€œevolved glyphosate-resistant weeds are a major risk for the continued success of glyphosate and transgenic glyphosate-resistant crops.â€ And the evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented in more than a dozen fields in Mississippi and Arkansas between 2003 and 2006 . Worse yet, secondary pests now plague the fields and spread to other crops in India  (Deadly gift from Monsanto to India, SiS 38).
* Vast areas of forests, pampas and cerrados lost to GM soya in Latin America
Argentina alone has lot 15 m hectares ; and this has worsened considerably with the demand for biofuels (see later)
* Epidemic of suicides in the cotton belt of India
An estimated 100 000 farmers have killed themselves between 1993-2003, and a further 16 000 farmers a year have died since Bt cotton was introduced 
* GM food and feed linked to deaths and sicknesses
Evidence of serious health impacts in lab tests and from farmersâ€™ fields around the world (more below)
GM food and feed inherently hazardous to health 
Here are some highlights from our GM Science dossier  on the hazards of GM food and feed. Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Russian Academy of Sciences showed how GM soya made female rats give birth to severely stunted and abnormal litters, with more than half dying in three weeks, and those remaining are sterile. Hundreds of villagers and cotton handlers in India suffer allergy-like symptoms, thousands of sheep died after grazing on the Bt cotton residues, goat and cows as well were reported in 2007 and 2008  (Mass Protests against GM Crops in India , SiS 38). (As reported by farmer witnesses as this conference, the problem is continuing and sterility in offspring of exposed animals has also been observed.) A harmless bean protein transferred to pea when tested on mice cause severe inflammation in the lungs and provoked generalised food sensitivities. Dozens of villagers in the south of the Philippines fell ill when neighbouring GM maize fields came into flower in 2003, at least five have died and some remain ill to this day. A dozen cows died having eaten GM maize in Hesse Germany and more in the herd had to be slaughtered from mysterious illnesses. Arpad Pusztai and his colleagues in the UK found GM potatoes with snowdrop lectin damaged every organ system of young rats; the stomach lining grew twice as thick as controls. Chickens fed GM maize Chardon LL were twice as likely to die as controls. And finally, GM maize Mon 863 was claimed to be as safe as non-GM maize by the company, and accepted as such by European Food Safety Authority. But independent scientists of CriiGen in France re-analysed the data and found signs of liver and kidney toxicity.
Different animals and human beings exposed to a variety of transgenic crops with different traits either fall ill or die. The evidence compels us to consider the possibility that the hazards of GMOs may be inherent to the technology, as I suggested more than ten years ago .
Table 1. Summary of Exposure of Animals and Human Beings to GMOs
Species GM species Transgene trait Effect
Rat Soya Roundup Ready Stunting, death, sterility
Humans Cotton Cry1Ac/Cry1Ab Allergy symptoms
Sheep â€œ â€œ Death, liver toxicity
Cows â€œ â€œ â€œ
Goats â€œ â€œ â€œ
Mice Pea Alpha-amylase Inhibitor Lung Inflammation, General food sensitivity
Mice Soya Roundup Ready Liver, pancreas and testis Affected
Humans Maize Cry1Ab Illnesses and death
Rats Maize Cry3Bb liver and kidney toxicity
Cows Maize Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac Death and illnesses
Rats Potato Snowdrop lectin Damage in every organ system. Stomach lining twice as thick as controls
Mice Potato Cry1A Gut lining thickened
Rats Tomato Delay ripening Holes in the stomach
Chickens Maize Glufosinate tolerance Deaths
An epidemic of Morgellons Disease has hit the US and other countries that had been involved in genetic modification technology  (Agrobacterium & Morgellons Disease, A GM Connection?. SiS 38). The pathogen is suspected to be Agrobacterium, which has been widely used in smuggling genes into cells to make GMOs. Is this a disease created by GM? There have been close calls before.
US courts rule GM crop field-tests and releases illegal
The message that GM crops are unsafe appears to have got through to the judiciary system in the United States. There have been three court rulings against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to carry out proper environmental impact assessment, making the original releases illegal  (Approval of GM Crops Illegal, US Federal Courts Rule, SiS 34). These are the first rulings against GMOs in the top producing country in the world, which has been also promoting GMOs aggressively.
The first case was on drug-producing GM crops in Hawaii. The court said that the USDA violated the Endangered Species Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act.
The second court case not only ruled GM herbicide-tolerant creeping bentgrass illegal, but also that the USDA must halt approval of all new field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted.
The third decision was passed on Monsantoâ€™s Roundup Ready alfalfa for having been commercial released illegally without an Environment Impact Statement.
An avalanche of bans and rulings strikes GM crops worldwide
There have been numerous bans and restrictions imposed on GM crops in recent years, which say a lot about the inadequacies of regulatory regimes worldwide (see Box 1).
Rulings and bans on GMOs between May 2007 and May 2008
* US GM alfalfa ban made permanent 
* US Federal Court of Appeals ruled against GM bentgrass again 
* Four counties in California have bans or moratorium on GM crops and the first state bill to protect Californian farmers against lawsuits that intimate and harass them when their field are contaminated passed through the Agriculture committee in January 2008 
* Montville USA became the first town outside California to ban GM crops 
* South Australia extended its GM ban 
* Romania joined EU members in banning GM crop Mon 810 , the others are France, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Greece, and Poland
* 13 out of 20 counties in Croatia have declared themselves GM-Free 
* Greece renewed its ban on GM maize seeds 
* Germany imposed much stricter regulations on GM maize 
* Scotland backs GM ban in Europe 
* France banned GM maize Mon 810 in February 2008 and passed GMO law in April to guard against contamination by GMO, making it compulsory for farmers to â€œrespect agricultural structures, local ecosystems and non-GMO commercial and production industriesâ€ [48, 49]
* Wales is set to ban GM crops 
* Switzerland bans crops until 2012 
* More than 230 regions, over 4 000 municipalities and other local entities and tens of thousands of farmers and food producers in Europe have declared themselves GMO-free so far 
EU Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas has expressed serious reservations concerning GMOs  (GM-Free Europe Beginning?, SiS 36), which is unprecedented in the history of the European Commission. On 7 May 2008, the European Commission delayed a decision on allowing farmers to grow more GM crops, and asked European Food Safety Authority to reconsider its previous review, which it had admitted was inadequate, as it was unable to take indirect and long term impacts into account .
No case for GM crops, small scale organic farming is the way ahead
Meanwhile, on 15 April 2008, 400 scientists of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) released its 2 500-page report [55, 56] (GM-Free Organic Agriculture to Feed the Worldâ€, SiS 38) that took 4 years to complete. It is a thorough examination of global agriculture on a scale comparable to the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change.
The IAASTD calls for a fundamental change in farming practice to counteract soaring food prices, hunger, poverty and environmental disasters, it says GM crops are controversial with respect to safety for health and the environment, and will not play a substantial role in addressing climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger and poverty. Small scale farmers and agro-ecological methods are the way forward, and indigenous and local knowledge are as important as formal scientific knowledge. It warns that growing crops for biofuels could worsen food shortages and price rises.
The conclusions of the IAASTD are remarkably similar to our own report Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free  launched in UK Parliament a week later.
Our Food Futures Now report goes a step further. We argue that only organic agriculture can truly feed the world. More than that, organic agriculture and localised food and energy systems can potentially compensate for all greenhouse emissions due to human activities and free us from fossil fuels, and we need to implement this urgently.
The UN has declared 2008 the year of the Global Food Crisis, and it has been the top news story everyday for months now as the crisis deepens. Food prices increased by an average of 40 percent last year; a string of food riots and protests spread around the world including the UK, and more than 25 000 farmers killed themselves in India.
Most commentators agree that the immediate cause of the food crisis is the divestment of food grains into producing biofuels. BusinessWeek identified Monsanto as a â€œprime beneficiaryâ€. Its stock correlated closely with the price of oil (better than ExxonMobile), and hardly correlated with the price of corn, basically because no one will eat its GM corn. Nevertheless the pro-GM lobby are out in force, using the food crisis to promote GM crops.
GM crops are one big failed experiment based on an obsolete scientific theory, and this failure has been evident since 2004 if not before  (Puncturing the GM Myths, SiS 22). Apart from yielding less and requiring more pesticides, anecdotal evidence since 2005 from farmers around the world indicates that GM crops also require more water . Industrial Green Revolution agriculture is now generally acknowledged to be a major driver of climate change as well as being vulnerable to climate change because of its heavy dependence on fossil energies and water, and its susceptibility to pests, diseases and climate extremes [56, 60, 61] (Beware the New “Doubly Green Revolution”, SiS 37)..GM crops have all the worst features of industrial Green Revolution varieties exaggerated, and not least, there are outstanding safety concerns as I mentioned. Growing GM crops for biofuels does not make them safe, as they will contaminate our food crops all the same.
Any further indulgence in GMOs will surely damage our chances of surviving global warming. We must get on with the urgent business of building organic, sustainable food and energy systems right now.
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The following is a briefing on the facts and myths of GMOs which I prepared for members of the Panamanian Government and interested citizens concerning the dangers of genetically modified or, as they are known in Panama, transgenic foods.
The briefing notes the Panamanian legal situation. In Panama, as in the US, GMOs are permitted in the food chain without any labeling at all. This is an ecological, medical and consumer’s rights disaster.
Only strong consumer advocacy, and market pressure against anything which might have GMOs in it (that means avoiding anything which is not labeled “organic” or “GM Free”) will change US policy. But once the environment, or your body, is contaminated with foreign DNA, there is no know way to reverse that process.
Codex, like the US, is totally untroubled by GMOs.
Here is the Myth and Fact Summary
Yours in health and freedom,
Summary of Myths and Facts RE: Transgenic Foods
Rima E. Laibow, MD
May 25, 2008
The provisions of Panamanian Law No. 48 of August 8, 2002 that created the National Commission of Biosecurity for GMOs, in Article 7 – Section 8 – that the Commission â€œPromote the permanent update of the registries, national and international, of organisms genetically modified based on the precautionary principal.â€ This principal requires the utmost caution in allowing transgenic products.
The Natural Solutions Foundation urges the Government of Panama to implement this provision of law by imposing an
immediate moratorium on any additional GMO approvals without strict risk analysis and competent scientific proof of
lack of risk.
Transgenic crops increase yield, reduce cost and reduce pesticide use. In fact, experience and analysis of the impact of GM crops have shown that none of these commercially useful, but unfounded, assertions is accurate.
Panama had registered coffee (arabica), yucca, yam, banana, banana tree, sugar cane, taro root, several varieties of rice, maize, pumpkin, kidney bean, sorghum, and strawberry with UPOV, the International organization, as of 2006 and is releasing a long grain transgenic rice in a few days.
Transgenic crops are carefully regulated before release in prepared foods or as crops
In the US, where virtually all transgenic crops originate, the FDA and USDA operate under a 1992 Executive Order which says that modified and unmodified foods are equivalent. Hence, no safety or other testing is required and both FDA and USDA refuse to require or examine safety testing. Only a patent is necessary to release a food into the food chain and environment. No environmental impact studies or statements are required.
Transgenic crops can be contained in the area where they are planted
Transgenic crops contaminate both same-species and other-species plants.
– Monsanto sues about 500 farmers per year for intellectual property rights through â€œvolunteerâ€ seeds trespassing on the farmersâ€™ land via pollen drift and pollinator contamination
– Organic and conventional plants are irreversibly contaminated by
o Although the US allows 10% GM contamination in certified organic foods (1), compared with most countriesâ€™ limits of 0.9% or 1.0%, organic foods sources are still in short supply in the US because of gross contamination of organic crops
o Conventional crops quickly become contaminated
o Louisiana rice crop contaminated with pharmaceutical rice grown by Bayer â€“ many farmers now growing corn instead to avoid contamination
o Pharmaceutical rice by Bayer Cropscience was shipped as human food to at least 30 countries
o All South African corn now contaminated with Monsantoâ€™s MON810 which has not been approved for human consumption and is considered unsafe in Europe
o New Zealand contaminated by 3 years of mislabeled shipment of maize by US
o All Mexican corn now contaminated by US corn
o Super weeds and super pests are prevalent wherever transgenic crops exist
What Do the FrankenFood/FrankenCrop/FrankenAnimal Defenders Have to Say for Themselves?
The Natural Solutions Foundation, the leading Global Health Freedom organization, is proud to present this information to you. We protect your right to know about – and to use – natural ways to maintain and regain your health, no matter where in the world you live. Among your freedoms is the right to clean, unadulterated food free of genetic manipulation, pesticides, heavy metals or other contaminants and access to herbs, supplements, frequency devices and other means as therapies that may benefit or to protect your well-being without drugs and other dangerous interventions, if you choose.
For more information on our global programs, including the International Decade of Nutrition, and our US based ones, please visit us at www.HealthFreedomUSA.org and www.GlobalHealthFreedom.org and join the free email list for the Health Freedom eAlerts to keep you in the loop, informed and active defending your right to make your own decisions about your health and wellbeing!
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Reason Magazine may be a voice of libertarian politics and economics, but, at least on the issue of Genetically Modified Crops, it has made a serious mistake. Kerry Howley, a Senior Editor at Reason, http://www.reason.com/news/show/125722.html, has somehow forgotten a critical element when writing an ringing apologia full of industry propaganda for the apotheosis, the pinnacle in the triumph of free market over sense or, indeed, reason (and perhaps survival) itself. What he has forgotten is science. Fact, the handmaiden of science, lies trampled in the dust as well. And so does health, yours, mine and the planet’s.
In fact, although unbridled free market economics is the central chord of the libertarian song, the chorus is “As long as your freedom does not hurt me”. And therein lies the rub: Genetically Modified ANYTHING hurts me, and you, and every sufferer of Morgellon’s Disease and every biological function of the earth. But, at least until recently, it certainly has been good business!
But since when is damaging the biosphere not hurting me?
Since when is modifying bacteria which take up residence in our soil and in my gut with potentially lethal long and short term consequences, not harming me?
Since when is creating corn which ensures permanent male sterility and mixing it, unlabeled, into my food, not harming me?
Since when is altering crops to produce so much of a natural pesticide that farmers and their families die from the allergic reaction they experience to breathing the crop’s pollen not harming me?
Since when is introducing “food” into my body, without my consent, which increases allergic reactions, including deadly ones, by 50% not harming me?
Since when is modifying fish so that they are larger, more aggressive and breed earlier in their life cycle so that they will replace native, unmodified fish in the wild, leaving me no choice to eat non GM FrankenFish (because they have been made extinct) not harming me?
Since when is inserting unstable genes into my food which then, undigested by a gut not prepared by long acquaintance to digest them, wander around my body and insert themselves in unpredictable locations in my genes and those of a baby I am carrying if I am pregnant not harming me?
Since when is creating materials which infect and infest me with pseudo life forms bringing a new plague upon the earth, the horrifying and disfiguring Morgellon’s Disease, not harming me?
Since when is creating foods whose wandering genes turn on, or off, my own genes in a totally unpredictable way leading to disruption of the orderly process of genetic control in my body not harming me?
Since when is introducing genetic material which, in the random context of where it happens to land this time in this or that cell, produces proteins never before made inside of any living body (or, perhaps, outside of one, either) without my explicit permission not harming me?
Since when is lowering fetal survival rates though the food the pregnant woman eats during pregnancy, or ate during her own child hood, perhaps, not harming me?
Since when is introducing food into my children’s diet which, in laboratory studies, has been shown to cause damage to the gut, the kidneys, the immune system and the survivability of the young not harming me?
Since when is creating super weeds through genetic drift not harming me?
Since when is creating bugs which, in response to super pesticide production in genetically modified crops, have become resistant to pesticides and capable of new crop devastation without available control not harming me?
Since when is invading farms where non GM crops are growing and destroying their millennia-old genetic material (which I have the enzymatic capacity to digest) not harming me?
Since when is providing food which contains enzymes which confer tolerance for deadly pesticides to a genetically modified plant, but which, in my gut, may transform to produce the same deadly pesticide (a known cause of cancer, infertility and other highly dangerous conditions) they were altered to tolerate not harming me?
Who asked my permission to introduce these things into my body and my world. I would remind Mr. Howley that it is, indeed my world, as well as the world of his commerical free market buddies.
I do not recall signing an informed consent to be a trial subject for the greatest (and possibly most deadly) experiment in human history. Interestingly, I also do not recall signing a contract to allow the degradation and dangerous contamination of 75-80% of every bit of food that I eat with Genetically Modified ingredients. Do you recall signing those documents? So the libertarian chorus, “As long as it does not harm me” seems a little flat in this particular song. Dead flat.
When then-President George H. W. Bush declared that GMOs were equivalent to non GM food and determined public policy, do you recall any safety testing used to guide that decision? Neither do I. When the FDA permits GM foods on the market – that means in your body and mine – without ANY safety testing or a review of the internal safety assessment of the companies that have patented these foods, do they ask us to concur with their decision to allow GMOs in our food which are either under moratorium or banned in a large part of the world, developed or not? But here, in what is alleged to be the most developed nation in the world (with little to back that up in the health and food safety areas!), we are subjected to “foods” and crops and animals which are simultaneously declared to be exactly the same as unmodified foods yet sufficiently unique to patent. And those products of innovation and free market success are, according to the FDA’s website, to be judged in their safety and product liability through the sorting out process of the Court system.
Of course, without traceability there can be no liability. Without labeling there can be no traceability. Thanks for nothing.
So where is the free market, libertarian ethic here? What it comes down to in Mr. Howley’s underlying, structural view is that if you can get away with selling it, not only must that be a good thing to do (“free market”), but hey, “caveat emptor”, let the buyer beware – if they can get away with selling the stuff, they sell it, so it must be good. Of course, the ever-industry-friendly FDA and USDA tie the buyer’s hands and blindfold their eyes by making sure that the consumer has no knowledge whatsoever of what foods do and do not contain GM ingredients. They actually specifically prohibit such labeling because they know full well that consumers will shun the contaminated, altered and potentially very dangerous products which their industry friends have created if they know what they are eating or buying.
Full Free Market Speed ahead and Damn the Facts
GM food crops which have been modified for pesticide tolerance lead to more, not less, pesticide use. Since they are proffered by the maker of the very pesticide they tolerate so well, farmers are encouraged to use more and the free market gets another boost while the food supply, both the consumer’s and the farmer’s health and the environment all take substantial hits.
I attended a meeting in Africa at which Sylvia Matsebo, then Minister of Health of Zambia, was present and we had a chance to talk. I do not know when I have met a more clear sighted and dedicated woman in public life, unless it was the Minister of Health of Kenya, also present at that meeting. When President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia rejected GM food for his people, as referenced by the article below, I cannot but believe that Ms. Matsebo was at the head of his advisers, telling him what was good for his people, not for his pockets. Would that our advisers and our leaders had the courage and wisdom on this issue of President Mwanawasa!
In 2004, author Robert Paarlberg noted, “Roughly 90 percent of the cotton and soybeans produced in the US are genetically modified. Fifty or 70 percent of the corn is genetically modified. If you look at the products on a retail store shelf, probably 70 percent of them contain some ingredients from genetically modified crops. Mostly corn or soybeans.” Today the situation is worse with more products and more percentages of crops grown in the US and elsewhere modified to the point that the supply of GM ingredients to manufacture organic foods is not in jeopardy. For Natural Solutions Foundation concerns, see above.
Reason rests its comfort level with this technology on the assertion that Mr. Paarlberg makes that there are no studies showing the danger of GM foods. That is as patently false as the statement made to me, personally, in a meeting on June 9, 2005, by Dr. Edward Scarborough, the US Codex Contact Point, that there is simply no literature showing the impact of nutrients on health. I sent him, in response, a bibliography containing references to 10s of thousands of peer reviewed articles and books showing the impact of nutrients on health, a good part of them sponsored by grants, or conducted directly by, the US Government. He never responded, of course. My letter, and that bibliography, were published through our website, www.HealthFreedomUSA.org and the bibliography was referenced in our Citizens Petition to the FDA to compel them to cease their illegal “HARMonization” of US dietary supplements to Codex standards. You can join this legal challenge to US Supplement Codex policy here (http://drrimatruthreports.com/index.php?page_id=184).
Mr. Paarlberg exudes joy over the fact that plants modified to make their own pesticides do so at levels up to 10,000 time the amount made by the organism that manufactures it in nature. It is quite effective at the lower level in nature but at these enormous concentrations not only do insects, both crop pests and beneficial ones, die, but the impact on our bodies when we eat the food from the crops – or wear the clothing made from these fibers – modified in this way, is completely unknown. What is know is that the pollen can cause pneumonia and kill people exposed to it as happened in the Phillipines during cotton pollination time.
What is also missing from this enthusiastic recounting of the wonders of this technology is the 22,000 farmers who have killed themselves in the State of Gujerat (India) in their final grim protest against what this crop has done to them – driven them off the land because they cannot afford to pay the intellectual property tax added to the cost of the seed after they were given the seed free for the first year, destroyed their cultures and devastated their families. Somehow that does not count in the economium of free market thinking.
Happily publishing Mr. Paalberg’s unsubstantiated (and inaccurate) assessment that there is no damage to the environment, in the face of well-documented information to the contrary, and blithly accepting the premise that “gene flow”, aka “contamination” is no different from natural crop cross pollination (which does not require the payment of taxes to the “owner” of the natural gene), and the prohibitions against saving seed because of intellectual property rights which accrue to the owner of the patented genes), Reason has lost its reason.
On the issue of organic farming, things get even weirder. Instead of using vermicluture (adding worms to soil) and returning nutrients and soil organisms (or adding them for the first time) through natural means such as composting (every village produces waste: using it properly returns nutrients to the soil – see the Songhai videos here (http://www.youtube.com/naturalsolutions) – the answer of this industrial agriculturalist and Reason seems to be using synthetic fertilizers which deplete the soil more and more with each growing cycle, leading to green, but non nutritive plants. Both Mr. Howley and Mr. Paarlberg seem to have forgotten, or have never known, that organic agriculture replenishes and enriches the soil as a basic technique of food production, rather than wresting contaminated and demineralized plants from an increasingly devitalized soil. Their intentions may be good, but their information, and hence their conclusions, make no biological sense whatsoever. True, they make free market sense. That’s the problem, as I see it.
However, despite his frustration with the lack of penetration of GMOs in Africa, Mr. Paalberg genially recounts that he sees hope on the horizon “Just last week in Nairobi the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and African Agricultural Technology Foundation announced that they would be going forward with the [GMO] drought-tolerant maize project.” Mr. Paalberg may find hope in that. I find it depressing and frightening in light of the aptly named “Doomsday Vault” in which native seeds are being stored by the hundreds of millions in the frozen wastes of Norway above the arctic circle in the bowels of a hollowed-out mountain. The Doomsday Vault was sponsored, in part, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the same people who brought nearly universal vaccination to the children of Africa.
If you are a believer in the wonders of vaccination, that is a generous and humanitarian project. If you are familiar, however, with the literature, not just the propaganda, on vaccination and the impact it has on human populations (autism, cancer, immune collapse, heavy metal poisoning, auto immune disease, etc.), then this “generosity” becomes a cause for concern. The concern is, in my mind, equal to the concern on learning that Mr. and Mrs. Gates have chosen yet another way to forward the biological nightmare of genetically modified foods in yet another vulnerable population.
The Natural Solutions Foundation will attend the 2008 Codex Committee on Food Labeling (April, Ottawa) where the African nations will deal, once again, with the US attempt to push unlabeled GM foods on them through both product and seeds. We will be actively engaged in supporting their leadership to prevent this effort from succeeding. In February, at a meeting on this issue in Accra, the African nations created a de facto coalition which elicited the support of Norway, Russia, Japan, the EU and Switzerland. They, unlike the free market folks, understand that governments have a role to play in protecting the health of their people from corporate desires to expand markets.
How fear of life-saving technology swept through Africa
Kerry Howley | March 28, 2008
In May 2002, in the midst of a severe food shortage in sub-Saharan Africa, the government of Zimbabwe turned away 10,000 tons of corn from the World Food Program (WFP). The WFP then diverted the food to other countries, including Zambia, where 2.5 million people were in need. The Zambian government locked away the corn, banned its distribution, and stopped another shipment on its way to the country. â€œSimply because my people are hungry,â€ President Levy Mwanawasa later said, â€œis no justification to give them poison.â€
The corn came from farms in the United States, where most corn producedâ€”and consumedâ€”comes from seeds that have been engineered to resist some pests, and thus qualifies as genetically modified. Throughout the 90s, genetically modified foods were seen as holding promise for the farmers of Africa, so long as multinationals would invest in developing superior African crops rather than extend the technology only to the rich. When Zambia and Zimbabwe turned away food aid, simmering controversy over the crops themselves brimmed over and seeped into almost every African state. Cast as toxic to humans, destructive to the environment, and part of a corporate plot to immiserate the poor, cutting edge farming technology is most feared where it is most needed. As Robert Paarlberg notes in his new book, Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa (Harvard University Press), in 2004 the Sudanese government â€œtook time out from its genocidal suppression of a rebellion in Darfur to issue a memorandum requiring that all food aid brought into the country should be certified as free of any GM ingredients.â€
Starved for Science includes forwards by both Jimmy Carter and Norman Borlaug, the architect of Asiaâ€™s Green Revolution and the man credited with saving more human lives than anyone else in history. Paarlberg, a Professor of Political Science at Wellesley and a specialist in agricultural policy, wants the West to help small African farmers obtain promising technologies just as it helped Asia discover biological breakthroughs in the 60s and 70s. Instead, he says, a coalition of European governments and African elites are promoting a Western vision of rustic, low-productivity labor.
reason: Was there a particular experience with African farmers that led you to write this book?
Robert Paarlberg: Partly it was the strong impression made on me by my own visits to rural Africa, working with African organizations, working with USAID, working with International Food Policy Research Institute. I started visiting small farms in Africa 15 years ago. Iâ€™d seen a lot of poor farmers in Asia and Latin America but absolutely nothing like this. There was simply no uptake of any modern productivity-enhancing technologies at all in some cases. And I wondered why I hadnâ€™t been aware of this. And then, when I saw more and more narrative in the NGO community and the donor community that was frankly hostile to science, I thought â€œI have to put this down and write a book for younger people in the donor community who may not remember the importance of technology uptake in Asian agriculture 40 years ago.â€
reason: You suggest that your understanding of modern ideas about food production arises from interactions with your students. What is it that they want?
Paarlberg: My students know just what kind of food system they want: a food system that isnâ€™t based on industrial scale monoculture. They want instead small farms built around nature imitating polycultures. They donâ€™t want chemical use; they certainly donâ€™t want genetic engineering. They want slow food instead of fast food. Theyâ€™ve got this image of what would be better than what we have now. And what they probably donâ€™t realize is that Africa is an extreme version of that fantasy. If we were producing our own food that way, 60 percent of us would still be farming and would be earning a dollar a day, and a third of us would be malnourished. Iâ€™m trying to find some way to honor the rejection that my students have for some aspects of modern farming, but I donâ€™t want them to fantasize about the exact opposite.
reason: Can you give an example of a genetically modified seed or organism, something in use today?
Paarlberg: Bt crops have been engineered to contain a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium that expresses a certain protein that cannot be digested by caterpillars. Mammals can digest the protein with absolutely no problem, but caterpillars cannot. When the caterpillars eat the plant, they die.
Whatâ€™s wonderful about this is that itâ€™s so precisely targeted at the insects eating the plant. The other insects in the field arenâ€™t affected. Using conventional corn instead of Bt corn, you have to spray the whole field and you end up killing a lot of non-targeted species. With this variety, you donâ€™t have to spray.
reason: That sounds less scary than â€œGenetically Modified Organism.â€
Paarlberg: The book makes the argument that the overregulation of this technology in Europe and the anxieties felt about it in the United States are not so much a reflection of risks, because there arenâ€™t any documented risks from any GM crops on the market. I explain that reaction through the absence of direct benefit. The technology is directly beneficial to only a tiny number of citizens in rich countriesâ€”soybean farmers, corn farmers, a few seed companies, patent holders. Consumers donâ€™t get a direct benefit at all, so it doesnâ€™t cost them anything to drive it off the market with regulations. The problem comes when the regulatory systems created in rich countries are then exported to regions like Africa, where two thirds of the people are farmers, and where they would be the direct beneficiaries.
reason: How pervasive are genetically modified foods in the U.S.?
Paarlberg: Roughly 90 percent of the cotton and soybeans produced in the US are genetically modified. Fifty or 70 percent of the corn is genetically modified. If you look at the products on a retail store shelf, probably 70 percent of them contain some ingredients from genetically modified crops. Mostly corn or soybeans.
reason: Are there documented safety risks that merit caution?
Paarlberg: There arenâ€™t any. Itâ€™s like the first ten years of aviation without a plane crash.
reason: What about environmental risks? Donâ€™t GM crops affect surrounding plantlife?
Paarlberg: The only impacts they have different from conventional crops are beneficial to the environment. They allow you to control weeds and insects with fewer sprayings of toxic chemicals. And they donâ€™t require as many trips through the field with your diesel tractor, so you burn less fossil fuel. And there is more carbon sequestered because youâ€™re not tilling the soil the way you otherwise would.
There are environmental impacts; there is gene flow. The pollen from a genetically modified maize plant will flow into a neighboring field and will fertilize the crops in that neighboring field. Some of the seeds, as a consequence, will contain the transgene, but thatâ€™s no different from pollen from a conventional maize plant flowing into the next field. Itâ€™s only if you decide arbitrarily to define gene flow from genetically modified crops as â€œcontaminationâ€ and flow from all other crops as natural. Only then does it start to become describable as an adverse effect.
The worst environmental damage ever done by American agricultural was the dustbowl of the 1930s, when we plowed up the southern plains to grow wheat, and all the topsoil blew away. The way we increased production back then was to expand crop area, which was environmentally disastrous. It was a calamity. That was the way we tried to increase production before we had high yielding crops, before we had high yielding wheat varieties, before we had hybrid maize, before we learned to increase the productivity of the land already under cultivation.
reason: Can you give us a sense of what an average African farmer in, say, Zambia, is currently working with?
Paarlberg: It would be a woman and her children primarily, and they would plant not a hybrid maize, but a traditional openly pollinated variety, and they would time the preparation of the soil and planting as best they could for when they thought the rains would come. But the rains might not come in time, or they might be too heavy and wash the seeds out of the ground. Itâ€™s a risky endeavor. They canâ€™t afford fertilizer, and itâ€™s too risky to use fertilizer because in a drought the maize would shrivel up and the fertilizer would be wasted. They donâ€™t have any irrigation. As a consequence, even in a good year their yields per hectare will be only about one third as high as in Asian countries, 1/10 as high as in the United States.
reason: Just as it used to be in Asia.
reason: Right, everywhere. But Asia has moved on in recent memory. The Green Revolution introduced new biological breakthroughs to Asian agriculture to the point where no one today thinks of South Korea as a rural backwater. Why was Africa not a part of this?
Paarlberg: One reason is that Africa is not easily irrigated. The big irrigated crops like rice arenâ€™t to be found in Africa and the big investments in the Green Revolution went into improving Asian crops like rice. The crops Africans grow werenâ€™t the crops that were being improved during the green revolution.
But I donâ€™t blame it all on the Asia-focus of the original green revolution; we have had plenty of time to invest in scientific research for Africaâ€™s crops, and to make investments in rural public goods like roads or power to make it affordable for African farmers to purchase fertilizer. But African governments have not done that job. In my book I show that typically African governments will spend less than 5 percent of their budget on agriculture even though thatâ€™s where two thirds of their citizens work. And if you donâ€™t have larger public sector investments than that, there is just not going to be any uptake in the countryside. But then I go around and show that you canâ€™t blame African governments, entirely, because prosperous donor countries are no longer supporting agriculture in Africa.
reason: No African government other than South Africaâ€™s has made it legal to plant GMOs. You call this â€œout of characterâ€ for the same governments.
Paarlberg: They have not yet enacted the law, set up the biosafety committee, and granted approval, which is the laborious process that [the United Nations Environmental Program] and the European governments have coached them into adopting.
Itâ€™s interesting. In no other area are governments in Africa particularly concerned about hypothetical environmental risks. They know better than to invoke the precautionary principle when it comes to unsafe food in open air markets. They know that they need to first get rid of actual food shortages and raise income; then and only then can they afford to impose the same extremely high standards of food safety on open air markets that are imposed on supermarkets in Europe. Yet curiously when it comes to GMOs they adopt the highly precautionary European standard, which makes it impossible to put these products on the market at all. I take that as evidence that this is not an authentic African response, itâ€™s a response imported from Europe.
reason: So the romanticization of bucolic farm landscapes unmarred by scientific advance has an American and European pedigree.
Paarlberg: Itâ€™s not what we do at homeâ€”only two percent of agricultural products in the US are organically grown. And many of those that are organically grown are grown on industrial scale organic farms in California that donâ€™t bear any resemblance to small bucolic farms. But itâ€™s the image we promote in our new cultural narrative. Itâ€™s something that affects the way we give foreign assistance.
reason: Many of the anti-agricultural science gurus you mention in your book have a spiritual dimension. Can you talk a bit about Sylvester Graham?
Paarlberg: Sylvester Graham, the father of the modern graham cracker, was opposed to the modern flour milling industry. He didnâ€™t like the industrialization of bread production, and he wanted women to go back to grinding flour. He was a religious man, a minister, and he had all of the narrow minded prejudices we might associate with a New England clergyman from the 19th century. He thought that women should stay in the home, he believed people should be vegetarians because that would keep their sexual appetite back. We sometimes forget what goes along with the food purist zealotry. Itâ€™s often zealotry about more than just a certain kind of food to eat.
In Zambia today there are expatriate Jesuits from the United States who have come to believe genetic engineering is against Godâ€™s teaching, though this is not a belief that is embraced by the Vatican. They believe that all living things, including plants, have a right not to have their genetic makeup modified. Of course we have been modifying the genetic makeup of plants ever since we domesticated them 10,000 years ago, but these particular fathers are focused only on genetic engineering.
reason: Isnâ€™t it paternalistic to blame Europeans for the decisions of African governments? Is this something African elites are at least as complicit in?
Paarlberg: Itâ€™s a codependency. The African elites depend upon Europe for financial assistance, they depend upon European export markets, they depend on NGOs for technical assistance, itâ€™s just easier for them to follow the European lead than to go against that lead. And to some extent the European governments depend upon having dependents in Africa that will, despite the difficult experience of colonization, continue to imitate and validate and honor European culture and taste.
reason: What exactly have European NGOs done to discourage productivity in farming? You quote Doug Parr, a chemist at Greenpeace, arguing that the de facto organic status of farms in Africa is an opportunity to lock in organic farming, since African farmers have yet to advance beyond that.
Paarlberg: Some of it is well intentioned. The organic farming movement believes this is an appropriate corrective to the chemical intensive farming that they see in Europe. In Europe, where prosperous consumers are willing to pay a premium for organic products, it sometimes makes sense to use a more costly production process. So they think, â€œWell itâ€™s the wave of the future here in Europe, so it should be the future in Africa as well.â€
So they tell Africans who donâ€™t use enough fertilizer that instead of using more they should go to zero and certify themselves as organic. Thatâ€™s probably the most damaging influence â€” discouraging Africans from using enough fertilizer to restore the nutrients they mine out of their soil. They classify African farmers as either certified organic, or de facto organic. Indeed, many are de facto organic. And their goal is not to increase the productivity of the organic farmers, but to certify them as organic.
I just find that to be lacking in moral clarity.
reason: But there are functioning organic farms. If I decide to buy only organic food from Africa, what will I be buying?
Paarlberg: It wouldnâ€™t be grown by small fair-trade-type poor farmers. It would be grown through a vertically integrated, probably European, company that would bring in the machinery, bring in the seeds, bring in the fertilizers, set up a production system that would more nearly resemble a colonial-era plantation than a small independent African farm.
reason: Weâ€™ve seen similar resistance to GMOs in India and Brazil, both of which now have legalized the use of genetically modified crops. What happened?
Paarlberg: Farmers were planting them illicitly before the final approvalâ€”thatâ€™s one reason they were forced into the approval. The technology worked so well that farmers were planting them on their own and you couldnâ€™t criminalize all Brazilian soybean growers so you had to approve them. Similarly in India, Bt cotton spread on its own and performed so well that the government was eventually shamed into approving it.
reason: You arenâ€™t just calling for people to get out of the way. You want increased aid for agricultural research. But why would any of this require aid? If itâ€™s going to prove profitable, shouldnâ€™t the incentive for private investment be there?
Paarlberg: The farmers who need the technology in Africa donâ€™t have enough purchasing power to be of interest to private companies. Or theyâ€™re growing crops that arenâ€™t a part of a commercial seed market that would interest private seed companies. The only way to reach them, really, is to consider the crops that they grow, for example tropical white maize or cassava. Itâ€™s a little bit like the orphan disease problem. Itâ€™s really something that has to be done as a public good by the public sector.
Thatâ€™s how the green revolution proceeded in India in the 1960s. It was a wonderful success, and it wasnâ€™t really driven by the private sector. It was driven by philanthropic foundations and public investment. Also you need not just seed improvement, but more rural farm-to-market roads, electrification, and things that really governments and only governments are incentivized and capable of doing.
There was a time, before scare stories about technology spread, when the concern was a much more legitimate one: that weâ€™ve handed this technology over to private companies to develop, and they wonâ€™t have any incentive to get it to Africa. And to some extent thatâ€™s still a legitimate concern. There was never any fear that Brazilian farmers or Canadian farmers wouldnâ€™t be able to get the technology, because theyâ€™re big commercial growers. The concern was originally that Africans would want the technology but wouldnâ€™t be able to get it because they didnâ€™t have the purchasing power or the investment climate that could attract private companies.
reason: The book is 200 pages of frustration. Are there any glimmers of hope ahead?
Paarlberg: Just last week in Nairobi the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and African Agricultural Technology Foundation announced that they would be going forward with the drought-tolerant maize project that I describe in chapter 5 of my book. Iâ€™m very pleased that the Gates Foundation has seen the opportunity that this new technology provides. It would be too bad if drought tolerant corn were being grown in Iowa in 2010 and not available to the farmer who really needed it in Africa.
Drought in Africa pushes small farmers back into poverty whenever it strikes. They have to sell off all their household possessions to buy the food their families need until the next season. It blocks the escape from poverty that they might otherwise achieve. Anything that puts a safety net under crop yields is going to protect small African farmers from that periodic decapitalization and let them start accumulating assets for a change.