Natural Solutions Foundation
November 16, 2009
Natural Solutions Foundation is the largest and most effective health freedom organization in the world. We are 100% supporter supported. Your tax deductible donations are essential to our work. Click here, http://drrimatruthreports.com/?page_id=189, to set up your recurring donation, large or small.
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Natural Solutions Foundation is working hard to end the ravages of the type of industrial agriculture you’ll read about below. Through our Valley of the Moon(TM) Eco Demonstration Project we’re reclaiming the production of food, making them eligible for Friendly Food Certification(TM) because it is friendly to the earth, friendly to the workers and friendly to the consumer. The first Friendly Food Certified(TM) food is our GMO-Free, Pesticide-Free, Toxin-Free Valley of the Moon(TM) Coffee grown in the Highlands of Panama and brought to your coffee cup so you can Wake Up to Health Freedom(TM). Click here, http://www.ValleyoftheMoonCoffee.org, to order your Valley of the Moon(TM) Coffee and support health freedom and your health. Your gift list, both personal and corporate, will appreciate it. And your accountant will appreciate it, too, because 80% of each purchase of Valley of the Moon(TM) Coffee is tax deductible!
Industrial Agriculture is now going global, with its dislocation, its toxic environments, its massive profits and its social destruction under the guise of nations looking for fresh farmland.
Food is the new oil. Corporations are the not-so-new sharks – well, that is not fair to sharks. They have a real place in the biosphere and the multinationals have made it clear over decades and decades of abuse that their place in the economic ecoshphere might be best compared to Darth Vader.
The Natural Solutions Foundation, www.GlobalHealthFreedom.org, www.HealthFreedomUSA.org, has identified food sustainable food production, and, of course, land ownership by those producing the sustainable food on it, as a key issue for health, community cohesion and economic success, social strength, freedom and, indeed, peace.
It is for that reason that we have established the remarkable, and vitally important Valley of the Moon(TM) Eco Demonstration Project in the Chiriqui Highlands of Panama. We believe that access to food, clean, unadulterated food, is a basic human right and that restricting that access is a massively powerful way to remove rights and take away basic human needs and, eventually, life.
At VotM we are practicing what we preach and are creating schools for a melding of ancient and modern techniques to reclaim the production of clean, unadulterated food for both farmers and non farmers alike.
In fact, in addition to our Intensive Urban Agriculture classes and courses with children and adults using many of the techniques you can see on our Food Freedom eJournal, www.FoodFreedomeJournal.org, we are now heavily involved in removing the dangerous chemicals from coffee and food production. Cattle production, for example, uses many different toxic chemicals for keeping pests at bay and, in some cases, increasing milk production.
Natural Solutions Foundation has been asked by the government here to help farmers break the dangerous cycle of chemical and drug inputs leading to weaker ecosystems and animals which then require more of the expensive and dangerous inputs.
Add corporate land ownership, where there is zero interest in health, sustainability or cultural cohesion and you have Monsanto’s GMO cotton farming disaster in India where tragically high numbers of farmers, having lost their land to the deceptive practices of GMO cotton companies, see no recourse but to kill themselves after they have lost their land and have no means to sustain themselves and their families.
Why is reclaiming the production of food important to you, today? If you live in the US, about 90% of the food you eat either IS GMO or contains GMO ingredients. GMO foods are now known to cause cancer, autoimmune diseases, infertility, birth defects, loss of CD-4 cells to the point that the criteria for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (yes, that’s right: HIV/AIDS) are met, and a host of serious, permanent diseases and mutations. These altered foods contain material which crosses the placental and blood brain barriers to cause permanent genetic changes, as they do in the bacteria of the GI tract and in every cell in the body.
“But I eat only certified organic food!” you may say. Well and good IF you are growing your own organic food, protected from both pesticide and genetic drift. Otherwise, the US allows 10% or more GMO contamination of organic food without any labeling. Indeed, labeling of GMO foods is actually prohibited in the US because, as Dr. Barbara Schneeman announced at a Codex Meeting in Norway on the topic, since the FDA administratively determined that genetically modified foods are “substantially equivalent” to non modified foods [in the absence of a single shred of scientific support for this concept – if they were substantially identical, they would not be patentable – REL] and since consumers would reject these genetically modified foods if they knew that they WERE genetically modified, the FDA is preventing them from making an error in rejecting them. So, instead, the FDA and USDA are carrying out the world’s largest experiment on every eater on the planet. It is an experiment carried out, of course, without any informed consent. On you. On your children. On the children that you, or others, will never have because of the sterility impact of these foods.
But that is not all, of course. Corporate agriculture pumps poisons (that is a literal description, of course, not a figurative one) into the bodies of the workers, the environment and the bodies of the consumers. If the land becomes too toxic, or the water no longer supports growth and life, the corporation moves on, like a parasite which has sucked the life out of its host and then, when the host can no longer support it, drops off and moves on to another host.
Food and freedom are intimately intertwined. This theme has been with us for a very long time. Look at the myths of the bible: remember that when Essau was hungry, he sold his birthright to Jacob. When Joseph and his brothers were hungry, they traded their freedom for the fleshpots of Egypt.
Industrial Agriculture can be, if its owners wish it, the newest form of scorched earth policy: stave those whom you do not wish to survive.
Published on Sunday, November 15, 2009 by GRAIN The New Farm Owners: Corporate Investors Lead the Rush for Control over Overseas Farmland
With all the talk about “food security,” and distorted media statements like “South Korea leases half of Madagascar’s land,”1 it may not be evident to a lot of people that the lead actors in today’s global land grab for overseas food production are not countries or governments but corporations. So much attention has been focused on the involvement of states, like Saudi Arabia, China or South Korea. But the reality is that while governments are facilitating the deals, private companies are the ones getting control of the land. And their interests are simply not the same as those of governments.
“This is going to be a private initiative.”
– Amin Abaza, Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture, explaining Egyptian farmland acquisitions in other African nations, on World Food Day 2009
Take one example. In August 2009, the government of Mauritius, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, got a long-term lease for 20,000 ha of good farmland in Mozambique to produce rice for the Mauritian market. This is outsourced food production, no question. But it is not the government of Mauritius, on behalf of the Mauritian people, that is going to farm that land and ship the rice back home. Instead, the Mauritian Minister of Agro Industry immediately sub-leased the land to two corporations, one from Singapore (which is anxious to develop the market for its proprietary hybrid rice seeds in Africa) and one from Swaziland (which specialises in cattle production, but is also involved in biofuels in southern Africa).
This is typical. And it means that we should not be blinded by the involvement of states. Because at the end of the day, what the corporations want will be decisive. And they have a war chest of legal, financial and political tools to assist them.
“What started as a government drive to secure cheap food resource has now become a viable business model and many Gulf companies are venturing into agricultural investments to diversify their portfolios.”
– Sarmad Khan, “Farmland investment fund is seeking more than Dh1bn”, The National, Dubai, 12 September 2009
Moreover, there’s a tendency to assume that private-sector involvement in the global land grab amounts to traditional agribusiness or plantation companies, like Unilever or Dole, simply expanding the contract farming model of yesterday. In fact, the high-power finance industry, with little to no experience in farming, has emerged as a crucial corporate player. So much so that the very phrase “investing in agriculture”, today’s mantra of development bureaucrats, should not be understood as automatically meaning public funds. It is more and more becoming the business of … big business.
The role of finance capital
GRAIN has tried to look more closely at who the private sector investors currently taking over farmlands around the world for offshore food production really are. From what we have gathered, the role of finance capital — investment funds and companies — is truly significant. We have therefore constructed a table to share this picture. The table outlines over 120 investment structures, most of them newly created, which are busy acquiring farmland overseas in the aftermath of the financial crisis.3 Their engagement, whether materialised or targeted, rises into the tens of billions of dollars. The table is not exhaustive, however. It provides only a sample of the kinds of firms or instruments involved, and the levels of investment they are aiming for.
Private investors are not turning to agriculture to solve world hunger or eliminate rural poverty. They want profit, pure and simple. And the world has changed in ways that now make it possible to make big money from farmland. From the investors’ perspective, global food needs are guaranteed to grow, keeping food prices up and providing a solid basis for returns on investment for those who control the necessary resource base. And that resource base, particularly land and water, is under stress as never before. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, so-called alternative investments, such as infrastructure or farmland, are all the rage. Farmland itself is touted as providing a hedge against inflation. And because its value doesn’t go up and down in sync with other assets like gold or currencies, it allows investors to successfully diversify their portfolios.
“We are not farmers. We are a large company that uses state-of-the-art technology to produce high-quality soybean. The same way you have shoemakers and computer manufacturers, we produce agricultural commodities.” Laurence Beltrão Gomes of SLC Agrícola, the largest farm company in Brazil.
But it’s not just about land, it’s about production. Investors are convinced that they can go into Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet bloc to consolidate holdings, inject a mix of technology, capital and management skills, lay down the infrastructures and transform below-potential farms into large-scale agribusiness operations. In many cases, the goal is to generate revenue streams both from the harvests and from the land itself, whose value they expect to go up. It is a totally corporate version of the Green Revolution, and their ambitions are big. “My boss wants to create the first Exxon Mobil of the farming sector,” said Joseph Carvin of Altima Partners’ One World Agriculture Fund to a gathering of global farmland investors in New York in June 2009. No wonder, then, that governments, the World Bank and the UN want to be associated with this. But it is not their show.
From rich to richer
“I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time. Eventually, of course, food prices will get high enough that the market probably will be flooded with supply through development of new land or technology or both, and the bull market will end. But that’s a long ways away yet.”
– George Soros, June 2009
Today’s emerging new farm owners are private equity fund managers, specialised farmland fund operators, hedge funds, pension funds, big banks and the like. The pace and extent of their appetite is remarkable – but unsurprising, given the scramble to recover from the financial crisis.
Consolidated data are lacking, but we can see that billions of dollars are going into farmland acquisitions for a growing number of “get rich quick” schemes. And some of those dollars are hard-earned retirement savings of teachers, civil servants and factory workers from countries such as the US or the UK. This means that a lot of ordinary citizens have a financial stake in this trend, too, whether they are aware of it or not.
It also means that a new, powerful lobby of corporate interests is coming together, which wants favourable conditions to facilitate and protect their farmland investments. They want to tear down burdensome land laws that prevent foreign ownership, remove host-country restrictions on food exports and get around any regulations on genetically modified organisms. For this, we can be sure that they will be working with their home governments, and various development banks, to push their agendas around the globe through free trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties and donor conditionalities.
“When asked whether a transfer of foreign, ‘superior’, agricultural technology would be welcome compensation for the acquisition of Philippine lands, the farmers from Negros Occidental responded with a general weariness and unequivocal retort that they were satisfied with their own knowledge and practices of sustainable, diverse and subsistence-based farming. Their experience of high-yielding variety crops, and the chemical-intensive technologies heralded by the Green Revolution, led them to the conclusion that they were better off converting to diverse, organic farming, with the support of farmer-scientist or member organizations such as MASIPAG and PDG Inc.”
– Theodora Tsentas, “Foreign state-led land acquisitions and neocolonialism: A qualitative case study of foreign agricultural development in the Philippines”, September 2009
Indeed, the global land grab is happening within the larger context of governments, both in the North and the South, anxiously supporting the expansion of their own transnational food and agribusiness corporations as the primary answer to the food crisis. The deals and programmes being promoted today all point to a restructuring and expansion of the industrial food system, based on capital-intensive large-scale monocultures for export markets. While that may sound “old hat”, several things are new and different. For one, the infrastructure needs for this model will be dealt with. (The Green Revolution never did that.) New forms of financing, as our table makes plain, are also at the base of it. Thirdly, the growing protagonism of corporations and tycoons from the South is also becoming more important. US and European transnationals like Cargill, Tyson, Danone and Nestlé, which once ruled the roost, are now being flanked by emerging conglomerates such as COFCO, Olam, Savola, Almarai and JBS.4 A recent report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development pointed out that a solid 40% of all mergers and acquisitions in the field of agricultural production last year were South-South.5 To put it bluntly, tomorrow’s food industry in Africa will be largely driven by Brazilian, ethnic Chinese and Arab Gulf capital.
Exporting food insecurity
Given the heavy role of the private sector in today’s land grabs, it is clear that these firms are not interested in the kind of agriculture that will bring us food sovereignty. And with hunger rising faster than population growth, it will not likely do much for food security, either.
One farmers’ leader from Synérgie Paysanne in Benin sees these land grabs as fundamentally “exporting food insecurity”. For they are about answering some people’s needs – for maize or money – by taking food production resources away from others. He is right, of course. In most cases, these investors are themselves not very experienced in running farms. And they are bound, as the Coordinator of MASIPAG in the Philippines sees it, to come in, deplete the soils of biological life and nutrients through intensive farming, pull out after a number of years and leave the local communities with “a desert”.
“Entire communities have been dispossessed of their lands for the benefit of foreign investors. (…) Land must remain a community heritage in Africa.”
– N’Diogou Fall, ROPPA (West African Network of Producers and Peasant Organisations), June 2009
The talk about channeling this sudden surge of dollars and dirhams into an agenda for resolving the global food crisis could be seen as quirky if it were not downright dangerous. From the United Nations headquarters in New York to the corridors of European capitals, everyone is talking about making these deals “win-win”. All we need to do, the thinking goes, is agree on a few parameters to moralise and discipline these land grab deals, so that they actually serve local communities, without scaring investors off. The World Bank even wants to create a global certification scheme and audit bureau for what could become “sustainable land grabbing”, along the lines of what’s been tried with oil palm, forestry or other extractive industries.
Before jumping on the bandwagon of “win-win”, it would be wise to ask “With whom? Who are the investors? What are their interests?” It is hard to believe that, with so much money on the line, with so much accumulated social experience in dealing with mass land concessions and conversions in the past, whether from mining or plantations, and given the central role of the finance and agribusiness industries here, these investors would suddenly play fair. Just as hard to believe is that governments or international agencies would suddenly be able to hold them to account.
“Some companies are interested in buying agricultural land for sugar cane and then selling it on the international markets. It’s business, nothing more” Sharad Pawar, India’s Minister of Agriculture, rejecting claims that his government is supporting a new colonisation of African farmland, 28 June 2009
Making these investments work is simply not the right starting point.
Supporting small farmers efforts for real food sovereignty is. Those are two highly polarised agendas and it would be mistaken to pass off one for the other. It is crucial to look more closely at who the investors are and what they really want. But it is even more important to put the search for solutions to the food crisis on its proper footing.
3 – The table covers three types of entities: specialized funds, most of them farmland funds; asset and investment managers; and participating investors. We are aware that this is a broad mixture, but it was important for us to keep the table simple: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=266
4 – COFCO is based in China, Olam is based in Singapore, Savola is based in Saudi Arabia, Almarai is based in Saudi Arabia, and JBS is based in Brazil.
5 – World Investment Report 2009, UNCTAD, Geneva, September 2009, p. xxvii. Most foreign direct investment takes place through mergers and acquisitions.
Natural Solutions Foundation
Once again, the Natural Solutions Foundation wants to thank the Environmental Working Group for their outstanding work. For 5 years the EWG has published a list of the safest, and most dangerous, types of produce, focusing on pesticide levels.
Here is this year’s list. Numbers in front of the item indicate how bad it is (higher is worse), numbers after the item indicate its pesticide load. So eat from the bottom of the list if you are not buying organic. If you are eating organic, you can enjoy the whole bounty of spring’s harvest.
But think for a moment, before you begin to plan your shopping this season, what it means to have foods like peaches, apples and sweet peppers so contaminated that eating them is, quite literally, taking your life onto your fork and into your hands.
That is what the industrialized food producers have done so far: introduced, with the blessings of our weak and dangerous government regulators who allegedly are keeping our food safe, chemicals and genetic alterations, irradiation and other degredations which have made our food not only unwholesome, but downright dangerous.
But WAIT!! There’s more. HR 875, S 425 and the associated bills working their way rapidly through our clueless (or worse!!!) Congress are fixing to make the current level of contamination look like Grandma’s home grown goodies. Click here to tell Congress in no uncertain terms that this set of bills must not pass and, if pass, MUST be ammended to protect home and organic food production, growing and farming.
HR 875 and S 425 (and their associated bills) provide for a level of industrial control of our food supply that will, not might, may, could or can, but WILL guarantee that you and your family WILL get sick from even more poisoned food. Maybe not this week, maybe not until a few years down the road, but nutritional under supply (from foods grown in soil fertilized with synthetic fertilizers and depleted from de mineralization never really corrected) and toxic overload WILL weaken your immune system, divert you from your life pursuits with chronic and often lethal illness. Freedom? You’ll be too sick to care.
Your food WILL be genetically modified. GMO crops require 4 times more pesticide than conventional ones and a great many of them require huge amounts of herbicides (like glyphosate or Roundup(C), a wildly dangerous chemical which is associated with cancer, infertility, auto immune diseases and more.
Roundup(C) is, of course, just one of a wide variety of horrifically toxic chemicals whose regulation these new laws put into the hands of unelected bureaucrats whose discretion is breathtaking. Their interest is not in food safety. Their interest is in serving the needs of their corporate masters, and their corporate masters’ masters.
If that does not ring right with you, take a look at the lethal mess our food supply is in today. And then consider that it is the US FDA and USDA, again serving their corporate masters, who run the show at Codex Alimentarius, bringing us horrific standards and guidelines which have the potential to degrade the health, and shorten the life, of every man, woman and child on the planet who eats food grown inside the corporate corral. Of course, for you and me, NOT doing so will be a crime. Saving seeds will be a crime. Growing pristine organic food (or better) will, if the laws currently under consideration are implemented, quickly become a criminal act. The SWAT teams who raided the Ohio family organic cooperative a couple of months ago, the raw milk farmer in Pennsylvania who was taken to jail for selling his clean product and a host of other food atrocities will look, I am afraid, like the “Good Old Days” should these laws reach their logical – and lethal – consequences.
Remember, the law is one thing. Contaminated food is quite another.
Government regulatory agencies regulate for the sake of corporate interests. Yours are nowhere to be seen, unless, of course, you are Monsanto. In fact, the Representative who introduced HR 875 is married, as was a previous, and deeply destructive long-time US Codex delegate, to a Monsanto lawyer. No accident.
The proposed new food agency and the new food powers (under these laws) are nothing short of cataclysmic and over the line insane from a health perspective. The Natural Solutions Foundation proposes removing ALL food regulatory power from the federal government which has, for about 80 years now, proven itself to be increasingly unable to push back the demands of industry, whether Big Pharma, Big Agribiz or Big Chema (or Big Medica, for that matter) weighed against the public good. Deadly drugs, deadly food, deadly environmental contamination and an unrelenting, accelerating assault on health aids like supplements and Nano silver are the result.
Click the link below to tell Congress that, while you want the FDA, USDA, EPA and other inept and dangerous government agencies stripped of their food regulatory powers and those powers returned to newly constructed agencies at the State level controlled by consumers, statutorily devoid of corporate impact or connection, with harsh penalties for any breech of the perimeter keeping industry out of food regulation, we oppose the pending bills, HR875 and S425 which do not contain language to protect family farms and ranches; organic and natural products.
When an agency or program has failed, the typical political situation is to throw money at it to “reform it”, making it bigger, giving it more powers and then watch it fail worse – followed by more money and more power.
This is precisely what has happened with the latest FDA modernization and revitalization bills. More money, more power, more curruption, less safety of either food or drugs.
Drugs you can avoid voluntarily. Food you cannot.
The Natural Solutions Foundation has been warning for several years that home grown and produced food, and organic food, would be coming under sustained and terminal attack. Unfortunately, we were right and that attack is being mounted now. Therefore, the counter thrust must be mounted now, and it must be swift, effective and decisive.
Food MUST be taken out of the hands of the corrupt federal agencies and given back to the people. And saved seed, a corner stone of liberty, along with clean, unadulterated food, MUST not be taken out of your hands and mine.
If you love fascism, sit back and do nothing. If you want to see farmers forced to leave their land and their livlihoods, unable to produce clean food for you, sit back and do nothing. If you want to be forbidden to grow, can, preserver or share your own good food in the US of farmland from sea to shining sea, sit back and do nothing.
If you want the laws of the US “HARMonized” with the draconian food laws of Europe, where a cucumber cannot be sold unless its curvature is correct and where the hundreds of seed companies that once flourished have been reduced to a rapidly dwindling handful, please, sit back and do nothing.
But if you, like me, are aghast at these options, then stand up and be counted. Start disseminating and rousing support for the following action items as if your very life (and that of your children and grandchildren) deepened upon it. Your life and their does depend upon it.
Click below to read a detailed analysis of HR 875 and S 425 and their frighteningly (and absurdly) vague permissiveness giving industry full reign over your food and therefore, your health.
We have Another Friend in Congress!
Powerful Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) has adopted a position in line with what the Natural Solutions Foundation has been calling for over the last months: the FDA cannot regulate drugs and their major economic competitor, foods. She also applauds our oft-repeated assessment of the FDA’s performance in food safety is beyond dismal and cites the recent – and damning – Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to document just how dismal it is.
Up to now, the solution of the Federal Government to repeated exposure of how dangerous, corrupt and damaged the FDA is has been two fold: either Congress took away powers and responsibilities to set up new agencies (e.g., EPA, Consumer Protection Agency, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, etc.) or they passed new legislation which gave the failed, and deadly, agency more money and more power to do a worse job with (e.g., 2008 FDA Reorganization Act). The current food safety crisis, with melamine approved for infants, GMO foods and cloned meats and milk approved without scientific studies showing they are safe, fluoridation of water permitted and encouraged despite massive scientific evidence documenting its dangers, irradiation of everything it can find a way to irradiate, including raw nuts and salad greens approved regardless of rational thought, growth hormones, pesticides, veterinary antibiotics permitted in outrageous doses, a relentless assault on dietary supplements, herbs and other non-drug health strategies, multinational servitude in Codex with disastrous results to the world food supply, etc., etc., etc., must be laid solely at the doorstep of one of the most dangerous and corrupt agencies in the history of the United State.
It is time to stop the losses and get food out of the dirty hands of the FDA. The same, of course, is true of the USDA. How? By giving food regulations back to the States where the local interest influences of consumers and the impact of local certification programs can help us to reclaim the production of safe, wholesome food and make it accessible for all of us once again.
Industrial food is killing us.
Let’s kill the messenger and get government out of food and food out of government.
Food Safety Mustn’t Be Left In FDA’s Hands
Congresswoman ROSA L. DELAURO
February 8, 2009
For years now, the American people have learned to live with the possibility that their food may not be safe. The list of incidents has grown month after month, from spinach to shellfish from ground beef to peppers.
Now, a devastating salmonella outbreak has been tied to the Peanut Corp. of America and its Blakely, Ga., plant. It has killed eight people and sickened more than 500 people across the country, and a criminal investigation is underway to determine whether the producer knowingly sold a dangerous, contaminated product.
But this is not just a case of one bad actor. This salmonella outbreak is just the latest — and it represents the full-scale breakdown of a patchwork food safety system. When we look at recent headlines, it is hard not to see a food safety system in crisis — a dysfunctional federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration. unable to perform its mission and protect the American public.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office deemed that the regulatory activities governing food safety continue to pose a “high risk” to the economy and public health — the consequence of a fragmented legal and organizational structure with insufficient authority and too few resources to protect the American people.
While innocent people continued to get sick from contaminated peanut butter, the case lingered in jurisdictional limbo between the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, causing critical delays. And when the salmonella’s source was finally identified, FDA officials had to wait for industry approval before they could go live with the recall. That is not how a fully functioning regulatory agency is supposed to operate.
To truly fix inherent problems in our food safety system, we must fundamentally restructure the food safety bureaucracy at the FDA. Today, food safety is divided among multiple, separately managed units at the FDA — the Office of the Commissioner, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, the field force (Office of Regulatory Affairs) and the National Center for Toxicological Research. As a result, there is no one single individual to be held accountable for food safety at the FDA or anywhere else at the federal level.
Separating food safety regulation from drug and device approvals would go a long way toward restoring the balance that has long been missing at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and give food safety the attention it deserves. By establishing a Food Safety Administration within Health and Human Services, headed by its own commissioner, we can give food safety experts and researchers the room and the resources to do their jobs.
Because we need an agency fully committed to actively preventing food-borne illness, not just reacting to it, I have introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act. In addition to establishing a new, separate Food Safety Administration, this legislation would provide the regulatory tools to access important records, recall products and penalize companies for knowingly selling tainted products. It also would require traceability, mandate regular inspections, demand that imported food meet our safety standards and require companies to take preventive measures.
While these are not new ideas, the push for change could not be more urgent. With every recall, the American people grow more concerned and the momentum for reform grows. I know this is an important issue for many of my colleagues in Congress and I look forward to working with them to ensure food safety is a priority.
Ultimately, though, it starts at the top. For eight years, our food safety system has been crippled by disinvestment, mismanagement and a failure to meet its most basic regulatory responsibilities. True reform is going to require strong leadership from our president.
I am confident, at last, that we have a government that understands its obligation to its citizens and is ready to modernize our food safety system to better protect public health.
• U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-New Haven, represents Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District and serves as the chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee.
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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Yours in health and freedom,
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.