08/04/2016 10:39 EDT | Updated 08/04/2016 10:59 EDT

Pro-GMO Spin Diverts Attention From Root Causes Of Hunger

When it comes down to it, it's not really a case of being pro- or anti-GMO. It's a case of being anti-corruption and pro-democratic. When hugely powerful corporations flex their political and financial muscle, they can and do effectively slant science, politics and regulation to suit their own self-interest.

(Photo: AP Photo/Armando Franca)

The pro-GMO lobby spends much of its time and resources attacking critics who have genuine concerns about GM technology. These attacks are designed to whip up emotive, populist sentiment and denigrate critics. In part, this approach aims to divert attention from the underlying causes of hunger and poverty as well as the commercial interests and political motivations of the pro-GM lobby itself.

The pro-GMO lobby has a long history of well-orchestrated smear campaigns against individuals and groups, pro-GM propaganda (see this about the sweet potato) and dirty tricks.

For instance, former U.K. environment minister Owen Paterson describes critics of GM as a "green blob" bunch of anti-science Luddites. Then there is Fellow of the U.K. Royal Society Sir Richard John Roberts who implies that critics have a political agenda.

Roberts says if you don't want to eat GMOs, then don't -- conveniently ignoring that fact that at least $100 million was spent in the U.S. to prevent mandatory labelling of GM food. He has also expressed dismay over the delay in the production of Golden Rice. Mirroring the propaganda of the pro-GMO lobby, Roberts says though Golden Rice became a reality in February 1999, the opposition to GM has ensured that it is not currently available. Recent research by Washington University shows this is simply not the case.

Another prominent scientist-cum-lobbyist, Anthony Trewavas, calls on critics to defer to (pro-GM) scientists and stop forcing their authoritarian views on people, thus denying choice and GM to consumers and farmers alike.

However, the GM agritech industry is driven by self-interest. And the GMO project is based on fraud and the capturing and corrupting of international and national bodies, including the WTO, bilateral trade deals, governments and regulatory bodies. The massive financial clout and the capture of key political institutions (thereby curtailing the option of prioritizing more productive and sustainable models of agriculture) constitute the power base of global agribusiness corporations.

If anything matters to the pro-GMO lobby, it clearly has little to do with "choice" or objective science. It has more to do with undermining and debasing these concepts (see "Monsanto wants to know why people doubt science"). If it were to genuinely embrace these values, along with "humanitarianism," a concept it also lays claim to, it would flag up and protest against the corporate capture of science and the infiltration by commercial agribusiness interests of public institutions. It would also protest against the way trade, agriculture and aid is used to subjugate regions to the needs of powerful commercial entities.

But it won't. Eric Holt-Giménez has indicated that the companies driving the GM agenda fuel and benefit from these processes. The World Bank, World Trade Organization, World Food Program, The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the likes of Cargill, Syngenta, DuPont and Monsanto carefully avoid addressing the root causes of the food crisis. The "solutions" they prescribe are rooted in the same policies and technologies that created the problem in the first place: increased food aid, de-regulated global trade in agricultural commodities and more technological and genetic fixes. These measures only strengthen the corporate status quo controlling the world's food. Eric concludes that the future of our food is being decided de facto by unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

It should therefore come as no surprise that these companies and their PR foot soldiers (whether scientists or media people) set out to attack those who campaign against GM and who desire genuine food democracy and proper accountability.

While certain molecular biologists argue that adopting GM would offer plentiful and affordable food, it seems they fail to recognize the line between science and propaganda. It must be understood that these people are not economists, anthropologists, environmental scientists, health professionals, political scientists or trade policy analysts.

Spouting out personal opinion while waving a science PhD does not mean that we should automatically bow before some self-appointed scientific priesthood. No amount of gene splicing or fine-sounding rhetoric can overcome the structural factors that lead to poverty and malnutrition. The geopolitics of food and agriculture, structural inequality, debt repayment, trade policy, commodity speculation and access to land and credit, among other things, all determine whether there is plentiful, affordable food.

By focusing so heavily on GM, the pro-GMO lobby is attempting to divert attention away from the real issues that are fuelling food poverty and food insecurity and literally cash in on the problem with patented corporate seeds.

When it comes down to it, it's not really a case of being pro- or anti-GMO. It's a case of being anti-corruption and pro-democratic. When hugely powerful corporations flex their political and financial muscle, they can and do effectively slant science, politics and regulation to suit their own self-interest. People naturally become suspicious and demand transparency, genuine independent testing and genuine independent evaluations of the impacts of GM.

And people are right to be suspicious. Dr. Meryl Hammond, founder of the Campaign for Alternatives to Pesticides, told a Canadian Parliament committee some years ago that a raft of studies published in peer-reviewed journals point to strong associations between chemical pesticides and serious health consequences. And there is scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra who exposed to the public his many battles against the Canadian government which he says knowingly allowed carcinogenic pesticides to enter the food supply.

From sugar-drenched food to glyphosate, regulatory delinquency and the power of large corporations to exert influence over governments and public agencies is widespread. And GMOs are no different. Steven Druker has shown that widespread fraud and the subversion of science helped get GMOs on to the commercial market in the U.S.

Instead, what we get are smears and PR, which demonstrate a deep ideological commitment to corporate profit and power, rather than a willingness to address the concerns of those who question the efficacy of GMOs and the practices of companies, politicians and scientists who are promoting this technology.

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