08/02/2016 10:08 EDT | Updated 08/02/2016 10:59 EDT

Pro-GMO Crusaders' Efforts To Silence Critics Won't Solve Hunger

badmanproduction via Getty Images
GMO yellow sign with the corn crop in the background

Pro-GMO campaigners attack opponents of the technology by claiming that critics rely on quackery on the Internet or on some form of discredited science that is only carried out by those whom the "scientific community" has seen fit to marginalize.

The argument is that a powerful, ideologically motivated group is holding the world ransom and is conspiring to mislead the public and prevent the spread of GM, which, according to pro-GMO activists, is denying the poor and hungry of the world access to food.

In a recent post on Huffington Post, Jon Entine borrowed from this line of attack to denigrate Rachel Parent, teen activist and founder of Kids Right To Know (KRTK). He calls Parent a well-polished "crusader" against GM food. He also alleges the KRTK website offers a stream of anti-GMO studies that are mostly a combination of fringe research and a collection of discredited, misconstrued and biased studies.

Entine claims to present a "well-reasoned critical analysis" of Rachel Parent's views by referring readers to a blog that we are informed contains hundreds of independent studies on GM that all show safety. On examination, these studies do nothing of the sort.

Entine is an industry attack dog and engages in "hit pieces." If he wants to talk about people posing as a tool for vested interests (which he claims Parent is), he is on very thin ice indeed: see "The making of an agribusiness apologist" by Tom Philpott.

The solution to hunger and food insecurity does not lie with some bogus techno quick-fix.

We hear much about the wonders of GM, but the reality is that GM crops have been fraudulently placed on the commercial market, have contributed nothing to alleviating food poverty or food insecurity (have actually undermined it) and have caused a great deal of damage to health and the environment and livelihoods, too.

The path to feeding the world lies in helping smallholder farmers to develop their (non-GMO) methods in the Global South, where the majority of hungry people live. These farmers are the backbone of global food production. It also depends on challenging rigged trade, neo-liberal economics, structural inequalities and food commodity speculation, among other issues.

We now have food surplus countries in the West which mirror food deficit areas elsewhere. These areas have become dependent on (U.S.) agricultural imports and strings-attached loans and aid. Look no further than Africa to see what has happened. At the time of decolonisation in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food, but was actually a net food exporter. Today, almost every country is a net food importer.

Food and agriculture has become wedded to power structures that have restructured indigenous agriculture across the world and tied it to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for a manipulated and volatile international market and indebtedness to international financial institutions.

If the pro-GMO lobby really does care about the plight of the poor and hungry -- as it claims to -- why does it not challenge these power structures instead of attacking those who campaign against them? It cynically attempts to hide what amounts to an iron fist of neoliberal ideogy in a velvet glove of fake humanitarianism.

The solution to hunger and food insecurity does not lie with some bogus techno quick-fix. It lies in nations prioritizing food self-sufficiency and extricating themselves from a system of international trade and markets that have been devised to benefit the interests of the U.S. and its agribusiness companies.

The push to privilege GM ahead of anything else serves the commercial agenda of transnational agribusiness (and marginalizes other models of agriculture that deliver proven results) and acts as an ideological and political device that diverts attention away from a globalized economic system which is fuelled by and serves the companies that certain figures -- who are fond of projecting themselves as being on the side of "sound science" -- seek to protect.

In the book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, Steven Druker highlights how GM is not based on sound science at all but on the systematic subversion of it. Moreover, biotechnology seed companies, aided by advocates from academia and the blogopsphere, are using their substantial resources to broadcast the myth of a "scientific consensus" on the safety of GMOs.

In its 2014 report, Food & Water Watch dismisses the so-called scientific consensus that the pro-GMO lobby promotes. The well-referenced report notes that the scientific bodies that purportedly are part of the "consensus" are few in number and are by no means representative of the entire scientific community. The report notes the positions of many leading scientific institutions and academies across the world that the pro-GMO consensus campaign has used to forward its case. It concludes that the campaign uses a mix of cherry-picked quotes, industry-backed sources and misrepresentations of positions held to feed its spin.

Hundreds of independent scientists in relevant fields have come forward to condemn the GMO-consensus campaign. The claim that all credible science is on the side of GM and only a few incompetent maverick scientists indulge in anti-GM pseudo-science is propaganda and nothing else.

The pro-GMO lobby likes to cite big lists of studies that supposedly make the case for GMO. Sift through these studies and it becomes clear the case for GM is being misrepresented via a mix of industry-supported sources and studies that in reality do not claim there is safety regarding GM and which are often not independent of the bio-tech industry.

The massive wealth of the biotech/agribusiness industry has been translated into political clout within the media, science and governments. The smear campaigns engaged in by pro-GMO crusaders are intended to denigrate all criticism of GMOs in the eyes of the public, from wherever it comes. The type of hit pieces that the pro-GMO lobby indulges in indicates a certain desperation and demonstrates a failure to convince the public of the need for GM.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook


GMO Protests