Interesting conversation here, good to know the points of view. The ag
companies make a tempting argument for their engineering (necessary to feed the
hungry), but I don't think it stands up to scrutiny (does being able to spray
more Roundup really dent world hunger? ), nor handles the huge risk to our
survival from tinkering with our global food supply with so little understanding
(let alone respect) for what makes the whole inter-related thing work. I bet
the tale looks a lot different when they talk to the shareholders. Given their
past actions, it's hard to see them as Mother Theresa, only out to save the
world. Their history shows acting in their own self-interest/profits and
disdaining those who say they're harmed (ex. re: Risk Assessment allowing a
"few" people to be killed). If they want to save the world, why not start by
not poisoning it and us...?
And I find their argument a little creepy too, the more I think about it.
Underneath, it seems to me that the ag corporations are claiming that if only
we'll let them own and tinker with nature, they'll make sure we're all fed - or
the trains run on time - or something like that... As long as we buy nature
(and the toxins to "manage" it) from them. Isn't that a little different from
the spiritual image of receiving and honoring the overflowing divine bounty from
G-d/Spirit? Doesn't it sound a bit like Icarus and hubris, to think we could be
g-ds? Or a father figure government, where we trade our freedom and sovereignty
for the promise of being fed (including our right to nature's free seeds) - and
then when we're not fed, we have no power to protest. Pretty creepy....
From: Mark Graffis, INTERNET:firstname.lastname@example.org
To: Patricia Dines, 73652,1202
Date: Sun, Nov 17, 1996, 9:44 AM
Subject: `Green Revolution' Debate at Food Summit
Copyright © 1996 The Associated Press
ROME (Nov 14, 1996 09:42 a.m. EST) -- Supporters of genetically
altered crops often speak of a "new green revolution" in which world
hunger is beaten back by science.
Critics say it has a darker shade.
The debate over how far and fast to go with bioengineering is shaping
up as one of the key issues at the World Food Summit, which opened Wednesday.
Scientists think bioengineering has the potential to pre-empt the
Malthusian view that the world will come to an end because it is
unable to produce enough food to feed an ever-expanding population.
They contend that as long as resources are channeled into research and
development, the world will be able to produce enough to feed the
estimated 8.7 billion people that will inhabit the world by the year 2030.
"We need to give the future generations as many options as we have had
ourselves," said Ismail Serageldin, chairman of the Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR. "We believe that
agricultural research is at the center of the interface between
environmental concerns, food security and production."
Through biotechnology and genetic engineering, scientists are
developing new crop varieties that yield more, resist pests and
drought, and even thrive on poor soil.
The research group argues that 80 percent of the additional wheat
output in the developing world has come from genetically improved
crops, while only 20 percent was the result of more land being planted.
A biologically developed "super rice" can yield as much as 100 million
more tons of rice per year than is currently grown in Asia where it is
the staple diet, according to the CGIAR. New corn varieties that
resist both drought and acidic soil could feed an additional 50
million people per year, the group says.
The United States, the world's leading food exporter, is putting its
weight behind biotechnology and genetically engineered crops at the summit.
"Without biotechnology, we will be forced to exploit highly erodible
farm and forest land," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman,
who heads the American delegation. "If we don't use science as our
friend, we will face hunger shortages 25 years from now that are far
worse than anything we face today."
The United States has pledged to strengthen support for research into
biotechnology and is one of the strongest backers of the CGIAR.
European countries, on the other hand, are resisting imports of
genetically engineered produce such as corn and soybeans.
The Spain-based Genetic Resources Action International, or GRAIN,
rejects the premise that biotechnology is a panacea against world hunger.
"Tinkering with crops just hasn't worked," GRAIN spokeswoman Janet
Bell told The Associated Press. "It has just created much greater
problems with pests and disease."
Opponents also argue that scientific improvement in yields do little
to help malnutrition in the poorer countries, and increase dependence
of poorer countries on the wealthier North.
Activists opposed to bioengineering hurled soybeans at U.S. delegates
at the beginning of a media briefing Wednesday.
From: Mark Graffis, INTERNET:email@example.com
To: Patricia Dines, 73652,1202
Date: Sat, Nov 16, 1996, 10:22 PM
Subject: Gene-Modified Food No Answer to Hunger
Copyright © 1996 Reuter Information Service
ROME (Nov 14, 1996 12:01 p.m. EST) - The environmental group
Greenpeace said on Thursday that genetic engineering was no answer to
world food problems and urged a moratorium on the sale of genetically
The group, which has led protests in Europe over the past week against
genetically manipulated U.S. soybeans, said at a news conference to
coincide with the U.N.-sponsored World Food Summit in Rome that too
many unknown dangers surrounded the technique.
"We are here to tell the summit not to be fooled by the promises from
biotechnology companies that they can solve the world food crisis,"
Greenpeace spokesman Simon Reddy said.
"A lot of these companies are more interested in controlling the
world's food for their own profits," he said.
He presented a report by Greepeace which he said showed that the use
of genetically altered plants in agriculture may entail toxic and
allergic risks leading to large-scale elimination of indigenous
agricultural and natural species.
"We ask for an immediate moratorium on the further releases and
marketing of transgenic products at least until there is a legally
binding international bio-safety protocol," he said.
Three women stripped naked in front of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan
Glickman during his news conference at the food summit on Wednesday to
protest against genetic manipulation of soybeans. They said they were
not members of any group.
Protesters trying to keep the modified beans out of Europe this week
chained themselves to gates in Germany, occupied the office of the
Austrian health minister and climbed onto the roof of food giant
Environmentalists led by the Greenpeace group say they worry that U.S.
chemicals group Monsanto Co's Round Up Ready soybean, modified to
resist the company's Round Up herbicide, could be a threat to health.
Processors and governments reject that.
Dozens of genetically modified products are on the market already,
many launched with a minimum of protest. One is Calgene"s Flavr-Savr
tomato, genetically changed to slow the action of an enzyme that
starts the rotting process.
The concern in Europe is that the one to two percent of the U.S.
soybean crop that is made up of modified beans is mixed in with normal
ones. Protesters want them separated and consumers told on labels what
they are buying.
"Monsanto's soybean is resistant to pesticides produced by Monsanto
itself. The use of this bean will at least duplicate the use of
pesticide and will just make worse what is already a bad situation,"
The food summit has heard calls from several speakers since it opened
on Wednesday for a new scientific "green revolution" to boost food
Greenpeace said the solution to food insecurity lay in sustainable
development of a variety of local crops.
"Far from providing cheaper food for all, agricultural biotechnology
will further undermine the livelihood of small organic farmers," Reddy said.
FAO research director Stein Bie told a news briefing at the summit
that "organic methods offer a very useful supplement but they are no
substitute to inorganic methods...that are so important to feeding the
poor at this moment."
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