I'm not sure if the following is what you referred to or if it's
another work of the same author on the same subject, but I figured it
wasn't too long to paste in.
As can be inferred from what Altieri points out, the problems
underlying poverty are social problems that the companies pushing GMOs
do absolutely nothing to alleviate - on the contrary, their true goals
and the actions they take are designed to produce a further
accumulation of corporate wealth via proprietary, patentable
organisms; at the expense of a balanced ecosystem, a plentiful,
healthful food supply and an equitable world economy.
The name of their game is rape and / or seduction, and the progeny is
strictly Frank N. Stein, with terminator genes.
Wednesday, April 05, 2000, 4:59:24 PM, you wrote:
MGS> With Monsanto et alium....fixin' to pour $50 million funkies into
MGS> pro-biotech PR, this might be a good time to review and broadcast
MGS> Miguel Altieri's and Peter Rosset's "Ten reasons why
MGS> biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the
MGS> environment and reduce poverty in the developing world"
CAN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS FEED A HUNGRY WORLD?
CON - BIOTECH WILL NOT FEED THE WORLD
March 30, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Miguel A. Altieri
MOST PROPONENTS of agricultural biotechnology assert that genetically
modified crops are essential to feed the 840 million undernourished
people in the world, and to reduce the poverty of the 1.3 billion
people who live on less than $1 per day. They believe that the
biorevolution can be harnessed to serve the food and nutritional needs
of the world's poor. But will such potential benefits of genetically
engineered food crops ever become practical enough to rid the world of
Pro-biotechnology scientists say that with new research methods,
biotechnology can be used to develop new crop varieties that are
drought tolerant, resistant to insects and weeds, able to fix nitrogen
from the atmosphere and even increase the nutrient content in the
edible portion of plants. Proponents say modern biotechnology offers
enormous opportunities to poor farmers and low-income consumers in
The first problem with that argument is that there is no relationship
between the prevalence of hunger and a country's population. For every
densely populated and hungry nation like Bangladesh, there is a
sparsely populated (but also hungry) country like Brazil.
Even in the midst of superabundance in the United States, there are
between 20 million and 30 million malnourished people. Thus, even
though crop yields per acre improved dramatically between the late
1960s and the early 1990s, these advances in agriculture have only
trimmed the ranks of the world's undernourished by 8 percent -- to 840
million from 920 million.
Poverty is the key reason why 840 million people do not have enough
to eat. In the past 30 years, enough food was produced to feed
everyone -- had it been more evenly distributed. Hunger is not a
matter of agricultural limits, but a problem of masses of people not
having access to food or the means to produce it.
Biotechnology proponents, however, argue that food production will not
keep pace with the growth of the global population, which is expected
to add 73 million people every year from now until 2020. The
biotechnology proponents say hunger will persist unless the potential
of biotechnology is realized. I say, if the root causes are not
addressed, hunger will persist no matter what agricultural
technologies are used.
At most, biotechnology has the yet-unrealized potential to deal with
the issues of quality and quantity of food but does not address
distribution and access. Insisting on technological solutions to
hunger ignores the tremendous complexity of the problem. It is too
easy to fall into the ``paradox of plenty'' -- more food accompanied
by greater hunger. Any method of boosting food production that deepens
inequality is bound to fail to reduce hunger.
This is particularly true for biotechnology, which is being promoted
by private corporations to whom poor farmers (who produce most of the
basic food crops in the developing world) do not represent an
For example, the new strain of rice that is capable of producing
provitamin A, which is being heralded as the best that agrobiotech can
offer the developing world, constitutes a solution that ignores the
root causes of why there are 2 million children at risk of vitamin A
deficiency. In rural areas of the developing world, food preferences
are culturally determined. Asians will not likely consume "orange
rice" in the midst of abundant white rice.
In fact, Asian small farmers grow diverse rice varieties with
varying nutritional content and adapted to a wide variety of
environmental conditions. The resulting genetic diversity heightens
resistance to plant diseases and enables farmers to derive multiple
If, as expected, transgenic seeds continue to be developed and
commercialized exclusively by private firms, poor farmers will
continue to find them too expensive to purchase. The few that will
have access to bioengineered seeds will be hurt by becoming
dangerously ``dependent'' on the annual purchase of such seeds.
Choices are surely also being denied to poor farmers when private
industries insist upon protecting biotech patents that deny seed
saving, an aspect that is of fundamental cultural importance to
traditional farmers, who for centuries have saved and shared seeds.
Food production will have to come from agricultural systems in
countries with the largest population growth. This poses a major
challenge for biotechnology in these tropical countries where farmers
are not only resource poor -- with no access to credit, technical
assistance or markets --but where about 370 million rural poor live in
arid or semi-arid zones or in steeply sloped areas.
In the past, such farmers were bypassed by advances in agriculture
known as the Green Revolution because their soil, water and labor
methods were unsuited to the demanding and costly management practices
of improved seeds and accompanying need for pesticides and
fertilizers. Biotechnology will exacerbate the problem even more. Some
scientists and policymakers posit that a solution would be to increase
government investments in biotechnology research.
However, larger investments may not yield the desired results.
Corporate legal rights to biotechnology is affecting the development
of transgenic crops by public institutions. Moreover, the seed
distribution channels and networks to reach farmers are being
privatized, focusing on commercial farms rather than on poor farmers.
Much of the needed food can be produced throughout the world by small
farmers using agroecological technologies. In fact, new rural
development approaches and simple technologies spearheaded by farmers
groups and nongovernmental organizations around the developing world
are already making a difference.
These results are a breakthrough for achieving food security and
environmental preservation in the developing world, but realizing
their potential depends on investments, policies, institutional
support and attitude changes on the part of policymakers and the
international scientific community.
Failure to promote such people-centered agricultural research and
development will miss an historic opportunity to raise agricultural
productivity in economically viable, environmentally benign and
socially uplifting ways.
Miguel A. Altieri is an entomologist at UC Berkeley.
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