Are GMOs a plot to rule the world?

posted in: Commentary | 6

Editor’s note: The following post was part of an April Fools Joke. Go here for more details.

By William Harvey:

Hello readers, I am William Harvey, the Director of Global GMO Policy at Greenpeace International. In exchange for support of this blog’s continued operations, I will be posting regularly at Biofortified, and my office staff will monitor and moderate the continued discussion. We have made a few minor changes to the look of the blog. Now for my first blog post.

Everyone knows that every Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are patented by corporations. There is not a single GMO that can be grown without the explicit permission through a signed contract. This puts the power in the hands of multinationals, taking it away from the indigenous people of Hawaii, Southeast Asia, Africa, and even farmers in the U.S. are having their right stripped away. The right to save seed is fundamental to growing food, and anything that removes this right is morally wrong.

This is why Greenpeace has a strong stance against genetic modification, because as a corporate technology it inherently requires that farmers be unable to save seed. We also seek to eliminate hybrid crops, because these are another method for maintaining the dominance of seed companies over farmers. Hybrids do not breed true – and so farmers have to keep re-buying seed. Recently, we have added seedless watermelons to our growing list of ‘farmer suicide’ foods, because the triploid seeds must be purchased every year.

As we have learned from cases such as Schmeiser v Monsanto, the biotech companies will stop at nothing to prevent farmers from saving their seeds. Indeed, they were violating his rights as a plant breeder to have control over his own homebrewed canola seeds. Farmers that breed crops have the right to control their seeds while biotech companies do not. These plant breeder protections are there for a reason – so farmers and breeders can maintain control of what they produce, because it is their intellectual property.

Before I go, there is one last issue that I would like to address: Golden Rice. This “biofortified” rice is nothing more than a PR effort by the biotech companies, and represents a Trojan Horse designed to slip through the opposition to GMOs by presenting us with a moral dilemma: either allow GMOs to be grown or people will suffer. In 2001, Michael Pollan saw through this attempt:

Unless I’m missing something, the aim of the biotechnology industry’s audacious new advertising campaign is to impale people like me—well-off first worlders dubious about genetically engineered food—on the horns of a moral dilemma.

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Granted, it would be immoral for finicky Americans to thwart a technology that could rescue malnourished children. But wouldn’t it also be immoral for an industry to use those children’s suffering in order to rescue itself?

It is clear that the very attempt to address malnutrition in developing countries through genetic engineering is immoral precisely because it presents us with a moral dilemma. Our values are not up for debate.

Nor is it up to debate whether it is right to test this unsafe food on children. Before they have long-term studies proving the safety of this GMO in the diets of children, it is wrong to test it on anyone else’s children. Let these genetic engineers test it on their own kids before poisoning children in other countries. (If they did this, however, we should take their kids away for reckless endangerment.) Golden Rice is racist, classist, and is utilizing strategies that have not been seen since the Third Reich.

As soon as we allow a purportedly humanitarian GMO to be grown on Asian soil, the biotech companies will press hard for their for-profit GMOs to be allowed through local regulations. If Golden Rice can be grown, why not Roundup Ready soy or Liberty Link corn?

It is my firm belief that as soon as Golden Rice is grown and people are forced to be dependent upon it, that the rug will be pulled out from under them. Any one of the patents underlying the rice crop could be used to force them to pay for it down the road. With their own local varieties destroyed, the transnational colonialism would be complete, if there was any resistance left it will be finished.

In conclusion, it is clear that this rice must be stopped at all costs, because it may be a scheme intended to keep the people in developing countries underfoot.

William Harvey is the Director of Global GMO Policy at Greenpeace International. He makes his own Biodynamic Wine from the safety of Marin County, which is GE Free.

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:
Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.