Was 2009 the year that the world turned against GMO?

Lucy Sharratt – CBAN Coordinator <coordinator@cban.ca>

Welcome to a new year of action! 2010 will certainly be a critical
year on GM crops and foods here in Canada.
GM flax contamination, GM
alfalfa, SmartStax corn, new health critiques, Monsanto’s increased
seed control, GM sugarbeet, and GM wheat are all active issues and
campaigns right now. And the industry has stepped up its PR to sell GM
as the solution to the crises of our time. Please consider your
support to CBAN and our campaigns this year. Stay tuned for new
announcements from CBAN and our Members across Canada. Thank you for
your support and action.

Was 2009 the year that the world turned against GM?

The Ecologist, UK
Claire Robinson & Jonathan Matthews


Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews are co-editors of GMWatch

Despite promising the world in 2009, biotech corporations have
increasingly raised the hackles of scientists and citizens worldwide

2009 was a year in which the biotech industry, Gates and their US
Administration allies did everything in their power to drive the world
down the GM road, but it was also a year marked by remarkable global

It was a year too in which the truth emerged more clearly than ever
about not just the severe limitations and risks of GM crops, but the
viability of the many positive alternatives to GMOs alternatives from
which the profit-driven GM-fixation diverts much needed attention and

The scene had been set in 2008 with the IAASTD report, produced by 400
scientific experts and signed up to by some 60 governments. That made
it clear that after more than 10 years of commercialisation, GM crops
had done nothing to help with the eradication of hunger or poverty, or
the reversal of the environmental degradation caused by agriculture.

The IAASTD instead championed as the way forward: agro-ecological
farming; and research conducted by the UN Environment Programme also
suggested organic, small-scale farming could deliver increased yields
without the accompanying environmental and social damage of industrial
farming. The UNEP?s analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries
found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic
practices had been used. In 2009 the contribution of such sustainable
approaches to cooling the planet was also widely acknowledged while
news of Monsanto?s attempts to dress up environmentally destructive GM
monocultures as climate friendly earned it a worst lobbying award.

Mainstream criticism
But what was most remarkable in 2009 was the way in which criticism of
the biotech industry went mainstream. Alarmingly for the industry,
some of the hardest hitting criticism it faced was to be found in
editorials and investigative articles that appeared in the likes of
Scientific American, the New York Times, the Associated Press and,
most astonishingly of all perhaps, the staunchly pro-GM journal Nature

And in different ways they were all making the same fundamental point
– the GM industry has been allowed to gain an unprecedented
stranglehold over the use of seeds. An editorial in Scientific
American, for instance, complained that ?it is impossible to verify
that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because
agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of
independent researchers?.

The editorial went on to note that, ?food safety and environmental
protection depend on making plant products available to regular
scientific scrutiny?, and Scientific American called on the industry
to ?immediately remove the restriction on research from their end-user
agreements. Going forward, the EPA should also require, as a condition
of approving the sale of new seeds, that independent researchers have
unfettered access to all products currently on the market?.

Et tu, Brute?
A correspondent for an agricultural trade publication noted that
nobody in the biotech industry could provide him with a single example
of any other kind of product on the market that was protected in the
way GM seeds were from scientific scrutiny.

And the science correspondent of the Financial Times – another solidly
pro-GM publication – complained, ?Imagine pharmaceutical companies
trying to prevent medical researchers comparing patented drugs or
investigating their side-effects – it is unthinkable. Yet scientists
cannot independently examine raw materials in the food supply or
investigate plants that cover a lot of rural America?.

An article in Nature Biotechnology noted how even when research
critical of GM did get published it was met by a wall of apparently
orchestrated, ad hominem and unfounded attacks by GM proponents who,
in the words of an editor for the Entomological Society of America,
?denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk,
partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge and
is outside the ideals of scientific inquiry?.

And it wasn?t just scientific enquiry that Monsanto was exposed as
strangling. An Associated Press investigation reported on confidential
Monsanto contracts showing how the world?s biggest seed developer is
squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and
aggressively protecting its multibillion-dollar market dominance.

Farmers hit
Meanwhile disenchanted farmers pointed to how the GM giant is using
its market power to raise prices for farmers and limit their access to
non-GM seeds. And another new report showed GM seed prices increasing
so dramatically that they have already cut average farm incomes for US

So in 2010 amidst the inevitable deluge of vacuous hype about GM being
vital to deal with hunger, poverty and the impact of climate change,
population growth, fuel scarcity and every other concern known to
humankind, nobody should be in any doubt as to what?s really at stake:
control over science, nature, food and farming.

And over that kind of stranglehold, it can only be a fight to the death.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506

Join the Global Rejection of GE Wheat! www.cban.ca/GEwheat

Donate today to support the campaign  www.cban.ca/donate

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