GM Free Cymru

GM, Corporate Feudalism and the Dark Ages


Mark Hedges, Editor, Country Life

20th March 2008

Dear Editor

GM, Corporate Feudalism and the Dark Ages

I have read your Editorial in the March 20 edition of "Country Life",  which has been given additional exposure through the Telegraph  newspaper (1).  I am amazed that a journal which purports to  represent the "countryside community" should have chosen this moment  to promote the interests of the GM industry in such an unbalanced  way, and to demonstrate its lack of awareness of what that industry  is trying to do to all of us.  Sadly, the piece is full of  inaccuracies and misapprehensions.  It could well have been written  by Dr Helen Ferrier of the  NFU, or by Clive James of ISAAA, who is  one of the chief spin doctors for the GM industry.

You seem to think that "designer crops" produced by the GM industry  will somehow solve the problems associated with over-population,  desertification, loss of plant diversity, nutrient depletion in  soils, and even sea level rise. Dreams about wonderful technical  fixes are obviously alive and well.   If only life were so simple.   In fact the GM industry is itself heavily implicated in the creation  and exacerbation of these problems.  Around 97% of the GM crops  currently grown are herbicide tolerant or designed to express  insecticides;  they emphatically have NOT increased yields, and they  HAVE increased the usage of proprietary chemicals including Roundup  and Liberty.  GM farming is essentially industrial/chemical farming  associated with very high energy inputs;  any extension of GM farming  will inevitably lead to a great increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

GM crop varieties are also patented life forms (which is an outrage  in itself, if you are concerned about ethics and the Christian  message) and those who grow them are debarred from seed saving or  from passing either seed or harvest through unapproved channels.  Big  commodity farmers are probably happy enough with this situation in  the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina, but small farmers are turned  into serfs in a world of corporate feudalism.  That is why so many  African states are desperately worried about the activities of the GM  corporations, which are supported ruthlessly by US and WTO diplomatic  pressure.  That is why thousands of small farmers growing BT cotton  in India have committed suicide.

You repeat the lie that GM is a means of speeding up the process of  selective breeding that’s been practised for millennia.  It is  absolutely different in a number of respects, creating new varieties  that are uniquely unstable and erratic in their behaviour and which  have the potential to cross-pollinate and out-compete in the wild,  with wholly unforeseen consequences.  There are increasing signs that  they are also harmful to the health of animals and humans since they  contain unique proteins and toxins.   The implications of GM farming  for biodiversity are horrendous, as the signatories to the Cartagena  Protocol know full well.  And while the biotechnology multinationals  are trying to breed their new wonder varieties using GM techniques,  they are systematically buying up seed merchants and their  catalogues, and removing "inconvenient" local varieties from the seed  lists.  Not so long ago, there were hundreds of canola (oilseed rape)  varieties available in Canada;  now, after the predations of Monsanto  and the other GM corporations, there are 28 GM varieties and only one  non-GM variety left.

The scenario which opens up is truly terrifying.  We will have a  world in which three or four gigantic GM corporations will literally  control the world's seed supply and hence the world's food supply.   Farm chemical use will rise inexorably, in association with the  management of herbicide-tolerant crops and also to counteract the  spread of "superweeds".  The corporations will impose a very small  number of GM crops onto subservient communities, and in locations  which are ill-suited for them.  Crop failures and famine will  increase dramatically, not decrease.  Locally adapted indigenous  crops, bred over millennia in response to local climatic and soil  conditions, will be systematically squeezed out because Monsanto,  Cargill and other huge companies will have claimed ownership of them  and then wiped them off seed catalogues.

There is no sign whatsoever of salt-tolerant or drought-tolerant GM  crops performing any better than plants developed by traditional and  new breeding methods, let alone providing any "quick fix" or even  long-term fix for the problems which the world will face in the  coming decades.

Your final paragraph, relating to the Christian message, suggests  that GM technology "has the potential to alleviate some of the  dangers" which we face over coming decades.  The GM industry trots  out this argument all the time, but the manner in which it operates  is in fact profoundly anti-Christian.  It replaces the old concept of  respect for all living things with the practice of life-form  patenting and ownership.  It replaces the concept of stewardship with  the unrestrained pursuit of the profit motive.  It replaces the   concepts of freedom and self-determination with the practice of  corporate control and feudalism.  It replaces love and beauty with  lies, scientific fraud, brutal enforcement of patents, and the  vilification of those who have the courage to stand in the way of  corporate ambitions.

You refer to the Dark Ages in your arguments in support of GM  "enlightenment."  Well, you are welcome to your opinion; but my  nightmare vision is of a world inhabited by our children and grand- children and controlled by a few gigantic biotechnology corporations  who feed us poisonous food and tell us it is good for us, who control  farmers through patents and contracts and tell them that is the only  way forward, who destroy fragile environments and communities and  pretend that their actions are benign, and who systematically remove  the ability of independent scientists, farmers and even governments  to innovate, adapt and benefit from the accumulated wisdoms of past  generations.  In the world of Monsanto, there is nothing but contempt  for the very idea of "the commons."  That is not a world that I want  any part of  -- and shame on you, Mr Hedges, for seeking to promote  it through the pages of your magazine.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian John Trefelin, Cilgwyn, Newport, Pembs SA42 0QN

(1) Time_to_love_GM_foods.html