In the UK the government and the National Farmers Union have said that failing to adopt GM crops means losing out to our North American rivals who will gain the most by adopting this new technology first. But in December 2000 the Canadian National Farmers Union, having identified the environmental and economic drawbacks of GM, called for a ban on GM foods.
The first article below makes abundantly clear that once a country allows its agriculture to become identified in the public mind with this unpredictable and poorly understood 'technology', concerns may threaten even its as yet non-GM exports, in this case wheat [GM wheat, barley and rice are not expected to be available commercially for at least another three years].
As the Candian NFU note: "While the benefits [of GM] are questionable, risks and costs are real... The NFU policy on GM foods recognizes that almost all of the questions surrounding this technology remain unanswered... Because this technology has the potential to threaten the environment, human health, and the economic wellbeing of farmers, Canadians should debate and study before we plant and eat."
In short, adopting this technology in a hurry makes no kind of sense, which of course leaves one pondering the thought processes of those in government, industry and science who seem hell bent on doing just that -- which brings us to the second article.
This covers what's just been going on at the 88th Indian Science Congress and perfectly exposes how industry in collaboration with elements of a self-interested scientific and political elite are trying to impose this technology:
the private sector was well represented through MAHYCO [Monsanto] both in the 'Genetically Modified Foods" and 'How Food Secure is India?' public forum meetings. But while the industry was allowed its say, concerns from the audience were not fielded by the panelists. The public forum on GM foods did not have an interaction with the audience at all.
The article also describes as "alarming" the categorical support for GM that emerged in a concluding statement from the 88th Indian Science Congress. This the paper says was unscientific "based not on data, but on lobbies".
Let's be clear, rushing in a technology that in the words of the Canadian NFU "has the potential to threaten the environment, human health, and the economic wellbeing of farmers" without inclusive debate and proper study "before we plant and eat", is in the proper sense of the word 'criminal'. But then as Prof. Wangari Mathai of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya has noted, "History has many records of crimes against humanity, which were also justified by dominant commercial interests and governments of the day". Prof. Mathai puts patenting of life forms and the genetic engineering which it engenders in that category.
Italians suspect Canada`s wheat contaminated, Ottawa says
Globe and Mail
Wednesday -- January 3, 2001
Rome ”” Canada has told its wheat exporters that Italian buyers are worried over possible contamination of supplies by genetically modified grain. A Foreign Ministry report said, ``Fears towards possible contamination by Canadian GM-wheat are rapidly spreading and pose a potential threat.``
The report added, ``Given the situation in Italy, with [leading farmers` group] Confagricoltura promising consumers to use only GM-free wheat, attention and effort should be directed to this subject.``
Authorities need to agree to procedures for the segregation of GM from non-GM cargoes as well as labelling.
Canada is an important supplier of high-quality soft and durum wheat to Italy. Canadian durum is used in Italy both for pasta making and for milling into bread.
Canada`s major competitors for both soft and durum wheat are the United States, Australia and France, but the quality of Canadian produce assures a premium price.
Italian authorities and farmers are firmly opposed to the use of genetically modified organisms amid concerns over their possible impact on health and the environment.
International life science companies have genetically engineered crops to boost resistance to pests and herbicides and thereby raise yields.
Italian Farm Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, a member of the Greens, has spearheaded Italy's opposition to GM foods, and the country`s main farmers` groups spurn GM produce.
``New issues recently raised by the European Union attempt to regulate the entrance and labelling of GMO products, which will certainly be the main hot topic of the year,`` the Canadian report said.
Canadian exports of wheat to Italy fell sharply in 1999 due to the bankruptcy of the largest Italian distributor of Canadian wheat, Italgrani.
Canadian durum wheat exports to Italy halved in 1999 to $47.4-million from $96.5-million in 1998 and Canadian soft wheat exports to Italy fell to $40.6-million in 1999 from $81.2-million a year earlier, official Canadian figures show.
No figures for 2000 were available. <br<brIn terms of volume, sales to Italy of Canadian durum fell to 184,940 tonnes in 1999 from 300,876 a year earlier.
``We anticipate a better year in 2000-2001,`` the report said, without giving projections.
India: A place of honour for GM foods
FT Asia Intelligence Wire
THE HINDU January 8, 2001
NEW DELHI, JAN. 7. The science of acquiring genetically modified (GM) foods was accorded a place of honour in the recommendations of the 88th Indian Science Congress which concluded here today.
But what was alarming was that a conclusive statement like, "Most of the concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods have not been substantiated through experimental evidence" finds a mention in the recommendations. Trials in this "new science" are very recent - such as in BT cotton - for an unscientific statement to be made so categorically. In India the safety protocols, the sui generis legislation and the Plant Varieties Act are yet to be put in place. In any case, the carcinogenic evidence or any side-effects of any trial takes years to show up. This just goes to show that the recommendations are based not on data, but on lobbies.
On the eve of the official Science Congress, a People's Science Congress attended by several farm and political leaders had warned that this congress was being held to give a launching pad to multi-national companies involved in research and commercialisation of GM foods and transgenics. The US- based global seed giant Monsanto, which is involved in BT cotton plantations in India through the Maharashtra-based MAHYCO seed company, has also patented technology on terminator seeds, which has been banned by India.
The wide-ranging recommendations lack focus on how to achieve 'Food, Nutrition and Environmental Security' which was the theme of the congress. While presenting them, Dr. R.S. Paroda, general president of the congress said all attempts to increase production and productivity will come to a naught if population was not checked. But when targets have been removed from the population stabilisation programme of the country, the Science Congress targets women and places the twin responsibility of "population management" and "nutrition management of the family units" on them. Obviously, the scientists are not well-versed with the latest target- free and male-oriented approach in family welfare.
For the most part, the recommendations, running into five pages, include most of the inaugural address of the Prime Minister (formation of Genome Valley, unshackling governance of research and higher education from bureaucratic controls, enhancing farm research investment to two per cent of the GDP), the Agriculture Minister (Rainbow Revolution), Dr. M.S. Swaminathan (negotiating for a Livelihood Box at WTO), Dr. Manju Sharma (Biotechnology as a powerful tool) and Dr. R.S. Paroda (Panch Sutras).
Although noted farm experts such as Dr. Norman Borlaug and Dr. Ingo Potrykus were absent, the private sector was well represented through MAHYCO both in the 'Genetically Modified Foods" and 'How Food Secure is India?' public forum meetings. But while the industry was allowed its say, concerns from the audience were not fielded by the panelists. The public forum on GM foods did not have an interaction with the audience at all.