The beginning of the end for GM crops in the US?

The Daily Mail of the UK reports here that consumers in the United States have finally begun to wake up to the engineered biochemicals that the GM foods industry is serving up on their plates. This appears to be the case, judging from the results of a study by the Soil Association titled Land of the GM-Free? How the American public are starting to turn against GM food. Download the full report here in pdf.

One of the heartening aspects of the growing opposition is that consumers want GM foods labelled or at least other foods to be labelled ‘GM Free’. This kind of labelling has been consistently opposed by the GM industry, on the ground that GM crops enjoy substantive equivalence with regular foods, a deceitful argument that ignores the realities of biochemistry.

There are commentators like Professor Ron Herring who argue that if farmers are buying a large quantity of GM seed in India (currently Bt Cotton), it must be a successful invention. That same logic does not seem to hold for consumers, who oppose GM crops. They are debunked as irrational and obscurantist. Moreover, there is evidence to show that the Indian cotton seed market is now monopolised by Bt Cotton from Monsanto Mahyco.

Even more worrying are the commercial underpinnings of Professor Herring’s argument. They are evident in this interview to www.indiatogether.org, where he states as follows:

Again, the problem with regulation of transgenics in general is that it is expensive and likely to fail – like controls on software, pornography, drugs, etc. Governmental institutions in India – and in other countries as well – seem incapable of policing seeds, even if the costs were justifiable. The number of illegal Bt varieties under cultivation already exceeds the legal varieties…”

What we are looking at here — something that academicians like the learned Professor seem to be in awe of — is a new, aggressive seed policing, which is what companies such as Monsanto use in the US to “make an offer (to traditional farmers) that they cannot refuse.” If any evidence of Monsanto’s shocking seed policing methods is necessary, this investigative article in Vanity Fair is sufficient. To advocate such tactics to control the cotton crop in India, a land of already impoverished farmers, is unspeakably retrograde.

While on the question of acceptance, it is useful to remember that GM seeds were actually smuggled from Argentina into Brazil and given away to farmers virtually free, to defeat Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s plan to outlaw GM crops. That sordid episode is reported here by Businessweek in an article that is otherwise devoted to Monsanto. And to think that academicians swear by farmers’ preferences!

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