2005 WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR THE BIOTECH FOOD INDUSTRY
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #837, Jan. 5, 2006
By Peter Montague
Felix Ballarin spent 15 years of his life developing a special
organically-grown variety of red corn. It would bring a high price on
the market because local chicken farmers said the red color lent a
rosy hue to the meat and eggs from their corn-fed chickens. But when
the corn emerged from the ground last year, yellow kernels were mixed
with the red. Government officials later confirmed with DNA tests that
Mr. Ballarin's crop had become contaminated with a genetically
modified (GMO) strain of corn.
Because Mr. Ballarin's crop was genetically contaminated, it no longer
qualified as "organically grown," so it no longer brought a premium
price. Mr. Ballarin's 15-year investment was destroyed overnight by
what is now commonly known as "genetic contamination." This is a new
phenomenon, less then 10 years old -- but destined to be a permanent
part of the brave new world that is being cobbled together as we speak
by a handful of corporations whose goal is global domination of food.
Mr. Ballarin lives in Spain, but the story is the same all over the
world: genetically modified crops are invading fields close by (and
some that are not so close by), contaminating both the organic food
industry and the "conventional" (non-GMO and non-organic) food
As a result of genetically contamination of non-GMO crops in Europe,
the U.S., Mexico, Australia and South America, the biotech food
industry had an upbeat year in 2005 and things are definitely looking
good for the future. As genetically modified pollen from their crops
blows around, contaminating nearby fields, objections to genetically
modified crops diminish because non-GMO alternatives become harder and
harder to find. A few more years of this and there may not be many (if
any) truly non-GMO crops left anywhere. At that point there won't be
any debate about whether to allow GMO-crops to be grown here or there
-- no one will have any choice. All the crops in the world will be
genetically modified (except perhaps for a few grown in greenhouses on
a tiny scale). At that point, GMO will have contaminated essentially
the entire planet, and the companies that own the patents on the GMO
seeds will be sitting in the catbird seat.
It is now widely acknowledged that GMO crops are a "leaky technology"
-- that it to say, genetically modified pollen is spread naturally on
the wind, by insects, and by humans. No one except perhaps some
officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were actually
surprised to learn this. GMO proponents have insisted for a decade
that genetic contamination could never happen (wink, wink) and U.S.
Department of Agriculture officials want along with the gag. And so of
course GMO crops are now spreading everywhere by natural means, just
as you would expect.
It couldn't have turned out better for the GMO crop companies if they
had planned it this way.
Growers of organically-grown and conventional crops are naturally
concerned that genetic contamination is hurting acceptance of their
products. Three California counties have banned GM crops. Anheuser-
Busch Co., the beer giant, has demanded that its home state (Missouri)
keep GMO rice fields 120 miles away from rice it buys to make beer.
The European Union is now trying to establish buffer zones meant to
halt the unwanted spread of GM crops. However, the Wall Street
Journal reported November 8 that, "Such moves to restrict the spread
of GM crops often are ineffective. Last month in Australia, government
experts discovered biotech canola genes in two non-GM varieties
despite a ban covering half the country. 'Regretfully, the GM
companies appear unable to contain their product," said Kim Chance,
agriculture minister for the state of Western Australia, on the
agency's Web site.
For some, this seems to come as a shocking revelation -- genetically
modified pollen released into the natural environment spreads long
distances on the wind. Who would have thought? Actually, almost anyone
could have figured this out. Dust from wind storms in China
contaminates the air in the U.S. Smoke from fires in Indonesia can be
measured in the air half-way around the world. Pollen is measurable in
the deep ice of antarctica. No one should ever have harbored any doubt
that genetically modified pollen would spread everywhere on the Earth
sooner or later. (We are now exactly 10 years into the global
experiment with GMO seeds. The first crops were planted in open fields
in the U.S. in 1995. From this meager beginning, global genetic
contamination is now well along.)
Who benefits from all this? Think of it this way: when all crops on
earth are genetically contaminated, then the seed companies that own
the patented seeds will be in a good position to begin enforcing their
patent rights. They have already taken a test case to court and won.
In 2004, Monsanto (the St. Louis, Mo. chemical giant) won a seven-year
court battle against a 73-year-old Saskatchewan farmer whose fields
had been contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified plants. The
Supreme Court of Canada court ruled that the farmer -- a fellow
named Percy Schmeiser -- owed Monsanto damages for having Monsanto's
patented crops growing illegally in his field.
Armed with this legal precedent, after genetically modified crops have
drifted far and wide, Monsanto, Dow and the other GMO seed producers
will be in a position to muscle most of the world's farmers. It is for
cases exactly like this that the U.S. has spent 30 years creating the
WTO (world trade organization) -- to settle disputes over
"intellectual property rights" (such as patents) in secret tribunals
held in Geneva, Switzerland behind closed doors without any impartial
observers allowed to attend. Even the results of WTO tribunals are
secret, unless the parties involved choose to reveal them. Let me see
-- a dirt farmer from India versus Monsanto and Dow backed by the U.S.
State Department and the U.S. Treasury. I'm struggling to predict who
might win such a politico- legal dispute conducted by a secret
tribunal in Geneva, Switzerland.
During 2005, it was discovered that GMO crops have not lived up to
their initial promise of huge profits for farmers and huge benefits
for consumers. It was also discovered that the U.S. Department of
Agriculture has not enforced its own strict regulations that were
intended to prevent experimental GMO seeds to accidentally
contaminating nearby fields. GMO crops were supposed to produce
important human health benefits - and the be developed under super-
strict government control - but all these promises have turned out to
be just so much eye wash.. GMOs were supposed to reduce reliance on
dangerous pesticides -- but in fact they have had the opposite effect.
Monsanto's first GMO crops were designed to withstand drenching in
Monsanto's most profitable product, the weed killer Round-Up -- so
farmers who buy Monsanto's patented "Round- up ready" seeds apply
more, not less, weed killer.
But so what? Who cares if GMO seeds don't provide any of the benefits
that were promised? Certainly not the seed companies. Perhaps benefits
to the people of the world were never the point. Perhaps the point was
to get those first GMO crops in the ground -- promise them the moon!
-- and then allow nature to take its course and contaminate the rest
of the planet with patented pollen. The intellectual property lawsuits
will come along in good time. Patience, dear reader, patience. Unlike
people, corporations cannot die, so our children or our grandchildren
may find themselves held in thrall by two or three corporations that
have seized legal control of much of the world's food supply by
getting courts (backed by the threat of force, as all courts
ultimately are) to enforce their intellectual property rights.
The Danish government has passed a law intended to slow the pace of
genetic contamination. The Danes will compensate farmers whose fields
have become contaminated, then the Danish government will seek
recompense from the farmer whose field originated the genetic
contamination, assuming the culprit can be pinpointed. This may slow
the spread of genetic contamination, but the law is clearly not
designed to end the problem.
Yes, it has been a good year for the GMO industry. None of the stated
benefits of their products have materialized -- and the U.S.
government regulatory system has been revealed as a sham -- but
enormous benefits to the few GMO corporations are right on track to
begin blossoming. For Monsanto, Dow and Novartis, a decent shot at
gaining control over much of the world's food supply is now blowing on
the wind and there's no turning back. As the Vice-President of plant
genetics for Dow Agrosciences said recently, "There will be come
continuing bumps in the road, but we are starting to see a balance of
very good news and growth. The genie is way out of the bottle."