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web posted February 21, 2005

Re: Out of Africa by Paul Driessen and Cyril Boynes, Jr. (February 14, 2005)

I write in response to the piece by Driessen and Boynes (February 14th), which promotes the extraordinary idea that GM crops are going to help to feed the starving people of the Third World. This is not the way that genuinely independent development organizations and NGOs see it, even if it is a line pushed endlessly by CORE, ISAAA and other "not for profit" organizations that front up the activities of the biotechnology multinationals.

I reject almost everything that the authors say about the supposed benefits of GM technology, which they insist on confusing with "biotechnology." GM crops will not save lives, reduce poverty or counteract malnutrition in Africa, but they will -- if they are adopted more widely -- extend the economic colonialism of the GM multinationals, increase poverty and pull small farmers into a chemical-intensive cash crop economy just when their governments are seeking to expand the production of basic and indigenous foods. The authors -- and people like Clive James of ISAAA -- would do well to heed the statement signed by delegates from 20 African Countries to the FAO meeting on Plant Genetic Resources, which included these words: "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial." And to quote again, in the words of Steve Smith of Syngenta: "If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world, tell them that it is not. To feed the world takes political and financial will."

Let's not beat about the bush. The goal of the biotech industry (in its present form) is simply to maximise the profits of the multinational corporations which dominate both the supply of GM seeds and the agrichemicals for which they are engineered. GM farmers are trapped into GM farming by technology agreements which force them to buy GM seeds, herbicides and insecticides from the biotech companies, which prohibit them from seed saving, and which threaten them with prosecution in the event of any breaches of contract. These farmers are not free; they are the slaves of the multinationals, and Monsanto (for example) has shown that it is utterly merciless when it comes to protecting its "intellectual rights." Just ask Percy Schmeiser and scores of other farmers in North America who have signed no contracts but who have had the misfortune to find the adventitious presence of GM crops on their land.

Driessen and Boynes avoid any discussion of the safety of GM crops, their environmental impacts, and the extent to which they increase herbicide and insecticide use. The US and UK governments, and their advisory committees and agencies, have systematically refused to commission any research into GM food safety. The scattered independent research projects that have been completed give rise to major concerns about the effects of long-term ingestion of foods containing GM components. On environmental impacts, the authors need look no further than the UK's FSE programme, which showed that all of the GM crops tested were likely, in real commercial applications, to lead to greater damage to biodiversity than their conventional counterparts. On agrichemical use, the studies which we have seen show that after an initial fall there is an inevitable rise, and that after a few years chemical applications -- and weed resistance -- go up inexorably. And on liability, the multinationals are running scared, since they know that their products are unstable, unsafe and impossible to contain -- and that liability legislation will lead to multi-million dollar claims against them.

If they get away with it, bodies like ISAAA and CORE will, on behalf of their paymasters, force a new form of slavery onto the poor people of Africa. More crops will be devoted to the feeding of cattle, and less and less land will be devoted to the growing of crops for human consumption. Thousands of local crop varieties, which are well adapted to specific ecological niches, will be lost. With the advent of monoculture, the potential for catastrophic crop failures will be increased. More and more farmers will be enslaved by contracts with the GM multinationals. There will be more poverty, more hunger and more starvation. More and more poor people will be displaced and dispossessed. And there will be an in creasing number of export markets into which the multinationals can sell their seeds and their agrichemicals and within which they can rake in their profits. No wonder that many African countries want nothing whatsoever to do with the "philanthropic" activities of corporate America.

By the way, if you think that I am a part of a "brilliant, well-orchestrated campaign financed to the tune of some $70 million a year by foundations, organic food interests, EU governments, and even UN agencies and programs", I can assure you that nobody pays me a penny for my involvement in the campaign to rid the planet of the scourge of GM crops; and nobody gives me orders. I should be very interested to know where this $70 million has come from, and where it has gone to.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Brian John
Pembrokeshire, Wales


web posted February 7, 2005

Re: Mexico's undeclared war against America by Alan Caruba (January 24, 2005)

Before I commence on suggesting you seek medical help from an unlike minded psychologist, I would first like to comment on your "piece" titled: Mexico's undeclared war on America.

Maybe you should write a letter to the Department of Defence "informing" them of your "epiphany" and the need to launch a pre-emptive strike on your southern neighbour Mexico, who, in your words, is deliberately sending in Mexicans as an act of war.

Because of your narrow-mindedness and inability to think rationally beyond your own paranoia, I must now take the time to reiterate what you obviously have no capability of doing and waste my time writing this letter to help you think outside the box of "everyone is out to get you".  "The Guide for the Mexican Immigrant" is aimed at saving lives! (Maybe you already researched that and decided to ignore it.) Hundreds of impoverished Mexicans who have little hope of living a privileged life as you, or myself, seek to cross hundreds of miles of desert without the knowledge of the dangers that exist in the mere hope of crossing the border, just to get a low life irrelevant job just to actually survive, never mind surviving the desert.

Moreover, these people, with the little money they have, send it back to their families in hopeful efforts that it would be of some benefit to their families. Never mind the fact that on this low wage they too need to feed, clothe and shelter themselves. If people as narcissistic and like minded as the discourse you have written were to actually fulfil these jobs, maybe there wouldn’t be any availability for "sneaky war-minded" Mexicans to try to make it into the US to try and live a better life. Next time stop to actually think before you write such drivel. No wonder you contribute to the National Anxiety Centre. Rather smoke a cigarette or have shot of whiskey and calm down instead of poisoning others with editorials like this that turn people against there fellow man.

For you to say that its an act of war is actually quite pathetic and my God have mercy on your soul for being so arrogant. Billions of people stumble upon your extremist editorials once in a while and thank heaven that we don’t think the same way or are anything as morose. Its actually people like you that give Americans a bad name to the rest of the world. (Did you even know that there’s an entire world more diverse and great than your backgarden?)

Well thanks anyway for your insightful, yet demented and sad piece of paranoia.

Greg Botoulas

 

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