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Organic activists need GMOs now more than ever

By Patrick Moore and Mischa Popoff
web posted April 7, 2014

"Once an activist, always an activist." – The Activist's Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life, Revolutionary Books, 2012.

You can't separate the organic movement from the anti-GMO movement. They are one and the same, existing in perfect anti-technological symbiosis. What's bad for GMOs is good for organics and vice versa.

With GMO labeling initiatives underway in 26 out of 50 states, and a global campaign to stop life-saving GM Golden Rice from being approved, you're supposed to believe the leaders of the multibillion-dollar organic industry are just watching innocently from the sidelines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once an activist, always an activist. And when Democratic State Senator Noreen Evans claims her GMO labeling bill – an idea that Californians already defeated once – is "agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad," she's lying. Since when do politicians label things for no reason?

The "GMO Free Mendocino" campaign was launched in Senator Evans' district by Els Cooperrider, a founding member of The Mendocino Organic Network, who succeeded in 2004 not merely in banning GMOs in Mendocino County, but in having all GMO crops destroyed by order of a federal judge. With the "organic" cause as the backbone of Cooperrider's agricultural pogrom, Mendocino instantly became Grand Central for all subsequent anti-GMO movements.

Of course, organic activists like Cooperrider are opposed to a lot of things: synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, to name but a few. And yet, all these substances combined do not come close to the opposition reserved for GMOs.

And how exactly does one process Greenpeace's campaign to abandon up to 500,000 children who go blind every year in the developing world from Vitamin-A deficiency? Only with vague arguments taken straight from Cooperrider's manifesto, warning of as-yet unknown, unspecified risks to human health, the environment and organic farming. Greenpeace has succeeded in keeping GMO Vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice from being approved for humanitarian use in spite of support for this life-saving crop from the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and many other charitable organizations.

Still think Sen. Evans is agnostic on GMOs?

The science of genetic engineering gave diabetics synthetic human insulin which replaced insulin from slaughtered pigs. Try to imagine someone blocking genetically-synthesized human insulin, or labeling it to encourage use of the "organic" alternative. It's unthinkable given the high rate of diabetes in North America and Europe.

Whether they seek to ban or label GMOs, organic activists are pretending to protect consumers for their own good even though no negative effect has ever been observed from any approved GM food. Meanwhile, these very same people insist only that synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics not be used on organic farms. They do not demand bans or labels on conventional crops grown with these approved substances.

But for all the half-baked arguments against Golden Rice along with demands for the useless labeling of foods that have contained GMO ingredients for close to 20 years now, the fact is that organic and Greenpeace activists actually need GMOs. They're quite content to continue to "co-exist" right alongside their avowed arch nemesis because it provides a vital element to their continued existence as activists.

This is why labeling campaigns have all but replaced campaigns to ban GMOs just 10-short years after Cooperrider's runaway "success." It also explains, incidentally, why outwardly anti-GMO Europe routinely accepts huge shipments of GM crops from America for livestock feed. Banning GMOs is the last thing on organic politicians' and activists' minds. They just want to control GMOs, and to that end labeling provides the perfect balance.

GMOs will remain in circulation to scare consumers, while growth in the GMO sector is severely limited under a labeling regime, so much so that fewer and fewer corporations will develop new GMO crops, thus guaranteeing that this still untapped field of science never becomes fully accepted by the masses. Existing GMO crops will continue to either be highly restricted as in Europe, or labeled like a package of cigarettes here in America, while a new crop like Golden Rice is just best left on the back burner while every possible angle on its side-effects is studied to death… literally!

It's like the joke about the drunk looking for a contact lens under a lamppost outside a bar one night. A passerby stops to lend a hand, and after 20 minutes finally asks, "Are you sure you lost it under this lamppost?" The drunk replies, "No… it was that one over there." The passerby is stunned. "Then why are we looking under this lamppost?" To which the drunk replies, "Because the light's better!"

Meanwhile, rather than test organic crops to ensure they're free of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics, voluntary record-keeping and record-checking is relied upon to supposedly keep all those substances out of premium-priced organic food. Then, before anyone notices this is nothing more than a multibillion-dollar honor-based marketing scheme, the leaders of the organic industry move quickly to where the light is better, attacking GMOs as "Frankenfoods," accompanied by constant chatter about GMOs contaminating organic crops. It turns out there's no such thing as "contamination" of an organic crop by GMOs.

Such "contamination" – when it occurs at all – has always been well below one-one-hundredth of a percentage point. More to the point, if they were worried about GMOs "contaminating" organic fields, why didn't anti-GMO organic activists say so in their own standards for organic production, standards which they quite literally wrote themselves!

Clearly, anti-GMO organic activists were utterly unconcerned with GMOs right from the get-go, only deciding it was expedient to feign concern over GMO "contamination" long after the rules were established, after billions of dollars in certified-organic royalties had been collected by these activists to fund their cause. Meanwhile, studies show pesticide contamination-levels in excess of 40 percent in certified-organic products. Maybe read that sentence again if you buy organic food.

Now you know why GMO labeling initiatives, along with Greenpeace's campaign to keep Golden Rice from reaching some very needy people, always point to the harm GMOs supposedly inflict on organic farmers. Examples are never provided. How curious. Curiouser still that reporters never ask for examples. Why, it's almost as if reporters have never bothered to read America's organic standards. Maybe read this paragraph again if you're a reporter.

Labeling, as opposed to banning, makes the light all the brighter under the anti-GMO organic lamppost. And with the exception of Golden Rice – the exception that proves the rule – organic activists will never again seek to have GMOs banned as they were in Mendocino. GMOs represent a highly effective straw man for organic activists, driving revenues for Greenpeace and the global organic movement to fund yet more misguided, tax-subsidized anti-GMO campaigns.

Organic activists need GMOs the same way the Soviets needed decadent America during the Cold War. Without something plausible, never mind credible, to stand opposed to, they would collapse under the unverifiable weight of their own propaganda. Of course, as with the Cold War, innocent civilians will be sacrificed on the road to Utopia. In this case, it's a couple million people a year in the Third World dying from Vitamin-A deficiency, along with up to 500,000 kids going blind.

When warlords and organic-munching environmentalists conspire to commit genocide in far off lands, at least the warlords don't pretend it's for the good of the planet. ESR

Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace and Mischa Popoff is a policy analyst with the Heartland Institute.






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