MIKE Small, in his article for the Sunday National (Attack on Food Standards and Transparency is an Attack on Democracy, May 29), addressed many scientific and constitutional issues related to the use of modification techniques genetics to ‘improve’ our food supply and the steps taken by the government in Westminster to bring these products to the UK market.
However, he – and to be honest with many other commentators – ignores a big financial elephant that looms on the periphery of these discussions: patents.
Companies that develop these organisms will patent their products and hold a monopoly on their use. There are already precedents of companies suing farmers whose crops have been “contaminated” with neighboring GM crops for illegal use.
This is dangerous territory, because big corporations are already creating situations around the world that penalize farmers who resist using their products and demand that they buy seed from the manufacturer or be prosecuted if they try to. save quantities of seeds for future planting.
The Monsanto vs US Farmers report (2005), by the Center for Food Safety, is salutary reading describing how big business can use its power to intimidate and punish farmers who are bound by coercive contracts and punished for the spread inadvertently from “Monsanto”. ” property “.
We already have problems with big business appropriating land and water across the world to the exclusion of local communities, and when private for-profit enterprise holds the key to food supply, we we find ourselves in a very dangerous position even before developments that could provide a legal basis for monopoly and cartel activities.
The desire for a logic of security framework in the management of any crisis often ignores the politics that caused a crisis in the first place. The impact of these political decisions mainly worsens the cost of living for the poorest and most vulnerable communities where political agency is minimal.
When it comes to food, there is an overwhelming dependence on global markets. Governments and transnational corporations, as well as the media, will divert our attention from the workings of politics on agriculture and food systems – the main drivers of food scarcity – to focus on other events, such as the conflict in Ukraine or climate change. crisis. What is missing in the current discourse on food scarcity is that the prices of energy, mineral fertilizers, urea and nitrates – on which agriculture has been so heavily dependent – were already on the rise. long before.
There is a history of global diets, which have had implications for land use and control. Colonial and settler economies produced cheap grain and meat for world markets. This shifted to large-scale, chemical-based, mechanized and heavily subsidized agriculture, heavily dependent on inputs. Meanwhile, the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s and 1990s by the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and NAFTA bankrupted small producers in the South, leaving these countries with trade deficits, and vulnerabilities to global food fluctuations in stock markets.
Initiatives such as Climate Smart Agriculture, Food for the Future and recently the European Green Deal Farm to Fork strategy are further integrating smallholder farmers into commercial markets under the banner of sustainable agriculture and lifting the de facto ban on cultivation. of genetically modified plants by claiming that the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers when this has not been the case in the Americas.
Farm to Fork will reverse the 2018 European Court of Justice ruling that treats CRISPR genetically modified plants or animals under the same strict “precautionary principle” rules for GMOs. Without any restrictions, gene-editing companies such as Bayer-Monsanto and other giants such as DuPont and Syngenta will be free to introduce experimental and unproven genetically modified plants and animals into our food without labeling. The Gene Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill is currently in the UK Parliament, and it is expected that it will soon become law. In Scotland, genetic editing of plants or animals is apparently supported by the National Farmers Union. Haven’t they learned the lessons of the Americas? This removes the control of food from the hands of farmers and small producers to those of the big players.
Land grabbing or buying may mean new land arrangements. Emerging markets are interested in flexible crops with multiple uses: food, fodder, fuel and industrial equipment. The commodification of land leads to dispossession. We must return to food and land sovereignty, a term made famous by La Via Campesina which emphasizes the localization of the food system based on agroecology and less dependent on inputs. Ultimately, the land should belong to the people, and the people to the land, fighting for a renewed relationship with the land rather than the solutions offered by government and corporate policy makers.