Sunday, May 22, 2005

What have we let them do

Last month twelve US states introduced laws banning local governments and communities from making decisions about what kind of plants they want to grow. Basically, these states cannot now lawfully decide to not grow Genetically Modified crops. It means that large corporate agricultural enterprises can wash into areas and grow GMO crops, and local farmers and communities will not be able to protest lawfully.

Essentially, what we have, is a seed dictatorship rising up in US agricultural states that is likely to spread and impact upon any country either under US "jurisdiction" or entering into trade agreements with the US government.

It basically means that seed diversity is unprotected from the advances of agricultural firms who are interested in cashflow, not long term sustainability. If we end up with only one or two strains of crop (quite conceivable under GMO circumstances) for each food species - say, one type of brown rice, one type of white, one type of short grain and one type of long - it means that those food crops become extremely vulnerable. When you have several hundred strains developed by individual farmers, you have diversity. If one type of short grain rice is wiped out by a disease it's a bummer for the individual farmer, but there are still several other hundred strains unaffected and as a consequence there is still food available. If you only have one type of the strain to begin with and it is devastated by a new unforeseen pest, you lose the whole thing. One massive epidemic and the whole crop is wiped out - small pockets may survive, but the devastation is on a much larger scale. It's like the stockmarket. Say you put all your investments into one stock and then that stock collapses - you and everyone else who invested in that stock are left with zilch. Where is if you'd "diversified", that is had a few investments tucked away in other stocks, you'd at least have come out of the crash with backup.

Genetic Modifification is one of the worst double speak phrases in the agricultural lexicon. GMO crops once they have been developed allow for very little "Modification" at all, becoming inflexible and stagnant. The last thing these strains are about is growth, they actually inhibit growth in that the companies who manufacture them are seeking laws that prohibit competition from other naturally bred and more diverse strains.

These new seed and plant bills being passed are basically limiting the number of "backup" stocks. And if GMO crops crash (it is likely as not) then we'll end up with one hungry globe.

More here and here and here.

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