ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

19 September 2002

HYPE AND HATE IN THE WSJ

Here's some hate literature from the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ editorial, 'Why Africans Are Starving', claims, "The European Union bans most GM crops -- lest they upset Europe's heavily subsidized farm system" and quotes Roger Bate (sidekick of Julian Morris at the IPN/IEA/ESEF!) on EU subsidies and biotech:

"The costs of agricultural products will continue to fall due to genetically modified food technologies, which are increasing productivity by 10% to 15% per year," says Mr. Bate. "Europe's subsidy programs will become that much more expensive, and their position on biotech that much more untenable."

Bate conveniently ignores the fact that the heavily subsidised US farm system has become significanly more not less heavily subsidised during the era of GM crops with US$190 billion more promised over the next decade!

Bate's claims of increased productivity with GM crops are equally bogus.

According to the WSJ, "The green brigade... likes to buttress its political opposition to GM foods with junk science", so let's quote from the recent report from the USDA, The Adoption of Bio-engineered Crops <www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aer810/>

The USDA report, which was undertaken by their Economic Research Service, shows not only that GM crops do not increase yield potential but they may, in fact, reduce yields. The report concludes that "perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."

The recent "Seeds of Doubt" report from the Soil Association goes further and argues that genetically engineered soybeans, corn and canola have actually cost the US economy up to US$12 billion since 1999 through lower crop prices, loss of export orders, and product recalls. The exact amount, however, remains hard to guage because of the massive levels of subsidy.

Bate's exercise in misinformation, however, is as nothing when compared to the WSJ's own concluding burst of hype and hate: "Genetic modification has led to a healthier, more abundant food supply that is cheaper to produce and less stressful on the environment. Now that we have the means to feed Africa's hungry, who would've guessed that some would lack the motive?"

That's not apparently how Professor David King sees it, "Blair's chief scientific adviser denounced the United States' attempts to force the technology into Africa as a 'massive human experiment'. In a scathing attack on President Bush's administration, Professor David King also questioned the morality of the US's desire to flood genetically modified foods into African countries, where people are already facing starvation in the coming months." The Observer, UK, Sep 1, 2002
http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,784262,00.html

For how Bate and Morris take money from Big Tobacco to support their attacks on industry's critics, see:
http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/rightwing.htm

***

Why Africans Are Starving

Wall Street Journal

Green groups and European bureaucrats aren't  conspiring to starve millions of sub-Saharan Africans, but  according to Andrew Natsios of the U.S. Agency for  International Development, they may as well be. Speaking at  the Earth Summit in Johannesburg this month, Mr. Natsios  said he's been unable to persuade Zambian President Levy  Mwanawasa to accept food aid from the U.S., even  though Southern Africa is facing its worst drought in  a decade. The World Health Organization reports that  famine-related deaths in the region could reach 13 million  -- 2.4 million in Zambia alone. The U.S. has shipped 17,000  tons of corn to Zambia, where many are already down to one  meal per day, only to have it sit in storage. Because some  of the U.S. corn has been genetically modified -- to make  it more resistant to pests, diseases and the region's harsh  growing environs -- Mr. Mwanawasa has declared it unsafe  for consumption. The green brigade, which likes to buttress  its political opposition to GM foods with junk science, is  cheering Zambia's intransigence. And the willingness of  Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the like to let  Africans starve in the name of someone else's ideology is  remarkable enough. But the Europeans are also blameworthy.

 Zambia is just as worried about upsetting trade relations  with Europe, its biggest export market. The European Union  bans most GM crops -- lest they upset Europe's heavily  subsidized farm system -- and Mr. Mwanawasa's concern is  that the U.S. corn will cross-pollinate with non-GM  varieties and taint future yields. The eco-lobby has  targeted the Third World with a five-year, $175 million  campaign against GM foods. The Sierra Club is calling "for  a moratorium on the planting of all genetically engineered  crops." Greenpeace says it "opposes all releases of  genetically engineered organisms into the environment," an  act it calls "genetic pollution." Supposed hazards include  the spread of allergens and toxins and the creation of  "superweeds" immune to herbicides. Science and experience  have proven these fears to be unfounded. Biotechnology has  had no ill effects on human health or the environment.

 Gene-splicing technology dates back more than 30 years,  and GM-products have been widely marketed in the U.S. for  the better part of a decade. Today some two-thirds of the  food products in American supermarkets contain genetically  modified ingredients. No superweeds, no allergies, no  illnesses and certainly no fatalities have ever been linked  to GM foods. While Europe's scientists reject the  pseudo-science pushed by biotech opponents, Europe's  protectionist trade policies effectively endorse it. Roger  Bate of the London-based International Policy Network says  this thinking is shortsighted. "The costs of agricultural  products will continue to fall due to genetically modified  food technologies, which are increasing productivity by 10%  to 15% per year," says Mr. Bate. "Europe's subsidy programs  will become that much more expensive, and their position on  biotech that much more untenable."

Genetic modification has led to a healthier, more abundant  food supply that is cheaper to produce and less stressful  on the environment. Now that we have the means to feed  Africa's hungry, who would've guessed that some would lack  the motive?

***

"Asked if people were going 'too far' by saying that gene-altered humanitarian exports were part of a strategy to spread the crops around the world, [Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: 'I'm not sure that is going too far.' "
http://ngin.tripod.com/020802e.htm

"If the US insists on imposing this genetically modified maize on our people, we will be justified in questioning their motive." Editorial, Dignity in hunger, The Post, Zambia, July 30, 2002
http://www.zamnet.zm/zamnet/post/editcom.html

"We have been pushed around by the way the Americans have put pressure on this issue." EU development commissioner, Poul Nielson on the US food aid strategy
http://ngin.tripod.com/300802a.htm

"These governments have screwed up and are looking for someone to blame." Andrew Bennett, Monsanto's head biotechnologist in Johannesburg, Against the grain, The Weekend Australian, August 31, 2002

"It is highly unethical not to just cover the costs for milling. Tell me how much it costs to drop one bomb on Afghanistan. Who is starving whom here?" Carol Thompson, a political economist at Northern Arizona University
http://ngin.tripod.com/020802e.htm

"...[African] government subsidies on maize production have been discontinued under pressure from the World Trade Organization [but] it now seems that it's OK for the starving here to eat subsidised maize, just as long as it is GM and grown in America." Andrew Clegg, Windhoek, Namibia in a letter to New Scientist

"Beggars can't be choosers." A State Department official, commenting on southern African nations' resistance to accepting shipments of US food aid containing genetically engineered ingredients
http://ngin.tripod.com/160802a.htm

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