Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why exactly do we need biotech?

I see that Former President Bill Clinton continues to hype genetically engineered food. The latest instance was in a speech at the Biotechnology Industry Conference held the other day in Chicago, when he told a standing-room crowd that biotech was key to a sustainable future.

This is exactly the sort of double-talk that President Clinton used in his 1992 election campaign, when his public stance was that of opposing NAFTA but, the moment he was elected, he claimed to have changed his mind and applied all the weight of his new position to muscling in the NAFTA agreement (that included deceiving the public by describing it as a "free trade" agreement when it was about evading democratic controls for the investing class, and further deceiving people by describing what was in fact a *treaty* as an "agreement"; why did he do that? because, according to the US Constitution, an agreement requires only a simple majority in order to be accepted, whereas a treaty requires a 75% majority). With all that deception, it would still be something if NAFTA actually worked for the people of the countries concerned. In fact, NAFTA has been an unmitigated disaster for the majority of the people of Canada, the US and Mexico, while it has of course been a great boon to the investor class, specially the top 1% of the population who are super-wealthy.

So why is Mr Clinton now pushing biotech so hard, when that involves designing seeds that produce sterile plants (plants that will not reproduce), so farmers who use genetically-modified seeds must buy them each year from Monsanto, along with Monsanto's Round Up Ready weedkiller, which destroys everything except Monsanto's patented seeds.

Mr Clinton and other biotech proponents constantly tell us that we need biotech in order to feed a hungry world. Which is nonsense. We already have enough food to feed the world. So what keeps certain parts of the world hungry? Dictators and corrupt politicians. That was thoroughly documented and demonstrated by the work of Noble Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, decades ago.

Biotech may have many benefits, but feeding the world's hungry is certainly not one of them.

Mr Clinton is a well-read and intelligent man, so he presumably must know the truth. But he continues to tell lies.

What sustainably will biotech lead to? It will lead to sustainable profits for companies such as Monsanto. As a shareholder myself (though not in Monsanto or any other biotech company) I have no objection at all to shareholders profiting sustainably. The only problems is that, in this case, the sustainable profits for Monsanto and other such companies will come at the cost of making more people poor, reducing biodiversity and increasing the danger of ecological disaster.

Biotech may be able to find ways around such consequences, but it has not found them yet, and it is irresponsible as well as dishonest of Mr Clinton and the biotech industry to go around seeking to foist their half-ready products on us.

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