viernes, octubre 28, 2005

The biotech vultures

We recently posted an article about an international conference on Genetic Engineering and Sustainable Agriculture in Lusaka, Zambia, where regional and international scientists, government representatives, and other stakeholders, had "hailed" the southern African states that had stood up and demanded non-GMO food aid despite the arm-twisting of the US.

But not all those at the conference supported the stance of Zambia and others. One of the contributors, Dr Mae-wan Ho, sent us an image which had been made use of at the conference by two pro-GM scientists, Luke Mumba from Zambia and Joseph M Wekundah, his counterpart from Kenya.

You can see this shocking image here:

It shows a starving African infant crawling along the ground with a vulture watching over it. Mae-wan Ho tells us that people were given the impression that the child was crawling towards food aid. The child, the audience were also told, had managed to survive. The photographer had soon after committed suicide.

However, neither of the pro-GM scientists made it clear to their audience that this picture was taken back in the early 1990s in Sudan, long before GM food aid became an issue. Instead both GM proponents used it emotively with the clear implication that any blocking of GM food aid or, for that matter, of GM technology, could result in the tragedy of a child being unable to find the relief it desperately needed.

In fact, the whole context of this picture was misrepresented, as can be seen from the information about the picture, the child and the photographer who took it, below (item 3). Even without knowing about the misrepresentation, though, Mae-wan reports that the use of the image "disgusted a number of the Africans there, basically because it so crudely exploited the terrible suffering of African children in an attempt to peddle GM crops for Africa."

In case anyone has forgotten, its important to remember that there is absolutely no credible evidence that any child - or adult come to that - died as a result of the concern among southern African countries over GM food aid. And even if - God forbid - such a tragedy had occurred, the responsibility would have lain squarely with the US which largely took the attitude 'eat GM or starve' (to quote a Reuters headline), and the World Food Programme which tried to face down Zambia by leaving the unwanted GM grain unreplaced inside warehouses for months.

The reality of what happened has not, however, stopped the biotech industry and its lobbyists and supporters from conducting the most disgusting disgusting black propaganda campaign - a campaign aimed at painting the critics of GM as responsible for mass murder in southern Africa - see item 4: 'Fake blood on the maize'.

As for Dr Mumba, he has said that the priority of his lobby group is the conducting of an 'aggressive awareness campaign' (item 2). His use of this image would certainly seem to fit that bill!

One way or another, vultures feeding off the suffering of Africa may not be such an inappropriate image.

What alse emerges is that while the industry may not be able to clone her, Florence Wambugu is far from a lone actor when it comes to deceptive fictions involving biotechnology and poverty.

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