viernes, junio 13, 2008

Monsanto's Mythmaking Will Not Feed the World

COMMENT from GM Watch: John Gapper's article (below) from the Financial Times is a classic of its kind. It reads authoritatively but when examined carefully turns out to be based on a series of myths. It also tries to adopt an even handed tone while clearly coming down on the side of the US government and Monsanto.

The FT's chief business commentator tells us, for instance, that Monsanto wants countries such as Brazil to raise yields with high-intensity methods: "Monsanto's vision - and that of the US - is that US-style farming needs to spread across Latin America and Asia."

But large-scale industrial farming, making full use of Monsanto's products, is already well established in several Latin American countries. Paraguay, for instance, is now the world's 4th largest exporter of soya, while Argentina is number 3, and Brazil number 2.

And we can see the consequences - massive deforestation, an ecalating use of pesticides and increasing social conflict. Meanwhile, and this is a critical point, people in all these coutries remain hungry. Indeed, food insecurity is also rising rapidly in the US itself, a clear indication that there is something awry with Gapper's analysis.

Another myth that Gapper promulgates is that the current problem of rapidly rising food prices to not just down to "biofuels" but to the fact that "in China and Asia, a middle class is emerging that wants meat from grain-fed animals".

As Daryll E. Ray at the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, University of Tennessee, has shown from the US Department of Agricultire's own data on China and India's grain trade, neither country's sucking in grain in the way that's being claimed -China "has remained a net exporter of all grains since the 1996/1997 crop year India has been a net exporter for 15 out of the last 18 years." In short, " there is no demand for feed grains from China and India, and none from Indonesia and Brazil as well."

Once this is understood, then the role of "biofuels" comes into much clearer focus. In fact, the very reason that the Bush adminstration, have been working so hard to promote the myth that feed grain demands in India and China are a key factor in the food crisis has been in order to muddy the waters as regards the role of "biofuels", and in particular Bush's massive increase in ethanol subsidies, as a critical catalyst in triggering the current crisis.

What the biofuels debacle should teach us is the danger of rushed policies driven by heavy lobbying - notably by big agribiz and biotech interests - undertaken in a crisis atmosphere (energy insecurity/climate change).

We should be equally cautious about the current campaign - by exactly the same interests - to exploit the food crisis to bounce us into GM crop adoption.
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Bickering will never feed the world

By John Gapper
Financial Times, June 11 2008