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Climate change and GM go hand in hand

September 2019

Paul D. Thacker, a journalist with a nose for industry-led corruption of science and regulations, has commented that climate change denial and promotion of GMOs go together like peanut butter and jelly.

At first glance, it's not obvious why: it seems to involve a unique ability to entertain two opposing beliefs at the same time.  Climate change deniers say climate change isn't happening so we don't need to do anything.  GMO promoters say we need GM 'solutions' to feed the world and to save the environment because of climate change. 

However, when there's money involved, some people can believe anything.  Admitting that climate change is a damaging reality and rejecting GM foods are both harmful to big business


Notably, climate change deniers and GM promoters both maintain a continuous presence of professional lobbyists.  These operate away from the public eye and control the nature and flow of information to regulators, systematically distorting what goes into the decision-making process.

This lobbying is enormously expensive.  For example, the electrical, fossil-fuel and transportation sectors together have spent an average of nearly $74 million per annum lobbying against climate change regulations; these overshadow the resources employed by the environmental counter-lobby by a factor of ten-to-one.  Infamously, the GM lobby spent $46 million in a single state in America (California) to defeat a single bill requiring labelling of GM foods.

As Zac Goldsmith said back in 2013 
"GM has never been about feeding the world, or tackling environmental problems.  It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations". 

COMMENT Similarly, climate-change denial has never been about anything but corporate control of the global energy economy.

Our latest Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, seems to be another climate-change-denying-pro-GMer.

His record on environmental issues has been described as "patchy", and he's reportedly closely tied to the US and UK climate denial network.  He has rejected climate science a number of times over the years and accepted a £25,000 donation during his leadership bid from the director of 'Global Warming Policy Forum', the campaign wing of the principle UK climate science denial group.

However, in view of the rising numbers of people in the UK demanding action on climate change, and faced with the fallout from the unprecedented extreme weather occurring within days of Johnson taking office, denying there's a problem would not be expedient.

So, that's Johnson's peanut butter.

The jelly is evident in Johnson's first three speeches since becoming Prime Minister.

Unsurprisingly, it's the EU anti-genetic-modification regulations which are the problem from which Boris is going to liberate Britain and its "extraordinary" agricultural institutes.  Indeed, Rothamsted Research*, immediately welcomed the prospect of a "much smarter" and "more pragmatic approach" to the risk assessment of GM crops.

* Rothamsted Research has partnered up with corporations like Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont, and is one of the UK's major developers of GM crops. It argues for trait-based regulation of GM: this ignores any inherent risks of the technology, focusing only on the intended trait inserted. In fact, this approach gives a free pass to the vast majority of GMOs.

Grandstanding further on his subject, Johnson declares GM crops will be part of a new "golden era" of blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.

GM Watch describe our Boris as "deluded".  No commercialisable blight-resistant crop has yet been produced.  Indeed, GM Watch has collated a long list of conventionally-produced blight-resistant crops developed between 2007 and 2017, which are available and can feed the world.

It's also been pointed out that the GM crops we have now - the fencerow to fencerow, optimally artificially fertilised commodities in America - aren't feeding the world: half the GM corn produced becomes ethanol to fuel cars, and a third of its soya becomes biodiesel, while a lot of what's left goes to the junk food industry or is used to feed animals*.

* Note that livestock rearing alone is estimated to be responsible for 14 per cent of human-linked greenhouse gas emissions.

Is Boris really deluded about the reality of GM crops and feeding the world?  Or, is he preparing to dance to US President Trump's tune?

With impeccable timing, just as Johnson, took up the reins in Britain, Trump signed an order for "an international communications and outreach strategy to facilitate engagement abroad with policymakers, consumers, industry and other stakeholders.  The goal of the strategy shall be to increase international acceptance of products of agricultural biotechnology in order to open and maintain markets for United States agricultural exports abroad" [1].

This sets the stage for Britain crashing out of the EU.  Government analysts have long warned that such an event will cause food shortages and consumer panic.  What better scenario for America to 'rescue' Britain with a flood of subsidised, cheap, GM food-like substances?  These will compromise our economy and endanger our health, and we'll never be 'liberated' from them.  The 'free, open border' with Britain which Trump craves could also make us a dumping ground for the GMOs of which US citizens are becoming increasingly wary.  But as Zac Goldsmith said GM "has always been about control of the global food economy ...".

An alternative path was spelled out by the Soil Association 
"The government's priority should be supporting a shift to more environmentally friendly farming practices and putting farmers in the driving seat of sustainable innovation.  This will help tackle the climate and wildlife emergencies we are facing, instead of looking to risky technologies and chemicals as a sticking plaster for the symptoms of those crises".  
Clean, sustainable agriculture is clearly a priority.  And before anyone mentions the cost, the Bank of England's Governor pointed out recently that capitalism was part of the solution because are fortunes to be made from green initiatives.  It seems like a no-brainer for the Government.

OUR COMMENT

Fortunately, the Scottish Government is keeping its head screwed on and refusing to kowtow to Johnson's US-pandering, pro-GM frenzy.  Tell your MSP you fully support this stance (www.writetothem.com).

Background

[1] AMERICA'S GM PLANS - August 2019

SOURCES:
  • Nancy Nicolson, Boris Johnson on collision course with Scots Government after hinting at move to GM food, The Courier, 27.07.19
  • Boris Johnson on collision course with Scottish Government after hyping GMO foods three times in three days, GM Watch, 29.07.19
  • Zac Goldsmith, Owen Paterson: the minister for GM hype, The Guardian, 24.10.13
  • Jonathan Riley, Boris Johnson vows to 'liberate' UK from EU's GM crops stance, Farmers Weekly, 26.04.19
  • Money talks when trying to influence climate change legislation, Science Daily 18.04.18
  • Non-GM successes: Disease resistance, https://gmwatch.org/en/disease-resistance
  • Timothy A. Wise, World Hunger Is on the Rise, https://heated.medium.com
  • Mat Hope and Richard Collett-White, Boris Johnson - Where does the UK's New Prime Minister Stand on Climate Change?  DeSmog UK, 23.07.19
  • Crashing out 'could spark food shortages and panic', Metro, 2.08.19
  • Trump adviser: He'd love to do a trade deal, Metro, 2.08.19
  • Siobhan Norton, Action on climate is a no-brainer, i, 3.08.19
  • Emily Beament, PM urged to treat green issues as top priority,  i, 3.08.19
  • University bans beef on campus in climate fight, Metro 13.08.19

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