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Of GM food, the PR industry and Tony Blair.
May 29, 2002 4:26 AM   Subscribe

Of GM food, the PR industry and Tony Blair. George Monbiot exposes the questionable methods (fake public interest groups) of the PR industry in defense of big Agribusiness.
posted by talos (15 comments total)

 
I know George Monbiot has his detractors but I think they'd find this article hard to fault. A succinct, simple and powerful piece of investigative journalism. This story brings into sharp focus Monbiot's long-held argument that many corporations are exerting undue influence on the political process via unethical means.
posted by skylar at 5:34 AM on May 29, 2002


Some thoughts after visiting activistcash.com:

Consumer Freedom is an oxymoron. You are a consumer when you are no longer able to satisfy yourself your own needs.

And they have the cara dura of speaking of consumer freedom.

This modern world is amazing
posted by samelborp at 6:06 AM on May 29, 2002


You are a consumer when you are no longer able to satisfy yourself your own needs.

Yeah, for a second there I thought you were saying that being a consumer is a bad thing.

I'm not in tune whatsoever with the genetically modified crop debate. Is genetically modified food dangerous to eat? Is it a lie that this kind of thing will help third world countries?

I must admit, as long as it tastes good, and doesn't kill me, I really don't mind either way.

I find it ironic that while cloning and gene therapy in humans is being vaunted as the wave of the future, we are extremely wary of doing the same thing with... plants. Forgive my ignorance, but this seems silly. As for the article, that's chilling. It won't be long before PR executives start cutting corners and hiring hitmen to silence their adversaries.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:08 AM on May 29, 2002


insomnyuk, it's not specifically that there is a problem with genetically engineering plants, but the main concerns are twofold:-

Cross contamination. Unlike human genetic engineering which is confined to laboratories, GM crops are grown outdoors, the worry being that pollen from GM crops can cross contaminate non-GM crops to the detriment of the non-GM crop.

Large Corporations in the food chain. Monsanto already market a type of seed which results in an infertile plant - thus a farmer's means of self-sufficiency is taken away, to get seeds which are (for instance) drought resistant (ie. most useful in the developing world) farmers will be sold seeds which are not only drought resistant, but only last one season.

The 'Frankenfood' characterization of GM food is to all intents a media fuelled invention, but as this is the one which sells papers and feeds the imagination of the public, this is the one which Blair chose to attack, while remaining silent on the above concerns.
posted by Markb at 7:50 AM on May 29, 2002


I would ask you all to consider the situation from the point of view of these agri-businesses. They have it within their power to create super-crops that can end famine and starvation for all time (something that they have actually more or less accomplished through the "green revolution"). Their bio-engineered crops may save millions from starvation in years to come -- especially if global warming drastically effects agricultural production. Wouldn't you do whatever is in your power to save millions from starvation? From their point of view, the agribusinesses are the good guys, battling an ignorant army of popes, mullahs, and witch doctors -- all of whom are ruled by a superstitious fear of the profit motive. With so many lives at stake, I think the agribusiness are morally obliged to take drastic steps to implement their innovations.
posted by Faze at 8:11 AM on May 29, 2002


Their bio-engineered crops could already save millions from starvation, but they don't.
The salvation of the poor and starving is not the responsibility of private companies, that is the responsibility of the respective government and the wider world community.
However the worry is that bio-engineering puts the governments of the world at the behest of private companies, accountable to no-one but themselves.
It's not to say that exploitation does happen, just that without proper safeguards, there is nothing to stop it happening.

Do you honestly think that these comanies will do 'whatever is in their power' to save the 'starving millions'?
posted by Markb at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2002


Seconded, Markb: remember, too, that British farming is done on a much smaller scale than in the US. There are no 'prairie states' here, meaning that the chance of cross-contamination is much higher. And that could wreck the status of organic farms, which the government is also meant to be encouraging.

With so many lives at stake, I think the agribusiness are morally obliged to take drastic steps to implement their innovations.

Emotive propaganda. (And commercial bullshit.) What's needed first are trade agreements and debt settlements which let third world countries make feeding their own people a higher priority than exporting crops for foreign exchange. That's the real moral imperative here.
posted by riviera at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2002


Somebody is behind every group. The somebodies associated with businesses are citizen and have the right to band together to promote their message equal to others with opposing messages. I wonder how many "non-fake" citizen watchdog groups are really two guys with a grudge and a letterhead.
posted by fpatrick at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2002


Wouldn't you do whatever is in your power to save millions from starvation? From their point of view, the agribusinesses are the good guys...

The more cogent point is "wouldn't any business do whatever is in their power to make another buck", including peddling themselves as Jesus Christs in Suits?

With so many lives at stake, I think the agribusiness are morally obliged to take drastic steps to implement their innovations.

Why, it's just like the war on terrorism! Is there any way we can suspend "business ethics" and maybe even some human rights just so these fantastic agribusinesses can save us all and coincidentally flood their own coffers?

Excrement. Let us know when their "drastic steps to implement their innovations" includes drastically reducing their own cash-lust, and their lies.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:00 AM on May 29, 2002


The more cogent point is "wouldn't any business do whatever is in their power to make another buck"

Well, no, that's not a cogent point at all.
posted by kindall at 12:17 PM on May 29, 2002


Faze, I'm afraid no profit-making company exists to end starvation or save the planet. It exists to make profit for its shareholders. Reducing starvation may be a side-effect of the profit-making process, but it is not the goal. Making money is the goal.

In the context of GM, therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether bio-engineering is the simplest and safest way of ending third world hunger. And frankly, in a world of food mountains and grain silos, GM is none of these things. Right now it's the most expensive and least trustworthy way of getting food into the mouths of third-worlders.
posted by skylar at 12:57 PM on May 29, 2002


I have an idea. Why don't we feed sheep to cows and then we can have more cattle at less cost. That way we can feed all the starving of the world.

Except of course the long term effects haven't been properly tested, and of course every farmer will be forced to do the same under intense economic pressure.

I don't see why farmers should pay more money for unsustainable crops, that are generally unpopular and over which the side effects are unknown (both for us mammals, the food chain and the land). But of course they will eventually be forced to do so.

"I must admit, as long as it tastes good, and doesn't kill me, I really don't mind either way"

Of course the other side of that argument is: if it aint broke, why fix it. I mean "normal" crops haven't killed us all yet so why don't we stick with them. Anyway, America isn't exactly suffering from a food shortage - some of you guys are looking pretty flabby.
posted by dodgygeezer at 5:58 AM on May 30, 2002


To quote a rancher cowboy I heard on the history channel: "If we warn't sposed to eat them(cows), then why are they made of meat?"

But that's way offtopic. Thanks for the responses MarkB and dodgygeezer.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:44 AM on May 30, 2002


Faze: They have it within their power to create super-crops that can end famine and starvation for all time...
Steve Smith of Novartis: To feed the world takes political and financial will, its not about production and distribution. GM will not feed the world, don't let anyone tell you that it is.
posted by talos at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2002


Let us not forget that Monsanto has been suing family farms, forging signatures and generally making life miserable for anyone who isn't a huge factory farm/agribusiness.

With over 1/3 of all corn and soybean crops in the US being genetically modified, and Monsanto suing people who have crops that may be cross-polinated through no fault of the farmers, is there any chance of stopping this huge GMO juggernaut? Probably not.
posted by dejah420 at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2002


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