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Letter From The Editor: GM Crops

The tasks assigned to the media in America are pretty simple, and have not changed much.   We are here to tell you who is ahead, and give our opinions with various degrees of bias, whenever there has been a foul or error called along the way.

When most of our herd really turns, you know it’s over whether it’s a win, lose, or draw.  Someone long ago said that’s when we call in our editorial writers to “shoot the wounded.”

That’s why the media loves conflict.  We wish duels were still an option for settling disputes.  We long for Lincoln-Douglas style debates with no rules and no time clock. We wonder why oral arguments in the Supreme Court cannot be more like Roller Derby.

We are happiest when the two of you decide to fight.  Even if these days most of these disputes run along a line that includes administrative and judicial processes, public opinion, and elections.

Sometimes these disputes get caught up in a loop that never seems to end.  It is rare that the losing side is without options; there is always another appeal, venue, or election ahead.

Just the way we like it.

But remember we are also part of a herd.  We always want to be ready to turn with the herd.  We don’t want to get left behind on that one.  We always have one eye on the academic, financial, and political opinion makers to be sure we don’t get left behind.

The worst thing in our business is to get caught commenting on fouls and errors when it’s really game-over.   During the last week, we’ve been thinking about whether we may be at or near game-over for any meaningful opposition to genetically modified (GM) crops.

The media has loved the GM crop dispute.  It’s allowed us to use all the good lines and terminology from the 1931 horror classic, Frankenstein.  It has circled the world, using more venues that there have been language translators to keep up with it.

But it could be coming to an end.   No government or series of governments in the universe had put up better process barriers to GM crops than the European Union.

Until this week, it has not granted a GM crop license since 1998.  But like an iceberg cracking into the sea, or a Chilean fault line breaking loose, the EU executive apparatus let a high starch GM potato through the barrier.

You could hear the EU’s Greenpeace chapter howling on this side of the globe.
It’s at this point that we lift our heads and look around to see what the herd is going to do.  It begins with the whole question of what’s actually going on with this whole GM crop issue?

Ahead of the EU decision, there was an eye-opening report from the International Service for Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a nonprofit group monitoring GM crops.

It reports that GM crops are now being planted in 25 countries, covering a total area the size of the country of Peru.  GM seeds are a $10.5 billion market, and those plantings are producing crops valued at $130 billion.

And while the leaders of the GM crop movement are often depicted solely as “corporate” because of the dominance of the USA’s Monsanto and Germany’s BASF SE, that fails to take into account the GM innovations of India, China and Brazil.

Then there’s the GM crop involvement from charities that are active in the third world, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Microsoft founder has been quoted saying where seeds come from and who pays for them are separate issues.  When a country like India has gone from a cotton importer to a cotton exporter on GM seeds, the herd notices.

Finally, we are told by those who watch such things that financial markets have already shifted to the view that opposition to GM crops is not going to turn out to be meaningful.  George Soros, who is rumored to own the Democratic Party, for example, has purchased through one of his funds a big wad of Monsanto stock.

The fact the EU is not going to continue sitting on the GM crop sidelines is significant.  It is not the same EU it was in the 1990s when this issue rose up.  The countries it picked from the old Soviet Union view agriculture a bit differently than they do outside Paris.

Whether this little theory is going to turn out to be true, however, depends upon decisions that will be made in the United States by mostly men in black robes.  Last Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco heard more arguments about whether Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets should be planted this year.

You can read about the sugar beet case tomorrow in Food Safety News.  Next up will be oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court over Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Which of these will be “game-over” decisions and which will mean just more process will be telling.  Meanwhile, just in case we are wrong, we are keeping all those Frankenstein quotes handy.  My favorite: “Now I know what it’s like to be God!”

© Food Safety News
  • J. Akre

    Playing God is exactly right. Let’s improve on nature- unfortunately when man tries to do that, he almost always screws it up. We will not know the long term devastation until GM crops are woven into the fabric of nature, at which point it will be too late to extract them. Fortunately, some people are seeing ahead and saving the seed as “nature” intended. Let’s hope the promises of a Monsanto are true, but just look at that company’s track record. If Monsanto was a person, he would be on death row. Just my opinion…