GMO Agribusiness and the Destructive Nature of Global Capitalism
By Colin Todhunter
Aquí se habla de las consecuencia de ciertas tecnologías agroalimentarias. La industria de producción de alimentos es tal vez el renglón más sensible a la introducción de semillas genéticamente modificadas. ¿Son los organismos genéticamente manipulados (GMO) la respuesta segura e idónea para satisfacer las necesidades de los países pobres? (evito las cursilerías de "países emergentes"). ¿Cuáles son los riesgos reales?, ¿Se trata de leyendas negras anticientíficas?. La opinión de Todhunter es una de las tantas respuestas posibles.
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Capitalism is based on managing its inherent crises. It is also based on the need to maximise profit, beat down competitors, cut overheads and depress wages. In the 1960s and 70s, in the face of increasing competition from abroad, the US began to outsource manufacturing production to bring down costs by using cheap foreign labour. Other countries followed suit. Even more jobs were lost through the impulse to automate. To provide a further edge, trade unions and welfare were attacked in order to suppress wages at home. Problem solved. Or was it?
Not really. As wages in the west stagnated or decreased and unemployment increased, the market for goods was under threat – if people have less money to buy things, then what to do? New problem, new ‘solution’ – lend people money and create a debt-ridden consumer society. Of course, it produced great opportunities for investors in finance, and all kinds of dubious financial derivatives and products were created, sold to the public and repackaged and shifted around the banking system. That market became saturated and the debt bubble burst. This time around the ‘solution’ is to print money and give bailouts to the banks to cover their gambling losses and to get them lending once again. With a huge hole appearing in state coffers due to the bailouts and national debt spiraling during the years of neo-liberalism, the current crisis has become an opportunity for the finance sector to exert long-term debt-related control over sovereign states, including public asset stripping via ‘austerity’.
On a global level, as local democracy is usurped by the influence of international finance and powerful corporate interests under the guise of ‘globalisation’, traditional agricultural practices and local economies have been ‘structurally adjusted’ (via single-crop export-oriented policies to earn foreign currency to pay off debt, dam building to cater for what became a highly water intensive chemical-based industry, more loans and indebtedness and the unnecessary shifting food around the planet) and farmers forced from their land. The fact that such people can then at least swarm to some sprawling, overburdened city and, if lucky, get a few dollars a day job in an outsourced sweatshop or call centre is somehow passed off as capitalism’s ‘economic miracle’.
It’s apparent that, as the academic David Harvey states, the problems created by capitalism don’t get solved, they just get shifted around. Nowhere is this epitomized more clearly than the role of US agribusiness in India.
According to Jeffrey M Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology, Russia, China and the EU were not the pushovers for GMOs that US agribusiness hoped they would be. However, with the US having sanctioned the opening up of India’s nuclear energy sector and, in return, its agribusiness and retail giants having actively shaped the Knowledge Agreement on Agriculture, India might well be proving to be an easier option.
Before GMOs became news in India, it was already clear that US agribusiness could not provide real solutions to the agrarian problems it had created with its ‘Green Revolution’. According to Gautam Dheer’s recent piece in India’s Deccan Herald newspaper (1), agriculture in Punjab (the ‘Green Revolution’s’ original poster boy) is facing an inevitable crisis, in terms of pesticide use causing cancer, falling crop yields and groundwater depletion. The model it has adapted is unsustainable. Indeed, what is happening in Punjab could be the tip of the iceberg as far as chemical agriculture in India (and elsewhere) is concerned.
And now evidence is mounting that agribusiness can’t provide genuine solutions to the problems it has also created through its GMOs, seed patenting and monopolies either.
A recent report in Business Standard (2) stated that such Bt cotton (GMOs represent the ‘Green Revolution’s’ second coming) yields have dropped to a five-year low. India approved Bt cotton in 2002 and within a few years yields increased dramatically. However, Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, has noted that most of the rise in productivity had nothing to do with Bt cotton. (3)
What’s more, since Bt has taken over, yields have been steadily worsening. According to the article in Business Standard (2), it seems bollworms are developing resistance. Contrary to what farmers were originally told, the Monsanto spokesperson quoted in the Business Standard piece says that such resistance is to be expected. Stone says when Bt cotton arrived in India, farmers were told that they wouldn’t have to spray any more. All that farmers had to do was plant the seeds and water them regularly. They were told that, as the genetically modified seeds are insect resistant, there was no need to use huge amounts of pesticides.
The premise adopted by the GM sector was that for years people had tried to change ‘backward’ tradition-bound practices of these farmers. But now all you have to do is give them the magic biotech seed.(Consultar URL mencionada).