The Feasta Review, number 2



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Michael O'Callaghan is chairman of Global Vision Consulting Ltd - and coordinator of the GM-free Ireland Network -

PDF version (included with David Fleming's paper)

Panel: Big biotech's plans for domination run into difficulties

Michael O'Callaghan

The giant transnational biotech companies have set their sights on controlling the world's food supply by owning and licensing the genes used to produce it. Jeffrey M. Smith's excellent book Seeds of Deception: exposing corporate and government lies about the safety of genetically engineered food(Green Books, 2004) reports that a representative of the Arthur Andersen Consulting Group told a biotech industry conference in January 1999 that his company had asked Monsanto what their ideal future looked like. Monsanto replied that they wanted a world in which 100 percent of all commercial seeds were genetically modified and patented. Andersen Consulting then worked backward from that goal and developed a strategy to achieve it.

Part of the plan was to get GM foods into the marketplace quickly before resistance could build up. According to a biotech consultant, "The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded [with GM] that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender".

The companies have already gained the right to sell animal feed containing GM material without the resulting human food having to be labeled as such. They are now trying to get the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to force the world's governments to accept their patented and proprietary GM seeds, crops, livestock, and related foods. If they succeed, the consequences will be irreversible, since GMOs cannot be recalled after their release. GM contamination of crops and livestock reduces farm incomes, makes organic farming impossible, threatens biodiversity and human health, and robs consumers of their right to choose whether to buy GM food or not.

The companies insist that foods containing GM ingredients are safe because they are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods. The WTO has accepted this and is using its rules prohibiting countries restricting trade because of differences in production methods to try to stop governments banning imports of GM goods.

With corporate encouragement, the governments of the USA, Canada and Argentina have filed a joint complaint against the EU with the WTO, claiming that European resistance to GM food and crops is illegal and costs GM companies and GM farmers billions of dollars in lost revenues.If the WTO rules in favour of the complainants, EU governments may face massive punitive sanctions and other governments will probably abandon their resistance to the global GMO invasion.

World-wide resistance to GM food and farming is growing rapidly. In 1998, the European Commission imposed a de factomoratorium on GMOs because 70% of EU citizens opposed GM food. This was lifted in 2004 subject to the proviso that (a) human food containing more than 0.9% GM ingredients be fully labeled and traceable, and (b) member states set up legislation and liability régimes prior to allowing any "co-existence" of GM with conventional and organic crops. But the official EC report on "co-existence" found that the process would be extremely difficult to manage, and New Scientist magazine reported in September 2004 that GM pollen can contaminate crops 21km away. As a result, European "co-existence" of GM with conventional crops is unlikely to be accepted.

In 2001, EC directive 2001/18/EC recognised the right of local areas to be GM-free and allowed for GM-free buffer zones to protect organic farms and other special places. The Assembly of European Regions is now campaigning to strengthen the legal recognition of GM-free zones and regions. These have already been established in 22 of the 25 EU member states (

In 2003 major food brands removed GM ingredients, and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety recognised the right of any government to ban or restrict GMOs on the basis of the Precautionary Principle. In August 2004, the EU won the first round in the legal struggle with the US, Canada and Argentina when the WTO Dispute Panel accepted the EU's demand for scientific opinion on GM risks. This will delay the resolution of the dispute until 2005 or 2006.

But perhaps the best news of all is that the demand for GM-free food and animal feed will soon outstrip supply. This will make GM-free farming much more profitable than the alternative and remove any commercial incentive that farmers might have had to make Monsanto's dreams come true.

This panel is from
Growth:The Celtic Cancer,
the second Feasta Review. Copies of the Review can be ordered online from Green Books, priced at £9.95 plus postage and packaging
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