Wednesday, August 7, 2013

GMO Rice Won't Fix a Broken World

After witnessing first hand the evidences of a frail and collapsing food system in parts of Asia, my ears perked up at the mention of another GMO rice debate. Anna Lappé shared the video below in her Facebook feed yesterday, and I couldn't help but watch (skip to 3:36 for the GMO rice exchange):

It's refreshing to hear a fourteen year old armed with a bit of knowledge intelligently counter the feel-good, save-the-world-with-technology arguments from GMO proponents...
"Let's say you weren't as lucky as you are, you were born in an Asian country, you're 14 years old, your only food was rice that had no Vitamin A in it, you're going blind and then you died," O'Leary said. "Five-hundred-and-fifty-thousand people your age die that way every year. And a company like Monsanto could come along and offer you a genetically-modified rice that includes Vitamin A that could save your eyesight and your life."

Parent was unfazed.

"Golden rice was scrapped because it didn't work. And in order for the average 11-year-old boy to get enough Vitamin A from rice he would have to eat 27 bowls of rice per day," she said. "The reason there is blindness isn't because there is a lack of Vitamin A in the rice, it's because their diets are simply rice."

"Rachel Parent Debates Kevin O'Leary About GMOs" - Huffington Post Canada 

I'm offended when I hear how easily people brandish "save the starving" arguments in the same breath as praises for genetically modified foods.

Let's be honest: bypassing holistic solutions is better for big business' bottom line.

Let's market foods fortified with artificially increased levels of nutrients so that we won't have to solve the bigger picture of a broken food web.

Let's capture developing nations' farmers in a net of loans, seed contracts, and indebtedness to the Monsanto-moneymakers of the world so that we won't have to come alongside and help them truly break cycles of poverty and oppression.

Let's let our technology to save us. If we can pay scientists to alter the fundamental genetics of a plant and then patent and sell that source of salvation, why not pocket a few extra million and wear a shiny halo of pseudo-philanthropy?

Fishermen of the Tonlé Sap:
"The inland fisheries supported by the Tonle Sap Lake system
form the backbone of Cambodian food security,
however the people of the Tonle Sap Area experience
the highest incidence of poverty in the country…" -Read More
Traditional Rice Noodles
Fresh Cambodian Market Produce

My blood pressure's up.

It's time for me to re-listen to Deconstructing Dinner's "Biotechnology Myths."

More Information:

Kevin O'Leary - Canadian Businessman
Rachel Parent - Founder of Kids Right to Know Club

Can GMOs Help End World Hunger?
...I also found it interesting that Monsanto and cohorts spent $50 million on the golden rice ad campaign. That’s more than they spent on developing the rice in the first place. Imagine if that money had been spent on irrigation projects in sub-saharan Africa. Or given as microloans to start-up farmers in Southeast Asia. At the end of the day, Monsanto’s main objective isn’t solving world hunger. It’s making money. They invest millions of dollars in developing GM crops so they can patent them and recoup their investment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that desire. It’s the goal of any business... But don’t let a snazzy PR campaign fool you. “Despite the PR, Monsanto’s goal is not to make hunger history. It’s to control the staple crops that feed the world.”

The Golden Rice: An Exercise in How Not to Do Science
...In conclusion, the ‘golden rice’ project was a useless application, a drain on public finance and a threat to health and biodiversity. It is being promoted in order to salvage a morally as well as financially bankrupt agricultural biotech industry, and is obstructing the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can truly improve the health and nutrition especially of the poor in the Third World. This project should be terminated immediately before further damage is done. 
Mama Natural: How to Avoid GMOs (For Real)
A quick guide to sourcing non-GMO foods (including "On A Budget" recommendations).

No, Really. Listen to Deconstructing Dinner's "Biotechnology Myths" podcast.

Lastly, a few (semi-)related stories from my time in Southeast Asia:
Visiting the Floating Villages of Cambodia
Frogs and Eels and Pig Heads

All for now.
Enough drama for one day.
xx Bethany


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