Monday, June 9, 2008

Buy Our Genetically Modified Seeds, or Starve

I’m amazed that the debate about genetically modified food has only centered on food safety, possible genes used to modify crops that could get into wild plants creating "superweeds" resistant to pests, GM crops that might be harmful to either wildlife, the people who eat the crops and accidental contamination of organic produce. GM crops are being grown to produce drugs and vaccines, called pharming. All big conserns.

But the elephant in the room, rarely brought up in the debate, are the owners of the modified crops and the ownership of our food supply by a few chemical companies.

Now we have this report from the Independent: “Biotech giants demand a high price for saving the planet. Companies accused of 'profiteering' as they attempt to patent crop genes.”

Giant biotech companies are privatising the world's protection against climate
change by filing hundreds of monopoly patents on genes that help crops resist
it, a new investigation has concluded.

The study – by the authoritative Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), based in Ottawa, Canada – has found that nine firms have filed at least 532 patents around the world on about 55 different genes offering protection against heat, drought and floods. If granted, the companies would be given control of crucial natural raw material needed to maintain food supplies in an increasingly hungry world.

The reports says some of the applications are sweeping. One would cover more than 30 crops from oats to oil palms, triticale to tea, and potatoes to perennial grass – "in other words, virtually all food crops". Small farmers in developing countries will be particularly hard hit by such "climate-change profiteering".

It concludes: "These patented technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds".

But Croplife, which represents the world's plant-science industry, retorts; "Patenting is very important. That is how we protect intellectual property and ensure we continue to bring new innovations to the marketplace." It denies that biotechnology companies are seeking to monopolise world food supplies.

Oh, well that’s it then, I have to believe their sincere. It’s only our food supply. It’s already been working wonders in the countries using these magic seeds. Where’s Jack and the Beanstalk when you need him?

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