If the conversation about the food system is going to have fairness as an objective, then everyone’s voice must be heard. But, try and think how many farmers’ opinions you have read/ heard recently? Women farmers? Even less, perhaps. What about farmers from countries other than your own? Or consumers from other parts of the world who do not have access to a gleaming grocery store filled with perfect produce?
Here, then, is a peek into another world view. It comes from a farmer in the Philippines, a Mom who likes to cook “talong” or eggplant for her kids and laments the decision of the Supreme Court in her country to reject the adoption of Bt Brinjal (eggplant). She points out that GM corn containing the same trait is already being grown, so it would seem illogical to now reject the Bt Brinjal. Both here and in the case of India, Greenpeace played an active role in spreading unfounded fears of biotechnology. As a result, the farmers have to continue using heavy doses of pesticides and still lose a portion of their crop to pests; and consumers are also deprived of choices at the market. Those who like to point fingers at Big Ag companies for destroying their “food sovereignty’ might like to take a second look at first world concerns taking away choices of poor farmers and consumers in other countries. If people have to go to bed hungry, then sovereignty does not have any meaning for them.
I agree with your points about hearing all sides of the story – too often these ‘food security’ debates focus on the global, capitalist side of the story! But not all majority world farming communities want GM, and their concerns come from a lot more than just food sovereignty. I read a great line on LEAF’s blog (Linking Environment & Farming) recently, “GM should not be a replacement for good husbandry techniques” – this is so true, but unfortunately, is not often recognised.
Traditional farming communities that focus on ‘good husbandry’ and ecological farming techniques are highly successful without using any GM crops, but we so rarely hear about these success stories. You’re probably aware of Miguel Altieri (UC) who does great work on this in South/Central America – he’s published a lot of literature on the topic, and I won’t try and badly paraphrase what he says! 🙂
I believe the best way to support farmers in the majority world, is by educating and encouraging them to use ecological techniques (including IPM, Integrated pest management). This puts the ‘power’ or control over their own farming systems back into their own hands so they can create a sustainable, healthy farm ecosystem, rather than forcing them to rely permanently on external resources and inputs.
My take on GM is that it is one of a number of options available to us.If we need traits like salinity tolerance,or heat tolerance, then biotechnology can be an option. It certainly should not be considered as the only magic answer and like you, I do believe in the importance of agroecology. I feel we do not get to discuss other matters because all the energy is focused on the GMO issue. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂