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Home Letters Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): legal, ethical and trade issues

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): legal, ethical and trade issues

Dear Editor,

There is nothing irrational about feeling suspicious of GM seeds. Just take a look at history. In 2003, 17,107 Indian farmers killed themselves, most by swallowing a bottle of pesticide. This same pesticide—sold to them by giant agro-business transnational corporations like Monsanto—was supposed to translate into “high-yields” and net these farmers some profit. Instead, drowning in debt, these farmers took their own lives. In fact, this tragic statistic is probably inaccurate. Women, who do most of the work on farms in India, were not counted as “farmers,” so their suicides were not classified as “farmer suicides”.

Why rehearse this horribly tragic Indian tale? Some people are convinced that genetically modified seeds are the way of the future and we should all bow down before giants like Monsanto. But before bowing down before these filthy rich agribusiness giants, we should take a good look at what it is we are about to worship.

We’re on the brink of welcoming a modern colonial force. They strategically monopolize seed stock, tie farm production to pesticide and herbicide use, and go all out to prevent us from labeling their products (thereby denying consumer choice).

Belize doesn’t really need to hear depressing statistics from poor farmers all around the world dying from the poisons they purchase to pour over their crops; we have all the stories we need right here in our own history.
Belize needs to make an ethical choice. A moral choice. The right choice.

To help make such an important choice, we need to look back at our history. When Belize gained independence, it signaled freedom. Whatever later happened in practice, independence suddenly meant freedom to make our own choices, freedom from the economic rape and theft of natural resources, and freedom from cultural prejudice colonial nations practiced.

All over the world, people are talking about food shortages, overpopulation, global warming, so much so that people feel that the sustainability of our species is itself now in question. Multinational seed companies say they are out to help farmers feed the world. But five companies now control 85% of the world’s seed stocks. These companies dishonestly use the excuse of a food “crisis” to argue that the earth needs to be managed on a global scale, and furthermore, they demand that they manage it.

If you check Monsanto’s website, it tells you that “Monsanto is a relatively new company,” but it appears they just changed their name from “Monsanto Chemical Company,” to “Monsanto.” I can’t help feeling skeptical when companies like Monsanto that gave us DDT (causes developmental disorders), Agent Orange (caused deformities in children and poisoned the land in Vietnam), and, wait for it, the atomic bomb (needs no elaboration), now use the rhetoric of “feeding the world” in an attempt to control our livelihood.

The solution put forward by these agribusiness giants Belize is supposed to get into bed with, and do the GMO thing, is to put a price on nature. Greed can then be the motive for companies to come up with a solution to these global problems. The threat to nature is something we all share, so we should all be concerned when companies play around with it and “commodify” it.

Belizeans especially need to be concerned because we have a unique natural heritage. This new form of colonization doesn’t just colonize land and enslave people (to soil-destroying pesticide and fertilizer use), these companies have found something even more fundamental to colonize: life itself. The attempt to own the substance of life itself is deeply problematic and highly unethical.

Just as the colonizers like to talk about the “benefits” that came with modern colonialism (laws, religion, education, etc.), so do companies like Monsanto talk about how they help to “feed the world.” But—just as the apologists for empire do—they conveniently forget the tyranny.

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