Food For Thought: Conference on International Development

The next weekend was a “Food For Thought” conference.  It was about international food politics.  I came in with fairly high expectations because food politics is such an essential part of international development and ensuring a good quality of life to impoverished people, but the people who came were not good speakers, and they didn’t have any interesting takeaways. 

While one of them was talking about why genetically modified food was the best thing since sliced bread, I checked out some of Vandana Shiva’s writings on how GMO crops have been a horrible thing for India.  One of the reasons is that they’re not well adapted to the conditions of most Indian farmers.  The studies that the Food For Thought speaker had conducted assume a lot of expensive farming equipment, fertilizer, water, and a different climate.  When GMO crops are used by poor farmers, the yields are worse. 

Another reason is that, with GMO crops, the DNA is proprietary.  You more or less need to pay royalties to grow them.  Because of this, corporations are trying to make their brand of seed wipe out all other seed types and then force farmers to pay them even more by secretly bundling in other DNA into the seed.  For instance, there are seeds that will only grow for one planting cycle, so farmers will need to buy new seeds every time.  There are seeds that need a proprietary fertilizer or pesticide to work.  The desire of these companies to profit at the expense of both farmers and biodiversity is disgusting.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009