A World of Benefits from Biotechnology? For Whom?

When the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) met in Chicago last
week they were, no doubt, elated to hear that the U.S. State Department
would be aggressively confronting critics of agricultural biotechnology.

Wouldn't you think the State Department might have more pressing issues
than carrying water for Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology

Jose Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of
Economic, Energy and Business Affairs noted that the State Department
was ready to take on the naysayers. In addition to confronting the
critics, Fernandez stated they would be building alliances (presumably
with the biotech industry and foreign governments), anticipating
roadblocks to acceptance and highlighting the science.

Highlighting the science, that's rich, to this point the only "science"
they can highlight is the fact that nearly 100% of the commercially
available genetically modified (GM) crops worldwide are engineered to
be insecticidal, resistant to herbicide application, or both.

The State Department and its allies promote GM as a way for the
developing world to feed itself, but the four predominant GM crops
(corn, soy, cotton and canola) are not specifically human food crops,
they are used for animal feed, biofuel, fiber and processed food.

They would like us to believe that the "science" will deliver more
nutritious food, higher yielding crops, drought resistant crops and an
end to world hunger. These claims however, are not based in science,
but only on " the promise", or "the hope" of GM doing what its
supporters claim it can do.

The science, or lack thereof, that we should take note of is the
glaring lack of regulation of GM crops and the serious questions about
their safety. Nina Fedoroff, Science and Technology Adviser to
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted "We preach to the world about
science-based regulations but really our regulations on crop
biotechnology are not yet science-based."

We should not be surprised that the U.S. State Department is again, on
the stump, promoting biotech crops. It would be difficult to say how
long the the U.S. government has been aggressively promoting
biotechnology, specifically GM crops, but certainly since the
commercialization of GM soy in 1996.

In 2004 the State Department launched a website which
was part of a State Department initiative to "encourage broader
adoption and acceptance of biotechnology in the developing world",
according to Deborah Malac, then chief of the Biotechnology and Textile
Trade Policy Division of the State Department.

USDA is also actively promoting biotechnology with a website that supports bringing biotechnology to the "worldwide marketplace".

Even the U.S. Senate is getting into the act, promoting, even mandating
GM technology to the developing world. Senate Bill 384, The Global Food
Security Act, would amend the Foreign Assistance act of 1961 to read
"Agricultural research carried out under this act shall include
research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological
conditions, including GM technology".

While USDA assures us that the products of biotechnology and the chemicals they depend on are safe, scientists within USDA, the State Department and the Administration question that view.

So why does the U.S. government promote the interests of the
biotechnology industry over the best interests of peoples health, the
environment and the food security of the developing world?

Easy answer, the biotechnology industry has a high profit margin and they know how to influence government policy.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.