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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/3/09

GMO Proliferation Bills

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GMOs on the G20 Agenda

According to Mark Henderson, science editor of the UK-based The Times, GMOs may have been discussed by G20 leaders, specifically a new genetically modified "super maize (with) the potential to not only ensure an unending era of cheap food but to make the world's food supply far more nutritious, while providing low cost energy, reducing environmental degradation, and promoting sustainable agriculture."

It's so ambitious, it's been dubbed "a multi F-ing super food" because of its claimed potential. Take that with a grain of salt, but according to Monsanto's CEO, Hugh Grant, in a press release: "While not in anyway a silver bullet, this is a remarkable breakthrough in terms of putting plentiful ultra-nutritious food on the world's table while eliminating environmental overload and petroleum dependence...."

The project's chief, professor Pingo Detritus, added: "This breakthrough is of such monumental importance, that it's vital that the G20 leaders now unite behind (it) and start to remove all regulatory barriers." Critics need to back off as well.

The Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization said: "We don't need regulation of a technology that can feed, fuel and heal the world. The G20 leaders need to recognize that GM....is the solution" to a pressing world need. Company profits perhaps, not global hunger and malnutrition.

Past claims about nutrition were overblown, and as stressed above, GMOs are hazardous to human health. To organic and other independent farming as well to be explained below.

Monsanto Answers Its Critics

"Monsanto According to Monsanto" is a company blog site. Responding to critics on March 20, it headlined, "HR 875: Monsanto's Dream Bill - Or Just a Hallucination?" It dismisses the notion that it's behind the bill that will "give incredible power to Monsanto by criminalizing seed banking, requiring 24 hour GPS tracking of animals, stripping away of property rights, and forcing industrialized farming on America."

Not so it says or that "Monsanto is behind the bill. (Further), nowhere is there any mention of seed banks, loss of property rights, or GPS tracking of animals. The bill seems to be nothing more egregious than a well-intentioned effort to improve food safety laws and processes."

The bill's presumed intentions will be discussed below, but one thing is clear. Businesses, not politicians, write and/or control virtually all legislation affecting them to ensure their interests are served. Monsanto is an influential Ag giant, directly involved in all food-related laws, the company's denials notwithstanding. It's so powerful, it has virtual veto power over anything related to its operations and laws affecting them.

Yet it dismissively claims that the bill stems from "public concerns with relatively recent incidents with peanut butter, ground beef, (and) spinach, etc." False. The way to deal with these and related problems is simply enforce existing laws, not enact new ones. They're not because food giants object at a time they matter, not public health and safety that's of no concern to lawmakers.

Case in point: the USDA is woefully understaffed, under-budgeted, and only perfunctorily carries out inspections. A recent OMB Watch report highlights the problem. Headlined, "Federal Meat Inspectors Spread Thin as Recalls Rise," it explains that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is charged with ensuring safe meat, poultry and eggs, but its budget and staff haven't kept pace with its mandate.

In FY 1981, it had about 190 workers per billion pounds of meat and poultry inspected. By FY 2007, it was fewer than 88 or less than half as many. Yet under federal law, FSIS must inspect all meat, poultry, and egg products intended for commercial use. Its web site states: "Slaughter facilities cannot operate if FSIS inspection personnel are not present (and) Only Federally inspected establishments can produce products that are destined to enter commerce."

Reality, however, belies the mandate as processors and manufacturers easily circumvent procedures, and according to inspectors interviewed, understaffing and lax policies contribute to the problem. An unsafe food supply results. Government policy is to blame, and current legislation is for other purposes, not a way to fix things. HR 875 and companion bills are for agribusiness, not improved food safety.

Some Likely Truths about HR 875

Several recent articles and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) offered their analyses. They believe this and companion bills are vehicles to let agribusiness control the entire US food supply, destroy independent local farming, and end the production of healthy organic food. They may be right.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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