Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — With help from the government website Cubadebate, the Castro administration has created a media campaign which supports GM foods almost in silence, which is very in line with the imminent arrival of US producers of GM crops.
In this month of July alone, Cubadebate has published two articles (which both essentially say the same thing), which rally against critical environmentalists who speak out against the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in farming, and who promote food sovereignty.
“Over a hundred Nobel Peace prize winners have accused Greenpeace for acting against GM crops” (1) was one of the articles published on Cubadebate on July 1st.
Without presenting any other details and ignoring the few debates that have been developed in Cuba about the issue, they promote lies like GMOs “help global biodiversity”, “don’t harm the environment”, don’t affect human beings or animals and are “safe.”
Of course, they focus especially on Greenpeace, ignoring the fact that the majority of Latin American environmental, rural and indigenous social movements have also opposed this imperialist common practice throughout history.
On July 10th, Doctor Luis A. Montero Cabrera dealt with the subject of “GMOs and Nobel Prizes” (2), and without giving any scientific or philosophical argument to back himself up, he joined those who, sitting on the global pedestal, try to criminalize environmental struggles, driven by clear economic interests.
Of course, this isn’t what the Doctor tells us; in fact he apologizes to “life” and “diversity”, adopting a viewpoint riddled with positivism, while trying to confuse the line between mushrooming “artificial selection” which us humans carry out, with what’s known as “natural selection” by evolutionists. Mainly because transgenesis isn’t only about simple selection, but about intervening in and manipulating the natural process of reproduction itself.
In his series of outrageous points, the Doctor even goes so far to say that “The revolution of GM crops has been just as important to the well-being of humanity as artificial fertilizers were at the beginning of the 20th century.”
And just like that, years and years of Cuban bio-agriculture research has been put down the drain. Now we’re beginning to see the consequences of never having elaborated a strong critique on the so-called “Green Revolution” here in Cuba, which gave us the wonderful gift of “blasts” (this is what Cuban specialists call the high dosis application of toxic chemicals on crops).
Of course, it’s always a good idea to fall back on Nobel prize winners if you want to legitimize something (or the opposite). In this case, exactly 25 physicians, 34 chemists, 41 doctors, 8 economists, one Nobel Prize in Literature winner and one Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The last is no other than Jose Ramos-Horta, the former president of Timor-Leste, who is famous for having supported the invasion of Iraq by US troops in 2003. His Nobel Prize reminded me a little of the one given to Obama: rather than acknowledging his merits, it was a request to uphold world peace.
Richard Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp, also witnesses on the show, are both businessmen in the biotech sector, so I don’t think they’re driven by altruism either.
The truth of the matter is that, as much as our government wants to try and sell us the idea that technology is “apolitical”, GM seed patents remain in the hands of multinational corporations Monsanto, BASF, DuPont, Syngenta (which is already in Cuba), amongst others, which quite frankly don’t give a damn about our food security.
It’s already been well established in this debate (even though pro-GM opposing parties don’t want to admit it) that this isn’t only a question about productivity or technology, but about bioethics.
The extensive single-crop farming technique based on agrochemicals, which these Nobel Prize winners defend, wipes out culinary and traditional farming techniques, forces entire families out of their homes and creates mega-plantations which take over hectares and hectares of land. In fact, 75% of farming land is used to produce fodder for animals in the livestock industry and for the agrofuel industry, not for food.
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), between 33% and 40% of the food the global food industry produces is wasted; and that would be enough to feed all of the world’s poor which these physicians and chemists supposedly defend (while giving way to the system that creates this poverty).
Meanwhile, responding to the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility’s call to action, over 300 scientists have rejected the idea that GMOs are safe for agroecosystems and human beings.
And who does the Cuban government choose to believe? Well, allies of the global power, in line with the country’s current process of catching up to speed with the rest of the world, with the juicy promise that US farmers will export their products to Cuba and invest in our agriculture; now that the Europeans don’t want to buy their GM seeds.
Therefore, the Cuban government is secretly creating a media campaign among ill-informed Cuban readers.
By the way, Dr Luis A. Montero Cabrera forgot to mention the fact that the letter from the Nobel Prize winners concerned about the hungry South, was presented way up north, in Washington, as Congress was about to vote on a law about labeling GM foods which would prevent States from making their own decisions on the matter, leaving it completely up to companies to decide.
Montero prefers to ignore all of the above and concludes his argument with naivety:
“Some of the reasons that have been used against GMOs have been political in nature. Certain multinational corportations are important developers of these crops because of their commercial benefits. This may be why it receives negative press from some institutions. However, scientific truth can be used by a monopolist and exclusive organization just as much as it can be used by a revolutionary biopharmaceutical laboratory, which belongs to the people. The harmlessness and humanitarian benefits of biotechnologies’ products which have been correctly and scientifically proven don’t depend on their owners.”
First of all: State-owned laboratories don’t belong to the people, but to the State. Secondly, if biotechnology results don’t depend on their owners, can we then assume that the results from one owner or another will be the same? Yes, as an anarchist, I agree with this, but… do you?