The Lady Don’t Like GM
An Interview with Tracy, Marchioness of Worcester
Lady Tracy Worcester is an ecologist. She lives in Badminton, and campaigns for farmer’s land rights and livelihoods in developing countries, and for local food markets in this country. As Associate Director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, and a trustee of the Gaia Foundation, she’s working to shift development from dependence on giant banks and corporations to local interdependence between people and their real needs.
“Genetically modified food is not the answer to climate change and a burgeoning population,” she says. “We need to work with nature rather than with big companies that want to control the food economy for their own ends.”
“I’m anti genetic engineering fundamentally because I think it is a progression for agriindustries, like Monsanto and Cargill and a handful of others, who already control our food from seed to plate. They own the patents on genes, the seed companies, the agrichemical industry and the companies who buy the farmers’ production. They control a centralised system of production and distribution that pits farmer against farmer across the globe. This system keeps the survivors in straightjackets, while consumers pay ever higher prices at the supermarket and through taxes for food we no longer trust. The next generation of this type of agriculture is GM. But, as Einstein said, “you cannot solve the world’s problems in the same mind set that caused the problems in the first place”.”
“Nature is infinite in its complexities, and is extremely fragile. Why are we racing down the genetic engineering path, a direction that could radically alter our precious ecosystem forever? Even performing a simple form of genetic manipulation can have disastrous results, such as introducing a plant from one country into another. I’ve seen the fate of importing Eucalyptus trees from Australia into Ethiopia. Because they need vast amounts of water, a large area around each tree dies.”
“Often people say that genetic engineering is no different to conventional breeding, where new, better varieties emerge after careful selection. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Genetic engineering allows the species barrier to be crossed in a way that conventional breeding prohibits. There is a potential for the techniques employed in genetic engineering to engender the new plant with unforeseen properties. This is no science fiction, already unexpected sideeffects have been noted. For example, pig breeders in Iowa have found that their stock started to suffer inexplicably from false pregnancies when switched to a completely GM based diet. When the pigs were returned to a conventional diet, they recovered.”
“We won’t know what we’ll be eating, because we won’t know what different species the scientists have combined into the crop. A GM crop that had been engineered with a gene from the Brazil nut was caught in time. Otherwise, it would have been catastrophic for people allergic to nuts.”
“If you take independent statistics, you can see that many of Monsanto’s claims have been falsified. Farmers in India using GM cotton are out of pocket; the company advertised the crop as not needing pesticide when, in reality, they needed to spray virtually as many times as for nonGM cotton. Once you grow a GM crop, it spreads to its relatives in the wild and develops super weeds that are also resistant to the herbicide. Thus ever more and ever stronger chemicals are needed to enable the farmer to grow the same amount of crop. Experiments have proven that after a few generations, a pest called the boll worm is becoming resistant to the toxins genetically introduced into the cotton in a way that never happened when the same toxin was sprayed on. In the US, maize farmers are obliged to leave up to 50% of their GM crops as non GM, because the industry, and regulators, recognize that resistance to BT antipest genes is inevitable.”
“The farmers were also told that they’d get a bumper crop. That is untrue. In fact, most farmers in India got low yields, poor quality, low market values and needed chemical inputs on top of paying more for the GM variety. As a result, the Indian government has denied Monsanto commercial clearance to sell their Bt cotton to the northern Indian states. And it is not just in developing countries; yields of soya in the United States are lower for farmers using GM.”
“We’re also told that crops can be fortified with Vitamin A to help counteract the deficiency that causes blindness. However, people would have to eat nine kilograms of cooked GM rice every day for it to be effective. The real cause of malnutrition is powerful organisations like the World Bank forcing Third World countries to grow vast plantation crops like cotton, coffee or cocoa for export, taking all their time and land away from satisfying their own needs.”
“Recently, the leaders of Zambia and Ethiopia were ridiculed for refusing food aid from America that was genetically engineered. The reasons, however, were valid. Their farmers would have been tempted to grow some of the free GE grains like wheat, thus contaminating their nonGM crops destined for European markets. The leaders knew that there was plenty of stored nonGM food, and that America was surreptitiously trying to contaminate their grain and thus force their unpopular GM crops on both Africa and Europe.”
“There’s a strong alternative to continuing down the agriindustry path of ever more biotechnology, chemicals and dependence on unaccountable Western corporations. Farmers could use traditional ways and new government funded research into depleted soil, pest and drought problems. In Kenya, for example, farmers are planting Napier grass between maize crops. Maize is attacked by pests called stem borers, but the insects prefer the grass and get trapped on its sticky sap. This means that he farmers don’t need chemicals or GM to protect their crops. To stem disease, farmers traditionally exchange seeds for free. They’ve developed seeds through selective traditional breeding for droughtprone areas that agrichemical companies continue to steal and patent and are now trying to sell back to the farmers.”
Once the farmer has purchased the GM crop it is illegal to replant the offspring. Consequently poor third world farmers will be dependent on giant western multinationals to purchase their seed as well as buy their crop. This can only increase debt and hunger. To guarantee farmer dependence these companies are researching terminator crops, which will not reproduce at all. A technology of starvation.
It is no good depending on our governments to free us from boardroom greed, bribery and corruption. Michael Meacher said that it is not possible to stop farmers from buying GM crops. Why? Because America, through the WTO, will force Britain to pay possibly hundreds of millions of pounds penalty for erecting a barrier to so called ‘free trade’.
Only you and I as consumers can resist the GM invasion by saying no to GMs. If we are forced to accept them, then we must insist that the food is labeled. If, as in America, that is not allowed, we must only buy organic. Only then will the people be free to choose food proven to be safe.
To ensure food security, across the globe, we must release ourselves from corporate control and buy directly from the producer via independent shops, farmers shops and markets etc. Competition must be between farmers to provide excellent produce i.e. fresh and chemical and GM free, at a price we can all afford. Buying local keeps money and jobs in the locality and frees people and land in the third world to grow food for themselves.