Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | May 6, 2008

Genetic Engineering incompatible with Organic Agriculture

In reaction on the current rise in food prices and the crises in many developing countries following from that, some scientists claim that genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) combined with Organic Agriculture would be the best way to grow food for a rising population. The organic agricultural movement and the standards and regulations on Organic Agriculture clearly reject genetic engineering as it is not compatible with its principles.

Organic and GMO agriculture are based on different values and a different attitude towards nature. The current environmental crisis, leading to desertification, biodiversity loss and climate change, has shown that a controlling attitude of humans toward nature is counterproductive. Gene technology is not a value free technology but is an expression of a worldview in which nature can and should be ruled and manipulated as much as possible to keep agriculture manageable in industrialized agriculture. In contrast, Organic Agriculture [2] departs from a different attitude towards nature and aims at cooperating with nature in an ecological way supporting self regulation and biodiversity within the agro-ecosystem of a farm. In this way natural resources, the very base of agriculture can be sustainably maintained instead of getting destroyed and diminished.
The reasons why the organic sector rejects genetic engineering are not limited to the risk associated with its products, but also include concerns about the process itself. The current structure and products of the genetic engineering sector do not serve smallholders or the Organic Principles and humanities greatest needs. They serve mainly the interest of multinational corporations.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) [3], which was recently concluded in Johannesburg, clearly calls for an overhaul of the farming system and points towards organic and other low input systems, that use adjusted traditional and indigenous knowledge. Gerald A. Herrmann, IFOAM president states: ‘GMO, made for large scale monocultures, is just another expression of the same thinking that brought humanity in the current crisis. Organic Agriculture will not accept techniques and traits that deprive humanity from its very basis: agro-biodiversity’.


Responses

  1. I thinks it’s not a matter of whether genetically modified foods, or crops for that matter, are compatible to agriculture. NO. It’s about exploring every available option that can put food on the table of hungry families especially in poor countries. I recently tackled this issue in a blog post on my blog (http://www.gmoafrica.com.) In this post I have stated that there is no silver bullet to food shortage in the world. A combination of strategies will be needed to alleviate food shortages in the world. By this I mean crop genetic engineering and organic farming. Those who want to do organic farming should be allowed to do so. On the other hand, those who want to practice crop genetic engineering should be free to do so without any inhibition. Today, we have a situation where some people want the entire world to embrace organic farming and reject any other technology. We have heard people dismiss genetically modified foods as a ploy by multinational biotech companies such as Monsanto and Dupont to dominate world agriculture. There is nothing like this. Farmers should have the freedom to choose what to plant. Consumers must be allowed to eat what they want. I am sure people will ask me if I am for labeling of genetically modified foods. I believe in people’s right to choose what they want to eat. Proponents of labeling, however, are not genuine in their calls for all genetically modified foods to be labeled. All what they are after is to create fear and despondency in consumers. They want labeling so that they can perfect the art of misinformation and misleading. This is not what the world wants. The world want a sober debate about genetically modified foods. A debate devoid of emotionalism. Monsanto and Dupont are not the villains. The real villains are the people who are using propaganda and misinformation to instil fear in people’s minds about genetically modified foods.


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