Last July 14, The Truth About Trade & Technology published a blog, entitled “While others strive to feed the world, Greenpeace and activists destroy field trials”, which makes the bold claim that ”Greenpeace and other activist groups are blatantly destroying research that may help feed the world's poor and hungry. ”
This sort of rhetoric from promoters of genetic engineering clearly shows that some scientists need to be awakened to the moral and ethical implications of what they are pushing.
For so many times, those involved with the biotech companies and their ‘experts’ have consistently talked about genetic engineering from a framework of alleviating hunger. As noble as that argument seems to be, it starts off from a wrong premise: It is not that we don’t have enough food, in fact, in the face of neo-liberal globalization, food production went up as production is needed for many countries that are a part of the World Trade Organization to compete in international markets. But the sad thing about this is that though there is more food in the world than there ever was in the previous century, that food is, however, not distributed equally, especially in areas where resources are scarce.
The solution put forward by some is to use science to make more food more efficiently and under less time. However, this does not confront the fundamental fact that the more affluent is consuming more than those in the poor countries, and it also does not factor in the truth that our consumptive lifestyles can no longer be accommodated by our planet’s limited resources.
But, with that in mind, comes the dilemma for scientists: Should science be used to maintain a status quo of consumption and unequal distribution of goods and services, which includes the basic necessity of food?
At the very least, one needs to understand that, as far as genetic engineering and ecology is concerned, the earth is not a giant laboratory where experiments can be conducted without due consideration given to the impacts that it may wrought on the planet’s fragile ecosystem and the lives of all the organisms that live in it. Also, that people should have the right to know what is in what they are eating, because it is intricately connected with their right to life.
Tragically, both the environment’s and the people’s rights are violated, because we have been deprived of proper choices since government institutions involved in agriculture chose not to side with caution, and the existing legal framework of the Philippines does not have a law that requires people to know if the food they are eating are genetically modified or not.
This shows the tragic premium given to life (or the lack of it) by those who seek to advance the implementation of genetically modified organisms into the production line and in the market . They go so far as advancing GMOs at the cost of the environment and of people. It does not look after the ‘rights’ of the consumer and it fails to go on the side of caution, which goes contrary already with proper scientific methodology.
Maybe this is a disquieting call for us to also look deeply into how our lives and those things that we choose to align ourselves with amount to. Perhaps this whole debate is a challenge for us to again remember that if we are to continue on the path of business-as-usual, with apathy to what is happening in the world around us and persisting on living lives of accumulation and consumption, we provoke a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest the world and the environment of diverse organisms that it hosts.
Together with Greenpeace, I believe that asking these questions are important, because while scientific progress on molecular biology has a great potential to increase our understanding of nature and provide new medical tools, it should not be used as justification to turn the environment into a giant genetic experiment by commercial interests. The biodiversity and environmental integrity of the world's food supply is too important to our survival to be put at risk.
Genetically Modified Organisms should not be released into the environment since there is not adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health.
In the meantime we also advocate immediate interim measures such as labelling of GE ingredients, and the segregation of genetically engineered crops and seeds from conventional ones.
This is why we keep on stressing the need for a contained test that follows proper containment and are also working to have a mandatory labelling law on food products, so that consumers can have the capacity to make informed and conscious decisions on the food that they are eating.
We do this ultimately because we believe that life is not an industrial commodity. When we force life forms and our world's food supply to conform to human economic models rather than their natural ones, we do so at our own peril.
Maybe the question about the Truth for Trade & Technology is that: what is the truth?
And can they handle the truth?