I sometimes wonder why public money is allowed to be spent on promoting private business interests. Why should the British tax payers be made to pay for a much hyped The Foresight project Global Food and Farming Futures report [You can read the full report here: http://bit.ly/fPk9LY]. I am told the report is a culmination of a two year study involving 400 experts from 35 countries.
At the end of it, the report simply says what the GM mafia has been telling us all along. Prof John Beddington, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, has been quoted emphasising that GM Crops are 'extremely important' to meet the growing food crisis, and of course he is clever enough to say that it is one of the tools that needs to be advocated.
Well, the fact of the matter is that if Prof Beddington had not come out openly in support of GM Crops he wouldn't have been made the Chief Scientific Advisor in the first instance. I am not being unkind to Prof Beddington, but whether we like it or not this remains a fact. You cannot hope to rise in your career if you do not express faith in the risky, harmful and unwanted regressive GM technology. If you dare to question the technology, you are hounded out. Such is the power and control the GM industry has.
Quoting from an official press release, the report states: "While many reports have expressed concerns about the ability of the food production system to cope with the world’s burgeoning population, the Foresight report is the first detailed study across a range of disciplines to have put such fears on a firm analytical footing.
According to the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir John Beddington, the study provides compelling evidence for governments to act now.
"We know in the next 20 years the world population will increase to something like 8.3 billion people We know that urbanisation is going to be a driver and that something of the order of 65-70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities at that time.
I thought the world already knew this. We are aware of the crisis that confronts us. Merely reiterating it again and again is not going to help unless you really want to take some radical steps. The report does say 'that the food production system will need to be radically changed not just to produce more food but to produce it sustainably', but when it comes to spelling out the radical changes required, it not only fails but fails miserably to come up with any proposal/recommendation that is not an extension of the industrial farming model that has created the crisis in the first place.
That is why I said over BBC World Service radio yesterday that the report is a very clever cover-up or camouflage to promote GM crops. I said the world "produces food for 11.5bn people... 40% is wasted... we don't have to create a panic like the UK report."
The report has been dressed up in such a way that the policy makers/planners have little option but to pour more public resources into research areas where private biotechnology industry can draw maximum profits. Public-Private Partnership is merely an euphemism for the exploitation of public resources, and I am sure the UK government would now feel pressurized to re-start GM research in the name of helping the poor and hungry in the developing countries.
Please don't be so kind to us. The last time you came to India to help the poor and hungry, we became a colony for 200 years.
Anyway, let us look at the report. The official release says: "The authors call for food and agriculture to move up the political agenda and be coordinated with efforts to tackle the impact of climate change, the supply of water and energy and the loss of farm land". Agreed. And it is here that I was expecting the distinguished team of scientists to come up with some viable solutions. This is where the political agenda has to be tuned to the desperate food security needs of the people, and this is where the report fails.
Farm land grab across the globe, and the land acquisitions that the World Bank has been promoting so as to shift the farming population to labour in the industry, remains the most serious concern in the battle to ensure food for all. Like the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which we all know is a lobbying body for agribusiness, the Foresight project too remains conspicuously silent. IFPRI at least suggested a code of conduct for the companies grabbing land, this report too refrains from make any recommendation that would annoy the powers that be.
While the Global Food and Farming Futures report has talked about the need for radical changes, it calls for "protection of the poorest from sharp price increases through government intervention and greater liberalising of the trade in food to offset market volatility." This suggestion is contradictory to the problem of price volatility that it seems to address. Price volatility can be only effectively controlled if each country was to return to food sovereignty by investing in food self-sufficiency. Let us be very clear, India escaped the 2008 global food crisis because its agriculture was still not fully integrated with the global economy.
Price volatility that the world witnessed in 2008, leading to food riots in 37 countries, was the outcome of commodity trading and speculation. Corporates made tonnes of money when more people were going to bed hungry in 2008. I had expected the 400 distinguished scientists who wrote the report to demonstrate political courage by calling for an end to speculation in food, at least. Such a recommendation could have been called truly radical.
When it comes to production, keeping sustainability and economic viability in consideration, the report gives the impression as if 400 distinguished scientists were grappling in the dark, and have no idea about the ground realities. Like a frog in the well, they can only see what lies with the walls. So I am not surprised when it fails to come up with any thing meaningful and challenging. The only objective of this report therefore seems to be to oppose the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Scientific and Technology for Development (IAASTD).
Don't get lost in the warnings that the report is trying to sound. In reality, the UK report is simply calling for business as usual. "Science-based solution" are nothing but industry prescriptions. If these prescriptions were so good, we wouldn't be faced with the monumental food and sustainability crisis that the world is confronted with. If the international community accepts this futuristic report, mark my words: Hunger will grow, and the world will become still more unsustainable acerbating the crisis we already have on water availability, shrinking land resources, poisoning soils and the rising temperatures.
The choice is yours.