The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has recently described opponents of GM food as "wicked" in the light of environmentalists' opposition to genetically modified 'golden rice'. Paterson asserted that the sole motivation for the development of golden rice was to feed the Third World, and attempted to paint those who oppose genetically modified food as a small number of selfish people who have, as he put it, a "hang up".
This might be the first time that such groups as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been described as wicked! The two green charities have been particularly active in their criticism and concern regarding genetically modified foods, although they are by no stretch of the imagination the only people who have expressed opposition to the controversial technology.
It is rather easier for me to believe that such groups are motivated by concern for public health, quality farming and the natural world than it is for me to believe the British government's open promotion of GM food is solely motivated by the desire to feed the Third World.
Leaving aside potential health concerns and the effect that GM products may have on the natural environment, if one wishes to understand why the British government is so enthusiastic about GM, one must merely do something that tends to lead to the crux of any issue - follow the money. Both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth strongly assert that the only people who benefit from GM food are huge agricultural corporations who develop and sell the technology.
This assertion has been laid particularly bare in the United States where there has been something of a revolving door between the regulatory agencies that oversee the food industry, and the biotechnology food corporations that naturally benefit when it is deregulated and / or promoted. This has been extremely well-documented, and it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss it in depth, but one such example was Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly a Monsanto attorney, who presided over the case Monsanto Corporation versus Geertson Seed Farms, and found in favour of the biotech giant.
In addition, starvation in the Third World has absolutely nothing to do with the type of crops that are grown, and the yields that they produce (although there is conflicting evidence regarding whether GM crops increase yields, anyway). Virtually every Third World nation sells perfectly good food as 'cash crops' to repay the odious debt that they've been forced to take on board. Approximately 60% of Africans are in fact employed in agriculture, compared to approximately 0.3% in Britain, yet there are estimated to be in the region of 275 million Africans on the verge of starvation.
It is purely economics that drives starvation in the Third World, not crop-related factors. For the environment secretary to pretend otherwise, and suggest that people who have legitimate concerns about the widespread adoption of genetically modified technology are blinkered cranks, is duplicitous, baseless and insulting to our collective intelligence.