Saturday, September 13, 2014

(Open Letter) Inviting you to defend your stand on supporting GMOs

Hi Anand,

With reference to your pro-GMO articles on News Laundry (and I don't know where else),

I'd like to invite you to watch this movie (which of course is making an argument against GMOs, with testimonies from people who have been forced to consume GMOs and feed them to their families without any clear information given to them):


While I've seen a lot more written research and articles too on the matter, I don't want to overwhelm you. This movie will take only 1 hour of your time.

I would love to see your rebuttals to the actual scientific cellular level facts and theories expressed here rather than seeing more rhetoric from you about how evil or crazy our non-academia-approved grassroots movement leaders are. Writing below some of the flaws I've noticed in your articles thus far.

I hope you have something to say about the findings of the independent long-term trials on GMOs. You must know for sure that Monsanto has conducted only short term studies on its GMO foods (not even 6 months! That's less warranty than a cheap Chinese phone!), blocked publishing of its longer-term studies which it abruptly discontinued, and is attacking any independent long term studies on GMOs (like the Seralini 2-year study), including legally refusing to allow independent research groups to use its GMO seeds for their trials.

While I appreciate your drilling into numbers and making mountains out of numerical errors on the part of the less academically inclined people standing against GMOs (but where I saw you targeting the more vocal individuals in the movement and omitting official publishing by whole organizations), I felt you were getting lost in the numbers and losing sight of the more important points, such as the question of the evidences of harm caused to the health of people consuming GMOs. After all, I would still refuse to consume a cyanide pill if you coated it with vitamins and gave it to me.

Or the slightly inconvenient fact that the BT cotton crop whose sole USP was that it would not need any pesticide spraying as the plant itself is supposedly a pesticide factory, today requires more and more pesticides to be sprayed on it and that has driven widespread farmer indebtedness and suicides across India, with the input costs of patented seeds, fertilizers AND pesticides piling up and exceeding the output earnings. Or the news that the same is now happening across BT Corn fields in Latin America. Actually, I didn't notice you making any references to these serious facts at all while defending GMOs. If economic considerations are supposedly so important, then why leave the economic details about GMOs out of the debate?

While arguing for the nutritional goodness of Monsanto's patented rice, you seem to have missed out the data on the several indigenous patent-free varieties of Indian rice and millets that have medicinal properties far exceeding anything offered by Monsanto and their peers. Even if you refute these on the basis of them not being biotech-funded-academia-certified, it would have helped to at least see some mention of them while you were busy berating the people who have been talking about them.
 
You also seem to have missed out several research studies and UN reports that have found that organic farming yields increase over GM or conventional farming after an initial period when the soil must recover its lost microbial life. (check for the Rodale study where the different kinds were grown side by side and monitored over multiple seasons) Or the studies collating present-day food market logistics recording that today most of the world's food supply comes from the small family farms which are using half or less than half of all arable land. 

And, your assertion that organic farming can happen with patented GM seeds is seriously laughable, seeing that the GM seeds and the plants they grow into are pesticide-producers themselves. Organic means not using chemical warfare to kill insects that eat the crops. Also, the romantic co-existence idea is brought back to ground by the fact that through open air cross pollination (which, duh, happens in a field trial of GM crops) the DNA of the whole crop species gets infected by the GM strains and their well-documented drop in fertility spreads with them. 

On top of that, you left out the fact that Monsanto and peers' primary business model in the Americas has been to let their patented GM crops freely cross-pollinate with non-GMO fields and then they sue those farmers for patent infringement, without any actual role played by those farmers! This isn't some hoax you can dismiss.. it's a matter of public record... visible in these companies' own annual statements as well as public records of lawsuits registered in the judicial systems of these countries. Even before anyone knew much about the possible harms of GMOs, Vandana Shiva and her peers were fighting against this predatory exploitation by biotech companies of patents on life forms, this punishment of farmers who absolutely have no control whatsoever on where the wind brings the pollen into their fields from. (Imagine in a classroom, the teacher blows chalk dust into the air and punishes all the students on whose tables any dust lands) Your criticisms of the anti-GMO groups misses out these practices that they are standing up against, completely. To omit out this is akin to writing an essay on Hitler and not even mentioning what he did to the Jews.

You also failed to notice the sheer loopholes on the part of governing laws of countries like USA where GMOs are widespread, of relying only on the producers of GMOs to conduct safety studies on them. That's akin to relying on Arnab Goswami to give accurate figures of how many people believe what he says. And the fact that the government's food industry regulatory heads are also long-time employees or representatives or board members of companies like Monsanto. A conflict of interest that shouldn't be omitted by someone who's writing about GMOs. 

You also failed to state anything at all about the ongoing multi-million-dollar lobbying by biotech majors and their biggest clients in the US against citizen referendum measures and bills that are trying to mandate labeling of foods having GM ingredients in them. Oh, and India is now importing several of those foods btw, without any further checks. Doesn't that seem a bit fishy to you... the argument that citizens do not have a right to know whether they are consuming GMOs or not, because their producers have declared it's good for them? For a country that's experiencing an out of control epidemic of chronic diseases and previously non-existent allergies that co-incide neatly with the introduction of GMOs into their everyday food without informing them, I think that's a bit suspicious.

Lastly, not having Phd degrees under the belt while opposing a corporate for-profit and possibly harmful agenda doesn't make one anti-science. Deliberately omitting vital facts from the arguments to help weigh them on one side, is what makes one anti-science. From everything I've seen so far in the topic of GMOs, I think I'd have to be rabidly anti-science to still support the adoption of GMOs as they currently are. Do more research: Yes, by all means, in the utmost controlled, scientific, standardized safe ways we know. Push an under-tested, inadequately developed infantile technology blindly into adoption across the world and subject the entire population to an unpredictable experiment in the name of scientific progress : Sorry, Boss. I'm not stupid, and I certainly don't hate kids that badly.

Awaiting your response. I sincerely hope you will not resort to the cheap school debate competition tricks of picking on one little detail and lavishing all your attention on it while conveniently ignoring all other points. There are serious facts here, and if you cannot counter each and every one of them effectively then the argument supporting GMOs is lost. 

I'm also publishing this email on my blog (http://nikhilsheth.blogspot.in), which kind of makes this an open letter to you. But of course you can choose to dismiss me completely since I won't be attracting as much attention as News Laundry does.


PS: Please forgive me for not being a certified Wikipedian / academic and not citing references at every phrase : a practice that originated in the age of severe information scarcity. Do feel free to search any of the topics on the net in this age of information abundance, but please remember that our most official-assumed publications that even get accepted as valid sources on Wikipedia, have been caught in recent years blatantly publishing lies and misinformation in many fields, some have even led to deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. There is no such thing as the 100% objective source of information; we have no convenient escape from the responsibility of having to make our own judgements and choosing whom to believe. It does help to be open to possibilities and doing our own checking rather than blindly declaring the opposite of an argument to be true just because the argument didn't have adequate references pre-written.

PPS: Thanks for sharing your email on the site, to facilitate 2-way communication rather than one-way. All websites publishing articles should do this.

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