Freesteel Blog » Jimmy’s GM Food Propaganda

Jimmy’s GM Food Propaganda

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 12:44 pm Written by:

On the BBC you get a different quality of propaganda from the commercial networks. Whereas Channel 4 gave us a programme that lied on camera from start to finish and received lawsuits from one of the interviewees for misrepresentation, the BBC lies by ommission, amnesia and fraudulent misrepresentation of the opposition.

The Horizon episode was called Jimmy’s GM Food Fight where our tame scientist/flying pig farmer was taken on a journey around the world through a carefully scripted series of staged encounters, which included:

  • A nice lady professor doing the genetic modification itself with the simple act of pouring a test-tube of natural bacteria onto a barley seed to create more nutritious and drought resistant varieties
  • A visit to the traditional Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who, even though they reject new-fangled technology such as electricity, are quite happy to grow GM maize crops
  • An ecologist in Arizona who spoke in suspiciously perfect PR nuances, claiming to be studying just how much more wildlife was now growing on the landscape because the pest-resistant GM cotton crops didn’t need to be sprayed with chemicals every other week
  • Small-hold farmer women in Uganda desperate for new GM banana varieties to save their staple diet from the infections that reduces the yield and could threaten the country with famine

The opposition to GM crops came in the form of an interview with the ridiculous Lord Melchett who didn’t know anything and has proved himself too dippy to care about the damage cause by his acceptance of employment with global PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and a knowledgable member of the Union of Concerned Scientists who might have had more to say if it weren’t for the lack of time in this hour-long info-mercial.

Instead, the only fact the independent scientist could get across was how GM products had been put into every single foodstuff in the USA in the last ten years without any testing, pause to study or check out its effects on the population. This, he pointed out, was a sign of regulatory weakness with the corporations as usual conducting their experiments on the unwitting public. It’s just a matter of luck and good fortune that something really bad hasn’t happened yet.

But our farmer Jimmy turned this round and concluded that obviously this showed the products were perfectly safe, since nobody had noticed any bad effects in ten years of widespread use. But we already know that when there are on-going issues, such as with Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone, the US corporate media and amazing state legislation like the food libel laws is quite capable of covering it up for years. Would you like puss and diseased blood in your milk? It’s pasteurized, so it won’t kill you. You’ll notice that there are a lot of changes going on regarding the policy of BGH use in America this year (2008), which is a sign that something real is happening, even if the media is not willing to report it.

The laws against this product in Europe centre around the matter of animal welfare. In other parts of the world where animals have no rights, it’s entirely decided on the basis of cost-benefit analysis. By turbocharging your cow with a massive dose of mammary gland hormone, some of them are going to get very sick. How this affects the bottom line depends on the proportion that die.

Perhaps it’s because European citizens more often come into contact with farm animals than Americans do, because of the nature of the landscape. Imagine if we relaxed the laws against drug taking for Olympic athletes. These shows would rapidly get pretty ugly too, with steroid-fueled freaks occasionally dying during the medal’s ceremony. How would that work for your entertainment?

Meanwhile, the whole policy is pressured at us from the government and the corporate lobby for three reasons: money, profit, and nothing else.

If there are any positive benefits resulting from the corporate application of technology in the market, it’s a pure coincidence. It’s been established that if it’s profitable while at the same time being seriously harmful to life, they push it just as hard anyway. The so-called right-wing corporate ideology rests on the axiom that profit always implies public good — in spite of the fact that those who do make the big profits clearly understand that in order to get there they must: hide the damages, create monopolies, and abuse power to kill the competition.

The corporate GM lobby does all three, especially with their use of the patent system and systematic contamination of the alternatives. Almost the entire political issue would disappear overnight at the stroke of a pen if the EU simply ruled that all patents of genetic materials were invalid. Unfortunately, that’s not up for debate, because any of the public benefits that might be had from this technology can wait while they fight it out to capture the obscene profits they believe are available.

These corporate lobbyist’s brothers in the software patent industry weren’t quite so successful at creating these monopolies, because, unfortunately for them, people were already making software quite successfully before the patent regime went insane in the 1990s, and so they could easily expose the lie that adding patenting would represent anything of an improvement. The biotechnology revolution, however, happened after patents became silly, so there aren’t enough people around without a conflict of interest who can inform us that it just ain’t necessary for the technology to flourish. They’re necessary for huge unearned profits, but they’re probably irrelevant for the technological advancement itself.

The attempted sale of GM crops into Europe back in 1998-99 was an absolute debacle and an insult to the public intelligence. Now, ten years later, they’re gearing it up again, hoping we’ve forgotten the sorry episode and that enough young people will have come into the political market since then who don’t remember the story. Coz we have to remember the story, since the BBC is not going to remind us of it.

It’s like running an entire Republican Party presidential campaign without mentioning George Bush. The ban on GM foods in Europe has Monsanto’s name written all over it, and any programme about the politics of GM crops that doesn’t mention Monstanto once is clear evidence of propaganda.

And indeed it was, because apart from Lord Melchett and a couple of minutes from the UCS, the rest of the opposition were painted as those bad Europeans with their ignorant prejudices against perfectly safe and beneficial progress, who are so technologically backward they make the Amish look like spacemen, and who wouldn’t care if millions of Africans died from malnutrition just to preserve their anti-scientific principles.

The main weapon of PR disinformation on this subject is the establishment of the false category “GM crops”. It works like this.

  • Hello. Are you against “Things Made Of Metal”?
  • Well, I’m not sure. Sometimes “Things Made Of Metal” can be dangerous.
  • Look at this egg-beater. It’s made of metal, and it’s lovely and very useful. See: we can make pancake batter with it. You like pancakes, don’t you?
  • Yes, I really like pancakes.
  • So you’re not against “Things Made Of Metal”.
  • Well, I guess not.
  • You do know that all “Things Made Of Metal” use the same basic technology to make them, however big or small.
  • Really? I didn’t know that.
  • We’ve been making “Things Made Of Metal” for the last 6000 years since the end of the Stone Age.
  • That’s great. Thank you, “Things Made Of Metal”, for all you have given us.
  • Right, now please sign this petition against the ban on the sale of new “Things Made Of Metal”.
  • Uh, okay… Hang on, this is a petition about swords. I really don’t like swords. My brother was killed by one.
  • But you said you were okay with “Things Made Of Metal”.
  • Not with swords. They’re very bad, and they always seem to be in the wrong hands.
  • I’m afraid there aren’t any distinctions in the law between different sorts of “Things Made Of Metal”, they’re either banned or not banned, and since we can’t ban all “Things Made Of Metal” — you do like your pancakes, don’t you — we have to un-ban them
  • Wait a minute, wait a minute.
  • How ’bout this. We’ll compromise. You help me lift the ban on “Things Made Of Metal”, and then we’ll let the government license which ones are legal. Does that sound okay?
  • Well, maybe. But don’t we have to trust the Government?
  • You do, but the Government always works in your interest. The BBC says so.
  • But the Minister in charge doesn’t always seem to be fair.
  • He tries his best.
  • I’ve never met the Minster. Do you think I’ll be able to talk to him if he makes a wrong decision?
  • Don’t be ridiculous. There are millions of people like you. It’s not realistic. The Minister only has time to speak to important people.
  • Like who?
  • Owners of large corporations. Such as the Sheffield Sword Factory Institute, and other arms makers.
  • That doesn’t seem fair.
  • Well, the Government needs to buy weapons. Otherwise how do you expect it to do its job?
  • What’s it’s job?
  • To protect you from harm. You don’t need to worry about it. It’s all in good hands.
  • Oh. That doesn’t make me feel very happy.
  • Here, have a pancake. That will cheer you up.

Meanwhile, the secret licensing of new crop trials has begun. Nothing to worry about. I’m sure it’s not con-trick, like those Hawk “Training” Jets sold to Indonesia for giving novice pilots a taste of what it is like to fly (bombing raids against defenceless civilians), or even Japan’s “scientific” whaling programme whose scientific experiments seem to appear in school cafeterias throughout the land.

I mean, what do they take us for?

Back in 1998, the PR wing of Monsanto told us that:

GM foods were necessary to preserve farming yields

until the logical contradiction between this and terminator gene technology became too grotesque.

Then they told us that:

GM crops required less chemical spraying

until the properties of their Roundup Ready soybeans that made it resistant to their own-brand of herbicide meant it could be doused more.

Then they told us that:

Farmers in the third world were crying out for their products

Which they were, when they weren’t committing suicide after having been ruined by debt to the GM seed companies. (Though the Guardian now reports otherwise, somehow generalizing to the whole field from a study only on a particular strain of GM cotton.)

Then they told us that:

It’s too late. There is no alternative. The world’s soy commodity is already 5% GM contaminated, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Unfortunately for them, the supermarkets found some sources that were not pre-contaminated and were able to offer their customers a choice.

Then they said:

You’ve got to let our scientists do this, or they’ll go to America and take the benefits of this new biotechnology with them

Yeah, and all their stem cell researches with them too.

Undoubtedly, the European ban on GM crops is too blunt, unfair, ineffective, and insufficiently targetted against the bad stuff. We import large amounts of GM soy to feed to animals, which we then eat.

However, I would continue to support it, not on the basis of prejudice against GM technology itself (though that’s how the companies misrepresent the opposition), but on the matter of serious concerns about the ability of the European politicians to regulate it properly.

They, their corporate minders, and the PR industry, through the vehicle of this BBC programming, have shown no sign or willingness to distinguish between particular GM products that are potentially beneficial, and those that are seriously detrimental to the public interest (which may sometimes quite profitable).

Without this discrimination, any regulatory regime is going to be nothing but a joke. We’ve got many jokes like this. We don’t need another one.

No campaign to get the public to accept the lifting of this ban should get by without a truthful statement about the legitimate public concerns supporting the ban in the first place, and an accountability for the loss of confidence which was the direct result of the systematic lying by the government and the corporations during the first round of this debate.

1 Comment

  • 1. Garry Bodsworth replies at 27th November 2008, 4:35 pm :

    I saw this programme as well and was pretty much shocked with its (lack of) content.

    He managed to leave out all of the patent issues (if you buy a certain seed then you can only use their associated products – brought to you by the same company – otherwise you are infringing). Also, the complete absence of the terminator gene so that it would be possible for them to get you to buy entirely new stock each year. George Monbiot has written a lot about this.

    Garry

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