Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

WTO biotech crops ruling & Sustainable farming

by whataboutbob Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:03:52 AM EST

Two interesting articles related to food in today's European Breakfast that are worthy of note, and in contrast to each other.

Europe, WTO battle over biotech crops


Eco-farming ,,Helps World's Poor"

Here's the quotes that Fran posted:

RYE, England (UPI) - This week a preliminary ruling on biotech crops was issued by the World Trade Organization that could prevent national and local governments from setting their own environmental and human health regulations in cases where scientific uncertainty exists.      It's a major blow for those who believe in what is called the Precautionary Principle -- the notion that innovation should be shelved unless all risks can be avoided.

In question is the European Commission's regulatory system, which has delayed the widespread sale of biotech crops until better scientific evidence can prove them not to harm the environment or human health.

Second (below):

Sustainable farming methods can help the poorest farmers in developing nations out of poverty, new research suggests. Scientists found that techniques such as crop rotation and organic farming increased crop yields by an average of 79%, without risking future harvests.

The study, possibly the largest of its kind, looked at more than 280 projects in 57 of the world's poorest countries.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The team of international scientists who carried out the four-year project found that the farmers enjoyed improved crop productivity, while reducing their use of pesticides and water.

One of the report's co-authors, Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, UK, said the findings challenged the dominate view that the West knew best when it came to agriculture.

I am curius as to what people think of this WTO ruling, and what should be done. I suggest that Europe pulls out of the WTO...screw them! (And what would happen if we did?). And I like what is being said about sustainable farming...how do we bring this here??

The quote from the Tehran Times that made me jump on the BBC article was the following:

"Organic farms are not going to feed the poor," Entine states. Biotech farming produces yields, he says, at a rate three to four times higher than conventional farming. It should be presented in the EU as a consumer option. "The EC has very strict regulations for what it allows in the marketplace and what it puts on labels. If the population doesn't want this, they have got their choice."

And of course I do agree much more with BBC.

by Fran on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:19:14 AM EST
I'd love to see the funding for that study.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:24:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh. "American Enterprise Institute Press". That's alright then.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman, you just handed over the stick to beat them with. It's the damnable "Sound Science" approach: claiming that "scientific" data doesn't show anything conclusive (which I dub Doubt Science) and then produce industry funded "scientific"(?) reports which show the opposite of what the scientists say.

A problem with science, as you may well know, is that the wheel grinds so slow. Experiments need to be debunked one at the time while these think tanks can produce "science" reports as quick as you can blink and use the growing pile of never de-bunked articles as evidence that their claim to the truth must be the right one. And the press is gobbling it.

by Nomad on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 07:21:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pure propaganda designed for the international propagada delivery system.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 07:26:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colamn, if I ever need to write an article, could I ask you to write my abstract? I think you've a knack for it.
by Nomad on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 07:41:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Advanced laziness.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 07:42:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the link between "conventional" and "organic" farms would be what, exactly? Wanker.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I like what is being said about sustainable farming...how do we bring this here??

Easy. We overcome the agri-business lobby in Brussels and spend EU supports on only sustainable agriculture and countryside maintenance type stuff. It shouldn't mean fundamentally altering the agricultural policy of more that 25 of the EU states while farming lobbies and big business kick and scream their little shrivelled hearts out.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:30:28 AM EST
I was reading the Breakfast thread and didn't see this come up. So I'll crosspost my comment from there...

Just to point out that the "Entine" quoted here is a professional propagandist of the American Enterprise Institute.

The argument "GM foods are needed to feed the poor" is a subset of "dumping our agricultural over-production is helping feed the poor" (when in fact it drives small farmers in poor countries out of business). I find it parallel to the sempiternal: "we need more growth to create jobs".

The WTO decision is about the US force-selling GM exports to Europe, that Europe does not want. The argument about consumer choice is bogus. We will not find these products on our supermarket shelves with GM written in dayglo orange. American soy and corn will go into cattle feed, mixed with non-GM. Will the chicken, pork, beef, yoghurt, cheese, be labeled GM? How long will a labeling system last, when the food production chain has GM stuff mixed in everywhere?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 04:47:39 AM EST
We know (Amartya Sen, again) famine is not the result of failures of production, but of political failures.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 05:16:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This connects again to Devilstower's Africa diary:  rail, port and road infrastructure in much of the Third World is post-colonial and engineered strictly for efficiency in removing resources from the country, not for transporting food around rapidly when needed to balance out supplies in drought or flood years.  One of the reasons for the near-elimination of famine (which is a different thing from delocalised hunger due to poverty) in Europe and the US is the ability to shift food stocks around very rapidly (not that you'd know it from the inept response to Katrina).  Canals and railroads made a huge difference in governments' ability to shift surpluses to areas where there was a food deficit...  anyway, the unidirectional extractive nature of infrastructure in much of the Third World makes this more difficult and expensive (having to use airlifts, etc)...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:40:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't think of a single GMO crop trial which resulted in a yield increase of 3 to 4 times over conventional cultivars.  afaik such claims are pure snake oil, right up there with "too cheap to meter".

the only yields that have been spectacularly maximised so far are:  the share prices of biotech companies and salaries of their CEOs;  revenues from patented seed stock and from intelprop lawsuits against farmers;  and revenues from sales of Roundup (glyphosate).

more later...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 03:13:02 PM EST
On yields -- I think you're right. It's not on yields that they've concentrated, anyway, but on resistance to pests (BT against corn borer, for example), or to weedkiller (the Roundup Ready series).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 03:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]