Temperatures plunge, black sky rumbles, cracks, flashes, and the deluge hits with nickel-sized hail, a rush of brown water coursing through dry washes. Next morning, the cool air is heavy with the fragrance of sage, coyote tracks appear in the sandy mud of the arroyo.
It's monsoon season, a time when the desert — hot, dusty, dry — is transformed into a very different place, at least for a while, and the dramatic contrasts of nature, of life, become vividly clear.
I thought about contrasts when I read a National Public Radio blog post on how some food manufacturers are quietly developing GMO-free products, even while fighting labeling proposals. It stated:
Right now, non-GMO food fetches a premium. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says that premium is likely to come down if this part of the agricultural sector gains more traction and an efficiency of scale can kick in.
Ultimately, the consumer is king. And the question of whether or not consumers will want non-GMO products is still up in the air.
Ultimately, money is king. The food-makers don't want the costs associated with labeling, but they do want to be ready to cash in on the growing “GMO-free” market, which “is one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry, representing $6 billion in annual sales,” according to the Non-GMO Project.
Then I got a news release from the National Center for Public Policy Research, a “free market corporate activist group” that has been sending its people to corporate shareholders' meetings, trying to convince them to oppose labeling. Most recently, they prevailed at Safeway, where 90 percent of the shareholders rejected a proposal to label all GMO ingredients.
The group maintains that anti-GMO activists are using “fear-mongering and deceptive narratives” to advance their cause, which is funded in part by the organic food lobby. It's now trying to get food manufacturers like Kraft to start promoting the benefits of GMOs to counter the activists.
And the activists on both sides are making money off their activism, using the issue to raise cash for themselves and their causes.
Meanwhile, I followed a link to a Scientific American blog post about a study, published in the journal Environment and Development Economics, that delved into how anti-GMO opposition has impacted the development of “golden rice.” Syngenta, after figuring out how to insert the Vitamin A -producing gene from carrots into rice, had “handed all financial interests over to a non-profit organization, so there would be no resistance,” according to the post.
Twelve years later, however, opponents have prevented the cultivation of that rice. As the post notes:
[The researchers] quantified the price of that opposition, in human health, estimating that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes. The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.
These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.
One of those opponents is the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The nonprofit organization played a big role in drafting Kauai's GMO-pesticide regulatory bill, Ordinance 960, and is currently helping to defend it against a legal challenge mounted by the chem/seed companies.
As I've reported previously, CFS gets the bulk of its funding from the Rockefeller clan via the Cornerstone Campaign, which recently created a website.
So I visited that site, and found this, under the heading of Biological Pollution (emphasis added):
AS WE CONTINUE the difficult task of trying to control and eliminate a multitude of chemical environmental pollutants, from pesticides to global warming gases, corporations using genetic engineering are imposing a new form of pollution on us—biological pollution caused by the release of gene-altered microbes, plants and animals into the environment. This biological pollution presents fundamentally different problems than chemical pollution. Chemical contamination whether an oil spill or factory exhaust, while harmful to human health and the natural world, generally becomes diluted and less concentrated over time.
By contrast, the biological contamination fostered by genetic engineering increases over time as the polluting organism reproduces, disseminates and mutates.
in other words, oil spills and even climate change pale in comparison to the evils of biotech, according to those who benefit from the sale and consumption of fossil fuels.
Ah, yes. There we have it: Big oil vs big chem, with consumers and activists the witting and unwitting pawns.
And then I read further and found this:
The drive for corporate profit cannot be allowed to foster and control a technology which threatens human health and the balance of nature upon which all living things depend.
What an interesting sentiment to be espoused by those living on fortunes derived from the drive for corporate profit and the exploitation of a resource that threatens human health and the balance of nature.
I can't say for certain if GMOs are harmful or helpful. Like most of what humans have developed, biotech is part good, part bad. I do have my concerns about the technology, and those who control it.
Yet I also have my concerns about the distorted and deceptive campaign that is being waged against GMOs by the scions of oil barons and an organic food industry. It can't possibly be argued that they're neutral, or concerned only about human and environmental health. Not when such hefty profits are to be made by the demise and denigration of GMOs.
As we continue to discuss and debate this technology, and particularly its application in Hawaii, it becomes ever more important to look beyond the rhetoric, resist the aggressive fear-mongering and consider the many agendas at play here.
Because ultimately, it's all about money, and money is king.