There are a series of recent intriguing stories on genetically modified agriculture and bio-technology.
I was surprised to learn via the most recent Wikileaks cable release that the U.S. government has, for years, been lobbying the Catholic Church to change their negative stance toward GMO crops.
The Catholic News Service reports that one cable indicated that:
The U.S. Embassy would "continue to press the moral imperative of biotech" by sharing research on economic benefits and safeguards, which it said would be important to "winning Vatican hearts and minds."
In another instance:
The cable ended by stating: "Post will continue to lobby the Vatican to speak up in favor of GMOs, in the hope that a louder voice in Rome will encourage individual church leaders elsewhere to reconsider their critical views."
Other examples of the US State Department advocating for the acceptance of GM crops around the world can be found here.
There are two ways to interpret these revelations. The more generous read is that the State Department is interested in addressing world hunger and so they are advocating for the Vatican's help in opening up impoverished countries to GM crops. So called golden rice that contains Vitamin A is an example of one such GM innovation that could help millions of malnourished people around the world. Syngenta is one of the key players with this rice and to their credit they are helping make it available
The other way to read the advocacy of the State Department with the Catholic Church and foreign governments is that they are doing the bidding of large U.S. corporations to pave the way for the proliferation of GM crops that are dependent on expensive herbicides like Round Up. The reality is probably a mixture of the two, but I'm inclined to think that powerful economic interests rather than humanitarian compassion is the driving force behind this lobbying effort.
While the State Department lobbies overseas, there is a battle brewing in the U.S. over GM sugar beets and a proposed GM apple that resists browning.
I hope there are some countries around the world that hold on to their ban on GM crops. Those countries that allow GM crops are finding that once the genie is out of the bottle it's awfully hard to contain. For example, an organic oat farmer in Australia just lost his organic certification when a neighboring farm's round-up ready canola contaminated his farm with GM seeds.
I personally need to learn more about the development of GM crops before offering an educated opinion. I don't want to be a reactionary luddite when it comes to GM technology, but the rapid proliferation of bio-tech in the food system really scares me. James McWilliams offers an intriguing "middle path" in responding to the the the GMO industry.