Grenoble The counterclaims around genetically modified crops around the world are head spinning. Thousands march to protest their use in the US and Europe. Noted scientists take out ads in major papers claiming they represent no problems. Some argue they are necessary in the future to feed the world’s growing population. Back and forth it goes. Sometimes it seems we should just pick and side and hope for the best.
Some things are clear though, and disturbing. Whenever a conglomerate like Monsanto can make money on both sides of the deal, it is deeply worrisome, and hard not to believe something has gone terribly wrong. They – and others – sell both genetically modified seeds and plain seeds. They also sell the insecticides and herbicides to both kill weeds and to essentially avoid the weed killers like Roundup. The German-based conglomerate, Bayer, is now trying to buy Monsanto and a Chinese company is trying to buy their big competitor, so this could all get even harder to sort out.
An article in the New York Times by Danny Hakim, “Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops,” throws another powerful wrench into the works. Using United Nations crop yields data over a period of years since the introduction of GMOs in basic crops like corn, soybeans, and rapeseed in the United States and Canada with similar production in the European agricultural powerhouses of Germany and France, there was no evidence of superior yields. And, equally disturbing there was increased use of chemicals, rather than less. Monsanto claims the data was cherry picked, but unconvincingly answers the argument by cherry picking different data to try to make their case. Both parties understand that the house crumbles if the very foundation of the manufacturers’ arguments about increased production are not sustained after two decades of use. Monsanto sums up its case with something of shrug, saying if you don’t like it, we’ll sell it India and elsewhere that are wild for it.
All of this was on my mind in the wake of an excellent report issued by our partner, ReAct in Paris recently that extensively documented the reliance of the McDonalds’ fast food operations on genetic modifications throughout its supply chain in beef, potatoes, and chicken in the very anti-GMO and GMO-conscious French and European markets. The release of the report was big news throughout Paris partly because it was accompanied by a demonstration in a central Parisian Mickey-D’s by fifty or more folks including farmers, students, and members of ACORN’s affiliate, the Alliance Citoyenne from Aubervilliers, a Paris suburb that is the poorest district in France. The action featured a Ronald McDonald look alike that was “arrested” by the demonstrators for polluting the supply chain with GMOs that are banned expressly in France and the European Union.
Monsanto may be scurrying from the Times article in the US, but McDonalds is now ducking and weaving over GMOs in Europe, and no matter which side you come down on about GMOs, French consumers seem clear, and they are saying loudly and in no uncertain terms, they want no part of it.