FATAL HARVEST: The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

Myth Seven – Biotechnology Will Solve the Problems of Industrial Agriculture


From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

5/12/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The Truth

New biotech crops will not solve industrial agriculture’s problems, but will compound them and consolidate control of the world’s food supply in the hands of a few large corporations. Biotechnology will destroy biodiversity and food security, and drive self-sufficient farmers off their land.

The myths of industrial agriculture share one underlying and interwoven concept-they demand that we accept that technology always equals progress. This blind belief has often shielded us from the consequences of many farming technologies. Now, however, many are asking the logical questions of technology: A given technology may be progress, but progress toward what? What future will that technology bring us? We see that pesticide technology is bringing us a future of cancer epidemics, toxic water and air, and the widespread destruction of biodiversity. We see that nuclear technology, made part of our food through irradiation, is bringing us a future of undisposable nuclear waste, massive clean-up expenses, and again multiple threats to human and environmental health. As a growing portion of society realizes that pesticides, fertilizers, monoculturing, and factory farming are little more than a fatal harvest, even the major agribusiness corporations are starting to admit that some problems exist. Their solution to the damage caused by the previous generation of agricultural technologies is-you guessed it-more technology. “Better” technology, biotechnology, a technology that will fix the problems caused by chemically intensive agriculture. In short, the mythmakers are back at work. But looking past the rhetoric, a careful examination of the new claims about genetic engineering reveals that instead of solving the problems of modern agriculture, biotechnology only makes them worse.

Will Biotechnology Feed The World?
In an attempt to convince consumers to accept food biotechnology, the industry has relentlessly pushed the myth that biotechnology will conquer world hunger. This claim rests on two fallacies: first that people are hungry because there is not enough food produced in the world, and second that genetic engineering increases food productivity.

In reality, the world produces more than enough to feed the current population. The hunger problem lies not with the amount of food being produced, but rather with how this food is distributed. Too many people are simply too poor to buy the food that is available, and too few people have the land or the financial capability to grow food for themselves. The result is starvation. If biotech corporations really wanted to feed the hungry, they would encourage land reform, which puts farmers back on the land, and push for wealth redistribution, which would allow the poor to buy food.

The second fallacy is that genetic engineering boosts food production. Currently there are two principal types of biotechnology seeds in production: herbicide resistant and “pest” resistant. Monsanto makes “Roundup Ready” seeds, which are engineered to withstand its herbicide, Roundup. The seeds-usually soybeans, cotton, or canola-allow farmers to apply this herbicide in ever greater amounts without killing the crops. Monsanto and other companies also produce “Bt” seeds-usually corn, potatoes, and cotton-that are engineered so that each plant produces its own insecticide.