di Mischa Popoff
When all else fails, revolutionaries, being revolutionaries, turn to violence. A new “Monsanto Collaborators” website created by millionaire organic activist Mike “the Health Ranger” Adams charges that hundreds of thousands of deaths have been caused by GMO crops, and that people who support genetically-modified organisms, like myself, Fox News’s John Stossel and the former ABC Newsman Jon Entine, are guilty of mass genocide, and hence deserving of a punishment that befits our crime.
“Every 30 minutes, a farmer commits suicide due to GMO crop failures,” Adams claims, blissfully unaware, apparently, that stories of mass suicide by farmers in India, perpetuated by another millionaire organic activist, Vandana Shiva, have been thoroughly debunked.
The suicide rate among Indian farmers began to increase years before GMO crops were introduced, and the rate of farmer suicides has remained constant since GMOs were introduced even as adoption of GMO crops across the Indian subcontinent has steadily increased. Pesticide usage has decreased 40 percent, while yields and profits have increased.
Adams had called for precisely such a list, asking “How do you even decide on a punishment that can fit the scale and magnitude of such a collection of crimes?” He stresses that he in no way condones “vigilante violence against anyone,” but in the same breath says, “I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.” (Emphasis added.)
Hardly reassuring, now is it?
Adams needs to brush up on his common law. If I and my fellow pro-GMOers are “condemned criminals,” why do we need “a fair trial”? (Hint: we don’t, at least not if we’re “condemned,” which means we’ve already had a trial, fair or otherwise….) Are we, in fact, “condemned”? Or just “accused”? Adams’s hollow words amount to little more than the classic political apology: “I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said.”
Meanwhile, I have never had anything to do with Monsanto. It’s the science behind GMOs that drives my work, not the profit margins of any corporation. A lot of good people work for GMO companies like Monsanto. But the executives have grown somewhat complacent, frankly, intent it seems only on making money off the GMOs they’ve already got on the market. By failing to stand up to anti-GMO organic activists such as Adams and Shiva over the last decade, these executives have ensured that we’re stuck with the same handful of GMO crops that were available eleven years ago when I hung up my organic inspector’s hat.
Can you say “stagnation”?
Organic agriculture began in response to the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer after ammonium nitrate was first pulled—in literally infinite quantities—from the Earth’s atmosphere in 1917. The brilliant German Jew, Fritz Haber, had finally cracked the code that had eluded humankind for centuries. Early proponents of organic farming claimed this disconnected us from Mother Earth, and so it was that opposition to synthetic nitrogen became the basis for organic farming.
In the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s bestseller Silent Spring pushed the organic movement to also reject synthetic pesticides. Then when genetic engineering finally came of age in the early 1990s, organic activists wasted no time in opposing it as well, without even waiting to see how this technology might alleviate issues caused by the use of ammonium nitrate and synthetic pesticides. Again, talk about stagnation.
See the pattern? The organic movement has consistently rejected technology. To their credit, early organic scientists knew they had to innovate the alternative to synthetic ammonium nitrate: natural composting. And they did. The scientific, test-based, peer-reviewed works of luminaries Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour are still used to this day by honest organic farmers.
But rejecting pesticides was a bit more problematic. Natural pesticides and other strategies were adopted, but this was when the organic movement became essentially negative. Then, when GMO crops were rejected, the once-proud organic movement finally came to define itself exclusively in terms of what it was not rather than in terms of any provably positive values it might possess.
And so it is that organic activists now find themselves pretending that GMOs kill farmers, while ignoring the benefits GMOs have provided to India which has gone from Third-World status to an agricultural export nation in less than a generation, thanks to the adoption of every single innovative technology that Adams and Shiva summarily reject.
Lighting our homes likewise went through many stages of innovation. From open fire pits to the torch, the candle, the lantern, and finally the gas light, technologies in succession have undergone centuries of fine-tuning before being replaced.
Then along came the light bulb. Not only was it a quantum leap forward in terms of efficiency, convenience, and safety, but after every other technology had hit its “glass ceiling,” the light bulb also offered us a way forward: in fact, the only way forward.
The light bulb, just like the science of genetic engineering, represents not merely an innovation that we can fine-tune and perfect. It is well and truly the only innovation worth innovating further.
Sure, someone could come up with a new version of the coal-oil lamp. But it will never touch the efficiency of even the most primitive electric light bulb. Likewise, we’ll continue to see improvements in traditional forms of plant breeding and organic farming techniques. But only the science of genetic engineering offers the means to viably advance food production beyond our wildest expectations.
How wild exactly?
It used to take six hours for the average worker to earn enough to buy a candle that would burn for one hour. Today you can buy an hour’s worth of electric lighting in a half second.
Which do you prefer?
Farmers, both in India and right here in America, have overwhelmingly made their up minds and have adopted GMO crops. Shouldn’t we take a cue from them and ignore activists who don’t run their own farms? If a farmer lies about the efficacy of a new form of technology, he goes broke. If Adams and Shiva lie about new forms of agricultural technology, they rake in $40,000 per engagement on the lecture circuit.
Whom are you going to believe?
Mischa Popoff is a former organic farmer and Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector who worked on contract under the USDA’s National Organic Program. He is a policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, The Frontier Centre for Public Policy and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, and is the author of Is it Organic?