It always amuses me that corporations would tell us to trust them, as if they were priests or surgeons instead of merchants, hawking their goods as best they can. They talk as though their leadership role model is Mother Teresa instead of Henry Ford. They want to feed the developing world, right? Rice with Vitamin A, that life-transforming grain developed by the philanthropists at Monsanto.
What they carefully ignore, and Greens don’t do enough to publicize, is that there is a third way, a kind of biotechnology that combines the ingenuity humans have always shown in agriculture with techniques possible in today’s labs. If I were one of the scientists coming up with these brilliant ideas I know I’d be choking with frustration on my open-pollinated carrot.
The aim of this open-source biotechnology, being developed in universities around the world, is to improve crops just as humans have for millennia – a process that is safe and sensible, and highly effective. Instead of injecting genes from one species into another (daffodils into rice, fish into strawberries), these scientists look for traits in related wild plants or latent genes within a plant itself. Instead of so-called ‘terminator’ seeds – which can’t reproduce so farmers have to buy expensive GM seed every year – the new varieties are open-pollinated.
This is the kind of technology we need, the kind we should support because it gives us a chance at a future that’s fair to the small farmer, a world where the rich won’t live in gated, air-filtered eco-estates while the poor take what they can get in a desecrated world.