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August 20, 2000


GM crop production in developing countries


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Dave Wood's comments on Tony Trewavas "declared contempt for Greenpeace
and FOE (and the rest)" are an absolute masterpiece and I have taken the
liberty of sending them on to others with the label "essential
reading." These "transnational" Luddite (I love the term - "transnational
Luddism" - it is a magnificent addition our vocabulary) movements are
replete with Marxists and other conspirarcy theorists. Wood has trumped
their conspiracies with one that makes much more sense. It is factually
based and has a logical structure to it which is totally absent in the
mutterings of the the anti-GM food crowd. We need to circulate it as
widely as possible and challenge Dr. Vandana Shiva, Dr. Martin Khor and
others in developing countries by asking them to explain why they have sold
out to the vested interests in the developed capitalist countries and are
thereby perpetuating hunger and ill health in the Third World, particularly
among women, children and the very poorest. In other words, throw their
own rhetoric back to them and see how they respond and test them to see if
they really believe what they are saying.

Having said the above, let me add, however brilliant that I find Wood's
argument, I don't buy it. The clear beneficiaries of the anti-GM food
scare are Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who gain membership, money
and power from whales, elephants, GM food or whatever else gets than
publicity and/or allows them to frighten people. And of course, there is
the "organic" food industry whose very existence is predicated on the lie
that our modern agriculture produces unsafe food and destroys the
environment. (In many ways, if they were rational, they would embrace GM
food as it has the potential of producing pesticide-free food more cheaply,
making them more competitive.) As an American, I have contempt for the
European commissioners who have cravenly capitulated to the Luddites on any
number of issues and there-by ignored their own scientific advisory
groups. Let me add, that I have equal contempt for any American who
capitulate to the Luddites. They are either ignorant or cowardly and
either of these should disqualify them from exercising any leadership role.

As a general rule, I have an aversion to conspiracy theories. Obviously,
among the groups that I just mentioned, there is considerable potential for
venality. But I never underestimate the power of ignorance and
ideology. Back in the 1970s we had the small-is-beautiful movement. There
are still a few believers around today but not many. In an analysis, much
like that of Wood's, I suggested that if I were a Marxist, I would see a
conspiracy. In the 1970s, just as a number of previously underdeveloped
countries, particularly in Asia, were begining to master modern technology
and compete with it in the marketplace, theorist in developed countries
were telling them to stick to the small technologies or at least the
"intermediate" ones which Schumacher himself admitted, did not yet
exist. What a potential there for a conspiracy theory! As a development
economist, I have over the years worked with many a small-is-beautiful
enthusiasts. They were without exception, decent, sincere, dedicated,
sometimes self-sacrificing true believers who were convinced that they were
radical egalitarians promoting the well being of the poor rather than a
bunch of moss-back reactionaries who were offering a prescription that
would virtually guarantee that the poor would be kept in their
poverty. Tragically, though there may be venal, cynical people in the
anti-GM food movement, particularly among the leadership, I am convinced
that the vast majority have simply been frightened by a very effective PR
program. After all, they are the ones paying higher prices for inferior
"organic" food, not us. Among the younger members, there is undoubtedly
some who are sincere and others for whom an excuse to engage in various
forms of vandalism is always welcome.

Once again, Dave Wood has given us a magnificent piece. Let us each make
sure that it is widely circulated. Then let us see if Greenpeace and FOE or
Shiva and Khor have the courage of their alleged convictions to respond. i
do not expect it!


Tom DeGregori

P.S. - I would like to quote from the posting in a book which is about to
be accepted (both referee reports "strongly recommended" publication). It
has a section on GM foods. Is this the same David Wood who writes for the
New Scientist? I have two other citations to contributions to NS by a David

At 01:28 PM 8/21/2000 +0100, Jill Lenne and Dave Wood wrote:

>There may be a far nastier anti-GMO agenda out there, related to global food
>trade and the transfer of technology. It depends on the quite contrasting
>economic interests of transnational companies and the state. Try this
>1) GMO agricultural technology is increasingly in the hands of transnational
>companies (the Monsantos etc.).

Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
University of Houston
Houston, Texas 77204-5882
Ph. 001 - 1 - 713 743-3838
Fax 001 - 1 - 713 743-3798
Email trdegreg@uh.edu
Web homepage http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg