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By Luis E. Sabini Fernández
The irruption of transgenic foods in the daily life of many societies, initially, since the mid-nineties, in the US Eradicating hunger from the world was one of them.
It could never be said that companies have been characterized by an identification with what is good or with what is true, for the simple reason that they are neither moral nor scientific structures but operating structures focused on one or more other existential aspects, apparently so human like ethics, knowledge or wisdom. In any case, that of entrepreneurship (the economic adventure) and that of profitability.
For this reason, the business world often postulates slogans or goals that are nothing but those that are abandoned in the course of events. The opposite of what was initially proclaimed is often consolidated. The business world is not questioned one iota, especially if the path taken is profitable.
Motor racing was developed to make available to the rich first, to the "people" later, all the benefits of pure air, of the mountains, of the coast. Decades later, no more than two or three generations, half of the planetary air was polluted by gases produced by land and air transportation. That is to say, more and more people can reach more places with air polluted with the aggravating factor that already in the twenties the American doctor Alice Hamilton observed the devastating consequences of lead in naphtha. But for decades this damage was "scientifically" denied (Hamilton was right with the same objections that were recognized half a century later ... in the First World, because in our latitudes it took a few more decades ...). The same happened with the tobacco industry in general and the cigarette industry in particular: its entrepreneurs came to incorporate addictives that reinforced that same trait of nicotine itself in order to better "buckle" consumers; to the captive market.
That is why it would be good if the rest of the so-called "social actors" could have an opinion on the matter. Because surely it will not coincide with those who have economic control, who are usually the protagonists of the springs of power in our present societies.
The irruption of transgenic foods in the daily life of many societies, initially, since the mid-nineties, in the US Eradicating hunger from the world was one of them. Prevent the advance of the agricultural frontier and, even, thanks to the higher productivity proclaimed for transgenic crops, push it back and thus preserve forests, jungles, wild fauna and flora ...
The FAO, for example, came out to respond to the criticism received from hundreds of groups of organic farmers and ecologists for their outspoken support to the attempt to take over the rural life of the planet by transgenic laboratories, counter-replicating that given the increase in population and the increasing difficulty of expanding "arable land", it will be necessary to make use of "intensified cultivation, higher yields and higher productivity. For this reason we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular biology, the identification of molecular markers and the transfer of the gene for more effective enhancement of plants. "(1)
Dennis Avery, a person on the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) staff, argues, as if they were unappealable scientific verdicts that: "it is much more important to minimize the amount of land needed [for agriculture] than to eliminate agrochemicals. "(2)
As can be seen with the passages indicated (among hundreds, all arranged with the same argument), the bet that the promoters of transgenic crops proclaimed and continue to proclaim is to increase productivity, reduce the planting area. With which they give genetic engineering the role of recuperator of "natural" spaces. And precisely, they object to organic agriculture not being able to make that territorial saving; "Organic agriculture needs to improve its yields substantially" Avery reminds us didactically (ibid.). Because, our author insists: "our concern is not due to the income of organic farmers but to the way to ensure high and efficient yields to meet the needs of tomorrow without affecting the wildlife of the present" (ibid.).
Well, let's move on from the postulates and the proclamations (that is, the exhibition of those postulates as taken for granted) to the more prosaic reality.
We can treat reality a) scientifically, analytically and b) factually.
a) Mohamed Habib, the first sword of Brazilian agriculture reminds us that: "According to different investigations, transgenics […] have an average productivity of 5% to 10% lower than conventional seeds. And that is because every living being has its quota of vital energy. When this being is added one more biological function -such as the inoculation of a DNA- the energy quota is used in part for this new characteristic. It is a logical question and simple calculation. That is, the function resistance [both RR and Bt] ends up robbing a part of the energy used in the production of grains. " ("The government fell into the trap of transgenics", Futuros, Buenos Aires / Montevideo, no 6, summer / fall 2004). It is a fact that we can observe factually in any nursery, speaking with attentive gardeners: when it is obtained (through crosses, mutations, radiation mutagenesis, genetic engineering or other methods to play with fire) double the number of petals, for example, their size is reduces; when a golden or veined foliage is obtained that is not its original one, for example, the flower of the species shrinks, dwarfs, as if the new function assigned to the plant detracts energy from the unmodified functions.
If we take this "conservation of energy" principle into account, the invocations for productivity increases (per unit area) fall by weight.
The agronomist Walter Pengue, an Argentinean analyst of transgenic production, records in particular cases the same as Habib generally affirmed. Qualifying the crops by seed quality, in some cases the GMOs are among the highest yielding of the strain (the best crop reaches 130 kg of differential yield per ha, the worst at 83 and the GMs reach 122. As can be done appreciate, close to the best, but in other cultivars, where the maximum differential yield registers 108 kg per ha and the minimum 85, the GMs are among the lowest yields (with 96) (3). In no case, the transgenic varieties outperform the traditional ones, in all cases they are below the best conventional yields (transgenic crops, UNESCO Publishing Place, Buenos Aires, 2000, tables 4 and 5 of the Core Zone, pp. 57 and 58).
b) Let us now go to the crude facts, which tend to be, they too, more forceful than you proclaim. The soybean clan and its allies (seed companies dependent on the large transnational laboratories dedicated to genetic engineering), state regulators and some conservation organizations have launched a plan or program called "Sustainable Soy", apparently closely related to a "Forum for the sustainable harvest of the one hundred million tons of grains "which implies a greater commoditization (if possible) of Argentina. In other words, an accentuation of the neocolonial condition of the country.
For this expansion (the current almost seventy million tons of industrial monoculture come from about thirty million ha.), Its owners consider it necessary to expand the exploitable area in a dimension that varies between "5 and 12 million hectares of new agricultural areas projected in the plan to reach 100 million tons of grains and oilseeds. " (Fundación Vida Silvestre, FVS, the host organization of the new alliance between self-described responsible or realistic environmentalism and the business world of always, with its public support, also common; the Argentine state tal-cual.es). Thus, the intention of expanding crops using shoulders and other secondary lands to satisfy these advances in soybeans without "invading" new soils for agro-industrial expansion seems more like an apology or a rationalization (the use of shoulders is one of the " resources "wielded for such an expansion).
With frankness or impudence, depending on how you look at it, the organ par excellence of the soybean clan, Clarín Rural, declares across the entire width of its front page: "In a public hearing, the company DesdelSur submitted its 7,400-hectare clearing project a strong adhesion of the community of Gral. Mosconi, Salta. " (10/9/2004). And the drop in the title "Mosconi scored a bean" reads: Expansion of the agricultural frontier.
Ay ay ay. Q.E.L.Q.Q.D. We have demonstrated what we wanted to demonstrate almost unintentionally, just citing promises and concretions… from the same representatives.
And that is the truth of the Milanese. Expansion of the agricultural frontier sold as modernization and development. As if modernization were good-in-itself and as if the development of large agro-industrial conglomerates were not both destruction and calamity for small farmers, local economies, food sovereignty and the nutrition of the people of a foot. As if the development touted was not, strictly speaking, concentration of economic assets and the consequent powers. And as if this did not mean marginalization for many. But the matter is another: those many do not count. They are the rural poor, who are as important to the IMF, Monsanto, AAPRESID, the World Bank as the marginalized from the shanty towns.
We witness the commoditization of the country as if it were an advance-in-itself when it is only an advance of the metropolitan and imperialist positions and an advance of the colonial condition in this case of Argentina (which in turn is dragging in colonial or sub -colonial to Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and a good part of Brazil). For this reason, we denounce it.
And we wonder: between that first preaching to win land for the forests, the flora and the aboriginal fauna, which was almost a poetic proclamation; to hear again the trill of the birds that agrochemicals had devastated in the previous era, that of the green and chemical revolution and that genetic engineering promised us by their representatives (E. Kiekebusch, from Novartis, in the Cereal Exchange, Buenos Aires , 1999) and this last reality of devastating forests, mountains (native or fruit trees), and of unrestricted progress of rural homogenization and monoculture (even if it is more than one; the soybean-corn rotation does not break the monoculture scheme except marginally), what is the correspondence?
It is going to be difficult to find, because business truth does not follow the truth that the philosopher or scientist seeks; business truth is one of circumstances, pragmatic and turns everything it touches into gold.
Yesterday for an instant, it touched the soul; now he's fiddling with the permanent: the pocket
1-Jacques Diouf, cit. p. F.K. in Brecha, Montevideo, 6/24/2004.
2-Saving the planet with pesticides and plastics [sic], Hudson Institute, Indianapolis, 1995 [trans. 1998], p. 131.
3-In all of them, the average yield is around two and a half tons per ha. As can be seen from these figures, we are talking in all cases, both transgenic and conventional crops, of very small differences.
* Coordinator of the Ecology seminar of the Human Rights Chair of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the UBA.
Editor of Futuros magazine.