While I have no doubt that every member of Greenpeace has their heart in the right place, the charity itself has a reputation of putting ideology over evidence. Usually this is relatively harmless, but here it comes at the cost of starvation for many people across the world.
One of Greenpeace's legitimate objections to GM farming, is that the power of the technology will fall into the hands of big corporations. They believe that this will take autonomy away from less wealthy independent farmers, leaving their families hungry and even poorer than they started. They're right to have these concerns, but what I object to is their use of plain rhetoric and scare tactics. It's easy to object to the use of genetically modified crops because they give you the hebejebes when you get to go home and eat your organic vegetables.
On their website they say that "if it was a question between starvation and GM foods of course we would tell people to eat GM". How can an organisation say this, while at the same time their campaigners are destroying trials in Australia because they don't believe it's safe enough. This strikes me as slightly hypocritical coming from a movement that accuses other people of playing God.
One of the ways that they justify this stance is by claiming that starvation "is not a problem for people in developed countries", as if that should be a reason not to try to improve the nutritional value of a crop. This is also simply not true. In the UK, a country that most people would consider to be developed, the Trussel Trust found that each year over 20'000 children are likely to receive emergency food from foodbanks, and over 3.7 million are living in poverty.
A recent BBC panorama documentary followed the case of a genetically modified aubergine called Bt brinjal. This crop, which is also known as "the poor man's vegetable", flies in the face of Greenpeace's claims that GM technology will only benefit big corporations. At risk of losing the interest of many readers, I'm going to talk facts.
A study from the University of Hohenheim summarised the benefits of using Bt brinjal to improve aubergine resistance to the Fruit and Shoot Borer pest. Their data was both shocking and inspiring. They found that fruit damage due to this pest is as high as 92%, and the reduction in yield is 60%. But in the Bt brinjal sample, the yield more than doubled.
Not only did this benign modification drastically improve the yield, but it also allowed the farmers to reduce their use of pesticides by 45%. Although Greenpeace claim to be against pesticide use, by opposing GM technology they inadvertently promote the use of pesticides, a technology that has been proven to have harmful environmental affects. 25% of these poor independent farmers, who Greenpeace apparently care for so much, have experienced serious agro-chemical associated impairments.
But none of these arguments even scratch the surface of why Greenpeace's stance is so dangerous. The main reason, which is almost too ironic to comprehend, was pointed out in the introduction of the Hohenheim study. Despite being the 'enemies' of Greenpeace, one of the first points the scientists make is that the private sector has dominated GM technology with disastrous consequences. The private sector only focuses on the large lucrative markets of cotton and maize, leaving technologies that are relevant to poor farmers to be neglected. This problem, they claim, is being aggravated by a lack of public acceptance.
The responsibility for this aggravation falls right at the feet of Greenpeace and similar campaigners. This Bt brinjal study shows what can be achieved when the public sector and the private sector work together. This technology can save independent farmers $256 per acre, and despite their best of intentions, Greenpeace are one of the many obstacles standing in their way.
We have a starvation crisis on our hands, one that cannot be ignored by developed countries like our own. Make no mistake about it: you did nothing to deserve the food that is so readily available for you, or to deserve the computer that you are reading this article from, anymore than the millions of people around the world deserve to go to bed hungry every day. It's our responsibility to realise that we are entitled to nothing, and to realise that it is our obligation to use this privilege and technology to help to feed the world.