Agenda also in the news this month
Small bites... Cow genes on toast Scientists have launched trial crops of genetically modified (GM) wheat, adjusted to repel aphids. Researchers at the Rothamsted Research station in Hertfordshire, England, have billed the strain as ‘eco-friendly GM’, but sceptics are unconvinced.
‘This GM wheat contains the first synthetic copy of an animal gene,’ says Anna Thompson of the Community Food Growers Network. ‘Scientists describe it as “most similar to one found in cows”. We believe genes like these should not be used in a food crop without a full public consultation.’
Thompson is part of a campaigning group arguing that the crop trial employs technology that is haphazard and poorly understood. Organizing under the banner ‘Take the Flour Back!’ they are planning a mass action for 27 May.
Meanwhile, campaigners GM Freeze have labelled the experimental crop of GM wheat ‘a step backwards for farming’. They say that consumers’ unwillingness to touch GM foods makes the test a waste of time and public money (at a cost of over $1.5 million).
GM foods were seen off by vigorous campaigning back in the 1990s. But everrising food prices and tightening food security worldwide have helped to revive the debate. The idea of a technological fix to feed the one billion who go hungry has never sounded so seductive.
But Thompson insists that GM foods will not feed the world. ‘We need solutions that work with nature rather than against it, such as predator strips and companion planting – all of which have been used for generations.’
She warns that if GM is allowed to flower, it may be here to stay, adding that contamination of non GM-crops would destroy Britain’s valuable wheat export market. ‘Successive consultations and polls have shown that people simply do not want to eat GM foods,’ she concludes.
Trickle-up austerity If swingeing cuts fail to stimulate economic growth, as is widely predicted, it may be time to apply austerity upwards, argues New Internationalist author and academic Danny Dorling. He has documented how in Britain today, income and wealth gaps are greater than at any point in living memory. In his paper ‘The case for austerity among the rich’, he calculates that almost $3.18 billion a year would be saved by society returning to 1970 inequality levels. The economic losers in such a scheme would be a small number of expensive boarding schools, luxury cars and Michelin-starred restaurants (as opposed to, say, hospitals, libraries and universities). Read Dorling’s complete paper, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research here: nin.tl/ GZd7sT or, for a fuller exploration of Dorling’s ideas, read his No-Nonsense Guide to Equality, published by New Internationalist.
German farmer gives meat a face The owner of an organic pig farm now publishes the picture of the animals he kills to fill his jars of brawn and make his sausages. ‘As a meat eater, you should accept that animals die for your meat,’ says Dennis Buchman, a journalist and biologist who came up with the upsetting but honest marketing ploy. ‘By looking your meat in the face, you stumble and think about eating meat. Give meat a little more respect than a carrot, for example.’ meinekleinefarm.org/ sierraclub.org
Open window In collaboration with cartoonmovement.com – a global network of political cartoonists – each month this slot will feature a different cartoonist from around the world.
This month: Mohamed Sabra, from Egypt, with ‘Hidden Relations’. Mohamed Sabra is an Egyptian cartoonist currently residing in Saudi Arabia. In addition to his cartooning, Mohamed is a physician currently working as an anaesthetist at the King Saud Hospital in Riyadh.
12 ● N ew I n t e r nat i o nal i s t ● MAY 2 012