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The Colour Of Farm Politics

A lot of Europeans travel but don’t seem to worry about consuming GM crops while on holiday in another country.

Green is the new Red. In other words, a big part of the Green movement is fuelled by people with a philosophy that used to be called Red – a philosophy that’s anti-business and anti-development. Nowhere is this truer than agriculture.

I can’t claim credit for originating this colourful comment, but it’s certainly apt. Some have likened it to a watermelon – green on the outside and red on the inside.

When you delve into European concerns over genetically modified crops, it isn’t really about the environment and it isn’t about consumer safety. It’s a philosophy that modern, business-oriented agriculture is bad and GM crops are a convenient point of attack.

The Green zealots have convinced citizens that GM crops are bad, and the benefits are conveniently ignored.

GM crops with herbicide and insect resistance require fewer pesticides. Their higher yields mean less land is needed for agricultural production. Genetic modification is also making it possible to improve the nutritional content of food.

If anything, GM crops should be embraced by the Greens. That doesn’t happen because there’s Red underneath the green.

MUTAGENESIS

Yes, extensive testing is necessary with GM crops and commercialization shouldn’t get ahead of consumer acceptance. But there’s a double standard when it comes to crop development.

It’s all right to use mutagenesis. That’s a standard way of developing new crop traits. You subject the seed to chemicals or radiation hoping to trigger some sort of useful mutation that can be used in plant breeding. Mutagenesis is accepted around the world and has been for generations.

How is this shotgun approach safer than GM which involves the insertion of known genes to confer predictable results? While conventional plant-breeding methods will always remain important, GM technology has allowed amazing advances.

Since the mid-’90s, billions of people around the world have been steadily consuming genetically modified crops – corn, soybeans and canola. And yet the technology is still vilified, particularly in Europe where Greenpeace is a force to be reckoned with.

According to the Greens, even a tiny bit of GM content in the food supply is a huge health risk, not to mention the risk of the seeds escaping and taking over the environment.

While a lot of Europeans supposedly subscribe to these fears and consider themselves environmentalists, they’re guilty of practising environmentalism by convenience.

Organic foods are big in Europe, and organic food by definition can’t include any GM plants. However, GM contamination is possible and quite likely within organic grains. Europeans don’t want to know. Organic agriculture remains a paper trail of certifications. There’s no scientific testing for trace amounts of GM material.

A lot of Europeans travel. None of them seem to worry about consuming GM crops while they’re on holiday in another country.

It’s the Greens who use the term factory farming. A larger livestock operation may actually take better care of its animals, but big is bad.

It’s also self-described Greens who are most likely to believe that animals shouldn’t be raised for food at all.

Typically, climate change fanat ics are also on the Green/Red side of the political spectrum.

BYGONE ERA

Many people have looked at the data and concluded that climate change is manmade and that we need to do something about it. That’s a legitimate conclusion. However, many others simply believe that wealthy economies are inherently bad and climate treaties are a way to level the economic playing field.

Everyone is entitled to their point of view. Big business isn’t always ethical and it’s useful to hear probing, intelligent questions.

For some, the Green movement is all about environmentalism and doing what’s best for the planet. But for others, Green is simply covering up the Red of a bygone era. Environmentalism has become the new way to push social engineering and redistribution of wealth.

Kevin Hursh is a consulting agrologist and farmer based in

Saskatoon. He can be reached at [email protected]

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