We Don't Need Genetic Engineering of Plants and Animals

Article excerpt

A RESPONSE TO KEN HANLY

I am strongly opposed to genetic engineering and biotechnology and firmly in the camp of those socialists who support organic and ecological agriculture. The general thrust of Hanly's article reminded me too much of the propaganda we got from the Soviet Union and its supporters on the issues of nuclear power, use of fossil fuels, pesticides and factory farms for animals. Science and technology were destructive under capitalism but were no problem under socialism.

I have read a great deal about biotechnology and agriculture. To me it is just the last stage of the move towards industrial agriculture. I do not support industrial agriculture, either under capitalism or socialism. My own experience as a commercial farmer convinced me of that.

The problems that we have in Saskatchewan are the same as those found around the world: disappearance of organic matter and topsoil, the pollution of the land and especially the water sources with pesticides and nitrogen, air pollution during spraying season, 2,4-D found in the rainwater higher than the levels set by Health Canada for potable water, monoculture, and the disappearance of small water bodies and "waste land." We have seen the dramatic and steady increase in the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and petroleum products while the pest problem continues to increase. The development of industrial agriculture results in the destruction of rural communities.

In Saskatchewan, as elsewhere, there is a trend toward the production of organic foods, a reflection of growing consumer demand. Yet this industry is directly threatened by biotechnology. In February I attended a meeting of organic farmers with Brewster Kneen. None of the local farmers were going to grow canola this year because they could not protect their crops from contamination from genetically engineered canola spread by wind and bees. They feared losing their organic certification. They also expressed fear of the upcoming introduction of genetically engineered wheat. Honey producers in Saskatchewan are very worried as they are going to lose their organic certification and market.

Any farmer will know that you cannot eradicate any "pest," plant or animal. When you spray for "weeds" there are always some plants that survive and reproduce. They are resistant to the herbicide. The same is true for insects and fungi. This is well known on the Canadian prairies. …