Filed Under: Organic Activists

This Week In Science Fiction: The Biotech Files

Remember when Prince Charles went loco a few months back and told the London Telegraph that genetically modified (GM) foods would bring about “the absolute destruction of everything”? The end of our global food supply. The biggest environmental disaster ever. An overall “unmentionable awfulness.” (His awkward words, not ours.) Well, we knew Prince Charles was laying it on pretty thick. But we had no idea just how thick.

There’s little doubt in our minds that the Telegraph interview was one of the Prince of Wales’ finest exercises in anti-biotech scaremongering. But to support his mad ranting about food security and “gigantic corporations,” Prince Charles did offer some empirical evidence to back up his story — sort of. The Telegraph reported:
The Prince of Wales cited the widespread environmental damage in India caused by the rush to mass produce GM food.
“Look at India’s Green Revolution. It worked for a short time but now the price is being paid.”
India has become the linchpin of Prince Charles’ argument against biotechnology research. Last month, he gave a speech on the subject in India, which has been characterized as “his fiercest attack yet”:   
Prince Charles expressed no doubts in his lecture, delivered at the invitation of Dr. Vandana Shiva, the founder of Navdanya, and one of the leading proponents of the technology’s role in the deaths. He spoke of “the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties.”
But is there anything to back up this India suicide story outside of Prince Charles’ unusually paranoid mind?

Nothing at all, according to a new International Food Policy Research Institute study:
[I]t is not only inaccurate but simply wrong to blame the use of [GM] Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India. In fact, our overview of the evidence suggests that Bt cotton has been quite successful in most states and years in India, contributing to an impressive leap in average cotton yields, as well as a decrease in pesticide use and an increase in farmer revenues.
Prince Charles’ theory, it turns out, could hardly have been wilder. Not only did biotech cotton not cause farmer suicides, it actually led to massive increases in crop yields.

We would expect this kind of apocalyptic anti-capitalist conspiracy theory from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but not from a presumed future head of state.

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