Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rainbow warriors

The liberal-minded environmentalist Greenpeace, and the socially conservative Law and Justice government are united in their campaign against ‘Frankenstein food’.

The Baltic port of Gdynia had never seen anything like it. Last Thursday, activists from Greenpeace, the direct action environmental campaigners, tied themselves and their yellow rubber dingy to the anchor of a ship, preventing it from docking. The ship, the Hope, which began its journey in Argentina, was full up with 25,000 tons of animal feed made from Genetically Modified soya beans.

In Argentina, say Green activists, GM soya is causing massive environmental problems, such as deforestation, dramatic increase in the spraying of toxic herbicides and infertility of the soil.

Greenpeace say that Poland – where the majority of soya beans imported are used for animal feed - is rapidly becoming a ‘gateway’ through which GM crops are ‘sneaking into Europe’. Polish meat producers – which Greenpeace ominously remind us are ‘mostly in the hands of foreign owners’ - feed GM products to animals, which are them exported to countries such as Belgium, Germany, Sweden, UK, The Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. Greenpeace says that ‘GM derived meat and other products bare a completely unqualified health risk for consumers.’

I should warn that the ‘unqualified health risk’ in that sentence is another way of saying that there has been no proven health risk to humans from GM crops – but that’s another argument.

Meanwhile, back at the port in Gdynia, Greenpeace had picked a bad day for attaching themselves to a large ship’s anchor. The Baltic Sea is an unforgiving one. At this time of year it is absolutely freezing. After five hours of dangling from the anchor, buffeted by high winds in low temperatures, Greenpeace called it a day, and the cargo, imported by the US firm Cargill (I told you those nasty foreign firms were involved), finally made dry land.

Following directives from the European Union, growing GM crops in Poland is now illegal. But importing GM crops is legal. Greenpeace want to ban it all.

Bad news for greens

Though Greenpeace opened an office here a few years ago, the green movement is not a large one in Poland. People are not so much interested in sustainable development, they just want some sort of development.

Many in the West have decided that that their level of consumption is bad, and that emerging economies should not reach the same amount of consumption, and wealth, as they have. They must develop in a ‘sustainable’ way. And that means slowing down development. They are expecting people in Poland, naively, to slow down the rate at which their incomes grow.

I don’t think I need to point out why this is not going to be a very popular political option.

And now the good news…

There is some good news for the green movement in Poland. Central and eastern Europe is beginning to freak out about GM. Around 76 per cent of Polish consumers say they don't want to eat any food containing GM ingredients, according, that is, to a PBS opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace Polska.

This follows an earlier study that says that 95 per cent of Russians who are aware of GM ingredients are either opposed, or are ‘seriously concerned’ by them.

And there is more good news for Polish greens. The new, populist, socially conservative, Law and Justice (PiS) government has come out squarely against genetically modified organisms getting in the food chain and messing up the wildlife.

This government position comes from two sources: one is that the EU is putting pressure on governments to fall into line with its anti-GM, precautionary stance. The other is what I would call the ‘Prince Charles’ position - that doing research into genetics, nanotechnology etc, is ‘scientists playing God’.

And the religious in the Polish government, and its allies in parliament, agree with the red faced, jug-eared, unemployed Royal about that kind of thing.

So the new, socially conservative government in Poland, and the ‘radical’, ‘liberal’ green campaigners of Greanpeace, have something in common: they are both against Genetically Modified Crops.

Another unlikely alliance in this wacky 21st century, Post-Cold War world.


jeronimo said...

Beatroot, can I be your editor? :)

beatroot said...

Of course you can, mate. What bit needs the editing?

jeronimo said...

Perhaps American English has different rules in the area of noun-verb agreement, but I'm curious about the use of Greenpeace as a singular entity vs. a group or organization (plural form). Officially, 'Greenpeace' is a collective noun, such as the words: group, team, committee, company, etc., which imply more than one person but that are considered singular and take a singular verb. Example: he says vs. they say...perhaps it should be Greenpeace says (singular collective noun to corresponding singular verb). The exception is when you are relating to a specific group of people (the 5 GP protesters ARE now in jail, for example).

Also watch out for bare/bear, Greanpeace, then/them, and I'm not sure about 'environmentalist Greenpeace'...maybe the env. advocacy group, Gpc...but my brain's getting squishy and I still need to grade some (much easier to check) ESL papers for which I get paid for ;-). Keep up the good work, I look forward to all of your posts/stories!


beatroot said...

Much app. jeronimo....:-)))

Gustav said...

No wonder I don't like either greenpeace or L&J.

I consider myself green, but am for GM foods, since genetic modification holds potential solutions to many problems, such as worldwide starvation, and the problem of pesticides that you mention above - I find it surprising that their use has INCREASED with the introduction of GM crops in Argentina - Many can be genetically modified so that no pesticides are needed.

To me, opposing GM food makes as much sense as opposing stem cell research.

That's zero.

We will have to use science to help us overcome 21st-Century problems. Halting its march out of fear will truly slow down development, sustainable or otherwise.

beatroot said...

I completly agree with Gustav. Being green these days is just another way of saying I don't like modernity.