AgBioView's World of Gammon and Spinach (25/9/2006)

2.Tainted Spinach is Just Another Sign of a Sick Food/Farm System - Family Farm Defenders


"What a world of gammon and spinach it is, though, ain't it?" - Charles Dickens

If you want an index of the terrible reverses Monsanto and co. have been suffering of late in their GM propaganda war, read AgBioView. CS Prakash's regular round up of global GM news is becoming ever more eccentric.

Faced with a succession of setbacks and calamities, culminating most recently in the US's GM rice fiasco, AgBioView has taken metaphorically to the hills, where it covers anything but the real GM issues of the day.

In the absence of "good news" stories on the GM front, Prakash has tried slipping in non-GM good news stories, presumably in the hope no one will spot they have nothing to do with GM! His story of Egypt's "world-beating rice yield" is a classic of this kind.

The other tactic is distract. And last week has to be the week to beat all weeks for "Operation: Anything But!"

Sunday 17th Prakash brought us as his bulletin topping headlines:
* Spinach Company Faces Unwelcome Scrutiny
* FDA Links Spinach E. Coli Risk to Calif. Company

Also headlined in the AgBioView bulletin :
* World Health Org. clears DDT spraying for malaria

Monday 18th Prakash gave us more of the same with top of the bill:
* Sinister Spinach

Not to mention:
* Ugandans laud World Health Organization for historic DDT decision

By Tuesday Prakash was hitting his stride. Here are the first 6 items from that bulletin:
* When Spinach Is Bad For You
* Organic Company Disputes Tainted Spinach Claim
* Utah family joins suit against spinach producer
* Restaurant sues over lost spinach
* 21 reasons not to waste your money on organic
* Question and some answers on spinach

The "21 Reasons Not to Waste Your Money on Organic" came courtesy of that old organic-hating war horse, Tony Trewavas FRS. The reasons included such sinister claims as, "Organic food may contain more carcinogens, nerve toxins and oestrogen mimics."

Wednesday brought a similarly unrelenting diet of gammon and spinach, with top items:
* Eat Your Spinach
* Researchers say deadly bacteria may be in, not on, spinach
* Enjoy Organic Foods Including Spinach While Avoiding E. coli
* Environmental Heresies

Thursday's AgBioView brought a plea from an ag professor for references to back up some of the more lurid anti-organic claims Trewavas had forwarded more nerve toxins, etc. - because "I continually discuss these issues with students and others"!

There was also the inevitable instalment of spinach:
* Earthbound suddenly mum about E. coli link to plant

Friday Prakash did manage a non-spinach bill topper - Norman Borlaug lauding the new Rockefeller-Gates plant-breeding initiative for Africa. But nobody pointed out it doesn't include GM.

This was followed up by:
* Iowa seeks manure ban on soybean crops

And inevitably:
* Spinach firm has permit troubles

Other items included:
* Organic doesn't always mean low-calorie [!]

* Inaccuracy - not bias - is the scourge of the media

Although this last commentary did relate to GM, it was published back in May 2005!

Finally, there was:

Bravo WHO! Please keep thinking right! [on DDT]

Of course, you can't entirely blame the GM lobby for "Operation: Anything But!", this was, after all, the week in which the New York Times featured the suicide of a Bt cotton farmer in India, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post reported on the GM rice crisis with headlines like GENE-ALTERED PROFIT KILLER, the South Australian Government was busy extending its GM ban, India's Supreme Court was calling a halt to new GM trials... oh, and the Royal Society lambasted Exxon for funding climate-change-denying lobby groups like the one that co-founded Prakash's AgBioView!

Clearly, not a lot there to encourage the troops, hence the relentless diet of spinach, washed down with liberal helpings of DDT and manure.

There's a highly revealing subtext, of course, to this curious diet. It's one that involves depicting nature as virulently pathological - a dangerous reservoir of filth and deadly disease that can be held in check only by toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, irradiation and GMOs. Equally implicit is the idea that those who criticise such things, or dare to pursue alternatives, are dangerous luddites putting the world at risk by opposing clean modern technologies.

This is a somewhat topsy-turvy world, to say the least. Iowa's rivers aren't awash with damaging nitrates courtesy of a small number of organic farmers using composted manure on their crops, but thanks to vast intensively farmed acreages that have been treated with often poorly managed factory farm effluent and even sewage sludge. And right across the US, the vast majority of effluent is spread on conventional crops.

Likewise in the UK, as the Guardian's Environment Correspondent, John Vidal, pointed out back in 2000, "conventional UK farmers use about 80m tonnes of it a year as a fertiliser. Just 9,000 tonnes goes on organic land and crops. So why the attacks on organic foods and not conventional ones?"

But then we're talking corporate spin - a world where perception's all so facts don't matter, and where, when you're in a hole,


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