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GM Crop Thriller Outguns James Bond

BondWatching James Bond films is for some of us a family tradition over the Christmas holiday, mostly because the stories are so big and farfetched. You know, where the bad guys are found to be secretly coercing governments – and even entire countries – to aid and abet corporate global domination, and where good old Felix from the CIA saves the day and helps Mr. Bond defeat the evildoers.

But in a bizarre twist to the plot, it now looks like the real-life Felix may have actually been working for Monsanto and the Big Ag lobby all along. An article in The Guardian newspaper this week on the latest batch of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveals that the U.S. embassy in Paris advised Washington in 2007 to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified (GM) crops. It’s exactly the kind of plot that you’d expect to see in a James Bond movie.

One of cables is from Craig Stapleton, the U.S. ambassador to France from 2005-2009. In that cable, Stapleton expresses his concern that France might soon pass laws that could hamper the expansion of GM crops in Europe, and calls on Washington to punish the EU – particularly countries not supporting the use of GM crops:

“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits… The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory… Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.”

The Wikileaks cables also reveal that U.S. diplomats have been working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto, with one of the cables from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid even warning that: “If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow.” Does this sound remotely familiar, like some paranoid Cold War scribblings from the 1950s?  It’s hard to believe that these are current communications from diplomats about the possible EU public rejection of GM crops.

These latest leaked cables reveal that corporate interests are the driving force behind GM technology. Forget Monsanto’s claims of “feeding the world,” or “sustainable agriculture,” or “protecting the environment.” The reality is that GM crops were developed by corporate giants like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta to maximize profits for their shareholders – no more, no less. It is no wonder then that all attempts to provide U.S. consumers with fair and transparent labeling of foods containing GM ingredients have been opposed at every step. Such consumer choice wouldn’t serve their corporate interests now, would it?

I have no problem with the science of biotechnology. Indeed, I know that this science can help us to select and breed better crops through non-risk technologies like Marker Assisted Selection, which does not produce GM organisms. But I do have a problem with how this science has been hijacked by corporate interests, and how the wholesale rush to patent plant genes as the intellectual property of a handful of multi-national corporations is placing the control of global food production into their hands.

Wikileaks appears to have exposed the U.S. government and some of its employees who were acting somewhat like hired thugs to “cause some pain” to other countries unwilling to adopt this failing technology. Imagine what changes sustainable agriculture might make with this level of commitment and support.

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