On Oct. 24 I attended the 13th annual University of Toronto Racism and National Consciousness Conference, dealing with GMO and agro-imperialist issues in the Caribbean and Africa. The debate on GMO and food security issues is nuanced, and there are legitimate and illegitimate views held by both sides of the pro/anti-GMO debate. At some points, the conference wandered into the realm of conspiracy theories and urban legends surrounding GMOs, but in several keys areas the panel brought forth some of the real problems with GMOs that might not be apparent in a Western/North-American dialogue of the issues:

 

1.GMO Products are Unhealthy/not Nutritious for People Living in Warm Climates.

Most GMO products were designed for a North American/Western diet, a significantly wheat/grain based diet and are then exported worldwide. People living in warmer climates require different a diet to stay healthy and fight off tropical diseases that impact daily life to a much greater degree in tropical climates.

2.Food Sovereignty

GMO companies have amassed great economic leverage, meaning that people in the Caribbean and Africa cannot afford to produce their own food. Furthermore,indigenous foods are being lost as they become entirely different genetically modified species.

3.Western Cultural Attractiveness

Many young people see Western products and lifestyle as desirable, and fully don’t understand what’s at stake. Indigenous species of foods are being lost without young people understanding the full scope of the problem.

 

The solutions to these problems that were presented at the conference, however, weren’t quite as insightful. Dr. Arnold H. Itwaru, host of the event, stated that “government is the enemy” and that people should “rise up against capitalism,” and furthermore, “there’s no point in modifying this government.”

 

But is overthrowing government necessary for change? Why not modify what already exists? The speakers talked about Communist-run Cuba and the Zapatistas. While these are valid examples of institutions that protect food security, the speakers also made clear their support for Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, who was democratically elected.

 

Both Chávez and and fellow leftist-president, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, were democratically elected. There are actually quite a few examples of anti-GMO and socially progressive governments in Latin America. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean progressive, anti-GMO governments couldn’t be elected in Africa or elsewhere in the Caribbean. Therefore, is revolution really necessary? The major examples used by the lecturers themselves didn’t support this logic.


In all the conference engaged in good discussion, but it failed to call for deeper solutions than speakers like Dr. Filiberto Penados call for: “imagine what the world will look like after you have changed it, and then...start living like that.’

 

A GMO foods face communist critique in the Caribbean

link to video of the entire conference can be found here.



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