World Watch Magazine - January/February, 2005

GMOs POSE SIGNIFICANT THREAT TO WORLD FOOD SUPPLIES

World Watch Cover Washington, D.C.— Genetically modified organisms are contaminating natural crops around the world and triggering mounting economic costs as farmers lose markets and organic producers lose their certification, writes Claire Hope Cummings in “Trespass: Genetic Engineering as the Final Conquest.” Worse, consumers are eating GMOs whether they like it or not, and even GMOs not approved for human consumption have shown up in food products such as taco shells. Moreover, writes Cummings, patents awarded for the commercial use of genetic engineering technology are giving agrochemical companies ultimate control over the means and methods of food production.

“Agricultural genetic engineering is dismantling our once deeply held common vision about how we feed ourselves, how we care for the land, water, and seeds that support us, and how we participate in decisions that affect us on the most intimate personal and most essential community level,” she writes.

Valuing corporate interests over long-term societal needs, successive U.S. governments have compromised international food security by giving a number of agrochemical companies a blank check to commercialize genetic technology prematurely, Cummings writes.

Government and research institutions, including many prestigious and once-independent universities in the United States, have sold out to industry agendas. This has unleashed agricultural genetic engineering into the public sphere before science has validated the techniques being used or evaluated the safety of products being developed. Lacking proper knowledge of long-term consequences, Cummings argues, the world now faces an uncertain future with these aggressive, genetically engineered organisms that are built to subvert billions of years of evolutionary safeguards and thereby threaten the biological integrity of the planet.

ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS POSE GREATER RISK THAN TERRORISM

The military’s traditional focus on defense against attack by human adversaries is dangerously obsolescent, while more ominous threats—to the climate and the integrity of food, water, and energy supplies—pose much greater threats to overall world security, writes Gregory Foster, in his article “A New Paradigm for Security.”

The prevailing paradigm of security, which emphasizes the military and its use of force, long ago hijacked us intellectually and continues to hold us hostage, writes Foster, professor at the U.S. National Defense University. To cope with new threats to national and human security, it will be necessary to radically redefine the historic role of the military.

While incidents of terrorism have resulted in almost 24,000 deaths since 1968, the annual death toll over the past century due to drought, famine, floods, windstorms, temperature extremes, wave surges, and wildfires has been over 240,000.

“That environmental matters should be of such little overall public concern is a reflection of how limited and unstrategic our thinking about security actually is,” he writes.

FROM READERS: A CHALLENGE TO CONSERVATIONISTS

The January/February World Watch also carries an unprecedented 16 pages of letters to the editor in the wake of anthropologist Mac Chapin’s “Challenge to Conservationists” in the November/December issue. Chapin’s report disclosed allegations that three large international conservation organizations (Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy) have abused indigenous peoples in many countries, and in some cases have forced people off their own lands to prevent their interference with conservation projects or parks.

The Washington Post noted that “conservationists all over the world are buzzing” about that article, which has stimulated a global debate about the conflicts of interest into which “big conservation” seems to have drifted. The letters in the January/February issue constitute a major new step in that debate.

ENVIRONMENTAL INTELLIGENCE

Arctic Warming Accelerates: The Arctic is now warming at nearly twice the rate of rest of the globe, according to a new report. The warming is accelerating ice melt at the North Pole and has serious implications for the region’s wildlife and people, global sea levels, and overall planetary warming.

Russia Ratifies Kyoto Protocol: Russia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in late October will see the treaty enter into force in February 2005. The Kyoto Treaty required the endorsement of at least 55 industrial nations which together accounted for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. While the agreement is widely seen as inadequate to address global warming, it takes the first—and most difficult step—as an international testament to the seriousness of climate change.

MATTERS OF SCALE

Advertising War for a War President

U.S. presidential campaign ad spending in major TV markets in 2000
$200 million

U.S. presidential campaign ad spending in major TV markets in 2004
over $600 million


Number of times a presidential campaign ad appeared on TV in Toledo, Ohio between March and September, 2004—before the real blitz began
14,273

Number of times a presidential campaign ad appeared on TV in New York City during the same period
0


Total number of times a presidential campaign ad appeared on TV in Florida during the week of October 7–13, 2004
12,802

Total number of times a presidential campaign ad appeared in California during the same week
0


Number of occurrences found by Google for the search words “Bush ad lies” on October 19, 2004
377,000

Number of occurrences found by Google for the search words “Kerry ad lies” on the same day
195,000


Amount by which two federally mandated Ohio education programs* were underfunded in 2004
$40 million

Estimated presidential ad spending in Ohio in 2004
over $75 million

*To create learning centers for disadvantaged students and their families, and to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers

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