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This is the blog of Susan Dworkin, author, playwright, environmental advocate, feminist, grandmother, songwriter and audiobook producer, all of whose attempts at retirement have failed.

NEEDED: AN EMPATHETIC COALITION OF FARMERS, SCIENTISTS AND CONSUMERS

More than 17 million farmers now plant GM crops on 420 million acres worldwide.
It’s tempting to believe that some giant corporation like Monsanto has intimidated all these people into planting seed imbued with corporate-owned genes that help plants resist bugs and herbicides. “Mother M” has a fearsome reputation for patrolling the fields with patent lawyers, using its vast economic power to bend the countryside to its will. (When I set out to write about the great seed banker, Dr. Bent Skovmand, I was warned by folks up and down the food chain not to dare to cross Monsanto.)

However, for large numbers of farmers growing cotton, corn, soybeans and sugar beets, corporate GM seed provides a healthy bottom line. And they gladly purchase it from Monsanto or Syngenta or Dow or the German chemical colossus BASF or some other corporation, no intimidation required.

Then there are the scientists. Virtually every plant scientist I met in the course of writing THE VIKING IN THE WHEAT FIELD believes that GM techniques can help us breed new crops to feed a world that is being transformed for the worse by climate change.

So where does that leave the thoughtful consumer, who fears that genetic modification tinkers dangerously with nature’s rules and wants GM products to be labeled if not eliminated.?

The gulf between these three players – farmers, scientists, consumers -- helps keep corporate power supreme in agriculture, threatening to give us what Dr. Skovmand predicted: a situation where “a few companies control the seed supply of the whole world.”

To close the gulf, we thoughtful consumers should sharpen the pencil of empathy. We must reach out and listen to farmers and scientists; it’s the price of getting them to listen to us. Only when we arm ourselves with a realistic understanding of the other guy’s self-interest can we begin to form the political coalition of consumers, farmers and scientists that will slow down the industrialization of agriculture and reestablish farming as a public good.  Read More 
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