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Argument: GM foods are hazardously controlled by unaccountable corporations

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Richard Strohman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology University of California at Berkeley. "Crisis Position". Say No to GMOs, Safe Food News 2000 - To understand what GMOs are and how they affect our health and the environment we should at very least address the issue in terms of hazards rather than risks. It is even more important, however, to consider the ways in which these hazards occur within a free enterprise system. That way we will be able to see a number of rather predictable connections between free markets and the erosion of public interest safeguards, including public health and safety, environmental degradation, and even human rights. GMOs do not exist in a vacuum; they are part of complex social, political, and scientific networks the connect the biotech industry with national and international laws, markets, and dietary practices. If we analyze them within their multiple use-contexts we find that they not only raise narrowly construed issues of health and environmental hazards but also more broadly construed issues of social justice. Now, instead of entering the thickets of scientific debates, we can make a stronger argument on principle: GM food production, distribution, and consumption, driven by market imperatives, backed by institutional power, violates our human rights. Specifically, the trade policies enforced by the WTO that requires nations to purchase GM food, privatize public farms, and transform agricultural production from subsistence to export violates the internationally recognized right to food security. The WTO has established rules of commerce that require national governments to eliminate “non-tariff barriers to trade,” which include food safety laws, workers’ safety and public health laws, product standards and liability, environmental protections, use of tax revenues for public services, and other domestic laws regulating investment and trade that would limit the ability of transnational corporations to operate profitably. The WTO limits what kind of non-tariff barriers to trade nations may implement and enforce. Through the its Dispute Settlement Process, nations can challenge each others’ laws on behalf of their private sector interests if they believe barriers to trade exist. The result is that democratic political bodies have to conform WTO regulations or face economic sanctions. Cases are decided in highly secretive tribunals, without due process, by a small number of unelected, hence unaccountable officials. The tribunals thus far have 2 Ibid.

[...]The issue that philosophers and citizens can take up if they are concerned that there is something wrong with GMOs – without the help of scientific experts – is the conflict between the basic human right to food security and the property rights of private enterprises that undermine our right to food security.

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