Thursday, July 26, 2007


I received an email recently from someone opposed to the farm bill. Part of their critique was as follows:

“Amazingly, they're some of the people receiving your taxpayer dollars in the form of crop subsidies, which overwhelmingly benefit absentee landlords and big agribusiness at the expense of farmers in America and the developing world who are struggling to feed their families.Here’s one example: In West Africa, millions of desperately poor people farm cotton to make a living, often surviving on less than $1 a day. But our cotton subsidies make it more difficult for these farmers to survive by artificially lowering the price of cotton in violation of international agreements…..”

It is true that cotton subsidies may give our producers an advantage over poor farmers in less developed countries. I understand the author’s critique. On the positive side, advances in biotechnology have if not leveled the playing, certainly improved the standards of living, public health, and productivity for poor farmers.

If we are to believe that the farm bill will be detrimental to small farmers and the developing world, and oppose it on those grounds, then should we not favor a technology that benefits the 3rd world?

Ironically, I would bet that those opposed to the farm bill are also opposed to the promotion of GM (genetically modified) food crops in developing countries. Even people in developing countries that may complain about unfair trade often have their own ironic opinions related to this issue. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has been quoted making the statement that he "would rather let his people starve than eat anything 'toxic" - referring to biotech foods vs. conventional and organic. His, and other government’s antitrade policies are often cloaked in concern for ‘food safety’ and other rhetoric.

"Acreage Under Bt Cotton Set to Increase: Study," Indo-Asian News Service

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