From: The GeneEthics Network (Bob Phelps)
Subject: Corruption: Not only in brown paper envelopes
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 10:08 PM

Curruption comes in many forms

There are many lessons for other countries in George's Guardian article,
below. In Australia, for example, around $80 million of public money is
allocated this year to genetic engineering research and development in the
agrichemical food and farming industries. $270,000 will go to the organics
sector for all purposes.

Another $10 million has been allocated over two years to the promotion of
gene technology by a federal government outfit called Biotechnology
Australia. $5 million is for promotional disinformation, much of which is
to be flooded through supermarkets.

The Australia New Zealand Food Authority has denied the organic industry a
domestic standard for five years, though an international standard for
exports exists. Government funds for individual growers to make the
difficult transition from unsustainable chemical methods that are wrecking
the environment, to clean green systems, is also denied.

Of the tens of thousands of officials employed by agriculture departments
around Australia, less than a handful are designated to work full or part
time on sustainable systems.

Leading CSIRO (our national R&D body) scientists warn that Australia's
commodity exports of $37 billion this year cost the nation more than that
in lost capital resources, through desertification, soil loss, salinity,
water pollution, and other environmental degradation. We are massively
subsidising exports by mortgaging the future, transferring our costs to
future generations.

Continue like this, and Australia will soon be a net importer rather than
exporter of food, according to the Head of our Biodiversity Council, Prof
Harry Recher of Edith Cowan University.

Organics - our best hope for ensuring food security in the future - is
small and needs public support. It cannot prosper and grow without
encouragement like that given to agribusiness, despite domestic and
overseas demand which far outstrips supply.

We still have a choice about the kind of future we want, but WE must act now.


Buy organic foods;
Buy GMO-free foods;
Buy "Product of Australia" not "Made in Australia";
Present these facts to your local, state and federal politicians;
Ask Coles supermarket to stock GE-free foods, label all GE foods,
and refuse to distribute any Biotechnology Australia propaganda.


Corruption: Not only in brown paper envelopes

Open Government Snaps Shut

by George Monbiot

A few weeks ago I used this column to argue that the ministry of
agriculture was institutionally corrupt. It had been captured, I suggested,
by agro-industrialists and chemicals companies, with the result that it had
chosen to help large farmers while eliminating small ones. While
negotiating the new Common Agricultural Policy, the ministry boasted, it
had "fought hard - and successfully" to stop subsidy cuts being "targeted
towards larger farms." It would, it had proposed, do precisely as the big
businessmen dominating the National Farmers' Union had suggested, buying
existing small farmers into retirement and discouraging new ones from
entering the market. The only future it envisaged for small farms was for
"domestic or recreational uses".

I had challenged these positions during meetings of the "Rural Sounding
Board", an informal committee convened by MAFF and the environment
department to canvass opinion for the rural white paper. The ministers had
claimed that they wanted to hear a wide range of views, which, I assumed,
included those with which they disagreed. So I was taken aback when a fax
from the agriculture minister Elliot Morley arrived at Guardian, addressed
not to the letters editor, but to myself. My article was "utterly
outrageous and unacceptable," it thundered. "Unless you publicly apologise
and withdraw these allegations, Michael Meacher and I agree that there is
no alternative but for you to withdraw from the Rural Sounding Board."

So much for open government. The fax confirmed, I felt, two of the
government's central failings. The first is its limited understanding of
freedom of speech. The second is its inability to grasp the idea that
corruption is not confined to the receipt of brown envelopes. A ministry
set up to do one thing (support all farmers, irrespective of size) but
which, thanks to the pressure exerted by rich and powerful people, ends up
doing another is clearly a ministry whose purpose has been corrupted.

This year the government has had ample opportunity to show whose
agricultural interests it represents. In May, when the European Union opted
to defend consumers from imports of hormone-contaminated beef, one country
undermined the common position. The UK chose instead to defend the
interests of the agrochemical companies producing the hormones. In June
Britain blocked the attempt by France and Greece to introduce a moratorium
on genetically engineered crops in the European Union. Over the last year,
the government has allocated a grand total of pounds 2.2 million for
research into organic farming, for which consumer demand outstrips supply
by 200 per cent, and pounds 52 million for research into genetically
engineered food, which no one wants to buy.

This week, the ministry of agriculture would like us to believe, it has
started to redeem itself. For the next seven years, the agriculture
secretary Nick Brown has announced, MAFF will spend an average of pounds230
million on paying farmers to protect landscapes and wildlife, convert to
organic production and diversify their activities. This trebling of the
budget for environmental measures "demonstrates" Mr Brown maintained, "the
Government's commitment to rural communities".

Unfortunately it does just that. While some of the measures are
unquestionably positive, providing desperately needed money for the
conservation and restoration of rare habitats, the changes are likely to
help accelarate the destruction of small farms, while supporting large
ones. Much of the money will be released by cutting farmers' production
subsidies. Though large farms need much less state help than small ones,
the same percentage, despite the pleas of smallholders, will be taken from
all of them. As big farmers, with their managers and secretaries, are
better placed to harvest the new subsidies than small ones, the changes
promise to be deeply regressive.

The new money is just a fraction of that required to stop the orgy of
state-subsidised vandalism which has destroyed nearly all our most
important farm habitats over the last fifty years. The British taxpayer
will now be spending pounds230m a year on protecting the farm environment,
and some pounds5 billion on destroying it. The money allocated to organic
farming is just one seventh of the subsidy required to achieve the Soil
Association's modest target of 30 per cent organic production by 2010. Most
alarmingly, the whole package still relies on the big farmers' repeatedly
broken promise of self-regulation. There is nothing to prevent a landowner
from destroying a habitat the taxpayer has spent a fortune to restore, the
moment the price of sugarbeet rises.

The government's problem is that the deal it negotiated during the European
talks in March leaves it with little room for manoeuvre. Rather than
insisting that the whole programme be radically changed, it concentrated
instead on protecting British barley barons.

Yes Mr Morley, your ministry IS institutionally corrupt. Why else would you
try to stamp out small farming in Britain? Why else would you continue to
rob the poor in order to support the rich? And why else would you seek to
silence your critics?

Published in the Guardian 9th December 1999

This page is maintained by

The Rivermouth Action Group Inc

as a community service.