The art of rhetoric defines a ‘straw man argument’ as a fallacious logic that consists of confuting a point of view by twisting the true reasoning behind it.
This is what has happened over the last few days as talk has returned to the correlation between GMOs and health. It all began with the publication of an Italian research survey of studies in the last 20 years, which reached the conclusion that GM maize is not harmful to human beings. As a result, supporters of transgenics began rejoicing, some of them calling into question Slow Food as if to say ‘Told you so!’
Sure, we heard. It’s just a pity that, at least for us, this was never the point. As in the case of palm oil, dumbing down the debate into the ‘harmful/harmless’ refrain is only a way of seizing the headlines. And of silencing dissenting voices by confining them to the ghetto of the unscientific.
This is one way of eluding the truly unraveled knots, which concern not single GMOs but what they involve. Namely a model that bows cap in hand to the needs of agro-industry, forcing farmers to waive all control over their own labor, from sowing to pest management.
What they fobbed off to us 20 years ago as a second green revolution has, de facto, ended up promoting a few crop varieties that are profitable for the multinationals. It certainly hasn’t defeated hunger in poor countries, nor has it caught on in places where people have realized that biodiversity yields more than standardization. In Europe, according to the Infogm survey, transgenic crops have decreased by 4.3% in a year and now occupy 130,571 hectares of land. A drop in the ocean.
Today like yesterday, the GMO question brings up food sovereignty in its broadest sense, namely the freedom to choose what we cultivate. Bu this is a matter for democracy in which it can never be right to expect from science the answers it behooves politics to give us.
President of Slow Food Ital