US lacks clue re: freedom

So I generally prefer to keep my political outrage off this blog, but you know, sometimes you're just crabby. Yesterday I heard that the World Trade Organization, otherwise known as SATAN, has "declared illegal" the European Union's attempt to ban imports of genetically modified foods. Back in 1998, the European Union decided they didn't want to import the stuff, so they stopped importing it. The US immediately filed a complaint with the WTO. Then in 2004 it filed another complaint, this time demanding that the EU hand over 1.8 billion dollars as restitution for "lost sales." Boo freaking hoo.

European people are deeply suspicious of this technology, as they should be. GM crops have not been proven safe, and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that they are capable of wreaking all sorts of environmental havoc, including (but not limited to) the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- like we need any more of those -- and herbicide-resistant weeds. But our country as a whole tends to pooh-pooh science and leap right into unsafe behavior if it happens to be more convenient than the safe, so naturally the US is where most of these frankenfoods come from. And everyone knows that the US produces vastly more food than it consumes. So, naturally, the US is producing tons and tons of supercorn that it needs to get rid of, and the EU has the gall to say they don't want it. Therein lies the rub.

Now, I'm not surprised that the US went sniveling to the WTO when it didn't get its way. Nor am I surprised that the WTO is stuffed firmly into the collective American pocket. What shocks the hell out of me is that they can do this. I don't claim to understand the inner workings of the WTO or what gives it its authority; I don't know if it intends to enforce this ruling or how it would do so. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what "fair trade" means. But the WTO says on its own website that it is "a system of rules dedicated to open, fair and undistorted competition," and last I checked, competition in the capitalist sense was more or less synonymous with supply and demand. We all remember high school econ, right?

But the new WTO ruling is essentially overruling the law of supply and demand. The EU has said quite clearly, there is no demand for your frankenfoods here. Hence the US (and Canada and Argentina, the other two biggest producers of GM crops) is creating a supply of useless goods, rather like an entire store dedicated to pet rocks. You do that, says capitalism, and you will fail. Go find something people will actually want to buy, and try again. So where does the WTO get off telling the EU that it has no choice in the matter, that it has to accept this potentially dangerous import whether it wants it or not? That's not a free market. I think they call that "rape."

"It seems to send a clear signal that any measures to protect animal, human and plant health have to be based on sound science," said Christian Verschueren, director general of CropLife International, which represents the global plant science industry.

....Trade sources also said the ruling would send a message to other WTO members, including some in Africa, which have been taking or are considering a similar line to that of the EU.

Oh right, sending messages again. Like DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS. See, I don't get how, in a system that purports to be committed to the ideals of capitalism and democracy, the appropriate "message" is that all these countries who do not want America's irresponsible technology wreaking havoc on their populations can't say no. Remember, this stuff has NOT BEEN PROVEN SAFE. The fact that it has not been proven unsafe after a few short years is meaningless. It took 60 years for people to figure out that radiation was dangerous. Given the likelihood of future problems, it's only fair to give other countries the option to reject GM products, but the WTO is now "sending the message" that they do not have that right. It's certainly not the first time the US has foisted its environmental hazards off on unwilling participants -- witness the Kyoto debacle -- but I don't know of any previous instance where an international organization has declared it illegal not to take it up the ass.

The good news is, the ruling won't be finalized for another month, and even then the EU can appeal. The bad news is, appeals are useless. Just ask Tyler Hamilton, still cooling his heels a full month after his 85th hearing. In any case let's hope it doesn't take as long to figure this one out as it's taking to decide whether global warming is real. Meanwhile, I have to get to my doctor's appointment. I'm growing a third ear and I don't know why.


Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Nice rant!

I knew there was a reason why I like you. I mean, besides the whole bike thing.

Resistance is futile. The WTO is insuring that.

2/09/2006 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Stan said...

But creating a supply of something for which there is no demand is a great old tradition. Remember how well 'supply-side economics' worked? ;-)

2/09/2006 3:51 PM  

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