PotatoGenetic Modification (GM) is a very touchy subject.  I’ve had numerous heated ‘discussions’ (okay, ‘arguments’ – I get rather passionate about these earth-unfriendly kinds of topics) and I always end up in a bit of a froth.

Some people think it’s great that we’re messing around with our seeds to create ‘uber-varieties’ that supposedly resist disease and will therefore produce more food and feed everyone.

And I’m trying to stay open-minded but everything I read – and I try to delve into as many sides of the argument as I can find – has failed to dispel a distinct feeling of un-ease where anything GM is concerned.

And the more I learn about organic farming, the more I wonder how on earth anyone passed that over in favour of mucking about with DNA.

Money, money, money – that’s why.  There’s big fat cash to be made out of GM crops, and it’s my growing conviction that Monsanto (who own the patents on the GM seeds) is a big fat profit-driven corporation, entirely unlikely to be motivated by the interests and good health of us, the ‘consumers’.

organic veggies…mmmmm….Farmers who plant GM seeds are strictly not allowed to save the resulting seeds for the next season (a farming practice that has been in place since man first dug up the soil and started planting stuff).  Failure to comply results in severe penalties…

Instead, they have to buy more seeds the following year, and again the year afterwards, and so on, creating a cycle of dependence which is, I strongly believe, a direct threat to what is one of mankind’s most basic needs (and rights!): the availability of food.

And that is seriously not cool at all (dang it, I’m frothing again).

Anyway, to cut to the chase – the GM folks now want to introduce their ‘Spunta G2’ potato (mmmm, sounds positively mouthwatering) to South Africa’s commercial potato farmers, bringing the debate rather close to home, and giving us green-tinted folks a chance to engage in a little couch-activism of our own.

Enter the GM Potato Petition 2008, a campaign is initiated by the African Centre for Biosafety and supported by SafeAge, Biowatch SA and urban sprout.

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has been conducting field trials for several years with a GM potato called Spunta G2, genetically engineered to kill a pest called the Tuber Moth. They have given notice that they will apply to the South African GMO Council for a general release permit in the next few days. This means they want to release the GM Potato to commercial farmers, which has the potential to wreak havoc with the local potato industry, and infringes on our basic human right to choose the food we want to eat. (urban sprout)

I don’t know about you, but I certainly would like to know whether the potato I’m eating has been genetically tampered with or not.   It’s all about having the choice – and the thought of not being given an option (we won’t know which potatoes are modified, and which not) is my primary reason for supporting this campaign.

So, does couch activism actually work?  What’s the point, really, in signing the petition?  Well, this:

The GMO council will be deciding on whether or not to allow this permit to commercialise GMO potatoes. Your signature will show them that consumers are not willing to eat this product. Your signature can sway their decision.

Potato South Africa oversees the whole potato industry. If they believe that their market will be jeopardised by GM potatoes, they will make a strong case to the GMO council not to allow them onto the market. Potato SA has already said that they will oppose the permit, your decision will help to galvanise their position.

GM Potatoes have already been rejected by consumers in the United States and the European Union. The governments of Egypt and Indonesia began experiments on these potatoes but ended them when they realised that consumers would not buy. Your signature could ensure they meet the same fate in South Africa. (urban sprout)

So, if you’re ready to flex some consumer muscle (and feel strongly enough about this issue to do so), then head over to the GM Potato Petition and let’s see what we can accomplish.

If not, we might just be seeing some Spunta G2 spuds on the shelves real soon, mmmm…mmmmmm…

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