Friday, August 15, 2008

Prince Charles speaks out.

Prince Charles farming . . . in a tie

Bonnie Prince Charlie takes on Monsanto and friends©

By George Epp

Bonnie Prince Charlie has spoken out again, this time on the evils of corporate farming and the rush to genetically modified food products. Apparently he was being interviewed by the Daily Telegraph recently when he was reported to have said of the corporations concerned that they are conducting a “gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong. Why else are we facing all these challenges, climate change and everything?” (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, August 14, 2008)

I’m not sure you can trust completely a person who ends his opinion with “all these challenges, climate change and everything.” Seems to me that climate change and genetic manipulation (not to mention “everything”) are separated by enough distance to make lumping them together and laying them at the feet of one villain unacceptable, rhetorically.

Genetic modification has been with us for a long time. Here in Rosthern, a man by the name of Seeger Wheeler selected seed from different strains of wheat and mated them until he achieved a desired result: better, earlier maturing grain. Wheeler, however, took years to achieve a very small alteration in the genetic makeup of wheat, and furthermore, he was not aiming at control over the seed industry and the chemical inputs that go with it like modern corporations are. I admit that I share the Prince’s skepticism about the practices we’re currently seeing in the food industry, primarily because they’re profit driven, and if power corrupts, then so does profit. Profit begets power.

The debate gets quite heated. On the radio the other day, an industry person and an ecologist were exchanging pretty emotional viewpoints on the subject. From industry: the growing population requires that the tools of genetic modification be applied in order to achieve the production that will be needed to feed everyone. From environmentalists: the corporate takeover of the food industry is effectively driving farmers off the land all over the world and forcing them to subsist in the slums and ghettos of the big cities. From environmentalists: the introduction of genetically modified crops is doing way more damage than good. From industry: No it hasn’t; it’s working really well. From the environmentalist: No it’s not!

Charles cites the onslaught on the water tables in India as an overt manifestation of the problem. New, genetically modified plants being grown require far more water than their predecessors, he says, and the end of that process is drought and famine. He also talks about the issues arising from increasing herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer use, all of which are already familiar to most of us.

Prince Charles is frequently the butt of jokes. He’s an aging heir to the throne who may die of old age before his wiry mother is ready to hand the throne over to him. His estrangement from the divine Diana and simultaneous entanglement with Camilla Parker Bowles didn’t help his image much, and most of us are automatically skeptical when a man of wealth and influence—who farms as a hobby—speaks out on the subject of agriculture.

But today I’m with Charles. We dare not put the earth’s future in the hands of the corporate elite. They make a mess of everything. They exploit, they pollute, they manipulate people, and they simply are not the kind of global citizen that is needed to grapple with the big issues of the day.

Go Charles.


  1. Hi Uncle George,
    I don't actually read your blog very often - because I don't give myself the time to do so. But, each time that I pause to do so, it is a refreshing break. Thanks. It's good to see Charles given a nod of approval in a deserving moment.