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Birds of a Feather Flack Together

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Poor Al Gore. He just wants to save the world. And yet, his well-intentioned efforts to curb greenhouse gases have had the terrible unintended consequence of driving up the cost of rBST-free milk.

This is a disaster not just for dairy lovers, but for the whole nation -- no, wait! the whole world -- according to the latest op-ed from Henry I. Miller, "How Al Gore Harms the Environment." It's an Onion-worthy slice of satire, only Miller's not kidding. He picks up right where his last shameless defense of rBST on The New York Times op-ed page left off.

Miller's a fellow at the Hoover Institute, the same "Bush brain trust" that brought us the neo-con cast behind that perennial Off Beltway bomb known as the War in Iraq. How is it, Miller muses, that no one else has spotted the connection between the Live Earth extravaganza and the rising cost of milk from cows that haven't been injected with Monsanto's rBST hormone?:

Several stories in the news the past week are fascinatingly linked, but no one seems to have noticed. One item was the series of Live Earth rock concerts intended to draw attention to global climate change; another was the American Farm Bureau Federation's announcement of huge and seemingly inexplicable disparities in "niche" milk prices.

The connection? Al Gore. His influence on both issues -- via intractable, decades-long opposition to biotechnology -- has been indubitably negative.

Indubitably. Now, there's the kind of 10 dollar word that only a corporation can afford to buy. And make no mistake, Miller is Monsanto's man, brazenly promoting rBST -- which he refers to as a "protein" rather than the hormone that it is -- as a cure-all for climate change, because it enables dairy farmers to squeeze more milk out of fewer cows.

According to Miller's math, this adds up to significant savings in water usage, lower feed costs, and reduced methane emissions.

But Miller 's Soylent Green scenario of synthetic sustainability ignores the inconvenient truth that there's a worldwide ban on rBST due to its undisputed propensity to cause serious disease in dairy cows and suspicions that it may pose a health hazard to humans as well. As for the "seemingly inexplicable disparities" in milk prices that Miller cites, it's a classic case of supply and demand, with demand for milk untainted by synthetic hormones far outstripping supply. Is it such a shock that consumers would be willing to pay a premium to avoid pus-filled, potentially disease-inducing milk?

More egregious than Miller's sins of omissions, though, is the way he frames Gore's opposition to biotech commodity crops as an Olympian-sized obstacle to tackling global warming. The problem with genetically modified crops is that they are a veritable Pandora's Box of unintended consequences, and scientists have yet to find a way to test them that doesn't make guinea pigs out of ourselves and our planet.

Case in point: Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, which have created a monster strain of uber-herbicide resistant weeds, requiring ever-greater applications of Roundup. Way to go, Monsanto! The USDA's own report on 2006 field crop pesticide use shows "a state by state, huge, dramatic, unbelievable over-reliance on glyphosate," aka Roundup, as Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for the Organic Center, noted in an e-mail forwarded to me by a farmer friend, Anne Patterson of Living Earth Farm in Illinois.

Maybe that's why the USDA's looking into tightening its oversight of genetically modified crops, as Reuters reported last Thursday, citing a series of court cases that have faulted the USDA for failing to fully examine the environmental impact of a number of GM crops before approving them.

But the more we try to steer clear of the pesticides and chemicals that poison us and the planet, the more the biotech industry resists regulation -- like an unstoppable Roundup ready super weed. We've got to douse these perennial lies with strong applications of fact whenever they pop up in the mainstream media, before they can take root and choke out the truth.

Miller's been sowing this noxious nonsense for years, as The New York Times noted earlier this month in an article citing new doubts about the alleged benefits of biotech breakthroughs. At a 2004 roundtable on the safety of biotech food, the Times quotes Miller as saying that "both theory and experience confirm the extraordinary predictability and safety of gene-splicing technology and its products."

Well, no, actually, they don't. In fact, evidence is mounting to the contrary. But as long as GM-touting corporations fund jolly bad fellows like Miller, we're going to see a lot more of this disingenuous drivel. Miller's attacked Gore before , and he'll no doubt do it again. If only L.C., Eating Liberally's fictitious mad cow, could gore Miller first. Unfortunately, he seems determined to shill, and shill again.

Hat tip to Severine Von Tscharner Fleming of pixiepoppins.org

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