Cameras to Detect ‘Abnormal’ Behavior

ConsortiumNews.com
By Sander Venema

watching eye camera

A few days ago I read an article about how TNO (the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research, the largest research institute in the Netherlands) developed technology for smart cameras for use at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. These cameras — installed at Schiphol airport by the Qubit Visual Intelligence, a company from The Hague — are designed to recognize certain “suspicious behavior,” such as running, waving your arms, or sweating.

Curiously enough, these are all things that are commonly found in the stressful environment that an international airport is to many people. People need to get to the gate on time, which may require running (especially if you arrived at Schiphol by train, which in the Netherlands is notoriously unreliable); they may be afraid of flying and trying to get their nerves under control; and airports are also places where friends and family meet after long times abroad, which (if you want to hug each other) requires arm waving.

I suspect that a lot of false positives are going to occur with this technology due to this. It’s the wrong technology at the wrong place. I fully understand the need for airport security, and we all want a safe environment for both passengers and crew. Flights need to operate under safe conditions. What I don’t understand is the mentality that every single risk in life needs to be minimized away by government agencies and combated with technology. More technology does not equal safer airports.

Security Theatre

A lot of the measures taken at airports constitute security theatre. This means that the measures are mostly ineffective against real threats, and serve mostly for show. The problem with automatic profiling, which is what this program tries to do as well, is that it doesn’t work.Security expert Bruce Schneier has written extensively about this, and I encourage you to read his 2010 essay “Profiling Makes Us Less Safe” about the specific case of air travel security.

The first problem is that terrorists don’t fit a specific profile or they can carefully avoid “suspicious” actions. Thus, these profiling systems can be circumvented once people figure out how, and because of the over-reliance on technology instead of common sense this can actually cause more insecurity.

In the novel Little Brother, Cory Doctorow wrote about how Marcus Yallow put gravel in his shoes to fool the gait-recognizing cameras at his high school so he and his friends could sneak out to play a game outside. Similar things will be done to try and fool these “smart” cameras, but the consequences can be much greater.

We are actually more secure when we randomly select people instead of relying on a specific threat profile or behavioral profile to select who to screen and who gets through security without secondary screening. The whole point of random screening is that it’s random. Therefore, a potential terrorist cannot in advance know what the criteria are that will make the system pick him out. If a system does use specific criteria, and the security of the system depends on the criteria themselves being secret, that would mean that someone would just have to observe the system for long enough to find out what the criteria are.

Technology may fail, which is something people don’t always realize. Another TNO report entitled: “Afwijkend Gedrag” (Abnormal Behavior) states under the (admittedly tiny) section that deals with privacy concerns that collecting data about abnormal behavior of people is ethically just because the society as a whole can be made safer with this data and associated technology. It also states (and this is an argument I’ve read elsewhere as well), that “society has chosen that safety and security trumps privacy.”

Now, let’s say for the sake of the argument that this might be true in a general sense (although it can be debated whether this is always the case, personally I don’t think so, as sometimes the costs are just too high and we need to keep a free and democratic society after all). The problem here is that the way technology and security systems are implemented is usually not something we as a society get to first have a vote on before the (no doubt highly lucrative) contracts get signed.

In the Dutch airport case, Qubit probably saw a way to make a quick buck by talking the Schiphol leadership and/or the government (as the Dutch state holds 69.77 percent of the Schiphol shares) into buying their technology. It’s not something the people had a conscious debate on, and then subsequently made a well-informed decision.

Major Privacy Issues

We have established that these systems are ineffective and can be circumvented (like any system can), and won’t improve overall security. But much more importantly, there are major privacy issues with this technology. What Schiphol and Qubit are doing here is analyzing and storing data on millions of passengers, the overwhelmingly vast majority of whom are completely innocent. This is like shooting a mosquito with a bazooka.

What happens with this data? We don’t know, and we have to believe Qubit and Schiphol on their word that data about non-suspect members of the public gets deleted. However, in light of recent events where it seems convenient to collect and store as much data about people as possible, I highly doubt any deletions will actually happen.

And the sad thing is: in the Netherlands the Ministry of Security and Justice is now talking about implementing the above-mentioned behavioral analysis system at another (secret) location in the Netherlands. Are we all human guinea pigs ready to be tested and played around with?

What Is Abnormal?

There are also problems with the definitions. This is something I see again and again with privacy-infringing projects like this. What constitutes “abnormal behavior”? Who gets to decide on that and who controls what is abnormal behavior and what isn’t?

Maybe, in the not-too-distant future, the meaning of the word “abnormal” begins to shift, and begins to mean “not like us,” for some definition of “us.” George Orwell mentioned this effect in his book Nineteen-Eighty-Four, where ubiquitous telescreens watch and analyze your every move and one can never be sure what are criminal thoughts and what aren’t.

In 2009, when the European research project INDECT got funded by the European Union, there were critical questions asked to the European Commission by the European Parliament. More precisely, this was asked:

Question from EP: How does the Commission define the term abnormal behavior used in the program?

Answer from EC: As to the precise questions, the Commission would like to clarify that the term behavior or abnormal behavior is not defined by the Commission. It is up to applying consortia to do so when submitting a proposal, where each of the different projects aims at improving the operational efficiency of law enforcement services, by providing novel technical assistance. [Source: Europarl (Written questions by Alexander Alvaro (ALDE) to the Commission)]

In other words: according to the European Commission it depends on the individual projects, which all happen to be vague about their exact definitions. And when you don’t pin down definitions like this (and anchor them in law so that powerful governments and corporations that oversee these systems can be held to account!), these can be changed over time when a new leadership comes to power, either within the corporation in control over the technology, or within government.

This is a danger that is often overlooked. There is no guarantee that we will always live in a democratic and free society, and the best defense against abuse of power is to make sure that those in power have as little data about you as possible.

Keeping these definitions vague is a major tactic in scaring people into submission. This has the inherent danger of legislative mission creep. A measure that once was implemented for one specific purpose soon gets used for another if the opportunity presents itself.

Once it is observed that people are getting arrested for seemingly innocent things, many people (sub)consciously adjust their own behavior. It works similarly with free speech: once certain opinions and utterances are deemed against the law, and are acted upon by law enforcement, many people start thinking twice about what they say and write. They start to self-censor, and this erodes people’s freedom to the point where we slowly shift into a technocratic Orwellian nightmare. And when we wake up it will already be too late to turn the tide.

ConsortiumNews.com

Tech Firm: More Than 15 Stingray Phone Trackers Operating In D.C.

InfoWars
by MIKAEL THALEN

“I think there’s even more here. That was just us driving around for a day and a half”

stingray

Mobile security experts discovered what appears to be more than 15 IMSI catchers, commonly referred to as Stingrays, throughout the Washington D.C. area this week.

Les Goldsmith and Buzz Burner of ESD America joined IntegriCell President Aaron Turner Tuesday to travel around the nation’s capitol in an attempt to find evidence of “rogue cell towers” with a CryptoPhone, a mobile device which measures three indicators associated with active IMSI catchers.

These surveillance devices, which are often the size of a suitcase, can trick thousands of user’s phones into divulging private information by mimicking a cell tower. During their test, the group detected more than 40 alerts from 15 seperate interceptors around several of D.C.’s most historic landmarks including the White House, the Capitol and multiple foreign embassies.

“I think there’s even more here,” Goldsmith told the Washington Post. “That was just us driving around for a day and a half.”

Most often used by law enforcement, cell phone interceptors have received increased attention as of late, causing the federal government to distance themselves from the illegal practice of mass surveillance.

Speaking with CBS Chicago earlier this month, former FBI agent and security analyst Ross Rice attempted to deny law enforcement’s active involvement.

“I doubt that they are installed by law enforcement as they require a warrant to intercept conversations or data and since the cell providers are ordered by the court to cooperate with the intercept, there really would be no need for this,” Rice said. “Most likely, they are installed and operated by hackers, trying to steal personal identification and passwords.”

While Rice very well may be uninformed on the subject, countless investigations have found law enforcement to be regularly deceiving the public regarding the use of IMSI catchers.

Documents uncovered by Seattle Privacy Coalition’s Phil Mocek last month revealed that the Tacoma, Wash. police department has been secretly using a Stringray for more than 6 years.

“These devices are often used to spy on innocent people’s words, locations and associations,” Mocek told Infowars.

Later reports indicated that the department used a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI to keep the transaction secret. Police in turn told Tacoma City Council members, who approved the purchase, that the device was designed to locate “IEDs.”

A report last March from Wired Magazine revealed how one Florida police department used a Stingray more than 200 times without ever acquiring a warrant. Similarly, the department pointed to a non-disclosure agreement with the device’s manufacturer as reasoning for their unconstitutional activity.

Emails uncovered earlier this year even showed how the U.S. Marshals Service secretly taught police how to lie to judges when trying to obtain a Stingray. U.S. Marshals even went as far as raiding a Florida police department in order to keep Stingray documents from reaching the public.

The barrage of news has even prompted people across the country to begin their own investigations, with one resident of Charlotte, North Carolina recently finding a mysterious tower not operated by one of the major telecommunications companies.

Late last year, Infowars received exclusive documents revealing a seperate cell phone interception system blanketing the city of Seattle. The DHS-funded “mesh network” allows law enforcement groups to communicate through “mesh network nodes,” which also have the ability to track cell users throughout the city.

InfoWars

New Device In The Works To Catch Texting Drivers

PilotOnline.com
By Dave Forster

A Virginia company is developing a radar-gunlike device that would help police catch drivers as they text. (video)

The technology works by detecting the telltale radio frequencies that emit from a vehicle when someone inside is using a cellphone, said Malcolm McIntyre of ComSonics. Cable repairmen use similar means to find where a cable is damaged – from a rodent, for instance – by looking for frequencies leaking in a transmission, McIntyre said.

A text message, phone call and data transfer emit different frequencies that can be distinguished by the device ComSonics is working on, according to McIntyre. That would prove particularly useful for law enforcement in states such as Virginia, where texting behind the wheel is banned but talking on the phone is legal for adult drivers.

ComSonics, based in Harrisonburg, got its start in the cable TV industry and provides calibration services for speed enforcement equipment. McIntyre discussed the company’s move into texting detection Monday at the second annual Virginia Distracted Driving Summit.

He said the device is “close to production” but still has several hurdles to clear, including legislative approval and adoption by law enforcement. There are also privacy concerns, though McIntyre said the equipment could not decrypt the information that is transmitted by drivers.

PilotOnline.com

Nowhere To Hide As Minority Report-Style Facial Recognition Technology Spreads Across America

The Economic Collapse
by Michael Snyder

Eye Black And White - Public DomainWhat is our society going to look like when our faces are being tracked literally everywhere that we go?  As part of the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a facial recognition database known as the Interstate Photo System will have collected 52 million of our faces by the end of 2015.  But that is only a small part of the story.  According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using advanced facial recognition technology for years.  In addition, as you will see below, advertising companies are starting to use Minority Report-style face scanners in their billboards and many large corporations see facial recognition technology as a tool that they can use to serve their customers better.  Someday soon it may become virtually impossible to go out in public in a major U.S. city without having your face recorded.  Is that the kind of society that we want?

To the FBI, this technology does not represent an invasion of privacy.  Rather, they are very proud of the fact that they are not going to be so dependent on fingerprinting any longer.  The FBI has been developing the Next Generation Identification System for years, and this month it was announced that it is finally fully operational

The federal government’s Next Generation Identification System — a biometric database that relies largely on facial-recognition technology — is now fully operational, the FBI announced Monday.

“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement.

The latest advance in the technology gives users the ability to receive “ongoing status notifications” about individuals’ criminal histories, the FBI said. That means if, for instance, a teacher commits an offense, law enforcement can be immediately informed — and then pass that information on to administrators.

It’s to monitor criminal histories of those “in positions of trust,” the FBI said.

As part of this new system, every American will eventually be assigned a “Universal Control Number”.

Does that sound creepy to you?

Even mainstream news reports are admitting that it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie

It aims to eventually replace fingerprinting with a complex array of biometrics, assigning everyone with a “Universal Control Number”, in what sounds like a plotline from a sci-fi movie.

And it won’t just be the FBI using this database.

According to Fox News, more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies will have access to this information…

More than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorized criminal justice partners across the country will have access to the system 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So if your face is scanned somewhere or you do something noteworthy that is registered by the system, virtually every law enforcement agency in the country will instantly know about it.

Pretty scary stuff, eh?

But the FBI is actually lagging far behind the NSA.

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using “sophisticated facial recognition programs” for many years

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show.

Do you remember that stuff you saw in the Jason Bourne movies about how the NSA can track people?

Well, most of that stuff is real.

If you don’t like it, that is just too bad.  At this point not even Congress has much control over what the NSA does.

And there are police departments around the nation that are also way ahead of the FBI.

For example, just check out what has been going on in southern California

In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring.

Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud.

It’s done with state of the art facial recognition technology, and in Southern California it’s already happening.

At least one law enforcement agency in San Diego is currently using software developed by FaceFirst, a division of nearby Camarillo, California’s Airborne Biometrics Group. It can positively identify anyone, as long as physical data about a person’s facial features is stored somewhere the police can access. Though that pool of potential matches could include millions, the company says that by using the “best available facial recognition algorithms” they can scour that data set in a fraction of a second in order to send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision.

Widespread use of facial recognition technology by our law enforcement authorities is becoming a way of life.

If the American people don’t like this, they need to stand up and say something.

But instead, in an era of widespread Internet hacking and identity theft, many Americans are actually clamoring for the implementation of more biometric identification.

For instance, the following is a brief excerpt from a Fox News article entitled “Biometric security can’t come soon enough for some people“…

In a world where nearly every ATM now uses an operating system without any technical support, where a bug can force every user of the Internet to change the password to every account they’ve ever owned overnight, where cyber-attacks and identity theft grow more menacing every day, the ability to use your voice, your finger, your face or some combination of the three to log into your e-mail, your social media feed or your checking account allows you to ensure it’s very difficult for someone else to pretend they’re you.

As financial institutions adopt this kind of technology, a day may come when virtually all of us are required to have our faces scanned at the checkout counter.

That may sound crazy to you, but according to the Daily Mail a company in Finland has already launched this technology…

Bank cards are already being replaced by phones and wristbands that have payment technology built-in but the latest threat to the lowly plastic in your pocket could be your face.

A Finnish startup called Uniqul has launched what it calls the first ever payment platform based on facial recognition.

The system doesn’t require a wallet, bank card or phone – instead a camera is positioned at the checkout and takes a photo of a shopper’s face when they are ready to pay.

It then scans a database for the face and matches it to stored payment details in order to complete the transaction.

And advertisers are even more eager to adopt facial recognition technology.  In fact, the kind of face scanning billboards that we saw in “Minority Report” are already a reality.  For example, a company called Amscreen says that it already has more than 6,000 face scanning digital screens that are being viewed by approximately 50 million people each week…

Advertising network Amscreen recently launched a unique face-detection technology, originally developed by automated audience measurement firm Quividi.

Cameras have been installed in Amscreen’s digital advertising displays that can scan a person’s face and determine their gender, age, date, time and volume of the viewers.

This is so adverts are served to the most appropriate audience.

Amscreen already has over 6,000 digital screens seen by a weekly audience of over 50 million people.

Even dating websites are starting to use facial recognition technology at this point.

Just check out what Match.com has been doing…

Popular dating site Match.com will use photos of users’ exes to determine which type of look they’re attracted to in order to find them a dating match.

The dating site has partnered with Three Day Rule, a Los Angeles-based matchmaking service, which has dating experts that act as personal dating concierges who hand-select and personally meet every potential match before making a formal introduction to clients, Mashable reports.

Members of Match.com will be able to upgrade to Three Day Rule’s premium service which will ask users to send pictures of exes to determine the type of look they’re attracted to. Three Day Rule will then use facial-recognition technology in an effort to help users find dates.

Our world is changing at a faster pace than ever before.

Powerful new technologies are literally being introduced every single day now, and the future is probably going to look far different than any of us are imagining.

But with all of this new technology, will we end up losing what little personal privacy that we have left?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

The Economic Collapse

Nationwide Biometric Database Goes Live

The Daily Sheeple
By Nicholas West

biometric data

Despite the FBI already having been sued by privacy groups amid plans for a nationwide biometric database, it has officially gone live. The Next Generation Identification system will eventually include iris scans, facial recognition, and a range of other biometric identifiers that are collated into a central database for real-time sharing at all levels of law enforcement and government agencies.

As suspected, what began as a border control initiative has now expanded to include everyone.

As the video report below highlights, this billion-dollar program was spearheaded by Lockheed Martin, and will invariably include images of even non-suspects in one great sweeping dragnet of digital surveillance. The fact that Lockheed Martin was involved in developing the program should signal heightened concern given their integral role in drone technology. As this database is being rolled out, drones are set to take to American skies in much greater numbers by 2015. One of the latest military-grade systems can now scan 36 million faces per second, or every face in the U.S. within 10 seconds. It is a technology that has trickled down from use in war zones like Afghanistan. The merger between this  FBI database and drone technology would be the next logical step.

There simply has been too much invested in a coming Minority Report world to turn back now. Nevertheless, we at least have reached a critical mass of ideological pushback against agencies like the NSA. Could additional leaks from whistleblowers and the work of digital privacy activists help to thwart plans to enter all of us into the real-time surveillance matrix? Or will this technology expand and reach its full potential?

http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.html#ec=ZrYW1kcDolQu96pV1_jFrVSueONkuP7I&pbid=54ea1c2f14ee44369ddf31ac887ffe7e&docUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thedailysheeple.com%2Fnationwide-biometric-database-goes-live_092014

Transcript by Jake Godin

It’s a program that still sounds futuristic, even today. The FBI announced its facial recognition program is finally up and running — and it has some privacy advocates a little concerned.

Labeled as the “Next Generation Identification System,” or NGI, the $1-billion program has been in development since at least 2008 when the FBI announced it was granting Lockheed Martin a contract to start building it.

As you’d expect with facial recognition technology, NGI will pull in photos “associated with criminal identities” and compare them to millions of other photos taken from various sources.

The system has been used successfully at least once already, helping catch longtime fugitive Neil Stammer.

He had been on the run from the FBI for 14 years but was found in Nepal when the U.S. Department of State found his photo on a passport with a different name. (Video via KRQE)

Using a Freedom of Information Act request, the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained FBI documents showing the agency plans to have 52 million photos in its database by 2015.

Here’s where we get to the part that has privacy activists concerned.

Along with the fact that non-criminal photos are being stored in the database, the EFF says the FBI won’t take responsibility for inaccurate matches. Also, nearly a million of the database’s photos will come from unexplained sources.

A writer for Techdirt isn’t a big fan of the program either, saying: “This program has some very serious issues, and it’s only going to get worse unless someone outside the FBI intervenes.”

And Engadget says the system’s 85 percent accuracy is a little worrisome as well, pointing out that there’s no explanation for what happens when the NGI generates a list of potential suspects which lacks the actual criminal.

Following the EFF report, FBI director James Comey spoke at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June to address concerns over the scope of the NGI’s database.

FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY VIA C-SPAN: “The pilot is mugshots because those are repeatable, we can count on the quality of them. … There was not a plan and there isn’t at present to add other, non-mug-shot photos.”

Which would seemingly contradict the documents the EFF dug up. The FBI plans to eventually roll out more parts of its new NGI system, including voice and iris identification.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

The Daily Sheeple

Google Maps Has Been Tracking Your Every Move, And There’s A Website To Prove It

Natural Cures Not Medicine

google-tracking-map

Remember that scene in Minority Report, where Tom Cruise is on the run from the law, but is unable to avoid detection because everywhere he goes there are constant retina scans feeding his location back to a central database? That’s tomorrow. Today, Google is tracking wherever your smartphone goes, and putting a neat red dot on a map to mark the occasion.

You can find that map here. All you need to do is log in with the same account you use on your phone, and the record of everywhere you’ve been for the last day to month will erupt across your screen like chicken pox.

We all know that no matter what ‘privacy’ settings you may try and implement, our information is all being collected and stored somewhere. That knowledge sits in the back of our minds, and is easy to drown out by shoving in some headphones and watching Adventure Time on repeat until everything stops being 1984. But it’s a sharp jolt back to reality when you see a two dimensional image marking your daily commute with occasional detours to the cinema or a friend’s house.

tracking-map

Looking at mine, I realised that a) I live my life in a very small radius, and b) there are places on my map that I don’t remember going. One of them I’ve apparently visited three times on different days. Once whilst “Biking” and twice while “Stationary”. All at times I wouldn’t usually be awake. I’m not sure what’s happening on Wood Street in North Melbourne, or why my phone apparently travels there without me, but I’m not going to rule out secret alien conspiracies.

google-conspiracy

This never happened. UNLESS IT DID.

Apparently this record only happens if you have ‘location services’ switched on in your phone; if you do and you’re finding you have no data, then it means that either you don’t exist or you’ve beaten the system. If it’s the latter, please teach me your ways; I know for a fact that I switched my phone’s location detection off, but apparently it somehow got switched back on.

Oh well. Perhaps this month I’ll take some inspiration from the runner who used Nike+ to draw this – except this time when the dots are joined, they’ll just form a huge, unblinking eye. With occasional side trips to Wood Street.

Get creeped out by logging in here.

via junkee

But! Before you worry too much, we can tell you this: There is a way to disable it now and even erase your past history map. So all is not lost. We are all about solutions here at natural cures, we weren’t about to let you walk away upset without a solution! Nope. That’s why we found you this:

To see if you have location history enabled, head to the Google Maps Location history page. Click the gear-icon button to access History settings. Here, you can choose to disable or enable the service.

Disabling location history, however, does not remove your past history. If you’d like to erase the locations Google has stored for the past 30 days, head back to the Location history page. The default time period shows location history for the current day, so you may not see any plots on the map.

Use the pull-down menu below the calendar on the left to show your history, up to 30 days. If you choose a time period in which Google has tracked your location, you’ll see the points where you’ve been on the map. And below the calendar, you’ll see options to delete your history from the time period you have chosen or to delete all history.

We urge you to share this information with people you care about.

Natural Cures Not Medicine

Media Attacks Directed against the Critics of Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Agriculture

Global Research
By Colin Todhunter

gmo food on globalresearch.ca

Hot on the heels of a much publicised article in the New Yorker that set out to attack Vandana Shiva comes another on the Scroll.in website (on September 3). Girish Shahane mounts an attack on Shiva and what he believes to be her false and misleading statements about farmer suicides in India (access the article here). Shahane deems it necessary to question Shiva’s qualification as a scientist, claiming she has never been one. He says this could be overlooked if she was scientific in her approach to farmer suicides, but he claims that her approach is anything but scientific.

According to Shahane, Shiva adopts a non-scientific, ideologically-driven, anti-GMO stance, which is symptomatic of the environmentalist movement. Apparently, this approach rests on a conspiracy theory in which “the bad capitalist corporation dominates everything, corrupts everything.”

When it comes to the safety of GMOs, he argues that ‘greens’ reject the scientific consensus out of hand (a non-existent consensus, he might like to make note of, alongside his many other misleading claims). Shahane then proceeds to tarnish ‘the left’ as “irrational” and provides an example of the “irrationalist left” and the folly of its ideology by talking about “one tragic instance of the lunatics taking over the asylum in a large country.”

In what appears to be an attempt to draw a comparison with anti-GMO campaigners’ resistance to science and progress, the instance he refers to is what happened in South Africa under Thabo Mbeki. According to Shahane, 330,000 South Africans perished as a direct result of Mbeki’s crackpot leftist ideas that rejected the established scientific consensus about the cause of AIDS, insisting it was dictated by white corporations bent on exploiting blacks just as colonialists had done.

Shahane argues Mbeki’s misplaced ideological view on AIDS typifies the “irrationalist left.” Apparently, the “irrationalist left” regards science as racist, patriarchal, imperialist, capitalist and anti-nature.

The message from Shahane is that anti-GMO campaigners are irrational, are ignoring scientific consensus on GMOs and are letting their conspiracy theories and ideology stand in the way of progress; if the likes of Shiva and others of her ilk do not ditch their irrational fears and Mbeki-type anti-capitalist lunacy, we are in danger of turning our backs on the potential wonders of GMOs given to us by Monsanto.

The pro-GMO lobby likes to portray environmentalists and anti-GMO campaigners as Luddites, anti-science and as enemies of the poor, while the likes of Monsanto are depicted as working in the ‘public interest’ to bring a frontier technology to the masses.

(At this point, it must be stated that commercial companies exist [are legally obliged] to maximise profit for shareholders. Yes profit not altruism or the public interest is the bottom line. Millions of dollars have been taken out of Indian agriculture and found their way to Monsanto’s HQ in St. Louis thanks to the royalties paid by poor Indian farmers on GM patented seeds.)

Shahane also lays into irrational Europeans who supposedly latch onto Shiva’s shock-effect statements about GMOs, mass farmer suicides and Monsanto to justify their own phobia about GM food.

I am European. I question the efficacy and health and environmental impacts of genetically modified food. Therefore, according to Shahane, I am exhibiting a phobia. By the way, a phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something” (oxforddictionaries.com).

And how does Shahane reach this conclusion?

By talking to two of his European ‘companions’, who appear to be a little confused, according to him, about the nature of farmer suicides in India, which they apparently put down to distress resulting from the introduction of Monsanto’s GM crops (cotton). Too much listening to the crackpot ideas of Vandana Shiva seems to be the implication.

Shahane says that Europeans distrust GMOs and that the European fear of “Frankenstein food” is perfectly understandable in terms of the phobia phenomenon. Apparently, ‘our’ (Europeans that is) attitude to GM food is irrational and our national policies are based on vague fears rather than sound science.

Europeans seek GMO-related horror stories to justify our beliefs or “phobias,” according to Shahane. He argues that no other story does the job as well as the tale of poor Indians driven to suicide by the “evil Monsanto corporation.” Our irrational fear of GMOs is given added impetus by the scaremongering, anti-capitalist, anti-science stance of Vandana Shiva.

What Girish Shahane should know but appears not to

Europeans do not need to listen to Vandana Shiva to be aware that GMOs constitute a systemic health risk to entire populations. We do not need shock-horror tales of mass suicide to fuel genuine concerns.

Shahane’s article lacks credibility on many levels, one of which is foolishly resorting to the claim that Europeans exhibit a phobia over GMOs. He might like to acquaint himself with what Europe’s approach to GMOs is based on: the precautionary principle. This implies there is a good chance that GMOs may pose widespread harm to the entire population if released for public consumption [1]. There is enough evidence to suggest that this could be the case [2,3,4]. As the risk is systemic, adequate testing should thus be carried out before GMOs are sanctioned.

Europeans and their governments have genuine concerns based on science, not phobias about GMOs fuelled by Vandana Shiva. It is not science per se that anti-GMO campaigners reject, as Shahane would like us all to believe, but the use and distortion of science for commercial gain. If anything, it is the pro-GMO lobby that appears to have scant regard for science.

Shahane seems to be big on ‘sound’ science, implying that the GMO biotech sector’s approach to GM food is based on it, whereas anti-GMO campaigners pick and choose their science to match their ideology. According to the sociologist Robert Merton, science involves research that is not distorted by vested interests, its discoveries should become the common property of all and its finding should be open to rigorous scrutiny (organised sceptism). GMO sector science is seriously wanting in all of these areas.

Shahane should consider that the GMO biotech sector rakes in millions from its GM patented seeds and attempts to control the ‘science’ around its products by carrying out inadequate, secretive studies of its own, placing restrictions on any independent research into its products and censoring findings that indicate the deleterious impacts of its products [4]. It has also faked data [5], engages in unjustified often personal attacks on scientists who reach conclusions not to its liking [6,7] and carries out (unapproved / illegal) open-field testing, resulting in the contamination of non-GMO crops [8]. Regulatory bodies accept at face value claims from the biotech sector about its products [9] and co-opted politicians or officials spout misleading claims and falsehoods about GM food in order to further the sector’s objectives [10,11].

The sector cannot demonstrate that yields are better, nutritional values are improved, health is not damaged or that harm to the environment does not occur with the adoption of GMOs. Given the systemic risk of GMOs, the onus of proof should be on the sector prior to releasing GMOs onto the commercial market.

Independent studies and evidence, not inadequate industry funded or back ones, have indicated yields are often worse and herbicide use has increased [12,13,14], health is negatively impacted [15,16], soil is damaged [17] and biodiversity is undermined [18], among other things.

Shahane thinks people with concerns about GMOs choose only certain studies to suit their stance (as opposed to the GMO sector funding studies to suit its commercial interests?). If the studies I reference (in this and dozens of my other articles on GMOs) show one thing, it is that there is clearly NO scientific consensus on GMOs, despite what he likes to suggest.

He might also like to take note of how the GMO biotech sector has infiltrated regulatory bodies [19,20] is attempting to use the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to get its unwanted products into Europe via the ‘back door’ [21] and also weaken current robust regulatory measures [22]. He might also like to know how the notion of ‘sound’ science is being corrupted and used by the US to stifle debate [23].

Shahane’s attack on Shiva, environmentalists and the ‘irrational left’ is based on the notion that rational debate and science should be paramount. Given the actions of the sector as outlined above, there seems little scope for open debate and scientific discourse. There is no room for Merton’s lofty scientific ideals in the world of the pro-GMO lobby. Secrecy, intimidation, the co-optation of officials and the hijack of regulatory bodies take precedence.

Shahane points out the GM food crops are dominant in US agriculture. He seems to mention that in order to force home the point of Europeans having baseless fears about GMOs. In the US, GM food was released onto the commercial market without proper long-term tests. In effect, there is a ‘let’s hope for the best’ approach in terms of the population’s health. The argument used to justify this is GM food is ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary food. Again, there is no room for science here: substantial equivalence is not based on scientific reason, which Shahane seemingly places great store by; it is a trade strategy on behalf of the GM sector that served to remove its GMOs from the type of scrutiny usually applied to potentially toxic or harmful substances [24]).

Actual science shows that GM food is not ‘substantially equivalent’; recent studies highlight this in terms of their harmful content [24]. Genetically engineered food is produced by white-coated scientists in a laboratory, and the GMO biotech sector wants a mass release of GM food onto the market more or less at once. It is not gradual but dramatic.

Shahane should know that the reason why the precautionary principle does not apply in the US is not down to ‘sound’ science but due to the power and political influence of the GMO biotech sector. Now that sector is attempting to force its GM food into Europe and undermine the precautionary principle.

Moreover, people’s attitudes towards the GMO sector’s most powerful corporation are not based on ideology but on hard evidence. There are extremely good reasons as to why millions of people do not trust Monsanto. It has a history of criminality, health-damaging cover ups and environmental contaminations that would lead most informed people to regard Monsanto as having less than altruistic motives and even complete contempt for ordinary people [25]. Again, it is not knee-jerk ideology that drives negative depictions of Monsanto: that company’s record speaks for itself.

This is not the place to defend Vandana Shiva. She is capable of defending herself. But when Shahane talks of people with genuine concerns about GMOs basing their arguments on irrationality, phobias, ideology, etc, and ridiculously uses MBeki to scaremonger about the ‘irrational left’ and mass deaths and then somehow draw a link between that and the actions of anti-GMO activists and their hand in a potential genocide by denying farmers an income and hungry consumers food, his reasoning must be held to account.

Shahane’s view constitutes a simplistic and misleading representation of those who are concerned about GMOs. He constructs his own straw man position of what he perceives anti-GMO campaigners to be so he can then proceed to knock it down. In doing so he displays his own irrationalism, ideology and lack of informed insight into the issues. He would do well to encourage the GMO biotech sector to engage in open and non-coercive debate and inject some rationalism into his own position. He would also do well to contemplate what the underlying motives of the GMO sector really are when much evidence suggests we do not even need GM food in the first place [26-31].

Notes

Global Research

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