Tell Me Again How GMOs are Suppose to Feed the World?
By Jamie Rutherford
At the exact time I started writing this editorial, there were approximately 901,635,529 undernourished people and 1,573,555,033 overweight people in the world, (source: Stop The Hunger) Of those overweight, 5.2 Million were obese. What shocked me are the figures that followed:
Keep these numbers in mind as I deep dive into some pro-industrial farming propaganda.
I came across a Penn & Teller BS episode. In it, select unprofessional members of the anti-GMO camp were pitted against professional articulate scientists. The reason the anti-GMO camp lost credibility wasn’t because of the cause itself, but because the show was edited to highlight inarticulate, irrelevant and silly members of the anti-GMO movement. They interviewed woo woo people with good hearts but a stoney Californian “yeh-man” attitude that seemed fit for surfing and trimming but not leading efforts against the well organized, billionaire funded biotech industry. Watch here:
Why did Penn and Teller resort to selecting these people to represent those concerned about GMOs for something more credible? They had to upsale the biotech industry by making the opposition look flimsy, “uneducated” and stupid. This Penn & Teller BS show presents the anti-GMO camp as using quack science to justify their concerns. They are demonized, because their opposition, is said to be blocking the altruistic intentions of the biotech industry to eradicate world hunger. PLEASE?! This is a smoke screen for a much larger issue.
Whoever controls the food supply, controls the people and reaps enormous profit at our (and their) expense because you have to eat to live. Thus, you are a guaranteed customer. Plain. Simple. I’ll take on the smartest pro-GMO advocate any day with that simple, and sadly understated truth. Hunger, is a profitable and political tool.
The irony of this Penn and Teller episode is that Penn and Teller are actors, illusionists, and magicians. They presented their opinions as fact and gave the illusion that they know what they are talking about, accusing those in the anti-GMO movement of not using science in their claims, meanwhile failing to mention their non-scientific and pseudo-scientific background.
The show mocked the Organic Consumers Association, who state that they envision a 100% organic world. Then they requoted Norman Borlaug saying that if we only used organic methods on existing farmlands, we couldn’t feed 2/3rds of the world population. This argument however does not address urban sprawl, the long term effects of soil depletion, pesticide drift, BT run-off in nearby ponds and streams, the lack of nutrition in a diet made of corn and wheat and carbs and starch, the true cost of subsidized food, and so on.
First, there is no way to prove that we can’t feed the world with organics because we as a people, worldwide, have not, brought together all the biodynamic farmers, the organic farmers, indigenous farmers, the urban food growers, hydroponic farmers, the small food movements, urban farming, aquaponics, and so on an so, forth from many nations, to open a dialog about how it can be done. The dialogue has largely been controlled by agricultural associations, industrial seed and chemical manufacturers, and agro-conglomerates like Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer Crop Science.
There is inborn bias that relies on technology and methods of increasing the yield of one type of crop, verses bio-diverse, low-input, farmer-owned solutions. That bias has to be recognized and set aside, before we can get an accurate assessment on what production levels really can be. Not to mention, consumers have to be informed beyond the commercial and packaging.
Working with nature, natural grow boundaries, and a long-term vision of growth – that includes composting and regeneration, stalls the profits of of those who gain the most from selling seeds, pesticides and technology – and investors do not like that.
What do you think? Do you disagree that when a company sells a technology that profits in the agricultural industry, that it will be in favor of that same technology being needed. Of course. That is sound business sense.To sale the technology, they will use marketing and product placement. In this case however, they are promoting a pro-industry myth that the only way to feed the world is through its products. It is the only argument they have.
Farmers for centuries have proved otherwise, using cow dung and patience, good planning and a varied foods, with varied nutrition. However, it is easier to control land, socially engineer populations and ensure a net increase year by year, if the decision making power is displaced locally and the farmers are just sowers and sprayers of whatever they buy. Is there someone in a board room consciously saying, let’s destroy farming culture worldwide? Who knows. My personal opinion is that what we see now is a byproduct of where the focus has turned. When food and it’s production, is part of the market place alongside auto manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, it begins to follow the same rules. The number one rule for return on investment is that there must be continuous growth. How do you do that with crops? Similar to selling automobiles you have to create new models year by year. Hence, seeds are now, branded with special enhancements, and bought not saved.
It’s perfectly fine to market and control the things we don’t need to survive, – cars, widgets, dolls – but water and food? Do you really want to base your nutritional needs on advertising or the will of a hand full of companies? That is what is happening.
It’s false to say that our current methods of agriculture – monocropping, factory farming, chemical fertilizers and GMOs is eradicating hunger. What it has done is shift the native diets of struggling nations to U.S. Aid, mono cultures of wheat and rice, and agribusiness control of agriculture; shifting the power from the local farmers to boardrooms in wealthy nations. Remember how I started this post?
At the exact time I started writing this editorial, there were approximately 901,635,529 undernourished people and 1,573,555,033 overweight people in the world. (source: Stop The Hunger) Of those overweight 5.2 Million were obese. So there are a billion overweight people and 9 million hungry. Don’t you think its possible to even things out a bit by changing the way resources are distributed before we decide to play genetic roulette?
Just as our culture is saturated in oil, to the point where all political and social decisions come from it as a center piece of society, so too is our agriculture so saturated with multiple layers of agribusiness interest profiting from the food production – from chemical companies to suppliers, that political and social decisions are made from this dependency. This does not however reflect the truth of the overall situation only the situation as is held in a dangerous paradigm of chemical dependency.
No position, however dominant or prevalent in society, is immune from dissension and uprising against it, and it is good to keep these things in mind when we are told there is only “one way out but our way.” Remember the Jim Jones mass suicide/murders? Those who fled into the Jungles in Guyana had the only chance of survival when the laced Kool-Aid was passed out. As the saying goes, all that is needed for evil to prosper is that good men do nothing.
Given that current production systems leave nearly one billion people undernourished, the onus should be on the agribusiness industry to prove its model, not the other way around.
In response to a question about whether we can really feed the world without industrialized ag (ah yes, a perennial), (Michael)Pollan pointed out that we’re not feeding the world with it now. (Grist.org article). Michael Pollan is a journalist, activist, foodie and green thumb who wrote In Defense of Food.
The Penn and Teller video starts by quoting that 25, 000 people die of starvation everyday, while showing you a wide shot of some wide butts. Did anyone notice that the World Health Organization reports that obesity related deaths outnumber starvation deaths?
Then “Penn” goes on to requote a saying straight from a Monsanto PR class,
“GE crops produce more and thrive in some of the harshest climates on earth.”
Though GE crops have had some success in growing in harsh climates, I would point out that NATURE does it for free, with much more success, and without millions in investment capital or patents. If nature can do it more efficiently, why pay money for a substandard product?
The Penn and Teller piece then scathingly cuts down Green Peace and admonishes their concerns as unscientific, saying that:
“These Green Peace dudes want us to believe that GE crops will harm other crops and harm any person and animals that eat those foods.”
True, dude, but it’s not just Green Peace that say that GE crops will harm people and animals. Consider this, in 2000 a letter entitled, “An Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)” was drafted and signed by 848 scientist in 84 countries. This letter was presented to the World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle (November 30 – Dec. 2, 1999); UN Biosafety Protocol Meeting in Montreal (24 – 28, Jan. 2000); UN Commission on Sustainable Development Conference on Sustainable Agriculture in New York (April 24-May 5, 2000); UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference in Nairobi (May 16-24, 2000);and United States Congress (29 June, 2000) to name a few. The letter is in favor of banning GMO crops, and patent on life-forms. This however, is just one letter, with a handful (848) scientists representing the world from 2000. Since then, a quick search of peer-reviewed international journals, websites, and new GMO organizations will reveal that even more scientists are concerend, now than ever before.
Richard Strohman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, in Berkeley wrote a Crisis Position paper and had it published in Safe Food News in 2000. It sums up the concerns in the following few paragraphs.
“When you insert a single gene into a plant or an animal, the technology will work. You will be able to move that gene from organism A to organism B. You will be able to know that the transfer was successful. You will be able to know that the gene is being expressed, and even that the function of the gene is being expressed. So you’ll get the desired characteristic. But you will also get other effects that you couldn’t have predicted from your original assumptions. You will have also produced changes in the cell or the organism as a whole that are unpredictable. And that’s what the science is having to deal with.”
“The reason why Monsanto can claim scientific soundness is that they are only answering the technical question, ‘Can I move this gene and this characteristic from A to B?’ They are not asking the questions that the current understanding of cell biology demands. You can ask the technical question and get the answer you are looking for. You can take a gene from A and put it into B. We know that. But that’s the only question we can answer with certainty. We now realize that there are a whole host of other questions.”
“Genes exist in networks, interactive networks which have a logic of their own. The technology point of view does not deal with these networks. It simply addresses genes in isolation. But genes do not exist in isolation. And the fact that the industry folks don’t deal with these networks is what makes their science incomplete and dangerous. If you send these new genetic structures out into the world, into hundreds of thousands of acres, you’re going into the world with a premature application of a scientific principle.”
“We’re in a crisis position where we know the weakness of the genetic concept, but we don’t know how to incorporate it into a new, more complete understanding. Monsanto knows this. DuPont knows this. Novartis knows this. They all know what I know. But they don’t want to look at it because it’s too complicated and it’s going to cost too much to figure out. The number of questions, the number of possibilities for what happens to a cell, to the whole organism when you insert a foreign gene, are almost incalculable. And the time it would take to assess the infinite possibilities that arise is beyond the capabilities of computers. But that’s what you get when you’re dealing with living systems.”
The Penn and Teller show, calls the opposition, “extremists”, “dangerous”, and even “racist.” Are the 848 scientists in opposition to GMO foods, cited above, really extremists? How can this show make such a claim stating it as fact? Penns argument for this “extremist” and “racist” label is that most people who are hungry are brown, and people who are white shouldn’t block technologies that could feed them.
One way of inarticulately arguing is by using ad hominem. Ad hominem is a fallacy where a persons character is attacked or they are defamed by name calling, in an attempt to discredit their argument. The problem is that, it isn’t truthful and doesn’t support or explain the basic premise of the argument. Here Penn and Tellers argument is that by blocking the implementation of new technology that could feed people, those objecting are ultimately curbing efforts to feed starving people. Name calling the other side discredits the concerns of the anti-GMO camp. Those trying to block the technology, are arguing that the technology will have long term consequences that can backfire creating more malnutrition and an environmental disaster.
The video continues to drive this point home:
“(Activists) refuse to acknowledge that GMO crops can save the lives of millions of starving people.. its pretty easy to protest when you’re not hungry”
This ignores the global outcry against GMOs and wrongly places the opposition in affluent nations. The National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay sent an open letter on May 14 2010, to Monsanto rebuking Monsanto’s presence in Haiti, quote, “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds…, and on what is left of our environment in Haiti.” Haiti is outspoken against Monsanto, saying that it will destroy local agriculture and the economy. They are not affluent by any means.
Last week I read an article echoing these sentiments in an article published in February of this year by Slate.com. They were espousing the glories of GE Golden Rice, a rice with higher levels of Vitamin A a modern miracle to solve malnutrition” meanwhile ragging on those who attempt to block it.Heard that before?
As a counter point, I turned to the research from an international non-profit focused specifically on grain. They illuminate why so many activist, including myself are against GMO grain being another savior for starving people. GRAIN points out that,
“Malnutrition is said to be high in rice-eating populations. But these nutritional problems are not caused directly by the consumption of rice. They reflect an overall impact of multiple causative factors similar to those of other developing countries where rice is not a major staple8. Various deficiencies including zinc, vitamin C and D, folate, riboflavin, selenium and calcium occur in the context of poverty, environmental degradation, lack of public health systems and sanitation, lack of proper education and social disparity. Poverty and a lack of purchasing power is identified as a major cause of malnutrition9. These underlying issues that can never be addressed by golden rice.”
“The Green Revolution with its inherent bias towards monocultures of staple crops has led to unbalanced patterns of food production in many places. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated, variety is the key and should be the norm rather than the exception in farming systems. According to Dr. Samson Tsou of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), countries with vegetable consumption of more than 200 grams of vegetables per day do not have vitamin A deficiency as a major problem10. Although animal sources are expensive, inexpensive plant food sources are widely available. It only takes two tablespoonfuls of yellow sweet potatoes, half a cup of dark green leafy vegetables or two-thirds of a medium-sized mango in a day to meet the vitamin A requirement of a pre-school child11. This way, not only is the vitamin A requirement being addressed, but a whole range of other micronutrients as well.”
“With what has been shown so far, 300 grams of golden rice can only provide at most 20% of an adult’s daily vitamin A requirement (see graph). A child would have a lower requirement of 450 Âµg retinol as against 500-600 Âµg retinol for adults12.
Note: 300g of rice a day is way too much for a child unless obesity and diabetes is to be a solution for a lack of vitamin A. vitamin A is available in celery, tomatoes, apricots, lettuce spinach, and more vegetables, grown in these areas.. The variety of vitamin A rich plants available to grow is astonishing. So why supply vitamin A in rice only? Because this is the new model to sale.
In the Philippines, pre-school children consume less than 150 grams of rice a day. In principle then golden rice will only supply a little over 10% of the daily vitamin A needed by pre-school children. And children are the target population in this case.”
“Whether the beta-carotene contained in golden rice will be bioavailable is yet another question. Dietary fat is needed for it to be absorbed by the body. Unfortunately dietary fat is also limited in rice-eating countries and in fact is being looked at as one possible “hidden” causes of vitamin A deficiency itself13. There are also important interactions between different nutrients and minerals, which further warrants variety in food intake. Zinc deficiency, for example, may lead to an impairment of vitamin A metabolism. Disease control and hygiene, food selection and preparation will significantly influence absorption and utilisation of vitamin A (and iron). Furthermore, there has been debate over the bioconversion of beta-carotene from green leafy vegetables into vitamin A. Some reports claim that the conversion rate is less than one-quarter of what has been assumed up to now. Should this be the case, the amount of vitamin A made available from golden rice would be almost negligible.”
If one stands back and takes a look at the history, displacement, cultural changes, and nutritional sabatoge of the Green Revolution, you see some distinct trends
1. Power is transferred from the small farmer and community to consolidated large farms and agri-business interests.
2. There is a reduction in the variety of foods grown and available, and with this reduction, new health issue immerge. Fields once planted with multiple things, now are planted with one thing generally grain and those other foods have to be purchased or grown in an aside garden etc.
3. There is an increased use of chemicals to achieve unnatural results, which boost output temporarily before a farmer requires more industrial mediation (amounting to more input costs) to get the same result, and that process has a ceiling. When the ceiling is met, output begins to decline but expenses continue to rise.. Meanwhile the local water supplies are ruined with pesticides and heavy metal contamination. (but who cares because there are bottle water companies to profit from this right?)
And now a forth trend. Now that the diet has been shifted to a higher percentage of rice and wheat because of cost, subsidies, skewed interest, and the like the next market is to create patented variants of those two things, into obscurity. For example, there is a huge number of patents being filed on rice varieties now. Here are just a few:
TABLE: Examples of other nutritionally enhanced crops in the pipeline2
|Increased levels of beta-carotene in oil-seed rape||Monsanto|
|Increased bioavailable iron in rice||Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich)|
|Improving nutritive value of Andean potatoes by manipulating potato’s own genes to block natural but bitter compounds called glycoalkaloids||USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS); International Potato Center (La Molina, Peru)|
|High iron corn with less phytic acid, or phytate, than most common varieties (phytic acid is thought to reduce the body’s ability to use certain nutrients like iron)||USDA ARS|
|Low glutenin rice||Orynova (Japan Tobacco)|
|Lactoferrin-producing rice||Japan Agricultural Cooperatives|
|Ferritin-rich lettuce||Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (Japan)|
These four points lend themselves to a mantra: Displace. Reduce. Regurgitate.
Think my position here is impossible? Consider a Forbes magazine article below. BTW, Forbes is pro-Industry pro-growth magazine which is definitely not anti-Monsanto.
The Coming Boom in Agriculture
by Bill Conerly
“A coming boom in agriculture? I think so. The old way of looking at food supply and demand is giving way to a new emphasis on the changing diets of hundreds of millions of people. Those changes will substantially increase demand for grains, putting upward pressure on prices.” ………..
(What is driving the change in these diets?)
“Weather and pests cause booms and busts in agricultural production, along with a long-run trend toward greater productivity by farmers. All the action was in food supply, not food demand.”
Things are different today. Bugs and weather still affect production, but the biggest story is the growth of demand for meat by formerly-poor people around the world. Let’s begin with the grain demand of different diets. An ounce of meat takes about ten times as much grain as an ounce of grain eaten directly. Those animals have to be fed, after all. The exact ratio depends on the type of grain, the type of meat, the location of production, but the number is fairly huge in its impact.
If I have a good year, with lots of companies calling me for help with their business plans, I don’t consume more calories. I might spend more on filet mignon and less on hamburger. But I’m not the guy who’s moving the market. Go to India, China, Indonesia. There are many millions of people moving from poverty into the middle class, or what is the middle class in their context. With higher incomes they are spending more on food. In some cases they are adding calories, but in many cases they are shifting from grains and vegetables to add chicken, pork and beef to their diets.
Let’s say that a family on a path from poverty to middle class has increased it’s income by five percent (inflation-adjusted). They would typically increase food spending by about four percent. A large portion of that four percent gain would go for more meat. And meat has that 10-to-1 ratio of grain demands. Our newly middle class family may be spending only four percent more on food, but it could have triggered a 40 percent increase in demand for grains.
We all know that the world is getting richer, but the numbers are pretty dramatic. One estimate shows the middle class around the world increased by 700 million people from 2000 through 2006. That’s huge. The global recession obviously reversed the trend temporarily, but further global growth will push middle class numbers up by another billion or so people. That’s a lot more meat to be consumed and an incredibly larger demand for grain.
Unless you believe that the emerging countries are going to turn around and head back to the stone age, you have to believe that demand for grain will rise disproportionately. But what about supply?
Agricultural supply improvement has been the dominant trend for centuries. The green revolution in the 1950s and ‘60s is a big part of the story, but the dismantling of communal farming is also hugely important.
When Deng Xiaoping allowed Chinese communal farmers to divvy up their land into family plots, incomes quadrupled in less than a generation. That more than anything else set up China for rapid economic development. How much farther can productivity increase? In the Western world, productivity will increase as seeds and fertilizers and farming methods improve. That’s a slow process when the farm is already at the cutting edge of productivity. It’s much easier to boost output when your current methods are antiquated. So the real question is how much yields can grow in the emerging countries.
Already China’s output per hectare (the metric unit of area measurement) is higher than the United States’s output. That may be partly due to climate and soil, but cheap labor plays a major role. When labor is cheap, each weed can be pulled by hand. As labor gets more expensive, farming methods will become a little less productive on a per-hectare basis (though far more productive on a per-person basis). Rising labor costs are already challenging manufacturers in China. Challenges for farmers will be next.
In short, I doubt that global agricultural production will keep pace with the demand that will occur at current price levels. So prices will rise. Not every single year, but on average over the next couple of decades, look for higher and higher grain prices.
“Livestock, in contrast to crop farming, is a business about margins. Selling prices will rise, as will the cost of buying grain to feed the animals. On average, livestock will be an OK business, but it will not benefit as dramatically as grain production.”
“Does anyone else see this coming? Certainly they do, though perhaps not in full detail. The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank says that farmland values in their area have risen by 25 percent in the past year. Other areas of the country are showing similar gains.”
Hunger, is not a result of a lack of technology. Hunger is the result of a twist of priorities. It has nothing to do with anti or pro GMO activists, or a lack of money, food or resources. THAT IS A MYTH. As the previous Forbes analysis outlined, a shift to a meat diet in rising middle classes all over the world is creating the need for grain, which in turn is raising the price of grain. More grain goes to feed cattle now than people! Do you really think the Green Revolution was about growing wheat and rice to feed brown people or the cow for the middle class plate? You decide.
Perhaps the most disturbing requote from that article is “but the dismantling of communal farming is also hugely important” (to growth in the agricultural industy. I think to myself, why would people give up their way of living for the glittery temptations of Babylon? When one sales their farmland that was feeding their family for a finite amount, one now has to buy food, from that point onward. One has to rent from that point onward. Was the scooter? The lipstick? The tight shorts, and cheap sweets really worth it? In walks a new kind of poverty, poverty by design. This story plays out all over the world and the story plays out according to plan. Divide and conquer. Dismantle communal plots for familial plots, then dismantle those by selling a brave new glittery (and urban) world to their children, by soaking them in TV wants, and Coca Cola (addicting them forever to refined sugar), and “you’ve got em” and their land.
“Hunger” is not designed to be solved
- According to the airforce website, a B2 bomber costs 1.25 Billion dollars.
- 1.3 tons of food is wasted annually, from all parts of the food chain, which makes up about one third of the global food supply.
I’ve written many articles on this blog describing the sinister nature in which the “machine of progress” tramples and displaces millions from their land and will ask my readers to watch P.Sainath’s Nero’s Guest or read some other articles on this post to get the information. But the real question, since the assumption is that these great technologies are helping save people from starvation, is how well is this panacea of farming technology actually helping those “brown people,” anyway?
If you think simple solutions, such as a GM crop will suddenly and magically feed the world, consider the complexity of the world we live in today. According to NBC (not the most trusted news source),” 1.5 million children stand to starve in West Africa.” And “during its financial crisis Greece has received a hundred times more from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) than Niger during the last few years.” It fails to mention in that article that small and big farmers started heading south to Niger to escape attacks from the Boko Haram insurgency a band of Islamic extremists. Then a flood came. A Big Flood. What do you do in this situation? GE crops won’t solve these issues. One might be draught tolerant, but not tolerant to floods, and no crop is tolerant to insurgent attacks, burning down fields, and making farmers flee. And to be fair, organic farming won’t solve these issues either. However, it does take a layer of complexity out of the situation, and release farmers from having to pay back loans that they took out to buy their GE seeds when their harvest goes down to an act of violence or act of God. Take a look at what IS happening, not what you are told should happen.
“According to writer Gautam Dheer (3), agriculture in Punjab (the ‘Green Revolution’s’ original poster boy) is facing an inevitable crisis, in terms of pesticide use causing cancer, falling crop yields and groundwater depletion. And now evidence is mounting that the Green Revolution’s second coming can’t provide genuine solutions to the problems it has created through its GMOs either.”
“A recent report in Business Standard (4) stated that Bt cotton yields have dropped to a five-year low. India approved Bt cotton in 2002 and within a few years yields increased dramatically. However, Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, has noted (5) that most of the rise in productivity had nothing at all to do with Bt cotton. It was down to other factors.”
“What’s more, since Bt has taken over, yields have been steadily worsening. According to the article, bollworms are developing resistance. Stone says when Bt cotton arrived in India, farmers were told all they had to do was plant the seeds and water them regularly. They were told that, as the genetically modified seeds are insect resistant, there was no need to use huge amounts of pesticides. The opposite is true.”
“Stone says that yields started dropping after 2007/8. After 2006/7, the number of Bt hybrid seeds being offered to farmers jumped from 62 to 131 to 274; by 2009/10 there were 522. Despite this, farmers’ yields are steadily dropping. And the way forward – more of the same. The failing technology can always be replaced with more technology that tries to offer a short-term fix. It’s all good for profits though. And this against a backdrop of reports of widespread collapsed Bt-cotton yields in Maharashtra at the end of last year (6).”
“Given the bogus claims about GMOs, the health concerns concerning GM foods and that 8,456 legitimate protestors (by late January) have been charged with sedition in Koodankulam, it begs the question just who is really benefiting from these two so-called ‘frontier’ technologies? With the US having sanctioned the opening up of India’s nuclear energy sector and, in return, its agribusiness and retail giants having actively shaped the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, India is proving to be a financially lucrative proposition for international retail, agribusiness and nuclear technology companies.”
“Everybody is entitled their opinions, but not to their own facts. Scientific evidence must prevail. That much is true. Such a pity then that democratic debate is sidelined for brute force in Koodankulam; such a pity too that certain major biotech companies have a track record of releasing fake ‘scientific’ data, bribery, environmental pollution, devising retaliatory lists, smear campaigns and misinformation.”
“Those who claim to be ‘scientific’ and democratic in their approach but who then go on to smear their opponents as being backward, unscientific or as waging a war on science may wish to put their own houses in order first.”
“Public trust in private corporations, science and policy makers has to be earned. The hijacking of governmental bodies for commercial gain alongside mendacity should have no place in policy making or in attempting to shape scientific discourse. Neither should they have any place in pushing some profit-driven notion of ‘progress’ onto the public. ” ( Source: Center for Research on Globalization, article ” Countering Hypocrisy: GMO Agribusiness and Nuclear Energy in India. by Colin Todhunter Global Research, April 29, 2013)
The Penn and Teller piece praises Norman Bourlog as a hero, and he is no doubt a man with great achievements. You don’t earn the Nobel Peace Prize by sitting on your bum. I truly believe his heart and intent was from a good place. He saw hunger as a production issue and created a high yielding dwarf variety of wheat thinking, as many did, that producing more wheat would solve hunger. Did it? Sadly, though the dwarf variety produced more, and proliferated wildly, it did so with decreased mineral content, in a monoculture.
One can do a quick experiment to find out some of why productivity increased. Draw one box, label it box 1 with five squares inside. One smaller box for potatoes, one for onions, one for carrots, one for wheat, one for lettuce and one open with nothing planted. Now draw another box, and label it box 2. This whole box, box 2 is wheat. If all you are growing is wheat, wheat production goes up doesn’t it – get it? That’s not to say that the dwarf variety of wheat didn’t produce more wheat per acre. Yes, it did. It just didn’t produce the brown people saving panacea that it was marketed to. Why? Because it wasn’t design to.
We still have hunger, and with it, we have many millions more who are overweight from malnutrition. If that seems like a oxymoron, but sadly it’s not. Weight, is not a sole indicator of how much nutrition you are getting, it is an indication that there is an imbalance in the body. Currently, developing and developed countries have diets rich in too many simple carbohydrates, too much meat, and much less exercise. Just two generations ago, it was common for people to participate in their food production, exercising (building strength and immunity) while doing so. There were also a wider variety of foods. Food was seasonable, thus, in the Appalachian region for example, ramps came in the spring, berries and fruit in the summer and squashes late summer to fall just in time for storing mineral rich starches. The sensible approach of eating what was available kept waist lines slimmer.
With monocultures, you get booms in corn, wheat sugar and soy (all subsidized). The food industry takes the big four, and formulates them into all sorts of shapes, sizes and packages, giving the consumer the false sense that they have choice. But what choice? Most packaged food today is made of corn oil, corn syrup, soy, soy bean oil, wheat, and sugar. However, when people ate in season, and regionally their chances of gaining weight from one dominant food was much less.
“For the first time in human history, the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people, according to a forthcoming report from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based research organization. While the world’s underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion.”
“Both the overweight and the underweight suffer from malnutrition, a deficiency or excess in a person’s intake of nutrients and other dietary elements needed for healthy living. “The hungry and the overweight share high levels of sickness and disability, shortened life expectancies, and lower levels of productivity-each of which is a drag on a country’s development,” said Gary Gardner, co-author with Brian Halweil of Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition.”
“The public health impact is enormous: more than half of the world’s disease burden-measured in “years of healthy life lost”-is attributable to hunger, overeating, and widespread vitamin and mineral deficiencies. “The century with the greatest potential to eliminate malnutrition instead saw it boosted to record levels,” said Gardner.”
“The number of hungry people remains high in a world of food surpluses. In the developing world, there are 150 million underweight children, nearly one in three. And in Africa, both the share and the absolute number of children who are underweight are on the rise.”
“Meanwhile, the population of overweight people has expanded rapidly in recent decades, more than offsetting the health gains from the modest decline in hunger. In the United States, 55 percent of adults are overweight by international standards. A whopping 23 percent of American adults are considered obese. And the trend is spreading to children as well, with one in five American kids now classified as overweight. Liposuction is now the leading form of cosmetic surgery in the United States, for example, at 400,000 operations per year.”
“Surprisingly, overweight and obesity are advancing rapidly in the developing world as well. “Often, nations have simply traded hunger for obesity, and diseases of poverty for diseases of excess,” said co-author Brian Halweil. Still struggling to eradicate infectious diseases, many developing nations’ health care systems could be impaired by growing caseloads of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.” Source: World Watch Institute, Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition. March 2000 Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil ISBN: 1-878071-52-1 68 pages)
Penn and Teller BS show, goes on to say that the reason people in developing countries can’t feed themselves isn’t because they don’t have soil and water and sun, its because they don’t have hybrid plants, and technology.
What do you think? Hybrid plants are not the same as GMO plants. Hybrid plants work within intraspecies lines. One can mix one tomato plant with another to breed for favored traits. That is much different from splicing a piece of genetic code from a daffodil and bacteria into a soy plant. Nature has protective architecture in each species cell wall that keeps interspecies mingling from happening for all sorts of sensible reasons. Imagine a human mating with an elephant, and then trying to give birth to the offspring!
Every farmer on this planet can create a hybrid planet with some pollen and good timing. They do not require a molecular scientist to be successful. This requires seed saving, and the ability for farmers to not fear that their farm-made varieties will compete with the patent of Agribusinesses who have patented a similar variety. So Penn, I’m sorry, you are just plain wrong, people in developing countries do have hybrid plants and varieties fit to their bioregion.
One final point about dishing out technology (GMO technology) to these “developing countries”. With GMOs there has been no long-term testing, in the form of feeding studies or other, to justify the release of a technology that can profoundly change the genetic make up of our food supply on the planet. In my opinion, if GMO technology was truly about solving the ills of hunger long-term, instead of making profit in the short-term, the moral compass of the industry would have put the brakes on release for respect for the lives that aren’t hungry as well as those who are – your life my life and the life of the hungry on this planet.
Penn ends his rant by saying, “Unless you are starving, you need to shut the fuck up.” I laughed at this, it’s like the large well fed American actor is talking to himself.
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