Debunked: March against Monsanto campaign

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
Off topic for this thread but it is possible to hold conflicting ideals, I certainly do. As a generalisation I myself am anti capitalist but I am a realist and pragmatic about my views. I don't like the philosophy of the corporations (i.e. making money) but I accept it as a fact and move on.

Anyway, I think you are simplifying the sides in the GM debate. To be anti GM does not mean you are organic although it seems most of the arguments come from organic farmers. I do have a general anti-GM stance (yeah it may not seem it) but I am far from being totally pro-organic as I believe chemicals do have a place in agriculture.

Sorry, reading that back it all sounds like total pants.
Major choices with seeds are, GMO, hybrid and heirloom. It is about market share between those seed types. Most, not all but most, everything I've read so far on the anti-GMO/Mansanto is hype to gain market share. Doesn't matter if someone says GMOs are bad or patents on seeds will be bad or Mansanto will have a monopoly. It is all about market share! Getting rid of GMOs or keeping them but not patenting them or getting rid of Mansanto will not stop corporations from making money.

I just need more than, they make you sign a contract to be worried. Farmers are smart, they have lawyers, they talk to other farmers. If these contracts will end up hurting farmers they will know and not sign them.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
I think that what might be seen as holding "conflicting ideals" is really just admitting the complexity of the situation - and as you say the practical reality that comes with that complexity. I'm anti-abortion, but I'm pro-choice. Seems like a conflict yet these are just simple labels that can't encompass the entire picture. I think it would be ideal if there were no abortions, but I don't think that making it illegal is a good thing.

Labels like anti-capitalist, pro-organic, and anti-GMO often serve to hide the complexity of a situation. One should always try to avoid applying a label to someone, especially if they have not used that label themselves.

I am glad you mentioned about abortion. It was the exactly what I was thinking as an example (and probably hold similar views to you) but I avoid any discussion of the subject. I agree that labels should be avoided, unless the person labels themselves, but unfortunately one can be drawn into using them for simplification, especially on the internet.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
Major choices with seeds are, GMO, hybrid and heirloom. It is about market share between those seed types. Most, not all but most, everything I've read so far on the anti-GMO/Mansanto is hype to gain market share. Doesn't matter if someone says GMOs are bad or patents on seeds will be bad or Mansanto will have a monopoly. It is all about market share! Getting rid of GMOs or keeping them but not patenting them or getting rid of Mansanto will not stop corporations from making money.

I just need more than, they make you sign a contract to be worried. Farmers are smart, they have lawyers, they talk to other farmers. If these contracts will end up hurting farmers they will know and not sign them.

Excellent point about the farmers. May I ask where you are? I know in the UK it looks like there is going to be a move over the next few years to promote GM crops. Now there are many vectors to look at but namely the supermarkets and they look at the consumers. From what I see the supermarkets strangle the price of a harvest. If they shift for GN to be acceptable the farmer will feel the pressure. But with GM labelling is the consumer going to buy the goods?

A good thing about these forums is that the debate does become global rather than local :)
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
Labels like anti-capitalist, pro-organic, and anti-GMO often serve to hide the complexity of a situation. One should always try to avoid applying a label to someone, especially if they have not used that label themselves.
I agree and need to learn to better explain what I'm trying to get across without labeling. But the underlying fight, whether you invest your fight against GMOs, Mansanto or patents on seeds, just to give a few examples, is market share. All natural vs unnatural and which industry can earn more money.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
I agree and need to learn to better explain what I'm trying to get across without labeling. But the underlying fight, whether you invest your fight against GMOs, Mansanto or patents on seeds, just to give a few examples, is market share. All natural vs unnatural and which industry can earn more money.

I tend to agree although I will accept that altruism is a wonderful concept but most people have the need or money. There is a great deal of public funded research going on here for open source seeds. Once released someone will make money from it as at the end of the day few farmers are subsistence farmers and produce cash crops. A farmer producing for seeds needs to be rewarded in some way. But does it come down to money or the longevity and sustainability of his farm

Just for clarity. I have an issue with GM food crops. However I have no issue with patents on genes in seeds etc as I understand the costs of R&D to bring that forward.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
Excellent point about the farmers. May I ask where you are? I know in the UK it looks like there is going to be a move over the next few years to promote GM crops. Now there are many vectors to look at but namely the supermarkets and they look at the consumers. From what I see the supermarkets strangle the price of a harvest. If they shift for GN to be acceptable the farmer will feel the pressure. But with GM labelling is the consumer going to buy the goods?

A good thing about these forums is that the debate does become global rather than local :)
I live in Georgia, have been for past 8 years. Lived in California for 30. Grew up in the middle of cherry, apricot, and almond orchards. The thing I miss most about California is the fresh produce. Labeling of GM food products is just a way to gain market share. Could the reluctance of the UK and Europe to adopt GMOs be based on those countries (at least the governments) wanting to develop their own products instead of relying on foreign suppliers?
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
I live in Georgia, have been for past 8 years. Lived in California for 30. Grew up in the middle of cherry, apricot, and almond orchards. The thing I miss most about California is the fresh produce. Labeling of GM food products is just a way to gain market share. Could the reluctance of the UK and Europe to adopt GMOs be based on those countries (at least the governments) wanting to develop their own products instead of relying on foreign suppliers?

What about GM food crops do you have an issue with?

I have mentioned earlier that when GM crops where introduced I was in Greenpeace and used to go around stomping crops. The EU and our Government was heavily leaning to the pro side and to submit to public pressure. GM crops where banned for a while and then labelling was brought in. Customers refused to buy food labelled as GM so the supermarkets stopped stocking them, problem solved.

My issue is purely with biodiversity and GM food crops. I specify food crops as they are open agriculture even though we have a lot growing under glass. As a generalisation our fields are small compared to some I have seen in the US, and they are bordered by hedgerows. I don't know if you ever read Beatrix Potter but most the animals use hedgerows for something. Many are hundreds of years old and need some protection. We have a lot of species with the potential to be contaminated and that needs to be looked at. Without biodiversity we are shagged.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
I have mentioned earlier that when GM crops where introduced I was in Greenpeace and used to go around stomping crops. The EU and our Government was heavily leaning to the pro side and to submit to public pressure. GM crops where banned for a while and then labelling was brought in. Customers refused to buy food labelled as GM so the supermarkets stopped stocking them, problem solved.

My issue is purely with biodiversity and GM food crops. I specify food crops as they are open agriculture even though we have a lot growing under glass. As a generalisation our fields are small compared to some I have seen in the US, and they are bordered by hedgerows. I don't know if you ever read Beatrix Potter but most the animals use hedgerows for something. Many are hundreds of years old and need some protection. We have a lot of species with the potential to be contaminated and that needs to be looked at. Without biodiversity we are shagged.
The development of GM crops that have the potential to reduce pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers thus helping promote biodiversity of surrounding wildlife.

Maybe I'm confusing biodiversity with wildlife conservation though.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
This isn't quite the same thing, but I feel it is related. Many jewelry artists will write up and sell a 'tutorial' on how to make a specific design. It is rare for a tutorial to allow it's use for resale or even in teaching a class. Some of them will limit how many you may make, some will not allow any thing made from it to be sold. You have to AGREE to those rules before you download it. It is your choice. I will not download the ones that do not allow any sales. I rarely make anything exactly like a tutorial, but I don't want to infringe on someone's idea.

If I buy fabric with NFL logos, or Disney images or Coke or many others, I can use that fabric to make something for myself or for a gift, but I am not allowed to sell it, even though I have the RIGHT to use it.

To me that seems a lot like the seed saving issue.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
The development of GM crops that have the potential to reduce pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers thus helping promote biodiversity of surrounding wildlife.

Maybe I'm confusing biodiversity with wildlife conservation though.

It is down to cross contamination [cross wheat and natural grasses] Ours fields are small and rely on hedgerows, especially for pollinators etc. Our hedgerows are developed by man but do we need to remove them???Jazzy said in a different thread that mutation happens naturally and he is right but I want proof.

But and I do say BUT the situation in the UK is totally different to the US never mind the EU
 

Grieves

Senior Member
I'm anti-abortion, but I'm pro-choice. Seems like a conflict yet these are just simple labels that can't encompass the entire picture.
I don't think its a conflict by any stretch to acknowledge your personal feelings on a subject don't entitle you to demand the consensus of others. I hold the same position; abortion seems to me a highly unfortunate and at times even a repulsive act, but at the same time it's none of my business, and my opinion should have absolutely no bearing on the rights of others in regard to their own bodies/lives/personal choices.

Getting rid of GMOs or keeping them but not patenting them or getting rid of Mansanto will not stop corporations from making money.
Stopping corporations from making money isn't the issue to me, it's stopping one/a small group of corporations from gaining an inordinate level of influence over global food markets, something they of course are actively seeking and to an extent already have. The current legal framework surrounding GMOs encourages and facilitates this effort, rather than keeping it in check and keeping things fair for smaller start-ups.
And I apologize to Grieves for implying he is paranoid!
I appreciate that. The 'cook' card gets played far too often, and doesn't have much footing in our discussion on this issue.

I just need more than, they make you sign a contract to be worried.
It's what the contract contains, from the requirement of private arbitration in the event of an issue (meaning that if Monsanto screws you over in some way, which even the most benign corporations can sometimes do to folks, your contract obliges you to deal with them and their arbitrators for a resolution rather than a court of law) to their 'seed saving' policies. I understand the business angle entirely, and it's quite brilliant/would even be acceptable to me if it was in regard to most any other product, but a contractual and legal obligation not to engage in conservation where agriculture is concerned makes no solid sense to me. Cunning business practices like planned obsolescence have no place in the sphere of hunger so far as I'm concerned. New seed may be superior, but if a farmer makes the choice or can only afford to sow the seeds of a crop he's paid for last year and has worked hard to grow, I don't think anyone should have the right to call that a crime.

I found this. Maybe Mansanto has simular reasons for adopting contracts with its buyers?
http://www.kussmaulseeds.com/about/saved-seed.html
They certainly should, given Kaussmaul Seeds is a vendor of Monsanto products. Not exactly an unbiased outlook.

We have a lot of species with the potential to be contaminated and that needs to be looked at. Without biodiversity we are shagged.
Indeed. Unfortunately industrial farming has considerably more clout with governments than those interested in the conservation of biodiversity. The BC wild salmon scandal going on right now is a good example of how industry, with the help of government, is actively suppressing science and data to protect the export-market, while a keystone species suffers as a result.
To me that seems a lot like the seed saving issue.
Excepting that jewelry is an inanimate luxury which serves no vital function, and food-producing plants are a living, vital necessity, of course.

If I buy fabric with NFL logos, or Disney images or Coke or many others, I can use that fabric to make something for myself or for a gift, but I am not allowed to sell it, even though I have the RIGHT to use it.
Then why isn't antiques roadshow out of business for all its patent violation? Patent exhaustion occurs with most products as soon as they're purchased, which is why garage sales/ebay/kijiji are all legal. People trade and re-sell patented products all the time. Patent exhaustion (or the lack thereof) in regard to planting/agriculture is something of an aberration.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
It is down to cross contamination [cross wheat and natural grasses] Ours fields are small and rely on hedgerows, especially for pollinators etc. Our hedgerows are developed by man but do we need to remove them???Jazzy said in a different thread that mutation happens naturally and he is right but I want proof.

But and I do say BUT the situation in the UK is totally different to the US never mind the EU
Here is some info on pollen drift and preventing cross contamination.
http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0153.html
Isolation and Border RowsOne of the most effective methods for preventing pollen contamination is use of a separation or isolation distance to limit exposure of non-GMO corn fields from pollen of GMO fields. The potential for cross-pollination decreases as the distance between GMO and non-GMO corn fields increases. Several state seed certification agencies that offer IP grain programs for corn programs require that non-GMO IP corn be planted at a distance of at least 660 ft. from any GMO corn. This isolation distance requirement may be modified by removing varying numbers of non-GMO border rows, the number of which is to be determined by the acreage of the non-GMO IP corn field. The border rows ensure that the non-GMO field is "flooded" with non-GMO pollen which will dilute adventitious pollen from a GMO source.
Content from External Source
Mutation happens naturally with all types of life.
http://dendrome.ucdavis.edu/ctgn/files/Vol_03_print.pdf
Mutation is the origin of all new genetic diversity,
occurring when there are occasional errors in the
replication of DNA or other elements of the production
and packaging of genetic information within the cells.
Content from External Source
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
On the fabric, it has printed on the selvege, Not to be used for commercial uses. Many patterns are the same way. It is an implied contract.

When you buy a Louis Vuitton bag, there is no implied contract to not resell it. You are prevented from making a copy of it.

It is the same because what is at the base of both, is intellectual property rights.
 

lotek

Active Member
As a farmer who is active on social media, I’ve seen a lot of posts online about how corporations control farms or how farmers are slaves to “Big Ag.” Some people claim we are beholden to companies and must sign unfair contracts to be privileged enough to use their biotech seed. They also claim the contracts rope us into buying other inputs like pesticides and herbicides from the same company.Others make claims about how family farmers are treated by big corporations that they see as enemies of nature, monopolizing agriculture and ruthless in their greed. It’s easy to misunderstand something if you aren’t directly involved.

We get a lot of our seed from big corporations like the so-called "evil" Monsanto, Pioneer and others, meaning I have first-hand experience raising a crop under such an agreement. In hopes of clarifying the matter and fostering honest dialogue, I posted a copy of an actual technology agreement I signed, so others may see how we are able to operate our farm in the manner Dad, Grandpa and I choose.

The website for Farm Aid - a a non-profit group that champions family farms - poses the question, "What does GE (genetic engineering) mean for family farmers?" The text goes on to say:
Content from External Source


http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2013/01/17/opinion-my-family-farm-isnt-under-corporate-control/?hpt=hp_t2


MAM st louis included my name in a list of people(first and last) on facebook they considered disinfo agents/trolls/people to be targeted and posted it on their info page. a mod then made memes about an debunker being a pedo. real classy guys here. it was deleted and cleaned up eventually, but still..
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
That is typical of the anti business folks. Before the abuse I have suffered at their hands, I was a lot more receptive to what they say.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2013/01/17/opinion-my-family-farm-isnt-under-corporate-control/?hpt=hp_t2[/URL]

I found this on that blog---I find it a powerful comment for GM crops---It is long, but very worth reading

Mark Lynas – Oxford Farming Conference -1-3-13
I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

For me this anti-science environmentalism became increasingly inconsistent with my pro-science environmentalism with regard to climate change. I published my first book on global warming in 2004, and I was determined to make it scientifically credible rather than just a collection of anecdotes.

So I had to back up the story of my trip to Alaska with satellite data on sea ice, and I had to justify my pictures of disappearing glaciers in the Andes with long-term records of mass balance of mountain glaciers. That meant I had to learn how to read scientific papers, understand basic statistics and become literate in very different fields from oceanography to paleoclimate, none of which my degree in politics and modern history helped me with a great deal.

I found myself arguing constantly with people who I considered to be incorrigibly anti-science, because they wouldn’t listen to the climatologists and denied the scientific reality of climate change. So I lectured them about the value of peer-review, about the importance of scientific consensus and how the only facts that mattered were the ones published in the most distinguished scholarly journals.

My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.

Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly-changing climate.

Let’s unpack this a bit. I know in a previous year’s lecture in this conference there was the topic of population growth. This area too is beset by myths. People think that high rates of fertility in the developing world are the big issue – in other words, poor people are having too many children, and we therefore need either family planning or even something drastic like mass one-child policies.

The reality is that global average fertility is down to about 2.5 – and if you consider that natural replacement is 2.2, this figure is not much above that. So where is the massive population growth coming from? It is coming because of declining infant mortality – more of today’s youngsters are growing up to have their own children rather than dying of preventable diseases in early childhood.

The rapid decline in infant mortality rates is one of the best news stories of our decade and the heartland of this great success story is sub-Saharan Africa. It’s not that there are legions more children being born – in fact, in the words of Hans Rosling, we are already at ‘peak child’. That is, about 2 billion children are alive today, and there will never be more than that because of declining fertility.

But so many more of these 2 billion children will survive into adulthood today to have their own children. They are the parents of the young adults of 2050. That’s the source of the 9.5 billion population projection for 2050. You don’t have to have lost a child, God forbid, or even be a parent, to know that declining infant mortality is a good thing.

So how much food will all these people need? According to the latest projections, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we are looking at a global demand increase of well over 100% by mid-century. This is almost entirely down to GDP growth, especially in developing countries.

In other words, we need to produce more food not just to keep up with population but because poverty is gradually being eradicated, along with the widespread malnutrition that still today means close to 800 million people go to bed hungry each night. And I would challenge anyone in a rich country to say that this GDP growth in poor countries is a bad thing.

But as a result of this growth we have very serious environmental challenges to tackle. Land conversion is a large source of greenhouse gases, and perhaps the greatest source of biodiversity loss. This is another reason why intensification is essential – we have to grow more on limited land in order to save the rainforests and remaining natural habitats from the plough.

We also have to deal with limited water – not just depleting aquifers but also droughts that are expected to strike with increasing intensity in the agricultural heartlands of continents thanks to climate change. If we take more water from rivers we accelerate biodiversity loss in these fragile habitats.

We also need to better manage nitrogen use: artificial fertiliser is essential to feed humanity, but its inefficient use means dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and many coastal areas around the world, as well as eutrophication in fresh water ecosystems.

It is not enough to sit back and hope that technological innovation will solve our problems. We have to be much more activist and strategic than that. We have to ensure that technological innovation moves much more rapidly, and in the right direction for those who most need it.

In a sense we’ve been here before. When Paul Ehrlich published the Population Bomb in 1968, he wrote: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” The advice was explicit – in basket-case countries like India, people might as well starve sooner rather than later, and therefore food aid to them should be eliminated to reduce population growth.

It was not pre-ordained that Ehrlich would be wrong. In fact, if everyone had heeded his advice hundreds of millions of people might well have died needlessly. But in the event, malnutrition was cut dramatically, and India became food self-sufficient, thanks to Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution.

It is important to recall that Borlaug was equally as worried about population growth as Ehrlich. He just thought it was worth trying to do something about it. He was a pragmatist because he believed in doing what was possible, but he was also an idealist because he believed that people everywhere deserved to have enough to eat.

So what did Norman Borlaug do? He turned to science and technology. Humans are a tool-making species – from clothes to ploughs, technology is primarily what distinguishes us from other apes. And much of this work was focused on the genome of major domesticated crops – if wheat, for example, could be shorter and put more effort into seed-making rather than stalks, then yields would improve and grain loss due to lodging would be minimised.

Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.

It now costs tens of millions to get a crop through the regulatory systems in different countries. In fact the latest figures I’ve just seen from CropLife suggest it costs $139 million to move from discovering a new crop trait to full commercialisation, so open-source or public sector biotech really does not stand a chance.

There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about.

In the EU the system is at a standstill, and many GM crops have been waiting a decade or more for approval but are permanently held up by the twisted domestic politics of anti-biotech countries like France and Austria. Around the whole world the regulatory delay has increased to more than 5 and a half years now, from 3.7 years back in 2002. The bureaucratic burden is getting worse.

France, remember, long refused to accept the potato because it was an American import. As one commentator put it recently, Europe is on the verge of becoming a food museum. We well-fed consumers are blinded by romantic nostalgia for the traditional farming of the past. Because we have enough to eat, we can afford to indulge our aesthetic illusions.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journal Nature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

To quote Norman Borlaug again: “I now say that the world has the technology — either available or well advanced in the research pipeline — to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called ‘organic’ methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.”

As Borlaug was saying, perhaps the most pernicious myth of all is that organic production is better, either for people or the environment. The idea that it is healthier has been repeatedly disproved in the scientific literature. We also know from many studies that organic is much less productive, with up to 40-50% lower yields in terms of land area. The Soil Association went to great lengths in a recent report on feeding the world with organic not to mention this productivity gap.

Nor did it mention that overall, if you take into account land displacement effects, organic is also likely worse for biodiversity. Instead they talk about an ideal world where people in the west eat less meat and fewer calories overall so that people in developing countries can have more. This is simplistic nonsense.

If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.

It doesn’t even apply this idea consistently however. I was reading in a recent Soil Association magazine that it is OK to blast weeds with flamethrowers or fry them with electric currents, but benign herbicides like glyphosate are still a no-no because they are ‘artificial chemicals’.

In reality there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment – quite the opposite in fact. Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and colleagues at Rockefeller University looked at how much extra farmland Indian farmers would have had to cultivate today using the technologies of 1961 to get today’s overall yield. The answer is 65 million hectares, an area the size of France.

In China, maize farmers spared 120 million hectares, an area twice the size of France, thanks to modern technologies getting higher yields. On a global scale, between 1961 and 2010 the area farmed grew by only 12%, whilst kilocalories per person rose from 2200 to 2800. So even with three billion more people, everyone still had more to eat thanks to a production increase of 300% in the same period.

So how much land worldwide was spared in the process thanks to these dramatic yield improvements, for which chemical inputs played a crucial role? The answer is 3 billion hectares, or the equivalent of two South Americas. There would have been no Amazon rainforest left today without this improvement in yields. Nor would there be any tigers in India or orang utans in Indonesia. That is why I don’t know why so many of those opposing the use of technology in agriculture call themselves environmentalists.

So where does this opposition come from? There seems to be a widespread assumption that modern technology equals more risk. Actually there are many very natural and organic ways to face illness and early death, as the debacle with Germany’s organic beansprouts proved in 2011. This was a public health catastrophe, with the same number of deaths and injuries as were caused by Chernobyl, because E.-coli probably from animal manure infected organic beansprout seeds imported from Egypt.

In total 53 people died and 3,500 suffered serious kidney failure. And why were these consumers choosing organic? Because they thought it was safer and healthier, and they were more scared of entirely trivial risks from highly-regulated chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

If you look at the situation without prejudice, much of the debate, both in terms of anti-biotech and organic, is simply based on the naturalistic fallacy – the belief that natural is good, and artificial is bad. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of entirely natural poisons and ways to die, as the relatives of those who died from E.-coli poisoning would tell you.

For organic, the naturalistic fallacy is elevated into the central guiding principle for an entire movement. This is irrational and we owe it to the Earth and to our children to do better.

This is not to say that organic farming has nothing to offer – there are many good techniques which have been developed, such as intercropping and companion planting, which can be environmentally very effective, even it they do tend to be highly labour-intensive. Principles of agro-ecology such as recyling nutrients and promoting on-farm diversity should also be taken more seriously everywhere.

But organic is in the way of progress when it refuses to allow innovation. Again using GM as the most obvious example, many third-generation GM crops allow us not to use environmentally-damaging chemicals because the genome of the crop in question has been altered so the plant can protect itself from pests. Why is that not organic?

Organic is also in the way when it is used to take away choice from others. One of the commonest arguments against GM is that organic farmers will be ‘contaminated’ with GM pollen, and therefore no-one should be allowed to use it. So the rights of a well-heeled minority, which come down ultimately to a consumer preference based on aesthetics, trump the rights of everyone else to use improved crops which would benefit the environment.

I am all for a world of diversity, but that means one farming system cannot claim to have a monopoly of virtue and aim at excluding all other options. Why can’t we have peaceful co-existence? This is particularly the case when it shackles us to old technologies which have higher inherent risks than the new.

It seems like almost everyone has to pay homage to ‘organic’ and to question this orthodoxy is unthinkable. Well I am here to question it today.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. Let me give you two examples, both regrettably involving Greenpeace.

Last year Greenpeace destroyed a GM wheat crop in Australia, for all the traditional reasons, which I am very familiar with having done it myself. This was publicly funded research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific Research institute, but no matter. They were against it because it was GM and unnatural.

What few people have since heard is that one of the other trials being undertaken, which Greenpeace activists with their strimmers luckily did not manage to destroy, accidentally found a wheat yield increase of an extraordinary 30%. Just think. This knowledge might never have been produced at all, if Greenpeace had succeeded in destroying this innovation. As the president of the NFU Peter Kendall recently suggeseted, this is analogous to burning books in a library before anyone has been able to read them.

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the Greenpeace press release were publicly hounded and have since lost their jobs, and in an autocratic country like China they are at serious personal risk. Internationally because of over-regulation golden rice has already been on the shelf for over a decade, and thanks to the activities of groups like Greenpeace it may never become available to vitamin-deficient poor people.

This to my mind is immoral and inhumane, depriving the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away who are in no danger from Vitamin A shortage. Greenpeace is a $100-million a year multinational, and as such it has moral responsibilities just like any other large company.

The fact that golden rice was developed in the public sector and for public benefit cuts no ice with the antis. Take Rothamsted Research, whose director Maurice Moloney is speaking tomorrow. Last year Rothamsted began a trial of an aphid-resistant GM wheat which would need no pesticides to combat this serious pest.

Because it is GM the antis were determined to destroy it. They failed because of the courage of Professor John Pickett and his team, who took to YouTube and the media to tell the important story of why their research mattered and why it should not be trashed. They gathered thousands of signatures on a petition when the antis could only manage a couple of hundred, and the attempted destruction was a damp squib.

One intruder did manage to scale the fence, however, who turned out to be the perfect stereotypical anti-GM protestor – an old Etonian aristocrat whose colourful past makes our Oxford local Marquess of Blandford look like the model of responsible citizenry.

This high-born activist scattered organic wheat seeds around the trial site in what was presumably a symbolic statement of naturalness. Professor Pickett’s team tell me they had a very low-tech solution to getting rid of it – they went round with a cordless portable hoover to clear it up.

This year, as well as repeating the wheat trial, Rothamsted is working on an omega 3 oilseed that could replace wild fish in food for farmed salmon. So this could help reduce overfishing by allowing land-based feedstocks to be used in aquaculture. Yes it’s GM, so expect the antis to oppose this one too, despite the obvious potential environmental benefits in terms of marine biodiversity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.

This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.

There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.

And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.

It is unfortunately much the same in much of Africa and Asia. India has rejected Bt brinjal, even though it would reduce insecticide applications in the field, and residues on the fruit. The government in India is increasingly in thrall to backward-looking ideologues like Vandana Shiva, who idealise pre-industrial village agriculture despite the historical fact that it was an age of repeated famines and structural insecurity.

In Africa, ‘no GM’ is still the motto for many governments. Kenya for example has actually banned GM foods because of the supposed “health risks” despite the fact that they could help reduce the malnutrition that is still rampant in the country – and malnutrition is by the way a proven health risk, with no further evidence needed. In Kenya if you develop a GM crop which has better nutrition or a higher yield to help poorer farmers then you will go to jail for 10 years.

Thus desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.

I hope now things are changing. The wonderful Bill and Melinda Gates foundation recently gave $10 million to the John Innes Centre to begin efforts to integrate nitrogen fixing capabilities into major food crops, starting with maize. Yes, Greenpeace, this will be GM. Get over it. If we are going to reduce the global-scale problem of nitrogen pollution then having major crop plants fixing their own nitrogen is a worthy goal.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

Norman Borlaug is dead now, but I think we honour his memory and his vision when we refuse to give in to politically correct orthodoxies when we know they are incorrect. The stakes are high. If we continue to get this wrong, the life prospects of billions of people will be harmed.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.

Thank you.
January 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Content from External Source
 

Grieves

Senior Member
This guy's been discussed pretty thoroughly in a different thread on this issue. His comments revolve solely around the science surrounding GMO's and the controversy therein, an issue you know my opinion of by now. He is backtracking on his own silly assumptions, rightly so, while not so much as mentioning the issues of restrictive patent-laws and the corporate influence in how those laws are formed. That he even states the only reason foreign nations are resistant to GMO products is unwarranted fear of the science suggests he's clearly missing the full scope of the issue, whether intentionally or not.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
I have a question for some here.

Do you object to patent laws? copyright protection?
I don't, either in the context of GM seeds/plants or just in general.
I haven't seen any evidence that the patenting of GM seeds/plants is doing any harm. I just hear, they make you sign a contract so that means it is bad.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
It is just like one of those jewelry tutorials. The tute is MY intellectual property. Some one could buy it, then use it to have a factory in China make hundreds of thousands of that design, that they can then sell at a big box store. That is why most tutes have limits on how you can use them. Most will allow you to make them for sale, as long as you make them yourself.

It costs millions of dollars to GM a useful seed. If they allow folks to save seeds, then they would need to recover all of the costs in the first year and that is not reasonable. Back to the jewelry tute, If the owner allowed it to be used for production, they might have to charge a thousand dollars or more for it, rather than $5.

I don't see the problem with the contract. If you don't like it, you choose a different seed. There are folks doing well, selling heirloom varieties of crops and organic ones.
 

Grieves

Senior Member
they make you sign a contract so that means it is bad.
They make plants intellectual property. The contracts are just facilitators of that asinine concept, as well as several other asinine concepts, such as binding arbitration.

It is just like one of those jewelry tutorials. The tute is MY intellectual property. Some one could buy it, then use it to have a factory in China make hundreds of thousands of that design, that they can then sell at a big box store. That is why most tutes have limits on how you can use them. Most will allow you to make them for sale, as long as you make them yourself.
Those are invented designs on a crafted product more or less unique unto itself. Did Monsanto invent corn? Soy? Wheat? Rice? Did they design any of these things? GMOs are not the invention of new organisms. Not by a long shot. They make tweaks to an existing organism, give it a brand-name, and call the future offspring of that organism their 'intellectual property'. By what right does Monsanto patent a 'product' the 'design' of which is only borrowed? Monsanto could easily turn a considerable profit without the patent-scheme. Just not as massive a profit. And Monsanto literally can't decide to turn less of a profit. An organization with such obligations should not have a dominant influence in the global food market, something they're rapidly acquiring.
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
They altered the corn or soybeans, the same way I take a strand of beads and some wire and make a piece of jewelry from it. There is still PLENTY of non altered corn, that a farmer can buy. If he wants the benefit of what Monsanto or another company spent money to do, then they should be willing to follow their rules. Just like the person buying a tutorial should do.

If a company does not make money, they will go out of business. Without profits they can not SPEND money on more research.

Without research, things do not advance. Either businesses or government has to spend money for research.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
They make plants intellectual property. The contracts are just facilitators of that asinine concept, as well as several other asinine concepts, such as binding arbitration.


Those are invented designs on a crafted product more or less unique unto itself. Did Monsanto invent corn? Soy? Wheat? Rice? Did they design any of these things? GMOs are not the invention of new organisms. Not by a long shot. They make tweaks to an existing organism, give it a brand-name, and call the future offspring of that organism their 'intellectual property'. By what right does Monsanto patent a 'product' the 'design' of which is only borrowed? Monsanto could easily turn a considerable profit without the patent-scheme. Just not as massive a profit. And Monsanto literally can't decide to turn less of a profit. An organization with such obligations should not have a dominant influence in the global food market, something they're rapidly acquiring.

Is there a patent on natural corn or rice?
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
For those that didn't check the above post out.

Agricultural innovation plays a key role in driving long-term agricultural productivity, rural development and environmental sustainability by encouraging new solutions. For this reason, innovation needs to be supported and protected.

Contrary to what some say, GM seeds are not the only seeds with Intellectual Property Rights. Almost all conventional (non-GM) and organic hybrid seeds are patented and cannot be saved for use in the next planting season.
In any industry, the maintenance of IPR is an essential basis for innovation and progress.


IPR encourages continued investment in research and development, and ensures the plant science industry maintains its strong innovative base.
Patents form the cornerstone of intellectual property protection.
The protection of regulatory data and confidential business information for biotechnology inventions are important to support innovation and development.
The plant science industry is one of the world’s most research and development intensive sectors. It ranks in the top four global industries in terms of percentage of sales invested in R&D.

The industry’s top 10 companies invest $2.25 billion, or 7.5% of sales, in the research and development of cutting-edge products in crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology. All of these products aim to improve sustainable agricultural production.
Content from External Source
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
I get peoples fight against 'big ag' or just corporations in general. I get why some might see them controlling the food supply might lead to bad things. Bad things have happened in the past with all types of corporations. I just don't see why they only fight the 'big ag' or corporations that only deal with GMO. If you hate these corporations so much worry about all of them not just one. With or without GMO and/or Mansanto, big ag and corporations will move in and take over. It isn't like getting rid of GMO or Mansanto is going to end the threat of a corporation controlling the worlds food supply.

Fight people controlling the food not the food.
 

Grieves

Senior Member
They altered the corn or soybeans, the same way I take a strand of beads and some wire and make a piece of jewelry from it.

Seriously....?

I get peoples fight against 'big ag' or just corporations in general. I get why some might see them controlling the food supply might lead to bad things. Bad things have happened in the past with all types of corporations. I just don't see why they only fight the 'big ag' or corporations that only deal with GMO. If you hate these corporations so much worry about all of them not just one. With or without GMO and/or Mansanto, big ag and corporations will move in and take over. It isn't like getting rid of GMO or Mansanto is going to end the threat of a corporation controlling the worlds food supply.
Rest assured, there's a long list of corporations that I feel deserve to be put down like rabid dogs. Monsanto is simply the major corporation most pertinent to this particular discussion, which is on the subject of GMOs.

Fight people controlling the food not the food.
That's... what I've been saying...?
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
If you don't want big companies developing new seeds, then you need to work to get government to spend YOUR money to do it.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
I'm sure, if I wanted to, I could concoct a conspiracy involving organic farmers plotting to take over the world by ousting Mansanto and GMO, slowly converting the world to organic and then, contaminating the worlds food supply with e coli, in an attempt to reduce the worlds population (I've had an friend who is anti-gmo talk about reducing the demand to meet the supply) so they can live in their new hippie Earth.

But it is a lot more fun debunking, than believing in bunk.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
What some fail to see is, that the fight against Mansanto is based on the fear that GMO will take over and either make everyone sick, dead or some kinda of mindless automaton. If seeds being patented was the real issue, why have the people worried about it not gone after the other companies that have patents on conventional or organic hybrid seeds? There is not fight against the patenting of seeds just GMO seeds.
 

Grieves

Senior Member
I'm sure, if I wanted to, I could concoct a conspiracy involving organic farmers plotting to take over the world by ousting Mansanto and GMO, slowly converting the world to organic and then, contaminating the worlds food supply with e coli, in an attempt to reduce the worlds population (I've had an friend who is anti-gmo talk about reducing the demand to meet the supply) so they can live in their new hippie Earth.
Again you imply I've concocted some sensational plot here. Where have I claimed that Monsanto or GMO's were doing anything that isn't observable in reality?

But it is a lot more fun debunking, than believing in bunk.
Have you done any debunking? You seem to more or less acknowledge my points but then state your belief that they're worth no concern.

If seeds being patented was the real issue, why have the people worried about it not gone after the other companies that have patents on conventional or organic hybrid seeds?
They have. Patenting of life has always been controversial. Patent-law just isn't exactly a mainstream issue.
There is not fight against the patenting of seeds
just GMO seeds.
Again, not true.

What some fail to see is, that the fight against Mansanto is based on the fear that GMO will take over and either make everyone sick, dead or some kinda of mindless automaton.
Nonsense.

If you don't want big companies developing new seeds, then you need to work to get government to spend YOUR money to do it.
I have no issue with big companies developing new seed, or selling them. I have an issue with a corporation claiming it has ownership rights to the seed of a plant someone else grew.
 

Soulfly

Banned
Banned
I debunked that patents on plants is nothing new. I think that if patents on plants were going to be bad it would have already showed. If you want to claim Mansanto's contracts are somehow going to hurt farmers or whatever else then you still need to provide evidence of this and not just speculation.
First plant patent issued in 1930
http://inventors.about.com/od/weirdmuseums/ig/Inventive-Thinking/First-Plant-Patent.htm

I'm done debating with you, your attempts to bait me into a pointless debate with you is over.

Adding that I might not have debunked it first but I at least investigated and found that on my own.
 
Top