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Links With Your Coffee - Saturday




I've only begun reading the NYT piece on GMOs and already I came across this gem from Paul Collier of Oxford University:

"Genetic modification is analogous to nuclear power: nobody loves it, but climate change has made its adoption imperative."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. If genetic modification is indeed analogous to nuclear power, then I'm even more strongly against it than before. Here's the twofold flaw in the nuke power philosophy: 1.) Nobody has come up with a viable plan for what to do with the waste. 2.) If we embrace other methods of generating power, such as wave generators, geothermal, wind & solar, then we can address global warming without using nukes. Climate change HAS NOT made nuclear power an imperative.

As with nuke power, the alleged goals of GMOs can be met using other methods. As I said in the other thread, we can reduce our meat consumption, end subsidies for corn production, and use our arable land more wisely. Like nuclear power advocacy, GMO advocacy is driven by corporate interest.

To say we need either nuclear power or GMOs to adequately address climate change is absurd.

In regards to nuclear power as an energy source, I do agree there is an issue over what to do with the waster, but if Stewart brand has his figures right, then nuclear waste is much smaller in quantity than that of coal. Coal by-products are really screwing things up, especially in areas with large mining operations: Colstrip, MT; Stevenson, AL, lost of places in North Carolina.

It IS possible to work on contaminated soil and bring it back to being arable, productive soil, but it takes around 10 years for irradiated soil and who knows what for coal's toxic metals: molybdenum, cadmium, boron, beryllium, arsenic, lead, cobalt, mercury, thallium, sulfur, and chromium (all found in "coal ash").

The ideal solution is to find and use energy means other than fossil fuels or other bio-hazards. The trouble is getting people to produce and use them. States with wide swaths of unpopulated land like Montana and Texas are prime territory for windmills. Most places can use solar power, which is getting more efficient as the years pass. In the mean time, we need to look for some compromises along the way.

If you look at GMO as just doing the same thing as selective breeding, only very quickly and sometimes accomplishing immediately what would have taken a century, I think you see the bennifits to create a crop that is essentially as good a food producer as the cow. The problem is that it creates species like the banana that are so homogenius that they are subject to rapid extinction from insects or didease.

The recent ruling that you can't patent life will be an interesting one. If it stands it will elimiate much of the economic evil created by corporations using GMO's to put small farmers under their thumb.

In terms of the GMO crops, the verdict seems to out on higher yields for seeds that are drought or pest resistent. There were 2 studies mentioned that found no increase in yield, and Michael Roberts mentions that there were higher yields in developing countries (though he didn't mention what modification had been made) but not wealthier nations.

I've come across the work of Vandana Shiva before and she's done some good things for farming in India. She helped the soil tremendously by getting farmers to stop using pesticide and farm wisely. There are a lot of things people need to note in her work because they are both eco-friendly and productive.

Humans are so slow to change and we'll be lucky if we take the way forward posited by Jonathan Foley - combining the best of organic and GMO foods. I say "lucky" because my cynical side says most of the planet will go for more and cheap product than nutrition and ecologically sound farming.

There are soo many things that need to change: less meat consumption, pricing food so that fresh food is more affordable than processed food, eliminating oil from our farming processes. Foley's opening paragraph chapped my butt, i have to say;

The future of agriculture must address several goals simultaneously. First, it now appears that we will have to double world food production in the next 40 years given continued population growth, increasing meat consumption and pressure from biofuels.

My sense is that if you want to produce vitamin and other nutrients in foods via genetic modification, that could help billions of poor people. If you think that modification for drought and pest resistance will help, think at least twice, and study Shiva's work. She has the right ideas there.


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