GMO plants and herd immunity

On Colbert Report the other night, I saw Eric Schlosser made a new movie bitching about GMOs and food production in the US, ‘Food Inc’.

Im not saying anything until I see it.

*zips-lips*

However I will use this flurry of ‘OMFG LIEK GMO FOOD IS GEIVING MAH CANKER AND MAEKING MAH FAAAAAT!’ news activity to talk about a super cool convergence of fresh fruit and epidemiology!

About 20 years ago, there was an epidemic of papaya ringspot virus in Hawaii. PRSV is carried by aphids, tree to tree, rendering the papaya trees dead. Well, worse than dead. More like plump reservoirs of PRSV, where aphids could pick up some PRSV to infect moar trees.

Decimated papayas in Hawaii. Until scientists created GMO papayas resistant to infection.

But some places (eg Japan) are still scared of GMOs, so they do not want. Need ‘organic’ papayas to sell to GMO newbs.

Neat solution: Create a barrier of GMO papaya around native papaya to act as infected-aphid-sinks, protecting the native papaya. This is the same principle of herd immunity: If 95% of the population is immunized against polio, the 5% that are underimmunized (or the offspring of cranks) are still protected!

In the HDOA plan, a 1,000-acre parcel of land in Kahuwai, which was isolated and predominantly upwind from the main planting areas in Puna, was targeted for nontransgenic fruit production destined for sale in Japan. About 600 acres were devoted to the production of nontransgenic Kapoho variety, and about 300 acres of the transgenic Rainbow was planted to create a buffer of resistant plants. The transgenic plants served to interrupt the movement of PRSV by viruliferous aphids into Kahuwai. The goal of this strategy was to reduce initial infection rates and secondary virus spread, thus slowing the PRSV epidemic in the Kahuwai management area.
… the Kahuwai management area had very low PRSV incidence and represents the situation where a degree of isolation was possible, and roguing of infected plants was strictly followed. In the remaining areas of Puna, the disease incidence was much higher than Kahuwai. The likely reasons are that PRSV management was less intense and the more random planting of Rainbow was less effective in protecting nontransgenic plantings. HDOA, however, removed infected fields that had been abandoned by growers. This activity greatly reduced PRSV incidence and has served to keep the incidence of PRSV in nontransgenic papaya relatively low as compared with 1992-1998 when PRSV-resistant papaya were not available.

KEWL! GMO plants protecting the ‘organic’ plants! LOL!

But the foodies aint happy. They dont want ungodly GMOs mixing with their pure-bred stock, birthing mulatto papaya abominations. Sure their super awesome organic papayas would be dead by now if it werent for GMOs, but like, whatever. Details, details.

But that stupid bit of irony did prompt a Q in mah brain. Maybe a Hawaiian might be able to answer for me– why didnt you all cull every papaya plant 10 years ago (saving seeds), plant GMOs only for a few years to clear out the PRSV epidemic, and replant native papaya? Plant people have options not open to us human people– why didnt you kill everyone to kill the epidemic, and just start over?

Comments

  1. #1 SC
    June 12, 2009

    I thought qetzal’s assessment was that we are both jerks but that you are a hypocrite about it.

    I think you’re wrong. qetzal didn’t say anything about you, and never called me a hypocrite. I was pointing out to qetzal the nature of the comments I’m dealing with, which provides the context for my own.

    I’m not your civility bright line test and I ain’t your cognitive therapist. Go get validated somewhere else carpetbagger.

    You’re a lunatic.

    And I’m still struck by this:

    Of course it does. Your understanding of scale, production rotation diversification are not some abstract romaticized politicized faculty mixer converstion starter. I agree with almost everything you said. I think anybody reasonable would.

    Your criticisms of Monsanto are specific recent exemplars that are all perfectly valid. You are right. They are ethically challenged.

    So we can assume that if Lora had appeared on the thread had said she (I’m assuming) was or appeared to be a acholar, an activist, an anticapitalist,…, offering referenced data rather than what she acknowledged was personal experience and anecdote (no offense, Lora – I was interested in and appreciated your perspective, and agreed with quite a bit of what you said), her points would not have been perfectly valid?

    You’re obsessed with the source of information or arguments. It’s stupid and counterproductive. But as I said before, at the end of the day I got my information out there. My posts are potentially intellectually nourishing, which is what I care about, while yours are empty calories.

  2. #2 Lora
    June 12, 2009

    @ SC: I will try to translate, as I speak both Farmer and Cocktail Party.

    ” but it is a portion of a larger family operation consisting of 43,000 contiguous acres under cultivation in soybeans, peanuts, wheat, cotton, and cattle grazing (winter wheat and grass).

    For those of you with a copy of the “Big Book of Logical Fallacies”…..Not anecdotal Argument. Authority by necessity.

    Where is that a valid argument? Where are you offering anything other than anecdote and limited knowledge?

    This is a fairly typical USAian farm performing a nice crop rotation. In many ways it is a vast improvement on monocropped GMO corn, as it has what appears to be on the whole a good balance between nitrogen fixers, “high feeders” (cotton & wheat take lots of fertilizer) and “low feeders” (grazing pasture, soy). In that sense, not an anecdote but a good example.

    I haven’t the slightest clue what you’re arguing in the middle of this, but the last part is simply asserted, and in contradiction to other evidence. You’ve also left out key elements – farming of what? compared to what, and using what methods?
    The calculation of fossil fuel calories is only accounting for maize put into polenta, breakfast cereal, HFCS, cornmeal, or livestock feed. There are many other uses for byproducts which are not accounted for in the original calculation. None of them are things you genuinely wish to know, much in the same way that you didn’t really want to know how many allowable insect parts are in your sausage. Suffice it to say that chemical engineers can be fucking geniuses with that shit.

    Regardless of crop type, there are issues of capital equipment that represent both a hefty initial investment as well as ongoing maintenance and fuel costs. I see SC is from New England, so I will clarify: At farms of >20 acres scale where they are growing any type of vegetable, grain, or hay/straw for production, a tractor is an absolute necessity. Processing equipment, another necessity, but it varies according to what you’re growing. Various health department inspections and certifications, an absolute necessity every year. If you have ten farms of 250 acres each, that’s 10 tractors and 10 sets of processing equipment and 10 health department visits. They can’t all share one set of equipment because all the crop needs processed at once, and the health department always takes a couple days per facility. It might take three eight-hour days for ten tractors to work 2500 acres, or it can take five 16-hour days on methamphetamines to work 2500 acres using one tractor. If the profit/acre in terms of money is, say, $50/acre after seed, fertilizer, irrigation rights, and capital equipment costs $30,000/year to maintain and fuel up, less $40,000 to pay the hired help in season, that leaves the family owning 2500 acres with $55,000/year gross income–not wealthy, but certainly not starving either. However, a family owning only 250 acres can’t even afford to pay the diesel to start the tractor at all–they can’t even afford to buy shoes, if farming is their only job.

    You may say, well, let the smallholding corn and soy farmers switch to organic dairy goats and heirloom tomatoes that have a better profit per acre, but it isn’t that simple: The banks absolutely won’t allow it. You can’t get a seed loan without a raft of requirements inflicted on you by the bank. And then the soil is shot from long years of mistreatment, so you know you won’t get a decent crop for at least a year or three–but the bank isn’t going to float you for a year or three. This is why I recommended Joel Salatin’s books, as he describes exactly how small-scale pilot projects can be gradually introduced and marketed even starting with land that was previously crap, and the farm can be gradually diversified as it begins to recover soil quality and make more money. It can be done gradually, but not all at once, and you’re still going to be losing money and owing the bank on the bits of farm that haven’t been converted to another purpose.

    There is no such thing as an abstract “market” in food in the current system.
    *scratches head* You figure the reason people drink Coca-cola is because the World Bank said to? Hmm, gotta disagree with you there–the WTO et al. might decide who is getting a shipment of rice on the cheap and who will get Salmonella-contaminated spinach shipped to them and where bananas are allowed to be grown in a general sense, but in the sense of the colourful boxes with cartoon characters at the Stop-n-schlop, there’s most definitely a market component there.

    Hmmm. I may not be understanding. How would the growing seasons affect the per kilo ratio?
    Um, have you been to California, or for that matter England? They grow stuff year-round, albeit sometimes in hoop houses. You try to grow spinach around here in November, even in a hoop house, I got news for you, it ain’t gonna work so well: Stuff grows either not at all or sloooowly. In cold winter climates, you can only grow indoors, in heated rooms, which is why urban aquaponics systems were such hot shit in the 2/11/2008 issue of Science. Warm winter climates get three times the yield in short-season corn, greens, berries, stonefruit, most veggies, and twice the yield in field (flint) corn, winter squash, soy, because they can grow in the winter when we are shoveling six feet of snow.

    Rejecting the corporate-driven model of food production does not mean rejecting science or technology. It means a more comprehensive scientific approach and support for the best and most promising scientific initiatives. Got it?
    Hunh. Ever been to the USSR, or know anyone who lived there? When it was still the USSR, I mean. They had quite the underground economy for food. Of course they still have, for vodka, but it also used to supply them with fruit and veggies. I regularly give my surplus gooseberries and mulberries to my Russian co-workers, as the USAians don’t know what those are. What I am saying is, state-run systems have been tried and frankly they didn’t work so hot. Markets, underground ones, rose up to supplement them even if they never replaced the gov’t coupons completely. The Russian food system was in fact quite scientific and we have many excellent crop strains from there, to this day. But it wasn’t enough.

    I recognize it’s rather ironic for someone who has mostly opted out of the entire food market to say that, but it is a historical consideration.

  3. #3 SC
    June 12, 2009

    @ SC: I will try to translate, as I speak both Farmer and Cocktail Party.

    Excuse me? Why exactly are you buying Prometheus’ ridiculous characterization of me? And what does that have to do with the content of my arguments? Gah.

    Authority by necessity.

    Where is that a valid argument? Where are you offering anything other than anecdote and limited knowledge?

    This is a fairly typical USAian farm performing a nice crop rotation. In many ways it is a vast improvement on monocropped GMO corn, as it has what appears to be on the whole a good balance between nitrogen fixers, “high feeders” (cotton & wheat take lots of fertilizer) and “low feeders” (grazing pasture, soy). In that sense, not an anecdote but a good example.

    Example of what? He was suggesting that his claiming that because he was a farmer his broader arguments about the food system, corporations, GM crops, social movements and social change had special authority, and that this was not a logical fallacy. It still is. There’s no such thing as a logically-valid “authority by necessity.” He can speak from his own experience, as can we all, but that’s it. Simply being a farmer doesn’t make you an authority on these issues.

    The calculation of fossil fuel calories is only accounting for maize put into polenta, breakfast cereal, HFCS, cornmeal, or livestock feed…

    And I didn’t challenge that (if it is indeed a fact; and yes, I do want to know where it goes – information is exactly what I want). That was the first part of his remark, not the middle part to which I was referring. Since he ignored the rest of what’s going into the 10:1 ratio, which deals with fertilizers, extensive processing, packaging, and long-distance shipping – all key elements of the industrial system which appear to be the focus of this film and of many of the criticisms of industrial agriculture in general – I didn’t think it was a major point.

    Regardless of crop type, there are issues of capital equipment that represent both a hefty initial investment as well as ongoing maintenance and fuel costs. I see SC is from New England, so I will clarify: At farms of >20 acres scale where they are growing any type of vegetable, grain, or hay/straw for production, a tractor is an absolute necessity. Processing equipment, another necessity, but it varies according to what you’re growing. Various health department inspections and certifications, an absolute necessity every year. If you have ten farms of 250 acres each, that’s 10 tractors and 10 sets of processing equipment and 10 health department visits. They can’t all share one set of equipment because all the crop needs processed at once, and the health department always takes a couple days per facility. It might take three eight-hour days for ten tractors to work 2500 acres, or it can take five 16-hour days on methamphetamines to work 2500 acres using one tractor. If the profit/acre in terms of money is, say, $50/acre after seed, fertilizer, irrigation rights, and capital equipment costs $30,000/year to maintain and fuel up, less $40,000 to pay the hired help in season, that leaves the family owning 2500 acres with $55,000/year gross income–not wealthy, but certainly not starving either. However, a family owning only 250 acres can’t even afford to pay the diesel to start the tractor at all–they can’t even afford to buy shoes, if farming is their only job.

    You may say, well, let the smallholding corn and soy farmers switch to organic dairy goats and heirloom tomatoes that have a better profit per acre,

    I actually didn’t say that, but I’ll go with the idea of change in general.

    but it isn’t that simple: The banks absolutely won’t allow it. You can’t get a seed loan without a raft of requirements inflicted on you by the bank. And then the soil is shot from long years of mistreatment [um, yeah], so you know you won’t get a decent crop for at least a year or three–but the bank isn’t going to float you for a year or three.

    Which is why these are questions of politics and public policy that can’t be solved at the level of the individual producer or consumer, as Prometheus was arguing. And that’s what both of the reports I linked to were getting at – that a social commitment has to be made to promoting alternatives to the sucky current system.

    This is why I recommended Joel Salatin’s books,

    Yes, I will read them. I remember the discussion of him in Pollan.

    as he describes exactly how small-scale pilot projects can be gradually introduced and marketed even starting with land that was previously crap, and the farm can be gradually diversified as it begins to recover soil quality and make more money. It can be done gradually, but not all at once, and you’re still going to be losing money and owing the bank on the bits of farm that haven’t been converted to another purpose.

    A friend of mine works for a distributor that helps people change over to organic, but that’s not a solution long term. Major changes in political priorities have to occur for the kind of large-scale (global) transformation necessary, and because there are powerful corporate interests involved that’s not happening, or going to happen, without a struggle.

    I’ll note that my link to Kropotkin wasn’t gratuitous. His work on (para-)urban gardening and scientific communication among growers was ahead of its time. Those are other important pieces of the puzzle.

    There is no such thing as an abstract “market” in food in the current system.
    *scratches head* You figure the reason people drink Coca-cola is because the World Bank said to?

    What about the people who grow the elements of and make and bottle and ship Coca-Cola, and the people whose water is being stolen and land poisoned to produce it? Do you know how much power these corporations have around the world, or how the IMF and World Bank enforce their agenda?

    Hmm, gotta disagree with you there–the WTO et al. might decide who is getting a shipment of rice on the cheap and who will get Salmonella-contaminated spinach shipped to them and where bananas are allowed to be grown in a general sense, but in the sense of the colourful boxes with cartoon characters at the Stop-n-schlop, there’s most definitely a market component there.

    Forgive me, but I don’t think you know much about the actions of these organizations in concert with corporations in poor countries.

    Hmmm. I may not be understanding. How would the growing seasons affect the per kilo ratio?
    Um, have you been to California, or for that matter England?…

    OK. 33X?

    Hunh. Ever been to the USSR, or know anyone who lived there? When it was still the USSR, I mean. They had quite the underground economy for food.

    This is ridiculously irrelevant. First, because I’m an anarchist – not a Marxist. It seems people have some very strange notions about anyone who rejects capitalist agriculture: they must either be statists (as though governments now aren’t supporting capitalist agriculture) or utopian anti-/ascientific commune-living wannabes. Even if you choose not to read Kropotkin, I can assure you that this isn’t the case with anarchists. It’s also not the case that the people who wrote the UCS or IAASTD reports are anti-science. Or Shiva, for that matter. They are in favor of discovering and putting resources toward the most proven, promising, and best strategies.

    Of course they still have, for vodka, but it also used to supply them with fruit and veggies.

    You really should read Kropotkin. Seriously.

    What I am saying is, state-run systems have been tried and frankly they didn’t work so hot.

    FFS, I’m an anarchist!

    The Russian food system was in fact quite scientific and we have many excellent crop strains from there, to this day. But it wasn’t enough.

    It wasn’t at all scientific in the sense of looking for and going with solutions that worked to feed people, as Kropotkin warned Lenin about shortly before his death (I can link to those letters). In fact, the World Bank ideologically/market-driven model very much resembles it, and is proving equally disastrous.

    ***

    The limit of my emotional investment in these discussions is my love for the potential of GM fungus resistant wheat. Wheat fungus kills a lot of kids. GM fungus resistant strains seem to be the only hope other than destroying the lots that pop hot on the Cyranose

    I’m actually sincerely interested in why you think this. It seems to contradict what I’ve read (including the IAASTD report). I was just searching and came up with this

    http://www.legalbrief.co.za/article.php?story=20071115143713877

    among other articles. Yes, it’s definitely from an interested party, but does seem to agree with the reports’ findings. I’m honestly interested to hear why you think GM is the “only hope” here and are so in love with its potential.

  4. #4 Sven DiMilo
    June 12, 2009

    A holier than thou Dead Head?

    *shrug*
    yam what I yam.
    you?

  5. #5 Sven DiMilo
    June 12, 2009

    Actually, never mind about you. I remember now:

    shallow arrogant self indulgent pariah who is so much less funny than he thinks he is

    shallow arrogant self indulgent pariah who is so much less funny than he thinks he is

  6. #6 SC
    June 12, 2009

    You want GMO labeled, non-eroding, cruelty free, profit sharing, small community feminist booga booga beans?

    Cross my palm with silver and the tassels spin in whatever direction irks you the least.

    As ludicrous and offensive as this was, I’m going to respond to it because it’s part of the problem. Of course, good beans can be and are grown in my community – shipping them here from wherever you are unnecessarily would be extremely wasteful. It’s essential to work to promote sustainable local production, and that can’t be done just by buying local. Cooperative farms in CT, for example, often have waiting lists hundreds long; but they’re hard to start because good land is so expensive. Farmers’ market purchases are covered by public aid programs, but it’s often difficult for poor people to get there. Educational programs are sorely lacking. There are some really good initiatives surrounding sustainable local agriculture (some linked to the public universities), but all of these things are public issues that require social and political action. It doesn’t matter how many people want to buy locally- or sustainably-grown food (or grow it themselves) if they can’t. And this won’t get you funding for research or farm development or help you keep the rights to your water or stop the land or water from being polluted or…

    If there are problems with the food system we all have the responsibility – to ourselves, to future generations, and to the rest of the planet – to understand and appreciate that and to do something about it.

  7. #7 SC
    June 13, 2009

    Mono crops…are arguably a more environmentally destructive endeavor than strip mining.

    And yet they’re a key component of the industrial system. A lot of us don’t have brokers. Could you call yours and take care of it? Thanks – much appreciated.

  8. #8 SC
    June 13, 2009

    Kropotkin on Mennonites:

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/kropotkin/KropCanada.pdf

    By the way:

    When Kropotkin’s description of Canada appeared in The Nineteenth Century, it was read by a member of the Tolstoyan Committee, who, moved by the sympathetic account of the Mennonites, suggested to Kropotkin that the Canadian prairie might provide a haven for the Dukhobors as well. Kropotkin agreed. When he had encountered the Dukhobors on the Anur some thirty years before, he had been struck by their integrity and spirit of mutual aid, and now he was anxious to help them. In August 1898 he wrote to [James] Mavor [friend and U. of Toronto Professor] suggesting that the Canadian government be approached on their behalf. In due course an agreement was reached, and thousands of Dukhobors left Russia and Cyprus and settled in western Canada, where many of their descendants still live.

    Paul Avrich, Anarchist Portraits, p. 83.

  9. #9 Lora
    June 13, 2009

    And what does that have to do with the content of my arguments?
    You’re dealing in abstractions that are over-generalized, rather than dealing with specific logistics. You want change, you would do better using an argument dealing in specifics. Let’s say the revolution happens tomorrow, the people rise up and demand self-determination at gunpoint, and the entire staff of the IMF and the CIA operatives who have oppressed Latin American farmers lo these many years are all hanged and their heads displayed at border crossings as a warning to others.

    Now what?

    Which is why these are questions of politics and public policy that can’t be solved at the level of the individual producer or consumer,

    Oh, definitely read Salatin’s books. He lays out exactly how these questions CAN be solved at the individual level, especially at the individual producer level which is really the challenging bit. It works great. In fact NPR’s Boston affiliate had a nice story on the success of alternative food production yesterday afternoon.

    Short of pulling a Tyler Durden and blowing up the entire credit histories of everyone on the planet, I don’t think there are any public policy changes that are really going to be helpful. In terms of the infrastructure that is buggering up farming in general (specific crop subsidies, various free trade agreements with nations that lack food safety and labor laws, the entire method the USDA uses to inspect and certify food production, the structure of food inspections, centralization of processing plants), there is no politically feasible way to get rid of ALL of it and start over. A lot of the changes proposed, especially the recent revisions currently in committee, are doing no more than re-arranging the deck chairs and are pretty much the same as the current model, except more and bigger.

    However, at the individual producer level, if you can demonstrate that you will have marketable product and pay off a loan within a year as per Salatin’s business model, then you can convert over year-by-year to a diversified system until the farm stops hemorrhaging money. His design has low cost of entry, which makes getting seed/startup money easier; a loan for $10k, where you have already demonstrated a market for the product at pilot scale, that can be paid off within a year, is something a credit union can do for individual producers.

    I don’t think you know much about the actions of these organizations in concert with corporations in poor countries.
    I do, actually, but I don’t think that they can be solved with anything short of violence. They are a really really BIG organized crime syndicate. For all the policy decisions, investigations, trials and enforcement in the world, has the Mafia ever gone the way of the dodo? Will it ever? Probably not. Yes, they are violent, evil bastards, I agree 100%. Yes, they are in cahoots with the military. I don’t think they are going to stop because anyone asks them to or threatens them with time in a federal pen, though.

    In places that have managed to put the Mafia out of business, they did so by bleeding dry the businesses that supported them, gradually–the only policy decision I can think of that worked really well at legislating Mafia into small-timers was legalizing booze. So maybe the open source GMO companies will put them out of business? Too early to tell really.

    I can understand wanting a revolution, but honestly I do not believe that the quality of life for many people has gotten bad enough for that just yet. Look how nasty life is in the poor countries you reference–and yet, their revolutionaries are still a minority of the population, hiding out in mountains. A successful revolution would have to be close to the Mafiosos’ homes and personally threatening to them, and that’s difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, bleeding Big Farma dry year-by-year is both highly feasible and has a good chance of success.

    Farmers’ market purchases are covered by public aid programs, but it’s often difficult for poor people to get there. Educational programs are sorely lacking. There are some really good initiatives surrounding sustainable local agriculture (some linked to the public universities), but all of these things are public issues that require social and political action.
    And you’re an anarchist? Blimey… How did you want to accomplish all this without government intervention?

    I think Prometheus’ point WRT the cocktail party remark is that you’ve got some lovely ideas of how the world should work, but lack concrete and explicit directions on how to do that. You’ve made an excellent argument for how the current model sucks and why it sucks but you’re light on logistics.

    You really should read Kropotkin.
    Any particular book? I see only two on Project Gutenberg.

  10. #10 SC
    June 13, 2009

    You’re dealing in abstractions that are over-generalized, rather than dealing with specific logistics. You want change, you would do better using an argument dealing in specifics.

    Like the fucking reports and books that I linked to above? This is insane. I’ve not only pointed to studies and reports addressing the science, I’ve linked to organizations dealing with the problems on the ground. Go ahead and continue to fucking ignore them.

    Let’s say the revolution happens tomorrow, the people rise up and demand self-determination at gunpoint, and the entire staff of the IMF and the CIA operatives who have oppressed Latin American farmers lo these many years are all hanged and their heads displayed at border crossings as a warning to others.

    Now what?

    Yes, that’s precisely what I’ve been proposing.

    Wait, what?

    You’re obviously very well-informed about developments in Latin America. I translated much of the new Bolivian constitution months ago – would you like to know more?

    Oh, definitely read Salatin’s books. He lays out exactly how these questions CAN be solved at the individual level, especially at the individual producer level which is really the challenging bit. It works great. In fact NPR’s Boston affiliate had a nice story on the success of alternative food production yesterday afternoon.

    Short of pulling a Tyler Durden and blowing up the entire credit histories of everyone on the planet, I don’t think there are any public policy changes that are really going to be helpful. In terms of the infrastructure that is buggering up farming in general (specific crop subsidies, various free trade agreements with nations that lack food safety and labor laws, the entire method the USDA uses to inspect and certify food production, the structure of food inspections, centralization of processing plants), there is no politically feasible way to get rid of ALL of it and start over. A lot of the changes proposed, especially the recent revisions currently in committee, are doing no more than re-arranging the deck chairs and are pretty much the same as the current model, except more and bigger.

    Oh, I see. So political action – local, national, international – by environmentalists, farmers, communities – all completely useless. You’re a historical ignoramus, Lora.

    However, at the individual producer level,

    Where we don’t have to stay.

    if you can demonstrate that you will have marketable product and pay off a loan within a year as per Salatin’s business model, then you can convert over year-by-year to a diversified system until the farm stops hemorrhaging money. His design has low cost of entry, which makes getting seed/startup money easier; a loan for $10k, where you have already demonstrated a market for the product at pilot scale, that can be paid off within a year, is something a credit union can do for individual producers.

    You haven’t addressed a single one of the issues I raised.

    I don’t think you know much about the actions of these organizations in concert with corporations in poor countries.
    I do, actually,

    Bullshit.

    but I don’t think that they can be solved with anything short of violence.

    This may or may not be true (the violence has largely gone in the other direction). But if a violent struggle becomes necessary to address this, then it will have to be that. The current system is one of violence, oppression, and death for billions of people – not to mention other living creatures.

    They are a really really BIG organized crime syndicate. For all the policy decisions, investigations, trials and enforcement in the world, has the Mafia ever gone the way of the dodo? Will it ever? Probably not.

    Says you. And good luck when they come for, or destroy from without, your farm, princess.

    Yes, they are violent, evil bastards, I agree 100%. Yes, they are in cahoots with the military. I don’t think they are going to stop because anyone asks them to or threatens them with time in a federal pen, though.

    Yeah, because you’re an expert on political economy and social movements now. Like Prometheus. How fucking simplistic.

    In places that have managed to put the Mafia out of business, they did so by bleeding dry the businesses that supported them, gradually–the only policy decision I can think of that worked really well at legislating Mafia into small-timers was legalizing booze. So maybe the open source GMO companies will put them out of business? Too early to tell really.

    You’re ignorant about the history of agricultural and food-related movements.

    >blockquote>I can understand wanting a revolution, but honestly I do not believe that the quality of life for many people has gotten bad enough for that just yet.better approaches to the problems, fucking present them. If not, STFU. And who are the “many people”? Haitians? Mexicans? Who? Farmers in numerous countries who’ve formed movements and protested the WTO/WB/IMF? Clearly, many people seem to think the situation is serious.

    And you’re an anarchist? Blimey… How did you want to accomplish all this without government intervention?

    Good question. Short term, I don’t. I support primarily direct-action projects, but recognize the situation in which many of us live, and appreciate that political and material conditions can be important to forming the foundation for more radical struggles. It’s complicated, but I’m fairly confident in my ideas, as I’ve spent more than a decade studying such struggles.

    I think Prometheus’ point WRT the cocktail party remark is that you’ve got some lovely ideas of how the world should work, but lack concrete and explicit directions on how to do that.

    No. But it’s completely fucking irrelevant. If we’re talking about GE crops, we need to assess the situation scientifically before forming an opinion on what to do about it. Let’s do that first.

    And you have no idea about what I or others have or lack. We could discuss various movements around the world and their tactical and strategic strengths, including those with which I’m, involved, but frankly I doubt you would know what the hell you were talking about.

    You’ve made an excellent argument for how the current model sucks and why it sucks

    Very well, then! That was my primary purpose here.

    but you’re light on logistics.

    Wrong. But that’s a subject for another time. If the nature of the problem(s) is/are appreciated, then I’m happy. You’re the one going on about how you’ve dropped out of the food system, without apparently appreciating that others can’t really do this, or that no one on the planet can opt out of its effects. If you have the luxury of dropping out, there’s no issue of global logistics to deal with. Very convenient.

    Any particular book? I see only two on Project Gutenberg.

    Oh, perhaps the one I linked to here? Or The Conquest of Bread? – also available at the Anarchy Archives.

  11. #11 SC
    June 13, 2009

    Where we don’t have to stay.

    And I’ll add that many of the people involved in critical movements are farmers.

    Re water, btw, see this (stick with it till the Michigan part):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mInNYoYfImc

    and the next segment. For a global perspective, see the whole thing.

    For a happy ending, see this:

    http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1828

  12. #12 SC
    June 13, 2009

    but I don’t think that they can be solved with anything short of violence.

    So you would have approached slavery or Nazism or segregation how? If the solution to a problem potentially involves violence, better to deny its existence?

  13. #13 SC
    June 13, 2009

    but I don’t think that they can be solved with anything short of violence.

    And if they can? Do you support, or are you involved with, nonviolent movements in this area?

  14. #14 Karl Haro von Mogel
    June 14, 2009

    Whoa. I wasted about 3 minutes trying to follow the SC vs Promethius thread – so I decided to skip the rest.

    SC, it takes more than reading the report, and Gurian-Sherman’s responses. You have to check the references of the report as well. Note, also, that is has not been peer-reviewed, and omits everything but only two traits in two crops. By excluding research on crops such as cotton, it would probably not make it past the first reviewer. Thanks for the link to Gurian-Sherman’s responses, because his response to the cotton question is very curious:

    Failure to Yield was motivated in large part by the “global food crisis” of the past few years. So we wanted to examine the ability of GE to address the challenges for food production given a growing global population, changing consumption patterns, and climate change impacts. For this reason, we decided to look at major GE food or feed crops in the United States, and this means soybeans and corn. We didn’t include canola, an oilseed crop, because the acreage devoted to canola, about a million acres, is only 0.6 percent of the acreage devoted to corn and soybeans in 2008.

    Cotton was excluded because it is primarily a fiber crop. Cotton seed meal may also be used as animal feed, and the plant itself is used as fodder in some places, but these uses are secondary to fiber production. In other words, we did not look at GE cotton because the report is intended to inform the solution of the global food crisis, not a global clothing crisis.

    Notice how disingenuous he is being, here. Cotton is excluded because it is not a food crop. So a useful GE trait is being excluded because the crop it is being used in is not eaten?
    I have news for both of you, people feed cotton seed to animals, and one researcher has developed a cotton variety with seed that can be eaten by humans. So that is a faulty argument on the basis of cotton being non-food.

    A convenient and unconvincing argument.

    I noticed that you also skipped answering the Mendel biotech trait I brought up, another glaring omission. I would tend to agree with promethius that your unactualized, potential blog will doubtless garner a paltry readership with this kind of scholarship.

  15. #15 SC
    June 14, 2009

    SC, it takes more than reading the report, and Gurian-Sherman’s responses. You have to check the references of the report as well.

    And…?

    Note, also, that is has not been peer-reviewed, and omits everything but only two traits in two crops. By excluding research on crops such as cotton, it would probably not make it past the first reviewer.

    I don’t see why. The focus of the report makes perfect sense to me.

    Notice how disingenuous he is being, here. Cotton is excluded because it is not a food crop. So a useful GE trait is being excluded because the crop it is being used in is not eaten?

    As Shiva points out, much of the research is corporate-sponsored, increased yields are attributed to the technology while decreased tields are attributed to other contextual variables, and aspects such as increased water use and pest-resistance are often neglected. Frankly, I’m not buying the hype about cotton, either (but it’s not relevant to the discussion of this report). Since UCS does not research this in depth, though, they can’t say anything definitive one way or the other about cotton.

    But yeah, it’s excluded because it’s not eaten by humans. I don’t understand your problem with this or insistence on their alleged disingenuousness. I also linked to another, earlier statement by them which clearly provided the context of the report. They’re focusing on human food crops because GE foods have been promoted as the major or sole hope for “feeding the world,” and the belief that this is the case was reflected in the comment to which I was responding.

    I have news for both of you, people feed cotton seed to animals,

    That’s not exactly news – they acknowledge in that very statement. Why anyone would see the focus limited to human food crops as some sort of death blow to their analysis is beyond me, but whatever.

    and one researcher has developed a cotton variety with seed that can be eaten by humans.

    So that is a faulty argument on the basis of cotton being non-food.

    Has that variety been sold and used commercially extensively enough that similar long-term studies have been or could be performed on it? If so, people could perform and report them, providing additional data to consider, though its significance in the discussion of global food provision would be minor, I would think.

    This seems to me a real stretch in trying to find fault with their report. It appears that the cotton that has been sold and grown widely enough and for long enough to be analyzed in these terms is not for human consumption. Do you see the problem with your logic here?

    And you haven’t responded at all to the IAASTD report, or to the successes of non-GM methods or breeding techniques. It’s not like it’s GE or nothing. It’s a question of dedicating resources in food production to initiatives that offer the best potential benefit/risk scenario.

  16. #16 Lora
    June 14, 2009

    You’re a historical ignoramus, Lora… frankly I doubt you would know what the hell you were talking about.

    Because ad hominem attacks are the best way to build a political movement out of potential allies who agree with you that the current food system is unacceptable?

    Why do you bother to keep talking to me at all, if I’m so stupid? Although I give you bonus points for managing to combine an ad hominem and ad veracundiam all in one short clause.

    Do you think that it’s a very successful strategy to insult people and then tell them to go read a book in the same damn breath?

    Do you think this is a great way to build a populist movement? Most farmers who have a vested interest in sustainable agriculture are far more ignorant than me; many aren’t college-educated. Are you going to tell them to go read a book, ya dumbass motherfucker?

    If the solution to a problem potentially involves violence, better to deny its existence?
    No, but how do you plan to inspire people to take up arms, even in self-defense? In the US, we’ve got farmers committing suicide rather than attack their oppressors. How exactly do you plan to turn that around?

    We could discuss various movements around the world and their tactical and strategic strengths, including those with which I’m, involved
    That was actually what I was specifically asking you about, it’s a pity you don’t see fit to explain. Or educate, if that’s what you feel is necessary.

    And good luck when they come for, or destroy from without, your farm, princess.
    Thank you for the good wishes. Yes, I am fatalistic at this point, for various reasons both related and unrelated to the subject of food; hence, I do what I can for myself.

    Do you support, or are you involved with, nonviolent movements in this area?
    I wish them all the luck in the world.

  17. #17 SC
    June 14, 2009

    I noticed that you also skipped answering the Mendel biotech trait I brought up, another glaring omission.

    You asserted:

    They also state that there have been no field trials of specifically yield-enhancing traits at all – this is false. Look up Mendel Biotechnology Yield Trait in google for one example.

    with no reference. I’m not sure what you’re talking about here. Where do they claim that? On page 23, they state:

    There have been 652 field trials with yield listed in the database as the phenotype. Most of them were likely aimed at intrinsic-yield increase, and none of these transgenic crops have yet been commercialized.

    Read this whole section to understand what they’re arguing, which is the oposite of what you’re suggesting. Have you actually read the report?

    I would tend to agree with promethius that your unactualized, potential blog will doubtless garner a paltry readership with this kind of scholarship.

    It was qetzal, not Prometheus, who suggested that. Shoddy scholarship, indeed.

  18. #18 SC
    June 14, 2009

    Because ad hominem attacks are the best way to build a political movement out of potential allies who agree with you that the current food system is unacceptable?

    Right, because “I speak…Cocktail Party” had not the slightest tinge of condescension or disdain. After I had said that I found your earlier comments interesting and appreciated them.

    Why do you bother to keep talking to me at all, if I’m so stupid?

    I never called you stupid, Lora. (Nor for that matter did I call Prometheus stupid – just his behavior. Or Paarlberg – just his book.)

    Although I give you bonus points for managing to combine an ad hominem and ad veracundiam all in one short clause.

    It was neither. It wasn’t an ad hominem because I wasn’t saying you were ignorant and therefore none of your arguments were valid. I was simply making an observation from the evidence available (which may have been a bit obnoxious, but I was feeling insulted myself). It wasn’t an ad verecundiam fallacy because I am in fact an expert in this area. When you talk down to me as if I were ignorant or naive on matters I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to investigating, yeah, I tend to get a little touchy. Likewise, I’m sure there’s a lot I could learn from you about farming – I consider you an expert in that, um, field.

    Do you think that it’s a very successful strategy to insult people and then tell them to go read a book in the same damn breath?

    Do you? You did the same thing with me and Salatin.

    Do you think this is a great way to build a populist movement? Most farmers who have a vested interest in sustainable agriculture are far more ignorant than me; many aren’t college-educated.

    Right, that’s why I brought up New England efforts and linked to La Via Campesina above – because I’m writing farmers off.

    Are you going to tell them to go read a book, ya dumbass motherfucker?

    This doesn’t even deserve a response.

    If the solution to a problem potentially involves violence, better to deny its existence?
    No, but how do you plan to inspire people to take up arms, even in self-defense?

    Odd non sequitur.

    In the US, we’ve got farmers committing suicide rather than attack their oppressors. How exactly do you plan to turn that around?

    I don’t “plan” anything. There are existing organizations and movements around the world that include farmers and agricultural workers. I support (in my own pitiful way), study, and try to give publicity to those I agree with and see as promising. These aren’t for the most part in the US.

    We could discuss various movements around the world and their tactical and strategic strengths, including those with which I’m, involved
    That was actually what I was specifically asking you about, it’s a pity you don’t see fit to explain. Or educate, if that’s what you feel is necessary.

    OK, where do you want to start? With which movement or organization? If I’m not familiar with it, it may take a bit to do some research, but I will get back to you.

    And good luck when they come for, or destroy from without, your farm, princess.
    Thank you for the good wishes. Yes, I am fatalistic at this point, for various reasons both related and unrelated to the subject of food; hence, I do what I can for myself.

    That makes me sad. You care, and you’re smart and knowledgeable. You’re exactly the sort of person that movements for change need.

  19. #19 Anastasia
    June 18, 2009

    Hello Sascha, I like your combo of herd immunity and papaya. I just had to make a few comments…

    We don’t label pesticides, even though there are certain pesticides (like organophosphates) that have been shown to be dangerous. We don’t label plant varieties that have been mutagenized with chemicals or radiation, even though they have been shown to have genome wide changes (more than genetically engineered varieties). We don’t label farming method, even though we know certain methods like no-till are better for the environment than others. We don’t label specific crop variety even though there are huge genotypic and phenotypic differences.

    Then there’s “GMOs” – a huge category of potential traits that may or may not have potential risks. Lumping them all together and smacking a “GMO” label on anything that may contain ingredients derived from a plant that resulted from genetic engineering is worse than pointless. Pointless because it’s really not informative at all. Worse because of the fear factor.

    Few scientists take the time to write about science, to explain their fields to the public, but there are plenty of non-scientists ready to pass along misconceptions. I have friends with PhDs in related subjects who repeat all of the goofy ideas about GMOs that appear on the websites of activists, even though they know how to get peer reviewed info on the subject. Can we expect an average non-PhD holding person to do better?

    Add a GMO label and you will kill biotechnology before it has even had a chance to give us anything good (besides GM papaya). Already, industry has no impetus to make anything for consumers and government agencies have pretty much stopped any research into new biotech crops as well.

    Ok, that’s all for now, because it is late!

  20. #20 ERV
    June 18, 2009

    Hello Sascha, I like your combo of herd immunity and papaya. I just had to make a few comments…
    *whispers* Im not Sasha :P I mean, I like her and all, and Im glad she stood her ground here, as her concerns are similar to ones lots of people have, but Im Abbie :D

  21. #21 titmouse
    October 26, 2009

    Holy crap! So many comments to read –and read I shall. But first to record my GMO “pre-test” position:

    “Natural” genes –> protein –> tummy + protease –> amino acids.

    “GMO” genes –> same end point.

    Ergo, meh. Only proviso: rare allergic reactions. However, that risk exists even with non-GMO protein sources, so pretty “meh” also.

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