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Genetically modified hubris

A couple of days ago, NY Times writer Andrew Pollack attempted to address the failure of biotech companies to "improve" fruits and vegetable crops -- that is, to bring a genetically altered fruit or vegetable strain (as opposed to grains like corn and legumes like soy) from seed to supermarket.

Unwittingly, the article illustrates the industry's hubris and the mainstream press's gullibility in covering the topic.
Genetically modified hubris

by Tom Philpott
Tom Philpott, 16 Feb 2006
 http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/2/16/84730/1561

A couple of days ago, NY Times writer Andrew Pollack attempted to address the failure of biotech companies to "improve" fruits and vegetable crops -- that is, to bring a genetically altered fruit or vegetable strain (as opposed to grains like corn and legumes like soy) from seed to supermarket.

Unwittingly, the article illustrates the industry's hubris and the mainstream press's gullibility in covering the topic.

Pollack opens thusly:

"At the dawn of the era of genetically engineered crops, scientists were envisioning all sorts of healthier and tastier foods, including cancer-fighting tomatoes, rot-resistant fruits, potatoes that would produce healthier French fries and even beans that would not cause flatulence."

The only response to that statement is a horselaugh. Tomatoes already fight cancer; fruits like apples and oranges resist rot just fine (Does anyone seriously want, say, raspberries that last weeks? When we harvest them on my farm, they tend to disappear rapidly anyway); french fries can be plenty healthy, so long as you (like those skinny French people) fry them in good-quality fat and don't eat them in excess; and the answer to beans' flatulence problem lies not in the lab, but in the garden: Just add a bit of the hardy herb epazote to the pot. I've seen epazote thrive everywhere from a full-sun garden in Texas to a community garden in Brooklyn to a shady herb patch in North Carolina's mountains.

In other words, low-tech solutions already exist for most of the "problems" the biotech industry has set out to "solve." It's no coincidence that biotech ag companies are the mutant child of the pharmaceutical industry, which peddles a pill for every malady, including many you didn't know you had.

Pollack's next sentence contains another howler: "But so far, most of the genetically modified crops have provided benefits mainly to farmers, by making it easier for them to control weeds and insects."

That's enough to turn one's horselaugh into a full-on growl. How, precisely, have biotech's benefits flowed "mainly to farmers"? Let's review the industry for a second here. As Pollack notes, biotech has failed completely to bring a successful fruit or veg seed to market. Its only triumphs have been in heavily subsidized grain, legume, and fiber crops: specifically corn, soy, and cotton.

Since 1995, when Monsanto started to market GM seeds heavily, some $70 billion in direct government subsidies have flowed to corn, cotton, and soy farmers -- the most prolific decade for commodity subsidies ever. If biotech seeds have been such a boon to farmers, then why have the farmers that grow them needed such a monumental bailout?

Meanwhile, Monsanto's share price, like its bottom line, has surged.

Clearly, the big winners in the biotech boom have not been consumers or (pace Pollack) farmers, but rather shareholders in the seed giants.

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... 07.Mar.2006 19:36

this thing here

excellent points in here. thanks for sharing.

or, how about genetically engineering pigs so that their feces don't contain so much phosphourous, thereby making a leaking waste lagoon less of a problem. as if the pigs were the problem, and not waste lgoons and industrial animal farming.

really, it's not just hubris in my opinion. it's simply pure evil, and completely abusive of science and genetic technology.

dead soil, dead food 08.Mar.2006 18:03

i can farm, can you?

three years ago, when peak oilk was still a whisper that did not reach mainstream or alternate either, I read an obscure piece by an agronomist in the Dakotas. It was about the alread done and irreversalble damage to that environment due to super crops like our much touted genetic soy. Same would be true of any crop which is mined instead of raised. The bulk of all fertilizers come from petroleum- natural gas and nitrogen in forms that would get you busted if you fluhsed them down your toilet. The price of such hubris is beyond calculation, even if one does the math about rising oil costs (the peak oil diversion).

Simply stated- the farm land is dead. It can not "grow" without its regular fix of dead petrofertilizers. The biota are dead. There is nothing to fix nitrogen left in the dirt. (don't dream call it "soil") The worms, the bacteria have been wasted. The salinization and polutants are seeping through the aquafers. The rivers are going going...go.....The fish too. Phosphates, algae blooms....the expected and not surprising effects of mining for foods.

Met a woman last week , on the bus,coming back from the inland empire. She grew up in the Dakotas. Rode the horse home from school. Rode turtles in the rivers. Hundreds years old giant turtles. Extinct turtles...

Fucking Green Revolution from Hell !!!!!

Its not farming. Its Mining. It is not turning anyone a profit without taxpayers subsidizing it. Little people don't get subsidized. Corporations, either public stock corps, or family held corporations, those who can afford Lobbyists- they get the subsidies. The sugar producers who run prison conditions with the vagrants from atlanta, held by fear of guns and guard dogs, who buy crack and 40 ouncers at the company store. Whores available weekends. The cotton producers of Cal, who mix chemicals not in vats, but in bulldozed ponds in the streams and cannals where migrant birds try to live, but die from either the polutants, or from the astronomical levels of selenium that has come to the surface. Legacy of a century of dry land farming, mining upstream in the Sierras and cheap water stolen from the Sacrameno and Colorado rivers. Speaking of Colo. River. Soon the cities upstream will be going to courts to press for their Fair Share as upstream(senior) rights holders. Owens Valley Redux. The Nevada State troopers versus the Corcoran and Imperial Valley red-neckpirates)

The Colo does not flow to the Gulf. It does not support Mexican fishing. And there is this growing problem called the Salton Sea. (polution, salinization, selenium, dead birds, dead fish...)

So eat hearty mates. Cause the store is running out.

Hoes, Worm piles, heritage seeds. Of such is the future made