Are Farmers Stupid, or Deluded, or Both?

Friends of the Earth misinforms on crop biotech again

Last week, the ideological environmentalist group Friends of the Earth (FOE) launched another attack in its misinformation campaign against biotech crops. FOE's latest salvo is its report "Who Benefits from GM Crops?," issued explicitly to counter the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications' (ISAAA) annual global assessment of biotech crops. FOE claims biotech crops yield less than conventional crops, harm the environment, are technologically stagnant, have done nothing to help poor farmers, and are monopolized by a few giant corporations.

The ISAAA 2007 report on the global status paints a far different picture. The ISAAA notes that farmers around the world continue their rapid adoption of biotech crop varieties. In 2007 the global planting of biotech crops rose to an all time high of 282 million acres, a 12 percent increase over 2006. In addition, the number of farmers choosing to grow biotech crops rose from 10.3 million in 2006 to over 12 million in 2007. The ISAAA report notes that 11 million of the biotech growers are resource poor farmers in developing countries, the majority of whom cultivate insect-resistant cotton. Biotech crops are now planted in 23 countries, and 29 others have approved the import of biotech food and feed.

Let's look at FOE's claims about the alleged faults of biotech crops.

Do biotech crops yield less than conventional crops? FOE is artful in its use of data. Some biotech varieties did initially impose slight yield penalties when compared to conventional varieties. This occurred because breeders improved conventional varieties during the years it took biotech crops to be approved by regulatory agencies. Even so, farmers adopted slightly lower yielding biotech crops because they were cheaper to grow. Biotech crops need fewer pesticide applications and require less plowing. A 2006 study by the British agricutural and food economics consultancy, PG Economics, found no impact from biotech on soy yields while cotton and corn enjoyed higher yields. Even though biotech seeds cost more, overall lower production costs more than make up for the initial expense. The PG Economics report estimates that biotech crops have increased farm incomes by $27 billion since 1996.

Do biotech crops harm the environment? FOE claims that biotech crops use more pesticides than conventional varieties and it identifies crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (aka Roundup) as the chief offenders. Farmers kill weeds without harming their biotech crops by spraying with glyphosate. The PG Economics study found that the adoption of biotech crops reduced the use of pesticides since 1996 by 224 million kilograms (493 million pounds), or just about 7 percent.

In addition, herbicide resistant crops enable farmers to switch to no-till farming which dramatically reduces soil erosion. In fact, an August 2007 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that "no-till farming can build soil fertility even with intensive farming methods." However, some regions experienced an increased use of glyphosate as farmers shifted to no-till agriculture. So if glyphosate applications are going up, is it harmful to the environment or human health? Not even the hyper-cautious Pesticide Action Network puts glyphosate on its list of "bad actors." Nor does glyphosate linger in the environment—it is rapidly degraded by soil microbes with a half-life of a week to several months, which is shorter than many of the herbicides that it replaces.

FOE also claims that spraying biotech crops with herbicides is forcing the faster evolution of herbicide resistant superweeds. Just as bacteria eventually evolve to resist antibiotics, so too do weeds evolve to resist herbicides. This process started with the introduction of modern herbicides after World War II, well before the advent of modern biotech varieties. Fortunately, biotechnology is a fine tool for developing new ways to control weeds.

FOE argues that crop biotechnology has stagnated and correctly points out that the vast majority of biotech crop varieties incorporate just two traits: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. These traits are valuable to farmers though they don't not offer obvious benefits to consumers. If few new biotech crops have yet to make it to the tables of consumers, FOE can take a good bit of the credit. FOE and other ideological environmentalists have campaigned tirelessly to block the development and spread of new beneficial biotech crop traits. FOE does its best to stop biotech in its tracks and then turns around to assert that researchers have developed nothing new.

However, FOE will soon not be able to make that hypocritical claim. Biotech researchers are now incorporating traits for drought resistance, salt tolerance, and one which enables plants to thrive on half a dose of nitrogen fertilizer. Crops with these traits will be particularly valuable for poor farmers in developing countries. Despite FOE's opposition, "Golden Rice," which has been genetically improved to help prevent vitamin A deficiency, which blinds 300,000 to 500,000 poor children each year, should become available by 2011. In addition, researchers are creating crops that provide enhanced nutrition such as tomatoes with increased folate.

Anti-biotech campaigns by activist groups like FOE have succeeded in frightening the governments of many developing countries into banning biotech crops. Nevertheless, biotech crops have been embraced by poor farmers around the world—whenever their governments will let them. The World Banks's World Development Report 2008 (WDR) notes that second-generation biotech crops are now making their way to the market. The WDR reports, "Transgenic rice, eggplant, mustard, cassava, banana, potato, sweet potato, lentil, and lupin have been approved for field testing in one or more countries. Many of those technologies promise substantial benefits to poor producers and consumers."

And finally, FOE complains that biotech seeds are monopolized by a few large companies. Again, FOE activists should look in the mirror to find the culprits behind this industry consolidation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of startup and well-established seed companies that aimed to develop agricultural biotech exploded. But, as we've seen, crop biotech ran into a buzz saw of environmentalist opposition, especially in Europe. Consequently, since biotech seeds are relatively low in value compared to biomedical treatments, small crop biotech companies withered and the industry consolidated into fairly large companies, chiefly Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta and Bayer. St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto dominates the market for biotech seed. Some 60 percent of all biotech improved seeds contain traits developed by Monsanto. FOE is certainly responsible, in part, for Monsanto's exploding profits.

Finally, let's revisit the title of FOE's new report: "Who Benefits from GM Crops?" As the ISAAA report clearly shows, millions of farmers around the world think that they benefit from biotech crops. Since this is so, FOE can only conclude that these farmers are either stupid or deluded or both. If biotech crops did not deliver their promised benefits, farmers around the world would not be adopting them at exponential rates. Not even FOE's most determined efforts to spread anti-biotech misinformation can obscure this plain fact.

Disclosure: I used to own some Monsanto shares years ago. It looks as though I should have held onto them. I don't own any other crop biotech stocks. I grew up on a farm and I can tell you that plowing and weeding are not all that much fun.

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books.

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    FOE claims biotech crops yield less than conventional crops, harm the environment, are technologically stagnant, have done nothing to help poor farmers, and are monopolized by a few giant corporations.

    Then they have nothing to worry about, do they?

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    Mr. Bailey, just to play devil's advocate.. you refute the claims in the FOE study by citing 2 studies done by other groups, like an industry group and a private consultancy. what makes them inherently more credible or less "ideological" than FOE? other than that, your point about some of FOE's criticisms of crop biotech (such as recent technological stagnation and monopolization by large corporations) being hypocritical because they are due mostly to the actions of groups like FOE is a good one.

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    Somewhat off-topic, but I wonder why Monsanto doesn't just give the seeds away for free and then charge a fortune for Roundup? Would that allow them to both avoid lawsuits for illicit seed usage and regulatory regimes?

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    what makes them inherently more credible or less "ideological" than FOE?

    Because they're Ron's sources. :D

  • Click \'n\' Learn||

    This post has actually made Youtube, believe it or not. Search for "Leave Monsanto alone!" to find it.

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    Somewhat off-topic, but I wonder why Monsanto doesn't just give the seeds away for free and then charge a fortune for Roundup?

    Because that would kill their market share with Roundup users who don't use Roundup-ready seeds.

    FOE claims biotech crops . . .are technologically stagnant

    Wait, do they think that's a bad thing? I thought their whole shtick was that we shouldn't be doing this techno-voodoo to the environment.

  • Episiarch||

    Dump is such a great word.

  • Taktix®||

    This post has actually made Youtube

    Uhh, "making" YouTube isn't all that special. As proof, here's a video of the lead singer of my band dancing with a cat. It "made" YouTube as well.

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    Somewhat off-topic, but I wonder why Monsanto doesn't just give the seeds away for free and then charge a fortune for Roundup? Would that allow them to both avoid lawsuits for illicit seed usage and regulatory regimes?

    I imagine that the patent on glyphosate Roundup has run out, or will shortly. Sell the wool, keep the sheep, so to speak. If they innovate with biotech crops often enough, Monsanto can patent a new strain/breed every few years, while it's competitors will be able to sell Roundup after the patent runs out.

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    Patent protection for Roundup expired in September, 2000.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4250/is_200012/ai_n13186938

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    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7529


    Have you done any reports on their doomsday plans? and why they think this kinda doomsday scenario(where they need real seeds, instead of the self destructing kind)is more likely then about one hundred other science fiction type scenarios?

  • Sam Grove||

    FOE has acronymed itself very accurately.
    Foes Of Everyone

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    As the ISAAA report clearly shows, millions of farmers around the world think that they benefit from biotech crops. Since this is so, FOE can only conclude that these farmers are either stupid or deluded or both.

    Contempt for the intelligence of farmers is a common thread among left wing environmentalists.

  • Brandon||

    SV -

    We're discussing empirical data here.

    If we were talking about opinions, you'd have a point: Monsanto's opinion is likely as biased as FOE's.

    FOE is, quite bluntly, lying.

    For the record, the fallacy you made here is known as an ad hominem circumstantial.

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    sv: Fair question. May I direct your attention to nearly any peer-reviewed scientific journal. You can find a few articles here and there that raise questions about the advantages of biotech crops, but the vast majority find that they are better for the environment, yield more and are more profitable for farmers. For a quick start you might want to browse through some back issues of AgBioForum.

    joshua corning: You hit exactly my main point--farmers will not adopt these crops if they didn't find them beneficial. That's the main proof that FOE is lying.

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    joshua corning | February 19, 2008, 4:20pm | #

    Contempt for the intelligence of farmers is a common thread among left wing environmentalists.


    That's always irritated me, especially as the son of a farmer.

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    Brandon, i only meant to question how, given the accusation that FOE massaged the data, we could know that the other studies didn't, as well. Bailey's reference to the preponderance of peer-reviewed articles which come to substantially different conclusions than FOE suggests an answer. Not that I really had much doubt about that, anyway.

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    As a libertarian with some "green" around my gills, I've neverthless always been uncomfortable with the environmental movement's anti-technology stances. It has never made sense to me that this amazing human endeavor we call "technology", in all its crazy quilt of potentials, should be set aside for ideological reasons when practical reasons cry out for its application. Human genius, the marketplace, and a little old fashioned libertarian "strict liability" to keep the bad side effects in check should be enough to solve a whole range of problems without plunging us back to the dark ages.

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    Yes - GMOs are beneficial in the sense that complicated import duties protect local jobs.

    Thanks to the Green revolution the commercial yields of crop per acre have increased tremendously over the past few decades (albeit a productivity ceiling has been hit more than a decade ago. The earth indeed is finite).

    This productivity increase is mainly used by agri-business "scientists" for their ecological argument. The more crop per acre - the less land and hence - better environmentalism. As long as we ignore ecological arguments - this actually holds true.
    But with the productivity increase has soil erosion let alone species extinction. GMO does by definition not mingle well with the wild and tends to be mono-culture centric. Darwin's Nightmare anybody? A bit like the Westminster Dog Show not wanting to see any mutts aka non-inbreeds. This interventionism does lead to species extinction and other ecological externalities. What we call productivity increase is hence merely a virtual increase in a number - but does not give an adequate full long-term picture. Yes - it does matter if this is your second mortgage.

    Any holistic thinker will observe that the GMO way to get the most out of nature is the frankenstein nazi way. There is also a lot of Lamarckian thinking mixed into GMO scientists and very little evolutionary understanding.

    Markets grow and evolve. Statists plan and build and regulate. This is a waste of nature. Leaving the natural market alone would yield much better long-term yields than any short-term market intervention which only decreases the power of biodiversity. Natural farming for example is sustainable for the soil and has amazing ROI and very low TCO. "With this kind of farming, which uses no machines, no prepared fertilizer and no chemicals, it is possible to attain a harvest equal to or greater than that of the average Japanese farm." (The one-straw revolution page 3).

    The worst about the chemical revolution of course is that the stuff we eat ain't as healthy anymore. Now I know that we can inject synthetic vitamins into our fruits. Just like a government can inject an economic stimulus package into the market if it does not trust the market power of the Fed or if the market power declines.. but...

    There would be a solution to all this of course. If we ate less meat - there would be more than enough farm land and water available to practice sustainable agriculture with existing resources and without any need for any risky GMO (GMO is often like FDA approved medicine - for decades everything can look "ok"). But most GMO crops are livestock feed.

    In other words - if we practiced less welfare statism (planning, Lamarckian GMO mono-agriculture, micromanagement of nature) at the expense of the market (evolution, natural farming and limited intervention) - the market would recover by itself and there would be no need for exotic and interventionists approaches.

    It is a bit like - smoking. Finding a high-tech cure for lung cancer is a noble cause. But I am sure that this is not how parents who find out that their children have taken up smoking are thinking about this issue.

    I salute all the goals of GMO practitioners - more food, less poverty, better ecology. Just like I salute the goal of communists to rid the world of poverty. I just do not believe in the approach and its long-term effectiveness. The economy can be ruined in years - the ecology takes many decades if not longer and seems more forgiving. But we should not forget that much more is at stake than a black Friday.

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    ... should be enough to solve a whole range of problems without plunging us back to the dark ages.

    Dark ages, hell. Some extreme environmentalists would prefer the stone age, paleolithic at that.

    BTW, I consider myself a rational environmentalist. As in any other movement the extremists get most of the press and end up harming the cause.

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    PS: Last but not least - I would like to quote E O Wilson on
    technocrats vs libertarians:


    The constraints of the biosphere are fixed. The bottleneck through which we are passing is real. It should be obvious to anyone not in a euphoric delirium that whatever humanity does or does not do, Earth's capacity to support our species is approaching the limit. We already appropriate by some means or other 40 percent of the planet's organic matter produced by green plants. If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people. If humans utilized as food all of the energy captured by plant photosynthesis on land and sea, some 40 trillion watts, the planet could support about 16 billion people. But long before that ultimate limit was approached, the planet would surely have become a hellish place to exist. There may, of course, be escape hatches. Petroleum reserves might be converted into food, until they are exhausted. Fusion energy could conceivably be used to create light, whose energy would power photosynthesis, ramp up plant growth beyond that dependent on solar energy, and hence create more food. Humanity might even consider becoming someday what the astrobiologists call a type II civilization and harness all the power of the sun to support human life on Earth and on colonies on and around the other solar planets. Surely these are not frontiers we will wish to explore in order simply to continue our reproductive folly.

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    Any holistic thinker will observe that the GMO way to get the most out of nature is the frankenstein nazi way.

    Hugo Pottisch, I must admit that I stopped reading your comment at the end of that sentence. See the last sentence in my previous just above.

  • alisa||

    I'm with you, edcoast. FOE seems to be less of an environmental group than an anti-technology group, anyway. There are potential environmental advantages of GM crops (insect resistance could mean less pesticides, higher crop yields could relieve the pressure on farmers to clear forests) but to FOE, the actual effects of biotech are less important than a sort of shudder at the thought of humans doing something new.

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    edcoast

    There is a difference between human ingenious, inventions and scientific explorations and playing frankenstein.

    We can do whatever we want - as long as we do not forget that we are only a part of the whole and have to obey some natural laws as long as we want to live...

    I for one believe that producing computers on a grand scale is by far more sustainable than eg our current agricultural practices.

    Many environmentalists like E O Wilson consider themselves proud to be children of the enlightenment age. Gordon Moor the founder of Intel is a close friend of his and they have both launched Conservation International, etc.

    Einstein was not anti-technology when he warned of the dangers of nuclear materials and neither was Carl Sagan. It is ironic that most farmers are deeply religious and yet would portrait the scientists as anti-technology or anti-science when it comes to GMO etc.

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    Thanks for the replies regarding Roundup's patent status. I should have thought of that, although Monsanto could give away the seeds with the caveat that only Roundup could be used on them (i.e., a contract). That would be far easier to police than whether or not people were misappropriating the seeds, and eliminate the problem of Roundup customers using non-Roundup Ready seeds.

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    Hugo Pottisch -

    BTW, Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage are all genetically modified crops. They are all derived from the same ancestor plant species that has been altered by humans using this oldfangled concept called artificial selection.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

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    BTW, Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage are all genetically modified crops. They are all derived from the same ancestor plant species that has been altered by humans using this oldfangled concept called artificial selection.

    That hits it on the head. Why is it OK when farmers do it over hundreds of years, but not OK when science can do it overnight?
    We've always been fucking with nature. It's just that now, it's a quickie in the broom closet of a laboratory.

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    frankenstein...

    No, you're not anti-technology at all. Nosiree.

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    The constraints of the biosphere are fixed. The bottleneck through which we are passing is real.

    Dear Ghod. How many times does Malthus have to be disproved before it is finally discarded?

    The source of wealth and productivity is not dirt. It is human ingenuity, the outer reaches of which have not yet been plumbed.

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    Dear Ghod. How many times does Malthus have to be disproved before it is finally discarded?


    I don't think we'll ever know, because we're all fucking doomed to starve to death in about 3 years anyway. ;-)

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    Math is on the side of Malthus, and he only has to be right once. Anybody want to argue that Earth has an infinite carrying capacity? That we'll somehow decline to breed ourselves into a corner? You can just assume that every time it gets crowded a scientific breakthrough will save us, I find faith a poor substitute for forethought.

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    Why is it OK when farmers do it over hundreds of years, but not OK when science can do it overnight?

    Yes - what is the difference between Mendel and cutting DNA around with enzymes?

    There is more than enough scientific prove that even non-GMO wild plants and animals are dangerous enough for many eco-systems when introduced unnaturally fast by airplanes or ships to foreign regions (E.g California).

    The question here cannot be technology - good or bad unless you really really need to distract?

    The question here is: do we want to wait for lung cancer to hit before we quit smoking in which case we really rely on human ingenuity to save us from a dire situation?

    Or do we want to quite before we have lung cancer so that human exploration remains the classical Greek fun for schola and not need...?

    In this case - scientist and patient are one and the same.

    There are many ways to eat from the Tree of Knowledge... We apes cannot cure the flue and already we are all certain that we can figure out how whole ecosystems work and claim to be able to control and improve them. GMOs? Ahh - in doubt - just risk it mate - eh?

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    re: Oh ma ghod he said... Frankenstein...

    "GMO" brought to you by the kind people of Charley and the Artificially Modified Factory... always everybody's best interest in mind... never spookey always using technology for the better. You should read their "science" papers - what we can squize out of a single "farm" these days. Let us all move in this direction and not learn any universal lessions here. Step by step. Now it is your turn.. crops and plants...

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    Sorry for the dyslexia… should of course read.. well without the spellos ma squeeze..

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    Hugo: I should know better than to do this, but you've made the usual error of thinking that ecology is some sort of trump card to other sciences, usually economics. That is not so--ecology may tell us something of the trade-offs we face given assumed levels of technology and certain social institutions, but that's it. There are limits to the availability of physical substances, but resources are what people make of the available substances. In other words, resources are ideas combined with physical substances and living things.

    I will point to some of my earlier articles and essays on the topic, not because I expect you to believe them, but perhaps they will suggest further reading for on these topics for you.

    The Law of Increasing Returns

    Under the Spell of Malthus

    The Secrets of Intangible Wealth

    Global Ecological Collapse?

    Bio-Invaders

    BTW, with regard to soil erosion destroying civilizations, biotech crops enable no-till farming which can actually increase the production of soil.

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    Besides the fact that I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks, the gengineers work must go forward because I WANT MY FLYING MONKEYS! The see through frog and the glow in the dark cat are pertty cool, but dammit, I WANT MY FLYING MONKEYS!

    Then we can stop and assess the dangers.

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    Maurkov: Ecologists tell us that all creatures turn more food into more offspring.

    However, the demographic evidence is that unlike other species, as food security and supplies increase, we have fewer, not more, children. Hmmmm.

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    Sorry, I should have linked to the See Through Frog and the Glow in the Dark Cat in my previous comment. This rectifies that ommision.

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    Spellcheck is for wimps.

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    The Earth has an infinite carrying capacity.

    We absolutely will somehow decline to breed ourselves into a corner.

    Every time it gets crowded, a scientific breakthrough will save us.

    I find faith a poor substitute for forethought.

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    Ron,

    There are limits to the availability of physical substances, but resources are what people make of the available substances. In other words, resources are ideas combined with physical substances and living things.

    You are referring to intellectual capital. Intellectual capital can indeed propel us to new heights - it makes us use physical resources more efficiently. It allows us to build airplanes and fly etc. But we cannot break natural laws in the process.

    I agree with you on these points and will point to some of my earlier posts on the topic:

    Intellectual capital makes us rich, a rich ecology keeps us rich. The first part must be made explicit to the public by economist and not environmentalist. We can be rich and sustainable. In fact - the two are positively related given 6.7 billion on the planet. But again - it is the task of economists to explain that. Saudi and Russia and oil vs Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wallstreet and creativity. There is no need for R&D subsidizing when you can give incentives to the market. Same goal - more distributed and non-intrusive - less regulations. ..



    In other words - I agree with you on this issue. But, again, I do not believe that we can break natural laws on a substantial scale for much longer.

    I myself am a libertarian economist from the LSE by education but I believe that E O Wilson of Harvard is a libertarian ecologist by education:



    "Wait! Hold on there just one minute!"

    That is the voice of the cornucopian economist. Let us listen to him carefully. He is focused on production and consumption. These are what the world wants and needs, he says. He is right, of course. Every species lives on production and consumption. The tree finds and consumes nutrients and sunlight; the leopard finds and consumes the deer. And the farmer clears both away to find space and raise corn--for consumption. The economist's thinking is based on precise models of rational choice and near-horizon timelines. His parameters are the gross domestic product, trade balance, and competitive index. He sits on corporate boards, travels to Washington, occasionally appears on television talk shows. The planet, he insists, is perpetually fruitful and still underutilized.

    The ecologist has a different worldview. He is focused on unsustainable crop yields, overdrawn aquifers, and threatened ecosystems. His voice is also heard, albeit faintly, in high government and corporate circles. He sits on nonprofit foundation boards, writes for Scientific American, and is sometimes called to Washington. The planet, he insists, is exhausted and in trouble.

    "EASE UP. In spite of two centuries of doomsaying, humanity is enjoying unprecedented prosperity. There are environmental problems, certainly, but they can be solved. Think of them as the detritus of progress, to be cleared away. The global economic picture is favorable. The gross national products of the industrial countries continue to rise. Despite their recessions, the Asian tigers are catching up with North America and Europe. Around the world, manufacture and the service economy are growing geometrically. Since 1950 per capita income and meat production have risen continuously. Even though the world population has increased at an explosive 1.8 percent each year during the same period, cereal production, the source of more than half the food calories of the poorer nations and the traditional proxy of worldwide crop yield, has more than kept pace, rising from 275 kilograms per head in the early 1950s to 370 kilograms by the 1980s. The forests of the developed countries are now regenerating as fast as they are being cleared, or nearly so. And while fibers are also declining steeply in most of the rest of the world--a serious problem, I grant--no global scarcities are expected in the foreseeable future. Agriforestry has been summoned to the rescue: more than 20 percent of industrial wood fiber now comes from tree plantations.

    "Social progress is running parallel to economic growth. Literacy rates are climbing, and with them the liberation and empowerment of women. Democracy, the gold standard of governance, is spreading country by country. The communication revolution powered by the computer and the Internet has accelerated the globalization of trade and the evolution of a more irenic international culture.

    "For two centuries the specter of Malthus troubled the dreams of futurists. By rising exponentially, the doomsayers claimed, population must outstrip the limited resources of the world and bring about famine, chaos, and war. On occasion this scenario did unfold locally. But that has been more the result of political mismanagement than Malthusian mathematics. Human ingenuity has always found a way to accommodate rising populations and allow most to prosper.

    "Genius and effort have transformed the environment to the benefit of human life. We have turned a wild and inhospitable world into a garden. Human dominance is Earth's destiny. The harmful perturbations we have caused can be moderated and reversed as we go along."



    As always - read on… E O Wilson has seen such discussions before and summarizes them nicely. Perhaps it will suggest further reading for on these topics for you.

    BTW, with regard to soil erosion destroying civilizations, non-biotech crops have been enabling no-till farming for millions of years which can actually increase the production of soil.

  • LarryA||

    It has never made sense to me that this amazing human endeavor we call "technology", in all its crazy quilt of potentials, should be set aside for ideological reasons when practical reasons cry out for its application. Human genius, the marketplace, and a little old fashioned libertarian "strict liability" to keep the bad side effects in check should be enough to solve a whole range of problems without plunging us back to the dark ages.

    And thereby put the environmental movement out of business.

    There's also the NIH* factor at work.

    The constraints of the biosphere are fixed. The bottleneck through which we are passing is real. And so forth.

    We've been hearing the same prediction for decades. Everything's going to fall apart Real Soon Now. Then we turn a new bit of technology and the doomsayers have to find a new problem.

    But, again, I do not believe that we can break natural laws on a substantial scale for much longer.

    True. But we can learn new and better ways to use the natural laws to more efficiently manage resources. For instance, current projections clearly show a reduction in the population increase, with mankind soon reaching a peak population and leveling of or declining. Then all the doomsayers will be bitching about that.

    BTW, with regard to soil erosion destroying civilizations, non-biotech crops have been enabling no-till farming for millions of years which can actually increase the production of soil.

    So why are you telling us this? Send the great E O Wilson out to talk to farmers. As soon as they're convinced all the biotech companies will go out of business.

    Or have you already tried that, and failed?

    *NIH: Not Invented Here

  • ||

    BTW, with regard to soil erosion destroying civilizations, non-biotech crops have been enabling no-till farming for millions of years which can actually increase the production of soil.

    Hugo,

    You can't persuade people using made up B/S like that. Agriculture is at most (I'm stretching to get a number this large) 50K years old. This site is not one where you can throw out nonsense numbers and not be challenged.

  • ||

    Hugo,

    The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. New York: World Book, 1996. -

    "Most anthropologist believe that between about 400,000 & 300,000 years ago, Homo erectus evolved into a new species called Homo sapiens."


    Mankind has been farming for millions of years, you say?

  • ||

    I am not convinced that GMO crops are best for man kind, since the DNA has been altered how can we be sure our bodies cells are getting the proper nutrition? I wonder at the alarming rate of Autism, Depression, Obesity, could it be that we have been sold a very bad deal. I am sure Farmers do not wish the customer any harm, but the Giant Farm Corporation is only concerned with profits and shelf life, not nutrient quality. The consumer is only concerned with the cost. Only a few seem to concerned about the nutrition.

  • ||

    RC wonders when Malthus will finally be abandoned and is answered thusly

    Math is on the side of Malthus, and he only has to be right once.

    Aren't articles of faith wonderful things?

  • Brandon||

    Donna-

    Proper nutrition is quite easily detectable. That's how we're able to determine nutrition facts for food products. It's not informed guessing. Everything from calories to amino acid profiles to vitamin amounts is carefully measured.

    As for your "alarming rates," that's laughably poor logic. J sub D alluded to this before, but I think you'll find the average reader here has an IQ above 60.

    Finally, one of the main benefits of GM food is that it's extra-nutritious versus regular food.

  • ||

    I'm fine with genetically modified food. It just makes me nervous that some of the same people me drinking fluoride makes my kids healthier.

    1 part per million, is what is usually used in our drinking water. Toothpaste is usually 1500 parts per million or .15%....so if the "pea sized" amount of toothpaste that they say is worthy of a phone call to poison control worthy...and we say that a pea is about 3/4 of a cubic centimeter then that means drinking 1.125 liters of tap water has the same fluoride.

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=514580

    http://www.fluoridealert.org/news/1655.html

  • ||

    Development of biotech crops is irrational in that it only encourages and enables the single greatest challenge facing life on earth: overpopulation by homo sapien

  • ||

    Brandon,
    So nutrition can be measured, but can you be sure the altered DNA of food will communicate properly with our DNA and feed our cells. If bugs a simple life form will avoid GMO food could it be instinct that protects them. But my logic is poor so I guess I must be wrong. By the way I recommend www.thefutureoffood.com watch the trailer to the movie it really speaks to this controversy. This is the arena of ideas, I do not claim to be a know it all. What is wrong with posing questions and asking why. Even if our logic is in question, We all know the Government does not look to our best interest and frankly we are not a big enough lobby or have enough money to influence the people we vote in to office who are influenced by people {Monsanto}who is making a lot of money off of us. Just look at the money they are making off of artificial sweeting.

  • ||

    That 11 millions have adopted them does not say so much. There are some 2 or 3 billion small farmers in the third world. Large farmers organisations like MCNOC and FNC in Paraguay, FNCEZ in Venezuela and MST in Brazil are very anti-GMO.

    As for salt-restistant and drought-resistant crops and so on, it might be true this time, but such claims have been made many times before.

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    is good

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