Trade-offs and Choices: It Ain't Easy Being Green

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Greenpeace opposes genetically enhanced (GE) rice. Greenpeace opposes man-made global warming. What to do when a company proposes to sell GE rice that cuts greenhouse gas emissions to Chinese farmers who can then earn greenhouse gas offset credits? The Guardian explains:

Money paid by green consumers to offset their flights and by companies that go carbon-neutral will be used to fund the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops under plans drawn up by a US biotechnology company.

Arcadia Biosciences is working with the Chinese government to reward farmers in China that grow the firm's genetically modified (GM) rice, with carbon credits that they can sell for cash.

The credits would be sold on the global carbon trading market set up under the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which is used by governments, companies and individuals to offset their pollution. Arcadia plans to expand the Chinese scheme to more crops in other countries, including Britain.

Arcadia says its GM rice requires less nitrogen fertiliser, and so farmers that grow it will lower their emissions of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas some 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Swapping global rice supply to the GM version, the company says, would save the equivalent of 50m tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and generate £750m in carbon credits for farmers.

Seems like a sweet technical solution to both problems to me. But as Kermit says, "It ain't easy being green." 

Whole Guardian article here.  

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  1. I eagerly await a Greenpeace position on this welcome benefit.

  2. I never understood the problem with eating GM food. However, sounds like something the Greenies and the religious luddites can both get shrill about.

  3. Greenpeace opposes people.

  4. Proving once again that moral panic causes most of the world’s enduring problems.

  5. Greenpeace opposes people.

    Greenpeace opposes free markets. They are ideologically socialist. They believe that if the economy is forced to drasticly reduce energy, and can no longer “seduce” people with consumer goods, that people will then reject “capitalism”, and switch to utopian agrarian socialism (kind like the Khmer Rouge, except without the whole genecide thing, of course).

  6. I don’t oppose GM foods. I have no frankenfood nightmares.

    My only hesitation with GM crops is that they give one party a stranglehold on seed, and we don’t really have a lot of historical data about the market effect and sociological effect that will have.

    The medieval experience with single-party monopolies on one facet of the agricultural process wasn’t that great. Sure, farmers can just use non-GM seed stocks – unless the market and/or the pest environment warps itself around GM products, making use of traditional products suicidal or non-economic.

  7. My only hesitation with GM crops is that they give one party a stranglehold on seed, and we don’t really have a lot of historical data about the market effect and sociological effect that will have.

    US farmers have bought seed from seed companies for most of a century now, since the advent of hybrid crops, which don’t breed true. Mutliple companies are involved in producing GM plants, and as long as the market remains open and profitable, I see no reason why this won’t continue to be the case.

  8. I’m inclined to agree with Rex, as I’ve heard the founder of Greenpeace, who left the organization due to its being co-opted as a political movement, say some version of the same thing. I’d just like to know what the hell their surface rationale is for opposition to GM foods on an environmental basis. I mean, you can argue about GM and its health risks all the live long day, but what the hell does it have to do with ecology or the quality of the air we breath. In a sense, you can make the argument that any plant hybrid is GM – the seedless watermellon. etc.

  9. More importantly, how are the grumpy old men who yell at the TV news every night going to react to this? So many people react kneejerk against any green idea that those fine refuse-to-believeniks will have just as much trouble as Greenpeace.

  10. My only hesitation with GM crops is that they give one party a stranglehold on seed,

    No it doesn’t. Patenting DNA sequences is an intellectual property issue, not an issue with genetic engineering. One could just as easily patent a DNA sequence for a non-GM plant.

    The whole monopoly thing is just another empty scare tactic thrown in by the anti-technology crowd.

  11. I’d just like to know what the hell their surface rationale is for opposition to GM foods on an environmental basis.

    In my opinion it looks like it boils down to the Law of Unintended Consequences writ large. I.e., the fear that a gene from a GM plant will get into another plant and render the world uninhabitable by some means.

  12. My only hesitation with GM crops is that they give one party a stranglehold on seed,

    They give, say, Monsanto, exactly the same stranglehold on seed that Ford has on cars. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  13. Ron,

    You spelled Greenpiece wrong again.

    Are you going to be writing any articles about those pesky whales any time soon?

  14. In my opinion it looks like it boils down to the Law of Unintended Consequences writ large. I.e., the fear that a gene from a GM plant will get into another plant and render the world uninhabitable by some means.

    But yet, that fear doesn’t also apply to mutation breeding. Even though some monster gene as a product of mutation breeding is far more likely to render the world inhospitable, there is no regulation of mutation breeding and no concern or outrage about mutation breeding.

    A crop you create by bombarding a plant with massive amounts of radiation and toxic chemical mutagens can be certified as 100% organic! And you can create mutant geneticly modified plants with zero government regulation or oversight so long as you only use radiation or toxic chemicals to make completly random and unpredictable modifications.

  15. GM foods and BGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) are two big bogeymen of the enviro-left. the left, that is SUPPOSEDLY “science based” and “reality based” (lol) doesn’t rely on science. their fear of big corporations, etc. and their weird luddite streak all play a part.

    BGH is not bioavailable, and CERTAINLY does not (and cannot ) survive metabolism and be present in meat. yet, i am supposed to care if my cows are jacked up on growth?

    why?

    show me the STUDIES enviro-weenies!

    not the kneejerk ‘corporations that use science are bad” scares that brought us (among others) alar, DDT, and other panics

  16. Since concern about global warming is based on demonstrated scientific evidence, and concern about GMO’s is based on a feeling – a prudent desire to make sure we don’t go rushing headlong into making big changes without knowing what the consequences will be – that the scientific evidence is alleviating, it’s not too hard to guess which one will win out.

    I mean, the scope of the global warming problem has caused a considerable number of us greens to become more accepting of nuclear power, which actually DOES present demonstrable threats to the environment, because those threats are so much less serious that that posed by climate change.

  17. Rex,

    I didn’t say it was a rational fear.

  18. I mean, the scope of the global warming problem has caused a considerable number of us greens to become more accepting of nuclear power,…

    True. The question I have is how many? 5%? 30%? 50%? What’s your guesstimate?

  19. 100% in my polling. My sample is 2.

    Srsly, that would depend on what you count as a green. I’d say a majority of liberals under 40 years of age agree that nuclear has to be part of the program to get off dirt-burning.

  20. …and switch to utopian agrarian socialism kind like the Khmer Rouge, except without the whole genecide thing, of course

    So they say now…

  21. Thanks for the guesstimate. I’d figger lower, but my sample (~4) is likely not stastically valid either.

  22. Why would consistency be of the least concern to Greenpeace? Just make sure you keep the two issues in separate fundraising appeals, that’s all.

  23. “kind like the Khmer Rouge, except without the whole genecide thing, of course”

    Ask a Green what he/she thinks a “sustainable” world population is and compare it to the existing world population before you throw that genocide exemption in there. The environmental movement’s anti-DDT effort alone has killed almost 60 million people.

  24. I oppose Greenpeace.

  25. Unless I’m misunderstanding this plan, it would not result in a net decrease of carbon emissions, it would just sell the right to emit more to someone else. It has nothing to do with capping emissions and all to do with trading them. So why should they like it?

  26. So what kind of hoops do they have to jump through to sell these carbon offsets? How are these credits worth anything given the fact that Kyoto seems to be unenforced and probably unenforceable? Are carbon credits the modern-day equivalent of papal indulgences?

  27. Population decreases can be achieved through less reproduction, J.

    The agricultural DDT ban cost not a single human life – quite the opposite, it preserved DDT’s usefulness in saving human life by ending the growth of resistant insects. Millions died in Sri Lanka after DDT-resistant mosquitoes caused an outbreak of malaria there, and they could do nothing to stop it. Every life saved by the domestic use of DDT from today until the end of time was saved by the warnings given to us by Rachel Carson.

  28. Ben,

    The same amount of rice is going to be grown in China, and the same amount of CO2 emitted in the west. However, the rice grown in China will result in less CO2 being emitted than if the regular rice was grown.

  29. Soylent GREEN IS PEOPLE!

  30. WB-7 First Plasma

    The world has just changed. Cheap fusion is on the way. About 5 years.

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