His Royal Highness, the Dunce of Wales, Speaks Against Biotech Crops

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The Daily Telegraph reports:

The mass development of genetically modified crops risks causing the world's worst environmental disaster, The Prince of Wales has warned.

In his most outspoken intervention on the issue of GM food, the Prince said that multi-national companies were conducting an experiment with nature which had gone "seriously wrong"….

Relying on "gigantic corporations" for food, he said, would result in "absolute disaster".

"That would be the absolute destruction of everything… and the classic way of ensuring there is no food in the future," he said.

"What we should be talking about is food security not food production—that is what matters and that is what people will not understand.

"And if they think its somehow going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another then again count me out, because that will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time."

Small farmers, in particular, would be the victims of "gigantic corporations" taking over the mass production of food.

"I think it's heading for real disaster," he said.

"If they think this is the way to go….we [will] end up with millions of small farmers all over the world being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness."

There's a tremendous amount of anti-biotech misinformation packed into this interview. First and foremost, farmers in both developed and developing countries will not adopt biotech crops unless they benefit from them, either from greater productivity, fewer input costs, improved sustainability or all three.

Let's consider just a few cases: Biotech insect-resistant corn in the Philippines boosted yields by 37 percent, reduced the costs of insecticide spraying by 60 percent, maintained populations of beneficial insects in the fields, and increased farmers' profits by 88 percent. With regard to sustainability, herbicide-resistant biotech crops make soil saving no-till farming more possible and new varieties of biotech rice reduce the run-off of nitrogen fertilizer that can damage waterways. Finally, His Royal Witless ignores the fact that of the 12 million farmers who have adopted biotech crops, 11 million of them are resource-poor farmers working in developing countries.

Being the lord of a stately Yorkshire Gloucestershire manor, the prince evidently doesn't realize that people who escape rural poverty generally live better in cities.

The next and future king also attacks the Green Revolution which saved hundreds of millions of lives. Not only that, by dramatically boosting yields, the Green Revolution saved more than 100 million acres of forests and other natural landscapes in India alone from being plowed down to produce food. Around the world, high yield crops spared millions of square miles of wildlands from the plow.

If you want to read more of the nonsense being propounded by Britain's future monarch, go here.

Addendum: A number of academic biologists on a agricultural listserv that I monitor are complaining that the Telegraph's editors are apparently refusing to post their comments in favor of biotech crops.

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  1. No wonder we got rid of these twits in 1776. Doesn’t he have a maid he can go boink?

  2. The comments on the Telegraph article are running about 95:5 in support of the slobbering dauphin.

  3. Mark: It may not be the case that Telegraph readers are intellectually challenged; it may be that the editors are. Check out my addendum to the post: Addendum: A number of academic biologists on a agricultural listserv that I monitor are complaining that the Telegraph’s editors are apparently refusing to post their comments in favor of biotech crops.

  4. People like the Prince are aware of the lives saved by biotech.That is one reason their against them.They believe there should be fewer people and that would be a good thing.Pesticides(like DDT)and biotech have saved billions of live in the last century,much to the greenies dismay.To be truly green to these folks you must be against biotech foods,oil,coal,uranium,modern farming,smoking eating meat and Santa Claus(He’s fat and jolly}.

  5. I just do not get the paranoia over engineered crops. Maybe it’s because I have scientific training, but there’s really nothing scary about them.

  6. Who’da thunk? Diana was the sharp tool in that toolshed.

    I like the “peasants — back to your farms!” tone of some of it. Uh, I think you lost that argument 200 years ago.

    But then, this:
    dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness

    My gawd, the man is a poet. I don’t even know what it means, but I want to set it to music.

    There are very few people who could have played “Yo Mama so…” with Bill Buckley, but apparently Prince Chuck is one of them.

    Decent watercolorist, as well, I hear…

  7. “There’s a tremendous amount of anti-biotech misinformation packed into this interview”

    I disagree, there’s no ‘information’ whatsoever. His statements were incredibly vague. Not once did he explain, or even hint at, the method by which the ‘absolute disaster, will come about. He didn’t give any explanation for his irrational fears. He warned about the ‘absolute destruction of everything’ much the way a schizophrenic sign-wearing hobo might do, with absolutely nothing to back it up.

  8. The Queen’s refusal to hand over the crown to her imbecile son is telling.
    Not that it matters what any of them think.

  9. I do so detest having to think of the smelly poor. Let them eat organic!

    Oh, the unmentionable awfulness of it all…

  10. I love how the pronouncements of a man most notable for being the product of selective inbreeding can be noteworthy.

  11. If there is a food shortage, and the government is forced ration food, the government has gained massive power. It is not surprising that fascists are against biotech or any technology that promises to make food cheap and plentiful.

  12. Selective inbreeding? I like that. I’m gonna find an excuse to use on someone this week.

  13. Every time I hear about something like this, what I hear in my mind is Penn Jillette’s (rightly) angry voice from their BS episode about GM food:

    If you live in a beach house in the US you probably shouldn’t be trying to tell starving people in the rest of the world that you’re fighting the technology that could feed their children.

    In this case, just replace “beach house in the US” with “palace in the UK”.

  14. “…being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness.”

    AKA “northern New Jersey”. He does have a point…

  15. Aw nuts. That was me, not OPC.

  16. He’s just jealous of Al Gore and global warming, and trying to whip up his own Green campaign.

    I believe this:

    unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness

    is his way of tying his current beef with urban architecture into his screed.

  17. Thank Odin he’s just a figurehead, lacking governing power.

    Chuck, go play some polo. Maybe a fox hunt.

  18. And if he’s so concerned with people being driven off the land, why doesn’t he give some of the massive royal holdings to smallholders? Money, meet mouth.

  19. Although I’m usually quick to cry CONSPIRACY when I think the powers that be are scheming to enhance their control. I doubt the prince has enough brains to be against GM for any other reason than that’s what he’s learned from watching daytime TV.

  20. i’m afraid i have to agree with the dunce of wales. the most interesting and unwittingly accurate comment on this thread so far is michael pack’s third sentence “they believe there should be fewer people and that would be a good thing.”

    planet earth is a finite area with finite resources. we can choose to maximize our population all the way up to standing-room-only, or optimize it with a minimum guaranteed allowance of sustenance and resources for all. we are already seeing the consequences of countless individual actions geared toward maximizing our population; global warming, shrinking biodiversity, higher energy prices and regional resource conflicts. quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them. i haven’t formed an opinion as to the optimum human population of earth, but i suspect that we may have already exceeded it.

  21. bruce,

    Please prove the strength of your convictions by killing yourself and any offspring.

    Or is it those nasty brown people we should have less of?

  22. sugarfree:

    is it racist to speculate on the optimum human population, or is it racist to play a race card in an utterly non-racial context?

    those nasty brown people we should have less of? ironically, they are and will continue to be the victims of resource competition spurred by overpopulation, all the way from darfur to south central los angeles, but if you’re happy seeing starving toddlers, hey, don’t let me harsh your mellow.

    i don’t believe that killing myself would advance my proposition, but suggestions offered with goodwill are always welcome.

  23. we are already seeing the consequences of countless individual actions geared toward maximizing our population

    Such as the rapidly decreasing birth rate in developed (and developing) countries?

    i haven’t formed an opinion as to the optimum human population of earth

    Let us know when you do. How does one reach the “optimum” population?

  24. bruce,

    I think you have it backwards. Socities with a lack of resources tend to have large numbers of offspring to ensure that one or two genetic heirs survive. Wealthier societies that are less concerned with survival on a daily basis tend to concentrate on lifestyle improvements and tend to have fewer children because of it. So if we improve farming through GM crops, we will have a greater food supply, and those at the margin will have greater wealth. The population problem, if there is one, will solve itself.

  25. bruce,

    Still not dead yet? Huh. Who would have thunk it?

    Killing yourself is, at a bare minimum, intellectually honest. Leaving yourself alive in order to advocate for less Darfurians isn’t. Think about how many starving children could be fed on what a robust First Worlder like yourself eats in a day.

    The reason ZPG is racism is simple. Populations are falling in the white, First World countries. We’ve solved our overpopulation “problem” with prosperity. Ghouls like you want to cure it in the Third World with deprivation.

    Seriously, eat the barrel of a gun and I’ll get back to you.

  26. while decreasing birth rates are certainly encouraging, the birth rates are not uniformly decreasing everywhere, and the net change in population is still a positive number.

    how does one reach the optimum population? well, there’s the easy way and the hard way. the easy way is consensus and planning, and the hard way is an apocalyptic die-off. i’m open to either alternative, but i prefer the first one.

    sixstring, your comment would be well-taken if food were the only resource needed, unfortunately, we also need water, energy, clean air and tillable soil. the increase in agricultural scale brought on by gm technology has unfortunately depleted the tillable soil, sowing the seeds (heh) of future reductions in net yield.

  27. Given that one of the primary goals of GM is to increase output per acre, does it not follow that the scale of agriculture would decrease? (As it has in the first world.)

  28. Heh, and yet some people still insist the Euros are the sophisticated intellectuals, while Americans are the superstitious hicks.

  29. well, there’s the easy way and the hard way. the easy way is consensus and planning, and the hard way is an apocalyptic die-off. i’m open to either alternative, but i prefer the first one.

    I always wondered who went to see I Am Legend and thought, “Wow! What a great idea!”

    I’ll leave bruce alone to his dreams of mass murder and big pies.

  30. Ed wrote, “The Queen’s refusal to hand over the crown to her imbecile son is telling…”

    I hope she hangs in there until the Prince proves himself worthy of the Darwin Award. Judging by his recent comments, that shouldn’t be too long, now.

  31. bruce,

    While you’re choosing not to slough off this mortal coil, you really must read Julian Simon. What you’re preaching is pure flat-earth cosmology.

    The “consensus and planning” you seek has been going on for approxiamately the last million years. It works this way, “Honey, you want to have another kid?” “Sure!”* — consensus achieved!

    Even if we stipulate to the Malthusian mechanism, why a sudden huge die off? Why not slow die offs at the margin? Isn’t that what we have now? GM crops in, say, Africa, is only moving the goalposts so that they now have a better chance of raising more children. Why would it bother you that they have that chance — and, I’m sorry, that applies to technology that makes less energy required, soil more tillable, top 40 radio more listenable — whatever you’re worried will be depleted just because there are more of us.

    *OK, it’s more like this: [female] Ogg no get no nookie till he drag enough mammoths back to cave to show he good provider. [male] Sweetie, look at cave opening! Been killing mammoth all day for you! [female] Ooooh, that BEEEG pile o’ mammoth. Come here. You cuter than I remember…

    Or, the 21st century version: [female] Nice car!…

  32. i don’t believe that the scale of agriculture has decreased in the first world. i don’t hear about big corporate farming ops devolving into smaller family farming plots very often, au contraire.

    one would think that yes, scale would decrease due to increased yields/area, but this view overlooks the influence of corporatism, the power behind the gm advocates and the only assured beneficiary of gm itself.

    this issue garners insufficient attention in the libertarian space. anti-corporates like me support maximum individual liberty, but we also have corporate types willfully misinterpreting our reluctance toward regulation in order to promote rampant, anything-goes corporate capitalism. i was particularly amused when one of them, perhaps an employee of monsanto or archer-daniels-midland, managed to simultaneously hide behind, and insult, an entire demographic “nasty brown people”.

  33. I’ll believe this anti-GM crop bullshit when GM crops start killing people rather than make more of them….

  34. BWA-HA-HA! Ad hominems only make me stronger!

    anti-corporates like me support maximum individual liberty

    And self-deluded irony gives me a mighty erection!

    I’ll be in my hollowed-out volcano lair, twirling my mustache and practicing my evil laugh.

  35. the easy way is consensus and planning,

    Consensus amongst who, exactly?

    Planning by who, exactly?

    Enforcement of said consensus plans against the dissenting, how, exactly?

    Why do I expect that the Chinese Communist commissars in charge of the one-child policy would say that it was the result of Consensus and Planning. For the Good of the Collective, doncha know.

  36. I see I brought out one of the ‘green racist’.There are many examples of enviro’s being against progress due to the positive effects it has on the world’s poor.They’d rather see millions of Africans suffer and die from malaria than allow limited use of DDT.The Europeans the same with GM foods.

  37. i don’t believe that killing myself would advance my proposition

    bruce,
    Don’t be so hasty. Every great journey begins with a single step.

  38. They’d rather see millions of Africans suffer and die from malaria than allow limited use of DDT.The Europeans the same with GM foods.

    Why would Europeans think about dying Africans? Ayn Rand taught us about pursuit of happiness. Eating non genetically modified food is a part of making lives happier for Europeans. Who are you to tell them what they should do? Why would Europeans become altruistic about this? Why would they put Africans above themselves, huh?

    You’re unhappy and wanna help Africans – go there and help them plough the fields. Don’t teach Europeans. Leave them alone.

  39. Ron,

    please, tell us about the bio-scientists you monitor. They have blogs or how do you monitor them? Wanna see them whine.

    Thanks.

  40. Should that be the “ponce and future king,” Mr. Bailey? Next and future is a bit redundantly the same.

    Seriously, what creds does this guy have to lecture anybody on anything? I mean, other than the right genes.

  41. Long Live the Queen!

    Because if this fool ever becomes King, the Monarchy will become a laughingstock, a white elephant, a dinosaur, and extinct — in that order.

  42. “…anti-corporates like me support maximum individual liberty…”

    Dude! Turn off your Corp made computer with its Corp made Monitor run by Corp made electricity and go play hacky sack ya poser.

  43. me,

    Your argument is a non-sequitur. While it’s true that Europeans (or Americans) have no obligation to provide DDT or GM foods to Africa, in what way is it in their self-interest to prevent the provision of these? (Or, as in Charles’s case, make incoherent rants against them.)

  44. It’s probably too late to save the royal family through generic modification. Darwin’s already had his way with that one.

  45. Bruce,
    I think you are right that their are two many people, but thankfully our democratic bubble is cresting and will start trending down by the end of the century. Not only that it will trend down because of rising wealth which leads to smaller families.

    The last think an evironmentalist should want is the time of famine the prince’s policies would create. There is nothing that destroys habitat like starving people. There are three paths to a lower more sustainable population:

    Anti-technolgy/development prohibtions which will lead to disease and starvation and a decimated enviroment.

    Pro-development policies which will lead to smaller family sizes, increased wealth, and that ultimate of luxury goods: a cleaner environment.

    Mass death camps or bioweapons to cleanly purge the world of environmentally unsustainable masses of people.

    Yeah, I think the last option is best too. The second option is an anti-climax and it will prove the wingnuts were right all along.

  46. “That would be the absolute destruction of everything… and the classic way of ensuring there is no food in the future,” he said.

    “What we should be talking about is food security not food production – that is what matters and that is what people will not understand.

    So… producing more food is the sure way of ensuring there is no food in the future, and we need to focus on food security no food production… because you know producing food has nothing to do with food security.

    Is anyone else disenheartened by the fact that British greens are probably going to rally to this? I’m waiting to see him get praised for his stupidity courage.

  47. Bruce doesn’t need to kill himself. He just needs to get behind space colonization.

  48. i haven’t formed an opinion as to the optimum human population of earth, but i suspect that we may have already exceeded it.

    The question for this and every instance of the “there are too many people” sort of envirocultist, as always, is the same:

    If there are too many people, who do you propose we eliminate first?

  49. Probably posting twice, but it did not seem to go through before…..

    Actually old JugEars is almost stumbling toward a valid point. But, just like the Monty Python skit where all the twits try to walk across a field, he never manages to get there.
    The main problem with most GM crops is not the GM part, but the lack of biodiversity. Some of the GM crops retain their variation, but for pretty much the first time in history, you can have thousands of acres of a crop that is totally identical. Effective if not actual clones. Works great until some bug of some kind mutates and develops a taste for them. Corn smut for instance. Even in corn that is attacked by it, some of the ears are naturally resistant. With all the corn the same, if one falls they all fall.
    One of the best examples of this is the Pine Borer beetle in the southern United States. Unmanaged forests had pines interspaced with hardwoods. Plus as the pines got older and died, the dead trees acted as homes to woodpeckers. Who eat beetles. A beetle who survived the woodpeckers and hatched out, had to fly a long ways sometimes to find a new home. Not all pines are suitable. Now, you have thousands of acres of identical trees planted side by side. All harvested before they get old enough to make a home of the birds. As a result, when beetles hit a stand of trees, its like a slow motion fire. I have literally seen a thousand acres of trees destroyed before someone got around to seeing it. Plus, once you get beetles, the only way to stop them is to cut a “firebreak” Beetlebrake? around them and cut all the trees inside the area.

    Speaking of fire, thank God most of the southern states still use controlled burning to keep the buildup of fuel in the woods under control. Think California. They don’t believe in controlled burning. So, they get UNcontrolled burning…..

  50. Friggin’ prince of the hippies!

    They should name a boat after him.

    HMS Snipe.

  51. Dana H.,

    I don’t know about DDT, but as for gm-food, it’s pretty explainable.

    Africa sells its products in Europe. Food included. Europeans refuse to buy gm-food, so Africans, in order to sell their stuff in Europe, refuse to grow gm-food. That’s the explanation I heard. Makes sense.

    Even without that, the more gm-food is on the market and the higher the ratio of gm-food/all_food_produced is, the harder it is to avoid gm-food. So, if Europeans want to stay along their policy not to consume gm-food, they have to influence global food markets. It’s about defending the freedom of choice, if you want me to put it this way 🙂

  52. C’mon, lads, let’s cut ol’ Jug-ears some slack. For centuries, crops have been improved in the same way as kings: selective inbreeding (love that term!). Now, Charlie is faced with crops that can be tailored to meet specific requirements, due to technology that he will never understand. He knows that if GM crops are successful, it can mean only one thing: GM monarchs.

    Can you blame the guy for a bit of panic?

  53. Broccoflower = DEATH

  54. The son of a woman who breeds corgies thinks genetic engineering endangers the earth? Yeah, a corgie being a completely naturally occuring variety of wolf.

  55. bruce | August 13, 2008, 2:48pm

    i don’t believe that the scale of agriculture has decreased in the first world. i don’t hear about big corporate farming ops devolving into smaller family farming plots very often, au contraire.

    How often do you hear of smaller family farm plots being closed? (hint: all the fucking time). But they’re not always subsumed into larger farms – sometimes they’re just shut down.

    That’s in keeping with the current trend toward producing more food using fewer people working on larger farms achieving greater yields per acre. Even more interesting, we’ve seen reductions in total acreage used – in the US, anyway [1] – despite increasing population.

    That’s quite something. And it’s exactly the reduction in “scale” that Number 6 referred to. You interpreted it as referring to factory vs. family farming, which is irrelevant.

    one would think that yes, scale would decrease due to increased yields/area, but this view overlooks the influence of corporatism, the power behind the gm advocates and the only assured beneficiary of gm itself.

    You’ve not refuted anything here. You brought up a valid objection, then tried to disprove it with a non-sequitur. What does the “influence of corporatism” have to do with increasing “scale”? Are those nasty corporations going to clear land they don’t need, or make their yields less efficient on purpose, just to spite us?

  56. Its obvious that GM crops pose a serious threat,in time we will see that GM crops are directly connected to the dissapearing Bee population, and soon the truth that GM crops actually changing the DNA stucture of your digestive track….bad news, just like we will see that todays mobile phone users will experience terrible health problems in the future. We don’t need GM seeds owned by big corperations, or terminater seeds, Farmers I dream will rise up and revolt against this patent on food. I just hope it happens sooner, because the introduction of any GM crop affects the surrounding areas almost immediatly because of cross pollination. Enough is enough!

  57. “‘That would be the absolute destruction of everything… and the classic way of ensuring there is no food in the future,’ he said.”

    Ah, yes… we all remember reading Sophocles’ Syndeipnoi (The Banqueters), in which the Greek chorus laments GMOs.

  58. billy | August 13, 2008, 10:35pm | #
    Its obvious that GM crops pose a serious threat,in time we will see that GM crops are directly connected to the dissapearing Bee population, and soon the truth that GM crops actually changing the DNA stucture of your digestive track…

    Billy – that’s wicked funny. You were kidding, right?

  59. And exactly why does Charles’s opinion matter? His mother (God save her at least until the abominable PoW dies, or preferably is disgraced) doesn’t pretend to be a scientist, so why should he? She also has no political power, or at least none that she chooses to wield. The prospect of Charles III becomes more frightening every day.

  60. Michael Pack: The whole DDT ban/malaria death thing is a flat out lie. It was concocted as corporate PR, and falls into exactly the same category of horseshit as feminist claims that spousal abuse rates peak during the Super Bowl. It’s one of those things that “everybody knows,” but is too fucking lazy to check.

  61. Pink Pig is on the right track. The reason Elizabeth is such a good (and popular) monarch is that she knows what she doesn’t know. She doesn’t pretend to extensive scientific knowledge any more than she pretends to being in touch with the lives of normal people.

    Charles, by contrast, believes he’s an expert in all matter of things – as well as believing that he feels the pain of the working folk and is ‘down with the kids’. As a monarch he’d be a disaster.

    Thankfully Windsor females are long lived, her mother lived to 102 and if the current queen matches that, then Charles will be 80 when he has his chance to be King. At which point the country will probably be in need of a generational change and we’ll end up skipping to William (who so far sounds a lot more sensible than his father and more in the mould of his grandmother).

    Charles does serve one useful purpose … letting pro-science people know what they are up against. The Telegraph is not a paper for idiots (heck, I read it and I’m plainly a genius) its the largest circulation broadsheet in the UK by a substantial margin and its opinions have weight.

    If the Telegraph is printing this stuff (understandable given the author) and censoring measured opposing comments (disgraceful) then science rationalists have a lot of work to do, its best that we realise that asap.

  62. Let them eat organic cake grown by peasants on small plots of unproductive land.

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