A Food Elitist Strikes Back

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food scolds

Dan Mitchell over at The Daily Bread blog furiously defends Michael Pollan and other food elitists against my Hit & Run blogpost citing Missouri farmer Blake Hurst's excellent essay "The Omnivore's Delusion: Against the Agri-Intellectuals." First, could we get any more metablogospherish?

Well, anyway, Mitchell writes:

Reason stands as the most rational media outlet of the "right" these days,* but that says lot more about the sorry state of the conservative media than it does about Reason itself. Its rationality is strictly relative, as this "Hit & Run" item illustrates nicely.

Then comes his heartfelt defense of Pollan from my nastiness:

Hurst's essay, according to "Hit & Run" writer Ronald Bailey, provides a "reality check" for people who might have been swayed by books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and movies like Food, Inc. That's because it comes from a "real farmer." As opposed, I guess, to the fake farmers that Pollan talks to all the time for his work, or, I guess, the actors playing farmers who were too frightened of retaliation from big food companies to talk to the makers of Food, Inc.

Fake farmers? Nope. But how about farmers carefully selected to make Pollan's armchair predetermined points? 

Mitchell continues:

Like most ideologues, though, Bailey doesn't seem to understand people who don't go full-tilt like he does. Since he doesn't see a reasonable middle ground, he assumes nobody else does, either. So anybody with a different point of view must also be a rabid dogmatist whose ideas should not only be dismissed, but ridiculed.

According to Bailey, Pollan and the rest aren't engaged observers making  good-faith, arduous efforts to understand and explain the impacts of industrial farming, they are "East and Left Coast armchair agriculturalists" who don't know what they're talking about.

Well, that certainly pins my ears back! But notice how people with whom Mitchell agrees are "engaged observers" making "good faith" and even "arduous" efforts "to understand the impacts of industrial farming" while their critics (that would be me and Hurst) are "ideologues" and "rabid dogmatists."

Mitchell (I won't say from his armchair) pretty evidently thinks that the food elitists who are so "arduously understanding" actually know what is and is not "sustainable" when it comes to farming. Mitchell writes:

The idea is to incorporate certain "sustainable" principles into that system  to lessen the very real bad impacts it has on our health and on the environment. For instance, to reduce its use of petroleum and its reliance on the nastiest of pesticides that befoul our waterways.

So what effects does conventional agriculture have on our health? He doesn't say, but perhaps he's pointing to the 5,000 Americans who die of food-borne illnesses each year. That's not great, for sure. But Mitchell overlooks the fact that the situation was a lot worse in the good ole days before "industrial farming." As I have reported earlier:

So how big a problem is foodborne illness? In 2000, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that "foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year." That sounds pretty bad. But let's give those numbers a bit of context. In 1900, six years before Upton Sinclair wrote his great muckraking book, The Jungle, about the filthy conditions in the meatpacking industry, the death rate from gastritis, duodentitis, enteritis, and colitis was 142.7 people per 100,000. It is likely that most people experienced bouts of intestinal distress several times a year. Today, accepting CDC calculations of 5000 deaths per year implies a hundred-fold reduction, to just 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Additional good news is that the incidence of many foodborne illnesses continues to decline according to the CDC's FoodNet surveillance network established in 1996. In its 2005 report, the CDC found that the incidence of O157:H76 infections had fallen by 29 percent from the 1996-98 level.

Efforts to reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses began almost as soon as Louis Pasteur nailed down the germ theory of disease. Consider that New York City was supplied with milk from 40,000 different dairies at the end of the 19th century and their standards of hygiene were not high. So in 1893 New York City philanthropist Nathan Straus established "milk depots" that offered low-priced pasteurized milk to city residents. Straus' milk depots dramatically reduced the death rates from typhoid and tuberculosis in the city's children. The public health movement took off as well and food safety regulations were widely adopted. Prior to the 20th century, most food was produced on small family farms and sold by individual grocers and butchers in local markets.

Critics decry modern outbreaks of foodborne illness as the alleged consequence of "factory farming." However, the demise of small family farms over the past century has coincided with a substantial reduction in foodborne illnesses. In 1900, 30 million farmers (nearly 42 percent of the country's population) lived on 5.7 million farms. By 2002, only 1.9 million (less than 1 percent of the population) Americans described farming as their primary occupation and they worked on 2.1 million farms, half of which are under 100 acres in size. Also during the 20th century, the rise of national and regional grocery chains and industrial food processors saw dramatic improvements in overall food safety. Such companies had a lot more to lose if urban dwelling consumers believed that the companies were poisoning them. Natural Selection Foods is learning this lesson now. And it must be said that more centralized food production and distribution also enabled more effective regulatory oversight.

And what about the effect of "industrial farming" on the environment? Again as I have reported:

Since 1960 global crop yields have more than doubled, with the benefit that the area of land devoted to producing food has not increased very much. If farmers were still producing food at 1960 levels of productivity, agriculture would have had to expand from 38 percent of the earth's land to 82 percent to feed the world's current population. This enormous increase in yields is the result of applying more artificial fertilizers, breeding higher yielding crops, a wider use of pesticides and herbicides, and expanding irrigation. More recently, advances in modern biotechnology have also contributed to boosting yields. …

Herbicide resistance is also a key technology for expanding soil-saving no-till agriculture which, according to a report in 2003, saved 1 billion tons of topsoil from eroding annually. In addition, no-till farming significantly reduces the run-off of fertilizers into streams and rivers. 

Mitchell's cri de ceour of defensive accusation continues:

Pollan and the rest aren't pretending that this is a zero-sum game—a simple choice between an organic and an industrial system. But Bailey and Hurst sure are.

I don't know about Hurst, but in my column on "Organic Alchemy" to which I provided a link in my blogpost, where I critiqued a 2002 Swiss study that favored organic over conventional farming on "sustainability" grounds, I pointed out:

The Swiss researchers did find some true benefits from organic farming, including greater water retention by the soil and a higher presence of beneficial insects. Unfortunately, they did not test their organic systems against the newest form of conventional agriculture, no-till farming combined with genetically enhanced crops. This uses much less energy and less pesticides than the old-fashioned systems examined by the Swiss scientists.

Since no-till farmers don't plow, their tractors use less fuel. Also, since weed control is achieved using environmentally benign herbicides instead of mechanical removal through plowing, even more fuel is saved. Finally, no-till farmers use less insecticide, since genetically enhanced crops can protect themselves against pests. Against all this, organic farming's 19 percent energy advantage would likely disappear.

No-till farming matches several other advantages of organic agriculture as well. Both methods offer improved soil structure, more water retention, greatly reduced soil erosion, less pesticide and fertilizer runoff, and a higher presence of beneficial insects. Although organic farmers refuse to see it, switching to genetically enhanced crops would go a long way toward accomplishing their avowed goals of restoring their land and helping the natural environment.

More recently, I heartily recommended Tomorrow's Table by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak:

"The farmer and cowman should be friends," the cast of Oklahoma! famously sang. Now the more vicious conflict is between organic and biotech farmers. Tomorrow's Table (Oxford), by Pamela C. Ronald (a crop biotechnologist at the University of California, Davis) and Raoul W. Adamchak (a farmer who runs the university's student organic farm), tries to bring the two sides together.

Adamchak points out the benefits to soil fertility and water retention that organic cultivation brings. Ronald makes a persuasive case for the safety of biotech techniques. No one has ever been harmed by growing or eating genetically engineered crops, she notes. Since the technology is contained in the seed, biotech crops especially benefit resource-poor farmers. By boosting food production, biotech crops use less land.

Part memoir, part almanac, part cookbook, part scientific treatise, the book shows that farming doesn't have to be just organic or biotech; it should be both. 

And what about those pesticides? In my review of food elitist and novelist Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I pointed out:

Reading Kingsolver, one could also conclude that pesticides were created by giant chemical companies whose sole aim was to cause cancer. But even the American Cancer Society agrees that there is "no evidence that residues of pesticides and herbicides at the low doses found in foods increase the risk of cancer." Studies also show that eliminating pesticides could cut corn yields by 30 percent, rice by 57 percent, soybeans by 37 percent, and wheat by 24 percent. Again, that would mean that a lot more of nature would have to be plowed up to maintain the food supply at current levels.

Family farms are not declining because of some conspiracy by industrial ag giants. Actually, what happened is that farmers became so productive that we needed fewer of them. In 1950, 15 percent of Americans lived on farms. Today only 1 percent of us live on farms. The meantime, the output of staples like wheat and corn nearly tripled, while vegetables nearly quadrupled. And the amount of land devoted to crops fell slightly. This dramatically increased agricultural productivity liberated many like me from farm labor so that we could do other work.

I will end with my own heartfelt plea to Mitchell and other food elitists: 

That doesn't mean people are or should be prevented from learning about where their food comes from, if that's the way they want to spend their time. Among life's greatest pleasures are fine dining and food connoisseurship. The expanding division of labor and our growing technological prowess is nurturing more and more differentiation among foods, permitting the creation and appreciation of thousands of wines, cheeses, chocolates, coffees, teas, and so forth. I might prefer parmigiano-reggiano versus your inexplicable fondness for boursin. Or I might think that Rombauer Napa Valley Zinfandel is nectar and sniff at that swill from Australia that you quaff. Today, you can choose "slow food" (though it has some unsavory ideological baggage) over fast food, or choose both when that suits you.

Nor is there anything wrong with waking up on Saturday mornings to rush out to the local farmers market. I, too, cannot resist organic heirloom tomatoes. I buy organic not because such foods are ecologically or nutritionally superior—they aren't—but simply because the local lady who grows the Brandywines, Mortgage Lifters, and Yellow Pears I crave chooses that method of production. I'm glad she grows them, not least because that means that I don't have to anymore. For those who are deluded enough to think that organic foods are nutritionally superior, the market makes the opportunity to buy them widely available, generally at a 30-percent price premium. (Ideologically motivated organic aficionados should keep in mind that organic production typically yields a third less food than other means. That means that more land is being plowed down, leaving less for forests and other wildlands.)

But there is something wrong with the puritanical notion that it's a sin to live in blithe ignorance of the ultimate sources of your nourishment. Life is too short for most people to learn how to fix their computers and cars, and too short for most to learn about food production. And that's just fine. Eating shouldn't be a moral duty; it should be a pleasure.

NEXT: On Friday the Priest Got His Goat

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  1. Cue the Monsanto Madness screamers.

  2. I don’t know much about farming, but I do know that

    “Hit & Run” is Reason’s front-of-the-book collection of short items.

    and

    Reason is staffed by people who regularly drive in Los Angeles traffic

    are false. Just sayin’.

  3. Mr. Walker, don’t be pickin nits. We sure wouldn’t want facts to stand in the way of a good rant.

  4. It bothers me to no end when libertarianism is classified as right wing, especially reason. I come to Reason to avoid the conservative slant some libertarians may have.

  5. I think some of this research that herbicide makes corn more nutritious should have been included in the reply just to insure Mitchell’s head explodes.

    Herbicide makes corn more nutritious

  6. Aside from biotech, there’s really no evidence that judicious application of inorganic fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides is “unsustainable”.

    If the goal is to prevent damage to the soil, farmers should be permitted to combine “organic” and conventional methods as they see fit. It is their land, and their soil, and it is in their long-term interest to avoid damaging it.

    Here’s a study comparing crop yields per acre over several years using pure conventional, pure-organic, and a combination of methods. The highest crop yields were obtained using a Corn-SoyBean rotation with application of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. The organic farms were more susceptical to weather conditions because of the lack of disease control

    Link

  7. Hey Ron, I hope you’re smiling after riling up this pompous shitbag.

  8. I recently had a discussion with someone that is trying to start a non-profit building urban front yard farms. Since I am a Landscape Architect and an avid gardener, he wanted to ask me some questions. Inevitably, the organic issue came up. I basically told him that I thought at best it was a marketing gimmick and at worst religious dogma. I then explained that plants don’t care where the nitrogen et al. comes from as long as they get it. Followed by the fact that I do practice Integrated Pest Management, the encouragement of beneficials, no-till gardening, mycological cultivation, composting, seed saving, and the use of the least amount of pesticides possible. He seemed very confused. This was compounded when I told him that I love hybrid varieties, because we are still building soil fertility and texture and desperately need the disease resistance. “But what about heirloom varieties?”, he questioned. My reply was simply, “If they thrive, I save the seed and continue to use them. If not forget it.” Then I asked him why it is ok to add magnesium using the old home remedy of epsom salts or magnesium sulfate but it is not ok to use ammonium sulfate to supply nitrogen to the plants? He didn’t have an answer. The methods are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from him.

  9. Reason stands as the most rational media outlet of the “right” these days

    …and he loses all credibility right out of the gate.

    I depresses me no end that one of the great things in life, food, has finally been fully politicized by the usual assholes. I have only the greatest contempt for those who can’t even eat–a necessity–without hand-wringing about bullshit moral concerns. Fuck you, you pathetic schmucks. Go eat some hemlock–it’s natural!

  10. Is this the Dan Mitchell from the Heritage Foundation? Tell me it’s not.

  11. I aim to please.

    This,

    When I decided to follow the libertarian Reason magazine on Twitter the other day, I knew I would be in for some nastiness and schoolyard name-calling.

    Followed by this,

    “Hit & Run” is Reason’s front-of-the-book collection of short items. It often lives up to its name, even if the magazine itself too often fails to live up to its name.

    was interesting.

    To turn around in less than 60 words and do the very thing you decry in your opening sentence is something a completely fucking retarded assclown would do. Now give me your lunch money and turn around for you wedgie dipshit.

    Now to wade through the rest of the article and then come read this one.

    Dumbass.

  12. “I depresses me no end that one of the great things in life, food, has finally been fully politicized by the usual assholes. I have only the greatest contempt for those who can’t even eat–a necessity–without hand-wringing about bullshit moral concerns. Fuck you, you pathetic schmucks. Go eat some hemlock–it’s natural!”

    :clapping:

    Seriously Epi, this is a great post. It’s also incredibly sad because you’re absolutely correct.

  13. Is this the Dan Mitchell from the Heritage Foundation? Tell me it’s not.

    BTW, that Dan Mitchell is now with Cato.

  14. The only Real Farmer I know is the midget in the Burger King Breakfast Shots commercials. ” I oughta know. I’m a farmer. I know about a hearty breakfast.”

  15. Indeed, Kyle. Indeed. There’s a disgusting similarity between these hand-wringers and Middle Ages flagellation enthusiasts. They can’t just take simple enjoyment in anything.

  16. “Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors?” Not true.

    Exactly how is a yes or no question not true?

    Nice rant. No substance, lack of context and a general air of smugness makes it a good rant. It falls far short of anything else.

    Now to read this article. (I’m chronicling my reading of this set of articles. Boredom.)

  17. I love it when the lefties (correctly) label libertarians as “right wing”,provoking screams of protest from politically confused “wing nuts”.

  18. Nice response.

    After finally sitting down and reading everything, I’d like to declare the winner to be Mr. Hurst.

    This line wins it.

    I’m still proud of my win in the Atchison County Carcass competition of 1969, as it is the only trophy I have ever received.

    I never won any County Carcass competitions. I came close though.

  19. Someone who can’t understand that there are more than two ideologies shouldn’t be expected to understand well-presented, evidence-based arguments.

  20. Wow.
    Very adult on both sides.

    No-till is an important (very old) innovation.
    It can also be combined with organic farming methods.

    What about organic, no-till farming using GM crops?

    There is not a single answer.

    I will note this from Ron’s half of the screed.

    Critics decry modern outbreaks of foodborne illness as the alleged consequence of “factory farming.” However, the demise of small family farms over the past century has coincided with a substantial reduction in foodborne illnesses.

    I know that Ron recognizes the fallacy he is employing here, but he uses it anyway…sad.

  21. http://eco.confex.com/eco/2009/techprogram/P19801.HTM

    The environmental impact of agriculture on the landscape is driven by management decisions that include frequency of disturbance (tillage), external inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides), and cropping system intensity and diversity. Reducing negative impacts of one management choice often results in increasing negative impacts of another. For example, no-tillage soybean production reduces system erosion potential but relies on increased herbicide application to suppress weeds. Organic systems reduce inputs of herbicides and pesticides but rely on increased frequency of tillage to control weeds. Recent results suggest organic no-tillage systems are feasible when a cover crop is employed as a weed suppressing mulch and the following grain crop is no-till planted directly through the mulch.

  22. Hazel Meade | July 31, 2009, 6:38pm | #

    If the goal is to prevent damage to the soil, farmers should be permitted to combine “organic” and conventional methods as they see fit. It is their land, and their soil, and it is in their long-term interest to avoid damaging it.

    Actually, they have every incentive to extract as much as they can as fast as they can, and leave behind less than they started with. There are few farmers out there that leave behind with as much or more soil or water as they started with. Surely not any “industrial” farmers.

    I have no problem with GMO or “synthetic” chemicals, but I do have a problem with pollution, and soil and water-table depletion. And that is what we are doing.

  23. Remind me not to let Chad run my next multi-national corporation.

  24. I consider myself libertarian. (Registered, after being reccomended Fountainhead, etc.. 10 years ago. *hattip* Gillespie), I believe: Women have the right to choose abortion and same-sex couples have the right choose to get married. How would this qualify me as “Right Wing?” Stop offering a false dichotomy, unless that is you are incapable or processing more than 2 catagories.

  25. Cal, do not let Chadster run your next multi-national.

  26. There are few farmers out there that leave behind with as much or more soil or water as they started with. Surely not any “industrial” farmers.

    You mean large industry farmers like Dean Foods. Right?

  27. Hazel Meade– Aside from biotech, there’s really no evidence that judicious application of inorganic fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides is “unsustainable”.

    Not unsustainable, but possibly unprofitable. When my wheat inputs tripled last year because of the ethanol mandate, it definitely felt “unsustainable”. As long as ag is tied to oil and government, we are at the mercy of both. What good are higher yields when the inputs are correspondingly higher, and herbicide resistance has us forever chasing the next quick fix?

    As for the topic of this post, settle down Ron, don’t let him rile ya up. This guy is barely worth your time.

  28. I think the concept of “sustainable” is used differently by each side of this debate.

    When I use it, I mean “sustainable indefinitely” and assume we are talking thousands or tens of thousands of years.

    Ron’s view on “conventional” methods that have arisen in the last 50 years or so, seem to view the issue differently.

    I think this is at (a/the) crux of the debate. If you are thinking about “in our lifetime” then the issue looks a lot different than if you are projecting out thousands of years.

    Just a thought.

  29. What about organic, no-till farming using GM crops?

    The organic negates the point of the GM, at least as far as herbicide resistance goes.

    The problem with no-till is that you have no weed control (organic usually involves tilling), short of hand-weeding your 1,000 acre farm (good luck with that).

    Consequently, no-till generally involves extensive use of herbicides, often highly hazardous ones. And also consequently, farmers have been reluctant to adopt it.

    The point of GM Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant crops is that you can spray the entire field with Roundup (a benign non-toxic herbicide), and your crop will still live. So you can use no-till without all the hazardous chemicals.

    But neither Roundup Ready nor GM is considered “organic”.

  30. Hazel,

    GM can include more than RoundUp Ready type modifications, surely (c.f., BT crops).

    See the “no-till” post above, btw.

  31. I love it when the lefties (correctly) label libertarians as “right wing”,provoking screams of protest from politically confused “wing nuts”.

    The fact that leftists insist on categorizing libertarians as right-wing just shows that for them, economics trumps social liberalism. You can be pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, anti-drug-war, and pro-civil-liberties, but unless you want the government to control the entire economy, regulate everything to death soak the rich and redistribute wealth, you are still “right wing”.

  32. The fact that leftists insist on categorizing libertarians as right-wing just shows that for them, economics trumps social liberalism.

    Left/right is about economics…
    There is another axis (at least) for anti-authoritarian versus authoritarian.

    Indeed, in this very comment, you use the economic criteria to define leftist and position yourself to their right.

  33. GM can include more than RoundUp Ready type modifications, surely (c.f., BT crops).

    Yeah, but it’s GM herbicide tolerance and use of herbicides that enable no-till agriculture.

    Unless, as I said, you want to hand weed that 1,000 acre farm.

  34. Hazel,

    Yeah, but it’s GM herbicide tolerance and use of herbicides that enable no-till agriculture.

    There are certainly a lot of people pursuing the idea.

    http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2009am/webprogram/Paper55486.html

    http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/no-till_revolution

  35. Episiarch | July 31, 2009, 8:10pm | #
    Cal, do not let Chadster run your next multi-national.

    The world would be a lot better if people like me DID run them. Having worked for several, I can assure you that anything beyond five years in the future is pretty much considered irrelevant.

    What is the net present value of the Ogallala aquifer, which is starting to dry up all around its edges and will largely be depleted in a hundred years?

    I don’t even think we should be asking such a question.

  36. Episiarch,

    I hope you’re talking about organic hemlock.

  37. Wait, you have no control over weeds in your crops? Varying weed herbicides for wheat have existed for years. I know because I buy quite a few of them. Yes, Roundup Ready beans exist, (I have 120 acres) but some beans are resistant to other chemicals, and not dependent on genetic engineering.

    No weed control? Perhaps it’s a geographical thing, but post plant weed control is common in western Oklahoma.

  38. Someone who can’t understand that there are more than two ideologies…

    Oh, they know there are more than two ideologies. There’s Democrats, Republicans, and EXTREMISTS!

  39. Hazel,

    Organic no-till examined

    http://www.extension.org/article/18526

    No-till cover crop management and vegetable planting are most likely to work well in fields where:

    * The cover crop is mature (heading/flowering with pollen shed), nearly weed-free, and has developed at least three tons (dry weight) aboveground biomass (solid stand three to four feet tall; cannot see the ground when viewed from above; clippings from one square yard weight about one and a half pounds when thoroughly dried).
    * The cover crop includes a cereal grain or other grass that forms persistent mulch.
    * Nutrient release from mulch decomposition approximately parallels vegetable crop nutrient needs, or sufficient supplemental N and other nutrients are provided.
    * Weed populations are light to moderate, with predominantly annual broadleaf weeds.
    * The soil is of light to medium texture, well-drained, and quick to warm up in spring.
    * Moisture levels are adequate but not excessive, or can be supplemented by in-row drip irrigation.
    * Organic mulches have historically been found to harbor natural enemies of important vegetable pests.
    * Transplanted or large-seeded vegetables will be planted.
    * Early vegetable maturity is not required.
    * The farm has access to suitable equipment for rolling/mowing the cover crop and no-till planting through heavy residues.

    No-till cover crop management and vegetable planting are not recommended when:

    * The cover crop is not mature, is weedy (more than 5-10% of the aboveground biomass is weeds), or has not developed sufficient biomass (looks thin, can see patches of bare ground when viewed from above, dry clippings from one square yard weigh less than one pound).
    * The cover crop is likely to decompose too rapidly to provide weed suppression (buckwheat or all-legume cover crops usually break down rapidly).
    * Slower N mineralization in the mulched, untilled soil is likely to cause N deficiency in the vegetable crop.
    * Invasive perennial weeds are present, the soil’s weed seed bank is large, or annual weed poplulations are high and dominated by grasses or large seeded species that readily penetrate mulch.
    * The field has been converted from sod to annual production within the past 12 months (bits of sod can regenerate and become perennial weeds under no-till without herbicides).
    * The soil is heavy or clayey, and tends to be slow-draining or slow to warm up, especially in wetter-than-normal years.
    * Slugs, squash bugs, or other pests that are commonly associated with organic mulch have historically been a problem.
    * Small-seeded vegetables will be direct-sown (sensitive to allelopathy, slugs, and other mulch effects).
    * Quick maturation of tomatoes or other vegetables is desired for an early market.
    * The farm does not have the equipment needed for planting vegetables through a rolled or mowed cover crop at the scale of operation.

  40. “I buy organic not because such foods are ecologically or nutritionally superior-they aren’t”

    Yeah, right! Tell me that when the American consumer has finished polishing off the remaining topsoil and has finished growing the dead zones in the oceans!

    “But there is something wrong with the puritanical notion that it’s a sin to live in blithe ignorance of the ultimate sources of your nourishment. Life is too short for most people to learn how to fix their computers and cars, and too short for most to learn about food production. And that’s just fine. Eating shouldn’t be a moral duty; it should be a pleasure.”

    So it’s “right” to destroy the land and the oceans and the rivers, the farmers, the workers, the animals, the plants, the food, the nutrition, all in order to maintain ones ignorance, folly, and lifestyle of convenience, but there is “something wrong” with the notion that all individuals should bear responsibility for their own actions and the direct and indirect consequences of these actions?

    “Although organic farmers refuse to see it, switching to genetically enhanced crops would go a long way toward accomplishing their avowed goals of restoring their land and helping the natural environment.”

    Are you being paid by Monsanto to spew this nonsense? How the hell does

  41. continued…

    How the hell does planting genetically modified crops help restore the natural environment?

    Are you insane, incapable of logical thought, or paid off?

  42. Neu Mejican,

    When I use it, I mean “sustainable indefinitely” and assume we are talking thousands or tens of thousands of years.

    Which is just odd. It is about as odd in fact as a thousand year climate prediction. Changes in technology, etc. mean that any current system of farming is going to change dramatically over time. Indeed, a thousand year “system” or “plan” is simply meaningless and a waste of time.

  43. Patriot Henry,

    60% of the land in the U.S. is neither farmed, nor is it developed. Indeed, 95% of the U.S. has no structure on it.

  44. Patriot Henry: You’re what is commonly known as a “troll,” right?

    Nope. And sadly I sold my 50 shares of Monsanto stock (which I bought with my own money) several years ago. Would have made a nice profit had I held onto it.

    And I must confess that I am curious: why do you think farmers are so stupid that they would destroy their own property? A puzzle.

  45. Neu: With regard to 1000 year farming — what Seward said.

  46. Ron Bailey,

    We humans, or a lot of us, seem to be obsessed with “purity” of one sort or another.

  47. “Family farms are not declining because of some conspiracy by industrial ag giants. Actually, what happened is that farmers became so productive that we needed fewer of them. In 1950, 15 percent of Americans lived on farms. Today only 1 percent of us live on farms. The meantime, the output of staples like wheat and corn nearly tripled, while vegetables nearly quadrupled. And the amount of land devoted to crops fell slightly. This dramatically increased agricultural productivity liberated many like me from farm labor so that we could do other work.”

    This happened before. The Roman latifundia, the big farms, grew and grew while the small farms died away.

    The advancement of technology only accelerates the destruction of the natural resources that sustain us.

    I’ve got my hypothesis – that a closed complex ecosystem focused on increasing the quantity and quality of natural resources is the permanent means of sustaining. I’m gonna test this theory out by buying land and farming it using the best available mixture of ancient and modern means that don’t destroy the resources.

    The rest of y’all can rely upon chemicals, untested GMO products (anyone here see the GMO corn failure in South Africa?), government subsidies, and Big Food to keep you alive.

  48. Ron Bailey, those massive monsanto loving industrial sized corporate farms rape their thousands of acres at huge profits for a couple years at the expense of the starving peoples of the world and then they sell those sterile worthless acres, again at obscene profits that they use to live in the lap of gilded luxury. Then they buy up more pristine acreage from the small family farmers that are driven out of business by the greed and skullduggery of the corporate farms. Of course they pay pennies on the dollar for this incredible land, which they poison and kill in a few short years while making even greater and more lacivious profits.

  49. Patriot Henry: Biotech crops use lets inputs and boost crop production because they experience less pest damage and less competition from weeds. Higher crop productivity means less land used to produce food, leaving more land for nature.

    Spend a little cash and take a look at Paul Waggoner’s seminal article on crop productivity “How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature?

    Conclusion: “If during the next sixty to seventy years the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s U.S. corn grower, the ten billion will need only half of today’s cropland while they eat today’s American calories.”

  50. “60% of the land in the U.S. is neither farmed, nor is it developed. Indeed, 95% of the U.S. has no structure on it.”

    True. The cost however of developing those areas into food production in a timely manner in our current and future political situation doesn’t look affordable.

    “Indeed, a thousand year “system” or “plan” is simply meaningless and a waste of time.”

    I’ve been working on a 25,000 year plan for my future farm. The advantage of having a plan is then if something doesn’t go according to plan, you can then change plans. Stuffing ones face in feast times while whistling and pretending the good times will never end has a historical low level of success.

  51. “Patriot Henry: Biotech crops use lets inputs and boost crop production because they experience less pest damage and less competition from weeds. ”

    Biotech crops are monocrops. If you grow real food you can grow two, three, four, or more crops on the same land, thus producing a lower yield of each crop but a higher yield overall.

    Weeds can and should also be grown with food crops, both as an aid to soil and plant development, and as food.

    As for pest damage – if insects with their minimal intellect know not to eat a plant – I’m gonna go with their non-expert opinion.

    “Higher crop productivity means less land used to produce food, leaving more land for nature.”

    Right. I believe you. Yep. We are gonna use all of this untested God-like tech to make more room for nature, and not more room for McMansions and tract housing etc.

    ‘Conclusion: “If during the next sixty to seventy years the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s U.S. corn grower, the ten billion will need only half of today’s cropland while they eat today’s American calories.”‘

    And if that occurs, how long until the topsoil is gone, the water is gone or dead, and the human race is facing a mass die off?

  52. Reason stands as the most rational media outlet of the “right” these days

    If Stalin calls his enemies right-wing, that’s good enough for me.

  53. Patriot Henry: What information would convince you that you might be wrong?

  54. Patriot Henry,

    Hopefully in 25,000 years we’ll have colonized other planets (presuming that we survive things like gamma ray bursts and comet/asteroid impacts of significant size).

    The advantage of having a plan is then if something doesn’t go according to plan, you can then change plans.

    Sure, but it is worthless to have a 25,000 year plan because there is no possible way that you can predict in any meaningful way the sorts of changes that will happen over that period of time.

  55. Dear Ron Bailey,

    “Patriot Henry: You’re what is commonly known as a “troll,” right?”

    Nope. I looked up the word to be sure. Absolutely not. I’m a bit pissed myself but I’m not intending to disrupt the discourse, but rather to contribute to it.

    “Nope. And sadly I sold my 50 shares of Monsanto stock (which I bought with my own money) several years ago. Would have made a nice profit had I held onto it.”

    Ah, so you have bought into it. I don’t mean merely with your wallet – I mean with your mind. You’ve bought into the shiny brochures and the slick marketing.

    “And I must confess that I am curious: why do you think farmers are so stupid that they would destroy their own property? A puzzle.”

    I’ve studied farmers, farming, and people for a little while now. People, and farmers, are generally short sighted small minded unimaginative followers who prefer simplistic fantasies and easy short term solutions over the complex reality and difficult long term solutions.

    Go talk to a third or fourth generation hog farmer (if you can find one still around). Ask them how it’s going and how their plan, or non-plan and reliance on Big Food and the Govt, has worked out for them. Or if you want it easy, go talk to one of the many people who are hog farmers no more because they were driven out of the business by the consequences of their short sighted small minded unimaginative following of the crowd.

  56. The advantage of having a plan is then if something doesn’t go according to plan, you can then change plans.

    I’ve studied farmers, farming, and people for a little while now. People, and farmers, are generally short sighted small minded unimaginative followers who prefer simplistic fantasies and easy short term solutions over the complex reality and difficult long term solutions.

    Both true in at least specific instances, if not in general, but not in all cases. However, together they paint an odeous mindset. The kernel of dissention, then, might be summed up in the question “what is the purpose of government, and what does an individual deserve to do to himself?”

  57. Dear Seward,

    “Hopefully in 25,000 years we’ll have colonized other planets (presuming that we survive things like gamma ray bursts and comet/asteroid impacts of significant size).”

    That’s some sci-fi fantasy hope and fears. More likely threats include world/national governments, war, famine, pestilence, etc. Same old same old.

    “Sure, but it is worthless to have a 25,000 year plan because there is no possible way that you can predict in any meaningful way the sorts of changes that will happen over that period of time.”

    If there is no possible way, then how is it that I can do so on a daily basis? There are the cosmic threats you mentioned, the standard human threats I listed above, there is the possibility of the earth warming and the inevitable cooling of the planet, there is drought and flooding, etc etc etc. While the details and timing are by no means predictable the possibilities are quite within the realm of the human mind’s ability to conceive, comprehend, and prepare for.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  58. This whole argument is ridiculous. Can I get you, Michael Pollan, and Dan Mitchell to sit down for a lite beer or two.

  59. Anonymous,

    I believe you mean odious.

  60. Jeebus this thread got weird.

    Patriot Henry is either a troll. Or living in a shed in the woods. He’s studied farmers and farming and he is going to, “…test this theory out by buying land and farming it using the best available mixture of ancient and modern means that don’t destroy the resources.”

    Good luck with the experiment.

    ..and then they sell those sterile worthless acres..

    Could you point me to some of these acres? I’ve heard this myth before. I have yet to see an area once farmed in the last 40 years not being farmed because the land is no good or the Ph has gotten so out of whack it can’t be fixed. Either you’re tossing in some hyperbole or these vast tracts of wasteland caused by food production don’t exist.

  61. This whole argument is ridiculous.

    Yeah, but we got us a humdinger of a new troll/idiot.

  62. I’ve studied farmers, farming, and people for a little while now. People, and farmers, are generally short sighted small minded unimaginative followers who prefer simplistic fantasies and easy short term solutions over the complex reality and difficult long term solutions.

    I don’t know about you, but I plan to be uploaded to the orbital ring once this earthly shell is used up. Every plan of every day is leading to that point.

  63. Dude I think brotherben was being facetious.

  64. If there is no possible way, then how is it that I can do so on a daily basis?

    Are you claiming to be forecasting anything 25000 years out?

  65. Dude I think brotherben was being facetious.

    hmm made a post apologizing and lost it. God the fail is oozing from me tonight.

    I now see the error of my ways. Let the flogging commence.

  66. Dear Hmm,

    “Patriot Henry is either a troll. Or living in a shed in the woods. ”

    I am no troll. I do not yet have a shed in the woods. I am still in the early stages of designing my shed. I’m leaning towards a largish structure, perhaps 10’x10′.

    “Good luck with the experiment.”

    Thank you. I think I shall get by – it is well proven that an individual or small family can live, even well, on a small plot of land using time tested varieties of natural food.

    As to whether you can rely upon governments, subsidies, their doppleganger offspring known as corporations, and ever more complex and untested systems of high inputs with global supply chains – we just don’t know, unless you recall Zimbabwe, China, and the USSR’s experiments with govt controlled food. I for one do recall.

    “Good luck with the experiment.”

    Thank you. Best of luck depending on bureaucrats and marketing executives for your dinner!

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  67. I worked on a family owned farm in Idaho in the early nineties. They planted about 1600 acres of winter wheat each year and ran registered hereford cattle on another 1500 acres. The fourth generation of that fine family is working the land now. The old man that started it all had 4 kids, 8 or 9 grandkids and a few great grandkids now starting to work the farm. They all depend on that business. The old man was always aware of the legacy he was passing on. As are the rest of the family. They use a mix of organic and modern practices on their farm. Some of the wives have jobs in town to help support the family. To suggest that they are short sighted, small minded and unimaginative is just pure ignorance and very insulting.

  68. Dear Hmm”Are you claiming to be forecasting anything 25000 years out?”

    Yes. On the day exactly 25,000 years from now – the sun shall rise in the east and on the very same day it shall set in the west.

    Obviously I’m no psychic, and I don’t pretend to be. Is the above a statement of the obvious? Absolutely. However it’s also absolutely critical to farming of any sort.

  69. I find it’s quite easy to tell where someone falls in the power-lust franchise spectrum by what kind of label they try to apply to Libertarians.

    Mitchell’s claim that Reason is “right wing”, tells me that he’s a pinko commie rat bastard.

    -jcr

  70. Seward, thanks, but being Anonymous means never having to say you’re sorry, even if the rain coat has a hole in it. Giggidy.

    PH: doppleganger offspring known as corporations

    Where’s your free association now, Mr. Ford? (Corporate personhood is just another State and federal policy. The institutions themselves are just people.)

  71. Yes I was being fecetious. I love farming and do respect farmers in general. I see some things in large farms that are bothersome but realize that i know so little about the problems associated with farming very large tracts.

  72. “To suggest that they are short sighted, small minded and unimaginative is just pure ignorance and very insulting.”

    I don’t know these individuals and can’t say anything about them. People as a rule are as I said based upon my observations and reading. If they have genuinely improved the health of their soil then they are the exception to the rule and deserve much applause and appreciation. If they’ve been destroying the source of their livelihood and life and have been using artificial means to conceal this destruction – then they are part of the rule I spoke of.

  73. Best of luck depending on bureaucrats and marketing executives for your dinner!

    If you’ve never busted sod by hand or even with machine you are in for one steep, painful, and hungry learning curve. I don’t need luck. I was killing and growing what I ate before I could drive. I have the know how, know how hard it is, and don’t plan on doing it until I have the free time and desire. The romantic notion of living the simple life is a myth that couch dwelling urbanites romanticize about. You haven’t lived until you spent a 12 hour day cutting heads off chickens, dipping them in boiling water, yanking off their feathers, gutting them, then searing off the little hairs over an open propane flame. All in 90+ degree weather. Just think, you will get to spread that out over an entire year unless you have refrigeration.

  74. I’m curious Patriot Henry, where do you live?

  75. Obviously I’m no psychic, and I don’t pretend to be. Is the above a statement of the obvious? Absolutely. However it’s also absolutely critical to farming of any sort.

    In 25,000 years you could be eating Moondoggies with Spunk Sauce and Xebarsisis relish synthesized from cat shit and macro nutrients in Obama stadium on Mars watching the Jupiter Jack-Offs play the Saturn Sad Sacks compete in the 7453rd Milky Way Series Turbo Tequila Wiffle Ball Championship.

  76. The reason I ask is because some places are more suited than others for purely organic gardening. Hre in the deep south, we seem to have every pest, fungus, mold and virus in the world to destroy our garden. After gardening organically in Idaho for years with great success after about three years, I thought I had it figured out. We moved down here and I don’t garden any more. I don’t know if it’s possible to be 100% organic here, but I never got there.

  77. Dear brotherben,

    I am temporarily residing in suburban California. Within a year if fortune shines upon me I shall be relocated to a rural and desolate part of the nation.

  78. The romantic notion of living the simple life is a myth that couch dwelling urbanites romanticize about.

    My grandfather sailed on clipper ships, and he went to Alaska in the Yukon gold rush. I’d love to hear what he would have said about people who thought either of those pursuits were romantic.

    -jcr

  79. Dear Hmm,

    “In 25,000 years you could be eating Moondoggies with Spunk Sauce and Xebarsisis relish synthesized from cat shit and macro nutrients in Obama stadium on Mars watching the Jupiter Jack-Offs play the Saturn Sad Sacks compete in the 7453rd Milky Way Series Turbo Tequila Wiffle Ball Championship.”

    I think that’s unlikely. I happen to doubt I’m going to see my 200th birthday. However, part of my plan entails that other people will still be eating my flesh, recycled endlessly through the soil, plants, and animals.

  80. PH, I wish you success in you pursuit. I must say, waiting for fortune to shine upon you doesn’t sound like a well prepared plan.

  81. Dear brotherben,

    “The reason I ask is because some places are more suited than others for purely organic gardening. Hre in the deep south, we seem to have every pest, fungus, mold and virus in the world to destroy our garden.”

    I’m sure there is a way. I’m rather heavily inclined towards moving to a much colder climate. At first I was concerned slightly about the short growing season, but then I realized it would just leave more time for winter recreational sports.

    Regards,
    Patriot Henry

  82. Dear brotherben,

    “I must say, waiting for fortune to shine upon you doesn’t sound like a well prepared plan.”

    Methinks fortune is the absence of misfortune.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  83. Yeah, but we got us a humdinger of a new troll/idiot.

    I swore I’d never read the comments on another organic food thread on Hit & Run, but if we’ve got us “a humdinger of a new troll”, I’ll make an exception.

  84. Dear Ron Bailey and everyone else,

    Here’s an interesting bit from the “real farmer” Hurst:

    “Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river. ”

    So here is a man, and a farm, and a farming system, that spent years or decades flushing away topsoil and nutrients. Now, in order to no longer make that mistake, herbicides and GMO crops will be used.

    Herbicides and GMO crops won’t replace the topsoil an nutrients already lost. They won’t rebuild the humus, or the worms, or the other organisms killed. The same “experts” and “professionals” who spent so much time and effort and money to proclaim and produce the joys and wonder of soil erosion and destruction through modern technology now have a new modern technology to save us all.

    However, they are still ignoring critical parts. The problem isn’t erosion – that’s only a part of the problem. The real problem is the health of the soil, the plants, the animals, the people. Since the corporations and farmers can’t be bothered to take a few decades to actually study the long term effects of such technology BEFORE creating a massive and fundamental sweeping revolution of the farming industry, they are once again ignoring the real problems and real solutions in order to obtain the illusion of a solution at the expense of future productivity.

    Agribusiness is a farming ponzi scheme, same as with every other government-business.

  85. I don’t recall Mr. Hurst suggesting that he was trying to “save us all.” He simply and eloquently addressed some of his problems and concerns. You say, Mr. Henry, that you live currently in suburban California. I am curious, do you support this farming you detest by purchasing anything that may have some corn from farmer Hurst’s crop in it? Do you produce everything you consume in you lifestyle? Do you perchance live in the L.A. area? Where every house and freeway has destroyed a bit of fragile desert ecosystem? Do you currently practice what you preach sir? Do you merely live comfortably in your own little pipe dream?

  86. I think Patriot Henry is sort of illustrative of that kind of moron on the plane that knows absolutely nothing about farming but feels qualified to loudly spout his opinions and accuse anyone who disagrees with him of being some kind of sinister propaganda agent.

  87. Herbicides and GMO crops won’t replace the topsoil an nutrients already lost. They won’t rebuild the humus, or the worms, or the other organisms killed.

    Yes, they will. They will enable him to practice no-till agriculture, which means leaving biomass in place on the field and allowing it to decompose naturally.

  88. Hazel Meade, cut him some slack. He’s the only person I have run across with a 25,000 year plan.

    That was an excellant point about the no-till practice btw.

  89. brotherben,
    I feel your pain.
    Now you know how I feel whenever Sarah Palin opens her mouth.

  90. I am curious how some of the recent commentors found their way here. I came here by way of Boortz’s website. I haven’t listened to him more than a couple times in the last year. I do however find the information I find here to be very thought provoking. It certainly is causing me to rethink some things I have felt certain about for years.

  91. Dear brotherben,

    “I don’t recall Mr. Hurst suggesting that he was trying to “save us all.” He simply and eloquently addressed some of his problems and concerns.”

    True, he didn’t say that, but he was serving as a spokesman for the industry, and the industries marketers, both corporate and government, sure make that claim.

    ” You say, Mr. Henry, that you live currently in suburban California. I am curious, do you support this farming you detest by purchasing anything that may have some corn from farmer Hurst’s crop in it?”

    I try to avoid any product made with corn for that reason.

    ” Do you produce everything you consume in you lifestyle?”

    Not yet. That is my goal.

    ” Do you perchance live in the L.A. area? Where every house and freeway has destroyed a bit of fragile desert ecosystem?”

    No I do not.

    ” Do you currently practice what you preach sir? Do you merely live comfortably in your own little pipe dream?”

    I practice what I preach to the limit of my abilities. I don’t eat out. I don’t eat prepared foods or processed foods. I buy farmer direct whenever possible and research the origin, processing, and ownership of everything I eat.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  92. Dear Hazel Meade,

    “I think Patriot Henry is sort of illustrative of that kind of moron on the plane that knows absolutely nothing about farming but feels qualified to loudly spout his opinions and accuse anyone who disagrees with him of being some kind of sinister propaganda agent.”

    It is true I’ve never farmed, but it’s also true I’ve never flushed topsoil and nutrients and fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico thus contributing to the dead zone there.

    I’ve also never taken a federal subsidy. Nor have I raised animals in conditions that if applied to cats or dogs would result in a prison sentence.

    Nor am I one who spouts an opinion based on reading one book. I’ve spent 12 years studying the American food production system, 10 years working in it, and 3 years pursuing a principled diet. I’ve read dozens of books and countless articles. I am no expert. I’m not perfect. However, compared to the government bureaucrats and politicians who are responsible for your food – I know at least a smidgen more they do.

    “Yes, they will. They will enable him to practice no-till agriculture, which means leaving biomass in place on the field and allowing it to decompose naturally.”

    That biomass will be produced from depleted soil. It would take a comprehensive very long term effort to restore the soil to it’s original state. The no-till/herbicide/GMO plan will require perpetual high-inputs of petroleum products and GMO seed and government subsidies. As to whether one can replicate nature through such simple and artificial means which ignore the fundamental complexities of soil health- well, I’ve got my opinion and you’ve got yours. You bet your life on your opinion and I’ll do the same and time will tell who is right.

  93. Herbicides and GMO crops won’t replace the topsoil an nutrients already lost.

    Your argument seems to boil down to nobody should ever try anything because they might make a mistake.

  94. It is true I’ve never farmed, but it’s also true I’ve never flushed topsoil and nutrients and fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico thus contributing to the dead zone there.

    OK, let’s not count against you anything you did in the first 18 years of your life, because that was probably controlled by your conventional food-pushing parent.

    You’ve pursued a principled diet for 3 years. Are you 21, then?

    If you are older, you had some period of unprincipled diet. During that period, did you do business, directly or indirectly, with anyone who may have been responsible, directly or indirectly, for dumping topsoil or nutrients or fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico thus contributing to the dead zone there?

  95. Dear Mike Laursen,

    “Your argument seems to boil down to nobody should ever try anything because they might make a mistake.”

    I’m all in favor of making mistakes. I’m just not in favor of making subsidized mistakes. What we now call “conventional” farming is a mistake – it causes erosion and many other problems. These problems were pointed out many decades ago. The problems and solutions were ignored because of the federal subsidies, programs, policies, etc that concealed the failure of these mistakes.

    If you want to eat GMO food, fine but please don’t make me pay for it. If you want to eat oil based herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, fine go ahead but please don’t make me pay for it.

    Why do the vast majority of presumably libertarian writers and editors on this site give a free pass to the government food they defend? I reckon it might be because everyone really wants that fabled free lunch and they don’t care how much they have to pay to get it.

  96. Dear Mike Laursen,

    “OK, let’s not count against you anything you did in the first 18 years of your life, because that was probably controlled by your conventional food-pushing parent.”

    True.

    “You’ve pursued a principled diet for 3 years. Are you 21, then?

    If you are older, you had some period of unprincipled diet. During that period, did you do business, directly or indirectly, with anyone who may have been responsible, directly or indirectly, for dumping topsoil or nutrients or fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico thus contributing to the dead zone there?”

    I’m 28. I most certainly was no better, and compared to many much worse, when it came to my diet, until I got food poisoning from a fast food chain. Previous to that point I had known to some degree that it was wrong to eat that sort of food, but I didn’t know the details of the current system as my previous studies had focused on older periods of history.

    The food poisoning made me wake up – and even after I decided to eat right – I would find that foods I had thought were okay weren’t. I once bought hamburger rolls that had high fructose corn syrup in them. Now I bake my own bread and regret that I haven’t grown and threshed and ground my own flour. Next I’ll buy a flour mill, and after that I shall grow my own grain, and then I’ll be content.

    And if your point was that I indirectly contributed to the destruction of the planet – I must confess, I too am guilty.

  97. So ya
    Thought ya
    Might like to
    attempt to make some things grow.
    To feel that warm no til cornucopia,
    with no imaginary pesticide glow.
    I’ve got some bad tomatoes in the sunshine,
    purple coloration means it isn’t well, needs an alkaline PH to swell,
    and if the limits of the land causes
    hunger to fan
    We’re gonna find out where you folks really stand.

    Are there any slow foodist in the theater tonight?
    Get them up against the wall!
    There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me,
    Get him up against the wall!
    That one looks pasty!
    And grows crops only by the light of the moon!
    Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
    There’s one who refuses vaccines,
    And another whose blood doesn’t clot!
    If I had my way,
    I’d have all of you shot!

  98. , part of my plan entails that other people will still be eating my flesh,

    Messiah complex much?

    -jcr

  99. Patriot Henry,
    You seem to have missed the point of Mr. Hurst’s comment about topsoil washed down to the Gulf of Mexico.

    The point is that so-called “organic” farmers actually contribute more to this problem because of their greater need to rely on tilling to control weeds. Before he converted to no-till farming, through the use of GM crops and herbicides, he was flushing more topsoil down the river than he is now.

    Tilling is also one of the causes of the 1930s “dustbowl”. One of the reasons no-till agriculture was developed. But it was not widely adopted until Roundup Ready Soybeans were introduced to the market by Monsanto.

  100. The no-till/herbicide/GMO plan will require perpetual high-inputs of petroleum products and GMO seed and government subsidies.

    Nonsense, no-till requires less petroleum use, and nobody requires subsidies. It’s perfectly capable of competing in a free market. Less expensive for the farmer, hence more profitable.

    It’s much easier and less hazardous to do with GMO seeds though.

  101. Side comment:
    Anyone think Patriot Henry reminds you of Tony when he first got here?

  102. Anyone think Patriot Henry reminds you of Tony when he first got here?

  103. Dang it, I hate when I don’t close a tag properly. That was supposed to say:

    Anyone think Patriot Henry reminds you of Tony when he first got here?

    Did Tony change over time?

    -jcr

  104. Patriot Henry: If you’re still eating anything but meat, you’re contributing to the destruction of your own health.

    Remove the beam from thine own eye before you worry about the planet.

  105. Ron Bailey | July 31, 2009, 9:39pm | #

    Spend a little cash and take a look at Paul Waggoner’s seminal article on crop productivity “How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature?”

    Conclusion: “If during the next sixty to seventy years the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s U.S. corn grower, the ten billion will need only half of today’s cropland while they eat today’s American calories.”

    Ron, I agree with you here. We can handle a population of around 10 billion or so, which coincidentally is the UN’s demographic projection for our peak population towards the end of this century. I think people are a good thing, and want as many as we can handle while still leaving adequate land for nature and while living in a manner that does not deplete non-renewable resources. With today’s technology, that number is probably a little beyond ten billion. Future technology will improve it somewhat, but it is hard to get far past ten billion without running into some real issues of arable land per person. However, as it is obvious that industralized nations have not found a way to even maintain a population without immigration, let alone grow one, it is unlikely that we will hit such high population numbers anyway due to declining birth rates as more nations develop.

    With respect to crop yields, I would like to point out two caveats to what you said. The first is that the US is blessed with some of the best crop land in the world. If everyone had the same technology as us, they would still have lower yields.

    Second, while yields are still increasing at ~1% per year in the US, it should always be pointed out that “champion” yields – the best any farmer did anywhere in the country – have barely budged for decades. What this means is that our improving yields are coming from preventing losses due to draught, pest, disease, etc. At some point, you start running out of losses to prevent.

  106. From Food Inc., I do support the required labeling of products that are, say genetically modified. The science seems to me to establish fears over GM foods are wildly overblown at best, but consumers should be able to make the decision whether that is for them or not. I’ve always found libertarian opposition to required labeling to be goofy as all hell. Fraud is wrong, and not leaving out a material fact can be fraud, so the labelling is simply an anti-fraud device. Why make the consumer have to have the affirmative duty of tracking down and verifying everything about the producers product? Certianly the producer is in a far superior to know and supply this information. Information costs are lowered big time and any coercion is minimal and justified by its anti-fraud effects.

    In the film one GM using food producer says something like “we don’t want the labels because the public is not sufficiently educated on this and will be unduly scared into not buying the product.” Stupid consumers, can’t have them making their own irrational choices!

  107. I also totally support the government putting forth a standard, and providing enforcement, for labeling foods “local”, “organic”, “cage-free” or whatever. Then let the consumer make the choice with all the information.

    And of course ending various farming/food subsidies would help things out the most.

  108. Give me Patrick Henry or give me pseudo-science Bailey!

  109. MNG, I think Mr. Henry more than held his own.

  110. I also totally support the government industry putting forth a standard, and providing enforcement, for labeling foods “local”, “organic”, “cage-free” or whatever.

    FTFY.

    Lot’s of industries do this. If the companies believe there is value in what they are doing there is nothing stopping them from using it as marketing. Plenty of things are labeled “Organic”, “Fat Free”, “Low-Sodium”.

    Why do you feel government must force this?

  111. I enjoyed reading the positions and ideas of Mr. Henry but I think he got owned.

  112. Reinmoose?

  113. Dear Hazel Meade,

    “The point is that so-called “organic” farmers actually contribute more to this problem because of their greater need to rely on tilling to control weeds. Before he converted to no-till farming, through the use of GM crops and herbicides, he was flushing more topsoil down the river than he is now.”

    Do you have any proof for your claim that “organic” farmers erode more topsoil than “conventional” farmers? You wouldn’t happen to have a study on that, particularly not one that also includes “beyond organic” farming? I don’t know of any – the only source for that claim that I’ve seen is a “conventional farmer”. There are many factors in erosion. It’s not as simple as till or no-till. There are many types of tilling, many types of land, and many means of controlling erosion that don’t involve untested high input technology.

    The same govt, farmers, and corporations who pushed “conventional farming” are now pushing “super-conventional farming”. I for one consider that reason to scrutinize rather than simply believe their claims.

    “Tilling is also one of the causes of the 1930s “dustbowl”. One of the reasons no-till agriculture was developed. But it was not widely adopted until Roundup Ready Soybeans were introduced to the market by Monsanto.”

    The advantage of traditional means of altering DNA is that if it doesn’t work it fails to reproduce or eventually dies off. Survival of the fittest. This is just another permutation of the use of technology to keep failures dominating the market.

    Also, no-till “organic” is being developed. Granted the development isn’t as fast, but when you lack a government created and protected monopoly on the market the budget just can’t compare.

    “Nonsense, no-till requires less petroleum use, and nobody requires subsidies. It’s perfectly capable of competing in a free market. Less expensive for the farmer, hence more profitable.”

    No-till super-conventional farming requires less petroleum use than the no-petroleum? No requirement for subsidies? The majority of corn, soy, and I do believe cotton now are GM. I haven’t yet read any stories of subsidized farmers using GM or no-till turning down subsidies. If you have links I’d love to read about it. As far as being less expensive for the farmer- that might be so, but only because they are externalizing the costs just as “conventional” farming does. The costs might not be known for years or decades – but the bill for shortcuts without regard to principle or the laws of nature is in the end always greater than the bill for doing things right the first time.

    “It’s much easier and less hazardous to do with GMO seeds though.”

    As a rule food shouldn’t be easy, safe, or cheap. The laws of nature dictate food is difficult, dangerous, and expensive. It takes a lot of work to eat right. These are overly simple short sighted small minded illusions of solutions that use gee whiz tech. It doesn’t work in war (shiny kill toys still can’t replace the boots on the ground), it doesn’t work in finance (derivatives and other creative pyramid schemes still don’t add up in the end), it doesn’t work in education (the fourth generation of new math is even worse than the third), it doesn’t work in medicine (for all of the CAT scans doctors still mistakenly kill well over 100,000 people a year in the US, and for all of the fancy drugs we are still giving speed in large quantities to kids), etc.

    Almost everyone wants a shortcut that takes out the hard work, the thinking, the reflection, the forethought, and the time it takes to do it right. Maybe this will be the first time Big Food gets it done. I doubt it. If it worked they or someone else would be able to study and prove it works. The lack of real research, and the efforts by Big Food and the federal govt to prevent it, make me think they know it won’t withstand scientific scrutiny. Time will tell.

    Regards,
    Patriot Henry

  114. Dear damaged justice,

    “Patriot Henry: If you’re still eating anything but meat, you’re contributing to the destruction of your own health.”

    So if an omnivore fails to eat a carnivorous diet, it’s bad for the omnivore? Does not compute.

    “Remove the beam from thine own eye before you worry about the planet.”

    I did. I’m also not too worried about the planet. The human race however is in an ever more precarious situation.

    Can anyone here explain once we exploit the planet and the limit of our technological advances to reach that theoretical maximum supportable population how we are going to stop the population growth? Perhaps the government controlled Big Food industry could lend a helping hand.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  115. Dear kilroy,

    “I enjoyed reading the positions and ideas of Mr. Henry but I think he got owned.”

    I may or may not lose the debate – but I am not the one who is owned. True liberty and security come from ownership of ones food supply. If you control the source of a person’s food you can control them. My opponents, the defenders of the government-corporate-industrial-food complex, are owned by those who control their food.

    Regards,

    Patriot

  116. Dear kilroy,

    “Lot’s of industries do this. If the companies believe there is value in what they are doing there is nothing stopping them from using it as marketing. Plenty of things are labeled “Organic”, “Fat Free”, “Low-Sodium”.

    Why do you feel government must force this?”

    “Organic” is a government term that doesn’t mean “organic”. “Fat Free” is a government term that doesn’t mean “fat free”. I believe “Low-Sodium” is also a government word and as to whether it is accurate or not depends on your standards of low sodium. Likewise, “natural” doesn’t mean “natural”.

    I believe all products should be accurately labeled – however government mandated and controlled labels inevitably end up becoming Orwellian terms defined by Big Food.

    More government control of food is not the solution, but that’s what we are going to get. I for one would favor zero federal food regulation and allow various standards to compete freely – but that’s not about to happen.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  117. “Why do you feel government must force this?”

    I hate to answer a question with one, but why do you think we should just let industries who want to id their products honestly have to bear that burden, but ones that would like to leave out material facts to the bargain do not? Actually, my answer to your question is fairly implicit in that I should think…

  118. seward,

    Like I said, I think it is at the crux of the debate. If you feel that you can bank on a future technology solving the problem, you will not be concerned with sustainability beyond a very short window.

    While I am a big believer in technological advancements, science also provides us with the ability to predict long-term consequences and identify the problems coming down the pike. It can answer questions like – “if we keep doing it this way, what will happen?”

    Answering those questions helps us identify the problems technology needs to solve. AND organic farming is a technology that is aimed at just such a problem. So is no-till, and no-till organic. Science can help us answer questions about which will be more sustainable over the long haul.

    But if your faith in science to solve the problem includes a “well, sure it’s bad, but they’ll figure out a way to clean up our mess in the future” shrug of the shoulder, well…

  119. Many companies will take the easy way out of just not saying anything about characterstics of their food that would be “material facts” to the bargain of their sale. Surely the consumer should not have to bear the burden of investigating the contents of every product offered for sale to them, that would involve very high transaction costs. The producer could, for much less costs, supply this information and thus efficiency is produced, fraud is prevented, etc. It’s all good.

  120. Another point about the sustainability issue.

    It is quite likely that a practice with short-term advantage, but long-term negative consequences will be sustained until those long-term consequences arise unless those long-term consequences are recognized and efforts are made to avoid them.

    The “it’s good for me now, so it is the right thing to do” tendencies of humans take effort to overcome, but sometimes its worth the effort.

    This requires the adoption of a longer-term perspective on issues.

  121. Mr. Henry,

    “I may or may not lose the debate – but I am not the one who is owned. True liberty and security come from ownership of ones food supply. If you control the source of a person’s food you can control them. My opponents, the defenders of the government-corporate-industrial-food complex, are owned by those who control their food.”

    My use of the term “owned” was slang indicating that I thought all of your well-stated positions had been successfully refuted. I think you knew that meaning but decided to take it literally to advance another point. Fair enough. I’m quite happy with my sources of food as currently available to me. I also have a few acres of land that can sustain me if the apocalypse comes, I’m not really expecting it any time soon. I also have a significant supply of weapons, just in case. I wish you luck in your endeavor. I’m sure it will be enlightening.

    “I believe all products should be accurately labeled – however government mandated and controlled labels inevitably end up becoming Orwellian terms defined by Big Food.”

    Accuracy in labeling seems fine to me. If I had the desire to ensure some rigorous standard of meaning I’d start a private trade association of the producers adhering to those standards and trademark “True Organic”, etc. The members can therefore control the meaning of the mark as closely as they’d like and can build a trust with the consumers who share those values. Why wouldn’t that work for you?

    MNG,

    “I hate to answer a question with one, but why do you think we should just let industries who want to id their products honestly have to bear that burden, but ones that would like to leave out material facts to the bargain do not? Actually, my answer to your question is fairly implicit in that I should think…”

    Basically, you want ME to pay for what you want to know in addition to paying for the baseline information I already pay for via the FDA. You have certain things you care about in the sourcing of the things you eat. Other individuals have different things that are important to them. If I’m convinced that fluoride is the chemical from hell, should that be on the label to? How about chlorine? Animal testing?

    You want product differentiation by government control on my nickle. Somehow lots of industries have achieved such differentiation without a mandate from Uncle Sam. I fail to see why something that has marketing appeal to people such as yourself shouldn’t be supported by the beneficiary. In this case the beneficiary is you and the producer.

  122. killroy
    The producer is who pays to comply with the labeling requirement. If he does not, then the government takes action against him.

    I assume that you think the government should, on my and your dime, take action were a producer to lie to you about what was in or the nature of their food. My only point is that to hold back material facts in the bargain is something to be addressed by the government as well.

    Again, you think the consumer, rather than the producer, should have to track down and investigate these facts? I’ve given you my reason why the producer should have to, because they can more efficiently, accurately, and easily provide it.

  123. The government may have to spend money to find out whether a failure to accurately represent the product has occurred, but they would do that in cases of outright fraud as well. Ultimately it is the producer upon whom the burden would, and should, fall.

  124. MNG, “I do support the required labeling of products that are, say genetically mod…”

    Required by and paid for by who?

  125. MNG,

    It seems you and I (and the FDA) disagree on the definition of “material facts”. Absolutely the producer should pay to comply with labeling requirements and they currently do. If they don’t adhere to current government requirements the FDA comes after them. If they materially advertise something false outside of the FDA’s purview you also have the power to enforce this with a false advertising suit.

    I contend that “material facts” are already codified in the FDA labeling requirements. The additional facts you have interest in, above and beyond the ones in the current regulations, are of no interest to me and I don’t agree that I should have to share the cost of additional compliance for your benefit.

  126. Ultimately it is the producer upon whom the burden would, and should, fall.

    Incidence, you mean. How much burden they bear depends on market elasticities.

  127. MNG – your faith in government as opposed to free markets is telling. perhaps you should spend some time over at the Mises site and hammer out some of your fears of losing a security blanket government.

    further, you can’t argue that it is fraud if it is coerced. claims made freely that are dishonest are fraud. forcing people by govt. mandate(gun point) is wrong in the first place!

    industries and entrepenuers CAN and DO. and will do even more to provide the regulation that consumers desire, once the fetters of govt. control are removed. government will only provide the regulation the deepest pockets desire.

    i don’t know about PH’s farm plans, but IF his stated opposition to govt. subsidies and regulation is heartfelt, then CHEERS! to that. if his opposition to govt. ends when people start trying to outlaw other methods than the ones he prefers, then BOOO!

    it’s really that simple, get the damn govt. out of the way and let the markets figure it out! DUH!

  128. SOYLENT GREEEN IS PEEEEEEPLE!!!!

  129. Dear kilroy,


    My use of the term “owned” was slang indicating that I thought all of your well-stated positions had been successfully refuted. I think you knew that meaning but decided to take it literally to advance another point. Fair enough. ”

    Correct. The two different uses and meanings of the word are very different. If another dominates me in this comments section of one blog of one website it is no terrible loss. If another were to dominate the very means of sustaining my life – then it would be a terrible loss.

    “I’m quite happy with my sources of food as currently available to me.”

    Do you know where your food comes from? Who made it and how they made it? Who (you or the taxpayers) paid for it? Whether it destroys or improves the land and water?

    “I also have a few acres of land that can sustain me if the apocalypse comes, I’m not really expecting it any time soon.”

    It takes time and skills to sustain oneself off of the land. I certainly can’t claim to have the ability. While I aim and work towards the goal of being able to do so – if I had to do so today I’d be in a heck of a situation. As far as the apocalypse – I see it happening throughout our nation and the world. The systems of government, media, education, agriculture, finance, war, medicine, etc are all unsustainable – and they continue to gain dominance over the market even as their failure grows.

    “I also have a significant supply of weapons, just in case.”

    You can’t eat firearms as great as they are. They can play a role in food production but they aren’t all you need.

    “I wish you luck in your endeavor. I’m sure it will be enlightening.

    Thank you very much.

    “Accuracy in labeling seems fine to me. If I had the desire to ensure some rigorous standard of meaning I’d start a private trade association of the producers adhering to those standards and trademark “True Organic”, etc. The members can therefore control the meaning of the mark as closely as they’d like and can build a trust with the consumers who share those values. Why wouldn’t that work for you?”

    Other people have and continue to work towards that goal. I don’t trust labels myself. It’s too simple. You can’t accurately reduce a plant, animal, or food to a few words. In addition my personal standard is too high to be part of a demand for a label. I’m reliant on the word of the farmer and any middlemen currently and plan on growing as much of my own food in the future as I can.

    My pursuit of perfection and principle may seem excessive and the fruit of paranoia, but as one who studies and works with food, I’ve learned you really can’t trust other people in this government controlled market. The natural forces of competition that would force producers to produce a superior product have been reduced or eliminated; the unnatural forces of monopoly and subsidization and regulation have been introduced and dominate and corrupt the entire system.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  130. “I contend that “material facts” are already codified in the FDA labeling requirements.”

    So we both think there are certain material facts that must be disclosed, you just think the current FDA requirements need not be tinkered with, added to or subtracted from. And I’m supposed to the government apologist here?

    ransom
    Don’t get on your high horse, you’re perfectly fine to have the government use coercion in cases of fraud, you just for some reason don’t think that failing to disclose material facts (as opposed to affirmatively misrepresenting them) falls under fraud, or that preventing it as opposed to taking action after the fact is appropriate.

  131. Dear ransom147,

    “i don’t know about PH’s farm plans, but IF his stated opposition to govt. subsidies and regulation is heartfelt, then CHEERS! to that. if his opposition to govt. ends when people start trying to outlaw other methods than the ones he prefers, then BOOO!

    it’s really that simple, get the damn govt. out of the way and let the markets figure it out! DUH!”

    I agree that this is the solution, however there is one interesting double-standard that illustrates the irrationality of the current system. Much of the factory farmed system abuses animals in ways equal to or worse than the standard of criminal animal abuse, only on a much larger scale. Some of these abuses are officially condoned; others involve the officially condemned but systemically induced consequences such as workers who routinely abuse the animals.

    Now, while I would favor no govt action or involvement or regulation as such will be easily controlled by the wrong doers and because a free market would solve the problems quickest and best, it should seem to me that the vast majority of meat eaters who support prosecuting animal torturers would want to prohibit these practices by their own standard.

    The question I haven’t settled yet is – if we shouldn’t prohibit people from torturing animals for profit, should we prohibit them from torturing animals for fun?

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  132. “it’s really that simple, get the damn govt. out of the way and let the markets figure it out!”

    Whew, and I’m the one who is accused of faith here…

    Getting the government out of the way would mean that some producers would be able to misrepresent the nature and ingredients of their products forcing consumers to bear the burden of investigating that before they can make an informed choice (or arguably before they can even manifest true consent to the bargain). It would be immoral (making the potential victim of wrong have the moral and legal respondibility to protect themselves from malefactors) and incredibly inefficient.

    Yes, many firms would have an incentive to be totally honest about their products, but many would not (for example, if you had an inferior product, or wanted to take the incentive this would provide to save costs by not labeling). Supposing every producer would be bad is crazy, but supposing none would be is just as nuts.

  133. One other practice that I do believe could be legitimately prohibited is the use of fraudulent marketing and packaging, such as the dairy products that show cows happily eating grass in the sunshine while in reality those cows never see the sun.

  134. Dear MNG and ransom147,


    Getting the government out of the way would mean that some producers would be able to misrepresent the nature and ingredients of their products forcing consumers to bear the burden of investigating that before they can make an informed choice (or arguably before they can even manifest true consent to the bargain). It would be immoral (making the potential victim of wrong have the moral and legal respondibility to protect themselves from malefactors) and incredibly inefficient.”

    With all of the government statutes, programs, policies, departments, agencies, and bureaus – it is exactly as you described above. Fraud should be a basis for consumer complaints and criminal investigations. It’s not possible to prevent fraud – but prosecuting those who commit fraud is possible and that does discourage fraud. If you give the government the power to attempt to prevent fraud then it encourages fraudsters to seize control of the government, it’s programs, and thus prevent consumer complaints and criminal investigations and lawsuits.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  135. MNG:
    i get your point, i really do. the problem is you are trading a minute flaw in free society for a much greater and more numerously flawed COERCIVE society. that doesn’t add up.

    http://mises.org/

  136. It’s not possible to prevent fraud – but prosecuting those who commit fraud is possible and that does discourage fraud. If you give the government the power to attempt to prevent fraud then it encourages fraudsters to seize control of the government, it’s programs, and thus prevent consumer complaints and criminal investigations and lawsuits.

    Precisely true, PH, and that’s a satisfying wording of it.

    (Off the topic of food in particular:) Government attempts to reshape society in order to prevent needing to enforce laws. That power shouldn’t exist in government. In response, crime is either excused as a failure of government to prevent it or as a treason to the collective agreement against thought crime.

  137. I’m all in favor of making mistakes. I’m just not in favor of making subsidized mistakes.

    Great, we’re in agreement. Did you mention, in your previous comments, that you only get upset about subsidized GMO, etc? I may have missed it.

  138. And if your point was that I indirectly contributed to the destruction of the planet – I must confess, I too am guilty.

    Then why are your railing against a farmer who used to practice excessively-erosive tilling practices? He said he found a better way and doesn’t farm the same way now.

  139. The first tip off that a person’s argument is based on ignorance or dishonesty is when they start off with some violation of logic like the fallacy of Bailey’s motives.

    Bailey is a ideologue and Mitchell is what? A concerned citizen with nothing but the most objective of motivations running through his mind? Even if that were true it’s still meaningless to the question at hand.

    So it all boils down to two things. 1) The bio-tech farmer is using far less land, and fewer pesticides than in recent history. 2) “Industrial farming” may prove to be unwise somewhere in the future.

    The former is a demonstrable fact, the latter is speculation that rests more on fear of the new than anything else.

  140. Dear Mike Laursen,

    “Great, we’re in agreement. Did you mention, in your previous comments, that you only get upset about subsidized GMO, etc? I may have missed it.”

    No. I also find cause for complaint about nonsubsidized GMO, for these products are often indirectly subsidized by the government. One is the transformation of ancient seed laws (you grow it you own it) to Monsanto era seed laws (you grow it you don’t own it and can go to jail for using the product you grew). Another is the tolerance of abusive lawsuits, and another is the government resistance to allow others to sue for damages done. Another is the government tolerance for gene pollution and crop damage done by GMO crops.

    Finally, perhaps the most influential and important government subsidy is the lack of scientific research proving the safety of this incredibly powerful technology. I don’t agree with the federal government’s usurpation of the control over the science and safety of food – but as it has usurped it the government must be responsible for fulfilling it’s (un)elected duties.

    One more contributing factor to GMO – government educated and often funded scientists. The federal government has long been extending it’s grip over education and science – today’s scientists, as with all of the other Americans, are far more under the influence of the federal government.

    GMO is a tremendous technology. This sort of power requires the highest levels of ethical behavior and scientific pursuit of the truth. The entire system was thoroughly corrupted before GMO was being tested. It’s only grown more corrupt since that time. GMO could be a huge leap forward – but the corruption that pervades our nation and world has already corrupted it and is sure to lead us further away from it’s glorious potential as it leads us closer to one of those nightmare sci-fi conspiracy theory scenarios the anti-GMO advocates speak of. In combination with the war on the small farmer, small producer, small processor, etc – there is a serious push to consolidate the government’s control over the nation’s and world’s stomachs. GMO is playing a critical role in this pursuit of absolute power. It is the crowning glory of the technocrats. The experts revel in their own power while ignoring all criticism and any evidence that doesn’t fit nicely into a stock pitch. This is the same pattern as the rest of the government food system failures and the rest of the government system failures in general.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  141. Any system of government labeling will be rife with the anti-market problems we see with such programs; including the fact that it will be used by the politically selected producers to screw over everyone else. Then we will have a lot of bitching and moaning and complaining about how expensive food is and how certain elements of society just can’t afford healthy food.

  142. Dear Mike Laursen,

    “Then why are your railing against a farmer who used to practice excessively-erosive tilling practices? He said he found a better way and doesn’t farm the same way now.”

    He may have solved the problem of erosion, but he’s introduced the problems of GMO and herbicides. Now, I have no doubt it is quite possible to use GMO and herbicides in a safe and effective manner, but the record of people doing so isn’t so strong.

    Both that farmer and many others and many academics and many bureaucrats ignored the evidence of the failure of the “conventional” ways. The failure of “conventional” farming is still happening on a large scale. The alleged solutions are radical and there is an absence of credible evidence of their safety, most especially in the long term.

    These solutions treat all farms the same, and they treat these farms as though they are machines that require the equivalent of oil, gas, transmission fluid, etc. Soil is not a machine. It’s a ecosystem in which many different types of life interact in a very complex way. DNA is not a simple Basic program. It’s an incredibly complex program that is still poorly understood. Any computer programmer has seen the weird unpredictable often seemingly inexplicable behavior a bug even in a simple Basic program can do – we’ve yet to see what happens when the GMO programmers make a small mistake. Unless of course you happen to count the massive crop failure in South Africa.

  143. Neu Mejican,

    Is there any actual “science” behind “sustainable farming?” What it reminds me of is the health craze that took over elements of the U.S. during the Gilded Age.

  144. Seward,

    Yes.

  145. e.g.,

    http://www.sirc.org/articles/sustainable_agriculture.shtml

    http://cafnr.missouri.edu/academics/sustainable-ag.php

    (go to any agriculture department’s website and you will find research publications addressing issues of sustainability).

  146. There really is no evidence or reason to say farmers don’t change their ways when a better method comes along, or when they recognize they are doing damage. The best example is the dust bowl, which is a little funny since some here are decrying tilling and the loss of top soil. Prior to the dust bowl farmers tilled to powder. After realizing this was a bad idea, and god I hate to say it some government intervention to educate, farmers stopped over tilling.

    Farmers change. They are a part of the market and have a vested interest in staying a part of the market. Is damage done until people find a better way? Sure. But this doesn’t equate to willful and continuous destruction just for the sake of profit. It means that while a detriment is recognized, ways to mitigate the detriment may not be feasible. The hyperbole of OMG FARMER BAD is retarded and lends to the belief that the people cry such a fallacy have never talked with a farmer or actually grown anything significant.

    The argument that something must be done now and we know just what to do is the same retarded argument made by global warming people. It’s also just as fucking retarded and short sighted.

  147. PH – off topic

    “The question I haven’t settled yet is – if we shouldn’t prohibit people from torturing animals for profit, should we prohibit them from torturing animals for fun?”

    i’m not going to attempt to answer this highly controversial ? here, but for some thought fodder; i suggest reading Mill’s “On Liberty” for some perspective… while Mill was far from perfect, he had some interesting ideas about how to deal w/ activities that societies view as “immoral” but are not “harming others”

  148. I don’t think it is “Puritanism” to state that it is a sin to live in “blithe ignorance” of the source of one’s food. If anything, it is something close to Objectivism. Choosing to live in ignorance is a sin against, well, reason.

  149. NM sez I think this is at (a/the) crux of the debate. If you are thinking about “in our lifetime” then the issue looks a lot different than if you are projecting out thousands of years.

    Didn’t someone once famously say “in the long run we’re all dead”?

    Also, how the hell did Patriot Henry mention HFCS without a responding “DRINK!”?

  150. Didn’t someone once famously say “in the long run we’re all dead”?

    Ya, but he also said, “We will not have any more crashes in our time.” In 1927.

  151. re: chad at 8:02pm

    I laughed

  152. As a rule food shouldn’t be easy, safe, or cheap.

    Fortunately for the rest of the people in the world, it’s not up to you.

    You do know that you’re coming across as self-absorbed, misanthropic git, don’t you?

    -jcr

  153. Bailey doesn’t seem to understand people who don’t go full-tilt like he does. Since he doesn’t see a reasonable middle ground…

    A “reasonable middle ground,” otherwise known as a compromise. What Dan Mitchell cannot comprehend, apparently, is that reputable writers like Ron Bailey have a philosophical problem with giving truths and nontruths equal weight and merit in a discussion.

  154. I’m 28.

    Well, you seem like a smart guy. I don’t even disagree with a lot of what you’re saying, but it was just too much fun to tweak a youthful ideologue’s argumentativeness and self-righteousness. Hope your kicking back with an organic, free-range lite beer, just chillin’.

  155. I do certainly think one cn prevent fraud. In fact, anyone who thinks incentives can affect human behavior must think this.

    For example, requiring producers to label the ingredients of their products means that upon investigation, those who have placed their products in the market without the labels are subject to punishment. This provides an incentive to comply with the labeling requirement. This makes bargains between consumers and producers more informed than they might otherwise be, which is a moral good (because it increases the likelihood the transaction was truly voluntary and free from fraud) and an economic one (makes things more efficient by reducing information and search costs in the transactions).

    The only difference between such a system of regulation and a tort system of punishment is that we don’t have to wait for actual damages to occur before we can provide the incentive-fostering punishment. We DO have to wait for the bad behavior (putting your product out there mislabeled).

  156. Seward
    I don’t want to sound like an elitist, but the mere fact that NM’s links are .edu and .org cites and your response is a .com sends me a message without even clicking on them…

  157. MNG sez The only difference between such a system of regulation and a tort system of punishment is that we don’t have to wait for actual damages to occur before we can provide the incentive-fostering punishment.

    I think you’ve got the cart before the horse there my friend. Laws and regulations tend to follow, not precede, the abuses they are intended to prevent. It’s a stimulus-response kinda thing.

  158. juris
    Regulations tend to be enacted following a history of practices the regs are meant to curb, and this is true of laws too, but my point was in how these two things work once enacted.

    A criminal or tort law against fraud works like this: a person can be punished when they engage in fraudulent behavior that victimizes someone. An anti-fraud regulation works like this: a person can be punished when they engage in fraudulent behavior, period. We don’t have to wait for someone to be harmed.

  159. Seward,

    I read through your link.
    Not really very informative.
    It is an opinion piece that makes lots of assertions, but doesn’t actually back up most of them. People should, of course, be skeptical of any claim, but that includes being skeptical of “debunking” articles.

  160. “So we both think there are certain material facts that must be disclosed, you just think the current FDA requirements need not be tinkered with, added to or subtracted from.”

    No, not really. I’d happily subtract all of the current FDA requirements. I think the industry would differentiate their products to win market share. I also think that’s what should happen now with the other “material facts” you want provided. The FDA has picked a set of data they think provides what most consumers want. I’d prefer the companies do that on their own but that’s not where we are right now. I certainly don’t want to make it any worse by more regulation.

    Oh, and I’m a minarchist. Not at all a government apologist.

  161. I really have no problem with questioning practices or considering other means of doing things. I have a huge problem with screaming and yelling the world will end unless we change or vilifying those that don’t want to change. One side, usually those for change, have increasingly used the hysteria of dooms day to push an agenda. From hippie nuclear protesters to today’s global warming, organic/farming pushers, and the ultimate in scary our own government the rhetoric of the end of the world has gotten so loud and filled with hyperbole and vitriol for anyone who doesn’t agree the good that might come from opposing views is lost.

    It’s also given me a headache and makes me want to strangle every fucktard that tells me the end is near or the pain is coming if we don’t change our ways.

  162. Hmmm,

    I agree with your general sentiment.

    To quote one of the more egregious practitioners of this technique

    Organic farming could kill billions of people.

    The odd thing is that people who spout such silly hyperbole get miffed when people point out that they may not be giving a balanced view of the issue.

  163. Dear hmm,

    “The hyperbole of OMG FARMER BAD is retarded and lends to the belief that the people cry such a fallacy have never talked with a farmer or actually grown anything significant.”

    If it were only a matter of farmers it’d be a very different problem. It’s a matter of governments and their many parts, and the universities, and the corporations, and the think tanks, and the “philanthropy” foundations, all working in concert towards a technocracy. Farmers tend to be good people, and they tend to have their own self interests at heart, but former generations unwittingly sold out to the technocrats fantasies and the system is incredibly reluctant to change for the better or to concede error or failure. Farmers play an ever small part of our food system.

  164. Dear ransom147,

    “i’m not going to attempt to answer this highly controversial ? here, but for some thought fodder; i suggest reading Mill’s “On Liberty” for some perspective…”

    I’m familiar with Mills, he’s on my rereading list. Thank you for the reminder.

  165. Dear John C. Randolph,

    “Fortunately for the rest of the people in the world, it’s not up to you.”

    Unfortunately for the rest of the people in the world – it’s not up to them either. The laws of nature are immutable. You can deny them, but only through ever more expensive ponzi schemes that always come crashing down in the end. It doesn’t matter how many big government programs, experts with fancy letters after their name, or subsidies or chemicals or fancy tech try to accomplish the impossible.

    “You do know that you’re coming across as self-absorbed, misanthropic git, don’t you?”

    Of course – how else would one who studies and critically analyzes the masses of people appear to those masses who go through life as a zombie eating as others eat, drinking as others drink, and thinking as others think, accepting unspeakable evils as common sense, and otherwise degrading themselves and their world without ever having the strength to consistently question authority?

  166. Dear hmm,

    “I have a huge problem with screaming and yelling the world will end unless we change or vilifying those that don’t want to change.”

    The world, as we know it, is ending as we speak – unsustainable means the house of smoke and mirrors and oil and fiat money has to end at some time. Most people are content to do nothing or very little to save the world. Most of those who make a significant effort to change the world hop on the latest fad that is just another reiteration of the old fad. Those who are in a position of power and wealth and means to actually effect change, leading everyone else, are bound and determined to create hell on earth as soon as possible. Of course, this isn’t their intended goal, but when you ignore reality and instead rely on hype and hope – that’s what you get.

    “It’s also given me a headache and makes me want to strangle every fucktard that tells me the end is near or the pain is coming if we don’t change our ways.”

    I’ve examined all of the parts of our society – education, taxes, inflation, debt (consumer, corporate, local, state, federal), the quantity and quality of topsoil, the quantity and quality of aquatic life, housing, the police state and prison-industrial complex, agribusiness, the military empire, the plans to destroy cars and houses, et cetera – and I see no reason to expect positive results from the current dominant paradigm and a great many reasons to expect negative results. The future science fiction warned us about for decades is being built today.

    I too used to get annoyed by the conspiracy theorists, the doom and gloomers, the hippie environmentalists, but upon considerable reading it sure seems they are all partly right about the destruction of the world as we know it.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  167. Dear everyone,

    Here’s an interesting article about the efforts to keep GMO crops from being scientifically studied: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

    brotherben, if you are still reading “Cue the Monsanto Madness screamers.” – perhaps you should closely and critically examine the level of scientific study of the safety and efficiency of GMO and Monsanto before flailing against those who oppose the Monsanto Madness. Using unbelievably advanced technology without a minimum of scientific research and study and peer review is just not acceptable and the consequences most likely will not be minor.

  168. Just let me know when you start mailing things that go boom Ted Jr.

  169. “I think the industry would differentiate their products to win market share.”

    Some would, others would have incentives not to.

    For example, if your product contains ingredient x which puts off a certain share of the market, you’d have an incentive to not label it as an ingredient at all (or have no label at all). There would be other products that actually do not have the ingredient but do not put label on (might not can afford the label or the process behind it for all of their products). The buyer in your world would have to investigate all such products in order to make an informed buy. Since the producer has that knowledge readily at hand, and since the consumer does not and faces a multitude of products and producers along with their various subsidiaries and corporate reincarnations this puts an immoral burden on the consumer and creates crazy inefficiencies.

    And this doesn’t even involve intentional mislabeling; I don’t know if, being minarchist, want anything done about that or not or who you think will do something about it if so…

  170. I wonder how people feel about the government creating and enforcing property rights in seed (thru patents) for companies like Monsanto? I guess that’s the “good kind” or “minarchist” or “liberty protecting” kind of government rather than the bad, coercive, liberty restricting kind…

  171. Dear hmm,

    “Just let me know when you start mailing things that go boom Ted Jr.”

    Your response to a social and political critic is to libel him as being the kin of a mad bomber? Your tactic speaks volumes about your character and doesn’t contribute in the least bit to the discourse.

    My principled libertarian opposition to the unethical, immoral, illegal violation of the laws of the land and of nature by governments and by their spawn is an obvious reason to believe that I abhor all offensive acts of violence, and I do in fact abhor such crimes.

    My opposition to the crimes of the collective and my support for the rights of the individual doesn’t equate to the support of the crimes of the individual.

    It is overwhelming – but there is a long body of evidence in the many areas of our society that the rate and extent of failure is growing at an ever faster pace. Attack the messenger if you must – but by doing so you are being part of the problem. Evil triumphs because people are afraid to shine the light of reason on it. Examine and think about these issues and you’ll be part of the solution. It is your choice.

    Best of luck,

    Patriot Henry

  172. Your response to a pretentious, arrogant, ignorant, self absorbed, verbose, know it all is to libel him as being the kin of a mad bomber? Your tactic speaks volumes about your character and doesn’t contribute in the least bit to the discourse.

    Fixed, and yes it is.

    I’d worry about your evaluation of my character, but your opinion currently ranks as high as the guy down the street who told me aliens anally probed him. While a nice guy who is fun to talk with, I don’t really care what he thinks.

    There are no tactics. I’m calling it as a I see it. You have some valid points buried in the mountainous volumes of shit you spew wedged in between copious amounts of hyperbole with the artistic flare of a freshman college poet. This coupled with your self proclaimed extensive studying and absurd challenges reminds me of the Che T-shirt wearing dipshits who like to spend hours listening to themselves tell everyone how it is and how to solve the problems.

    Coming from a guy who deals with just about every conspiracy nut on the planet(I attract nuts like a $2 ho), and likes a lot of them, you have managed the damn near impossible task of being filed in the “clueless fucktard” folder and in the sub-folder “manifesto writing whackjob.”

    Congratulations,

    Hmm

  173. Patriot Henry, you, sir, are wrong on several things. I know this because on these points, you disagree with me. We all know, I am right about everything I believe. Therefore, you must be wrong.

  174. “you, sir, are wrong on several things. I know this because on these points, you disagree with me.”

    Hey brotherben, you’ve found this to be the best indicator of when someone is wrong too? Wow, I thought I was the only one…

  175. Obviously new technologies and improved yields decreased the number of farms and farm workers (of course we wouldn’t know this with certain crops because why create new machines to harvest crops when the labor’s cheap and it’s all next door.) And living in a rural part of Wisconsin I’ve seen many large dairy operations who have been family farms for generations.

    My point on this takes issue with those who think industrial ag just somehow created itself without help from the Feds is kidding themselves. Government Ag policy during the New Deal was about slaughtering pigs and cows along plowing under crops to raise prices. Now its about giving farmers handouts to raise more crops that are needed that depress prices, drive some farmers out of business who can’t keep up and allows for absentee landlords like Prudential Insurance to own large amounts of farmland its rents out. Subsidies have done more to drive out farmers out of business than anything else and has created the structure of industrial which you see today. How does the old song go? “It kindness that can kill.”

  176. MNG sez For example, if your product contains ingredient x which puts off a certain share of the market, you’d have an incentive to not label it as an ingredient at all (or have no label at all).

    Help me out here guy, why would I keep an ingredient in my product if I know my potential customers don’t want it? Because I’m an eEEEEEE-viiilll capitalist socio-path, or is there some less endearing reason? You know, like why YOU would do something like that if YOU ran a business.

  177. nike dunk

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  178. I wonder how people feel about the government creating and enforcing property rights in seed (thru patents) for companies like Monsanto?

    In really free market, I see no need for it.
    For one thing, Agbiotech companies have already developed technology to make the seeds sterile after the first generation. So they don’t have to worry about self-replicating technology. For another thing, anyone who can go to the trouble of sequencing the genome and reproducing a viable seed using the same gene is effectively doing genetic engineering. It’s a complex process, but I would like to see it made possible for backyard gardeners to engage in a little gene-splicing of their own.

  179. juris
    Er, maybe because keeping the ingredient gives you some competitive advantage (it allows you to make the product more cheaply than without it, or it will preserve the product longer and while your customers don’t like it your retailers do, etc)? And if this advantage outweighs the customers you lose, especially if you can hide the fact you kept the ingredient in, you’d be a fool not to. See, you jump to this conclusion that I must think cpitalists are evil or consumers are fools, but in reality I’m the one that is taking incentives seriously. There are good and bd producers, and smart and foolish consumers, what’s important is setting up proper incentive structures. I mean, I could just as easily say you have a naive faith in the angelic goodness of producers and the unmatched intelligence of consumers….

  180. how else would one who studies and critically analyzes the masses of people appear to those masses

    That’s the giveaway, right there. When you refer to people as “masses”, you dehumanize them to rationalize your own lust for power. Fuck you, pinko.

    -jcr

  181. Hazel
    Do you think people who create their own seed like that patented by Monsanto or whoever through reverse engineering or independently should be barred from doing that and using/selling the end result, upon penalty of government coercion, for doing so?

  182. “For example, if your product contains ingredient x which puts off a certain share of the market, you’d have an incentive to not label it as an ingredient at all (or have no label at all).”

    But other competitors in the market would have a strong incentive to point that out and market their product as superior. That’s what should be happening with the “material facts” you want added. There’s very little burden on the consumer to look at two products and determine that one has the official “True Organic” label and is 25% more expensive and another that says nothing and is cheaper. Sorry, but if you can’t reason your way through to the conclusion that the latter product isn’t organic you need to die off anyway.

    “And this doesn’t even involve intentional mislabeling;”

    At the very least this is fraud and there are remedies for that.

    You want producers to be forced to label products in a way that raises the cost for all producers. I think you realize there is a marginal cost for labelling your personally preferred “material facts” and that makes non-universal implementation a net negative for the products you want. Your solution is to make sure everyone incurs this cost so as not to disadvantage the producers you like.

  183. Food thread!

    [throws pie at Viking Moose]

  184. [throws pie at Viking Moose]

    Pie misses Viking Moose and hits Chad instead.

  185. “So what effects does conventional agriculture have on our health? He doesn’t say, but perhaps he’s pointing to the 5,000 Americans who die of food-borne illnesses each year.”

    If he we’re he’d be a real fool, because organic fertilizer (poop) is where the little beasties live. Ironically its organic food that is more likely to give you food born illnesses. Whether chemical fertilizers poison you in some way science hasn’t managed to identify is a separate issue. But for those of us who live in the fact based world, organic food is simply more expensive and potentially more dangerous. ALWAYS wash organic veggies thoroughly.

  186. ALWAYS wash organic veggies thoroughly.

    FTFY.

    I agree that organic is especially prone, but there are several other means by which e. coli or any number of other nasties can be introduced.

  187. Meh, I would feed 1000 of these foodies into an industrial plastic shredder if it would result in 1 more Norman Borlaug.

    Hell, I’d feed 1000 snotty Columbia grad students thru an industrial plastic shredder if it would result in 1 more George Orwell.

    The sad part is that their campaign against GM food and DDT is killing Africans by the millions. But since they’re dark and they live far away, who cares? Out of sight and out of mind..

  188. “The sad part is that their campaign against GM food and DDT is killing Africans by the millions.”

    We have to burn this continent to save it. Think of the sense of purpose all those millions of kids get to die with knowing they didn’t avail themselves of DDT that would have killed literally hundreds of rare bird embryos.

    Maybe the Greenies can fund stickers of a little Toucan Sam character saying ‘Thanks Kids! Rest in Peace!’

  189. Among life’s greatest pleasures are fine dining and food connoisseurship.

    Written as though everybody has (or ought to have) the same preferences as the writer.

  190. Conservative media? we have a media?…heh!

  191. People, and farmers, are generally short sighted small minded unimaginative followers who prefer simplistic fantasies and easy short term solutions over the complex reality and difficult long term solutions.

    And I bet you’re just the kind of guy who would lobby to force them to do it like *you* want.

    After all, you’re so much smarter than any farmer.

  192. industrial farming

    I love that term because it doesn’t seem to have any working definition, it just scares people by conjuring up images of smoke stacks belching soot and toxic chemicals into the air and onto our food.

    Seriously, what is an industrial farm? Anyone who uses a tractor or combine? Someone who uses GM seeds? Is it based on acreage farmed or ownership structure? Use of pesticides or herbicides? Or does it just mean agricultural practices with which the speaker/writer disapproves?

    I know many farmers from the 100-acre variety to the 10,000 acre variety, but don’t consider any of them to be industrial farmers. They are certainly industrious, but industrial? Nope.

    Sorry for the tangent, but I can’t help but find some amusement in the language used when agriculture is discussed.

  193. Dear Hazel Meade,

    “Fixed, and yes it is.”

    You didn’t fix it. Adding errors is not fixing something.

    “a pretentious, arrogant, ignorant, self absorbed, verbose, know it all”

    I’m not pretentious. I am what I am. I am arrogant – having developed myself to a relatively high degree it’s very easy to be overbearing to those who are weak in their individuality. I am almost entirely ignorant but being cognizant of it means I am not ignorant. One who studies other people, nations, and history isn’t self absorbed. I am verbose. I am not a know it all.

    “I’d worry about your evaluation of my character, but your opinion currently ranks as high as the guy down the street who told me aliens anally probed him. While a nice guy who is fun to talk with, I don’t really care what he thinks.”

    If you had read or now reread what I said – I didn’t evaluate your character and I didn’t speak my opinion of your character. I don’t know you. All I said is that what you said speaks about you – and it does.

    You have however spoken about your evaluation of my character, even though you don’t know me but in one of the most limited and superficial means available to us in this day and age.

    “There are no tactics. I’m calling it as a I see it.”

    Abandon your opinion and examine that which is and you’ll see many more of my points.

    “You have some valid points buried in the mountainous volumes of shit you spew wedged in between copious amounts of hyperbole with the artistic flare of a freshman college poet. This coupled with your self proclaimed extensive studying and absurd challenges reminds me of the Che T-shirt wearing dipshits who like to spend hours listening to themselves tell everyone how it is and how to solve the problems.”

    Wow, you can stereotype me, pigeonhole me, and ignore me rather than considering the validity of what I am saying! Congratulations – that makes you no better than 99% of the people who read my comments! I don’t think you are a fascist corporate pig just because you unwittingly support the interests of fascist corporate pigs – I don’t know you, won’t stereotype you, can’t pigeonhole you, and won’t dismiss you as being a member of a group you may but probably aren’t part of.

    “Coming from a guy who deals with just about every conspiracy nut on the planet(I attract nuts like a $2 ho), and likes a lot of them, you have managed the damn near impossible task of being filed in the “clueless fucktard” folder and in the sub-folder “manifesto writing whackjob.””

    It is so very easy to label and ignore people. It is so very difficult to consider what they say, ask them for their sources (I can suggest plenty of great reading material on the issues at hand), or ask them “why”.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  194. Dear brotherben,

    “Patriot Henry, you, sir, are wrong on several things. I know this because on these points, you disagree with me. We all know, I am right about everything I believe. Therefore, you must be wrong.”

    Try comparing my points to reality. I’ve found reality to be a much better truth teller than people.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  195. Dear John C. Randolph,

    “That’s the giveaway, right there. When you refer to people as “masses”, you dehumanize them to rationalize your own lust for power. Fuck you, pinko.”

    Sir, that process of dehumanizing people for power is what politicians do. I hold and will hold no political office and do not stand to gain political power.

    The same process is done by the people who support the politicians and their politics and their policies. Their supporters then dehumanize themselves by ceasing to think, choose, and act as individuals and by beginning to think, choose, and act as a mass. This is also for the lust of power, albeit a vicarious and even more precarious one.

    My referral to people for what they have become is not intended to condone, support, or otherwise aid such a process or state of being. I most seriously lament this terrible reality but it is what it is and while I might and do try to change it – currently it remains so.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  196. “Subsidies have done more to drive out farmers out of business than anything else”

    I used to think that too, and it’s hard to say without extensive research, but another major factor that is usually forgotten is the “death tax”, which means farms must be sold to pay the tax rather than remaining in the family.

  197. Dear Mark Buehner,

    “organic fertilizer (poop) is where the little beasties live. Ironically its organic food that is more likely to give you food born illnesses”

    Sir, organic fertilizer is made from poop. It is not poop. It is composted poop. Any and all dangerous organisms are killed by the composting process. This is an ancient and essential practice to healthy farming.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  198. I wonder if our great Patriot Henry has ever heard of Norman Borlaug?

    And if so, what does he think about the GMO produced dwarf wheat varieties created by Mr. Borlaug and his fellow scientists, that were able to resist a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional “organic” varieties, thus saving over a billion people from starving to death?

  199. Dear Dogwood,

    “Seriously, what is an industrial farm?”

    Ask around and you’ll probably get a bunch of different answers. My answer is that an industrial farm is one that treats the environment, land, water, plants, animals, people, and products as though they were machines.

    For example, while a car is a fairly complex machine, it requires specific inputs of specific qualities, and in order to work it uses specific quantities of those inputs in order to produce specific outputs. You put in a gallon of gas and you get 30 MPG if you are driving on the highway at 65mph. Change the speed ten miles faster, and you’ll get 27 mph. Cars, and machines, are predictable, consistent, reliable. Take that same car driving 65 mph, and drive it on the East coast you’ll get the same mph as you will on the West coast.

    Machines are definable. You can calculate with great accuracy all of the inputs and outputs. Before a new car is driven at all it can and is calculated that the various parts will last so long and that it’ll need those inputs added and those parts replaced.

    Industrial farming treats everything as though it were that simple/complex. In reality, each plant, each animal, each microorganism, each part of the land and water is approximately as complicated as a car – lots of parts and inputs and outputs, but without the predictability or control. In nature not only is there just the land, plant, animal, and micro-organisms, there are many different types of each and many individual specimens of each type.

    Most farmers would go somewhat beyond this, but the official standard view of academics and experts is that you have the land, the mineral content and geographic location, and you add the input of seeds, plus the input of water fertilizers pesticides herbicides, and that outputs food.

    The land has layers which vary very differently from one to the other. The land varies not only vertically, but horizontally as well – one field can be very different than the field next to it. Within one field there can be substantial differences. Within the soil there are different textures, densities, and levels of life. Within a single farm or even a field again the geographic location can be very different – sun and wind and rain and ground water can be very different in places very nearby. Within the seed there is normally a great deal of variation and even in a normal field of corn there are many different variations on that type of corn. With factory farming there is or is intended to be one. In nature and more advanced farms there is more than one species – factory farming usually does one at a time. Water can also vary, depending on the angle of the slopes plus the soil composition there can be very different and difficult to predict let alone control ways in which the water flows. In nature there are pesticides and herbicides, but they come in complex forms of birds and insects and plants.

    Real farming tries to take into account this glorious complexity and tries to mimic nature and tries to support the natural means of supporting life. Factory farming or industrial farming tries to treat it as though it were a factory assembly line, and thus any part of the natural system which isn’t in the blueprints must be destroyed to make the system “clean” and “ready”.

    Nature isn’t a factory. The land, water, plants, animals, and people aren’t factories or machines. The best proper analogy I’d compare a real farm to is a state filled with various cities and towns each teeming with it’s own various forms of life each which would have to be oversimplified to compare it to a machine – and there still would many such “machines” roaming around out of the sight of the human eye.

    One example: in Britain there are 5000 year old hedgerows, windbreaks that prevent erosion. Industrial farming, helped out by the government, destroyed these ancient nature based farming methods, by subsidizing their destruction. They just mowed them down. Then there was a massive problem with bugs and spiders and such, and there was a major decrease in the bird population. Turns out that if you kill the means of supporting life you destroy the means of supporting life. If you try to replace nature with a man made machine – you will get taught a lesson in hubris. Now Britain subsidizes the planting of hedgerows. If they are lucky in another five thousand years they’ll catch back up, but since the state of nature has been destroyed so much, if it is possible it’ll probably take ten thousand years or more to return the resources to the state of health that was present only 40 years ago.

    Does that answer your question? If not, please ask more.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  200. Dear RJ,

    “And I bet you’re just the kind of guy who would lobby to force them to do it like *you* want. ”

    You bet wrong. The solution is not the cause of the problem.

    Regards,

    Paul

  201. “Methinks fortune is the absence of misfortune.”

    Audaces fortuna iuvat.

  202. Dear Dr. Kenneth Noisewater,

    “Meh, I would feed 1000 of these foodies into an industrial plastic shredder if it would result in 1 more Norman Borlaug.

    Hell, I’d feed 1000 snotty Columbia grad students thru an industrial plastic shredder if it would result in 1 more George Orwell.”

    So you would be willing to commit mass murder if it would result in 1 more person who is willing to destroy the planet in order to create an unsustainable population which will inevitably have to have a mass die off, or to create 1 more person to advocate for the means of causing a mass die off? How many years of “higher learning” did it take you to learn that destruction is the means of saving the world?

    “The sad part is that their campaign against GM food and DDT is killing Africans by the millions. But since they’re dark and they live far away, who cares? Out of sight and out of mind..”

    The lack of individual liberty and the incentive and means it enables one to produce and provide for oneself is why the Africans are starving. DDT won’t cure malaria, nor will it address the root causes – too much standing water and not enough bats and other mosquito predators. Some landscaping, rational placement of living quarters, and some bat colonies would go much further towards solving the problem than these non-solutions which require an eternity of high cost potentially dangerous inputs. Of course, actually solving the problems with simple and effective means won’t give huge and endless amounts of money and power to your favored academic, corporate, and government elites, now would it?

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  203. Patriot Henry,

    So wait, you can’t tell the difference between preventing mass starvation and “destroying the planet”? Really?

    Also, the US got rid of malaria primarily through DDT eradication of mosquito colonies, not by a surplus of bats and lawnmowers. You propose to sentence the third world to this tragedy because of your fear of man-made unnatural processes.

    Thankfully, your madness will be confined to an eventually worthless strip of land that will do more to teach you the error of your ways than anyone here, since you are clearly not a farmer. I just hope you figure it out before you hurt yourself, because reality can be a very harsh mistress.

  204. Dear Tman,

    “Also, the US got rid of malaria primarily through DDT eradication of mosquito colonies, not by a surplus of bats and lawnmowers. ”

    According to the CDC:

    The emergence of drug resistance, widespread resistance to available insecticides, wars and massive population movements, difficulties in obtaining sustained funding from donor countries, and lack of community participation made the long-term maintenance of the effort untenable.

    http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/history/index.htm#eradicationus

    It wasn’t and isn’t just the lack of DDT that is responsible for the failure to eradicate malaria. The use of chemical warfare against nature results in nature evolving in order to be able to resist the warfare. The only “solution” is more of the same, a bigger better badder ass chemical. It doesn’t work with TB and it won’t work with malaria.

    “You propose to sentence the third world to this tragedy because of your fear of man-made unnatural processes.”

    I’m not sentencing anyone. I didn’t make the climate, environmental or political, which make malaria a problem in third world nations. I am not afraid of artificial processes. I have a very reasonable and perfectly well justified concerned about artificial processes that are introduced on very large scales without proper scientific research and development, and I am also likewise concerned about such processes that ignore the cause of the problem and that ignore the laws of nature.

    “Thankfully, your madness will be confined to an eventually worthless strip of land that will do more to teach you the error of your ways than anyone here, since you are clearly not a farmer.”

    So the land will teach me to erode it, to destroy all life on and in it, and to blindly rely on mad scientist lab chemicals and primitive experiments that attempt to play God?

    “I just hope you figure it out before you hurt yourself, because reality can be a very harsh mistress.”

    I’m gonna bet my own individual life on the notion that nature can sustain life and that it is possible to work within the laws of nature without ignoring them and making up my own. You go ahead and bet yours plus the majority of the world’s population on Monsanto and the USDA, after all they have degrees and nature only provides the resources to make the degrees so they clearly know best.

    Best of luck!

    Patriot Henry

  205. Patriot Henry channels Thomas Malthus.

    “Verrrrrry interesting, but stupid.” [Cultural reference likely to confound someone under the age of 30.]

  206. The more I read him, the more he sounds like Joe.

  207. Don’t forget the funniest story of last week. It seems the Clintons eschewed commercial fertilizer for the WH, opting instead to use sewage sludge which, as it turns out, caused the Obama vegetable garden to have a very high lead content , destroying her onw big p.r. initiative.

    Not only do I think we are safer with large scale agriculture and commercial fertilizer and pesticides, I think we could wipe out almost all food borne illnesses by the simple method of irradiating food as it passes through the processing warehouses.

  208. PH,

    The use of chemical warfare against nature results in nature evolving in order to be able to resist the warfare. The only “solution” is more of the same, a bigger better badder ass chemical. It doesn’t work with TB and it won’t work with malaria.

    The point I made above referenced the eradication of malaria in the US, which your link appears to confirm-

    “The National Malaria Eradication Program, a cooperative undertaking by State and local health agencies of 13 Southeastern States and the Communicable Disease Center of the U. S. Public Health Service, originally proposed by Dr. L. L. Williams, commenced operations on July 1, 1947. The program consisted primarily of DDT application to the interior surfaces of rural homes or entire premises in counties where malaria was reported to have been prevalent in recent years. By the end of 1949, over 4,650,000 house spray applications had been made. Total elimination of transmission was slowly achieved. By 1951, CDC gradually withdrew from active participation in the operational phases of the program and shifted to its interest to surveillance, and in 1952, CDC participation in operations ceased altogether.”

    You’re right about mosquito’s evolving. But the WHO’s ban on the use of DDT for fighting malaria due to unproven environmental concerns sentenced millions to a horrible painful death over the last several decades. No one saying it’s a cure-all, but it worked for us and it’s a travesty that this relief was denied to others.

    I have a very reasonable and perfectly well justified concerned about artificial processes that are introduced on very large scales without proper scientific research and development, and I am also likewise concerned about such processes that ignore the cause of the problem and that ignore the laws of nature.

    Yet you are arguing that by utilizing the fruits of GM crops to help feed more people with less land and resources that this is somehow “destroy(ing) the planet in order to create an unsustainable population which will inevitably have to have a mass die off”.

    That sounds to me like you have no idea what the hell you are talking about, and probably picked up your ridiculous Malthusian ideas from a combination of Zinn, Ehrlic and Krugman.

    Enjoy your idealism now, but as I said reality is a harsh mistress, and no matter how articulate you think you sound when you’re “fightin’ the man” most people eventually grow up and realize that they just sound stupid and immature.

  209. Dear juris imprudent

    “Patriot Henry channels Thomas Malthus”

    who sounded like nature, with respect to the problem of population growth and reduction.

    All of the GM and agribusiness advocates claim we can grow more and more people and never have a decline. I am no biologist but I’m familiar with how deer and other game populations work. I can’t think of any reason why humanity is immune from natural laws.

  210. Dear clarice,

    “Not only do I think we are safer with large scale agriculture and commercial fertilizer and pesticides, I think we could wipe out almost all food borne illnesses by the simple method of irradiating food as it passes through the processing warehouses.”

    Here’s another way to prevent food borne illnesses: don’t put the shit on or in the food. If you prefer to eat irradiated shit, I’m not gonna try to stop you. I for one am a human being who chooses not to eat oil or shit. To each their own.

  211. Dear Tman,

    “You’re right about mosquito’s evolving. But the WHO’s ban on the use of DDT for fighting malaria due to unproven environmental concerns sentenced millions to a horrible painful death over the last several decades. No one saying it’s a cure-all, but it worked for us and it’s a travesty that this relief was denied to others.”

    I disagree about the need to use DDT. There are other better ways. However, I do agree about the WHOs actions being a travesty. There isn’t yet a pesticide as deadly as tyranny.

    “Yet you are arguing that by utilizing the fruits of GM crops to help feed more people with less land and resources that this is somehow “destroy(ing) the planet in order to create an unsustainable population which will inevitably have to have a mass die off”.”

    Yep. That’s because I don’t buy into unproven technology that is backed by marketing claims instead of sound scientific peer reviewed

  212. continued…

    Yep. That’s because I don’t buy into unproven technology that is backed by marketing claims instead of sound scientific peer reviewed evidence.

    “That sounds to me like you have no idea what the hell you are talking about, and probably picked up your ridiculous Malthusian ideas from a combination of Zinn, Ehrlic and Krugman.”

    I’ve ignored Zinn after one article (don’t think I bothered to finish it), read Ehrlic for “know thy enemy” reasons, and haven’t read much Krugman – just enough to wonder whether he should be facing criminal charges. As far as my ridiculous Malthusian ideas – the consequences of overpopulation on a limited quantity of natural resources is well documented.

    “Enjoy your idealism now, but as I said reality is a harsh mistress, and no matter how articulate you think you sound when you’re “fightin’ the man” most people eventually grow up and realize that they just sound stupid and immature.”

    I am an idealist. Most people abandon their idealism, their notion that a better world is possible, and they trade it for the status quo, or as I like to call it, the statist quo.

    Your food requires government subsidized water, government subsidized plants, thus also government subsidized GMO, government subsidized oil, government subsidized scientists, and government subsidized consumers. The entire thing is controlled and regulated by the government. Enjoy your Government Mandated Organism cheese!

  213. “Patriot Henry channels Thomas Malthus”

    who sounded like nature, with respect to the problem of population growth and reduction.

    And who was also…entirely…wrong.

    All of the GM and agribusiness advocates claim we can grow more and more people and never have a decline. I am no biologist but I’m familiar with how deer and other game populations work. I can’t think of any reason why humanity is immune from natural laws.

    “Deer and other game populations” differ from humans in one very important respect: unlike humans, they have not evolved the ability to alter their environments in order to promote their survival.

    Humans can plant food to sustain populations. Deer cannot. Further, humans can improve agricultural methods so that less and less land feeds more and more people. Such a concept is as far beyond deer as particle physics from an ant.

    Humans are not “deer and other game populations.” Humans, according to natural law, have the knowledge and the ability to increase populations without incurring “mass die-offs.” If the basic principle of your argument relies on equating humans with “deer and other game populations,” you are going to fall far short in your predictions, as Malthus did.

  214. PH,

    I don’t buy into unproven technology that is backed by marketing claims instead of sound scientific peer reviewed evidence.

    GMO produced dwarf wheat varieties created by Mr. Borlaug and his fellow scientists have the evidence of over a billion people saved from starvation, twice the amount of food grown on the same amount of land using half the resources, and yet you somehow believe you have science on your side?

    You must be reading the wrong science. I don’t know how else to explain it without just assuming you’re a delusional moron.

    I am an idealist. Most people abandon their idealism, their notion that a better world is possible, and they trade it for the status quo, or as I like to call it, the statist quo.

    Actually what happens is people grow up and realize that the world itself isn’t something that needs saving. In fact, what draws people to libertarianism (IMO) is the idea that we just want to be left the fuck alone to live our lives with the least amount of help from people trying to “save us” as possible.

    Your food requires government subsidized water, government subsidized plants, thus also government subsidized blahblahblah….The entire thing is controlled and regulated by the government. Enjoy your Government Mandated Organism cheese!

    Says the guy who grew up living off of said subsidization, and now suddenly thinks he has the answer. You realize how obnoxious that sounds, right?

    Probably not.

    Good luck PH. You’ll need it.

  215. My “favorite” line in Mitchell’s piece was Reason is staffed by people who regularly drive in Los Angeles traffic and yet still somehow believe that Americans should be trusted to govern themselves.

    Well, I for one hope we’ll soon be governed only by people as perspicuous as Mitchell, so we won’t have to do it ourselves. With the time we save by not governing ourselves, we can raise our own food in organic and sustainable ways. What could possibly go wrong?

  216. Dear mikey,

    “”Deer and other game populations” differ from humans in one very important respect: unlike humans, they have not evolved the ability to alter their environments in order to promote their survival.”

    True.

    “Humans can plant food to sustain populations. Deer cannot. ”

    True and true.

    “Further, humans can improve agricultural methods so that less and less land feeds more and more people. Such a concept is as far beyond deer as particle physics from an ant.”

    True and true.

    “Humans are not “deer and other game populations.”

    True.

    “Humans, according to natural law, have the knowledge and the ability to increase populations without incurring “mass die-offs.”

    True.

    “If the basic principle of your argument relies on equating humans with “deer and other game populations,” you are going to fall far short in your predictions, as Malthus did.”

    True, but I’m not equating them. Different species, different but related problem.

    Deer and game grow in population until they consume much too much of the immediately available natural resources that support them, then there is a mass die off, then the natural resources grow back, then the animals grow in population, and the cycle continues.

    Mankind has the knowledge and the ability to destroy the inherent productive capacity of the natural resources that support them. Not only is the immediate supply of food capable of being destroyed – but the systems of natural resources that create the food are capable of being destroyed.

    That is the difference. Deer never salted a field. Nor did they ever dump fertilizers into the oceans and rivers causing an algae boom causing a mass die off. Nor did they ever erode the soil anywhere. Goats did that, but those were goats belonging to men. The power of knowledge and ability is the power to create sustained periods of feast or famine. If the periods of feast are produced by destroying the means of producing food, then the sustained period of feast serves to produce a sustained period of famine.

    I highly recommend reading and considering “Topsoil and Civilization”. You can find it here: http://www.soilandhealth.org/copyform.aspx?bookcode=010113

    Thank you for the intelligent and cogent reply.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  217. Dear Tman,

    “GMO produced dwarf wheat varieties created by Mr. Borlaug and his fellow scientists have the evidence of over a billion people saved from starvation, twice the amount of food grown on the same amount of land using half the resources, and yet you somehow believe you have science on your side?”

    Yes sir. Have you heard or can you find a GMO farmer, academic, scientist, marketer, politician, or general advocate whom has discussed the need to use twice the amount of compost?

    “You must be reading the wrong science. I don’t know how else to explain it without just assuming you’re a delusional moron. ”

    Well, there is the possibility there is information you haven’t been exposed to and haven’t considered. One such piece of information is that there is a need to return nutrients, minerals, and organic material to the soil. The new thing is GMO and no-till. This doesn’t return anything to the soil. It does address some of the problems of the “conventional” farming, but it doesn’t address the principle problem, which is the simple fact that you can’t sustainably take, take, and take from the soil without giving an equal amount back.

    “Actually what happens is people grow up and realize that the world itself isn’t something that needs saving. In fact, what draws people to libertarianism (IMO) is the idea that we just want to be left the fuck alone to live our lives with the least amount of help from people trying to “save us” as possible.”

    The world does need saving, from those who would save us, also known as government including it’s corporate and academic branches.

    I’m not gonna try to save you. I’m gonna try to save myself. Of course, the govt is trying to save me by keeping me from eating the food I eat…but that’s life as I know it.

  218. continued…

    “Says the guy who grew up living off of said subsidization, and now suddenly thinks he has the answer. You realize how obnoxious that sounds, right?”

    So the guy who has the scales lifted from his eyes and then spends years researching and thinking about how to create real solutions is obnoxious? Of course it is. It’s so very obnoxious to try to be good. Everyone hates a goody two shoes, always trying to be better than everyone else. Of course, the real goal shouldn’t be merely to be better than other people, but to be better for other people.

    “Probably not.”

    I can and do read the comments posted to me. Much meaning is lost in this format but a great deal still comes through.

    “Good luck PH. You’ll need it.”

    Thank you.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  219. PH,

    Have you heard or can you find a GMO farmer, academic, scientist, marketer, politician, or general advocate whom has discussed the need to use twice the amount of compost?

    No, but I did read the article from Mr. Hurst, which brought up the technical issue you have with delivering “twice the amount of compost” from a city to a farm.

    I suppose you have some “sound scientific peer reviewed evidence” that would show me why I should believe you instead of Mr. Hurst WHO HAS ACTUALLY BEEN FARMING HIS WHOLE LIFE.

    The new thing is GMO and no-till. This doesn’t return anything to the soil.

    But your “sound scientific peer reviewed evidence” which clamors for organic farming will only allow 4 billion people to eat. I suppose you don’t care because you’re too busy saving the world!

    it doesn’t address the principle problem, which is the simple fact that you can’t sustainably take, take, and take from the soil without giving an equal amount back.

    Good thing people like Borlaug ignored people like you when he was busy developing GMO crops that were able to take, take, and take from the soil whilst giving back TWICE as much food. As Hurst states in the article “On our farm, we have increased yields about 50 percent during my career, while applying about the same amount of nitrogen we did when I began farming. That fortunate trend will increase even faster with the advent of new GMO hybrids.”

    Your answer is basically “fuck people, save the soil!” And what’s even worse is you don’t even realize how ridiculous that sounds.

    The world does need saving, from those who would save us, also known as government including it’s corporate and academic branches.

    I suppose you will enforce this “mass die-off” by restricting GMO crops through what, your awesome smile? If not government, what organization is going to force your nitrogen-saving farming methods from becoming a majority?

    So the guy who has the scales lifted from his eyes and then spends years researching and thinking about how to create real solutions is obnoxious?

    What “solutions” have you offered that don’t involve starving 2 billion people to death?

    None. That’s how many.

    Everyone hates a goody two shoes, always trying to be better than everyone else. Of course, the real goal shouldn’t be merely to be better than other people, but to be better for other people.

    I would ask you if you realize just how obnoxious and elitist that sounds but I already know the answer.

    Amazing.

    I have some peer reviewed evidence on human sustainability for you to read, and if you are open minded maybe you’ll learn something.

    I hope you try, you’ll thank me later.

    http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/

  220. I will say this for Mr. Henry, he is very pleasant in his discourse. Sometimes, that is all I ask. I can appreciate that for its own sake, even if we disagree on some things.

    Patriot Henry, I hope you find contentment in your pursuits.

  221. I have two serious issues with the last paragraph.
    1) Knowing about where your food comes from doesn’t equal being able to run (or fix) a farm and you know it.
    2) People don’t have to know how to *fix* computers and cars, that’s the reparimen’s job, but people really ought to know *what are* computers and cars, the basics about *how* they work, so they aren’t afraid of things and don’t have magical attitudes to them. People who are afraid of their computers and (consequently) treat computers like magic are a support nightmare and annoy us IT people to no end.

  222. Patriot Henry:

    Deer and game grow in population until they consume much too much of the immediately available natural resources that support them, then there is a mass die off, then the natural resources grow back, then the animals grow in population, and the cycle continues.

    Mankind has the knowledge and the ability to destroy the inherent productive capacity of the natural resources that support them. Not only is the immediate supply of food capable of being destroyed – but the systems of natural resources that create the food are capable of being destroyed.

    That is the difference. Deer never salted a field. Nor did they ever dump fertilizers into the oceans and rivers causing an algae boom causing a mass die off. Nor did they ever erode the soil anywhere. Goats did that, but those were goats belonging to men. The power of knowledge and ability is the power to create sustained periods of feast or famine. If the periods of feast are produced by destroying the means of producing food, then the sustained period of feast serves to produce a sustained period of famine.

    Indeed–if all other things were held equal, it would be possible (if not probable) for humans to ruin the productive capability of the land.

    However, all other things are never held equal. That’s where Malthus, Ehrlich, et al. went wrong–they assumed populations would grow, and looked at current productive capacities of land. They hypothetically “grew” the population but held productive capacity equal, and came up with predictions of mass starvations. However, productive capacity ended up growing as fast, if not faster than, populations, and their predicted mass starvations never materialized.

    I don’t say any of this to deny that people must necessarily take great care to ensure productive capacities are not ruined by, as you put it, taking too much from the soil without giving back. What I’m saying is that outcome is not inevitable, and indeed it is in every producer’s interest to ensure it doesn’t happen. I think you sell people far too short when you assume they are too short-sighted to recognize the need for sustainable agriculture (in the sense of being able to sustain and increase the productive capacity of the land).

    If we humans can utilize our naturally-evolved capabilities to genetically modify crops so they produce more nutrition with less input, we should do so–we must do so.

    Finally, I would like to echo Brother Ben’s statement that you have been most polite in the discussion here. It is appreciated.

  223. Dear Tman,

    “No, but I did read the article from Mr. Hurst, which brought up the technical issue you have with delivering “twice the amount of compost” from a city to a farm.

    I suppose you have some “sound scientific peer reviewed evidence” that would show me why I should believe you instead of Mr. Hurst WHO HAS ACTUALLY BEEN FARMING HIS WHOLE LIFE.”

    I have the ability to reason. Mr. Hurst evidently does not. His article was entitled “The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals”. His article was against those intellectuals who know about food.

    From Webster’s, the definitions of the noun form of intellectual:

    1 a: of or relating to the intellect or its use

    b: developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : rational

    c: requiring use of the intellect

    2 a: given to study, reflection, and speculation

    b: engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect

    Webster’s definition of intellect:

    1 a: the power of knowing as distinguished from the power to feel and to will : the capacity for knowledge

    b: the capacity for rational or intelligent thought especially when highly developed

    2: a person with great intellectual powers

    Mr. Hurst and those who advocate or defend the use of the existing GMO technology are being anti-intellectual. It is true Mr. Hurst is a farmer, but that is exactly the reason why he is farming by emotion and experience rather than by the power of knowing. He is being irrational. The lesson that has been made perfectly clear is that when the government orchestrates academics to create corporate products VERY BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Mr. Hurst washed away his topsoil for how many decades? And even at the start – how many decades was that after it was known that those practices would have those disastrous consequences?

    Far too many, far too many. Now Mr. Hurst wants to use the “new and improved” government-academic-corporate gee whiz science experiment.

    “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on you”.

    “Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – GEORGE SANTAYANA.”

    The details are far from clear, but as an agro-intellectual, I know that the result of this new dash to madness won’t be good.

    “But your “sound scientific peer reviewed evidence” which clamors for organic farming will only allow 4 billion people to eat. I suppose you don’t care because you’re too busy saving the world!”

    I never said there was evidence for organic farming. I’m not an advocate for organic. Organic is a government word and government controlled standard. I’m a free market agriculture advocate. For that reason I’m opposed to “organic”.

    The only reason “organic” farming could only possibly support 4 billion people is that it is government controlled. There is no reason or basis for stating that the earth can only support so many billions of people without GMO or petro-farming methods. So far as I can tell the only people who make that claim are the advocates for GMO. Sounds like a marketing claim to me.

    Once one realizes that it is possible to retain and reuse and increase the supply of natural resources instead of destroying them, it’s clear that such estimates are applicable only in a world in which inherently fatally flawed systems of agriculture dominate.

    “Good thing people like Borlaug ignored people like you when he was busy developing GMO crops that were able to take, take, and take from the soil whilst giving back TWICE as much food. As Hurst states in the article “On our farm, we have increased yields about 50 percent during my career, while applying about the same amount of nitrogen we did when I began farming. That fortunate trend will increase even faster with the advent of new GMO hybrids.”

    The math doesn’t add up. You can’t always subtract without adding and stay in the same place. This is the fundamental point that farmers like Hurst, academics like Borlaug, and consumers like you ignore – the land is not a machine. What you are describing is the acceleration of the theft of the means of supporting life. It took the Romans and other ancient civilizations hundreds of years to deplete their farmlands – you will help set a world record for collapsing a civilization.

    “Your answer is basically “fuck people, save the soil!” And what’s even worse is you don’t even realize how ridiculous that sounds.”

    I’d put my answer as “fuck the know-it-all power elite, save the soil to save the people”. However, my take on your views is “fuck the soil save the people!” Is that about right? It’s definitely the view of the government-academic-corporate mindset. In order to save all of the people from starving, you are going to produce as much food and people as possible while destroying the capacity of the soil to produce food and support people? Does not compute.

    “I suppose you will enforce this “mass die-off” by restricting GMO crops through what, your awesome smile? If not government, what organization is going to force your nitrogen-saving farming methods from becoming a majority?”

    I am very much opposed to a mass die-off. GMO crops and other destructive farming practices will possibly cause a mass die off. Were there a free market people would simply switch demanding factory food and start demanding real food – but the government subsidies will keep the failure afloat until the damage is much worse than need be. My solution doesn’t need and in fact absolutely can’t have or employ government force, because my solution is the absence of government force. Your solution requires government force. This government force not only is subsidizing GMO and factory farming and factory food – it’s also waging war on real farming and real food. So my plan for myself is to become a farmer and then I’ll be prepared for when all the food I eat is only available on the black market. Once the subsidized market consumes itself there will be a ready free market for real food. Then the ways I favor will become dominant

    “What “solutions” have you offered that don’t involve starving 2 billion people to death?”

    I believe as many people should grow as much of their own food as possible. It would seem to me that if those 2 billion people grew and ate their own food they might not be starving to death. Is it really beyond your imagination that if people were free to feed themselves they wouldn’t need massive government-academic-corporate efforts to save them?

    “I would ask you if you realize just how obnoxious and elitist that sounds but I already know the answer.”

    I am an elitist. I am a advocate of the social elite, the cream of the cream, those who rise to the top based on their own merits. You, perhaps unwittingly, are advocating in favor of the political elite- people who rise to the top because of their access to the monopoly on crime.

    “I have some peer reviewed evidence on human sustainability for you to read, and if you are open minded maybe you’ll learn something.

    I hope you try, you’ll thank me later.”

    I’ll thank you now. Thank you. It’s on my research list. I should note however – I do not have an open mind to be filled by that which I read. I have a critical mind to examine and consider not only many sources, but the many parts of each source. There were quite a few links on that page – I should highly doubt that there is no truth anywhere amongst it. I always look for the grain of truth.

    Thanks again for the link, also for the post,

    Sincerely,

    Patriot Henry

  224. “I don’t say any of this to deny that people must necessarily take great care to ensure productive capacities are not ruined by, as you put it, taking too much from the soil without giving back. What I’m saying is that outcome is not inevitable,”

    The outcome is determined by the market conditions. If we had a free market, I wouldn’t be so concerned. As we have a ever more centrally controlled market, I am very concerned.

    ” and indeed it is in every producer’s interest to ensure it doesn’t happen.”

    It is well established that most people can’t see past the subsidy to the negative consequence. The manipulation of the market changes what is in the producer’s interest.

    ” I think you sell people far too short when you assume they are too short-sighted to recognize the need for sustainable agriculture (in the sense of being able to sustain and increase the productive capacity of the land).”

    It’s not an assumption. It’s an observation. Read “Topsoil and Civilization” or study “conventional” American agriculture for a longer view on people’s ability to foresee what will result in the long term from their actions.

    “If we humans can utilize our naturally-evolved capabilities to genetically modify crops so they produce more nutrition with less input, we should do so–we must do so.”

    Why is GMO a “must”? It’s not the only way. The “mass starvation or GMO” paradigm is a false dichotomy.

    “Finally, I would like to echo Brother Ben’s statement that you have been most polite in the discussion here. It is appreciated.”

    Thank you.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  225. Dear Everyone,

    I’ve been thinking about how this entire thread not one person asked me for any of my sources. I must have read at least thirty books on food…but if I was going to pick only one to recommend, it would be “Agriculture and Culture: The Unsettling of America”, by Wendell Berry the farmer and poet. This book is fantastically well written. In my humble opinion it would be well worth your time and money to read it.

    Michael Pollin gets almost all of the press and media time, Joel Salatin is perhaps the most advanced and most certainly is the most visible real farmer, but Wendell Berry is the Goethe of the American revolution of agriculture and culture. It’s a real treasure, I saw it cheap here: http://www.ecobooks.com/books/unsettli.htm

  226. Dear brotherben,

    “I will say this for Mr. Henry, he is very pleasant in his discourse. Sometimes, that is all I ask. I can appreciate that for its own sake, even if we disagree on some things.”

    Thank you. It took me many years to wake up and I reckon I should give everybody at least the same decade of learning time that it took me.

    “Patriot Henry, I hope you find contentment in your pursuits.”

    I have – I have found more contentment in eating a loaf of my own whole wheat bread than I did in eating at damn fine restaurants, for I know how the bread was made. I imagine that I shall find vast sums of contentment in the future though, as the end of the conclusion from “Flight From The City – An Experiment in Creative Living on the Land” by Ralph Borsodi illustrates:

    Compare the position of the millions of men who are today unemployed to the position of our pioneer
    forefathers of a hundred years ago. At the beginning of the last century, Brillat-Savarin, the famous
    Frenchman who wrote The Physiology of Taste, made a long visit to the United States. In the fourth
    chapter of his book he tells the story of a visit of several weeks which he made to a farm which is now
    within the densely populated region of Hartford, Connecticut. As he was leaving, his host took him
    aside and said:

    “You behold in me, my dear sir, a happy man, if there is one on earth; everything you see around you, and what you have seen at my house, is produced on my farm. These stockings have been knitted by my daughters, my shoes and clothes came from my herds; they, with my garden and my farmyard, supply me with plain and substantial food. The greatest praise of our government is that in Connecticut there are thousands of farmers quite as content as myself, and whose doors, like mine, are never locked.”

    Today the farm on which that happy man once lived is cut up into city streets and covered with city
    buildings. The men and women of Hartford no longer produce their own food, clothing, and shelter.
    They work for them in stores and offices and factories. And in that same city, descendants of that
    pioneer farmer are probably walking the streets, not knowing what to do in order to be able to secure
    food, clothing and shelter.

    Liberty can only be created by self-reliant individuals. One can only be self-reliant if one can produce for ones own needs. I for one plan to go Galt. To each their own!

    Sincerely,

    Patriot Henry

  227. I have found more contentment in eating a loaf of my own whole wheat bread than I did in eating at damn fine restaurants, for I know how the bread was made.

    I don’t have any more time this week for online discussions (whoever told me grad school at age 43 with two kids was a good idea should be shot…oh, wait, it was my idea!) but this paragraph made me think of a local fine-dining restaurant that prepares legitimate four-star food from almost exclusively locally-sourced ingredients. Were you to eat there, you’d know where the bread was made–right there in the restaurant. The chef is dedicated to local growers and meat producers, and most of the butchery is done on the premises.

    My point is, there is already a market for this sort of thing–small, but growing. I think it might offer you a glimmer of hope.

  228. Everyone who disagrees with me is a poopy-head, especially if they do so politely.

  229. “Were you to eat there, you’d know where the bread was made–right there in the restaurant. The chef is dedicated to local growers and meat producers, and most of the butchery is done on the premises.”

    I once was given a tour of such a place. I found commodity cream in the frig and I’ve never been able to review the meals I had there with the same sense of joy.

    I’ve worked in food service for a while, and I don’t think it’s possible to run a completely ethical joint and stay in business for more than a month or two. The market is too heavily affected by government policy.

    “My point is, there is already a market for this sort of thing–small, but growing. I think it might offer you a glimmer of hope.”

    The market for real food is growing, but the War on Food is also underway.

    The dominant paradigm will destroy itself in due time. The next dominant paradigm will continue to grow mostly out of sight.

    Best of luck with school and family life!

    Sincerely,

    Patriot Henry

  230. Dear Hit + Run Regular,

    “Everyone who disagrees with me is a poopy-head, especially if they do so politely.”

    You are what you eat, and since we’ve all grown up eating food contaminated with poop, you are correct.

    Regards,

    Patriot Henry

  231. Patriot Henry: Testosterone depleted, estrogen engorged.

    How else to describe an clueless effete who sniffs into a hanky over a restaurant that serves (quelle horreur) “commodity cream”.

    but OK: Patriot can redeem himself, perhaps, by giving us his up/down on Obama’s health legislation, and cap-and-trade.

    Are you a statist, or not, Patriot??

  232. “Patriot Henry: Testosterone depleted, estrogen engorged.”

    My strict adherence to my principles doesn’t make me lady like. To reject and condemn subsidies does not make one less of a man (or woman). To accept and condone subsidies does make one less of a free person though.

    “How else to describe an clueless effete who sniffs into a hanky over a restaurant that serves (quelle horreur) “commodity cream”.”

    I am neither clueless nor effete. You could accurately describe me as “enlightened” or “informed” or “principled”.

    Perhaps you enjoy a lovely mixture of welfare, pus, antibiotics, bovine growth hormones, and disease organisms in your food. I for one do not. Perhaps you enjoy paying 70 bucks or more for a meal sold under the pretense of being local, fresh, and high quality but actually takes shortcuts and uses the same crap the cheapest diner uses. I for one do not.

    “but OK: Patriot can redeem himself, perhaps, by giving us his up/down on Obama’s health legislation, and cap-and-trade.”

    I redeem myself by thinking, choosing, and acting wisely. The fact that I refuse to eat any food paid for in whole or in part by the federal or a state government should be more than enough evidence for you to reach the correct conclusion regarding my views on federal health care subsidies or energy taxes.

    “Are you a statist, or not, Patriot??”

    So because I am not ignorant about the food I eat and don’t eat and refuse to partake in the statist “free lunch” program I must be a statist? That does not compute.

    Are you an unwitting consumer of government cream? Do you use commodity cream without considering the subsidization of the water, corn, and milk used to produce it? Are you an anti-statist in rhetoric and a statist in your coffee cup?

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