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The positive impact of America
September 18, 2001 6:46 PM   Subscribe

The positive impact of America can be overlooked in the chatter of how bin Laden is the bastard offspring of our malicious foreign policy, so the flip side should be highlighted. How about a Nobel peace prize winner who has saved literally millions of lives worldwide, but even 99% of Americans would fail to recognize? What will we reap from his sowing?
posted by quercus (25 comments total)

 
I'm enthralled to see someone posting from the pro-American viewpoint. Great article choice, too. I had no idea who the man was.
posted by tomorama at 7:04 PM on September 18, 2001


Not to say that I think you're all anti-american zealots :P. It's just that the wrongs of America have been kinda predominant in discussion lately.
posted by tomorama at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2001


Don't worry, tomorama, I'm sure we'll have some organic-farming advocates in the thread shortly. (I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of this man or his work before now.)
posted by darukaru at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2001


I probably would not recognize Norman Borlaug, but thought he was more widely know than this. I have read several of his papers and feel he has done wonders for farmers, not only in Africa and other parts of the world, but here in the United States. Short stalked wheat is one of his projects. Much easier to combine than the old tall kind that lays down in front of blades.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2001


On the subject of GMOs, does anyone remember an article in Salon last year about an independent British lab that was on the cusp of conclusively proving that genetically engineered foods cause major long-term health problems, but the lab was shut down unexpectedly after lobbying by biotech companies? Or did I make that up? I hope it's that latter, considering the fact that is seems like everything, even Pop-Tarts, contains GMOs.

I'm going to keep shopping at Whole Foods, just to be safe.
posted by saladin at 7:13 PM on September 18, 2001


Thank you, Quercus. I'm so ashamed to admit I'd never heard of Norman Borlaug. What a wonderful man! Thanks.

But wait - why is this and why does it keep happening? I don't want to antagonize any of the many all-American anti-American spokespersons on MeFi but perhaps the reason there are so many great Americans we've never heard of is- wild guess - that there are so fucking many of them!

(Great Americans, I mean; not just Americans. Although there are a lot of them too, thank heavens.)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:19 PM on September 18, 2001


Maybe it's time that we start appreciating and celebrating some of the unsung heros of our time like Norman Borlaug.

It's easy for the global community to focus upon some of the more unsavory aspects of American culture when someone who has given so much for so many people remains largely unknown in our country.

There have been a large number of articles here recently that seem to focus on giving us a world wide perspective upon why so many might harbor anti-american feelings. Thanks for bringing another view point.
posted by bragadocchio at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2001


Of course, everything that humans eat has been genetically engineered, just not through the direct manipulation of genes. Whether you walk from point A to point B or take the bullet train there, you're still arriving at the same destination. There's so many ways that genes can be altered--it's impossible to make a blanket statement that *all* genetically modified crops cause long-term health effects.
posted by darukaru at 7:27 PM on September 18, 2001


Not everyone thinks the Green Revolution was such a hot idea. (and, no, I'm not an "organic-farming advocate", though these people are)
posted by briank at 7:42 PM on September 18, 2001


I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of this man or his work before now.

Maybe its your age, but in the states the Green revolution is taught during High School or even earlier. No one seems too hot at remembering names.

I think this is one of those cases of an American that is famous everywhere except America. Bucky Fuller was at one time the best known American outside the US, yet not so hot domestically.
posted by skallas at 7:50 PM on September 18, 2001


Great article. (And it mentioned IRRI twice! I lived there for a year.)
posted by rushmc at 8:03 PM on September 18, 2001


Heh, skallas, I went all through high school without ever once hearing the phrase 'Green Revolution'. Or for that matter, much about 20th century American history that didn't have anything to do with wars. It was that kind of high school, where the coaches taught math.
posted by darukaru at 8:26 PM on September 18, 2001


It was that kind of high school, where the coaches taught math.


That's bad, our coach only got to teach Spanish.
posted by skallas at 9:20 PM on September 18, 2001


The article made an excellent point, right at the beginning- guys like Kissinger, veritable war criminals, get richer than Croesus on speaking gigs and TV "expert-of-the-day" (<-- Do read this quickie blurb from Josh Marshall) roles from whorish news networks. Meanwhile, those who actually dedicate themselves to saving lives or bettering communities can only hope to have articles written about them using the phrase "forgotten benefactor". *sigh* There truly is no justice in the world...
posted by hincandenza at 11:26 PM on September 18, 2001


seems like everything, even Pop-Tarts, contains GMOs

Not in Europe they don't ...
posted by walrus at 6:25 AM on September 19, 2001


There's so many ways that genes can be altered--it's impossible to make a blanket statement that *all* genetically modified crops cause long-term health effects.

I don't think anyone (serious) is saying that. I think a lot of people are *asking* "have you tested these things long enough to be sure they don't cause cancers in middle age?" ... that sort of thing.

We're not all luddites outside the states, but we might be more cautious of technologies which could potentially subvert the food chain. Actually, I think the word is "skeptical" ... usually considered to be a valuable scientific standpoint.
posted by walrus at 6:31 AM on September 19, 2001


as prophesysed by darukaru.
soapbox
sustainability is the key - any short term increase in production due to introducing synthetic chemical ingredients and plants reactive to them will not benefit anyone in the long term.
also, what's this about there being no sources for organic fertilizer? what about people? in japan they have developed a way of making pens (for writing with, can't find link at moment) out of human waste. would it not be slightly less work to maybe use this human fertilzer as, erm, fertilzer? Something anyone with a garden could do. if no garden - sell your poo to the highest bidder, or give it to someone in exchange for a cut of the food from their garden.
briank's link explains why simply having more food doesn't neccessitate world-wide hunger releif. suprisingly, it isn't that simple.
/soapbox
weak-assed pun
anyone desperate to find out about the world of composting toilets had better not use this facility./weak-assed pun
anyhoo, a welcome change from discussing how much destruction america has/hasn't been responsible for in the past.
i welcome all genetically engineered plants that are developed so that the local community can control their gene expression and use. is it too wild an idea that people will one day treat genetic engineering as we treat selective breeding today? i mean there could be real grass-roots knowledge of it's application, as per the 'fleshers' in greg egan's 'diaspora'.
it is the multi-nationals proprietry approach to gmos that get's the environmentalist's backs up. that and simple knee-jerk horror at the very idea of genetic engineering. it is not a precise science and should be treated with extreme caution, but it is not evil.

on the subject of gm food and it's possible health risks - the jury is out. the only research i have been aware of was feeding gm potato to rats - who died. probably due to starvation (liver failure, actually) as these were not the potato eating variety.
there is no testing of the long term effects of any other food, goes the argument, so why should there be any for gm food?
on the other hand, organic food is better for you. the reason for this is simple, quite apart from the chemical residue question, organic food contains less water, therefore you get more 'bang for your buck' as jeremy clarkson would be very unlikely to say on this subject.
posted by asok at 8:08 AM on September 19, 2001


as prophesysed by darukaru.
soapbox
sustainability is the key - any short term increase in production due to introducing synthetic chemical ingredients and plants reactive to them will not benefit anyone in the long term.
also, what's this about there being no sources for organic fertilizer? what about people? in japan they have developed a way of making pens (for writing with, can't find link at moment) out of human waste. would it not be slightly less work to maybe use this human fertilzer as, erm, fertilzer? Something anyone with a garden could do. if no garden - sell your poo to the highest bidder, or give it to someone in exchange for a cut of the food from their garden.
briank's link explains why simply having more food doesn't neccessitate world-wide hunger releif. suprisingly, it isn't that simple.
/soapbox
weak-assed pun
anyone desperate to find out about the world of composting toilets had better not use this facility./weak-assed pun
anyhoo, a welcome change from discussing how much destruction america has/hasn't been responsible for in the past.
i welcome all genetically engineered plants that are developed so that the local community can control their gene expression and use. is it too wild an idea that people will one day treat genetic engineering as we treat selective breeding today? i mean there could be real grass-roots knowledge of it's application, as per the 'fleshers' in greg egan's 'diaspora'.
it is the multi-nationals proprietry approach to gmos that get's the environmentalist's backs up. that and simple knee-jerk horror at the very idea of genetic engineering. it is not a precise science and should be treated with extreme caution, but it is not evil.

on the subject of gm food and it's possible health risks - the jury is out. the only research i have been aware of was feeding gm potato to rats - who died. probably due to starvation (liver failure, actually) as these were not the potato eating variety.
there is no testing of the long term effects of any other food, goes the argument, so why should there be any for gm food?
on the other hand, organic food is better for you. the reason for this is simple, quite apart from the chemical residue question, organic food contains less water, therefore you get more 'bang for your buck' as jeremy clarkson would be very unlikely to say on this subject.
posted by asok at 8:09 AM on September 19, 2001


sorry about the double post

*HHIS*
posted by asok at 8:10 AM on September 19, 2001


Shock, horror, asok! The composting toilets site you generously offered us is - how does one say this in a polite way, without mentioning s*** creeks and p*** poor webmastering? Well it's down, suffice it to say.

And no small consolation this is, I'm sure.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2001


those who actually dedicate themselves to saving lives or bettering communities can only hope to have articles written about them using the phrase "forgotten benefactor". *sigh* There truly is no justice in the world...

I don't buy that for one minute. There's a price to pay if you want to achieve fame. If Borlaug started doing speaking engagements, got an agent, etc he'd be a little more famous. Of course the more time you spend jetting around the world wearing your nobel peace prize the less time you have to do serious work.
posted by skallas at 8:38 AM on September 19, 2001


there is no testing of the long term effects of any other food, goes the argument, so why should there be any for gm food?

You'll excuse me if I'm not greatly reassured? We've been eating the other stuff for generations ...
posted by walrus at 8:49 AM on September 19, 2001


Modern carrots (the orange kind) are the result of a single mutant plant grown in Holland a couple hundred years ago. Every carrot you've ever eaten is a genetic freak. We've been eating them for generations.

...even the organic ones. And yet they haven't been banned! My god, ADM/Cargill/Monsanto/Aunt Edna/Farmer Bob is playing with our very lives here! How can we stand idly by while multinational corporations pollute our Precious Precious Bodily Fluids with their genetic monsters?

Ban carrots today!
posted by aramaic at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2001


A very good article. I knew a little about the Green Revolution, but not Borlaug. I wish I could say I was surprised he hasn't gotten more recognition.

What he did was great. I mean, when millions of people are starving , the first priority has to be getting as many of them fed as possible. But I think some of the Green Revolution's practices are going to have to be modified to work in the long run. Planting huge swaths of land with just one or a few strains of high-yield crops is just asking for some fungus or bacterium to evolve a way around your crop's genetic defenses and cause a major catastrophe. The Irish potato famine happened because every single potato plant in Northern Europe at the time was the same variety, the Lumper. And it just happened to be susceptible to the water mold that causes late blight. The Incas of South America were just as dependent on potatoes, but they grew a huge number of varieties, adapted to the local conditions of the areas they were grown in, and no two had quite the same immunities.

This book goes over the potato famine in more detail, in addition to having a good discussion on genetically modified crops.
posted by crake at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2001


Excellent point crake.
Grapefruits are a recent addition, and banana's (yellow variety) do not reproduce naturally.

Diversity in all things is good.
Monocultures are extremely difficult to maintain.
The life is in the soil.
Hope that link works!
posted by asok at 4:38 AM on September 20, 2001


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