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June 24, 2003 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Fist or famine? President Bush accused European nations of contributing to famine in Africa because of their reluctance to accept GM foods. But one of Bush's many EU critics says "even serious experts on GM will concede that there is no evidence that GM can make any greater contribution to feeding the world than existing agricultural science." There may be, however, a risk of cancer, according to a Scottish expert, among other profound misgivings. Plus, it looks like some GM crops aren't even doing their genetically-modified job. So uh, how are they gonna stop world hunger, again?
posted by soyjoy (26 comments total)

 
Guess those checks from Monsanto to the RNC finally cleared, huh?
posted by solistrato at 12:59 PM on June 24, 2003


One link for GMOs (sort of), four links against, and a snarky, loaded question. Nice work, soyjoy.

For another perspective...
posted by trharlan at 1:08 PM on June 24, 2003


Link three was wrong. My error. See this.
posted by trharlan at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2003


Hey! Don't dis Monsanto! I use to love their Mighty Microscope/Adventures in Innerspace Ride Thingy in Tomorrowland.
posted by wendell at 1:11 PM on June 24, 2003


So uh, how are they gonna stop world hunger, again?

Uness there is enormous profit for US corporations, do not expect Mr. Bush to back it.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:36 PM on June 24, 2003


You know what? We in Europe wouldn't mind so much, if we were given the choice. American producers refused to guarantee that they could offer a supply of non-GM crops, and mixed in the trad. grain with the altered stuff.

Many British supermarkets would prolly accept the stuff, if it was properly labelled - choice being a tenet of the free market. This was deemed impossible: that's why we won't take the stuff.

But then, if it was properly labelled, we'd soon see how little demand for it there really is. That, I suspect, is what the big agribusiness really fears.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2003


I was pretty sure the problem of famine isn't a problem of supply, It's a problem of distribution, isn't it? If that's true, then GM crops really aren't going to make much of a dent...

Especially if it's one more expensive thing that local producers in Africa have to depend on an entity beyond their control or influence for.
posted by weston at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2003


trharlan - what was my "for GMOs (sort of)" link? I must've slipped up.

Anyway, your point seems to be that in amplifying my question as to how GMOs will save the world I should've been sure to include a Monsanto link. OK, done.
posted by soyjoy at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2003


The rejection of GM maize by a growing number of importing countries creates a serious threat to US maize export. In the US, ~35% of the maize is GM maize but only 1-2% of the production is segregated. Therefore, ~98% of the US maize may contain GM maize varieties, many of which have not been approved in other countries. Since the US refuses to implement measures to segregate and control the spread of different GM maize varieties, its exports are affected.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2003


dash_slot- - it's not just the maize...

OK, I'll stop now
posted by soyjoy at 1:49 PM on June 24, 2003


[from soyjoy's link] But farmers have not clamored for the technology. U.S. Wheat Associates, which markets U.S. wheat overseas, has repeatedly warned U.S. farmers that sales will be lost if the wheat is released into the commercial market.

Yay!
posted by dash_slot- at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2003


>choice being a tenet of the free market

Choice? Labeling? Free Market?

Sheez, we're talking about America here! I'll take the unlabeled food everyone else is having please.
posted by skallas at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2003


You're welcome [to it] (",)
posted by dash_slot- at 2:37 PM on June 24, 2003


Don't mind me. I'll just wait here quietly in the school auditorium until the Monsanto™ sponsored "Grade 3 Bride of Frankenfood pageant" begins....
posted by Dunvegan at 3:31 PM on June 24, 2003


Does this mean the cattle industry is no longer evil prime soyjoy?
posted by stbalbach at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2003


Haven't human beings been genetically modifying plants and animals for tens of thousands of years? Why all the fuss now?
And please don't tell me about how Mutant Food X may be linked to cancer. Isn't everything linked to cancer?
posted by pooligan at 4:28 PM on June 24, 2003


They are all evil, stbalbach. HTH. HAND.
posted by astrogirl at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2003


Choice? Labeling? Free Market?

I'm curious about this. Can anyone come up with a good reason why the stuff shouldn't be labeled?

Haven't human beings been genetically modifying plants and animals for tens of thousands of years? Why all the fuss now?

The methods are more than a bit different, no? The basic problem is that there's ample examples of how a reductionist approach often leads to unforseen consequences, from DDT and Thalidomide to Phen-Phen.

The plants/animals we started engineering the natural way millenia ago existed as part of an ecosystem that we were naturally adapted to. Drastic changes that would change that suddenly are made unlikely by the slower and less-selective natural method.

It's already clear that some synthetic, processed, or altered products available in society are less healthy for people than natural alternatives. I think the better question to ask is what kind of justification do we have that should lead us to believe GM foods are exempt from consideration of such matters.
posted by weston at 6:12 PM on June 24, 2003


For the scientifically inclined;
Denison, Kiers and West (2003) - Darwinian agriculture: When can humans find solutions beyond the reach of natural selection? Quarterly Review of Biology, 78 (2) 145-168
The authors make a pursuasive argument that little can be gained, certainly within the next 20 years, in terms of overall food production by genetic modification. There is potential for introducing pest resistance, but all those soultions are short term - different cropping systems may be just as good. There is potential for modification of flavours etc. But there is almost no potential for increased productivity - tradeoffs with natural selection for individual competitiveness have made this a dead end path. The only possible way of dramatically increasing production with GM is by truly novel, macro-scale genetic modification. Converting C3 plants to C4 plants. Introducing nitrogen fixation in the absence of symbiotic bacteria. All these developments are unforseeable in the next few decades.
posted by Jimbob at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2003


Does this mean the cattle industry is no longer evil prime soyjoy?

No, I'd say they're more like evil chuck.
posted by soyjoy at 9:06 PM on June 24, 2003


Foodies, organic consumers and other countries may ultimately decide this debate. The goverment is in process of a massive pr campaign to get other countries to accept this shit and the lies used to sell it. Many of these GMO Agri leaders have sunk there nuts deep into the whole GMO game but the consumer rejection is hurting them and the farmers who are buying it who cant sell it on world markets.

A certain seed and pesticide company has prosecuted or is in the process of prosecuting farmers for using its seeds illegally. In the industries I've worked in this is called bad customer support I would assume word will get around the farming community that this really sucks we don't like it and we will stop doing business with this company. Well thats what I would be doing anyway.
posted by thedailygrowl at 12:02 AM on June 25, 2003


What thedailygrowl said. Only more so. The real issue isn't GM crops per se--it is perfectly true, as pooligan said, that human beings have modifed plants and animals genetically for thousands of years; our new technologies for doing this directly on the genotype, instead of through the phenotype, does not make for a fundamental change.

What is evil and horrible about GM food comes down to so-called "intellectual property." The altered crops are patented by Monsanto or other corporations. What this means, for instance, is that farmers are not allowed to grow the seeds they have gotten from one year's crop for the next year. The seeds belong to Monsanto, and the farmers have to pay for them again, every year. The company institutes all sorts of surveillance in order to insure that their conditions are met, and that their "intellectual property" is protected. It is a monopoly enforced by law, with all the economic consequences you might expect (scarcity, high prices, extortonist profits since there is no marketplace competition, the disempowerment of small business people--i.e. local farmers--for the benefit of the megacorporation). (Of course a lot of farming in the US is controlled by megacorporations already; but think of what this sort of thing would mean in poorer countries). Everything we routinely complain about when it comes to the RIAA and mp3 files is happening with GM food--but it is far worse, since this is worldwide basic sustenance we are talking about.
posted by Rebis at 12:19 AM on June 25, 2003


GM crops are also causing problems because they don't know how to stay in their fields. I'm afraid I can't provide links, but I've read stories about

A) Organic farmers whose crops were contaminated by GM genes via pollen from nearby farms, and could therefore not be sold as organic -- essentially wrecking their business

B) Farmers whose crops were similarly contaminated and the patentholder went after them for "infringement."

I won't try to vouch for these stories since I can't document them; though the first one did make it to the local news. Anyone who's been following this familiar with the cases?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:30 AM on June 25, 2003


The covert biotech war:
...the United States is unique among major donors, in that it gives its aid in kind, rather than in cash. The others pay the World Food Programme, which then buys supplies as locally as possible. This is cheaper and better for local economies. USAID, by contrast, insists on sending, where possible, only its own grain. As its website boasts, "the principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans."
Yep... it's all about Africa. Oh and let's not mention the fact that the US contributes less foreign aid to the third world both per capita and as a total than the EU.
posted by talos at 5:23 AM on June 25, 2003


I'm afraid I can't provide links, but I've read stories about... (Links? Did someone say links?)

A) Organic farmers whose crops were contaminated by GM genes via pollen from nearby farms, and could therefore not be sold as organic -- essentially wrecking their business (see also ProdiGene officials may face jail - though to date I don't think any of them have faced it...)

B) Farmers whose crops were similarly contaminated and the patentholder went after them for "infringement."

As long as I'm in linkapalooza mode... USDA Lacks Data, Oversight of Biotech Crops-Study.
and GM crops under fire after cotton venture fails.

And back on that world-hunger canard: Organic system doubles rice yield
posted by soyjoy at 7:47 AM on June 25, 2003


What is evil and horrible about GM food comes down to so-called "intellectual property." The altered crops are patented by Monsanto or other corporations

But the history of seed services in America is very old, and it has been common for more than 100 years for hybrid strains of, say, cotton to be planted, which increases the yield but is infertile so farmers have to pay for seed every year instead of gathering it.
posted by hob at 8:39 AM on June 25, 2003


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