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Thread: Organic food isn't the solution. Opt for GM food to save the planet.

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    3 out of 3 members found this post helpful.

    Post Organic food isn't the solution. Opt for GM food to save the planet.



    I am reading Matt Ridley's excellent book The Rational Optimist, in which he denounces (pp. 149-156) the irrational fears toward GM crops held by a lot of people (especially in Europe) and by organisations such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth.


    Organic food causes more problems that it solves

    If we wanted to feed all humanity with organic food all rainforests would need to be cut down for agriculture. Even so it wouldn't be enough and a sizeable percentage of the world population would starve.

    As a person concerned about my own health, I usually buy organic products whenever they are available. Yet, Matt Ridley convinced me that this attitude is not sustainable at all and even encourages the destruction of our environment.

    Organic farming, while supposedly better for our own health, is a terrible idea for our planet. First of all, it exhausts the soil's nutrients, especially potassium and phosphorus, and the only ways that organic farmers have found to replenish them is by using cattle manure, squashed fish or crushed rocks. The use of cattle manure requires a lot of extra land to raise the cattle, which are the most unecological of all domestic animals. Not only do cows require a lot of food, they also produce vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than CO2. Scattering dead fish isn't the solution either when fish stocks are already dangerously low in most of the world. As for rocks, they require mining and transportation, which also consumes a lot of energy and manpower.

    Another problem of organic food is that it requires more work for tilling and weeding and often also more careful washing and refrigeration to prevent decaying. The use of all these extra calories to produce organic food has an environmental cost too.


    GM food can improve health and prevent deforestation

    What we do not want is our food to be filled with insecticides and dangerous chemicals that could compromise our health, cause infertility or cancer. This is why so many people in rich countries have turned to organic alternatives. What too few people know is that genetically modified crops can considerably reduce, and in some cases completely eliminate the use of pesticides, but also improve our health.

    There are now soy beans enriched in omega-3 to fight chronic deficiencies in the modern Western diet, hopefully lowering the incidence of heart diseases. Corn/maize, which is abundantly consumed in North America, is poor in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, the 'feel good' neurotransmitter. New GM corn enriched in tryptophan aims at reducing depression. More importantly, golden rice was designed for poor countries in Asia and Africa where people suffer from shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year. GM food can save lives and improve health.

    But the two main achievements of GM crops have been 1) to increase yields and 2) to become resistant to insects. This combination makes it possible to obtain high yields with a minimum use pesticides (typically 80% less than in non-GM crops). Higher yields also mean that less land is necessary and more of it can be converted to nature reserves.


    GM food is safe

    The most common objection to the use of GM food is that it may be unsafe. Over a trillion GM meals have been served worldwide without a single case of human illness caused by GM food. That ship has sailed. Or it should have. I am stupefied to hear regularly people who are dead against GM food, going to demonstration and boycotting companies using GM crops simply because they don't understand anything about it. These people actually believe that GM food will make them sick or cause cancer. I still haven't met any of them have who have a working understanding of genetics. Ignorance breeds fear.

    How many of them know that during the second half of the 20th century, most new crops were developed using gamma rays, nuclear radiations or carcinogenic chemicals ? As Matt Ridley explains, "much pasta comes from an irradiated variety of durum wheat". Genetic engineering is very gentle and rational in comparison.

    Some objectors claim that genetic modifications are unnatural. This couldn't be further from the truth. Mutations happen all the time in nature, and even in our own bodies during out lifetime. Evolution is driven by genetic mutations. But isn't it different if humans are the ones selecting the mutations, directing evolution ? Perhaps, but we have been doing it since the dawn of farming and domestication over 12,000 years ago.

    The vast majority of domestic crops used by humans don't exist in nature. They were selected over the centuries to produce 'unnaturally' large and high-yielding crops. Cereal farming could not have started without the selection of mutations that prevents the grain from shedding on the ground before it is threshed by humans. Many domestic plants couldn't even reproduce on their own, without human intervention, any more. GM crops are just a way of improving what our ancestors have been doing for over 120 centuries.

    Last edited by Maciamo; 20-05-14 at 15:43.
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    I think the idea of "my grandma didn't eat it so why should I use technologies that would make food better?" is harmful. It's called progress. Besides a lot of the food we eat has been selectively breed by humans anyways.

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    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that GM foods cause some health problems, but the big corporations has so far managed to prevent any systematic research into the issue. For me, the big concern is the amount of control that GM foods give the transglobal corporations over the world's food supply.

    Organic farming won't feed the world's population, but neither will any other system, as long as we keep breeding and increasing like cancer cells. The only workable long-term solution, IMO, is to slowly decrease the world's population to a figure far below what we have now.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that GM foods cause some health problems, but the big corporations has so far managed to prevent any systematic research into the issue.
    Citation needed. In fact there have been a pretty good amount of studies (see also here). At best you could argue that we need more long-term health studies on humans, but GM has only been around for about 20 years, so any 30 year long-term studies couldn't have been published yet anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    The only workable long-term solution, IMO, is to slowly decrease the world's population to a figure far below what we have now.
    That raises the obvious question of: How?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    For me, the big concern is the amount of control that GM foods give the transglobal corporations over the world's food supply.
    That's a valid concern, but it is a completely separate issue from determining whether GM foods are safe or not. This is more a political issue. If governments decide to put a reasonable time limit, say 20 years, on the patents for GM crops, like for medicine, then there will eventually be royalty-free 'generic' GM crops. It's the same issue as with pharmaceuticals; without financial incentive there is no research and development.

    Organic farming won't feed the world's population, but neither will any other system, as long as we keep breeding and increasing like cancer cells. The only workable long-term solution, IMO, is to slowly decrease the world's population to a figure far below what we have now.
    Obviously the world population has to go down, but this isn't going to happen overnight. Africa's population could double or triple before the end of the century. If we want that any wilderness be preserved on the continent, it is essential to develop high-yielding crops that minimise the use of farming land.

    In the mid 1960's India had some 400 million people and was facing a major food crisis, possibly a mass starvation. American biologist Norman Borlaug developed a new variety of high-yielding (non-GM) wheat, which doubled production, and insisted that the Indian and Pakistani governments adopted it to avert a famine. Although reluctant at first, they eventually accepted and within a few years India was exporting food. Borlaug got the Nobel Peace prize in 1970 for his Green Revolution, which is credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation.

    Some GM crops have already increased yields by a factor or 3 or 4 compared to non-GM crops, and additional improvements could make them over 10 times more productive. We certainly cannot imagine world population being multiplied by ten, to reach 70 billion any time soon (or ever). Nor even a 'mere' doubling to 14 billion. So there will be enough food for everyone.

    The problem today is that many European countries and all but three African countries passed legislations against the use of GM crops, mostly under the pressure of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. If Africa adopted new drought-resistant, pest-resistant or flood-resistant GM crops, they could stop hunger in the whole continent within a few years and reduce the current land usage. It's ironic that Greenpeace's actions are actually supporting deforestation in Africa.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    That raises the obvious question of: How?
    Enough studies on developing countries have been made to know exactly what should be done to limit population growth. The three most important factors are:

    1) to reduce infant mortality
    2) to increase female education
    3) to increase employment

    To educe infant mortality, we must:

    - Give people in developing countries access to clean water. Michael Pritchard's lifesaver bottle or Artur Vittori's Warka Water Towers are good examples of how this is already possible even in the poorest and most remote regions with a bit of political will.

    - Stop life-threatening Vitamin A deficiencies thanks to golden rice (see above).

    - Vaccinate all children against the most dangerous diseases and get rid of malaria. This issue is the main aim of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


    Increasing female education is hard to achieve without schools, but this is getting easier thanks to cheap smartphones/tablets/laptops and online education. Psychologists have noticed that kids in any country learn better and faster with computers than with teachers. Besides, with the right software installed any subject can be taught on a computer. Many kids in the West nowadays can read before they learn at school because they learned with games on tablets. This is the idea behind the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project . According to this article 30% of Africans will have a smartphone by 2017 and 50% by 2020. This means at least one per family already now or within 2 or 3 years maximum.


    The other essential developmental factor in poor countries, especially in Africa, is electricity. With electricity people can read after dark, watch TV, use computers, etc. But most importantly women don't have to spend hours everyday getting firewood to cook.

    Cheap electricity could easily become a reality thanks to the exponential rise in the efficiency of solar energy and the quick drop in prices. It has been predicted that Africa, which gets a lot of sunlight and has the least developed electrical infrastructure of any continent at the moment, could become the first continent to get all its electricity from solar energy. It is very possible that most Africans will have solar electricity within 10 years.

    Combined with artificial air wells like the Warka Water Towers people will have clean drinking water, power for cooking and light, education and employment will both rise dramatically.


    Solutions to all of these issues already exist and are beautifully explained in Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, which is one of the most inspirational and uplifting books I have read.

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    If I already have to take that risk, I'd take it all the way. Make humans GMO so that they would have chlorophyll in their skin. That would resolve many problems:

    1. they wouldn't eat anything but 'photosynthesise'
    2. they'd walk around naked which would make fashion obsolete
    3. walking naked would make 'em less susceptible to a false self-image, identity crisis and other issues
    4. it would work devastatingly on the most of the world religions

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Enough studies on developing countries have been made to know exactly what should be done to limit population growth. The three most important factors are:

    1) to reduce infant mortality
    2) to increase female education
    3) to increase employment
    Don't forget easy access to contraceptives. Otherwise these 3 points will only increase population count.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    We had a very fiery discussion about GM foods here:
    http://www.eupedia.com/forum/threads...ood#post406680

    Here is an example of Neolithic GM food. From wilde corn to modern.


    Good article Maciamo.
    I guess I should be guilty too prefer anything organic too. But it is so much tastier than mass produced, picked green, hydroponic "food".

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    Citation needed. In fact there have been a pretty good amount of studies (see also here). At best you could argue that we need more long-term health studies on humans, but GM has only been around for about 20 years, so any 30 year long-term studies couldn't have been published yet anyway.



    That raises the obvious question of: How?
    Well, I don't know who funded the studies that you're referring to. Was Monsanto involved? I'd have to look at the funding as well as the background data and how the conclusions were reached. There are studies indicating that GM food may be a problem, but they tend to be disregarded, and universities that receive funding from agribusiness aren't really interested in anything that would put GM foods in a bad light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    Don't forget easy access to contraceptives. Otherwise these 3 points will only increase population count.
    That will happen if females are educated and sufficiently empowered.

    If we don't manage to start reducing the world's population, I think we're in for a global crash. Water shortages will see to that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    That will happen if females are educated and sufficiently empowered.
    I know, I felt that something was missing, lol.

    If we don't manage to start reducing the world's population, I think we're in for a global crash. Water shortages will see to that.
    Desalination plants and water pipelines might be a biggest business in the future. Or in British Columbia one can capture fresh rain water and sell it to California, instead of oil.

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    GM foods will save our bees.

    Pesticides, Not Mites, Cause Honeybee Colony Collapse

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/05/09/pesticides-not-mites-cause-honeybee-colony-collapse/

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    Don't forget easy access to contraceptives. Otherwise these 3 points will only increase population count.
    Yes, that's true. But the use of contraception is also part of education.

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    Yeah right, replace a stupid "solution" with a more stupid one :)

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    There is nothing more devastating and disgusting than GMO's. Scientists are being paid by GM corporations anyway this is why I'm a bit skeptical on the issue.So Please Boycott Monsanto and grow/legalise hemp!

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    I think you are too trusting of authority figures Maciamo, it seems northern Europeans can't grasp the fact that someone with higher status than you is simply just another person as you are, and they too can lie if it pays/fills their belly. As someone who initially grew up in a backward place where everything was organic I can tell you food tasted much better, people were healthier and now that my old home country has been modernized people have become deformed, it's obviously food related. New seeds and breeds have bad consequences. Cheap quick food comes with draw back.

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