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The Forum > Article Comments > In food we trust > Comments

In food we trust : Comments

By Greg Revell, published 25/7/2008

Consumers are coming to the realisation that food increasingly arrives not from 'farm to fork' but 'biotech lab to fork'.

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As the world population increases and the demand for food increases, the citizens of the world will be grateful for the increased productivity that GM has delivered. GM is enabling many crops to be grown without the use of pesticides which not only kill the undesired insects, but also kill useful species as well.

I have yet to see a list of situations where GM food has produced an undesirable outcome. The anti GM push should be seen for what it is, just an example of hysteria by a bunch if ill informed misfits.

David
Posted by VK3AUU, Friday, 25 July 2008 1:09:34 PM
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Greg, I feel some research would do you some good. Perhaps some on plant breeding? In plant breeding all sorts of wide crosses are made using things like embryo rescue. How do you think they get rust resistance genes into wheat? There is nothing terribly natural about this.

Maybe some on proteins? The proteins included so far are mainly from common soil bacteria. We eat these bacteria all the time, every time you eat a lettuce or an unpeeled carrot, or broccoli, and so on. And if you eat organic vegetables, there is a reasonable chance you would consume some Bt used as a pesticide. These proteins have been part of the human food chain for thousands of years.

Patent law brushup might also help? You canít patent something that occurs in nature. You can pattern a use. Patents must have novelty. And guess what nobody has to buy the seed from multinationals. Farmers can keep using their own seed if they wish. Where they choose to use biotech seeds and 12 million of them choose to do so, it is because these seeds are better than the ones they had.

Lastly some research on farming? No evidence that I can see that farmers using biotechnology crops are serfs. Farmers are free to grow what they want, when they want and leave the land if they wish. All things impossible in serfdom.
Posted by Agronomist, Friday, 25 July 2008 8:14:04 PM
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Agronomist, My concern with your piece is not so much the actual science but who is controlling it and how. The why is obvious for power and money.

Any discussion of food is meaningless unless the control and distribution there of are addressed. Consider the tonnes of food that are destroyed each year on being uneconomical (unprofitable). That food in the hands, bellies of those in Dafur would make immeasurable differences to real lives.

The same mentality prevails with The Big Food Four. They are there to make a profit, benefit to the poor isnít a consideration. As the need for this technology is mostly with the (unprofitable) poor it is doubtful that appropriate research will be entered into let alone delivered simply more profit elsewhere.

This profit maximization approach is illustrated by the ĎRoundup ready regimeí . To buy these seed contract is demanded forbidding the use of alternatives (cheaper) brands. (More profit for them.) However in a 3rd world context the poor farmers may not be able to afford the more expensive product. Additional to this the use of RR grain can impact potentially poorer neighbouring farmers due to increased chemical run off, weed resistance and pollen contamination.

The BFF actively discriminate against seeds/varieties that donít benefit them. In real terms local seed merchants are either being swallowed or squeezed out of business. Consequently some unpatentable varieties are no longer in their inventories and therefore readily available. This can be locally devastating as the Ďdroppedí species may have local resistances or long term advantages.

There are clear examples of the negativity of the above system in The Philippines. Where tests have shown that the 20%(promised) increase in productivity is cancelled out by the increase in cost of ĎRoundupí and additional pesticides/fungicides the native crops had natural resistences to. But the market is too small and lacks profit control for conglomeratised local seed suppliers.
In short capitalism as a means of technology, control and distribution in the 3rd world if deeply flawed.
Posted by examinator, Saturday, 26 July 2008 1:54:15 PM
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examinator, I didnít write the piece. That was written by Greg Revell, organic farming enthusiast and Geneethics Network supporter. I merely commented on the errors made in the piece. With respect to your comments, all the farmers I know are in farming to make a profit. If they plan to make losses every year, they go bankrupt. This is also true of the supermarket chains I know. I donít see any of them setting out not to make a profit. If you want to talk about control of food, you need to concentrate on supermarkets. They have enormous power and are in a position to dictate to farmers what they grow, how they grow it and how much is paid for it. Try your hand at vegetable farming if you donít believe me.

According to Dr. Jose Yorobe of the University of the Philippines at Los Banas, farmers using Bt corn had 34% more yield, 60% less herbicide use and made 10,132 pesos more per hectare then their non Bt counterparts, that is 88% more. Not bad money heh? Despite the higher cost of the seed. http://www.apcoab.org/documents/bt_corn.pdf

No wonder these farmers are interested in growing Bt corn.
Posted by Agronomist, Saturday, 26 July 2008 10:03:45 PM
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Agronomist. I misspoke I was referring to your pro GM comments.
My point was not that Aussie farmers shouldn't make a profit one assumes that. It's from there on the system get out of whack. (Big Corps)
In this country there are regulating mechanisms to curb or challenge unreasonable profits by supermarkets. Their profit gouging can be exposed.

However, the 'life science companies' because of their size (power) are almost a law unto themselves particularly in the 3rd world where their activities are largely unseen and unregulated. They are manipulating the seed market to the point whereby they are the gate keepers to agriculture and poor subsistence farmer canít afford to enter. Even when they do the long-term effect is even more tenuous.

Unless GM Corps are controlled the very poor of Africa and Asia will continue to suffer as a direct consequence of the seed cartel's quest of profits through domination of the market.
To illustrate my point that Multinationals canít be trusted, I refer you to Bhopal, and the pressure seed companies got the US to put on the Indian govt. to accept patenting most of the local strains of rice DNA. The Companies added a gene and then claim control over native species. They also bought most of the local grain suppliers then limited supply to those seeds that they control. Itís like Godzilla versus a koala.

If we in the 1st world continue to ignore the plight of the 3rd world we do so at our own future risk. Hungry bitter people excluded from the luxury of the west is a recipe for trouble. We in Aust are very vulnerable.

I was referring to rice in the Philippians. I saw it in a landline(?) episode. I have subsequently spoken to some of the researchers from there (mates of my daughter) and they are concerned.

The point of the seed article and my contribution is simply that Large multinationals can't be trusted either with supply or accuracy of data to regulating bodies. I was asking you to comment on those points it wasn't a spray.
Posted by examinator, Sunday, 27 July 2008 12:12:46 AM
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examinator, all I did in my first comment is point out some major and obvious errors in Greg Revellís article. You construed that as pro-GM. Are you suggesting to me that fibs are OK, so long as they are non GM?

Even poor farmers in the 3rd world will only purchase technology if it makes them more money. In my experience these farmers are just as astute as farmers in the US or Canada. Using the technology might be a costly exercise if it doesnít work. If so, farmers will not use it again. At present, most of the experience with GM crops in the third world has been positive for the farmers: Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay; Bt cotton in China, India and South Africa; Bt corn in the Philippines. One group that has suffered in these countries has been the farmers who have not adopted the new technology. Increased profitability by farmers adopting the new crops has pushed up costs, such as land leases and labour. Of course, these increases in costs could be stopped by keeping all the farmers uniformly poor, but I donít think that is a good idea.

GM rice is not commercially grown anywhere. Iran had a limited commercial release and then pulled it back. It has not been commercially grown in the Philippines at all. So I donít quite know what you saw on landline? Perhaps you have misunderstood what those researchers were telling you
Posted by Agronomist, Sunday, 27 July 2008 1:15:08 PM
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