Bt brinjal in Bangladesh – the true story

Latest: exclusive video interviews and footage with 5 farmers in Rangpur (filmed on my phone!):

9 May, 12.00hrs – see updates at end of post…

Once again media reports have emerged claiming that genetically modified pest-resistant Bt brinjal (eggplant) has failed in the field and that farmers in Bangladesh are regretting that they have begun to grow it. (An earlier example was dealt with here.) The stakes are admittedly high here: this is South Asia’s first GMO food crop, and has been developed in the public sector for distribution to resource-poor smallholder farmers. The powerful anti-GMO lobby knows that if Bangladeshi farmers successfully adopt this new crop, other GMO crops in the pipeline such as Golden Rice (also being developed in Bangladesh) will be advantaged and their cause of banning the technology permanently will be harmed.

The latest media report appeared in New Age, a Bangladeshi newspaper, and was titled ‘Bt brinjal farming ruins Gazipur farmers’. It is online here. The report is very specific, quoting farmer Mansur Sarkar, who is supposedly furious at the non-performance of his Bt brinjal crop. Sarkar is one of 20 farmers in 4 regions of Bangladesh who are growing the first generation of Bt brinjal. The rationale for the new variety is very simple – it is resistant to the endemic pest called fruit and shoot borer by carrying the Bt gene, and therefore requires drastically less pesticide than is conventionally applied by farmers to brinjal.

Here is a particular allegation from the New Age:

During a spot visit on Monday at four Bt brinjal fields in Gazipur, New Age found that Bt brinjal plants faced several troubles – they did not grow up and came under attack of different pests including shoot borers.

The article also alleges that Sarkar and another farmer were furious and demanding compensation for being “guinea pigs” and for loss of livelihood. International media is already interested in this story, and Twitter has come alive with retweets from anti-GM activists with the New Age article.

However, it is entirely false. I myself, along with various scientists and others from Cornell University and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, visited the same farm a day earlier and found the crop in good health and the farmer happy. Here are the photos to prove it:

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Above is the farmer Sarkar with neighbours.

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Above – Sarkar with his family.

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Myself in discussions with Sarkar and project participants.

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Healthy Bt brinjal entirely protected against fruit and shoot borer. Sarkar confirmed that he had only sprayed once (to control sucking pests when the plants were younger and more vulnerable), whereas neighbours growing brinjal are spraying twice a week and even every day. (Conventional brinjal farmers can spray 140-180 times during the season.) Pesticide residues will therefore be much lower on the Bt brinjal crop.

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Farmer Sarkar demonstrating fruit and shoot borer infestation in the control crop. This is a non-Bt brinjal which has been planted around the outside for comparative purposes and also as a pest refuge. It is likely that journalists visiting the site would not have known the difference and would have concluded that Bt brinjal has failed.

I am writing this in a traffic jam in Dhaka. I have also visited a NW region of Bangladesh, Rangpur, where five more farmers have planted Bt brinjal, and will post videos and photos from this trip within the next couple of days. In the meantime, I hope that any international media coverage will be based on the real situation and not on fictional accounts planted in the Bangladeshi press by those with a negative (and indeed potentially pro-pesticide) agenda.

LATER NOTE:

It is particularly disturbing that anti-GMO activists seem now to be moving towards the ‘nuclear option’ of spreading out-and-out health scare stories about Bt brinjal in the popular media and directly to farmers and consumers. One article published a day ago in the Dhaka Tribune raises the spectre of health fears, and features quotes from a supposed ‘UK vegetable importer’ called Helena Paul – who is actually a lifelong professional anti-GMO activist. Most worrying of all, several of the farmers I visited in Rangpur had earlier been visited by an anti-GMO activist posing as a journalist who told them that if their children ate Bt brinjal they would become paralysed. This parallels the sterility/infertility myth that has been spread about GM crops elsewhere in the world, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. I will post video testimony of these farmers telling their stories very soon.

Make no mistake: if people reject Bt brinjal then the population of Bangladesh will continue to consume brinjal that is laced with dangerous pesticides. This is why the Agriculture Minister recently asked whether the anti-GMO activists were receiving money from insecticide manufacturers. My own feeling is that the activists are more ‘useful idiots’ for the pesticide companies rather than being paid for their effort, but this bears investigation nonetheless. Watch this space.

UPDATE 9 MAY:

The antis in Bangladesh have begun a campaign against me. A ‘journalist’ by the name of ‘Gora Lorca’ (not a Bangladeshi name, possibly a pseudonym) has set up a Facebook page complaining that I have mixed up the farmers names. A second Facebook page has also just appeared, by an anti-GMO campaigner called Zobaer Al Mahmud, who has long campaigned against Bt brinjal and spread related conspiracy theories. According to this page, I am a “pro-Monsanto Bioterrorist”, a “pro-Monsanto agent” and an “agent of Monsanto” – the latter two accusations all in a single paragraph!

This second page is interesting, because it includes several more photos. One of them includes the *same farmer* – Mansur Sarkar – who is in my pictures above, and is pictured looking unhappy. According to the photo, he was visited on 5 May 2014. This is strange because it is the *same day* that I visited Sarkar, with colleagues from Cornell University and scientists from BARI (the government-run Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute – the lead agency in Bt brinjal deployment).

A second farmer is also pictured, who is captioned Mojibur Rahman. I did not personally meet this farmer, or inspect his plot. However, my colleague from Cornell University, the entomologist Professor Antony Shelton, did visit this farmer a month ago as can clearly be seen from the photograph accompanying Shelton’s blog report. Note that the farmer Rahman is even wearing the same clothes!

There are some photographs of an unidentified field also published on this Facebook page showing brinjal which is clearly affected by bacterial wilt – this appears to have been wrongly identified by activists/journalists as evidence of fruit and shoot borer pest attack. In the first blog rebuttal it was also reported that bacterial wilt had been identified – this is as the result of waterlogging of the soil, and improper farming techniques, in particular the failure to rotate, allowing bacterial pathogens to build up in the soil. Note that Bt brinjal will be just as susceptible to bacterial wilt (and other pests not controlled by Bt) as any other brinjal. There is also an image of a fruit and shoot borer. As I mentioned above, this will certainly be in one of the non-Bt control plants – non-specialists visiting the site trying to paint a negative picture cannot of course be expected to tell the difference.

As to the question of myself being an “agent of Monsanto” – my role in this is as a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Plant Sciences. Monsanto has no role in the project, and the intellectual property of Bt brinjal is held by BARI for the government and people of Bangladesh. However, the antis see the satanic hand of Monsanto behind everything GMO-related, so expect these conspiracy theories to continue to flourish.

I will post video testimony from *all of the farmers* in Rangpur in the next couple of days. No journalists have visited them – so my upcoming report will be an exclusive!

284 comments

  1. Hugh Sharman says:

    This report is timely and most welcome. I look forward to seeing how the the certain riposte from “New Age” will cope with facts, rather than assertions!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Buck Field says:

      If any pro-GMO advocate can answer a question for me, I would be most interested for your opinion on what to me is very much worth considering.

      To what extent (if any), would your certainty in the safety of a GMO be impacted by evidence that patent holders have invested in ensuring no negative effects from them are detected?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Can you *posit* any negative effects? Based on sound *a priori* reasoning? GMOs are the most thoroughly tested foodstuffs, ever. If there was a sound reason for doubting the safety of a crop and I found that it had been brushed under the carpet then I’d be unhappy with that, just as I would with a new drug on the market. So would any reasonable person. But I wouldn’t write off the whole of GM biotechnology, just as I wouldn’t write off the whole of pharmaceutical science, on the basis of one case of malfeasance.

    • Buck Field says:

      Thanks for your reply, Clyde.

      We agree that discarding “the whole of any technology” is unwarranted on the basis of one bad case. Why? Overall, they have great, long track records!

      My belief is that confidence is based on systemic performance over time – and why good science should get the kind of respect it generally does.

      I think it appropriate to apply the same criteria for discounting claims. My belief in the risks from GMO’s comes from my experience in organizational management and competitive intelligence. To me, consistent duplicity (of Monsanto in particular) over many years & different management teams only has one plausible cause, (known negative effects), but I’m more than willing to alter that opinion given a good alternative.

      I’ve not been able to find such an alternative. To the contrary, Monsanto’s explanations appear as incriminating for their actions as what the most virulent New Age zealots could want.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck
      Thank you for the chance to have a reasonable conversation about this topic at long last. My advice to you is *forget Monsanto completely*. Bt brinjal has nothing to do with Monsanto, neither has golden rice or many of the most exciting and promsing developments in this domain. Rothamsted Research are currently working on a variety of camelina engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids, which means that we will be able to make due with catching fewer fish in order to get these nutrients: http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/camelina . Their GM wheat deters (not kills) sucking insects by releaseing beta-farnesene, an aphid alarm chemical: http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/our-science/rothamsted-gm-wheat-trial . Research like this is going on the world over.

      To fixate on the activities of one company as if they represented the whole scope and ethos of this branch of science, and to lump in the rest of the publicly-funded initiatives is akin to writing off all the open-source software produced simply because Microsoft is the biggest software producer. It’s a perverse, simplistic and indiscrimate approach that really benefits nobody.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde,

      Can you explain why a reasonable person would think any owner (like Monsanto) has nothing to do with the how their products are researched and used, especially after decades of investment to ensure the strength of such control?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck:
      Can you explain to me how it is that every discussion of this topic somehow has to gravitate to the M-word? The *reductio ad Monsantum* approach really does nothing to add anything to this discussion and certainly doesn’t address any of the scope and breadth of these issues.

      If you really want to talk about nothing but Monsanto and how evil they appear to you, then I suggest you find somebody else who is more receptive. I think this particular aspect of the issue has been done to death. I’d much rather talk about other issues, such as how we could ensure that this technology is available to more farmers in devloping countries, how we maintain the effectives of Bt in the face of pest resistance, how we ensure that farmers set aside refugia so that this actually happens, and what else Bt could be applied to in the developing world.

      I have no wish to discuss Monsanto’s hiding of any adverse health effects because basic logic suggests that there aren’t any such effects. The evidence and numerous rigorous studies bears out that these crops are completely harmless to people and animals and most insect species, and there isn’t any *a priori* basis for suspecting them (unless you’re John Fryer, of course. Absence of evidence is of course not evidence of absence, but neither is it a basis for suspecting the worst.

    • Buck Field says:

      >Can you explain to me how it is that every discussion of this topic somehow has to gravitate to the M-word?

      Hi Clyde. Perhaps the most significant reason for using Monsanto as a center of gravity is “the Bayesian Dutch Book” rule for scientific certainty.

      If any firm invests vast resources over a the long term in a manner dramatically inconsistent with the safety of a product, even despite personnel changes in leadership, it constitutes about the most reliable evidence anyone could ask that the product is unsafe. If such a firm is also best placed to know such things, the evidence seems even harder to ignore.

      If we were talking about car safety, manufacturers’ decades-long opposition to crash tests and harassment of researchers would be our center of gravity. If the topic were claims of tobacco’s safety, it would be Phillip-Morris & Brown-Williamson. If our topic was climate change, our center of gravity would be the American Petroleum Institute. Opposition to open research only makes sense if that research would produce bad results – and in all cases, investments like these are only made when organizations know the answer already, and want to keep it secret as long as profitable.

      We might ignore Monsanto’s actions if there were any better, more reliable methods of establishing what the best research actually shows. Asserting it doesn’t exist is no explanation.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      126 studies of GM crops with independent funding can be read at:
      http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/independent-funding/

      No Monsanto anywhere to be seen.

    • Buck Field says:

      Were any of the studies free from patent law restrictions? If not, an infinite number of attempts ought not to convince us one bit, nor are they responsive to the most reliable available evidence.

      As astrology & religions prove, mountains of supporting evidence are cheap.

      Do any of these studies have any explanation for the actions of what we may consider the best-informed experts in the world: Monsanto executives?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I’ll bet you haven’t read a single one of those studies before dismissing them. Nothing will convince people like you otherwise. I’m only interested in the quality of the scientific argument.

      I’ve just written you off as someone who isn’t worth debating with, as I have written off Brown and Fryer. Now go away and read more science than you comment about for a change. Mark did this and it transformed his outlook. And also gave us an informed and passionate commentator. Merely being passionate doesn’t cut it, sorry.

    • Buck Field says:

      I hope we agree it is an error to confuse questions regarding the relevance of data evidence with “dismissing” such data.

      I’m quite happy to have my mind changed, and would be thrilled to learn GMO modifications are safe.

      My mind would be changed by openly conducted best practice investigations into GMO safety similar to what has been the norm in drug testing, for example.

      For anyone who believes that’s an unreasonable standard, I even welcome evidence that might convince me to alter that criterion or replace it with something better.

      This is far more generous to changing my opinion than any advocates of GMO’s seem willing to offer. For example, I’m unaware that you’ve cited anything that would change your mind, similar to every GMO advocate I’ve encountered. That doesn’t make GMO’s risky or safe, but it does indicate something of an aversion to evidence-based decision-making by advocates.

      Note: the above should not be taken as a defense of GMO opponents, who can be perhaps even less rational than most supporters.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      ‘I hope we agree it is an error to confuse questions regarding the relevance of data evidence with “dismissing” such data.

      I’m quite happy to have my mind changed, and would be thrilled to learn GMO modifications are safe. ‘

      It is impossible to prove anything ‘safe’. One can only come up with an evaluation of risks versus benefits, on a case-by-case basis

      “My mind would be changed by openly conducted best practice investigations into GMO safety similar to what has been the norm in drug testing, for example.

      For anyone who believes that’s an unreasonable standard, I even welcome evidence that might convince me to alter that criterion or replace it with something better.

      This is far more generous to changing my opinion than any advocates of GMO’s seem willing to offer. For example, I’m unaware that you’ve cited anything that would change your mind, similar to every GMO advocate I’ve encountered. That doesn’t make GMO’s risky or safe, but it does indicate something of an aversion to evidence-based decision-making by advocates. ”

      Do you have the faintest conception of how much a clincal trial costs? Try about $75M for starters. These are the kinds of hurdles that would be strewn in the path of anybody who would want to release a new GMO into the field by people who would rather they were banned altogether. I haoppen to think that if someone like you would prefer that somebody like me didn’t do something, then it’s up to you to come up with a very good reason why I shouldn’t, not up to me to justify why I should carry on.

      Of course, you can’t actually come up with any specific or concrete reason why these crops should not be deployed, simply because you don’t have any evidence to support your stance. So, you prefer to pretend that this unspecified evidence exists, big bad evil Monsatan is hiding it, and that we should assume the worst and not do anything.

      Well, I’ll see your nebulous, trepidatious, imaginary and half-baked fears and risks about GM crops, and raise you some quantified, established and significant benefits. Your call.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde
      I tend to think $75M is a small price to pay to keep my family from dying due to an unsafe product, especially if the manufacturer can afford a billion dollars for lobbying & advertising propaganda. If you disagree, we simply have different priorities on the value of human life versus profits.

      >It is impossible to prove anything ‘safe’. One can only come up with an evaluation of risks versus benefits, on a case-by-case basis.

      You seem to think you know risk management better than I, who has worked on PMI’s global standard (adopted by ANSI & ISO) for 2 decades with thousands of internationally recognized experts.

      Apparently, should also believe it impossible to prove safety belts are safe, medical competence for doctors is safe, or structural standards of bridges and jet engines which are generally accepted to need to demonstrate safety that is impossible, according to you.

      Fortunately, the scientific, academic, government, and business consensuses are not with you on this. It’s probably why you’re still alive and able to rant against the principle.

      Good luck with that. :)

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Tell me how much has been spent on development and promotion of Golden Rice so far. The tell me how much money has been lost, and how many life years, from it not being available. When you can reconcile these two figures, both morally and arithmetically, then you can lecture me all you like on risk management.

      When you can acknowledge that, when compared to a course of action, *not acting* sometimes has far more serious and real consequences, then you can lecture me on the nature of risk itself.

      Tell you what, let’s make this all a bit more real. I’m prepared to wager a modest sum of money, say £50, that in five years not a single proven case of harm will result from ingestion of a Bt-containing GM crop. By ‘proven’ I mean in a court of law. This has been good enough to establish malfeasance against drug companies, so I would imagine that it’s a fair test of this case as well.

      Let’s see you put your money where your mouth is. I know exactly what these odds of my losing are as I have calculated them using a standard statistical technique. If you know how I did this, then you’ll know not to take the bet.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, in probably the most comprehensive report of its type, GRAIN an independent NGO, has studied small farms worldwide. They are very much under threat from your “big” farms.

      Small or peasant farms prioritise food production – hence they supply most of what people eat worldwide.. They tend to focus on local and national markets and their own families. Much of what they grow doesn’t even enter into national trade statistics, but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.

      Big corporate farms, on the other hand, tend to produce commodities and concentrate on export crops, many of which people can’t eat as such. These include plants grown for animal feed or biofuels, wood products and other non-food crops such as cotton. The primary concern for corporate farms is their return on investment, which is maximised at low levels of spending and thus often implies less intensive use of the land. Large corporate farms also often have considerable reserves of land that lie unused until land that is currently being cropped or grazed is exhausted. Hence they produce less per hectare overall.

      http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland

    • Clyde Davies says:

      You will probably take this the wrong way and go on to misrepresent what I’m saying, but I don’t give a damn about how many small *farms* are under threat. What I care about far more are the *people* who work on them. If the choice boils down to them working all the hours that God gives as subsistence farmers, or gradually shifting over to a profit-based model where many fewer people end up farming or working on farms (as happened in the UK) and the vast majority of them lead far more prosperous lives, then I’m all for it.

      Crops such as golden rice save lives, and Bt-brinjal results in bigger profits, far fewer cases of pesticide poisoning and better biodiversity. They help the poor subsistence farmer to pull himself out of poverty instead of being patronised or having to rely upon the largesse of aid. Ultimately this has to be a good thing.

      What strikes me more than anything about you is your fundamentalism. I don’t care *which* approach is better: yours or mine. I can see good reasons why mine will work, and I think these farmers ought to be able to at least explore it as an option, but I think all options ought to be available and given a level playing field to succeed and that the best of either approach should be available for farmers to use as they like. You on the other hand seem utterly closed-minded about this issue: it’s your way or no way whatsoever.

      That’s the fundamental difference between the way that people like me and people like you think. I don’t give a damn about means. But your means are your ends. You seem to find the idea of people working solely to feed themselves somehow admirable and an ultimate objective. I have to say, you seem to me about as credible as Marie Antoinette dressing up as a milkmaid.

    • Buck Field says:

      Economic studies have clearly established that people live more prosperous lives with greater air pollution, and with more potholes in roads.

      With each factor, increased spending results in acceleration of aggregate velocity of the money supply, a macro-economic benefit and measure of overall productivity. Air pollution enables greater efficiency of production, and health costs primarily fall on weak, non-productive groups, especially children and the elderly.

      Side benefits for eliminating inefficiencies like this, help reduce the surplus (unproductive) population, and provide tremendous gains in the standard of living, as demonstrated in Italy, Germany, China, and the U.S.

      If prosperity is the goal, predation is probably the best way – as long as we keep it fair. As Clyde suggests, just allow each poor, subsistence farmer compete one on one with Monsanto, and then let the Truth prevail!

      BTW – anyone who disagrees with that will be called names :P

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, context is everything in developing countries.

      For example, many farmers here would prefer to use heritage or organic seeds that are supposedly available free – postage and packing at $3.00 per packet, sent anywhere in the world – that’s two day’s earnings for some of my neighbours, if they can get the work. The farmer will then wait for delivery that may or may not arrive – the postal services are not so reliable.

      Add to that the knowledge required to use and money to pay for, the internet, registration and so on. How do you make the payment with no bank account the minimum fee is often $3.00? You may find this neo-colonialist or whatever, it isn’t. What it is, is a reality that some face here and probably in Bangladesh too.

      It has been said that excessive amounts of pesticides were formerly used in growing brinjal. Why? What ever happened to the ethical selling and proper training in the use of pesticides? The answer is always well, these are third world countries and it is very difficult or impossible to deliver those standards – an easy excuse.

      I don’t know about Bangladesh but I do know here in the Philippines – where respiratory sickness from pesticide use and over-use is considered an acceptable part of the job. It would seem from this that Bt brinjal is the perfect answer and it may be.

      Here is a real situation with no GMO’s: Mangoes are often “farmed” by small cooperatives or individuals. They will pay day-rate to spray fungicides and pesticides. Day-rate is also paid for harvesting, with a bonus for quantity harvested provided they are perfect. The trees may be spead across a substantial area, in small numbers, rather than on plantations. What was happening was pests and fungi were seemingly becoming resistant to the pesticides. The suppliers advised ever more use of chemicals, each formulation costing more than the last. In seven years of labour only two years were profitable, four were maginal and one was a big loss.

      Having watched this for some time, it became obvious that it was how the farming was “managed” that was the problem. An experiment was started that paid harvesters extra for clearing away deformed, infected and damaged fruits – the cycles of infestation were broken and the reliance on pesticides, fungicides etc was greatly reduced. In two years, harvests began to increase and money began to be made. Year three, a super-typhoon decimated the trees and the crop. Money became very tight and the method was abandoned even though everyone agreed it worked – the money just wasn’t there to sustain it.

      All too often, it is the inability to adequately financially support an alternative that makes things like Bt brinjal necessary. The science has progressed but at grass roots level in developing countries adequate training resources are unavailable – not providing it increases profits. Proper measuring equipment, sprayers and appropriate protective clothing are unaffordable.

      Rather than throwing invective, try understanding how and why some farmers and farm workers dislike the agro-chemical companies so much. Why they feel so angry that they want to go out and destroy crops. They feel threatened, undermined, undersold and undervalued.

      The chemicals sprays are available on credit, as are GMO seeds – I’m not blaming anyone particularly, it’s just the way it is.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I stopped throwing invective a while ago. You evidently haven’t noticed.
      If you took the time to read Mark’s original posting carefully, you would have seen that the agrochemical companies see the anti-GMO protestors as useful idiots. This is because Bt brinjal almost completely obviates the need for pesticide spraying. Yes, context is everything, but you seem utterly indifferent to it.

      I can’t help thinking that if you and them directed as much of your energy towards making sure that what you did was right as you do to telling people like me why we’re wrong and shouldn’t be supporting what we do, then we could each go about our own business and the world would be a much better place.

      Goodbye, and belive it or not, I wish you good luck with your endeavours to feed people better. Just make sure your energies are directed to something constructive.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck:
      Stop trying to evade my challenge. Are you taking the bet or not? If not, why not?

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      Your “challenge” is on the level of a Jesus freak insisting we choose “Liar”, “Lunatic”, or “Lord”. The only thing it contributes is that the one issuing the challenge has poor reasoning skills & overconfidence.

      Such overconfidence is demonstrated by assertions that are so obviously false, they appear religious. Regarding transgenics, you claim: “GMO’s are the most thoroughly tested foodstuffs ever.” In your world, 60 million years of primate co-evolution doesn’t exist.

      …and you wonder why you’re not taken seriously?

      If you don’t like evasion, you may start by answering my question from 9 days ago: “To what extent (if any), would your certainty in the safety of a GMO be impacted by evidence that patent holders have invested in ensuring no negative effects from them are detected?”

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “To what extent (if any), would your certainty in the safety of a GMO be impacted by evidence that patent holders have invested in ensuring no negative effects from them are detected?”

      Do you have *evidence* that this has occurred? Any solid evidence whatsoever? Even if it had, which I doubt, I would look at *all* the evidence, and the vast majority of studies show no harm whatsoever or any deleterious health effects from GMO crops. Including those 100+ studies I directed you to with independent funding.

      The fact that the crops in question are ‘patented’ has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not they are safe. The study protocols and the results they generate do. If you can find problems with those protocols, then please go ahead and point them out. I suspect you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do that, which is why you are fixated on patents

      And we still have that little vexed issue of the three trillion GM-based meals that have been eaten, and not one proven case of illness or harm. Still want to take that bet?

    • Buck Field says:

      Clyde,

      I’m happy to discuss my evidence and any other topics, but constantly changing the subject is unlikely to yield productive discussion. No evidence I have or do not have bears on your perspective.

      Therefore, in the interest of productive discussion, I ask you to address the question.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I *have* answered the question. I said:

      “Even if it had, which I doubt, I would look at *all* the evidence, and the vast majority of studies show no harm whatsoever or any deleterious health effects from GMO crops. Including those 100+ studies I directed you to with independent funding.”

      Now, I’m sorry if this isn’t the plain ‘yes’ or ‘no’ you wanted. But I suppose it’s a ‘no’. Logic tells me that whether sharp practices these companies might get up to, that I have more chance of being hit by a meteorite than being harmed by a GM crop. Look up the statistical ‘rule of three’ and work out the risk of an adverse affect after three trillion doses of Bt being consumed.

      Now, instead of hypothetical risks, let’s talk about some real ones for a change. One particular crop kills millions each year, and it killed my father. Why aren’t the people who are so concerned about unproven, very low risks from GM foodstuffs as concerned about the proven, significant health risks from this plant? Where were you when my father and many others were dying from lung cancer?

    • Buck Field says:

      Where was I? I was having the exact conversation with tobacco advocates that I’m having with you now.

      The difference then was the availability of better studies before companies were able to change the laws and restrict research by patenting things they claim were proprietary secrets on one hand, and ordinary foodstuffs on the other hand.

      In both cases the most significant health information appears to come from leaked secret documents provided by company insiders. Thousands of self-serving reports tell us nothing in such situations. Company prohibitions on research into adverse effects are much more persuasive, to me and many others.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      The point that I am making is that the scientific evidence is there, if you care to examine it. It’s impossible to prove anything safe, as you know. After a while the precautionary principle has run its course and a case-by-case evaluation of risk vs benefit has to prevail. And, as I have pointed out several times now, after a while the consequences of not following a course of action vastly outweigh the risks of so doing. We cannot live lives totally free of risk. Neither should one person’s risk aversion result in a moratorium on risk for the rest of us prepared to take it.

      These consequences have been quantified for golden rice as 1.4 million life-years in India alone. I happen to think that it’s incumbent now upon GM opponents to demonstrate risk or ill effect, instead of constantly prevailing upon its supporters to demonstrate the opposite. As I’ll repeat, hopefully for the last time as I think this phrase is getting a bit threadbare: I’ll see your nebulous, half-baked and unquantified fears and raise you some proven, significant and quantified benefits. It’s your call.

    • Buck Field says:

      >The point that I am making is that the scientific evidence is there,

      I accept that this is the point you may believe you are trying to make, but your inability to express rational guidelines to temper your enthusiasm makes your position unscientific.

      It’s as if I asked you about how disconfirming evidence might affect your confidence in astrology, and you replied “Can you *posit* any negative effects? Based on sound *a priori* reasoning? Astrology is the most thoroughly tested predictive model, ever. If there was a sound reason for doubting its ability and I found that it had been brushed under the carpet then I’d be unhappy with that. So would any reasonable person. But I wouldn’t write off the whole of prediction on the basis of one case of malfeasance.”

      If you cannot see that this does not address the concern, I don’t really know how to explain it.

      If you really believe GMO’s are more tested than organisms with which we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, then I don’t think this forum is sufficient to bridge the gap between your view and that of the rest of the scientific community outside the pro-GMO fundamentalists.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I’ve now completely lost track of the point you are trying to make, so I am going to ground this argument. Either you believe there is such as consensus among scientists or you don’t. The consensus, such as it is, is that after 20 years and trillions of meals eaten that there is nothing fundamentally dangerous about eating a Bt crop. There are a handful of dissenting studies but the vast majority show that there is nothing whatsoever to be worried about.

      It’s like the whole vexed issue climate change. The science is sound and points to an anthropogenic component. A consensus develops, but this consensus makes certain special interest groups feel very threatened, so they choose to ignore or deny it, or come up with their own particular explanations for the observables.

      I really don’t have time for climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, or GMO opponents, and the underlying reason is the same in all three cases. When you go against a developing and strengthening consensus, you’d better have some pretty good arguments, or episodes like this happen:
      http://youtu.be/vuQLvK6kxeU

      What you choose to believe is up to you, but I prefer to trust the experts.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      21 October 2013

      Statement: No scientific consensus on GMO safety

      12 December, 2013 – 297 scientists and experts agree GMOs not proven safe. *EU chief scientist … View the statement “No scientific consensus on GMO safety”

      http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/no-scientific-consensus-on-gmo-safety/

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Like I said: you can go and read all the papers on Biofortified that shows GMOs to be safe, or you can take the word of a few self-proclaimed ‘experts’.

      “Over the past two years, a stream of articles have buttressed the growing sense that GM opponents have become, in the words of Discover blogger Keith Kloor writing in Slate, “the climate skeptics of the Left.” We’ve reached an intellectual tipping point on this controversy. Almost every prominent liberal journalism outlet, from the New York Times to Scientific American to The Atlantic, has prominently featured an article contrasting the growing disconnect between scientists who view GMOs as safe and popular fears hyped by some foodie heroes and organic activists.

      Which brings us back to ENSSER. It was established in 2009 before many “liberals” embraced opposition to GMOs as a litmus test issue. The organization has not aggressively encouraged science education. Rather it has focused on organizing media events and tours to promote controversial research by Séralini and other researchers who claim to have identified health dangers. It appears their goal is to bypass the science establishment and talk directly to legislators and consumers with an emotional relationship to food and an antipathy to technology.”

      ENSSER backed Seralini. Seralini’s credibility is about as low as it can get in the science community.

      And then we have the people who say that GMOs are safe:
      * The American Medical Association
      * The American Association for the Advancement of Science
      * The National Academy of Sciences
      * Food Standards Agency Australia New Zealand
      * French Academy of Science
      * Royal Society of Medicine
      * European Commission
      * Union of German Academics
      etc…..
      You can see them all here: http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GLP-Science-and-GMOs.png

      Care to tell me why they are all wrong, and ENSSER is right?

    • Buck Field says:

      > Care to tell me why they are all wrong, and ENSSER is right?

      They are not “all wrong”, rather each appears to err on something very specific. Your source, Jon Entine was a publicist for guess what corporation?

      Hint: It starts with M…

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I give up here as well. Anybody who is implicated in ‘Six Degrees of Monsanto’ is automatically wrong and anybody who opposes GMOs is automatically right.
      It’s like playing chess with a pigeon. Goodbye.

    • Buck Field says:

      Clyde, apparently you don’t believe in exposing paid propaganda and shills…if they support Monsanto & GMO’s.

      In contrast, good reasoning rejects such claims regardless of the fundamentalist “sides” you believe in: pro & anti GMO.

      To maintain your position, critics must be catagorized within your view as unreasonable, no matter how many facts you need to ignore.

      On the other hand, I want to see open research into GMO safety just like they did with seat belts and bridge construction standards.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      It is not for me to say who is, or is not, right about “consensus”. All I demonstrated was that the “consensus” is not, as you claim universal. I think the argument, either way, is very silly.

      It is a bit like calling me neo-colonialist when it is GMO’s that are promoted and forced upon developing countries (much evidence and admission of US Ambassadors, confirm this), that are the real neo-colonialists. It is effectively saying we know, with our science and our economics, what’s best for you local natives.

      Whereas, what we do works nothing like that. We take all the risks, do what we do, learn and develop systems and methods that work in their locality and conditions. Once that is completed, we then let our neighbours choose what if anything, they wish to adopt. We pay our own way and only use paid-for local labour at better pay rates than the minimum. Once we achieve that level of viability, the pilot scheme then becomes an open educational facility.

      That process respects people and their feelings (right or wrong) and allows them a real freedom of choice.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck:
      *I have given up*
      Save it for someone who still thinks you have something interesting left to say.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      And in case you’re wondering why, it was the ‘shill gambit’. Dragging what should have been a discussion about the science down to *that* level only tells me that you’re ill-equipped to operate on the higher level.

      Now, I have said all I am going to say to you and Jonathan. I’m really quite sick of online dick-measuring contests.

    • Buck Field says:

      Now that Clyde’s gone for the 17th time, we can discuss how GMO fundamentalists operate. I use a pro-GMO fundie because his example is convenient, although anti-GMO fundies are just as unreasonable.

      Fundamentalism “is most often characterized by a markedly strict literalism as applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining in-group and out-group distinctions.”

      Fundies like Clyde apply different criteria to evidence based on whether it supports greater use of GMOs. Their strict literalism is constant referral to “the consensus”, “the evidence”, and refusal to address counter-examples and evidence of tampering with data.

      A great emotional investment is clearly made on supporting GMO’s, and the greater this investment, the more aggressive the attacks and other emotional outbursts become.

      Actually, “refusal to address evidence” above is not quite right. I believe Clyde is sincere and honest in that he cannot understand what are legitimate concerns, nor how historical, environmental, and systemic factors trump individual studies, even if there were thousands.

      If we want to prove all ravens are black, and we check all the black things in the universe and zillions such studies finding black ravens does not confirm the hypothesis, since black ravens are the only kind such studies are capable of finding.

      The fact that all *official* studies possess this defect by definition under relatively new, carefully designed laws and contracts is unintelligible nonsense to the pro-GMO believer. They are facts to uncomfortable to consider.

      This discomfort is mirrored by anti-GMOers when presented with the astronomical potential of GMO tech.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Native Americans Have Superfoods Right Under Their Feet:

      “They found that reintroducing these plants — which include cattail broad leaf shoots, chokecherries, beaked hazelnuts, lamb’s-quarters, plains prickly
      pear, prairie turnips, stinging nettles, wild plums, raspberries and rose hips — into the diet of the tribes of the region could improve nutrition and potentially prevent disease.”

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/06/02/317444736/native-americans-have-superfoods-right-under-their-feet

    • Scott says:

      Buck Field said, “If prosperity is the goal, predation is probably the best way – as long as we keep it fair. As Clyde suggests, just allow each poor, subsistence farmer compete one on one with Monsanto, and then let the Truth prevail!”

      http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution

      I guess in this case Monsanto loses. ;)

      Pity it isn’t so simple as this in every case. But education is the key. The small farmer could potentially beat Monsanto every time. But rather than show the small farmer how to do it, generally he is given poor advise guaranteed to eventually drive him off his land.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Scott,

      I suppose there is a potential for a small, individual farmer to beat Monsanto in court, but this seems like the potential for an elephant to dangle by it’s tail tied to a daisy: possible, but unlikely in such an extreme as to be not worth much consideration, IMO.

  2. Bluebell March says:

    mm…the farmers don’t appear to look happy to me. We don’t need this technology. Its wrong.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      to “Bluebell”, that is an assertion. Now kindly follow up with a fact!

    • Anders Örbom says:

      Wow, children looking surly when asked to pose in a photo with their parents? These Bangladeshi farmers are truly an alien species! :)

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “We don’t need this technology”

      Speak for yourself, Bluebell. I bet you aren’t even a farmer let alone a Bangladeshi.

    • Bluebell March says:

      Nooo…Im just a mere organic farmer who knows how to grow excellent producing crops without the use of GE technology and chemicals…so simple.

    • Jeff Walther says:

      Regardless of how the farmers look, the eggplants look great. I’ve grown them quite a bit and those are some healthy looking plants and fruit.

      I am continually amazed at how many folks in the “eat organic, buy local, growing food is next to godliness” camp, have never bothered to actually go outside, get their hands dirty and actually, you know, grow some food.

      If they did it would give them a lot of perspective that they currently, clearly lack.

    • Darwy says:

      Dear Bluebell:

      You don’t grow plants without chemicals.

      Water is a chemical.

      The compounds in the soil which provide nutrients to your crops are chemicals.

    • Bluebell March says:

      There are natural chemicals and synthetic….such a petty reply you gave…don’t you think?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Bluebell:
      What pesticides do you use on your farm? I’ll bet that as an organic farmer you use Bt sprays.

    • Bluebell March says:

      Well, Clyde. I don’t use any form of pesticide sprays. I don’t have a problem with pests, I put it down to healthy soil.

    • Westcoastsyrinx says:

      Organic farmers will never agree with genetic modifications because it threatens their profits. No point in ever trying to get them to meet us halfway, no matter that the world needs good SUSTAINABLE commercial practices that don’t continue to deplete the soils of nutrients.

      Not only do commercial organic farmers have to use “natural” pesticides and herbicides, but also use manure for fertilizer which should be causing a bit of discomfort for the vegans out there.

    • Christelle says:

      Bluebell: I think it’s great for you that you don’t have problems with pests, but I think it’s pure luck. If it were so easy to grow organic crops successfully then why are they the most expensive products on every shelf in every store? Why aren’t they grown in quantities that would make them economically viable?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      People believe that organic farming is a very minor part of agriculture. Organic, non-GMO agriculture is, in reality, by far the largest sector of food production in the world.

      Small holder family farmers – an estimated 99% of the 2.6 billion farmers worldwide – cultivate half of the 1.6 billion ha of global croplands, producing 70% of the food consumed in the world (including their food for themselves and their families). These small farms (1 to 2 ha or less) are much more productive than large farms, as peer-reviewed and published studies over several decades have confirmed.

      Among the most successful are diverse agro-ecological farms – which satisfy all the requirements of organic agriculture and more – now practiced on an estimated three-quarters of the global croplands area cultivated by small-holder farmers, i.e., 560 – 600 m ha in Latin America, Asia and Africa, producing well over half of the food (56%) consumed globally.

      Globally, certified organic agriculture only occupies 37.5 m ha in 2013, with a further 31 m ha in organic wild collection. The regions with the largest areas of certified organic agricultural land are Oceania (12.2 m ha, 32 %) and Europe (11.2 m ha, 30 %). Latin America has 6.8 m ha (18 %) followed by Asia (3.2 m ha, 9 %), North America (3 million ha, 8 percent) and Africa (1.1 m ha 3 %).

      Australia has the most organic agricultural land at 12 m ha, Argentina comes second with 3.6 m ha and the US third with 2.2 m hectares.

      The focus upon the “certified organic” figures account for a very small fraction of the world’s agricultural production, and are very misleading statistics because they disregard the small-holder family farmers who are responsible for producing most of the food consumed in the world. Those small-holder family farms are mostly organic, though not officially certified. Thus, organic non-GMO agriculture is in fact by far the largest sector of food production in the world.

      GM Agriculture also promotes the concept of efficiency, based upon production per person. Conventional or mechanised farming produces much more yield per person. However, in a world that has high levels of unemployment, that seems a non-nonsensical basis for argument.

    • Joanna says:

      Its not pure luck, its good management. A lot of it is just “Working with nature” Very simple tool.

    • Christelle says:

      Bluebell: I am not contending what you’re saying. I live in South Africa and, at least here, it seems that all products labelled “organic” or “non-GMO or “biodegradable” are sold at exorbitant prices. I know this issue seems trivial compared to the other debates above, and it probably is, but it’s the main reason why everyone that I know doesn’t care for it.
      On a side note, what are your thoughts on intuitive farming practices? I am very interested in learning as much as possible about this.

    • Scott says:

      You said, “Organic farmers will never agree with genetic modifications because it threatens their profits. No point in ever trying to get them to meet us halfway, no matter that the world needs good SUSTAINABLE commercial practices that don’t continue to deplete the soils of nutrients.”

      Well I am an organic farmer. And at least for me, that is a load of woo. I can’t use GMOs because of regulations, period. Farmers generally would welcome a crop like Bt eggplant or any other trait that provides pest resistance. I make more profit than my conventional neighbors, without charging any more for my vegetables. Sometimes less.

      Can I live without them? Sure. But if certain GMOs were allowed by the regulators, I would use them. I spray Bt a couple times a year for caterpillars and see nothing wrong with a plant that produces its own.

      For me organic means you take care of the soil. That means no chemical ferts or fungicides, herbicides or non discriminate insecticides regardless if they are “natural” or not. Organic is about building life not killing it.

      I live in Oklahoma, famous for being the center of the “dust bowl”. We have millions of acres of depleted land. I can take depleted hard as a rock red clay and turn it into productive land in 1 year. I have done it before and am doing it now on some new leased land, in spite of our drought. How? Biology in the soil cover crops and companion plants and mulch coverings that increase carbon sequestration. Carbon is “organic”, that’s where the term came from. SOC Soil organic carbon! In the early days we were called humus farmers for this reason. It is sustainable because it considers the ecosystem services provided by healthy living soil. Those include, but are not limited to, water retention, pest control, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, erosion control etc….

      You watch the vid and see Bt eggplant. I watch the vid and see soil lacking humus and very poor soil management practises. There is no mulch, no companion plants, no living mulch, pale structureless soil lacking SOM/SOC everything about those fields is bad and getting worse. The eggplant whether Bt or not has little to do with it.

    • Buck Field says:

      Do you not see any difference between a bt toxin spray one might wash off the food and a bt toxin one cannot?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      I agree absolutely. There seems to be this desire to have “farming” from a bottle, particularly from those that wish to sell you the bottle.

    • Scott says:

      @Buck Field
      You said, “Do you not see any difference between a bt toxin spray one might wash off the food and a bt toxin one cannot?”

      It is my understanding that:
      1) Bt is produced in the growing vegetative part of the plant, not the fruit, which has no more than very trace amounts.
      2) Bt Crytoxins are not poisonous to mammals or even most insects, only caterpillars.

      Now I am a farmer, not a chemist or a doctor. so I can’t directly test this. However, part of it I do know to be true. When I spray Bt it doesn’t harm anything but the targeted species…ie caterpillars. Animals like mice or birds? No effect. Other insects like grasshoppers? No effect. Only caterpillars are killed and only if they actually eat a leaf with that on it. Contact means nothing.

      So I would say that yes I see the difference, but no I am not worried.

      Think about it a bit. Capsaicin is what makes hot peppers hot. It is part of a pepper’s defence against insects. But is it poison for us? No. Potato plants are toxic, but the tubers are not. Practically every plant has some kind of chemical defense against insects. Some are poison for us and some not. So just saying a plant makes a “toxin” really means nothing unless that is a toxic substance for us, and in the part we eat!

    • Buck Field says:

      @Scott,

      This is the first time I’ve seen the claim that GM’s only express in non-fruit tissues, which seems like it would make the product far less effective. You could be correct, though.

      As for toxicity, Bt Cry toxins cover a fairly wide bunch of stuff. What I’m interested in is how you know whatever you spray harms caterpillars rather than something else that in turn kills them quickly, such as flora in their gut?

      Mechanisms matter, and when safety research is being suppressed, it seems sensible to be suspicious, like the guy who absolutely refuses to let his for-sale car be checked by anyone but his mechanic brother.

      I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the car for sure, only that he’s sure something’s wrong.

    • Scott says:

      Buck,
      You said, “This is the first time I’ve seen the claim that GM’s only express in non-fruit tissues” That is a general statement. Not what I said. It is my understanding that THIS particular GM doesn’t express except in trace amounts in the fruit. Now that could be wrong. I have no way to know if it is dependable. But I do remember reading it. Even if true though, it doesn’t mean ALL GMs are similar. Quite the contrary. A GM could be developed that only expresses in fruit just as easily. Or only the roots…whatever.

      You also said, “when safety research is being suppressed, it seems sensible to be suspicious” I actually agree. I am quite suspicious. But I am suspicious of motives in a different way than you might expect. I look at GE technology as neutral. It is simply a tool that can be used for good, or for harm. It’s the use that matters.

      Right now GE technology almost without exception is being used to prop up a failing conventional model of agriculture. So in that respect yes, GMOs generally can be considered harmful even if they are not directly causing harm by being poisonous. But GE technology could just as easily be developed to enhance organic sustainable forms of agriculture. Bt vegetable crops come closest to this, if it wasn’t for the dogmatic regulators that have banned all GMOs without exception.

      Tell me this. I happen to know that a potato was developed resistant to late blight by transferring genes from wild potato relatives to domestic potatoes. Same late blight that caused the starvation and displacement of millions and brought Ireland to its knees……. Yet an organic farmer can’t use it? Even a conventional farmer can’t yet, because of the expense in getting it approved makes the University that developed it unable to afford. Isn’t that counterproductive to the greater good? People talk about the danger in lack of diversity in genetics of domestic species, yet make it illegal to add some of those lost genetics from wild relatives? All because they are angry that Monsanto unethically abused the the tool and uses it for harm? Really?

      I am the first one to rally behind the banning of glyphosate GMOs. But the banning of any GE technology in any organic products? That just reduces the capability for organic to finally replace the destructive conventional models.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Whilst I agree with much of what you said regarding GMO’s, it should be understood that late potato blight in Ireland was as much a result of bad farming practises and politics as much anything else.

      During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce.

      What the great potato famine does highlight is the problem of diminution of bio-diversity and the sizeable risk factors that crop conformity encourage.

    • Buck Field says:

      Hi Scott,

      My statement about your “trace amounts in fruit” claim was ambiguously worded. It would be more correct to say that your statement of belief in the claim about this particular plant mod is the first claim of its type I’ve ever encountered. It seems plausible if the main crop threat is to leaves from pests and gene expression is fortuitously suppressed in the fruit. It is regrettable that research to study this illegal.

      I disagree with the notion that whether a tool is used for good or harm is what matters. Pick any great evil or huge man-made catastrophe in history, and I can tell you how good intentions significantly drove it: slavery, war, Nazi medical experiments, extinctions, collapse of great civilizations, torture, genocide of Native Peoples, etc. The Titanic is studied extensively in project risk management in this regard.

      While GE tech can be said to prop up a failing conventional model of agriculture, it may also be seen as a savior. It is also a profit-seeking strategy by corporate conglomerates. Many perspectives are valid, and we should choose ours consciously, IMO.

      This is important to your question of “the greater good”, to which the answer is “it depends”. From a standpoint of long-term risk, I’d have to say the new potato is a bad idea because it introduces instability. Cultivation of varieties which best survive any problem like a blight is the kind of thing we’ve done since before our species existed. Objections like those of Prof. Jones @ The Sainsbury Laboratory that: “Breeding from wild relatives is laborious and slow” is the kind of shortcut that increases risks rapidly. Continue that for long enough and disaster is certain, as the Titanic illustrated.

      The difference in approach and results of motivations of acquiring gains vs. motivation by caring for the long-term well-being of one’s society (or tribal clan) appear markedly different. While all civilizations fall, I think intelligent action can ensure large-scale falls are gentle declines rather than catastrophic plummets. This seems like a well-justified top priority for assessing such public policy issues.

  3. Jonathan Brown says:

    Some 500 million family farmers globally produce around 56% of all the food we eat. Faced with global warming and a population that will swell to nine billion by 2050, a growing number of experts say that the way to feed the masses as climate change makes growing our food more difficult is to focus on family farmers, who often can barely feed themselves.

    The side effects of Bt crops and the increased use of herbicides follows an ethos of killing offending pests and competing plants. It is this ethos that is so misplaced. It is acknowledged that those pests and weeds are becoming resistant to some degree or another to the use of those chemicals.

    The implications of climate change are assessed but not fully understood – it is always the unexpected or that which we didn’t properly predict that undermines all predictions. Much remains unconsidered and societal collapse is seem as a risk – these questions are, as much as anything else, about risk, what risks we should or should not take.

    Two points that rarely gain adequate attention are the risks of genetic uniformity and the impact of climate change. As we employ greater volumes of GM crops there is a consequential drop in the availability of those seemingly less yield producing crop varieties. What incentives are there for a farmer to chose making less money? It is estimated that around 80% of all corn varieties in Mexico have been lost, forever gone.

    The cost of developing new GM varieties is high. As a consequence, returns are sought from those new GM varieties by selling high quantities of seeds and creating large areas of genetic crop uniformity. The risks of genetic uniformity are also acknowledged as being very high. Several crop damaging epidemics have already been recorded with consequential foodstuff shortages and rapid price hikes – these hurt the most vulnerable and least well off most.

    The investment into the 500 million farmers who produce 56% of all the food we eat is, in the overall scheme of things, negligible. Contrast that with the vast resources that are invested into those farmers that produce the remaining 44% of all the food we eat. Realistically speaking, those investments are probably unsustainable.

    For example, depletion of phosphorus is very relevant to the world’s food production. Phosphorus is a major component in fertilizer, without which fertilizer will be rendered more or less useless. According to the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI) phosphate reserves will last 75 to 200 years (incidentally, there are many arguments about the validity of all of this, but that’s not the point).

    It is the same farmers, the so-called conventional farmers, who in the main, plant and harvest GM crops and who also apply chemical fertilizers, pesticides and so on.

    Whereas, most of those 500 million or so farmers do not use other than organic fertilizers. Exploring alternative forms of agriculture, where nutrient conservation is key, is almost certainly of vital importance, it is the concept of how food is produced that is all important.

    Do we go for high mechanization, high processed chemical inputs, high risks of crop epidemics, low employment, non-sustainable, with only a modest yield per hectare and pay people to be unemployed?

    Or do we go for lower levels of mechanization, lower levels of processed chemical inputs, higher employment, higher yields per hectare, lower risks of failure overall and all fully sustainable?

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Jonathan – thanks for your comment, but you’re missing the point. These Bangladeshi farmers all use pesticide in huge quantities on their brinjal crop, otherwise they lose all of it to pests. See the longer article about this on the Cornell blog. I was personally told by many farmers that they spray 150-180 times during the growing season. The alternative of Bt brinjal needs no spraying at all to control fruit and shoot borer. Please note this has nothing to do with herbicides either, which are not the issue here – Bt brinjal is not herbicide tolerant, and the farmers do not use herbicide on it. This is about getting insecticide poisoning of both farmers and their environment to lower levels with a technology which is in their hands – even in terms of intellectual property, which is the most common objection of the antis. These are very much smallholder farmers – at most they have just a few acres, and brinjal is an important crop for earning money on local markets to improve their livelihoods above the absolute poverty line.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      With all due respect I’m not missing the point.

      You have a bunch of farmers who are told that they need to use pesticides. You then have the same people who told them that they need to use pesticide are now telling them that they now need to use much less pesticide but grow GM eggplants that produce the pesticide. The motive in all of this is profit.

      Rather than taking what little money these people have – what these farmers really need is to be shown how to grow their crops organically and sustainably, without any inorganic pesticides at all.

      It’s really about not following an economic system that’s broken and encouraging them to make a living for themselves. If that fails then at least they should be able to eat well. That way they are not malnourished and enjoy much better health.

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Absolutely you’re missing the point, and your response betrays an unfortunate arrogance too. You are quite wrong that we “have a bunch of farmers who are told that they need pesticides”. Do you imagine that these farmers, who are on the poverty line, are dupes? That they spend what little money they have on an extremely costly and toxic input because they are foolish, and need people like you to come over and educate them? They spray their crops (and not just brinjal) because if they do not, the crop is eaten by pests. I saw fields of brinjal next to the Bt brinjal which were devastated by fruit and shoot borer – the fruit is rotting and full of holes, and the plants are wilting as the caterpillars eat them from the inside.

      No amount of wishful thinking from organic fantasists living in rich countries abroad will help these farmers – but a pest-resistant brinjal will.

      Oh, and no-one is “taking what little money they have” – the plants were distributed free, and the farmers are encouraged to save seed. Future seed in larger quantities will be distributed at below cost by government agencies, as you would know if you read the links I already provided. But you just know that “the motive in all of this is profit”, because there is a GMO involved, and that’s what your ideology tells you. It is all too typical.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “The cost of developing new GM varieties is high. As a consequence, returns are sought from those new GM varieties by selling high quantities of seeds and creating large areas of genetic crop uniformity. The risks of genetic uniformity are also acknowledged as being very high. Several crop damaging epidemics have already been recorded with consequential foodstuff shortages and rapid price hikes – these hurt the most vulnerable and least well off most. ”

      Do you remember that Golden Rice trial that got trashed by protestors in the Philippines recently? Guess what that was about: a local variety of rice with appropriate characteristics for the conditions outcrossed with Golden Rice germplasm. The researchers were deliberately introducing biodiversity, the protestors decided that they knew all the answers already and that the trial was doing more harm than good.

      Tell me, Jonathan: do you know all the answers already? You certainly seem to think you do, as you’ve written off this kind of development as being inimical to biodiversity.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Odd that you talk about the Philippines, it is where I live and no, I was not one of those that trashed the pilot scheme for golden rice.

      My understanding is that golden rice was a wholly misguided concept from day one. The problem of Vitamin A deficiency is being addressed here by a number of initiatives most of which are educational. That and ensuring that children receive one well balanced meal per day at school is making a significant impact upon the problem and is costing much less than developing a GMO rice with very dubious attributes.

      Whilst the claim is made that what was trashed was an effort at biodiversity the reality was that golden rice didn’t deliver what was claimed of it and never did.

      Lester R. Brown and Edward C. Wolf, authors of Soil Erosion: Quiet Crisis in the World Economy, argued that erosion affects crop production in two ways. “The loss of topsoil reduces the inherent productivity of land, both through the loss of nutrients and degradation of the physical structure,” they explained.

      “It also increases the costs of food production,” they added. “When farmers lose topsoil, they may increase land productivity by substituting energy in the form of fertilizer. Hence, farmers losing topsoil may experience either a loss in land productivity or a rise in costs of agricultural inputs. And if productivity drops too low or agricultural costs rise too high, farmers are forced to abandon their land.”

      In the Philippines, it is the farmers and key stakeholders with their first-hand knowledge of the upland agricultural system, who pointed to a more systemic understanding of the root causes of erosion. The primary drivers of soil erosion in Philippine upland areas are poverty and landlessness.

      About 6 million hectares of agricultural land worldwide become unproductive each year. In the Philippines soil erosion affects about 45% of all arable lands. Land degradation in the Philippines – as a result of soil erosion – has affected more than 33 million Filipinos and is likely to contribute to widespread and severe poverty in the rural areas.

      No, I don’t know the answers but I am on a journey to find out.

    • Burk says:

      Jonathan I don’t think you understand how subsistence farming works, or employment for that matter. These aren’t people who hire farm workers, they pick the weeds themselves, spray them themselves, and live in walking distance of the fields. They live tough lives where a worm decides whether they get to eat or not, most of them would probably love to form cooperatives, larger fields, send their kids off to college, and so on. What is playing out there is what played out in America in the early 20th century, and the result for better or worse has been extreme agricultural output and disease due to excess of food, and most of that food is still produced on family farms. While we can talk about politics all day long this is the best solution, and it will benefit them and their families and their neighbors, these people aren’t idiots, they will use whatever they can to better their lives, and organic farming won’t do that. Hopefully someday their kids can grow up with stories of the hard times instead of having to live through them. I’m 1 generation removed from subsistence farming, and grew up with horror stories of the dust bowl and times before that, and there is no way under any circumstances I would want to go back to the times before the huge toolkit of modern agriculture came about, but I can see a lot of greatness coming out of biotech and geo engineering (the iron sulfate experiment the Haida people did in the North Pacific is one of the most awesome things I’ve heard of, and I’m depressed at greenpeace’s response to it, like I am with most of their responses to everything), that are the best weapons against climate change we have. Even though a lot of people call themselves environmentalists they seem stuck in the mindset that it is impossible to use technology to allow humanity and nature to coexist to the mutual benefit of both, hopefully these myths won’t persist past the 2050′s.

    • Jeff Walther says:

      “follows an ethos of killing offending pests and competing plants. It is this ethos that is so misplaced. ”

      I think the quoted text really tells us all we need to know about this Brown. He clearly has no experience actually working in agriculture and thinks that you can grow a productive crop while letting pests and weeds run rampant. Unfortunately, far too many delusional people are politically active these days.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “My understanding is that golden rice was a wholly misguided concept from day one. The problem of Vitamin A deficiency is being addressed here by a number of initiatives most of which are educational. That and ensuring that children receive one well balanced meal per day at school is making a significant impact upon the problem and is costing much less than developing a GMO rice with very dubious attributes. Whilst the claim is made that what was trashed was an effort at biodiversity the reality was that golden rice didn’t deliver what was claimed of it and never did. – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/05/bt-brinjal-in-bangladesh-the-true-story/#more-1341

      Rubbish. Utter bollocks. It costs $100 to treat VAD using Golden Rice and upwards of $1000 a year to do the same using Vitamin A supplements. Moreover Golden Rice is royalty – free for any farmer up to $10,000 profit per year. The ‘very dubious’ attributes you claim have been backed up by numerous scientific studies, such as http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776.long which shows that is a highly effective source of vitamin A for nutritive purposes.

      And then it’s followed up by a whole screed on soil erosion which, considering rice grows in waterlogged conditions, has nothing whatsoever to do with the point under discussion.

      You say “My understanding is that golden rice was a wholly misguided concept from day one.” My understanding of YOUR understanding is that you simply haven’t bothered to read any of the scientific literature which proves that it is anything but, and that you are justifying destruction of legitimate scientific research because you seem to think you know all the answers already.

      Despite all the efforts of WHO, UNICEF etc., children are still dying and going blind from the effects of VAD on a daily basis. The latest research shows is that the delay in implementing this crop has led to many utterly preventable deaths: http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/02/25/cambridge-study-golden-rice-opposition-has-cost-almost-2b-and-1-4-million-lives-over-10-years-in-india-alone/#.U2u267JOURY

      I’d like to hear from you what possible risks from growing this crop could possibly outweigh the consequences of not doing so.

    • Bluebell March says:

      Very well said……

    • Buck Field says:

      @Mark Lyans,

      Have you really investigated and documented that ALL the farmers use HUGE quantities of pesticide, and that whenever they do not, “ALL” the crop is lost to pests, i.e.: not a single molecule of product remains?

      Please put yourself in the position of an outsider trying to ascertain an author’s reliability, in light of such a ridiculous claim.

      Real (good) science is distinguished by it’s measured, provisional findings – always subject to revision based on evidence.

  4. Buck Field says:

    Whenever we see or hear assertions that “THE story about x is y”, “THE cause of x…”, “THE bottom line…”, “THE thing about x”, etc., we can plausibly conclude the advocate is not interested in understanding complexity of the real world, and is expressing an opinion driven by doctrinal beliefs or ideology, often partisan. They reveal (and proclaim) a group identity regarding x.

    If such wording appeal to concepts of purity such as “truth” and “honor”, the position is more like a religion, and we should understand the opinions expressed as coming from such a framework. The positions adopted and actions recommended may not be wrong, but the processes followed to reach them are not good science.

  5. Micah says:

    Great piece, Mark. It is amazing what gets traction in mainstream media and what is swept up with everything else. The crop is safe, it is protected against pests, and it can help families to earn a better standard of living. These ideologists miss the point entirely, as was evident from the above comments. GMO or pesticide shouldn’t even be included in the discussion; the goal is to improve the lives of farmers in a poverty-stricken region of the world. I know there is nothing sinister about that.

    I am hopeful this article will dispel what people have seen or heard in regards to this amazing work being done in Bangladesh. Thank you.

    • Buck Field says:

      If the crop is safe, would it not be to Monsanto’s advantage to allow (or even support) free and open animal research proving the fact to critics?

      If not, why not?

    • Robert Wager says:

      Like this Buck

      A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research
      2001-2010

      Food Safety:

      “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

    • Buck Field says:

      @Robert Wager

      I don’t see anything in this claim relating to Monsanto restrictions on animal toxicity testing, only a statement about the results of tightly controlled studies proclaiming a lack of knowledge.

      This appears entirely consistent with Monsanto prohibitions on open source research with publicly available results.

  6. Jonathan Brown says:

    Bt in cotton in India did reduce the amount of pesticide spray in the short term and it did reduce the numbers of borers significantly. That lack of competition allowed the sucking pests to multiply and prosper.

    According to the statistics compiled by Kranthi, in the Punjab, the use of insecticide to control bollworm has dropped by 6,599 tonnes in 2003 to 222 tonnes in 2011. Similarly, the use of insecticides to control sucking pests has more than doubled from 2,909 tonnes in 2003 to 6,372 tonnes in 2011. So there is a reduction overall in pesticide use. However, the introduction of GM Bt cotton in the Punjab did not start until 2005 – when the increase in insecticides began against sucking pests.

    As I tried to emphasize, it is the ethos that’s wrong. Healthy plants are grown in healthy soils that incorporate a wide range of “natural” allies in pest control. It is a balance – impact one facet of that and there are always consequences.

    The main problem in many developing countries is not this pest or that pest as those are symptoms of a much more serious problem. That problem is soil erosion often initially from slash and burn farming but later from heavy winds and rains that wash out the life in soils. Relying on Bt brinjal, in those circumstances, is really a bit like playing the fiddle whilst Rome burns.

    • Foster Boondoggle says:

      Jonathan – Your comments here and above seem to be entirely orthogonal to the “issue” of Bt brinjal. If there are better techniques for soil management, phosphorus input, general pest resistance and so on, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be implemented *along* with using Bt brinjal to vastly reduce losses due to one particularly pernicious bug.

      Your opposition to this one tool (GE) seems to push you to some pretty weak motivated reasoning — misstatements (e.g., about loss of diversity – the Bt brinjal is just the Bt version of an existing widely planted brinjal), outright lies (about the cost of seeds) and conspiracy theorizing (about profit motives – though at least you didn’t mention the-firm-that-must-not-be-named).

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      I did not mention the cost of seed at all. What I did mention was the consequential price hikes in foods as a result of crop epidemics caused by genetic uniformity. Easily verifiable, not least by looking at the rise in the price of US corn in 1970 to 1972.

      As to genetic uniformity this from Oregon University:

      The green revolution has resulted in farmers planting fewer varieties of the crops that they grow so that they can focus on use of high yielding varieties. In addition, the varieties that are planted have been bred to a high degree of genetic uniformity within each variety. Both of these approaches are a change from past practices, in which farmers planted a large number of different, often locally-adapted, varieties, each of which generally contained a large number of different genotypes.

      Thus the green revolution results in losses of genetic diversity over both the short and the long term. (Here I’m using “genetic diversity” simply to refer to the number of different genotypes in a variety or area.)

      For example, in India farmers have planted 30,000 different varieties of rice over the past 50 years, with the varieties grown in a region closely matched to its soils, climate and so forth. With the advent of green revolution varieties, this has changed. It is estimated that 75% of all rice fields in India were planted to just 10 varieties in 2005!

      Similar trends are found in most regions of the world in which the green revolution has been adopted.

      On average, across all crops grown in the US. over 90% of the varieties grown 100 years ago are no longer in commercial production or maintained in major seed storage facilities.

      In 1903, US seed catalogs listed 408 pea varieties; only 25 can be found now (a 95% decrease) and by 1970, just two pea varieties comprised 96% of the US commercial crop.

      Seventy one percent of US corn acreage in 1991 was planted to just six varieties.

      Nine varieties of wheat occupy half of all the wheat land in the US.

      Genetic diversity of livestock has been similarly diminished over recent decades.

      WHY DOES GENETIC DIVERSITY WITHIN AND AMONG CROPS MATTER?

      Plant responses to many stresses, both biotic (such as pathogens or pests) and abiotic (such as drought or temperature extremes) are at least partly under genetic control (examples will follow). Thus, flexibility in response to these stresses is increased when there is relatively more genetic diversity present at the population or landscape levels. Greater flexibility means greater stability in production, as entire fields (or crops, at the landscape level) are less likely to be weakened or eliminated by pests, pathogens, or extremes of climate.

  7. Kalomchi Fakir says:

    It’s better to send a rejoinder to New Age. But so far I know the BARI, Monsanto, Mahyco, Cornell University – none has sent the rejoinder.

    It’s interesting that Mark Lynas only talks about the MUNSUR Sarker’s field.
    The New Age reported about three more fields of Bt brinjal of – MASUD Sarker, Haidul Islam and Mojibur Rahman.

    It also reported that the Munsur Sarker’s filed was better that the three others but it came under shoot borer attack.

    New Age also reported that the BARI removed its signboard set up at the MASUD Sarker’s field as the Bt brinjal came to flop.

    But Mr Lynas is silent about those.

    New Age also reported quoting BARI director general that the institution distributed Bt brinjal saplings to 20 farmers and he saw 13 among the fields flop.

    So I don’t think that New Age report is false and Mr Lynas’ blog is true.

    • ek chakkar says:

      Is this true, Mark Lynas? As someone who is staunchly for scientific approaches, I would be disappointed that you appear to have used facts selectively. My soft corner for organic and anti-GMO activism is related to economic unfairness surrounding the seed business.

      Please clarify for interested readers.

  8. Jonathan Brown says:

    Micah said it: “It is amazing what gets traction in mainstream media and what is swept up with everything else.”

    The sheer weight of marketing behind GM and the agrochemical industry is such that a great deal of quiet but detailed scientific research work in organic farming has been ignored. Why is it that the proposed UN framework and the advice of all those scientific experts is ignored as somehow being lesser than the genetic science from Monsanto et al?

    The potential and actual of sustainable, organic farming has progressed greatly – it is such a shame that science has turned in on itself and become so damned political.

    Nobody has said that the science I quoted was wrong or misinformed. None have denied the reality of soil erosion or the impacts of climate change. What I talked about was risk and risk management.

    But I stray from the focal point: Bt brinjal is wonderful and will solve all of the food problems in Bangladesh even for people who dislike eggplant. If all that is sought in these comments is a vacuous approbation of GM crops then I’m sorry to disappoint.

    These things cannot be discussed in isolation from the environment in which they are employed and with all the competing issues that come with them. What does Bt do to solve the problems of soil erosion and the loss of micro-nutrients, trace minerals and so on?

    Whilst pesticides have a long history, widespread use only began during the 1940′s when manufacturers began to produce large amounts of synthetic pesticides and their use became widespread.

    So within my lifetime – the 1940′s and 1950′s are thought to have been the start of the “pesticide era.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was only established in 1970 (largely as a consequence of the DDT debacle closely followed by the damage from PCB’s – same corporations) and further amendments were made to the pesticide law in 1972.

    Pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950. Seventy-five percent of all pesticides in the world are used in developed countries, but use in developing countries is increasing though many would argue that this increase is unnecessary.

    • Foster Boondoggle says:

      “Bt brinjal is wonderful and will solve all of the food problems in Bangladesh even for people who dislike eggplant.” Sarcasm alert required, I think. Has someone said that the eggplant avoiders should be forced to eat it? What exactly are you mocking here?

      You’re not getting any argument on issues of soil erosion or possible benefits of organic practices because they’re completely irrelevant to the question of whether there are benefits to GE Bt. If it weren’t for a first-world obsession with “natural” everything, Prince Charles-style, GE Bt methods would be embraced by environmentalists and “food justice” types as a tool to reduce pesticide use, increase yields and give peasant farmers one more means for improving their circumstances. No one is calling it a magic wand that solves all problems. It’s rather the reverse — anti-GE types who can’t see past their unfounded opposition to acknowledge its benefit in any circumstances whatsoever, and are therefore reduced to cherry-picking studies and irrelevant claims.

  9. Zobaer says:

    The agreement that was signed between US company Monsanto’s Indian affiliate Mahyco and the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute states that Mahyco would get the intellectual property right to Bt Brinjal. When our farmers enjoy ownership of hundreds of varieties of brinjal, the BARI was sacrificing the ownership of brinjal to commercial companies. The BARI was hiding the agreement to give the corporation the control over the food supply. Section 1.19 of the tripartite agreement, said the Bt gene is a Monsanto or Mahyco technology and the intellectual property rights concerned will be infringed by unauthorised distribution of products containing the Bt gene. Sub-section (c) of Section 9.2 of the deal also noted that it can be terminated by the sublicensor or Mahyco if the laws and regulations in Bangladesh do not provide assurance of protection for commercial and intellectual property rights. So the agreement simply focuses on ensuring the commercial and intellectual property of Mahyco. This is surely a kind of biopiracy. We protest the act of biopiracy done by Monsanto-Mahyco and this patent aggression must be stopped.

    Corporate agro giants Monsanto-Mahyco should be charged with the biopiracy of Bangladeshi varieties of brinjal. This patent aggression and biopiracy must be prohibited. We should protest against biocolonialism.

    Besides the IPR, the cross pollination will lead to gene transfer to the other brinjal varieties as well as other related plants, which will definitely cause genetic pollution. This genetic pollution must not be allowed asite will be harmful for the biodiversity of the country. Gene transfer to other brinjal varieties will pollute them. So bt brinjal cultivations in the long run will lead to mutation of traditional varieties.

    The health hazards also should be considered. The Mahyco Company had done 90 days test on rats but the tests were not performed according to the correct protocol. The chronic toxicity testing has yet to be done. In addition, the details of the Mahyco test have not been made public.

    The release of genetically modified Bt Brinjal at the farmer level has drawn flak from experts and activists who claim the agencies concerned have not conducted any study on the toxic effect of the varieties. Only a three-month ‘sub-acute toxicity test’ on some different cultivable Bt Brinjal varieties developed in India has been done by the ‘sublicensor’ of the technology, Maharashtrya Hybrid Seed Company Ltd (Mahyco), that neither provides the parameter to judge the longer term toxicity impact on human health nor can be applied to the four different cultivable varieties developed by one of its ‘sublicensees’, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (Bari), they noted.

    • Bluebell March says:

      You learn more..every hour..Who’s RIGHT?…Its always right when money and power enter into the equation….

      wjere there is mony

  10. Fantastic investgation and report Mark, thankyou. So important to have someone on the ground to actually talk to these farmers and report back the truth.

    • Mary M says:

      I was just thinking that–I’m afraid these projects will need to have budget resources for countering activist lies. How ridiculous is that? Security costs, and an information officer, need grant money because activists can’t win in the scientific journals. They have to use media misinformation and the courts.

      Reducing pesticide use is an important effort. It’s astonishing to me that people who call themselves environmentalists want to thwart that.

  11. Mary Boote says:

    Mark, I really appreciate your story – the real-life challenges that the farmers are facing, Bt technology as one of the tools that is being accepted and being found effective – and the photos to back it up. You are very correct in your assertion that others are watching this technology access very closely. The anti-GMO lobby that does not want this technology acceptance to expand but there are other farmers across India, SE Asia and around the world who are reading your stories and sharing with opinion leaders as they work to have access to the appropriate technology that will allow their farms to grow in productivity and profitability. Please keep these stories coming!

  12. Satyanarayana says:

    Jonathan Brown,

    I am from India and would be glad if you can let me know of any Indian retail chain or any other stores/source you are aware (since retail chains can be MNC) from where i can procure the organic grains and other produce for my family.

    I wish to be organic produce consumer but I cannot afford to buy the organic produce from the stores i visit in my city (they are priced nearly 2-3 times the normal price). I do not have land to cultivate so that i can produce organically myself. The organic products available in the cities (atleast in India) cater to the super rich who can pay the premium. I would love to feed my children the organic produce if i can source it an affordable price.

    • Bluebell March says:

      You would be eating non GE food if the big bio-tech company’s hadn’t inticed your government into letting them test their “Wares” and then giving them the right to grow their toxic crops, that end up in your supermarkets for you to buy and consume. Hey..its all about power and money..Welcome to our world”

  13. Jonathan Brown says:

    Bangladesh is a low lying country that is prone to severe soil erosion from tidal surges, tropical storms and consequential flooding. The problem of soil erosion in Bangladesh is acknowledged as being severe. Bangladesh has a growing population and finite land resources. Food security, in these conditions, is difficult to maintain.

    This is from the Bangladesh government:

    There are many driving forces compelling people in Bangladesh to over-exploit natural resources like land. The main ones are the poverty with rapid
    population growth, improper land use, absence of a land use policy, and ineffective implementation of existing laws and guidelines. Unplanned agricultural practices, and encroachment on forest areas for agriculture and settlements, also put pressure on scarce land resources. Unplanned or
    inadequate rural infrastructure development and the growing demands of increasing urbanization are also devouring productive land. The level of land degradation and its extent vary seasonally and yearly, by region, as well as the pressures on land are not always the same either.

    Improper Use of Pesticides

    Farmers of Bangladesh are using pesticides since 1957 and at present on an average of 12-15 thousand tons of pesticides is used every year.
    Insecticide accounts for about 90 per cent of the total consumed pesticide, and is used most for cultivating vegetables and Rabi crops (BBS, 1984
    and 1998). Although pesticides are used at low levels still they are a cause of land degradation. The pesticides sprayed over standing crops ultimately
    contaminate the surrounding soil. Research findings show that pesticides applied at the rate of about one kilogram per hectare contaminates the topsoil to a depth of about 30 cm. The pesticides not only destroy harmful insects, but also destroy useful topsoil microbes, which eventually reduce the
    biological nutrient replenishment of the soil.

    http://www.moef.gov.bd/html/state_of_env/pdf/bangladesh_land.pdf

    As I have pointed out in earlier postings Bt bringal is not effective against many sucking pests. I have cited examples where pesticide use has dropped overall but not by as much as is claimed as there are increases in the use of other pesticides.

    I hear much about the lies of the anti-GMO lobby and I try not to repeat them (not always easy when they are so blatant.) However, the distortions and exaggerations of the pro-GMO lobby are equally pernicious – how many times have the agro-chemical companies been forced to withdraw advertising because of false claims? Not least being the much claimed increased yields, whereas, the truth is a short term gain but all too often a medium to long term term drop in yields. I can give various studies that have concluded similarly.

    Much emphasis has been placed on GM being but one tool in a range of agricultural tools. Sounds good, but if the effect of using that tool is to the exclusion of other tools and creates risks that may have catastrophic consequences then is the risk of them worth it? The 1970 to 72 corn epidemic in the US was over 60 years in the making.

  14. Lourdes Taylo says:

    Dear Mark: Thank you for your correct and responsible write up similar to the report made by Prof. Tony Shelton. Indeed, anti GM advocates have gone desperate enough to report what they were experts about: scare tactics, all lies and deceit, without validated proof of evidence. New Age should castigate the irresponsible writer, of course, bad news are more interesting and would cater a lot of readers…I commend the Minister of Agriculture for having the political will to see the benefits of biotech crops for a greater part of the Bangladeshi people. How I wish that the Bt eggplant in the Philippines decided favorably by the Appellate Court in favor of Greenpeace et al be overturned by the wise minds of the honorable Supreme Court justices. Come to think of it, both technologies advocate for a safe, productive with no negative impacts to the environment…but there is a sense of urgency brought about by overpopulation 9Billion in 2050 and limited arable land and dooming climate change what technology will the people use???.

  15. Jonathan Brown says:

    Mark – you said:”These Bangladeshi farmers all use pesticide in huge quantities on their brinjal crop, otherwise they lose all of it to pests.”

    The Bangladesh government say: “Although pesticides are used at low levels still they are a cause of land degradation.”

    Who should I believe?

  16. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, I won’t resort to swearing but the absolute nature of your condemnation of any criticism of golden rice demonstrates an inability to consider any alternative arguments.

    How little you know about rice. Flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil. Generally, rice does not thrive in a waterlogged area, yet it can survive and grow therein and it can also survive temporary flooding. A controlled water supply is essential – the emphasis being a controlled ample supply of water.

    This is what the World Health Organisation says: WHO’s goal is the worldwide elimination of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and its tragic consequences, including blindness, disease and premature death. To successfully combat VAD, short-term interventions and proper infant feeding must be backed up by long-term sustainable solutions. The arsenal of nutritional “well-being weapons” includes a combination of breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation, coupled with enduring solutions, such as promotion of vitamin A-rich diets and food fortification.

    Planting the seeds
    The basis for lifelong health begins in childhood. Vitamin A is a crucial component. Since breast milk is a natural source of vitamin A, promoting breastfeeding is the best way to protect babies from VAD.

    From 1977 to 1986 the Infant Formula Campaign and Nestlé Boycott brought about significant reforms in the life-threatening marketing of infant formula in developing countries. The work of Corporate Accountability International and allies contributed to the passage of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981.

    Groups such as the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Save the Children claim that the promotion of infant formula over breastfeeding has led to health problems and deaths among infants in less economically developed countries. There are four problems that can arise when poor mothers in developing countries switch to formula:

    Formula must normally be mixed with water, which is often contaminated in poor countries, leading to disease in vulnerable infants. Because of the low literacy rates in developing nations, many mothers are not aware of the sanitation methods needed in the preparation of bottles. Even mothers able to read in their native language may be unable to read the language in which sterilization directions are written.

    Although some mothers can understand the sanitation standards required, they often do not have the means to perform them: fuel to boil water, electric (or other reliable) light to enable sterilisation at night.

    UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child.

    Many poor mothers use less formula powder than is necessary, in order to make a container of formula last longer. As a result, some infants receive inadequate nutrition from weak solutions of formula.

    Breast milk has many natural benefits lacking in formula. Nutrients and antibodies are passed to the baby while hormones are released into the mother’s body. Breastfed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from a number of illnesses, including diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, gastroenteritis, ear infection, and respiratory infection.

    Breast milk contains the right amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development. The bond between baby and mother can be strengthened during breastfeeding.

    Frequent and exclusive breastfeeding can also delay the return of fertility, which can help women in developing countries to space their births. The World Health Organization recommends that, in the majority of cases, babies should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months

    For deficient children, the periodic supply of high-dose vitamin A in swift, simple, low-cost, high-benefit interventions has also produced remarkable results, reducing mortality by 23% overall and by up to 50% for acute measles sufferers.

    Cultivating the garden, both literally and figuratively, is the next phase necessary to achieve long-term results. For vulnerable rural families, for instance in Africa and South-East Asia, growing fruits and vegetables in home gardens complements dietary diversification and fortification and contributes to better lifelong health.

    Does a healthy human require one vitamin or many? Does man need many micro-nutrients, minerals and so on or just one? Again, it is this bloody patronizing know-it-all attitude that basically accepts and condemns people to lifelong poverty, that I find deeply offensive. It is poverty and concomitant lack of education that is the underlying cause of VAD.

  17. Jonathan Brown says:

    I have to withdraw my earlier post as I mixed what the WHO said with relevant but non-WHO made comments about formula baby milk.

  18. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, I won’t resort to swearing but the absolute nature of your condemnation of any criticism of golden rice demonstrates an inability to consider any alternative arguments.

    How little you know about rice. Flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil. Generally, rice does not thrive in a waterlogged area, yet it can survive and grow therein and it can also survive temporary flooding. A controlled water supply is essential – the emphasis being a controlled ample supply of water.

    This is what the World Health Organisation says: WHO’s goal is the worldwide elimination of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and its tragic consequences, including blindness, disease and premature death.

    To successfully combat VAD, short-term interventions and proper infant feeding must be backed up by long-term sustainable solutions. The arsenal of nutritional “well-being weapons” includes a combination of breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation, coupled with enduring solutions, such as promotion of vitamin A-rich diets and food fortification.

    Planting the seeds
    The basis for lifelong health begins in childhood. Vitamin A is a crucial component. Since breast milk is a natural source of vitamin A, promoting breastfeeding is the best way to protect babies from VAD.

    For deficient children, the periodic supply of high-dose vitamin A in swift, simple, low-cost, high-benefit interventions has also produced remarkable results, reducing mortality by 23% overall and by up to 50% for acute measles sufferers.

    Cultivating the garden, both literally and figuratively, is the next phase necessary to achieve long-term results. For vulnerable rural families, for instance in Africa and South-East Asia, growing fruits and vegetables in home gardens complements dietary diversification and fortification and contributes to better lifelong health.

    Although some mothers can understand the sanitation standards required in the preparation of baby formula, they often do not have the means to perform them: fuel to boil water, electric (or other reliable) light to enable sterilisation at night.

    UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child.

    Many poor mothers use less formula powder than is necessary, in order to make a container of formula last longer. As a result, some infants receive inadequate nutrition from weak solutions of formula.

    Breast milk has many natural benefits lacking in formula. Nutrients and antibodies are passed to the baby while hormones are released into the mother’s body. Breastfed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from a number of illnesses, including diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, gastroenteritis, ear infection, and respiratory infection.

    Breast milk contains the right amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development. The bond between baby and mother can be strengthened during breastfeeding.

    Frequent and exclusive breastfeeding can also delay the return of fertility, which can help women in developing countries to space their births. The World Health Organization recommends that, in the majority of cases, babies should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months.

    From 1977 to 1986 the Infant Formula Campaign and Nestlé Boycott brought about significant reforms in the life-threatening marketing of infant formula in developing countries. The work of Corporate Accountability International and allies contributed to the passage of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981.

    Groups such as the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Save the Children claim that the promotion of infant formula over breastfeeding has led to health problems and deaths among infants in less economically developed countries. There are four problems that can arise when poor mothers in developing countries switch to formula:

    Formula must normally be mixed with water, which is often contaminated in poor countries, leading to disease in vulnerable infants. Because of the low literacy rates in developing nations, many mothers are not aware of the sanitation methods needed in the preparation of bottles. Even mothers able to read in their native language may be unable to read the language in which sterilization directions are written.

    Does a healthy human require one vitamin or many? Does man need many micro-nutrients, minerals and so on or just one? Again, it is this bloody patronizing know-it-all attitude that basically accepts and condemns people to lifelong poverty, which I find deeply offensive. It is poverty and concomitant lack of education that is the underlying cause of VAD.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Jonathan:

      You are still talking rubbish.You are also distorting the argument and behaving dishonestly. Nobody is pretending that GR is the sole answer to VAD or even the ultimate cure. What they are suggesting is that it is one weapon in an arsenal against this disease. Vitamin A rich diets are simply beyond the means of these people. They aren’t stupid and would eat such a diet if they could, but often the kind of vegetables they need to eat wouldn’t grow well in their soils, or be subject to attack by pests or would haate the climate…there are sound reasons why they don’t have them to hand.

      Vitamin A supplementation is *expensive*. Allowing people to grown their own biofortified foods is much cheaper. I would imagine anyway that you had never heard of this disease until GR came along, like all the other anti-GR campaigners. Their attitude seems to be: ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; Teach a man a fish, and he’ll upset the aquatic ecosystem, so we’ll keep him on a fish a day allowance.’

      I am and always will be on this side of the people with good ideas – like GR – and the determination and wherewithal to make them happen. As opposed to deadweight organizations and thinkers like Greenpeace and sundry others who really don’t have any ideas of their own and who do nothing but *oppose*. You are in the latter category: you talk a lot of negative cant but do *nothing*. As Swift wrote: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Ingo Potrykus is a genius: whether or not you choose to play the part of the dunce is up to you entirely. But from what I’ve heard from you so far, I really don’t think you have any other openings available.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Oh, and one last comment on this subject:
      “Does a healthy human require one vitamin or many? Does man need many micro-nutrients, minerals and so on or just one? Again, it is this bloody patronizing know-it-all attitude that basically accepts and condemns people to lifelong poverty, which I find deeply offensive. It is poverty and concomitant lack of education that is the underlying cause of VAD.”

      Quite probably, yes. So, feel free to build this better educated world free from poverty. I won’t stop you, in fact I’d welcome it with open arms. The opportunity is on your doorstep.

      In the meantime, just GET OUT OF OUR WAY!

  19. Selvam says:

    It is often said that GM technology is the way forward for controlling the pest in crops. GM technology is the extension of pesticide way of controlling the pests only. Pests could never be kept under control through these methods as the insects develop resistance to every kind of the attempt we make. That’s why we are with Bt II and Bt.III. And in a few years of time it would be yet different types. And each one fails after some time. If the purpose of the scientists is to manage the pest then they should look the issue from different angle. From Natures perspective.
    Organic farmers do cultivate the Cotton and Brinjal for many years in organic ways and they have very less pest problem than to their fellow farmers who are cultivating with chemicals and Bt. kinds. And their yields are not lower a tall. Hence the farmers are happy to continue in organic ways and many sell their produce in the local market only and did not get the premium price benefits. Yet they continue to do in organic means. The only reason is their crops have lesser pest and have easy and low cost methods to control them.

    If the scientists concern is managing the pest why they are not all ready to see other viable options already in use and study them, improve them. Integrated pest management for Cotton was developed by India long back and was quite successful. Following it IPM technology was developed for so many crops including Brinjal. But when the GM technolgy was brought in the whole efforts were diverted to GM and all the funds are for Biotechnology researches only. But the farmers are still continuing with the same organic ways and keep developing many ways to tackle the pest problems.
    When we have a technique to control the same peat at the lowest possible cost why you all keep trying to push the GM crops on us. All such efforts are to benefit the seed and chemical corporates only and not for the farmers and the consumers.
    Please stop all these bang bangs, fire works and get to the fields and start reworking your priorities.

  20. Selvam says:

    I have two questions to you Mr.Lynas. And hope you would respond back. Can you give the credit of increased yield in cotton to the Bt. and associated genes? Aren’t the other agronomic practices responsible for the increased yields?
    As we are organic farmers and using the traditional varieties and cultivars. Can you ensure that the inserted genes would not reach our crops and contaminate them. Is it not the responsibility of the people like to ensure that your products dont destroy ours? What are the ways you suggest to ensure to avoid contamination of our crops by these genes?Please comment on these in a straight forward manner. I am not a scientist but a farmer.

  21. John Fryer says:

    One commenator sums it up perfectly

    I’d like to hear from you what possible risks from growing this crop could possibly outweigh the consequences of not doing so.

    If we dont grow GMO food crops then the advocates claim Armaggedon will strike us.

    While the opponents claim the same if we grow GMO foods.

    Might is right and today we have now GMO propagating in this part of Asia.

    Nobody that is sane denies the crops grow and have advantages. That is the point the genes will spill over and contaminateforever the plants that were previously free of the genes.

    What are the genes?

    They are TOXIC to animals that eat the plant and hence provide the advantage.

    But we have to accept the expert view that the TOXIN that destroys insects et al that try to eat the plant are completely non-toxic to humans and beneficial animals.

    This is not at all clear to me when the human genes are all different from one another.

    The same non-human toxicity is claimed for any and every pesticide or other -cide used in growing foods for the past few decades but mysteriously parallelling growth of nervous and brain type disorders in both young and old for which we have absolutely no clues to the origin and increase..

  22. John Fryer says:

    One commenator sums it up perfectly

    I’d like to hear from you what possible risks from growing this crop could possibly outweigh the consequences of not doing so.

    If we dont grow GMO food crops then the advocates claim Armaggedon will strike us.

    While the opponents claim the same if we grow GMO foods.

    Might is right and today we have now GMO propagating in this part of Asia.

    Nobody that is sane denies the crops grow and have advantages. That is the point the genes will spill over and contaminateforever the plants that were previously free of the genes.

    What are the genes?

    They are TOXIC to animals that eat the plant and hence provide the advantage.

    But we have to accept the expert view that the TOXIN that destroys insects et al that try to eat the plant are completely non-toxic to humans and beneficial animals.

    This is not at all clear to me when the human genes are all different from one another.

    The same non-human toxicity is claimed for any and every pesticide or other -cide used in growing foods for the past few decades but mysteriously parallelling growth of nervous and brain type disorders in both young and old for which we have absolutely no clues to the origin and increase..

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Well, if you’re so afraid of this toxin then you’d better not eat organic food, because it’s sprayed all over it in large quantities. That’s right: Bt comes from Bacillus thuringiensis, a common soil bacterium that’s used as an organic pesticide.

      So, either Bt is a terrible toxin to humans and animals and organic farmers have been poisoning us, or it isn’t. W]hich one do you think is true?

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Clyde

      Bt used in organic farming.

      And Bt integrated in GMO food crops.

      Are two different entities.

      Eating GMO food exposes us to the viruses and bacteria necessary to form the novel foods et al.

      Bt bacteria used in organic farming does not reach our food plates.

      Many years ago in Israel they did experiments irrigating tomatoes et al with pathogens of extreme toxicity which did not survive through to the plate.

      Not sure if they actually ate the foods so grown orjust testedfor elimination of the viruses/bacteria et al.

      Many researchers believe bees are dying from eating GMO Bt foods and although as with all things in this area there is debate, denial et al it is interesting experts are being bought by Big pHARMa to prop up the propaganda that bees are ok with GMO Bt food.

      I am no expert on the Bt as used in organic farming and GMO Bt food but anyone who thinks the two are exactly doing the same thing is propagating falsehoods as they are two distinct technologies.

      I would take this further and ask if the toxic E Coli that keeps turning up originates from fecal contamination or the incorporation in GMO foods?

      The origins of using E Coli for GMO hybridisation were originally based on it being safe and part of our gut flora.

      The same logic was used for Bt.

      A similar change may or may not be causing harm in GMO Bt foods.

      Something to investigate rather than throw unsubstantiated opinions around on whichever side of the debate.

      As far as I know there has been no proper practical evaluations that establish safety or otherwise for GMO Bt foods.

      In this debate no one has yet quoted any safety studies on eating this product called food.

      Back to Professor Seralini who took ten years to prove harm and ten seconds for his work to be rubbished by the GMO lobbies.

      Are you aware of and can you direct us to tests on eating GMO Bt egg plants other than life forms 100 per cent killed when they eat the stuff?

  23. Zobaer says:

    Mark Lynas, please watch the video uploaded by Jahan, video link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10203588903984253
    Here the farmer Mujibur said that most of the bt crops are struggling and dried, some are dead, and he complained against the bt promoter, he want compensation for the crop failure, But Mr. Mark just ignored the field of these farmers! This video proved that the New Age report was correct, new age report stated that “Most of the Bt brinjal plants in the field of Majibur Rahman at the village were found dead and the rest were dying.Majibur said that his plants were growing well but suddenly came under attack of pests and started dying although the institute had claimed that BT brinjal was pest-proof.He said, ‘Why the BARI made me a guinea pig? Why they make experiments on Bt brinjal in lands of poor farmers like me?’ But Mr. Mark in his blog propagated false propaganda against new age report and he claimed that the report was false. I think Mark must not be allowed to propagate false image of journalists of Bangladesh.

  24. Zobaer says:

    “Monsanto has no role in the project, and the intellectual property of Bt brinjal is held by BARI for the government and people of Bangladesh.” Mr. Mark your comment on the IPR of bt brinjal is absolutely wrong. I had commented above about the IPR, i have a copy of the agreement that was signed between US company Monsanto’s Indian affiliate Mahyco and the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute which states that Mahyco would get the intellectual property right to Bt Brinjal. Section 1.19 of the agreement, said the Bt gene is a Monsanto or Mahyco technology and the intellectual property rights concerned will be infringed by unauthorised distribution of products containing the Bt gene. Sub-section (c) of Section 9.2 of the deal also noted that it can be terminated by the sublicensor or Mahyco if the laws and regulations in Bangladesh do not provide assurance of protection for commercial and intellectual property rights. So the agreement simply focuses on ensuring the commercial and intellectual property of Mahyco. And you should also know that Monsanto enjoys 40% shares of indian Mahayco. Article 9.2 (c): Early termination: This Agreement may be terminated by Sublicensor (read MHSCL) if in Sublicensor’s judgement, reasonably exercised, laws and regulations in the Territory (read Bangladesh) do not provide adequate assurance of protection for commercial and intellectual property rights, including, but not limited to: i) effective, legal and practical protection of Licensed Domestic Eggplant Products, the B.t. Gene and/or MHSCL Technology against unauthorized reproduction; and ii) implementation in the Territory of legislation affording protection for patented technology incorporated in living organisms;

  25. Karim says:

    Hello Mr. Mark Lynas, your capitalist head tries to take control of poor Bangladeshi farmers’ farmland, so for their survival they have to pay you whatever your company demands as price of seeds. You are showing picture of One Sarkar’s brinjal farmland. What about other 3 farmers those were reported in Newage? Here is the link of video of one of those 3 failed farmers land..
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10203588903984253

  26. John Fryer says:

    The situation with the 20 farmers seems unclear with some claiming success and others failure with their novel seeds.

    Difficult to see through the propaganda.

    Nothing in the discussions which talks of the viruses and bacteria inserts into every gene of every GMO plant or the possible long term harm or benefits of a built in insecticide which we are led to believe is totally harmless to humans.

    Mark uses very suggestive language (a fault with all of us?) when he puts the alternative at an alleged chemical toxin spray daily on our food plants.

    After all this incessant and repeated fertiliser and pesticide et al spray is the still used method for increased yields that replaced the discredited organic method of farming making a come back certainly here in France.

    Chemical pesticide farming was the authority policy that destroyed organic farming partly by reducing costs rather than improving the quality or amount of food grown; Money talks.

    And money is talking here. These farmers get their seeds free but this still means they jeopardise past methods of culture for new ones of some uncertainty. Will those farmers failing to grow their Bt seeds be compensated? Not very likely with seeds given ‘FREE’. And not likely when they have to buy them in the future.

    Mark enjoyed a trip to Asia no doubt without financial loss to himself but is he being guided to those who had success and who translated what the farmers said?

    The reports in the press (many very negative) are from locals and those who understand their own language.

    As an Englishman in France it is all too easy to be in the position of an imbecile simply because communication of any significance is impossible until you mast the language. Something that takes time.

    The health issues of GMO crops are the number one issue and the retraction of the ten year study of Professor Seralini on just one Monsanto food crop shows nobody is doing this work and if they do they wont get junkets to the other side of the world to enjoy. And if not in countries like France that have USA GMO foodstuff foisted on them despite French government bans on growing the stuff for consommation by the people he would likely lose his job and status.

    Development of seeds has moved from many, careful and long studies to that of the very big, very powerful and as seen here; not always with 100 per cent success and certainly taking RISKS with human health by OMISSION of fundamental studies on long term safety or even as here short term gains and even yields that cant match the old failed pesticide system by the same companies that now impose their new, safe and better system if only to them.

    I would support GMO like Mark possibly for the financial benefits, trips round the world et al but not for the benefit of the long term future of people that will one day pay for this toxic impreganation into the very few plants that wecansafely eat today and may already be paying when we see the ballooning up of people that coincidentally ingest GMO food.

    Note in these pictures there is little sign here of over weight indicivuals that are now prevalent today.

    • Buck Field says:

      I don’t think it’s difficult to see through the propaganda.

      Simply take the strongest argument from each side, which I think are known humanitarain benefits on the pro-GM side, and unknown, uncontrollable risks on the other.

      If we possess a virtue of righteousness as primary, we probably see GMO’s as good. OTOH, if we hold “First, do no harm.” as our top guide, we will tend to want unbiased evidence no harm exists.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi

      Your idea of taking the strongest arguments for each side is fine but you choose carefully what you consider strong:

      Humanitarian as a choice for the Pro GMO lobby seems faulty as the benefits are not at all clear.

      Paying (which after the free trials will be certain) will raise the priceof seed and sometimes this is so high that farmers have to borrow money and hence the continuing trend to the big farmer as the small oneslose out to technology et al.

      Then you claim the risks are unclear. they are only unclear when you state carte blanche they are safe with no proof other than the power of propaganda.

      I wait not for decades for anyone even to discuss openly the use of viruses (SV40 etc etc) and bacteria (E Coli, Bt etc etc) necessary in every GMO novel organism.

      This is before looking at neutral points such as yields, use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers etc etc.

      What is abundantly clear is the power of might and the unstoppable expansion of GMO organisms worldwide with this first in Asia now.

      There are many people suffering health issues many of which can and never will be the cause of GMO foods in Europe and USA but who is even trying to look and publish their work.

      Professor Seralini first had to raise money, then work in secretbut the result even when published was attacked immediately and the power of might meant even this work good bad or awful was retracted.

      The new weapon being used with ever uncreasing frequency.

      Coupled with some bullying as in America de South with a bit of bashing of those objectors.

      Hardly HUMANITARIAN here?.

    • Buck Field says:

      @John Fryer

      >taking the strongest arguments for each side is fine but you choose carefully what you consider strong

      I try to choose carefully, accepting that I cannot consistently succeed; The world is complex, and the fact is: both sides in the debate appear dominated by ideologically-driven mouthpieces.

      I believe that when the strongest, most reasonable questions of safety go unanswered, then the burden of proof should rests upon the one seeking an advantage from a change.

      In this case, a new plant hybrid is being introduced without open, public investigations into negative health impacts. Rather, substantial investments are being made to both prevent such studies and manipulate public opinion using the media.

      Behavior of those with a financial stake suggest they believe their situation is similar to execs in the past who were producing unsafe products. Automobile executives in the 60′s reacted to “Unsafe at Any Speed” with junk science, as did tobacco companies (successfully) for decades. Those profiting from fossil fuels do the same: assert their profit-making operations are safe. Health insurance execs behave the same.

      If you, I, or anyone reading this were making $15M per year, it would be all but impossible for us to believe our products were not 100% wholesome, yet the corporate behavior tells us they believe the best real science indicates this is not the case – therefore lots of PR.

      This conclusion seems about as certain as we can be about such things.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      @Buck:
      I’ve given up replying to the other two I’ve been debating this issue with as one seems to know all the answers already, and the other just seems to make things up or is scientifically illiterate, or both. So, let’s see if you’re any more receptive or thoughtful. GM crops have been on the market for over 20 years now and over three trillions meals have been eaten. Not a single upset stomach has been reported. You can work out what the maximum risk is of an adverse effect by dividing the number of doses by three. Do the math.

      Now, as anybody will tell you, it is impossible to prove anything ‘safe’. All you can do is to weigh up the risks and benefits of a particular case. In this case, you have people living on the poverty line who have to shell out for expensive pesticides and run the certain risk of pesticide poisoning many times a year, versus some unspecified risk to the environment and biodiversity which *nobody* has been able to articulate to any concrete degree.

      So, I’ll see your nebulous and half-basked fears, and raise you some concrete, specific and significant benefits. Your call.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      If people believe that there has never been a reported upset stomach in 20 years, then I’d probably excuse myself from any debate with them, since we clearly have greatly differing ideas about reality and the nature of what the world is.

      … Especially when 48 hours ago I was laid up in bed with an overdose of monster energy drink!

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Clyde

      You mention and have mentioned the propaganda view that we have eaten X number of meals with not one reported, confirmed case of a health problem.

      X being an astronomic number.

      This is blatant nonsense when first many of the GMO crops are designed to kill the first living creatures that decide they think they can live on them.

      This may seem a silly and obvious point unrelated to humans but is it?

      You miss the point I made and have been making for a very long time that every GMO crop is made by inserting viruses and bacteria into that organism.

      Not of itself a reason to cause any more health issues than for example the 90 per cent plus similarity of small pox genes and human genes.

      But the origins of GMO technology and AIDS have an uncomfortably close and common origin.

      Hybridisation used first the virus SV40 and the bacteria E Coli. Today we still have these in organisms and we still nearly 50 years on still need the viruses and bacteria of these types or others. The technology is so standard that many who use it may be UNAWARE of what is in the brews they use to insert novel genes into material.

      Secrecy is one issue with many developments and the first trials commercial secrets but we are told that the final versions are on the back of an average of a 1 000 or so which failedfor various reasons but may well mean unsuitable and goodness knows what mix of novel organisms have been entering the environment for this 50 years.

      All we know and not provable back to GMO technology is that SV40 and E Coli are no long considered SAFe for humans.

      The complexity as someonesaid means this is only scratching the surface of legitimate concern and one reason it is so dear and so long to get anything to the marketplace.

      Another issue is that of lampooning people who have tested and/ or have concernsof any kind about this technology.

      France bans the commercial growing for feeding the population but as said imports enough here that I for onehave to forgo many foods I once ate.

      And as a final rebuff my health has suffered unprovably from GMO food I ate but no longer eat (GMO Maize) and is currently better in this respect at least now I avoid it.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “You mention and have mentioned the propaganda view that we have eaten X number of meals with not one reported, confirmed case of a health problem.

      X being an astronomic number.

      This is blatant nonsense when first many of the GMO crops are designed to kill the first living creatures that decide they think they can live on them.

      This may seem a silly and obvious point unrelated to humans but is it?”

      Yes, it’s a very silly and unrelated point. The Cry toxins are specific to the Lepidoptera only. They have been shown to be utterly harmless to humans, animals and other species of insect. If you still don’t believe me, look on the Biofortified website under the GENERA studies. You will find hundreds there that confirm what I have been saying.

      This is not a ‘propaganda point’. This is a deduction I have made myself by looking at the actual facts and applying a statistical rule – the rule of three. Divide the number of doses into three and you get the MAXIMUM risk of an adverse effect to a 95% probability. It’s what doctors use when looking at long term evidence for side effects.

      “You miss the point I made and have been making for a very long time that every GMO crop is made by inserting viruses and bacteria into that organism.”

      No I don’t miss the point at all. I think you’re talking nonsense. Nobody is ‘inserting virus and bacteria’. There are many techniques used to introduce new genetic material into a plant, many of which don’t use viruses or bacteria, and those which no use these organisms as a vector only, and don’t insert anywhere near the whole genome,

      “Not of itself a reason to cause any more health issues than for example the 90 per cent plus similarity of small pox genes and human genes.

      But the origins of GMO technology and AIDS have an uncomfortably close and common origin.”

      This is idiocy. AIDS arose from a wild-type simian virus which mutated enough to be able to jump species. GMO technology has nothing to do with this.

      “Hybridisation used first the virus SV40 and the bacteria E Coli. Today we still have these in organisms and we still nearly 50 years on still need the viruses and bacteria of these types or others. The technology is so standard that many who use it may be UNAWARE of what is in the brews they use to insert novel genes into material.”

      Hybridsation uses no viruses or bacteria whatsoever. You cross two organisms from different species and end up with a third. That’s it.

      “Secrecy is one issue with many developments and the first trials commercial secrets but we are told that the final versions are on the back of an average of a 1 000 or so which failedfor various reasons but may well mean unsuitable and goodness knows what mix of novel organisms have been entering the environment for this 50 years….
      …France bans the commercial growing for feeding the population but as said imports enough here that I for onehave to forgo many foods I once ate…
      And as a final rebuff my health has suffered unprovably from GMO food I ate but no longer eat (GMO Maize) and is currently better in this respect at least now I avoid it.”

      The Bt brinjal project is publicly funded research and the seeds are given free to farmers. Bangladesh is not France. It does not have a population of heavily subsidised and pampered farmers, quite the opposite. It doesn’t also have a population of scientifically illiterate ex-pats who seem to see conspiracies everywhere and suffer rampant hypochondria. It has people living on the breadline who up to now have been forced to spend huge amounts of money on toxic pesticides, simply to have enough to eat. You’re one of the lucky ones in that you get to choose where you live away from the things that frighten you so much. These people don’t get that choice and have rather more immediate and serious issues to grapple with.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Clyde

      Thanks for your comments.

      Your aggravation to call people names does not help or hinder the cause of GMO crops but it does indicate something of your personality that is bets left to psychologists rather than me to explain to you.

      The comments I made are large and I could accuse you of not being up to speedon the technology you love and believe in with a religious fervour.

      Theproblem is that the illiteracy in GMO matters runs through both sides of the argument.

      You claim for example that we do not need viruses, bacteria et alto genetically manipulate novel GMO matter. Can you tell me of one GMO organism where the viruses and bacteria are not present andput there by GMO companies?

      The early GMO forms used E Coli which as said has propagated into hundreds of deadly forms.

      How did safe and essential E Coli descend froman essential in our guts to an organism to be wary of in the short space of the last 50 years or its 100 000 plus years communal life in our guts?

      Today many so called GMO experts are forming new life forms using material purchased from wholesalers and are unaware of what is in them. I am not aware of any novel GMO material devoid of bacteria and viruses but it is a practical point from which to discuss the issues.

      If GMO did not use bacteria and viruses but was if you like truly equivalent to the old methods of cross pollination then one of my main objections is destroyed in one go.

      Years ago nuclear radiation was used to increase the speed of making new forms of life and still is. This has much less risk for me than inserting as in this egg plant fragments of a life form fatal to one form of life and only with some guesswork not affecting humans.

      The history of pesticides was based on its selectivity of non-harm to us. Something that took over 50 years to realise was optimistic at best.

      Today while promoting GMO and denying any harm it is interesting that they use HARM from pesticide use as the main reason to use this new technology.

      I have written endless times over the past decades about pesticide harm only to get the rebuffs of total safety and accusations of scientific illitteracy that you level at those who are more wary than you of this new technology.

      The pendulum swings but the cost are colossal for many.

      You can already see separation of commercial interests from proven GMO harm in the past.

      Noone denies that every effort is made to make the novel forms safe but the secrecy of the disasters may never get to the public.

      One I knew of around 1975 was a worker in this field whose health was totallly destroyed and she told me she had the feeling her work in biotechnolgy was the only logical explanation;

      And of course any such incident is not talked of in the scientific press and the loss of income put this lady in the predicament you claim is normal in Asia.

      For me the levels of education etc are rapidly equalising aroundthe world today.

      And if you take America and its health they have serious and expanding health issues.

      .

  27. Jonathan Brown says:

    Now I know strawberries are not eggplants – Washington State University researchers say they’ve found that organically grown strawberries are more nutritious, flavorful and have a longer shelf life than conventionally grown strawberries. They also leave soil healthier.

    John Reganold, WSU professor of soil science, authored the strawberry study, which was published by the Public Library of Science in its online journal, PLoS ONE. According to Reganold, “Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems.”

    On almost every major indicator, Reganold and his team found the organic fields produced berries equal to or better than the conventional fields. They found that the organic soils had more nutrients and the strawberries themselves had higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamin C.

    The organic soil in which the strawberries were grown was chemically and biologically superior, with key properties including carbon sequestration, nitrogen, enzyme activities and micronutrients.

  28. Jonathan Brown says:

    To answer a question I posed earlier with regard to pesticide use in Bangladesh:

    The insecticides, being the dominant item, account for 76 percent of the pesticides, and per hectare use of pesticides increase around 598.8 percent and its annual import cost stands nearly at 171.43 million U.S. dollars, ASM Nazrul Islam, principal scientific officer of Agricultural Economics Division of BRRI told Xinhua on Wednesday.

    According to the study, the intensity of pesticide use was found especially higher in vegetables in Bangladesh, compared to other countries in the world.

    The overuse of pesticides has been identified as one of the reasons for the decline in the overall export of vegetables from Bangladesh, the survey said.

    The study said the residual effect of these toxic chemicals on vegetables are likely to create different diseases in human bodies including cancer, skin diseases, hypertension and kidney diseases as its long term effect.

    The use of pesticides in vegetables is likely to grow further in the future unless appropriate alternatives, based on integrated pest management approaches, are developed, warned the study.

    Integrated pest management, also known as Integrated Pest Control is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level. Bt may or may not form part of IPM – but could not be part of any organic IPM approach.

    What this report shows is that past overuse of pesticides on vegetables in Bangladesh is a serious problem. However, the residues of overuse may also explain some of the failures and or the success of these Bt brinjal trials. Who knows and who can say without proper research?

    The simplistic approach of these trials as outlined is no real evidence of anything. Yet here we are being told this is or is not the significant truth. What were the soil conditions before these trials? What are the soil conditions afterwards? Has any form of crop rotation been employed on the trial fields leading up to the plantings? So many unanswered questions and these trials give no basis for any confidence either for or against. Part of the problem is the often “silver bullet” approach of science whereas a broader based more area specific range of solutions is a better way forward.

    http://news.agropages.com/News/NewsDetail—3862.htm

  29. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, please tell me how growing carrots is expensive or growing alugbati (Basela alba – one portion of which provides 50% of daily needs of Vitamin A). How about malungai (a tree common in the Philippines) – twice as much vitamin A as carrot. Some of the schools here have gardens that grow these and many other local vegetables that are used in ensuring children, do get at least one decent meal a day. Practical low cost alternatives that supplement the vitamin A needs of children. Know your subject before pontificating.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Of course, all they need is to ‘grow some carrots’ . This possibly can’t have occurred to them already. I mean, these ignorant savages are *so* stupid that they really need somebody like you to point out the error of their ways to them and educate them properly.

      Mark was spot on when he accused you of ‘unfortunate arrogance’. Has it ever *occurred* to you that there may be very good reasons why they like to eat rice? And that fortifying it with Vitamin A might make that available all year round, not just in season?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      I highlighted the point of baby formula and the problems associated with that for good reason. Everyone acknowledged that with baby formula there was a serious problem that needed addressing, hence the development of the various self regulatory frameworks. Those first started during the 1970′s and a recently as a few days ago China tightened regulations regarding the import of Australian baby formula.

      A mother is surely the one person who could be relied upon to put her baby’s health first but even mother’s often gave into the pressures placed upon them from often highly misleading advertising. If advertising was not effective what corporation anywhere in the world would spend any money on it?

      What I find more than a little sad is the blind stupidity of the concept of “give them rice” as though that was all these people wanted to eat.

      If I turned round to you and said only eat potatoes that are fortified with vitamin A because you like potatoes. I’m fairly confident that you would react bluntly and let me know precisely where I could put them and preferably sideways.

      I live with these people day in day out, they are my friends and some are part of my family. So yes, I do find your comments blind and stupid without any basis in the real world that these people occupy.

      In Europe a wide range of food preservation methods were developed because of the need to develop them – long winters, no refrigeration, slow transportation and so on. In the tropics those preservation techniques were not needed – you could plant anything and it would grow year round. Two three and even four crops per year were not unknown. The mango season starts in December and goes on to May.

      Soil depletion and erosion is changing all of that and growing crops has become much more marginal as a consequence. Add to that a growing population and the pressures on yield become much greater.

      Transportation too is a much more difficult and unpredictable problem here with an inadequate road or rail network. Some of the vegetables I eat are transported by horseback because that’s much quicker and cheaper than by road.

      What the people are looking for is how best to address these broad ranging problems. On the one side they are being told GMO is the way to go but that doesn’t assist with soil erosion or depletion nor does it look at poor infrastructure or inadequate water supply. As I said earlier, the problem of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is about poverty and being able to afford to buy a balanced diet. Golden rice does nothing to address poverty and acts more like a set of manacles to perpetuate poverty.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Enough. I’ve heard some arrogant, complacent and utterly mendacious rubbish in my time, but to suggest that a crop designed solely to stop hundreds of thousands of children from either dying or going blind might ‘perpetuate poverty’ is the most asinine, dishonest and inhumanly callous statement I’ve come across for decades. Next you’ll be trying to claim that iodised salt causes cretinism and vaccines were responsible for the Black Death.

      How do people like you face yourself in the mirror in the morning?

      Over and out (and well out of it, too).

    • Buck Field says:

      Clyde thinks Monsanto & Syngenta invested tens of millions because they only want to help others.

      Such a sweet innocence!

    • Foster Boondoggle says:

      Much to my shame, I have composed this reply on a device made by Motorola with software from Google, both regrettably profit seeing companies, while you have penned your missives on the bark of a birch tree with India ink that you made yourself. I salute your admirable purity, sir.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Did you not see any of the footage of Tacloban and the consequences of typhoon Yolanda? Whilst Yolanda was extreme it is not that extreme. We face, on average, three severe tropical storms every year and the number is increasing. Yolanda devastated a land area the size of Portugal. How do you think golden rice would fare in those situations?

      I will try once more to explain how the concept of golden rice manacles people into poverty but please try to open your mind to the broader issues. The amount of inputs into the soil is increasing as soil erosion takes it toll. There is no argument about that and significant scientific evidence in support of that argument. I do not care how much you genetically modify any crop you cannot get more out of the soil than is put in except in the very short term.

      By planting a diverse range of plants, soils can recover much more quickly than with monocultures. Monocultures require significant quantities of additional fertilizer to achieve a decent yield in the longer term. If those inputs are increasing then at some point farming becomes a waste of time and energy leaving the occupants either to starve or become dependent upon charity.

      Average rice production in the Philippines is around 3.6 tonnes per hectare. Compare that with malungai (Moringa oleifera) that produces around 400 to 700 tonnes of green matter per year. In India a hectare can produce 31 tons of pods per year. Moringa oleifera can be cultivated for its leaves, pods and/or its kernels for oil extraction and water purification. Moringa trees can also be cultivated in alleys, as natural fences and associated with other crops.

      The distance between moringa rows in an agroforestry cultivation are usually between 2 to 4 meters. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree, native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India, and widely cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical areas where its young seed pods and leaves are used as a vegetable. It is also useful in slowing soil erosion.

      Moringa or malungai produces more edible food per hectare than rice. The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, being a significant source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese and protein, among other essential nutrients. When compared with common foods particularly high in certain nutrients per 100 g fresh weight, cooked moringa leaves are considerable sources of these same nutrients. The leaves can be dried so as to be available all year round and still retain much of the nutritional value.

      Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Five NGOs in particular — Trees for Life International, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church World Service, Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, and Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa — have advocated moringa as “natural nutrition for the tropics.” One author stated that “the nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent.”

      Moringa is especially promising as a food source in the tropics because the tree is in full leaf at the end of the dry season when other foods are typically scarce.

      All of that said, it is only one of many alternative vegetables that could be grown in the tropics that can and do address VAD issues and undernourishment.

      The “Green Revolution” was accompanied by an expanded use of chemical inputs in the Philippines. Among farmers surveyed in Central Luzon, the quantity of insecticide active ingredient applied per hectare increased tenfold from 1966 to 1979, from less than 0.1 kilogram per hectare to nearly 1.0 kilogram per hectare. By the mid-1990′s, this figure had been cut in half. Since then, use has declined even more, and levels of insecticide use are now slightly below what they were before the Green Revolution began.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      @Buck: Monsanto had nothing to do with Golden Rice. Surprisingly, Monsanto has nothing to do with most of the things that go on in this world, including Bt brinjal. Syngenta on the other had has licensed some of its patents, under the condition that farmers only need to pay royalties if they make >$10,000 profit in a year.

      Now, seeing as how I seem to know more about this subject than you do, and especially before opening my mouth, would you like to add anything I might have missed?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      And the rest of the rice-growing world, are they to eat moringa too? How about in India, where the most recent assessment has over 1.4 million life-years lost because of the unavailability of Golden Rice? All this would be solved by growing moringa, would it?

      The rest of the world has to change the way it does things dramatically because of your idiotic and selfish ideological aversion to biotech. You make me sick.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, all you can do is throw insults. Moringa, I say again, (tiredly and more than a little exasperatedly) is just one of many alternatives that can be grown. You don’t read what is written nor do you accept science; any science that is remotely critical of your wonder GM’s – even if that science comes from the US as in University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry or the US Department of Agriculture. What’s the point…

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Hardly throing insults: I was just saying how your neo-colonialist attitude makes me sick to death. You then go on to say: “You don’t read what is written nor do you accept science; any science that is remotely critical of your wonder GM’s…”
      Funny that. I’ve read an awful lot of the reports on the GENERA site at http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/ , the vast majority of which show no harm and even substantial benefit from growing these foodstuffs. I read *all* the papers, not just those that prop up my own ideological preferences and the consensus is overhwelmingly that these crops are safe. Especially Golden Rice, yet all you have to offer as an alternative is ‘Let them eat moringa/organic/carrots…’

      So, don’t presume to lecture *me* about science. I have a scientific Ph. D., and have worked in research organisations for over 20 years. I’ve forgotten more science than you will ever know.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, what is offered with golden rice is lower volume of usable yields per hectare, less variety of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and so on. Zero wind protection for alley cropping of various other food plants that enable people to enjoy varied diets, neither does golden rice slow soil erosion.

      You know so much about rice that you are unaware that water-logging a rice crop is not good for yield or even that rice can be grown without paddy fields at all.

      You offer no answer to the inherent and acknowledged problems of genetic crop uniformity nor do you or anybody else for that matter offer any alternatives other than pesticides for those pests that are either unaffected by or resistant to Bt. With Bt brinjal that includes thrips, mites, whitefly, leaf hoppers, aphids, spotted beetles, leaf rollers, fire ants, blister beetles and so on.

      Some forms of Bt are harmful to fungi and other microbial life, though the harm tends to be indiscriminate killing good and bad alike. Some fungi, for example, form symbiotic relationships with plant roots assisting with the phosphorous cycle and so on – but then again who am I to mention any of this as I’m sure you know already.

      What I keep hearing from the pro-Bt brinjal group is a great deal of noise but little about pest control management, crop rotation, and so on. All of the emphasis is upon the Bt in Bt brinjal not all the other factors that make for good farming practices. There seems to be no discussion of why pesticides have been so overused. Nor do I hear anything about the non-sustainability of soil depletion and the way that soil micronutrients are being taken out at rates of between ten to forty times the rate at which soils can recover naturally. Healthy soils grow healthy plants, poor soils only provide poor crops and a natural home for a wide variety of pests and diseases.

      As I keep restating; unless and until these much more fundamental issues are addressed, the advantages and or disadvantages of Bt brijal, golden rice and so on really does become moot.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Jonathan
      I doubt very much whether you cared about either of the two issues under discussion in this thread – pesticide poisioning of brinjal famers, and VAD – before biotech got involved and some people immediately started running around like Chicken Little. Some people did, thank God. They came up with creative solutions to problems.

      You, on the other hand, see nothing but problems with every solution. You really didn’t and don’t have any ideas of your own to address these issues, and it seems that you’re not prepared to allow other people to experiment to determine whether theirs are any better. You lecture other people about understanding science and reading about it without actually understanding yourself that before the reading takes place the experimenting has to happen. You also talk like you have all the answers already, but are woefully lacking when it comes to generating anything newer or better than those we do have.

      I have been and always will be on the side of those that do have the ideas and the wherewithal and determination to see them through, not those who stand carping on the sidelines, unable to contribute in any meaningful way.

      Your kind of thinking I term ‘deadweight’. There’s too much of it about right now, and it’s prevailed for too long. As I said beforehand, if you really think your ideas are beter, then put them into action. I won’t stop you. But just GET OUT OF OUR WAY.

    • Joanna says:

      Yes Clyde, from your comments, money is more important.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      @Joanna: is that the best you can do? Pathetic.

    • Joanna says:

      Everyone who comments, and doesn’t agree with your views, you are very rude in your replies to them. I think you should cut those damn GMO’s out of your diet, and eat organic.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      With NO respect whatsoever: I don’t eat GMOs. I can’t because I don’t get the choice to because they aren’t on sale in our supermarkets. And I’m rude to you because you seem to have not read my comments at all but come up with a glib, opportunistic, superficial and asinine analysis of what I have been saying.
      No, ‘money’ is not the most important thing here. A spirit of open unfettered scientific inquiry is. These people need all the opportunities they can get without people like you and Jonathan circumscribing them and exporting their own neuroses about food.

  30. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, there is enough food in this world to feed everybody. The problem is not growing the food so much as preservation or effective storage and efficient distribution of it.

    Ensuring that people at a small, localised community level consistently have sufficient to eat without being a burden to others is a major step forward in alleviating poverty.

    It would be easy to say that the people I work couldn’t give a damn about any of the broader issues outside of having enough to eat, consistently. Though even that’s not true as they often show greater compassion to others than many of the so-called well off.

    I am not anti-Bt brinjal but appreciate that Bt has its limitations and is no silver bullet that can solve all problems. From that base position move to the position that the real issues just might be much, much more complex than very simplistic vision that the agri-chemical companies generally promote and advertise.

    Even some well known scientists are now saying that we really know little or nothing about the true impacts of climate change and the effects upon soils and soil depletion. I have little argument with genetic modification of plants but cannot see the advantages when weighed up against a broader range of viable alternatives. Even in the US soils are being depleted at a rate of ten times faster than they can replenish themselves.

    The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.

    A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi

      Thanks for the link to food crops and the reduction in food values in them.

      The over growing of food does indicate just such expected depletions have been found in research studies.

      But further and difficult to prove is that this degradation in quality must perforce cause the plants to be weaker hence the spiral of increased pesticides and other chemical killers that is spoken of as meaning the companies responsible must now be trusted that this time they have got it right.

      They have certainly got the power and money sorted out right. And in the short term even their propaganda is correct. But there is the problem that right or wrong people never wanted chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers and it is arrogant for these companies now 40 years later to destroy their brain child of intensive farming by actually late in the day admitting the terrible harm that has been done by pesticide residues on several generation of humans.

      The video by Cornell is all persuasive that Bt egg plants are the way forward and all is well.

      It certainly gave me food for thought.

      But the claim that Bt kills bad life forms with 100 per cent efficiency and doesnt affect other animals has been tested by them.

      Where are the research papers to show this simple fact of harmlessness tous and other animals?

      Its one thing in a publicity film tomake these claims but quite another to prove it.

      The decline in bees cant be due to Bt technology but there are many with evidence that this is the cause for the decline as well as chemicals still used in even GMO food and other crops.

      Claims of the benefits of GMO cotton indicate the faith we can put in thisfilm when thetruth is that suicides, bankruptcies and GMO crop failures are FACT as well as the successes claimed.

      GMO cotton success is evident as GMO cotton is more and more the only cotton seed available.

      In France we have GMO crops foisted on us.

      In Russia and other countries they resist the trade agreements laid down in pre-GMO days.

      And here in France steps are being made to reduce this over intensity or madness or is it crime against life? The keeping of animals in cages thankfully after 40 or so years is now a crime here. I refer to battery egg farming!

    • Clyde Davies says:

      This isn’t an either/or choice. Give me one good reason – other than ideological why say Golden Rice or Bt brinjal could not be grown with the best organic soil management practices going?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, that’s easy in one word – biodiversity. The exponents of Bt acknowledge that Bt incorporation is only a temporary benefit. Previously, trials using an assortment of rice strains in the same fields has increased yields significantly.

      Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop.

      “According to Jaisingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, farmer S Sethumadhavan from Alanganallur has harvested a record yield of nearly 24 tonnes of paddy rice per hectare using the system of rice intensification method (SRI).

      “This is a state record. The Tamil Nadu government has advocated a second green revolution by using more organic fertiliser and less inorganic fertiliser. Our chief minister’s aim is to get double the yield and triple the income of farmers using SRI,” Gnanadurai said.

      The SRI method of growing crops has been developed over 30 years by small farmers in more than 20 countries. It centres on improving the management of the soil, water and nutrients, rather than bolstering the seed, which has been the focus of scientific research for decades.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/may/13/miracle-grow-indian-rice-farmer-sri-system-rice-intensification-record-crop

  31. Clyde Davies says:

    “I am not anti-Bt brinjal but appreciate that Bt has its limitations and is no silver bullet that can solve all problems. From that base position move to the position that the real issues just might be much, much more complex than very simplistic vision that the agri-chemical companies generally promote and advertise.

    Even some well known scientists are now saying that we really know little or nothing about the true impacts of climate change and the effects upon soils and soil depletion. I have little argument with genetic modification of plants but cannot see the advantages when weighed up against a broader range of viable alternatives. Even in the US soils are being depleted at a rate of ten times faster than they can replenish themselves. ”

    The Bt brinjal issue has NOTHING to do with soil depletion and EVERYTHING to do with pest management! They could grown their brinjal in the best soils in the world and stilll lose virtually all of it to pests! And anyway, not having to spray their crops would result in enhanced soil quality!

    How many times do we have to belabour this point before you GET IT?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde you are convinced that your “big” science is the way forwards. I am convinced that sustainable, organic alternatives are better. I have a small project that aims to prove just that.

      The SRI method of growing crops has been developed over 30 years by small farmers in more than 20 countries. It centres on improving the management of the soil, water and nutrients, rather than bolstering the seed, which has been the focus of scientific research for decades.

      I got you point a long time ago – will you please accept mine that there are viable alternatives, SRI being one. There are many localised small-scale organic and sustainable systems that work well – these are the farms that the the UN and similar organisations are trying to promote – yet, somehow you see that as a personal threat to your science.

      You do not answer the science that shows declining food values in crops and in typical scientific fashion take one or two facets of “science” in abstract from a highly inter-related and complex ecosystem.

      Look at your comment: “Your kind of thinking I term ‘deadweight’. There’s too much of it about right now, and it’s prevailed for too long. As I said beforehand, if you really think your ideas are beter, then put them into action. I won’t stop you. But just GET OUT OF OUR WAY.”

      How much of your science is as this:? “He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers.” – Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Part III, Chapter V. Voyage to Laputa. Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Irish writer and satirist.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Answer: none of it. I don’t have any monopoly upon effective solutions and neither do you. So just let the people who believe in biotech give it a chance to prove itself and butt out.

      I think you’re scared. Simply scared that somebody might actually show that their ideas might prove to be effective, and so you write them off without having any really practicable solutions of your own. A hundred years ago people like you were writing off vaccination, claiming that sanitation, cleanliness and Godliness were sufficient to see off the old scourges of infectious disease. It’s a fatalistic, collectivist and pessimistic stance which offers no real hope to the people who need it most.

      Which brings us back to Bt brinjal. This is working quite well at the moment, and so you dismissed it as driven purely by ‘profit’ and uncritically repeat untruths about farmers being forced to spend ‘what little money they have’ on seeds which in reality cost them nothing, because you really don’t have any valid criticisms to offer.

      It’s this kind of pathetically negative, deadweight thinking driven purely by ideology which has dominated the public discussion about biotech. I’ve even come across comments trying to demonise Norman Borlaug as some kind of negative influence upon humanity. Comments originating from people without any kind of positive vision of their own.

      *unsub*

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, you said: “Which brings us back to Bt brinjal. This is working quite well at the moment”. Yes, Bt brinjal probably is working quite well at the moment but even advocates for Bt modified crops admit that it will only be a temporary fix.

      As to people being vilified, that comes with the territory. I could equally refer to Eliot Coleman who promotes small-scale organic farming practices and sustainable agriculture in Maine, USA. One of his central principles is “small is better,” advocating business growth through improved production and marketing, rather than physical expansion.

      Coleman also favors direct relationships with customers over formal organic certification – which is the way that the vast majority of farmers do actually work producing 56% of all agricultural produce. How many proponents of bio-technology have been to see what he is achieving?

  32. Kaleberg says:

    You should start marketing a food safety kit that checks for high levels of pesticides. People could use it to tell if their food is safe, or if it contains deadly GMO genes. I’ll bet Whole Foods would carry it.

  33. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, – Bt brijal originated with the public-private partnership with a “sublicense agreement” between Mahyco, which is 26 per cent owned by agro-biotech giant Monsanto, and UAS-Dharwad and a material transfer agreement with TNAU.

    Under these agreements, Mahyco provided the universities with finished or semi-finished domestic GM brinjals to develop insect-tolerant varieties. The universities, which supplied their germplasm to Mahyco, were allowed to further develop the licensed domestic brinjal products to make them suitable for use in their states for subsequent distribution to farmers.

    However, Mahyco retained intellectual property rights on GM brinjal, stating that “under no circumstance shall the licensed domestic eggplant products be used as parental lines for purposes of production of hybrids”.

    Five years later, these agreements were scrutinised and Mahyco became India’s first commercial entity to be accused of bio-piracy, or misappropriation, of local germplasm. Section 7 of the Biological Diversity Act (BDA) states: that no person or corporate body of Indian origin can “obtain any biological source for commercial utilisation or bio-survey and bio-utilisation for commercial utilisation except after giving prior intimation to the state biodiversity board”.

    As per the law, it is mandatory to take prior approval from the community that has been protecting local varieties being accessed. If the communities agree, benefits must accrue to them under the access and benefit-sharing protocol. Leo F Saldanha of ESG says, “Such a rigorous process of appraisal is mandatory to protect biodiversity loss.” No such protocol was followed in the case of Bt brinjal.

    The “public” ownership issue was it seems a consequence of serious threats of litigation rather than any altruism and may still end up being a test case for prosecution mechanism under Biological Diversity Act, on its effectiveness or in- effectiveness to deal with infringement of the act.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I DON’T GIVE A SICK DOG’S DUMP what Mahyco has or hasn’t been accused of if the people who need this technology are getting access to it and are benefiting from it. Period.

      You simply *don’t care* about the ends, you are fixated on the means to the exclusion of all other considerations. And no, I’m not going to acknowledge that your organic fetishism has a role in solving food poverty because you see it as a zero sum game, where if biotech succeeds then your ideology gets to suffer. You’re just a typical ideological bigot about this issue, as are so many

      Like I said numerous times now: if you think you have answers then go ahead and put them into practice. I won’t stop you. And you should stop preaching to people who think that they have alternative tools and strategies for solving these problems. But for Christ’s sake, put up or shut up.

      Now just get out of the fucking way, for once.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Very scientific, cogent and logical – the sick dog’s dump is at least organic.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Jonathan,

      When one is on a righteous crusade. They often don’t care whether their factual claims are accurate, nor that their recommendations may produce harm (perhaps much) greater than the benefits they perceive, even if we who oppose their position grant these benefits as plausible, for the sake of argument.

      Emotional investment in a noble purpose against depraved opponents doesn’t allow them to engage in reasoned consideration of both sides. It’s sad, but common and dangerous. Therefore, it is very important to understand.

      This common error was understood long ago in medicine, where the treatments preferred by doctors were administered as cures, even if they frequently led to deaths of patients. This finally resulted in what I think a very wise precautionary principle where our first priority is “Do no harm.”

      Following that as a top priority doesn’t guarantee avoiding screw-ups, but from a pragmatic perspective, it seems about as good as they get for avoiding really big ones.

      On the other hand, “get out of the way” perspectives are clearly demonstrated by leaders’ rhetoric justifying the worst atrocities imaginable: both the Rape of Nanking, and Hiroshima. Gen. Franco said he’d “shoot half of Spain” to “save the country” during the Great Depression, for example, illustrating how costs are unimportant to us when any of us are single-mindedly focused on a preferred outcome.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      I agree with you, my comments were over the top and I apologise for them.

      Every day, I look out of my window and see so many disadvantaged people living in dire conditions. That makes me very angry, the sheer injustice of it all. It’s not about trying to foster impossible aspirations or trying to impose solutions upon people. It is about listening to them seeing what their priorities are and finding viable solutions that respect them and their needs – like how can we help people to have enough to eat from a well balanced diet. How we can grow adequate shelter.

      Six months ago I sat with a representative of one of the agri-chemical companies – the acceptance and complacency was appalling. Six years ago, I was invited to an agri-chemical company’s sponsored event promoting pesticides to a mango growers cooperative – now defunct because of the escalating costs of those pesticides and a lack of understanding of how that cooperative operated and the inappropriate spraying methodology.

      I sat with some 30 plus farmers on Sunday afternoon discussing what we could do together to change things – it was amazingly constructive and positive. It is not “big” science or highly complex farming systems, just simple objectives and priorities that work for them at a local community level.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Jonathan

      Your self-examination and willingness to accept criticism does you credit, and along with your overall discussion indicates you are not one of those with a crusade mindset. Rather, it was Clyde’s comments which persuaded me he is in the grip of such a view.

      I urge understanding of such strong biases when we encounter them, and look behind what causes a person to appeal to “sick dog dumps”.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck:
      You simply don’t get it, do you? I don’t want the likes of Jonathan, if they think they have an answer to these problems, to be held up in any way from trying them out. Likewise, if the people who I support think that they can help in their own way, I don’t want the likes of Jonathan standing in their or my way either.

      Jonathan however portrays it as a simple binary choice: his way or the highway. Quote “I have been branded as some neo-colonialist preventing progress but the farmers that we work with – all of us know which is the better option.” That choice of words – ‘all of us know’ – is very telling. It basically confirms what I’ve been saying about this man all along. He *knows* which is the better option regardless of any evidence from field trials or real experience to back it up. He doesn’t need to get involved in the messy business of science because he already *has* all the answers from some kind of religious certainty, and is a quite happy to constrain other people’s options to fit in with his warped ideology.

      I don’t care *which* option is the better option. I simply want the best option to be applied. And that involves trying them out. This is called *science*. And sometimes quite often it’s possible to take the best from biotech and organic farming and combined them. the only thing standing in the way is ideology, and that is all the likes of Mr. Brown have to offer, at the end of the day.

      And you, Mr. Field, for comparing my enlightened stance to the likes of Franco, can drop dead for all I care

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde,

      Using terms like “the people who I support”, and repeatedly “the likes of Jonathan” suggests to neutral readers that others are lesser humans, and that you focus on people rather than their opinions or positions, and the evidence in support. These are what I believe is the proper focus of our decision-making investigations.

      If you believe it is inappropriate to note particular language that is both prominent, notably distinctive to what were later regarded as major historical tragedies, then we can simply to disagree about what constitutes valid analysis.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Using terms like “the people who I support”, and repeatedly “the likes of Jonathan” suggests to neutral readers that others are lesser humans, and that you focus on people rather than their opinions or positions, and the evidence in support. These are what I believe is the proper focus of our decision-making investigations.”

      I support Enlightenment values. This implies that I support people who have good ideas, and other people who allow and encourage those ideas to be tried out in a spirit of open scientific inquiry. I do not support those who claim to have all the answers and who deride the former camp as simply being after money – “The motive in all of this is profit” – and being indifferent to the humanitarian aspects of the work they are doing. Now, if you see my intellectual opponents as being ‘lesser human beings’ then that’s your problem, not mine. I just think that they’re misbegotten, and suffer from an acute case of the ‘headless heart’.

      “If you believe it is inappropriate to note particular language that is both prominent, notably distinctive to what were later regarded as major historical tragedies, then we can simply to disagree about what constitutes valid analysis.”

      You lumped me in with tyrants and dictators. I have spelled out what my values are. They are the values of the Enlightenment, nothing else.

  34. Jonathan Brown says:

    Endophytes are organisms, often fungi and bacteria, that live between living plant cells. The relationship that they establish with the plant varies from symbiotic to bordering on pathogenic. Of all of the world’s plants, it seems that only a few grass species have had their complete complement of endophytes studied. As a result, the opportunity to find new and interesting endophytes among the myriad of plants is great.

    Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt) is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium whose properties as a naturally occurring endophyte is well established.

    If I get this right, a group of agri-chemical companies develop a vast range of mainly synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that kill-off many of the endophytes, destroy soil balance and so on.

    Those same agri-chemical companies then introduce some endophyte traits of Bt genetically into a range of crops that they market globally. In the process they blame the overuse of the pesticides they sold previously.

    Please tell me if any of this foregoing is wrong.

    In organic farming no synthetic pesticides are used and natural, beneficial endophytes are encouraged – including the many as yet unidentified or unknown endophytes that are believed to exist. This is achieved, in the main, by using organic fertilizers. As I posted earlier, crop yields can be higher as a consequence and all that at less cost. Biodiversity is preserved and can be enhanced. Climate change risks can be mitigated and soil erosion/ depletion lessened.

    I have been branded as some neo-colonialist preventing progress but the farmers that we work with – all of us know which is the better option.

  35. Micah says:

    There is nothing wrong with organic farming, which I think is being questioned here. The argument I would make is that biotech will feed the world’s population, which is on track to reach 9 billion by 2050. Organic farming methods often improve biodiversity and are more successful than their conventional counterparts in terms of environmental enhancement and protection, but are not poised to feed the world’s population now, and especially not in the future.

    Organic farming would have to achieve comparable or greater yields and on the same scale as conventional agriculture in order to achieve this goal. Even conventional agricultural methods and biotech will struggle greatly to feed the world as populations continue to rise, especially in underdeveloped nations. Organic is beneficial for those who are looking to gain a premium and work in that manner, but it is not the consensus that it is the right choice. Appreciate that organic pesticides are often worse than their synthetic counterparts, such as that derived from the derris plant or ogranophosphates. Ultimately, what biotech and improved pesticides work to achieve is a food supply that can feed the world in a safe and sustainable manner. Speaking from Canada, environmental farm plans, pesticide registration and safety and biotech have improved the food supply while reducing the use of pesticides, water and other inputs such as fertilizers.

    Just a few thoughts.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      The facts as per the FAO:

      An important component of non-GM agriculture is organic farming. Globally, certified organic agriculture occupies 37.5 m ha in 2013, with a further 31 m ha in organic wild collection. The regions with the largest areas of certified organic agricultural land are Oceania (12.2 m ha, 32 %) and Europe (11.2 m ha, 30 %). Latin America has 6.8 m ha (18 %) followed by Asia (3.2 m ha, 9 %), North America (3 million ha, 8 percent) and Africa (1.1 m ha 3 %).

      Australia has the most organic agricultural land at 12 m ha, Argentina comes second with 3.6 m ha and the US third with 2.2 m hectares. These figures account for a very small fraction of the world’s agricultural production, and are highly misleading because they have left out the small-holder family farmers who are responsible for producing most of the food consumed in the world, and as it turns out most of that is organic, though not officially certified. Thus, organic non-GMO agriculture is in fact by far the largest sector of food production in the world.

      Small holder family farmers – an estimated 99% of the 2.6 billion farmers worldwide – cultivate half of the 1.6 billion ha of global croplands, producing 70% of the food consumed in the world (including their food for themselves and their families). These small farms (1 to 2 ha or less) are much more productive than large farms, as studies over several decades have confirmed.

      Among the most successful are diverse agro-ecological farms – which satisfy all the requirements of organic agriculture and more – now practiced on an estimated three-quarters of the global croplands area cultivated by small-holder farmers, i.e., 560 – 600 m ha in Latin America, Asia and Africa, producing well over half of the food consumed globally.

      If the equation is based upon production per person then conventional or mechanised farming produces much more per person. However, in a world that has high levels of unemployment, that seems a little non-nonsensical.

  36. Jonathan Brown says:

    Industrial Agriculture Too Big To Succeed?

    880 small holders based farming plots in Nicaragua with diverse crops and minus the commercial agricultural inputs managed to survive the catastrophic battering of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. On average these agro-ecological operations retained 40 percent more topsoil after the storm and lost 18 percent less arable land in landslides.

    Farming operations are being urged by scientists to alter their growing practices as a part of a general mitigation strategy for a range of human activity (which also includes reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned for energy) in order to avoid the worst case scenario of world temperatures rising way past two degrees Centigrade.

    http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/industrial-agriculture-big-succeed/

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I’ve got this radical new approach to the problem. Why don’t we let people who could possibly benefit from these new technologies – and advances in organic farming for that matter – have access to *all* the options and let them make up their own minds?

      We may very well come back a few years later to discover that they haven’t embraced one approach to the exclusion of the other but have cherry-picked the best facets of each. Now, this makes no odds to me whatsoever: I just want people to be able to move out of subsistence farming and actually have a decent lifestyle, the kind that we in the West take for granted. And that implies *profit*, on the whole a good thing.

      Oh, and it would piss off people like Jonathan mightily, which could only be a bonus.

  37. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, do you accept the reality of climate change being man-made?

    Apr 14, 2014 – McGill University study says that there’s a 99% chance that global climate change is man-made. If you agree with that, then you must also accept that “science” must carry some responsibility for climate change. If science has any responsibility then science needs to address how it is responsible.

    I am not some Luddite wishing to abolish science but I am suggesting that science needs to take a much broader and more socially responsible and interactive position.

    I have raised a number of issues regarding Bt brinjal, none of which have you addressed or contradicted. I have pointed out that sucker pests mostly unaffected by Bt will have an easier time without competition from borers. That in turn, will require an increase (though less than without Bt) in pesticide use against those sucking pests.

    That without proper management and the creation of havens there is an acknowledged likelihood of pest resistance to Bt occurring. In a situation where government and the article’s author, state that former use of pesticides was excessive, the chances of proper management systems being implemented does seem overly optimistic.

    It seems that, in these circumstances, the best that can be expected is short term relief from what is the much more difficult problem to resolve – Poverty.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Of course I accept that climate change is man made. That’s what the evidence says. The evidence also says that GM crops are largely beneficial and not harmful to the environment. I also know that sucker pests have an easier time on Bt crops than on non-engineered ones. What you seem to be utterly blind to yourself is that the benefits of these crops vastly outweigh the disadvantages. FSR borer is a huge problem for these people – along with cost of pesticides and the risk of poisoning but BT brinjal looks like it can manage this very serious pest problem. No amount of IPM is going to protect them against this problem. So, I’ll see your nebulous and half-baked fears and trepdiations and raise you some serious

      No doubt your reasoning would have us all not vaccinate ourselves against smallpox because then we would present ourselves with a greater target profile for other diseases.

      I’m all for science taking a broader and socially active position, and this is exactly what is going one here: biotech being open-sourced, freely available and used to address a real problem suffered by real small farmers in the real developing world. And simply saying that ‘poverty’ is the ultimate problem does NOTHING to help these people.

      No doubt in an ideal world, there would be no poverty and nobody would want for food. Like I said, you get on with building your better world. I won’t stand in your way. But since you really don’t seem to have any ideas about how to go about achieving this, other than uttering a few platitudes and indulging some Arcadian organic fantasies , I’ll throw in my lot with those who do, and who hope that even if their solutions don’t end up being the ultimate ones, they can at least catalyse a transition from subsistence farming to a profit-based model.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re really pretty clueless about the problems that these people face daily. Means are far more important than ends in your philosophy. Ultimately you don’t give a damn about whether they prosper or not. You just don’t want to see GMOs in the field. And your typically unconstructive attitude is encapsulated by this statement: “the chances of proper management systems being implemented does seem overly optimistic. ” Like I said, optimists come up with solutions to problems. Pessimists see problems in every solution. You’re nothing but an intellectual deadweight, that’s all.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, do some scientists disagree with your viewpoint – yes, they do. What you keep screaming is that your GM science is better than theirs – which is downright silly.

      “This is the website of the COST-Action “Endophytes in Biotechnology and Agriculture” which combines activities of different European laboratories in a multi- and interdisciplinary approach to compare protocols and technologies for the analysis and utilization of bacterial and fungal endophytes, mainly for plant production, but also as sources for other applications.”

      http://endophytes.eu/

      The main aims are:

      1 Identification of bottlenecks limiting the use of endophytes in biotechnology and agriculture and to provide solutions for the economically and ecologically compatible exploitation of endophytes.

      2. Gain further knowledge of ecology of endophytes in plant-soil ecosystems and in plant-plant and plant-animal interactions.

      3. Identification of new competent endophytes from different plant hosts in Europe with importance for agriculture, environment and industry enabling a Central European web-based database of endophytic strains.

      4. Development of new microbial inocula for increase of biomass together with improved plant quality, plant-microbe interaction in soil, protection against biotic and abiotic stress, and phytoremediation as well as elucidation of endophyte recognition, mode-of-action and function of effects on plant growth, development and health (in vitro, post vitro, conventional).

      5. Increased cooperation and exchange of knowledge about endophytes (composition of networks) between research institutions and companies for development of new marketable products of endophytes for Europe and overseas.

      I suppose that’s not science…

    • Clyde Davies says:

      That should have read “So, I’ll see your nebulous and half-baked fears and trepdiations and raise you some serious, significant and concrete benefits. Your call.’

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Rubbish, I’m not claiming anything of the sort. I’ve always maintained that new technologies have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis of risk versus benefit. I don’t have any real opinions about these endophyte developments. I just think that in the case of Bt brinjal and Golden Rice they should be given a fair chance to prove themselves for real. And that if they entail risks, we manage them instead rf running away from them.

      I’ll tell you what ‘science’ involves, seeing as I have spent a more lot of my life doing it than you have pontificating about it:
      * It involves coming up with a hypothesis
      * It involves devising experiments or trials to test the hypothesis
      * It demands proper analysis of the results
      * Results should support the conclusions

      But before all of this, the environment for conducting science is critical. This kind of work can only go on if it’s allowed to without interference, prejudice and obstruction. The substance and tone of your comments so far suggest to me that you are incapable of showing such behaviour. The endophyte work is certainly science, as is the work of the Rodale Institute, but that doesn’t imply that Bt brinjal and Golden Rice isn’t. So, just get on with trying to shore up your own position rather than trying to knock down that of those who want to pursue other avenues of investgation, however morally distasteful or suspect you find them.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring, Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium and endophyte – it lives in the spaces between plant cells.

      Endophytic microorganisms are to be found in virtually every plant on earth. These organisms reside in the living tissues of the host plant and do so in a variety of relationships, ranging from symbiotic to slightly pathogenic. Endophytes can be bacteria, fungi and viruses and they may produce a plethora of substances of potential use to modern medicine, agriculture, and industry.

      Fungicides can have a detrimental affect upon fungal endophytic organisms such as Trichoderma virens. A plant beneficial fungus, that enhances biomass production and promotes lateral root growth amongst several other benefits.

      There are maybe hundreds to hundreds of thousands of endophytic organisms as yet unknown. Truth be told, our understanding about plants is much greater than our understanding of soils.

      Science has been focused upon the perceived needs of man in relation to plants – what we can get from plants to satisfy our needs. It isn’t that simple.

  38. Clyde Davies says:

    “Science has been focused upon the perceived needs of man in relation to plants – what we can get from plants to satisfy our needs. It isn’t that simple.”

    I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. Is it that we should abandon all work on biotech and look at endophytes instead? I also find your attitude in general bafflingly fatalistic. Lots of natural phenomena aren’t ‘that simple’. So we chip away at them, eventually increasing our understanding by fits and starts. And since you seem to be devoid of any better approaches, then I think we should carry on doing just that.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, Only you can manage somehow separate biotech from endophytes.

      What you seem to project is a definition of biotech that only conforms to a set of very narrow parameters that you decide it should have. Those narrow definitions of biotech refuse to accept that biotech can be inclusive of a much broader definition and broader range of sciences.

      If, as you say, you chip away at the base of the tower of learning long enough you may succeed in bringing the entire tower down. Addressing that potential, I would say, is not being fatalistic but realistic and implies some context or framework for responsibility. Whereas chipping away blindly all too often results in catastrophe…

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Dear God, can’t you answer a straight question? You know full well what I meant and now you’re trying to evade it, and rather clumsily. And as for my comment about ‘chipping away’, this I meant the way that science works nowadays: we gradually get to understand by removing layers of uncertainty and doubt.

      You can’t even enunciate any substantial risks for the Bt brinjal farmers, apart from a few which are well understood, such as resistance, and for which mitigation strategies already exist and are being used successfully.

      Tell you what: why don’t we apply the philosophy of the precautionary principle to your beloved organic agriculture for a change? Let’s assume the worst possible outcome: that 50% more land has go under the plough because of reduced yields. Where is that going to come from, who is going to work it and what kind of environmental impact does this have? Let’s also assume that pest management is nowhere near as successful as people like you tout, and that, say 50% of the crop becomes infested by FSR. How are you going to compensate for that kind of loss?

      Let’s subject everything to the precautionary principle while we’re at it. “Give a mana fish, you feed him for a day. teach a man to fish, and he *might* damage the aquatic ecosystem. So we’ll just keep him on a fish a day allowance.” If it were left to people like you, we’d all still be sitting in caves, in the dark, freezing, with raw meat to eat, because fire would have been banned.

  39. John Fryer says:

    Clyde claims not to buy GMO food so is arguing that the world has it but not him? Dont do as I do but as : I Say!

    To be honest you cannot avoid GMO crops but only minimise your exposure.

    Russia is arguably thinking of criminalising people who grow and sell dangerous GMO crops but this means something like ten years of study to see if they are harmful and then as with the Seralini study it doesnt take much to get the study retracted. Just buy your way onto the journal concerned.

    Russia even with its attitude to GMOs admits it will develop them in time and in joining the World Trade Agreement will have to import massive amounts of GMO food as does European countries such as France.

    http://rt.com/news/154032-russia-gmo-food-ban/

    Still waiting for the name of any GMO food crop that doesnt have viruses AND bacteria spliced into every cell.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I’m claiming I *can’t* buy GM food, not that I choose *not* to! What kind of a dimwit are you for not being able to understand this distinction?

    • John Fryer says:

      Not sure what kind of a dimwit I am Clyde perhaps you are experts on both GMO technology and DIM WITS too?

      They may be closely linked?

      Not sure where you live to to be able NOT to get hold of GMO material?

      These Bangladesh farmers are being given FREE GMO matter to grow and presumably each farmer has a different type to grow or not to grow and the results will then enable someone to sell the betteror successful varieties at four times the price of normal egg plants perhaps?

      No one is disclaiming that the eggplant is not growing well for some but for othersit is hardship.

      The point is : IS IT SAFE?

      And the industry idea that it doesnt need testing is the idea of a DIM WIT.

      Every cell of every GMO plant has BOTH an inserted VIRUS and an inserted BACTERIA.

      Unless you can tell me of one GMO plant that hasnt?

      And while not related to this discussion directly bees may be harmed from an impoossible transition of ringspot virus to bees from the GMO technology of papaya plants to resist ringspot.

      Whatever does cause colony collapse disorder the fact it happens is not up for discussion.

      The numbers tell all.

      Just to state ANY country in the World Trade Agreeement (thats most advanced countries ) has to IMPORT GMO matter called FOOD whether it has a ban on growing the stuff or not.

      That to me shows a DIMWIT mentality by the government of France perhaps.

      Or the willingness to prevent the country being BANKRUPTED to stop its citizens having to eat GMO directly or indirectly by the kilogram amounts EVERY WEEK.

      We have NO CHOICE in FRANCE.

      Eat it and look HAPPY.

      But the changes in health ARE SELF EVIDENT.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      John,
      I really don’t know what to say to this gradual crescendo of nonsense. Instead I’ll confine myself to what is evidently your main neurosis, that about ‘viruses’ and ‘bacteria’. You claim “Every cell of every GMO plant has BOTH an inserted VIRUS and an inserted BACTERIA.

      Unless you can tell me of one GMO plant that hasnt?”

      The ringspot-resistant papaya was produced using a ‘gene gun’: this fired tiny pellets into the cells which were coated with DNA encoding for a tiny fragment of the virus’ protein coat thereby giving it resistance. None of the plant’s DNA encodes for either a whole virus or a bacterium.

      NOTHING at all is entirely safe. I stood on a plug this morning getting out of bed and it hurt, but that doesn’t mean I’m never going to get up again. All any reasonable person can do is to weigh up the risks and benefits of an approach on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Bt brinjal, there is a totally unspecified and largely imaginary risk weighed up against the certainty of farmers having to use dangerous and expensive chemicals if they don’t grow it. That’s for them to decide, not for people like you. From you’re postings, I doubt very much that you’d be intellectually equipped to take such a decision on their behalf, anyway.

    • Buck Field says:

      I don’t know of many jurisdictions where farmers are free from regulations, as is suggested by asserting food risks are “…for them to decide”.

      I think most people believe rigorous drug testing for safety & efficacy is a good thing, and it seems to me that if companies want to patent something going into my body as their invention, they should follow those protocols.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      It *is* for them to decide, not us. Bt-based crops have been grown for over twenty years now with no substantiated ill-effects whatsoever. You have more chance of being hit by a meteorite than being made ill by them.

      Now, people like you still claim that not enough work has been done to establish their safety: that is there are undefined and unquantified risks. Well, I’d like to introduce you to Russell’s Teapot. Bertrand Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong. The risks from Bt-based crops are out there with the teapot: it’s up to you to prove to use that they have to be taken into account.

      In the meantime, while you’re doing this, then I think the precautionary principle has well and truly been exhausted and that these people should be allowed to grow what they want to grow – if they find it useful.

  40. John Fryer says:

    Hawaii is looking to ban GMO crops;

    Particularly worrying as the island is remote and used to produce some of the GMO crops likely to be more dangerous than normal.

    India to has hadsignificant changes in the political ranks due to arguments over GMO cotton.

    But back to Hawaii and the alleged success of controlling ringspot virus in papaya sounds like an area where real progress has been made.

    But it still doesnt exclude the fact that viruses (with bacteria) are essential in every GMO cell. Using the actual ringspot virus they claim the plants grew without ringspot (not sure this is entirely true?).

    However putting this virus in with bacteria makes it all of a sudden likely to break through every barrier put there by nature.

    And behold we see this particular virus lauded as the saviour in Hawaii for the papaya may be directlyor indirectly involved a billion year sudden advance in the development of species.

    The humble bee isnow suffering from plant illnesses such as ringspot which has somehow got into their bodies andmay explain some types of colony collapse.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2014/01/31/suspicious-virus-makes-rare-cross-kingdom-leap-from-plants-to-honeybees/

    The Bt bacteria has also been accused for causing CCD

    As has

    Certain widely used -cidal chemicals.

    All in all and whoever or whatever isfinally found to be the cause it does seem as though chemical pesticide and or GMO developped crops may have a part to answer for.

    The study last year is this one:

    Li J.L., Cornman R.S., Evans J.D., Pettis J.S., Zhao Y., Murphy C., Peng W.J., Wu J., Hamilton M. & Boncristiani H.F. & (2013). Systemic Spread and Propagation of a Plant-Pathogenic Virus in European Honeybees, Apis mellifera, mBio, 5 (1) e00898-13-e00898-13. DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00898-13

    I have to admit to not knowing of this until now but it does show the powers and forces of nature seem to leave man not so much as an ape but with the proverbial covering him as well.

    I get the feeling that until we truly can compete with nature then we should take CARE.

    So which GMOplants dont use viruses and bacteria?

    It seems the papaya GMO varieties have actually been published and praised for having fragments of one of the most contagious and dangerous of all viruses with one exception that of HIV which this report claims goes back to the early 1900′s.

    More propaganda as the actual date is around 1975 or so and certainly not before the work of Berg on hybridisation using SV40 and E Coli.

    In fact genetic analysis has proved these early 1900 cases had the genetic mapping not of 1975 but of generations later implying someone had planted the specimens trying to get the illness apearing BEFORE GMO experiments.

    Not just a danger for man (30 million plus dead) but attempts to pervert science toshift the blame as well.

  41. Jonathan Brown says:

    Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis toxins in transgenic maize

    Aaron J. Gassmann1, Jennifer L. Petzold-Maxwell, Eric H. Clifton, Mike W. Dunbar, Amanda M. Hoffmann, David A. Ingber, and Ryan S. Keweshan

    Edited by Charles J. Arntzen, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, and approved January 27, 2014 (received for review September 12, 2013)

    Crops genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) kill pest insects and reduce the use of conventional insecticides. However, the evolution of Bt resistance can diminishes these benefits. The western corn rootworm is a serious pest of maize and is managed with Bt maize. Beginning in 2009, western corn rootworm with resistance to maize producing the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1 imposed severe injury to Cry3Bb1 maize in Iowa. We show that cross-resistance exists between Cry3Bb1 maize and mCry3A maize and is associated with severe injury to Bt maize in farmers’ fields. These results illustrate that Bt crops producing less than a high dose of toxin against target pests may select for resistance rapidly; consequently, current approaches for managing Bt resistance should be reexamined.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Yes, it’s a risk. And do you know what, it can be managed by ensuring that the crops pack enough of a punch through expressing high amounts of the Cry toxin and producing new crops which express several of these toxins instead of one. As I said, risks are there to be managed, not run away from.

      Summoned up the courage to rub those sticks together, yet?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, it seems that your answer to everything is GM regardless. GM even if it produces lower yields, GM even if it fosters increasing pest resistance, GM even if input requirements increase, GM even if costs rise and so on – its an opinion, I suppose.

      Shame that so many long term studies show short term gains and longer term declines. Shame that many agricultural scientists have arrived at a general consensus that modern agriculture confronts an environmental crisis.

      Shame that hard evidence also shows that the very nature of the agricultural structure and prevailing policies have led to this environmental crisis by favoring large farm size, specialized production, crop monocultures and mechanization. Shame about the diminishing crop biodiversity and ever more reliance upon even greater crop uniformity.

      Shame about accelerated soil erosion and depletion. Shame about the regular use of acidulated fertilizers generally contributing to the accumulation of soil acidity in soils which progressively increases aluminium availability and hence toxicity. Shame that the use of such acidulated fertilizers in the tropical and semi-tropical regions of Indonesia and Malaysia has contributed to soil degradation on a large scale from aluminium toxicity, which can only be countered by significant applications of limestone.

      Shame that many inorganic fertilizers, particularly those based on superphosphate, may not replace trace mineral elements in the soil which become gradually depleted by crops. Shame that this depletion has been linked to studies which have shown a marked fall (up to 75%) in the quantities of such minerals present in fruit and vegetables. Shame that many soils around the world are deficient in zinc, leading to deficiency in plants and humans.

      Shame that inorganic fertilizers and other synthetic inputs are now produced in ways which theoretically cannot be continued indefinitely as, by definition, the resources used in their production are non-renewable.

      It seems that none of those issues matter very much to you, provided GM is available to all.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Clyde, it seems that your answer to everything is GM regardless. GM even if it produces lower yields, GM even if it fosters increasing pest resistance, GM even if input requirements increase, GM even if costs rise and so on – its an opinion, I suppose. ”

      Oh, really? Even after I posted earlier the statement “I don’t care *which* option is the better option. I simply want the best option to be applied. And that involves trying them out. This is called *science*. And sometimes quite often it’s possible to take the best from biotech and organic farming and combined them. the only thing standing in the way is ideology, and that is all the likes of Mr. Brown have to offer, at the end of the day” ?

      As far as I am concerned, GM is and always has been an option which should be available for people who could benefit from it. I don’t decry that modern agriculture is facing issues. I don’t see what GM has to do with any of the issues that you list. It’s a completely orthogonal issue to soil erosion, depletion and the suchlike. The Bangladeshi farmers simply don’t want to poison themselves with pesticides and that’s it.

      There is NO reason – other than IDEOLOGICAL – why GM crops could not be grown under more sustainable conditions. You’re the blinkered one here, not me, for insisting on this false dichotomy between your way and the GM way. You bring all your own baggage to this argument, not me.

      I’m getting sick to death of your evasions and misrepresentations. Because you can’t effectively address the main point of what Marks posting was about: that this is GM technology being put effectively to the common good, your drag in completely unrelated issues to the one in question. You’re nothing but a shyster, a dishonest and underhand debater. And a rather bigoted one at that too.

    • Buck Field says:

      I tend to think many skeptics (that Monsanto is really like an angelic Mother Theresa) would tend to believe a biotech crop is being put to the common good after there are no financial incentives to insuring it is not.

      As it stands now, Monsanto is legally required to only allow starving people access if it can be shown to produce future profits or increases market share, perhaps only by enabling propaganda showing the company in a favorable light.

  42. John Fryer says:

    Here is an interesting and readable account of GMO and risk not necessarily completely correct and not examining some serious shortcomings of GMO crops.

    http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2.pdf

    But has a universal application not limited just to GMOs.

    The eery thing here is that if you accept even the slightest of risks then as time goes by that risk rises to certainty. And for food eaten several times a day for life in most cases this risk for GMO has to be ZERO.

    And that is not easy to prove since even some ordinary foods come with huge risks! Monk fish, green potatoes, some beans etc etc etc.

  43. John Fryer says:

    Clyde

    The ringspot-resistant papaya was produced using a ‘gene gun’: this fired tiny pellets into the cells which were coated with DNA encoding for a tiny fragment of the virus’ protein coat thereby giving it resistance. None of the plant’s DNA encodes for either a whole virus or a bacteriumm.

    Gene gun techniques are better for the researchers as they dont directly use as you say whole viruses and whole bacteria with the associated risks imaginary or real.

    But gene gun techniques distance the researcher from what he is doing.He may be a technician sorting out the one succesful introduction of the required trait. He may be unware even that ringspot virus fragments are even in that gene gun?

    Bt Brinjal by definition has Bt fragmentary parts of that organism in every cell.

    You seem to hover between some insignificant risk orzero risk.

    If you look at risk then GMO should be BANNED.

    The slight risk from it if admitted will build up over timeto a risk which is unacceptable.

    You mention something that happened to you but wont happen again. If there is a risk with GMO then that risk is always there when you eat another GMO meal. You can get rid of the risk by not eating GMO food as you proclaim you do.

    I do the same by avoiding ALL soya.

    I do the same by avoiding ALL maize.

    I object to this as I used to enjoy soya products and maize products.

    My food options, my diversity of food is reduced.

    GMO on a personal level means restriction of choice nota chance to save me from starvation.

    Given all the food products being GMOd then starvation or risk taking are the only possibilities.

    And yes I did once think of going on a panel to vet novel foods and like you say it would be impossible for me to do the work.

    EFSA have just passed omega 3 enhanced GMO soya as safe to grow and eateven though research shows the vector used may be part of colony collapse disorder.

    Whatever causes CCD it hardly helps increase yields of any food crop.

  44. Jonathan Brown says:

    Yesterday was the UN’s Biodiversity day. Agriculture is now at a crossroads: we can pursue the dystopian dead-end road of industrial chemical-intensive farming or choose diverse and resilient ecological farming.

    http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/food-system-monocultures-gm-un-diversity-day

  45. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, re your golden rice: Malungai or Moringa Oleifera Kills 93% of Breast Cancer Cells in Vitro: Researchers have just shown in a new study that a cold-water extract of moringa oleifera leaves kills up to 93% of human breast cancer cells (MCF7) in vitro. The extract was also seen to potently kill human lung and skin cancer cells, and potently reduced proliferation and migration (the ability of the cancer to spread or metastasize). Moringa, also called the “miracle tree,” has a long history of use in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine due to its many beneficial properties as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antidepressant, anti-diabetes, pain and fever reducer and even relief from asthma. But it also contains numerous powerful anti-cancer compounds such as kaempferol, rhamnetin, isoquercetin and others. Latest research is now proving out moringa’s anti-cancer potential with positive results so far against ovarian cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. Moringa is now extensively cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean and Central America, but the largest crop in the world is produced by India – whose rate of overall cancer as well as breast cancer is less than one third that of the USA (GLOBOCAN 2012).

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24748376

    Why of why, keep reinventing the wheel?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Why do we keep re-inventing the wheel?

      Perhaps because your alternative, ‘let them eat moringa’, is patronising, insulting, insensitive, inappropriate, ineffective, untested and, dare I say it, neo-colonialist.

      Do me a favour and explain why people who have eaten and grown rice for generations should totally abandon their traditions and practices mainly to satisfy the misgivings and anti-scientific prejudices of a well-fed Westerner. It ought to be up to them to decide what to grow and eat, not the likes of you, thank God.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, how dare you assume that I would substitute moringa for rice. I would add moringa to rice as a vegetable (and do) as do my neighbours. You think you know about poverty but you know nothing.

      You assume that people eat rice only – that is such a patronising attitude. It is precisely those distanced assumptions that leave people starving.

      People don’t and cannot live on rice alone. It is not a complete food and never has been. When people have nothing else that they can afford, rice is a filler for a short time. It is often eaten with banana or other ketchups to make it remotely edible in volume. It is not about living rather it is about a low quality of desperate survival.

      Try surviving on boiled potatoes and little or nothing else! Adding Vitamin A genetically to rice does not make it a complete food nor does it address the underlying poverty, the broad spectrum of poverty related medical problems, systemic unemployment, lack of education or landlessness. All it does is make people like you, feel good about their so-called “contribution” to relieving poverty.

      As to golden rice it was originally based upon Jasmine rice whereas people mainly eat Indus rice here. The scientists developed what was easiest for them not what the people needed or wanted to eat. The Jasmine based variants didn’t provide the vitamin A, as that was all lost in grain storage and or by normal cooking. Later variants were better, but golden rice still does not address the other poverty related issues and the scientists involved in the development were paid well for their work. I’m not decrying their science what I do question is the viability of it as an answer to the problems of VAD.

      Has it ever occurred to you that those opposed to golden rice may have a valid point or two? Why is it that UN and so many other organisations and the scientists involved with them are pushing very different solutions to those promoted by the pro-GMO lobby? The vast majority of GMO’s (around 90% of all those sold) are developed to promote the use of synthetic chemicals.

      The UN is pushing for smaller, family run, organic or mostly-organic agri-farms that produce a wide range of harvested produce. The yields are better, soil erosion less, less dependency upon oil and petrochemical inputs, better pest control, mostly without using chemical pesticides; using instead the natural resistance of mixed companion crops, insects and so on. These provide a much broader range of answers to the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Why do we keep re-inventing the wheel?”

      We have paper, pens and postage stamps. They work very well for getting messages to people, are pretty much reliable, allow all kinds of content to be conveyed and are cheap.

      So let’s not bother inventing anything like email or text messages, shall we?

      “Clyde, how dare you assume that I would substitute moringa for rice”

      Well, judging by the glibness and simplistic nature of your response up to now, then I think it’s hardly a surprising assumption.

      “Adding Vitamin A genetically to rice does not make it a complete food nor does it address the underlying poverty, the broad spectrum of poverty related medical problems, systemic unemployment, lack of education or landlessness. All it does is make people like you, feel good about their so-called “contribution” to relieving poverty.”

      No, it doesn’t (invoking Hitchen’s Razor). I can point you to a paper which estimates that approximately 1,400,000 life-years have been lost because deployment of this crop has been delayed, almost totally due to the obstructive attitude of people like you.

      No, it hasn’t occurred to me that people opposed to global rice might have a valid point because their main aim appears to be to give the big satanic agrochemical concerns a black eye. This comes across in your statement “The vast majority of GMO’s (around 90% of all those sold) are developed to promote the use of synthetic chemicals”. Golden rice hasn’t been invented to this end at all. You know this, but the slightest possibility of some chemical manufacturer indirectly benefiting from its availability – whether financially on in terms of good PR – totally trumps any harm that might result or lives that would be lost from its continuing unavailability.

      So, no I don’t think they have a valid point at all. I think they have an utterly callous attitude which is indifferent to human suffering,m insofar as it conflicts with their anti-corporate prejudices. I also think that you are a callous and selfish individual with a twisted set of priorities and I think you have no real ideas of your own. If the genius Norman Borlaug were working his argicultural miracles today, you would be one of the dunces in confederacy against him.

      I’m always backing the people with the ideas and the drive to make them reality. You, on the other hand, are a intellectual deadweight with a very limited imagination.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, the reason that the big agro-chemical companies need a black eye is because their products don’t work on other than very simplistic levels and then only in the short term. Life and farming is much more complex than that.

      Let me repeat, the form of agriculture on which they rely does not compete by any measure with those small localised farms. Study after study after study over many, many years, clearly show that those small farms produce more volume of high quality crops per hectare than all the highly mechanized, high synthetic chemical input monocultures. It is not a small amount of better yield but two, three or even four times as much. They provide highly varied diets for themselves and their families and some excess produce for additional income.

      The green revolution involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. However, those systems were all geared towards the benefit of U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company. Those same companies have been criticized for widening social inequality in the countries owing to uneven food distribution while forcing a capitalist agenda of U.S. corporations onto countries that had undergone land reform.

      The reality was that comparing those agricultural methods used in the green revolution with subsistence farming at it most basic level obviously made the green revolution methods seem better. However, progress has not been restricted solely to the green revolution methodology and subsistence farming and small farm technologies have made significant progress but without all the BS claims and hyperbole that those big corporations have been fined for.

      The so-called green revolution is over and is history. Instead of hurling insults a me, look up the facts. Why is it that the same agro-chemical companies are now investing heavily into organic production?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Oh, I’m fully in grasp of the facts. Let’s take this study featured in the most respect scientific journal there is, Nature: http://www.nature.com/news/organic-farming-is-rarely-enough-1.10519 . It points out that in the majority of cases, organic farming is not productive enough to sustain the kind of population growth we are facing, being up to 34% less efficient than conventional farming. This is from a meta-analysis of 66 different studies comparing 34 different crop species. You might care to drag out the Rodale Institute findings of the superiority of your approach, but that is looking a little too over-used now to have much credibility as the sole source of evidence.

      You then go on to say “The green revolution involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. However, those systems were all geared towards the benefit of U.S. agribusiness and agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto Company”.
      *yawn*. Reductio ad Monsantum rears its ugly head again. What *is* it about you people? Can’t you discuss this topic for once without once dragging in the M-word?

      “The so-called green revolution is over and is history. Instead of hurling insults a me, look up the facts. Why is it that the same agro-chemical companies are now investing heavily into organic production?”
      I’m not sure they are. Perhaps it’s because people are willing to pay stupid amounts of money for what is effectively the same product.

      And your fetishisation of ‘subsistence farming’ just shows what a cloistered existence you lead. I’m in favour of big commercial farms: they’re mechanised (which means fewer people – including children who should be in school – have to work the land), populations are concentrated away from the countryside and into cities, which is better for the environment, and farmers get to make a bigger profit. I *like* profit. Profit pays for food on the table, clothes, houses, cars, healthcare and education.

      I haven’t ‘worked the land’ at all in my life, but I imagine that subsistence agriculture is difficult, backbreaking work which leaves little time for family, leisure or education. Large-scale commercial farming on the other hand allows people to farm more efficiently, and to enjoy life instead of wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

      Feel free to singlehandedly overhaul the global means of food production, set yourself up as Pol Pot and force city dwellers to farm the land and those that already do to stay on it. And deny them the tools of modern agricultural science just so that they can maintain their ‘organic’ purity: no weedkillers or pesticides allowed, just arduous hand-pulling of weeds and watching one-third of your crop succumb to the pests, and another third to the weathe.

      I have a different kind of vision: one where making crops that prevent sickness allow families to have fewer healthy children that survive to adulthood, become educated, become doctors, teachers, engineers and enjoy the sort of lifestyle that *you* take for granted instead of a bleak adulthood working from dawn til dusk on a smallholding just to make sure that they have enough to eat.

      You go first. Give up your laptop, your car, your broadband connection and do as you preach. At least it’ll keep you away from your computer for long enough to stop spouting sanctimonious claptrap.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, the researcher you cite, Verena Seufert, from nature went on later to say: “Rather than depending on synthetic fertilizers that can be damaging to the environment, organic agriculture relies on ecological processes that promote biodiversity, healthier soils, and reduced groundwater pollution, among other benefits, all of which contribute to a healthier and more sustainable agricultural system overall.”

      http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/tag/verena-seufert/

      The later study, Global Research, July 03, 2013: “US Genetically Engineered Agriculture is Outclassed by Europe’s Non-GM Approach”

      “We found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by Western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led package chosen by the US,” said Prof. Heinemann.

      The research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada; and is decreasing chemical herbicide and achieving even larger declines in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains, all this whilst chemical herbicide use in the US has increased with GM seed.

      Heinemann added that “Europe has learned to grow more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals in the process. The American choices in biotechnology are causing it to fall behind Europe in productivity and sustainability.”

      GM hinders choice and progress

      The report points out that; agriculture responds to commercial and legislative incentive systems which take the form of subsidies, intellectual property rights instruments, tax incentives, trade promotions and regulation.

      It concludes that these incentive systems in North America are leading to a reliance on GM seeds and management practices that are inferior to those being adopted under the incentive systems in Europe.

      This is also affecting non GM crops

      US yield in non-GM wheat is falling further behind Europe, “demonstrating that American choices in biotechnology penalise both GM and non-GM crop types relative to Europe” according to Prof Heinemann.

      “The decrease in annual variation in yield suggests that Europe has a superior combination of seed and crop management technology and is better suited to withstand weather variations. This is important because annual variations cause price speculations that can drive hundreds of millions of people into food poverty.”

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-genetically-engineered-agriculture-is-outclassed-by-europes-non-gm-approach/5341518

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Jonathan
      I am not interested in anything more you have to say on this subject as it is now perfectly clear that you see this as a black and white issue: organic good, GMOs bad.
      I give up.

  46. John Fryer says:

    Hi All including Clyde

    Here is a research report that talks of an old virus problem which is a threat to the transgenic papaya.

    http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1094/PHYTO-98-7-0848

    Potential threat of a new pathotype of Papaya leaf distortion mosaic virus infecting transgenic papaya resistant to Papaya ringspot virus.

    As this is some years ago perhaps someone can tell me if this was taken into account in the type or types under development in Bangladesh.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      No because (a) the brinjal in Bangladesh is not papaya and therefore does not get infected by this virus and (b) the modification was to get it to express Bt toxin, not make it resistant to a virus!

      Please stop asking silly questions. You’re not doing yourself any favours.

    • John Fryer says:

      Not so much a question as pointing out that if transgenic plants using viruses have been associated with increased prevalence of viral disease then this is somthing that should be looked out for.here.

      There is some very old work which shows the possiblity of killed virus becoming active again.

      In fact the process of GMO technology in part uses this kind of idea that genetic material is easily taken up by the plant due to the virus/bacteria changes. And of course the possibility of instability in the plant and the potential to infect other plants in the vicinity.

      Is there any other examples of viral attacks on GMO matter being at higher levels than previously experienced?

      Although the GMO technology is coming up to 50 years it is still in many cases providing unexpected surprises. Or are they only unexpected because people deny anything not wanted, while concentrating on yields or money gains for the farmer and industry et al..

    • Clyde Davies says:

      You’re *obsessed* with viruses. Howard Hughes would have been proud.

    • Buck Field says:

      @John

      Trying to get Clyde to address a point isn’t an attempt to keep him on topic, it’s irrefutable proof YOU’RE OBSESSED!

      :D

    • Clyde Davies says:

      And as I have pointed out SEVERAL TIMES NOW, there are no viruses involved in the production of GM papaya or Bt brinjal, except that John can’t get this into his skull.

      Got that, now?

  47. Jonathan Brown says:

    It is all too easy to be pro-predation within an economic system. However there is an assumption within that that the economic system is unbiased, it isn’t.

    There are huge, silly arguments about “mans” involvement in climate change – take that logic just one step further and it becomes obvious that the primarily profit based economic system that affects us all, is the rail providing direction for the train of climate change. That’s the reason why the wealthy, climate change deniers spend so much money to deny it.

    Why is it that climate change becomes “mans” problem, rather than the primary problem of those who benefitted most from causing it?

    We are, as a species, fast approaching a stark choice, either we change or die; no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” only that stark choice – that is what evidenced science is telling us, it’s not an opinion. Arguing about whether or not GMO’s are good or bad is moot, in those circumstances. It is a silly focus upon an irrelevance that avoids real discussion of the underlying causes.

    What I’m suggesting is that the agro-economic system that developed out of the “green revolution” that supports the infrastructure that promotes GMO’s is fundamentally flawed and must change, it collapsed in 2007. It only limps on whilst politicians and the privileged argue about how to change without really changing anything.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Fine: you go ahead and reform the entire global agricultural system. The rest of use will get on with addressing more tractable and immediate problems, such as stopping kids from going blind or farmers from poisioning themselves with pesticides. We’d probably have done it by now if people like your didn’t obstruct us in your determination to get your own way.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, why is it that your only justification is to blame everyone else?

      Whilst my ego is greatly boosted by your flattery that I can somehow, singlehandedly, stop world progress; my common sense tells me otherwise.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Yet another cack-handed attempt at misrepresentation. ‘Single-handedly’? I think you flatter yourself. It’s taken whole movements of like-minded people, like Greenpeace, FoE and numerous others, to obstruct what can only be beneficial developments.

      Actually, ‘movement’ is the wrong word, now I come to think of it. Perhaps ‘herd’ would be more appropriate. Or, in your case ‘flock’.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, you hurl abuse around with little or no regard for facts. This is from GRAIN:

      “It is commonly heard today that small farmers produce most of the world’s food. But how many of us realise that they are doing this with less than a quarter of the world’s farmland, and that even this meagre share is shrinking fast? If small farmers continue to lose the very basis of their existence, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.”

      Just four crops – soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane – have quadrupled the amount of land they occupy over the past five decades. All are grown mainly on big industrial farms. That’s 140 million hectares of agricultural land or roughly the same area as all the farmland in the European Union.

      In a recent paper on small farmers and agroecology, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food concludes that global food production could be doubled within a decade if the right policies towards small farmers and traditional farming were implemented.

      The main role of farming is surely to feed people, not generate bank profits.

      http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland

    • Buck Field says:

      >what can only be beneficial developments.

      …and I though Clyde had a religious devotion to “GMO’s Uber Alles” before I read this :D

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Jonathan:
      I would like to remind you what this discussion was originally about: was Bt brinjal working or wasn’t it? All the evidence presented here suggests that it was doing the job that it was intended to do, solving some serious problems for small farmers. I think that is a good thing.

      You immediately weighed in with an ideological rant about farmers being forced to buy seeds they didn’t want and about the motive all of of this being ‘profit’. It was totally unfair and, as Mark pointed out, missed the point entirely. The issue ultimately has nothing to do with soil erosion, small farms, moringa or whatever the UN says. What it has to do with is whether we allow these people the kinds of choices to exploit whatever new developments are on offer without proscribing what might turn out to be effective and productive ways to improve their lot. Ultimately, it’s about whether we treat them as adults or children.

      And, as I have pointed out numerous times but you are totally unwilling to acknowledge, I DON’T CARE whose solution turns out to be best. What I DO care about is that ALL options are made available to these people and that they are able to evaluate for themselves the most effective and appropriate, with some well-fed, pampered Westerners telling them ‘what’s best’ and pretending to have answers to questions that haven’t actually been asked properly yet. I also think that they should be able to formulate their own solutions – like BT BRINJAL – and to exploit the best aspects of all the options available. Some of these may be GM, some may be organic.

      Now, at least have the good grace and decency to acknowledge that these values are pragmatic, focus on ends rather than means, and embody the principles of open, Enlightened inquiry. I don’t want to stop you proving that your way is the best way. I just want to stop you implying that the likes of me (who *doesn’t* work in biotech and has no interest in this issue other than intellectual and humanitarian) and the people who actually do this research that we are money-grubbing amoral white-coated psychopaths whose aims are inimical to the people we claim to help. I also want you to have the intellectual integrity to admit that there is room for lots of different solutions here, that plurality of approaches is a good and not a bad thing.

      Now, if you can admit that, then we might actually have something in common for once.

  48. Hugh Sharman says:

    What a shame that this discussion, which could have been so interesting, has descended into such a narrow shouting match. With some relief, I now see that I can opt out of receiving any more mails on this subject!

  49. Jonathan Brown says:

    A report first published in 1972, “The Limits to Growth”, by a scientific team at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), warned that limited availability of natural resources relative to rising costs would undermine continued economic growth by around the second decade of the 21st century. Although widely ridiculed at that time, recent scientific reviews confirm that the original report’s projections in its ‘base scenario’ remain robust. In 2008,

    Australia’s federal government scientific research agency CSIRO concluded that The Limits to Growth forecast of potential “global ecological and economic collapse coming up in the middle of the 21st Century” due to convergence of “peak oil, climate change, and food and water security”, is “on-track.” Actual current trends in these areas “resonate strongly with the overshoot and collapse displayed in the book’s ‘business-as-usual scenario.’”

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/04/scientists-limits-to-growth-vindicated-investment-transition-circular-economy

  50. Jonathan Brown says:

    Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism

    Good journalism examines its sources critically, it takes nothing at face value, places its topics in a historical context, and it values above all the public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any equitable and open system of government. These statements about journalism are especially applicable to the science media. But while the media in general has recently taken much criticism, for trivialising news and other flaws, the science media has somehow escaped serious attention. This is unfortunate because no country in the world has a healthy science media.

    http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/fakethrough-gmos-and-the-capitulation-of-science-journalism/

    • Buck Field says:

      @JohnBrown

      It will be interesting to see how GMO advocates explain away the fact that scientific, systemic analysis predicted fraud and deception which was found exactly where predicted, and committed by exactly the people and organizations predicted.

      Another prediction: to the degree they respond, they will mirror Ken Ham’s denials of the predictions of evolutionary biology, only with less competence.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Farida Akhter’s comments upon an article in the Guardian
      07 June 2014 5:41am:

      Saad Hammadi’s journalistic piece is gravely mistaken on couple of grounds. It also looks like an attempt to rescue the failed efforts of promoting Gm food crop in Bangladesh. However, this piece is important because it shows that the pilot scheme of $600,000 (£357,920) has failed and that the authorities have also failed to follow the stipulated conditions by the Ministry of Environment in granting license for the crop to farmers. These are conditions to ensure that test fields were suitable and to protect local varieties and wild plants from receiving pollen from the GM plants. Hammadi report also shows violation of another stipulation from the ministry: Bt brinjal sold in market should be labeled as GM. In Jamalpur region the produce was sold without such labeling. These are serious enough offenses to revoke the approval for cultivation at farmers’ level.

      Hammadi, however, is trying to blame the anti-GM campaigners on false grounds. Two accusations must be dispelled.

      1.Disinformation and manipulation: His claim that anti-GM campaigner intimidated or misinformed Bt Brinjal farmer is absolutely false. Hammadi provided no evidence in supporting his claim. Campaigners defending biodiversity and the interest of the farmers and they have always expressed their concerns openly by holding human chains in front of BARI and in other public places in Dhaka. They also, of course, shared their concerns on health and environmental issues with all the stakeholders in the society. It’s sad to see Saad Hammadi joined and rided on the weak arguments of Mark Lynas who tried to show that the activists were trying to ‘get the farmers say what is most convenient to their viewpoint’. By saying this, Lynas is accepting the fact that the farmers had something to say which Lynas did not want to hear.

      The pro-GM lobbyists are trying to use Bangladesh for the introduction of the Monsanto-owned GM crop and put the farmers and millions of consumers at risk, as well as exposing Bangladesh to irreversible biological pollution. We have systematically raised the issues related to research methodology and ethics. It’s an unequal battle since pro-GMO lobbyists are backed up by huge financial and institutional support which includes USAID and GM Corporation backed scientists in Cornell University. Such absence of level playing field misguides the scientists and public institutions in Bangladesh.

      Despite this imbalance anti-GMO campaigners always demanded a fair hearing. We had to seek the support of the court. In the absence of legally binding regulatory regime and government’s eagerness to embrace GMO technology uncritically has made it an uphill task for the pro-people campaigners to defend biodiversity and health of the people. Misguiding the scientists and public institutions, and then manipulation of research methodology and the results, with false claims of success does not help in any way to promote the benefits of science and technology.

      Whether the anti-Gm campaign was active or not, this trial was going to fail any way because of its methodological flaws and lack of clear understanding of precautionary principles of bio-safety. The role of the anti-Gm activists was to bring out the truth. On the contrary, Mark Lynas and the BARI authorities have put pressure on the farmers to talk about its success, even though they faced problems of pest attacks.

      2. Ownership of Bt Brinjal: Saad Hammadi is also wrong in saying that “Monsanto has no ownership rights over the technology and because it has been developed by a public institution there are no technology fees or royalties payable on the crop by any farmer in Bangladesh”. BARI itself acknowledges that they have not developed the technology and they have got it from Monsanto-Mahyco.

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/05/gm-crop-bangladesh-bt-brinjal

      http://www.ubinig.org/index.php/home/showAerticle/50/english
      http://www.ubinig.org/index.php/home/showAerticle/58/english

  51. Clyde Davies says:

    I’ve never heard of this website beforehand and I have to say that after reading through Jonathan’s criticisms, I find virtually all of them irrelevant to the issue in hand, which is whether or not the technology works and whether it is appropriate for these people.

    Mark, to his credit, has actually visited the farmers, seen the effect that the crop is having on their yields, and seen the devastation that a conventional, untreated brinjal crop suffers at the hands of these pests. Now, either he is lying – which I very much doubt as I met him this week and he does not strike me as a fantasist – or he is telling the truth about the crop being an effective counter to a serious and persistent pest problem.

    Nobody is claiming that this crop is a perfect solution: nothing is, but a risk versus benefit analysis ought to indicate to any *reasonable* person that there is a line of inquiry here worth pursuing.

    Now Jonathan, let’s suppose you are faced with a hypothetical issue: you have two possible solutions to such a problem: you have an organic solution, such as IPM, which *might* work, and a biotech solution which has been *shown* to work. Which solution would you advise for these people, given that you don’t really have any ‘skin in the game@?

    Don’t try your usual tactic of trying to avoid the question by quoting dubious web references about how IPM is totally reliable. That is not the question I am asking. Because, believe it or not, if the boot were on the other foot and the organic solution were shown to be totally reliable, I’d go for that one.

    I’m trying to pin you down on what your priorities are. Do the ends matter more than the means? Or are, as I suspect, your means your ends?

    • Mark Lynas says:

      Actually IPM (integrated pest management) is a part of the suggested farming approach for Bt brinjal. This is because Bt brinjal can drastically reduce or eliminate insecticide use, enabling the farmers to encourage wider biodiversity and predator insects instead of killing everything. One of the reasons that not all the fields have succeeded this year is because farmers need more training – there have been problems with waterlogging, failure to rotate (so pathogens like bacterial wilt can build up) and so on. Even IPM suggests some use of pesticide, but aims to reduce it as far as possible, so Bt brinjal can be an essential component of it. One of the Cornell professors, Tony Shelton, is an internationally-recognised expert on IPM and is helping to craft a management package for farmers.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      That’s an interesting comment, thanks Mark. It just goes to show that approaches which have been traditionally regarded as being ‘organic’ can sit quite well with more advanced ‘tech’ solutions. That is, unless people let ideology get in the way.

    • Buck Field says:

      …or risk management.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde,

      You continue to insist there is ONE issue: functionality. If there is ANY reason we should ignore the potential harm, please explain, otherwise your position appears as ideologically driven as any of the others – and to be discounted from serious discussion.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, you have not addressed any of the points I have raised regarding the decline in biodiversity. You do not deny that a prerequisite of GMO’s is genetic uniformity of seed product. You do not address the consequential risks of that genetic uniformity that even the EPA considers as a very high risk. You do not deny the results of studies on GMO’s that raise serious questions about the assumption of so-called “equivalence”.

      You do not deny that over 90% of all GMO’s sold foster increased use of herbicides. You do not deny the probability of pests developing resistance to Bt – some pests have already developed such resistance.

      You do not deny that the type of farming that sponsors and supports GMO’s is a major contributor to climate change and is unsustainable over time. You do not deny that it is the same corporations responsible for over-selling pesticides, herbicides and so on who now supply GMO’s

      Golden rice has never been shown to be viable at providing vitamin A in typical household use and storage, nor has it be demonstrated to be acceptable to those who would eat it. If the growers don’t want it and the customers don’t want it, what is the point? It does not matter how irrational the reasons are – it is still pointless. Trying to impose some guilt trip upon those that do not want golden rice is neo-colonial bullying.

      Modern agriculture, food production and distribution are major contributors of greenhouse gases: Agriculture is directly responsible for 14 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and broader rural land use decisions have an even larger impact. Deforestation currently accounts for an additional 18 per cent of emissions.

      The United States is losing soil 10 times faster — and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster – than the natural replenishment rate. The economic impact of soil erosion in the United States costs the nation about $37.6 billion each year in productivity losses.

      Damage from soil erosion worldwide is estimated to be $400 billion per year. As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive. Is it merely coincidence that that loss in productive arable land coincides with the comparable expansion of your “tech” farming?

      You agree that GMO’s do not address issues such as soil erosion or the consequences of climate change. All of those issues can be addressed by the types of organic or semi-organic farming that many academic institutions, UNDP, FAO and Worldfish are all seeking to promote. Yes, let’s all look at IPM as the world’s agricultural system collapses.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Jonathan

      All he sees is that “it works”, and cost, risk, human factors, etc., are only to be considered if they support an ideological position that brooks no debate.

      I happily agree GMO potential may be essentially unlimited, representing a more powerful advance than discovery of the atom, but advocates like Clyde seem to believe this is a free lunch – as did advocates for industrialization, nuclear technology, petrochemicals, power advocate.

      The world is complex and taking shortcuts for immediate gains proven disastrous over and over.

      Ideologues never learn.

  52. John Fryer says:

    I note that it seems Mark Lynas himself has indicated that the yields for GMO Bt Brinjal have varied from good to pretty awful but that the reason is not the GMO brinjal but any other factor of course.

    To Clyde who seems to think you can GMO anything without the obligatory use of a retro virus (where did all the new retro virus illnesses in man come from?)

    Consult the basic Wiki write up here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bt_brinjal

    note the use of the

    cauliflower mosaic virus.

    The cry1Ac gene is under the transcriptional control of an enhanced cauliflower mosaic virus 35S (CaMV35S) promoter, which ensures the gene is expressed in all the brinjals tissue throughout its complete life cycle.

    That any expert of such standing can not know of the necessity of viruses for GMO manipumlation is worrying especially as he appears to be in the majority.

    We dont need retro viruses for GMO crops.

    If only it was true I would have one reason to worry about future ills swept away from me.

    Every GMO crop needs RETRO viruses and not the viruses that were around to worry Mr Hughes.

    If Mr Hughes had to worry about retro viruses in every thing he ate then imagine what level he would have risen to!

    Warp Factor ten to another galaxy and another world perhaps?

    While we still do bot have a clue as to the origin of retroviral illness such as AIDS and the purported safe use of retro viruses for GMO as in 1971 there were no retro viral illnesses in known man.

    Cauliflower mosaic virus at present has no adverse effects on man but will spling it into GMO Brinjal change all that?

    Already we do see virus harm to allsort of plants is on the increase.

    Some serious GM researchers already have indicated plausible reasons for possible harm andsome have even had their proof of harm summarily pulled from the press or even rejected from publication.

    https://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/2012GMC0020R.pdf

    N Podevin review two years ago of possible known harm easily dismissed.

    And here a cautionary tale:

    http://www.ijme.in/index.php/ijme/article/view/327/1180

    Should the Bt Brinjal controversy concern healthcare professionals and bioethicists?

    India is a bit nearer to any adverse effects than Europe or America but in time?

    If thisis taken as obsession then it is only because when I was a lad we didnt have retro- virus illnesses and today they could take out the man sleeping on the street or the most powerful people in the world including the directors of the real owners of Mahyco and most of the science press.

  53. Clyde Davies says:

    Jonathan:
    Just answer the question I asked, like a good boy.

    Thank you
    Clyde

  54. Clyde Davies says:

    “I happily agree GMO potential may be essentially unlimited, representing a more powerful advance than discovery of the atom, but advocates like Clyde seem to believe this is a free lunch – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/05/bt-brinjal-in-bangladesh-the-true-story/#comment-54310

    No I don’t. Stop misrepresenting what I am saying. I have never claimed that there would be no tradeoffs involved.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      The only evidence of which I’m aware supports you “seem to think GMO’s are a free lunch”.

      Perhaps I’ve missed your posting of additional costs, risks, and/or harm with GMOs relative to any other option?

  55. Clyde Davies says:

    “You continue to insist there is ONE issue: functionality. If there is ANY reason we should ignore the potential harm, please explain, otherwise your position appears as ideologically driven as any of the others – and to be discounted from serious discussion. – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/05/bt-brinjal-in-bangladesh-the-true-story/#comment-54310

    Buck: I don’t know how many times I should have to make this point without writing you off as being either mendacious or stupid: the precautionary principle has *run its course* with two decades of three trillion meals eaten from these crops, and now is the time to move to a risk-versus-benefit, case-by-case basis. If there was any demonstrable harm shown I would be the first to call for a moratorium. There hasn’t. End of story.

    If you’re that afraid of harm then stay indoors. You have more risk of being hit by a meteorite.

    • Buck Field says:

      Yes, you’ve repeatedly made that point, and it has been repeatedly explained that the precautionary principle has not only not been applied, but that study of potential effects has been prevented by massive investments.

      Historical data of similar investments by organizations across various sectors goes back decades, and for governments could date back to the Behistun Inscription promoting King Darius.

      What you cannot do is explain this massive investment in light of the obvious option of allowing open research into GMO health effects. This would cost nothing, silence critics, and turn the tide of public opinion

      Can you explain it or not?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Yes I can explain it. Virtually all the studies at http://www.biofortified.org/ show no harm whatsoever from these crops. There are over one hundred independently funded studies there too that show no ill effects.

      Now, I’m getting a little bit tired of arguing against the existence of Russell’s Teapot. That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence (even though I could cite plenty). There are no harmful health effects from GMO crops, period. If you think you have some actual evidence, put up. Or do us all a favour and shut up.

    • Buck Field says:

      How does the existence of any number of studies and their results justify corporate investment in preventing unfettered research? Do you believe independent funding frees researchers from licensing restrictions?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck:
      I suggest that if you think that there hasn’t been enough open research on GMO safety that you start here:

      Independent studies on GMOs:
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      Böhme H, Rudloff E, Schöne F, Schumann W, Hüther L, Flachowsky G. 2007. Nutritional assessment of genetically modified rapeseed synthesizing high amounts of mid-chain fatty acids including production responses of growing-finishing pigs. Archives of animal nutrition 61(4):308-16. 2007.
      Baudo MM, Lyons R, Powers S, Pastori GM, Edwards KJ, Holdsworth MJ, Shewry PR. 206. Transgenesis has less impact on the transcriptome of wheat grain than conventional breeding. Plant biotechnology journal 4(4):369-80.
      Brake DG, Thaler R, Evenson DP. 2004. Evaluation of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn on mouse testicular development by dual parameter flow cytometry. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 52(7):2097-2102.
      Brake DG, Evenson DP. 2004. A generational study of glyphosate tolerant soybeans on mouse fetal, postnatal, pubertal and adult testicular development. Food and chemical toxicology 42(1):29–36.
      Atkinson HJ, Johnston KA, Robbins M. 2004. Prima facie evidence that a phytocystatin for transgenic plant resistance to nematodes is not a toxic risk in the human diet. Journal of Nutrition 134(2):431–434. (full text)
      Bakan B, Melcion D, Richard-Molard D, Cahagnier B. 2002. Fungal growth and Fusarium mycotoxin content in isogenic traditional maize and genetically modified maize grown in France and Spain. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 50(4): 728–731.
      Aulrich K, Böhme H, Daenicke R, Halle I, Flachowsky G. 2001. Genetically modified feeds in animal nutrition 1st communication: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn in poultry, pig and ruminant nutrition. Archiv für Tierernährung (Archives of Animal Nutrition) 54(3):183-195.
      Böhme H, Aulrich K, Daenicke R, Flachowsky G. 2001. Genetically modified feeds in animal nutrition. 2nd communication: glufosinate tolerant sugar beets (roots and silage) and maize grains for ruminants and pigs. Archiv für Tierernährung (Archives of animal nutrition) 54(3):197-207.
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      Chambers PA, Duggan PS, Heritage J, Forbes JM. 2000. The fate of antibiotic resistance marker genes in transgenic plant feed material fed to chickens. Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy 49(1):161–164. Novartis, formerly Ciba-Geigy, provided the genetically modified maize seeds used in this study. This work was funded by a grant from the Food Standards Agency.
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    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      Do you believe “independent” in such a context means “free to investigate potential negative health outcomes”?

      You seem to be in the grip of a pro-GMO opinion simply beyond the reach of reason.

      I’ve seen the same thing in Virginia regarding tobacco when I last had a contract there – problems just couldn’t be rationally discussed.

      FWIW: a thousand bad studies don’t add up to a good one.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      If you have evidence that this kind of obstructionism is prevalent then I’d love to see it. As far as I am concerned, independent peer-reviewedstudies are the best indication we have of whether the technology is dangerous or not. If they indicate that it isn’t well that’s good enough for me.
      If you can suggest why these particular studies should be regarded as suspect and you have better ideas of how they should be conducted, then like I said, put up or shut up.

    • Buck Field says:

      I hope you don’t object to relying on Monsanto’s own words for what you derisively call “evidence” of Monsanto’s crimes against open scientific inquiry.

      As for protecting GMO technology from unwanted scrutiny, it is much more than “prevalent” – it’s an overarching imperative enforced by what their PR people drafting their website call “the blanket agreement”. Corporation lawyers drafted something which “allows” work with Monsanto’s seeds.
      http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/public-research-agreements.aspx

      This provides the means for the crime.

      I was unable to obtain an actual copy of the blanket agreement, but in response to criticisms about the lack of ability to study potential adverse health impacts, Monsanto has pointed to “minimal constraints” in ARL’s, which suggests the criticism is valid. Essentially its a plea of “no contest” .

      According to Monsanto execs interviewed for HBS (and other b-school) case studies. Google “Monsanto and Intellectual Property – UVU” and read the PDF for the step by step breakdown of the steps enabling them to enslave farmers as much as possible under the law. “Value capture” was their term and in addition, perhaps for the first time in history, sterility genes were developed that would guarantee extermination of the entire species within one generation.

      They proudly claimed to have “bet the company” on GM technology, admitting their motive.

      Monsanto also make no secret of their many successes in getting universities to sign ARL’s restricting research. In other words: signed confessions.

      We have corroborating testimony from character witnesses (friendly universities) as well former employee critics who all agree that Monsanto enforces such agreements.

      Means, motive, opportunity, and multiple, independent, corroborating witnesses, and signed confession. That seems sufficient.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Buck
      I really don’t care about Monsanto and their patents. The reasons I don’t care are (a) nobody has demonstrated any substantive harm from GM crops nor any reason why there should be any (b) the precautionary principle, after 20 years of utter non-incident, no longer applies and your argument is irrelevant (c) some of these first generation crops are now coming out of patent and most importantly (d) Monsanto has NOTHING whatsoever to do with some of the most interesting developments in this field. This is from Calestuous Juma in the Guardian
      “n fact, local African scientists are at the forefront of using biotechnology to solve local problems. For example, researchers in Uganda are using biotechnology to control the Xanthomonas banana wilt. By transferring two genes from green peppers, scientists were able to grow highly resistant bananas.

      The bacterial disease causes discoloration and early ripening of bananas and costs the Great Lakes region approximately US$500m annually in losses (pdf). There is currently no treatment for the disease. Bananas are a staple crop in the region and so controlling the disease would directly enhance food security.

      In Nigeria the insect Maruca vitrata destroys nearly US$300m worth of blackeyed peas – a major staple crop. It forces farmers to import pesticides worth US$500m annually (pdf). To solve the problem, scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University have developed a pest-resistant, transgenic blackeyed pea variety using insecticide genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium.”

      Local scientists developing local solutions to local problems. You can fixate upon supposed sharp practice in Monsanto as long as you like but the really exciting stuff is going on thousands of miles away. African scientists are embracing biotech and making real progress. I’m far more interested in *that*. To be frank, your preocupations are irrelevant and rather tedious.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      One is to be discounted from rational scientific and ethical discussion when they refuse to even superficially address obvious problems. Only evidence which is perceived to support their position is judged valid. When the evidence seems to go against them, we have dishonesty.

      Example:
      You claimed:
      >If you have evidence that this kind of obstructionism is prevalent then I’d love to see it.

      After which:
      >I really don’t care about Monsanto and their patents.

      We defraud people by promising interest in counter evidence, luring them to devote time & effort to provide. If we really will not be interested in the fruits of their investment, we’ve lied to, and stolen from them. I think from ourselves as well.

      Such behavior makes us into petty liars and thieves – not something we consider part of science, and certainly far from motivations to do good for others.

    • Buck Field says:

      @Clyde

      One is to be discounted from rational scientific and ethical discussion when they refuse to even superficially address obvious problems. Only evidence which is perceived to support their position is judged valid. When the evidence seems to go against them, we have dishonesty.

      Example:
      You claimed:
      >If you have evidence that this kind of obstructionism is prevalent then I’d love to see it.

      Then air-tight evidence is presented of means, motive, opportunity, and multiple corroborating, consistent confirmations of obstruction from all stakeholders based on licensing restrictions.

      After which:
      >I really don’t care about Monsanto and their patents.

      We defraud people by promising interest in counter evidence, luring them to devote time & effort to provide. If we really will not be interested in the fruits of their investment, we’ve lied to, and stolen from them. I think from ourselves as well.

      Such behavior makes us into petty liars and thieves – not something we consider part of science, and certainly far from motivations to do good for others.

  56. Clyde Davies says:

    Oh, and one other set of falsehoods I think I shall call Jonathan out on:
    “Golden rice has never been shown to be viable at providing vitamin A in typical household use and storage…”

    ‘Golden rice is an effective source of vitamin A’ http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776.full
    “…, nor has it be demonstrated to be acceptable to those who would eat it.”
    Have you asked them? I suspect not. I can;t think of any reason why it should be UNACCEPTABLE? Because it’s a lovely golden-yellow colour? Do you think that if they were told that it would help keep their children healthy, this would somehow make it LESS acceptable?

    “If the growers don’t want it and the customers don’t want it, what is the point? It does not matter how irrational the reasons are – it is still pointless. Trying to impose some guilt trip upon those that do not want golden rice is neo-colonial bullying.”

    No it isn’t. Firstly, nobody has demonstrated that the customers don’t want it.

    Secondly, it does matter a very great deal what the rationality is behind any potential reasons why they might not want it: many people didn’t want to vaccinate their kids after Andrew Wakefield started scaremongering over MMR. This lack of a reasoned approach to risk led to a measles epidemic in my home town of Swansea where many children fell very seriously ill and a man died. People sometimes need issues of risk explaining to them in great detail before they can make a truly informed decision: your approach is to play on their ignorance purely because it suits your ideological agenda.

    Thirdly, nobody has tried to impose Golden Rice on anybody. Field trials are ongoing at the moment – to try to come up with appropriate local, biodiverse varieties as it happens – and no doubt when they are complete then people will adopt them. I’ll make you the same kind of bet that I made Buck (and which he ran away from): £50 says that in five years from the introduction of GR, it will save at least a thousand times as many lives as it costs. I’m sure Mark will be very happy to hold the money for us.

    If you’ve got the courage of your convictions that this foodstuff is going to do nothing but harm, why don’t you stand by them?

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, who is making the false claims? You say: “Thirdly, nobody has tried to impose Golden Rice on anybody.”

      A study in which Chinese children were fed a small amount of genetically modified rice violated university and U.S. federal rules on human research, according to a statement issued yesterday by Tufts University in Boston, whose scientists led the study. Tufts has barred the principal investigator, Guangwen Tang, from doing human research for 2 years and will require her to undergo training in research on human subjects.

      You say: “Golden rice is an effective source of vitamin A”. This from the IRRI: Our current project will help us determine whether Golden Rice could meet the needs of those with vitamin A deficiency. If Golden Rice is approved by national regulators, Helen Keller International (HKI) and partners will assess whether or not consumption of Golden Rice improves the vitamin A status of adults by conducting tests under controlled community conditions. I would tend to consider the IRRI a little more reliable than your claims.

      Your second point about training and education, I agree with. Please explain how that can be achieved before the full facts are known?

      Currently, it is not even known how much vitamin JA the genetically engineered rice will produce. The goal is 33.3% micrograms/100g of rice. Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD.

      Since the daily average requirement of vitamin A is 750 micrograms of vitamin A and 1 serving contains 30g of rice according to dry weight basis, vitamin A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance. Even taking the 100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of the RDA.

      In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through “Golden rice”.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through “Golden rice”

      You are talking complete rubbish – as usual. That is a claim made by Greenpeace on the basis of a developmental strain for GR that was never intended for consumption by people. The most recent strain requires only 100-150g to be consumed for an adult to get 60% of their full RDA.

      As for it being imposed on people – this was an *error of protocol* made by a Chinese reasearcher and it does not invalidate *any* of the findings. Golden Rice *works* and if people are given the opportunity to grow and consume it then children will benefit. I’ll bet that if we gave these farmers the opportunity and the choice then they’d leap at it. You obviously don’t want that to happen. As for the IRRI statement about the need for further tests, this is imply the next phase in the research process: it doesn’t mean that they think that the product is suspect in any way.

      Like I said, I support people who have good ideas and the vision and detremination to make things happen. Your kind of thinking is some of the most counterproductive there is. You know what you don’t like and refuse to admit there might be any other solutions apart from you own ideological ones. You disinter zombie arguments and repeat blatant falsehoods and total irrelevances and somehow think this is sufficient to make your case convincingly, while discounting the need to to any real, hard, grown up science.

      What are your qualifications to comment on any of this? Did you stop taking science after high school? Have you ever read a paper beyond the abstract?

      And you STILL haven’t answered that very simple question I asked. You silence tells me that is is nothing but ideology that motivates you.

  57. Clyde Davies says:

    And Jonathan, I’m still waiting for a simple, honest answer to that very question I asked you. Risky organic versus proven GMO: which one is it? The fact that you have attempted to evade answering it tells me just as much as a straight answer.

  58. Clyde Davies says:

    And just to keep the spotlight on Jonathan’s seemingly endless misrepresentations and falsehoods, he harps on about his obsession with soil erosion again:
    “Damage from soil erosion worldwide is estimated to be $400 billion per year. As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive. Is it merely coincidence that that loss in productive arable land coincides with the comparable expansion of your “tech” farming?

    You agree that GMO’s do not address issues such as soil erosion or the consequences of climate change. All of those issues can be addressed by the types of organic or semi-organic farming that many academic institutions, UNDP, FAO and Worldfish are all seeking to promote. Yes, let’s all look at IPM as the world’s agricultural system collapses.”

    No I DON’T AGREE as it happens. RR crops make no-till farming much easier which in turn can totally eliminate soil erosion. And as Mark has point out, GMOs can be grown perfectly well with IPM practices. This isn’t a zero sum game, a simple black-and-white choice between one set of farming practices and the other.

    The future scenario I see playing out in front of me is that we will end up with two groups of farmers. The anti-science, anti-biotech Arcadian fantasists will be much the same as they are now, but ‘conventional’ farmers will increasingly adopt both organic and biotech practices that are safe, productive and environmentally benign, such as IPM. The former group will become increasingly an irrelevance.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, you really don’t know much about farming. Whilst no-till is a move in the right direction it is not a complete answer. There is no, one-size fits all answer – that is the arrogant assumption of science.

      Rodale Institute researchers have been identifying and refining organic no-till or reduced-till techniques that can meet farmers’ needs to improve soil and reduce labor while using tools other than herbicides to manage weeds. In organic systems, one of the best tools to manage weeds is cover crops, and this has proven to be true for organic no-till systems as well. However, even Rodale would confirm that what they do is applicable in the US and to US farming conditions.

      Everything you promote is basically US centric. Most of that does not work that well even in the US as several studies have shown.

      Pesticides, fertilizers, and manure run into water, which renders US water undrinkable, makes the beaches unfit to swim from and has created an area in the Gulf of Mexico, so contaminated by acidification, that aquatic life has to flee or die.

      In Iowa, the 2012 rains triggered massive runoff from the state’s farms into its creeks, streams, and rivers, tainting water with toxic nitrate from fertilizer. Nitrate levels in the state’s waterways reached record levels – so high that they emerged as a “real issue for human health,” Bob Hirsch, a hydrologist for the US Geological Survey, told the Associated Press.

      The largely invisible crisis of Iowa’s topsoil, which appears to be eroding at a much higher rate than US Department of Agriculture numbers indicate—and, more importantly, at up to 16 times the natural soil replacement rate, not 10 times, as the US DA assert overall. That’s prime grain belt land that has done much to help feed the world over the past 50 years or so. Iowa cannot afford to continue to lose land that way – the farmers make it worse by refilling “ephemeral gullies” with top-soil laden with fertilizers to extract more crops. The following rains and all that soil and ferlizer is washed away again.

      A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

      “Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” There have likely been declines in other nutrients, too, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.

      No-till does not address those issues, nor does the development of alternative GMO’s, hybrids or whatever. It is impossible and wholly unsustainable to take out from the soil more than soil contains and do so at a rate faster that the soil can replenish itself. Simply chucking more and more synthetic chemicals into the soil won’t solve the problem.

      The first priority is to bring the process under control by ensuring that good soil replenishes itself faster than intensive farming, erosion and depletion take away from it. That’s not rocket science, just good old fashioned common sense – farming as it should be.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      ANSWER THE QUESTION I ASKED!

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Clyde, you really don’t know much about farming. Whilst no-till is a move in the right direction it is not a complete answer. There is no, one-size fits all answer – that is the arrogant assumption of science. – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/05/bt-brinjal-in-bangladesh-the-true-story/#comment-54807@

      Yes, quite right I don’t I am not a farmer. I do know however that there is no ‘one-size fits all answer’ and I thought I had made that quite plain in my original posting. Plain, at least, to somebody who is actually reading what I say.

      You go on about the ‘arrogant assumption of science’. Like I said, I’ll bet I’ve forgotten more science than you will ever learn, and I can tell you that science only really cares about one notion, and that is *effectiveness*. Scientific thinking is the most effective kind of thinking there is in terms of it achieving in what it sets out to do. If there was a more effective kind of thinking, science would have incorporated it.

      So, given that science only really cares about effectiveness, it’s going to go for whatever solution works best. And, as I have pointed out MANY TIMES NOW, it really doesn’t matter what form that solution takes. The ideological purity of that solution is also irrelevant, from a scientific viewpoint. The best kind of solution may well end being a hybrid between organic and GM. And the perfect solution in one set of circumstances may well end up being less than ideal in another.

      You seem totally incapable of grasping this point. Certainly of acknowledging it. As I have observed, you are fixated on means rather than ends. This is one of the characteristic traits of ideological thinking. I’ll also bet that after you have gone and lectured your poor Filipino farmers about the moral correctness of organic farming, that you will return to your comfortable house with its air conditioning and a well-stocked fridge.

  59. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, soil erosion depletion is a constant and on-going natural processes. Those processes can be accelerated, reversed or held static by what we do and by changes in the climate. In the US it has been determined that 5 tonnes per hectare soil loss is roughly equal to the soil recovery rate. However, the US Department of Agriculture say that the soil erosion depletion rate is at least ten times that level. I have also shown that in Iowa they assess the annual losses at around 16 times the recovery rate. I can supply the links if you want them.

    Simply saying I’m misrepresenting everything doesn’t actually address any of the issues I raised. What I have suggested is that the US style of farming is unsustainable. It is that style of farming that supports the development and use of GMO’s.

    There are many scientists who believe that soil erosion and soil depletion are second only to climate change in seriousness as a threat to humanity.

    When I raise Tang, suspended for two years and required to take instruction upon using people (children) in experiments – this is downgraded by you to an error of protocol – when the actual details of what she did were never made fully public. The punishment suggests a much more serious infringement and it does not affect the results – Sorry, but if a researcher cannot follow proper protocol that requires serious punishment, then can the results have any real credibility whatsoever? Talk about the multiple application of questionable standards of credibility…

    Leading scientist for pro-GMO lobby, Dr. Pamela Ronald, retracted two studies. Her retracted research has in turn been cited by more than 120 other papers, causing a significant snowball effect of potentially invalidated research. The two now retracted studies formed the basis of her research program into how rice plants detected certain pathogenic bacteria.

    With the loss of her credibility and the snowball effect of those retractions within later studies that cited her work, biotechnology has already suffered a great blow to its scientific integrity.

    In this case, the first of Dr. Ronald’s retracted studies has been cited eight times and the second was cited 113 times. Whilst German researchers raised questions about the validity of her research it was some time later before the research was retracted. That sounds like a cleanup job in a field that’s already heavily criticized for its preponderance of “lousy science,” to use the words of award-winning geneticist Dr. David Suzuki.

    You, Clyde, have already referred to another egregious example, a researcher who proposed a link between the administration of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Although that claim was widely discredited, movie stars and many newspapers continued to promote it. Many parents chose not to vaccinate their children for fear that their children would become autistic. The result has supposedly been a worldwide outbreak of preventable disease. However, in the recent California outbreak over 95% of children had been vaccinated (the target level) – the outbreak still occurred and the problem may be a bit more complicated.

    When I point out that the IRRI are in process of determining whether or not golden rice actually delivers – you, Clyde, somehow already know the answers to that question. This from the IRRI, March this year: “While the target level of beta-carotene in the grain was attained, average yield was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers. As previously stated, this means that Golden Rice will only be made broadly available to farmers and consumers if it is: (a) successfully developed into rice varieties that retain the same yield, pest resistance, and grain quality—agronomic and eating traits acceptable to farmers and consumers—as current popular rice varieties; (b) deemed safe and approved by national regulators; and (c) shown to improve vitamin A status under community conditions.”

    It ain’t there yet….

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Andrew:
      I am getting sick of your inability or unwillingness to address my points. What Tang did or didn’t do regarding informing the subjects, which I suspect was due to inexperience on her part, has no bearing on whether the results hold up or don’t. The way the experiment was designed does, and there were several other authors from several institutes from several countries on that paper. The results in the paper show that golden rice is very good at delivering Vitamin A. I can read and understand the paper, evidently you haven’t or won’t. So yes, unless you can *fault* the experimental protocol or the way the data was analysed or the way that conclusions were drawn, then the results have a good deal more credibility than you do.

      I looked up Pamela Ronald, as I had never heard of her. It seems she has made a couple of mistakes on some papers. Sometimes people make mistakes, we all do, but this doesn’t invalidate any of her other findings or her academic record to date. Her statement on her retraction was “For me, there was never any question that I would correct the scientific record if we had made a mistake. The bigger challenge was confirming that we really had made mistakes and generating sufficient evidence to warrant full retraction of the papers.”

      I am not going to comment on vaccination. I was using it as an example of how people can make the wrong decisions on the basis of a poor understanding of risk.

      You finally say:
      ““While the target level of beta-carotene in the grain was attained, average yield was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers. As previously stated, this means that Golden Rice will only be made broadly available to farmers and consumers if it is: (a) successfully developed into rice varieties that retain the same yield, pest resistance, and grain quality—agronomic and eating traits acceptable to farmers and consumers—as current popular rice varieties; (b) deemed safe and approved by national regulators; and (c) shown to improve vitamin A status under community conditions.”

      This means that more development work is need. Gasp! A new crop isn’t perfect yet! Let’s abandon it, shall we, because it *obviously* is going to fail? The most detailed analysis of the potential impact of GR to date has estimated that IN INDIA ALONE, over 1,424,000 life-years have been lost due to the delay in getting this crop into the fields.

      And much of that delay has resulted from people who think just the same way as you do. I find your kind of thinking utterly negative, fatalistic, and dispiriting. If it were left to people like you, we would still be sitting around in caves, eating raw food and eschewing the ‘tech’ fixes of fire and cooking. You’re the modern equivalent of Dr. Dionysius Lardner (look him up). Except that his negativism didn’t cost any lives.

      I’m going to repeat my challenge again. I will bet you a modest sum of money, £50, that five years after its introduction as a field crop, Golden Rice will have saved over a thousand times more lives than it might have adversely impacted. Now, if you’re so convinced that it’s a lost cause and a misbegotten enterprise from the start, you will take my bet because you actually believe all this stuff you’re saying.

      So, put up or shut up. But before you shut up, answer that question I asked.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, do you make this all up as you go along? Do you know who the IRRI are? They are the people tasked with making golden rice work. As to your assertions about the development of a variety of rice strains for bio-diversities sake – not true, they are trying to find one strain that conforms to the base criteria of yield equivalence, pest resistance and vitamin A availability at target levels in normal storage and use conditions. They are not there yet. So all your hysteria is wild unsubstantiated rubbish.

      What you would do is impose your vision upon others on the absolute conviction that you are right without any real evidence in support of your arguments. What your scenario would play out as, is a worldwide shortage of rice and consequential starvation.

      Your only justification being the word of two German economists. There is an old joke about economists, put any three economists into a room to resolve a problem, you’ll get five mutually exclusive answers and a seperate bill for each.

      How many times do I have to keep saying that the best way to eradicate VAD is to improve the incomes of the world’s poorest people and education about better diets. That has been reiterated in studies by many, many scientists, economists, dieticians with citations in the many hundreds if not thousands. There is not a shortage of food as yet, it is not the supply side that needs ajustment to provide for the poorest but the ability for them to pay for family food.

      This extract from a 2002 study originating in Rotterdam, highlights the problem: “There is widespread consensus that a diverse diet is the best way to consume the necessary nutrients, including Vitamin A. Natural Vitamin A (retinol) is present in animal products such as rneat. liver, chicken, egg yolk and milk. Beta-carotene, the Vitamin A precursor, is found in dark-geen leafy vegetables. carrots and coloured fruits (mango and papaya). However. the extent to which Vitamin A deficiency is reduced through the availability of traditional food sources in developing countries is under discussion.

      Many children apparently do not like dark-green leafy vegetables.
      The healthy fruits are often too costly, or they are sold as a cash crop, while their availability is often highly seasonal. Furthermore, many vegetables bind beta-carotene tightly to their cellular matrices, yielding little during digestion. The bioavailability and bio-conversion of dark-green leafy vegetable sources of beta-carotene is therefore much lower than previously supposed (Conway. 2001; Sommer, 2001, p. 2). Finally. it is obvious that most animal products are of little help for VAD Vegetarians.”

      Notice the failure to mention any locally grown vegetable varieties that do provide adequate vitamin A in useable form and the somewhat patronising attitude. The tropical fruits mentioned are highly seasonal but there are other fruits that ensure vitamin A availability, year round. Sweet potato is not mentioned but is widely available and is rich in beta-carotene.

      Incidentally, I do not, as so many ex-pats do, live in some isolated cocoon (except in isolation from them). We have no air-con and we last saw a European late last year whilst sorting my visa. We did get a visit from an American, twice, when he needed some home cooked food (Filipino style, I did the cooking) earlier this year.

  60. Clyde Davies says:

    “By 2002, Golden Rice was technically ready to go. Animal testing had found no health risks. Syngenta, which had figured out how to insert the Vitamin A-producing gene from carrots into rice, had handed all financial interests over to a nonprofit organization, so there would be no resistance to the life-saving technology from GMO opponents who resist genetic modification because big biotech companies profit from it. Except for the regulatory approval process, Golden Rice was ready to start saving millions of lives and preventing tens of millions of cases of blindness in people around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

    It’s still not in use anywhere, however, because of the opposition to GM technology. Now two German economists have quantified the price of that opposition, in human health, and the numbers are truly frightening.”

    http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/conservation-and-development/the-human-toll-of-anti-gmo-hysteria

    • Buck Field says:

      Corrected version:
      >Animal testing [where health outcomes are not allowed to be documented] had found no health risks.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Corrected corrected version:
      Animal testing had found no health risks [which are unspecified, nebulous, unsubstantiated and vastly unlikely to outstrip the potential benefits of this crop]

    • Clyde Davies says:

      What about it Buck? Still think that there’s going to be a scandal from GM poisoning within the next five years? Put your money where you mouth is: it’s only about $80.

    • Buck Field says:

      Clyde,

      You provide evidence of scandal to which it is impossible to assert “I don’t care about that.” and I’ll accept.

  61. Clyde Davies says:

    Fine. Let’s say, proven in a court of law and damages being awarded against a grower for proven damage to human health. Not something highly contestable, such as loss of organic certification (such as the Marsh case tried to claim). Let’s use the Vioxx case ‘Garza v. Merck’ as a model, where damages were awarded for injury to health suffered by a specific individual.

    Now, if the null hypothesis holds after five years and no such case manages to win in court in the US (because I can’t guarantee that these crops will be grown in the UK), I win the bet. If it doesn’t, a case makes it to court, and damages get awarded, then you win the bet. Clear enough?

    • Buck Field says:

      Response: “I don’t care about that.”

      Nope, either of us would still be as free as you seem to feel to assert lack of interest when confronted with overwhelmingly clear evidence.

      Also, by your new standards, “highly contestable” can mean anything.

      All I can do is point out your dishonesty, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to actually get you to perceive it. Our biases are very hard to perceive, often impossible. You may actually believe you’re being totally rigorous, so perhaps dishonesty is too severe an assessment.

  62. Clyde Davies says:

    Forget it. I thought you actually had some conviction in what you were saying. You don’t.

    I’m done with you.

    • Buck Field says:

      Yes, I have some conviction you’re dishonest. Whether this is by conscious choice or merely a victim of circumstance, sufficient emotional investment in a position not favored by the evidence forces us to be dishonest to the degree we are confronted with contrary facts.

      As before, you now create a narrative that preserves your own self image, and address your attention to imagined faults with the messenger, or something else…anything but the possibility that your position is wrong, and by attacking opponents, you might be condemned as a bad person.

      The fact that we all make mistakes is an excellent reason to devote ourselves to reliable epistemological approaches rather than ontological positions, as ideologues on both sides of the GMO debate have.

      That is another truth you likely cannot admit. Far from apathy, the fact that reaching people with this approach (like you & many GM opponents) seems impossible troubles me greatly. One can’t help but notice that if money were not involved, it seems likely such a debate would exist.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “The fact that we all make mistakes is an excellent reason to devote ourselves to reliable epistemological approaches rather than ontological positions, as ideologues on both sides of the GMO debate have.

      That is another truth you likely cannot admit. Far from apathy, the fact that reaching people with this approach (like you & many GM opponents) seems impossible troubles me greatly. One can’t help but notice that if money were not involved, it seems likely such a debate would exist.”

      It’s this kind of pomposity and your own dishonesty that I’m leaving behind. I offered you a very simple bet with very clear terms and little if any ambiguity. You refused it. And as for ‘reliable epistemological approaches rather than ontological positions’, my Plain English take on the issue is that after three trillion meals and two decades, nobody has proven any harm to health from any GMO foodstuff. Going on that basis, I’d have very little chance of losing that bet, so you’d rather sidetrack the issue into about ‘epistemology’ and ‘ontology’. You’re frit, as the Scots like to say.

      Finally, I have to deal with this sweeping generalization that “That is another truth you likely cannot admit. Far from apathy, the fact that reaching people with this approach (like you & many GM opponents) seems impossible troubles me greatly. One can’t help but notice that if money were not involved, it seems likely such a debate would exist.”

      I don’t give a damn about money. What I do give a damn about, to the exclusion of all else, are Enlightenment Values. You know, those values brought in during the 17th century, which championed science, scepticism, reason and individualism and set itself up against religion and collectivism. It’s these kind of values that are under attack when somebody claims to know that GM crops will be failures and that organic farming is best, but without any real prior knowledge (or flying in the face of that knowledge that does exist) and is even prepared to destroy field trials set out to establish the actuality one way or the other.

      If I’m an ideologue in your eyes, so be it, I really don’t care. I’m wedded to experimentation and a spirit of inquiry free from interference from others who dislike what the results might come up with. I don’t care whether the results come down in favour of organic or GM because, believe it or not, I really don’t see any difference between the two. They’re all agriculture, at the end of the day, which is a fundamentally unnatural process leading to an unnatural landscape. All I care about is that I think it’s a global scandal that up to 500,000 children a year are *dying* from VAD while we in the affluent West dither about unspecified and ill-conceived risks to health.

      But, if that makes me a ideologue, then what exactly does it make the people whose response to this scandal is to do nothing but preach ‘let them eat broccoli!’ ? Especially some well-heeled Westerners who think that slumming it in a developing country gives them the license to prescribe, and proscribe, how people should drag themselves out the pit of poverty?

    • Buck Field says:

      Clyde, as I’ve said many, many, many times: there are unreasonable ideologues on both sides. That your position faces unreasonable criticism does not excuse your unreasoning devotion to it, nor deliberate, intentional blindness to very real risk indicators.

      Similarly, your unreasonable criticism does not make anyone elses position correct, nor excuse their religious opposition to GMO’s.

      To do this repeatedly as you have, is to excuse oneself from reasoned discussion.

  63. John Fryer says:

    Clyde

    There have been many cases of harm from GMO technology to the extent that the particular technology has been changed, stopped but in every case there are denials.

    One example:

    The tryptophan affair:

    Harm from GMO tryptophan.

    Result ALL tryptophan was called harmful!

    And in the inquiry there was from lost burnt and stolen an unfortunate FIRE where all chance of identifying the culprit for harm 5GMO perhaps or perha

  64. John Fryer says:

    Clyde

    There have been many cases of harm from GMO technology to the extent that the particular technology has been changed, stopped but in every case there are denials.

    One example:

    The tryptophan affair:

    Harm from GMO tryptophan.

    Result ALL tryptophan was called harmful!

    And in the inquiry there was from lost burnt and stolen an unfortunate FIRE where all chance of identifying the culprit for harm (GMO perhaps or perhaps not?) waslost

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “There have been many cases of harm from GMO technology to the extent that the particular technology has been changed, stopped but in every case there are denials.”

      No there haven’t (see Hitchen’s Razor).

  65. John Fryer says:

    Dont look

    Wont find

    Is a more sensible view:

    Decades of safe use for tryptophan.

    Enter GMO tryptophan to cut costs and

    The rest is history.

    Thousands admitted harmed often for life

    Dozens admitted dead

    Actual harmpossibly many times greater?

    No cause admitted as the most probable cause was something to do with the abandoned GMO technology.

    As to Hitchins Razor

    Would be useful tool for the barristors:

    They could empty 90 per cent of the prisons in the USAusing this yardstick.

    It is hardly a razor more a blunt instrument to try to defend all this unadmitted harm.

    Try one more:

    8 years of using GMO aspartame and see what it did to Michael J Fox who promoted its use in diet drinks!

    It also did much the same to others I made a study of.

    All highly denied.

    Millions of extra cancers why?

    Millions more with autism why?

    Millions of overweight people why?

    etc etc etc.

    Nobody knows!

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “All highly denied.

      Millions of extra cancers why?

      Millions more with autism why?

      Millions of overweight people why?

      etc etc etc.

      Nobody knows!”

      I know. It’s due to a deadly epidemic of hypochondria.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      BTW: Hitchen’s Razor – ‘that which can be asserted without evidence, can be denied without evidence’.

  66. John Fryer says:

    Clyde re-iterates the GMO lobbies view here:

    The precautionary principle has *run its course*

    With two decades of three trillion meals eaten from these crops,

    Now is the time to move to a risk-versus-benefit, case-by-case basis.

    If there was any demonstrable harm shown I would be the first to call for a moratorium.

    USA is at the forefront of the GMO technology.

    Its health has declined so slowly perhaps that Clyde doesnt realise those three trillion meals have taken USA from top to bottom in the first worlds health status.

    Is this fall in USA world health something that we should welcome?

    OR

    Is it something where we should say:

    What have we been feeding to the USA people to get them in this parlous state.

    Chronic Kidney Disease has been recognised as a new disease

    Chronic Kidney Disease affects 10 per cent of the USA population

    Chronic Kidney Diseaseis just one illness that is either new or affecting USA citizens in ever increasing numbersevery year.

    Until GMO arrived health normally got better every year not WORSE.

    • Buck Field says:

      I think it would be a mistake to draw associations between correlation and causation too quickly. There are many potential sources of health problems like kidney disease. Good studies are needed, and that’s what I advocate for. Regrettably, corporate power is so much greater than any in history, our legal structures are now designed to protect entities that were supposed to serve the public good. Now, they hold the lash.

      From what little I’ve read, bt gene incorporation appears to target gut bacteria of insects which results in gut tissue degeneration and perforation.

      It seems the most obvious risk would be that some human gut flora would be similarly vulnerable. The most probable indication this were the case would be widespread increase in something like irritable bowel syndrome. As corporate seed owners can prevent trustworthy studies, only disreputable results (if any) would be available.

    • John Fryer says:

      Hi Buck

      Thanks for your constructive comments

      Cause and Correlation arguments are used to enable problems to continue and increase harm.

      I do not link kidney damge directly to the use of GMO materials.

      Clearly nothing could be further from the truth;

      GMO matter does NOT cause this harm.

      The cause and corrleation is ABSOLUTE ZERO.

      But it is the use of pesticides (by definition designed to ultimately KILL) in the indirect farm practices that do and not include GMO matter.

      And the number one suspect is GLYPHOSATE alone or in the mix it is used on the farm or agriculture.

      The evidence does not come from humble me but from university research that ten years ago put harm from glyphosate as TEMPORARY.

      Today that careful research has moved on to:

      Get the STUFF out of contact with HUMANS FOR EVER!

      GLYPHOSATE is a dangerous organophosphorus compound that damages several organs (essential for life as we know it) including

      the HEART

      the LUNGS

      And especially here

      our KIDNEYS

    • John Fryer says:

      Addressing the matter of gut problems

      This is much more likely to have partial impact from splicing viruses, bacteria and antibiotic markers in total or part in what we know is GMO, engineering or genetic hybridisation etc etc etc.

      GMO began in 1971 when IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) was around ZERO per cent.

      Today in GMO society the rates can go up to nearly 50 per cent and are commonly in the 10 to 15 per cent range.

      In itself a complete condemnation of modern health where illness USED to quoted as 1 or so cases per 100 000 or whatever.

      In 1971 when my daughter was born I calculated ZERO risk for her health.

      Today I calculate nigh on INFINITE RISK for those about to be born.

      See

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irritable_bowel_syndrome

      Bt GMO technology as you say may affect us despite the claims of Big pHARMa that itis IMPOSSIBLE!

      Remember the claims about glyphosate?

      It is safe than eating SALT.

      Today We would DIE without SALT

      But today we know we will DIE if we consume small amounts of GLYPHOSATE over time. (from damage to heart, lungs or kidneys etc etc etc)

    • Buck Field says:

      @JohnFryer

      As I tell irresponsible GMO proponents, I will tell you: we are best served by adopting reasonable certainty based on reasonable evidence.

      Absolute confidence about causation in complex systems is unscientific on the face of it – so while you may be right in your belief that GMO’s do cause significant harm, the certainty of that belief and the way you advocate for it are still irrational and unscientific.

  67. John Fryer says:

    Clyde complains

    I know. It’s due to a deadly epidemic of hypochondria

    He refers to all the increases in illness and death afflicting USA citizens in ever increasing numbers every year.

    As I take him to be a sensible person genuinely concerned with feeding the world, feeding the poor AND keeping them in better health would he like to reflect on this kind of talk?

    Take DIABETES:

    This affects MANY of my friends

    This has KILLED many of my friends

    Not an illness to make jibes about.

    Since GMO and during those THREE TRILLION meals.

    What has happened to diabetes in the USA?

    ANSWER:

    It is slowly climbing from an unsatisfactory level

    To a DISASTROUS level.

    Whether these illnesses are GMO related or not.

    People deserve answers:

    OR

    We do need a PRECAUTIONARY principle for food.

    Should FOOD be given to people on a: We think it wont hurt you

    EVEN with retro viruses in it

    And

    EVEN with bits of E Coli in every cell.

    And

    Even if it has been over sprayed with PESTICIDES.

  68. John Fryer says:

    Those three trillion meals

    Does that mean we have NEVER used the precautionary principle.

    Simplyshoved the stuff down anyones throats who hasnt the ability to recognise how it is made or how to avoid it though year by year this goes from difficult to nigh on impossible.

    The first COMPLAINT about GMO safety was purportedly

    BEFORE

    The experiment was done!

    In fact this is probably an exercise in changing HISTORY.

    The first RETRO VIRUS illness that killed a human was about 4 years AFTER the use of retro viruses for all GMO transformations/hybridisations/engineering.

    The 1950′s case of AIDS was proven a FRAUD using an AIDS case from an evolved form of AIDS not seen before the mid 1980′s.

    Changing labels

    Genuine mistake

    OR pure FRAUD

    Who knows?

  69. John Fryer says:

    I would like to thank Mark Lynas for the forum here.

    I hope we can see at some point exactly what yields those farmers eventually got/get for their GMO plants.

    Not that this is importance compared to the safety of such plants to the health of those who eat them.

    Mark is a FELLOW at a prestigious university and would he comment how he came to get such a teaching/research post requiring him to work/teach/lecture there when he lives 5 000 plus killometres away in another country.

    I have to say I amin sheer jealousy as my only effort to get such a job in science failed as my degree was not of sufficient level in those days to justify such a position.

    It appears that like health

    Experts on GMO plants dont need degrees just commitment?

    And if Mark had another turn of direction I suspect perhaps he would be terminated at this university in double quick time?

    I am as certain of the long term harm from virus/bacteria infected plants which are the essential base of GMO plants as Mark and at least one other here is certain how ANY such novel plant is so much better and healthier than everything that came in the past 4 billion years on this planet.

    People that tell us of the health giving effects of GMO food need to show why it is so healthy and not just lie about THREE TRILLION meals and no adverse health effects when any fool can see what is happening to USA health in general and particularly the American Academy of Science that admits

    USA today: Shorter Lives and Poorer Health.

    Somewhere we see PROPAGANDA for GMO matter called food?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Mark is a FELLOW at a prestigious university and would he comment how he came to get such a teaching/research post requiring him to work/teach/lecture there when he lives 5 000 plus killometres away in another country. – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2014/05/bt-brinjal-in-bangladesh-the-true-story/?replytocom=60479#respond

      Because he’s a very intelligent man who reads and writes a lot about the environment, travels the world talking to people with first-hand experience and makes a lot of persuasive arguments based on scientific evidence. He’s also bolstered his credibility by having the guts to own up to when he was wrong about a critical issue.

      In contrast, however, we have…

  70. Jonathan Brown says:

    Here in the Philippines, the loss of rice plantations is considerable. The potential yield losses from rice farming through typhoons, pests and poor farming practices is making growing rice unattractive. As a consequence, many young farmers are seeking employment in cities as a better way to help and support their families. There is an increasing shortage of labour in upland areas.

    These factors are also aggravated by inadequate irrigation facilities to sustain production. The abnormalities in climate are yet another factor for the low output.

    In a household survey conducted by the DA together with the Philippine Rice Research Institute, production losses during the wet season can reach up to 945 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) or 29 per cent of the production. Of this, 358 kg/ha loss is attributed to typhoon or strong wind, 250 kg/ha to pests, 198 kg/ha to drought and the rest to other causes.

    The survey also revealed that losses are much higher during the dry season which can reach up to 1,298 kg/ha.

    The amount of research into hybrids and “golden rice” is not matched by adequately funding research into farming methods and systems to improve upland yields and profitability. Nor is there adequate finance to enable upland farmers to implement the benefits of that research.

    Thus, as the emphasis shifts away from better utilization of arable upland areas, water conservation to reduce lowland flooding and greater crop diversity. Instead, it moves towards the high risk strategy of unsustainable larger scale, intensive, lowland monoculture rice farming. That strategy is leaving upland farms abandoned and producing nothing. That combination and implementation of those solely and one dimensional economically measured pressures is actually increasing poverty and make poverty reduction much more difficult in the longer term.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Jonathan:
      The golden rice research is *not* depriving other areas of farming research of much needed funds. As far as I can gather, a few million dollars has been spent so far on its research and development. Moreover, this is a development that has applications across the whole world, not just your own backyard of the Philippines.

      This is not a zero-sum game, as I have pointed out (seemingly pointlessly) many times, despite how ideologues such as yourself you like to portray it. We need a plurality of approaches to solving these problems, and nobody from the biotech community would even pretend that theirs is the only way to solve the problem. As you have pointed out, losses from pests in the Philippines sum up to 250 kg/ha. Mark has commented that IPM works well alongside Bt brinjal to give an effective means of minimising these losses.

      I know that if I were in your situation, giving advice to local farmers on how best to maximise yields, that I would want to give them *all* the options available, rather than proscribe ones that went against my own ideological preconceptions. Perhaps you’d do the same if you had any ‘skin in the game’.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      My back yard, as you call it, includes a number of mango plantations. Those that have used quantities of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides and so forth have severe infestation problems. Whereas those that are “organic” and or “semi-organic” don’t have similar difficulties.

      “Soil erosion is a serious threat to the sustainability of agricultural systems in the Philippines, as in many intensively cultivated regions of the developing world, yet the ultimate causes of erosion are complex and poorly understood.” This quote is from the Abstract of Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2012, “Uncovering the Root Causes of Soil Erosion in the Philippines”. In the US soil erosion is 10+ times the natural recovery rate. China and other Asian countries that soil erosion depletion is anywhere between 40 to 50 times the natural soil recovery rate. This is a frighteningly ignored worldwide problem.

      To bring the subject full circle to the Bt Brinjal, Bangladesh “SIRAJGANJ, Bangladesh (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Worsening erosion along the banks of the Jamuna River has dramatically increased the number of families losing their homes and land – but dredging could help ease the problem, experts say.

      Erosion is a long-standing problem in Bangladesh, with much of the country made up river deltas deposited by the region’s many rivers. But more extreme weather and heavy runoff has led to growing deposits of soil in the Jamuna River, which is in turn driving worsening riverside erosion, residents and experts say. This rainy season alone, hundreds of families in Sirajganj district have lost their homes or their farmland, they said.”

      As rainfall increases in intensity; coupled with longer dry periods, that are an accepted consequence of climate change, soil erosion becomes much worse.

      The complex causes of soil erosion and depletion include, I suggest, the diminution of bio-diversity within soils and in the reducing varieties of crops grown. That, in turn, diminishes natural defences against pests and increases the prevalence of fungal, biological and insect pests. Simply attacking one set of pests merely makes competition less fierce for another pest. All the while soil erosion and depletion gets worse.

      What the GMO’s endeavour to do, is to deflect away from the much more serious underlying causes of soil depletion. It demonstrates the fundamental amorality of these corporations in their profit seeking.

      My current project is to introduce and area of standing water into an area of organically farmed uplands, with natural measures (Water fern and guppies) to control mosquitoes. The purpose being to measure the increase in bio-diversity in the immediate area.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      And however worthy and well-intentioned these initiatives may be, none of them are going to directly address in the slightest the fact that many Filipino kids aren’t getting enough vitamin A.

      You say “What the GMO’s endeavour to do, is to deflect away from the much more serious underlying causes of soil depletion. It demonstrates the fundamental amorality of these corporations in their profit seeking.”

      I really don’t know how many times to say this without writing you off as either incorrigibly stupid or a bigot. GOLDEN RICE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PROFIT. IT IS A ROYALTY-FREE PUBLIC DOMAIN DEVELOPMENT. OPPOSING THIS IS LIKE OPPOSING OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE ON THE BASIS THAT MICROSOFT MIGHT BENEFIT. NEITHER WILL IT ADDRESS NOR EXACERBATE SOIL EROSION: IT ADDRESSES A COMPLETELY ORTHOGONAL ISSUE.

      There: is that clear now? Perhaps now you can get on with what you purport to do for the benefit of the people you intend to help, instead of tilting at bloody windmills.

    • Buck Field says:

      Like a drug dealer getting you hooked for free: it has nothing to do with profit!

      It’s not that you haven’t said it enough times or used enough caps, its that you haven’t presented a plausible alternative explanation.

      Addicts claiming noble intent just aren’t taken seriously – which is a good thing.

    • Jonathan Brown says:

      Clyde, I have told you about the thousands of hectares of former rice lands that are abandoned here. They are abandoned because there is so little money in rice production that upland farmers cannot compete. No amount of genetic modification to rice will change that situation – all that happens is that people who were able to fend for themselves now end up in poverty.

      Whole upland ecosystems are being destroyed and bio-diversity goes as a consequence. It is so bad that a farmer I know gave over 170 hectares of good upland agricultural land away to her workers because she could not afford to continue to subsidize their wages. As a consequence, those lands are no longer farmed and are being severely eroded.

      These effects are the consequence of looking at very narrow economic parameters that consider only superficial costs and revenues without any favourable consideration or cost penalty for longer term sustainability. Those narrow economic extend further into the application of science.

      The reality is, that if we don’t start making those environmentally sound financial judgments there won’t be any good land left to farm. Vast numbers of people will be condemned to a life of poverty and face your vitamin A deficiency.

      Your GMO’s do not address any of these sustainability issues and are causative in maintaining the economic system that supports them, whilst maintaining and driving disadvantaged people into poverty. Think beyond the simplistic science or are you incapable, in your dogma, of doing that?

      As to golden rice, there is no GMO variety, as yet, that conforms to all the requirements set out for golden rice by the IRRI – all the hype is BS, check your facts.

  71. GlennM says:

    “The powerful anti-GMO lobby . . .”
    I believe you Mr. Lynas, when you assert your independence from FoodCorp.
    But you hardly deflect allegations you are a shill for the industry when you make ludicrous remarks like that.
    While there are many voices in the anti-GM side who may be driven to extremes in their opposition to the biz, Mr. Lynas, it is hardly THEY are who are the “powerful lobby” in this battle.
    Please, Mark. Which side has the billions?
    C’mon.

  72. Jonathan Brown says:

    Clyde, one final point that you wholly ignore – diminishing biodiversity does contribute to soil erosion/depletion. The effects of the “Green Revolution” that fostered the development of GMO’s have unarguably reduced biodiversity and made the use of pesticides and herbicides systemic.Your reaction is that you don’t care about those mistakes – all I have to do is look out of the window to see the brutal consequences of that unthinking stupidity.

  73. Jonathan Brown says:

    Regarding Bt brinjal, it is my understanding that comparing ordinary brinjal (not sprayed) with Bt brinjal does show that the Bt brinjal significantly improves yield.

    However, comparing ordinary brinjal sprayed with Bt as a pesticide and Bt brinjal and there is no significant difference in yield. If anything, the ordinary brinjal sprayed with Bt yields slightly more and costs less overall.

    Which begs the question of whether the GM brinjal is worth the bother and likely consequential loss to biodiversity?

    Is there a difference between Organic fruit and veggies and the non-organic, rest? Apparently, the answer is yes, according to a study due for publication very soon.

    The results are based on an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world – more than ever before – which examine differences between organic and conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals.

    “The crucially important thing about this research is that it shatters the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat,” said Helen Browning, chief executive of Soil Association, which campaigns for organic farming.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/11/organic-food-more-antioxidants-study?CMP=fb_gu

    • Buck Field says:

      @Jonathan

      Most GMO proponents are perhaps even more religious than the most virulent anti-GMO opponents.

      Presenting evidence is, as far as I can tell, pointless.

      Even if the report were from an unbiased source, (it is not), trusting any such evidence is not nearly as reliable as the decades long campaign of perhaps tens of millions of dollars of pro-GMO propaganda and suppression of opposition and access to GMO information.

      Executives making these financial decisions are the best informed, most rational experts, and our best information comes from how they act, which is consistent and clear.

  74. Jonathan Brown says:

    Brazilian farmers say their GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests, Reuters reported Monday. Confirms similar results in the USA.

    http://ecowatch.com/2014/07/30/brazil-gmo-corn-fail-bugs/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=6b677553eb-Top_News_7_31_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-6b677553eb-85913101

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