Teach a man to fish and you get his money for one day; sell a man a fish and you get his money for life…

June 20, 2008 at 10:14 am 4 comments

I don’t think GM crops are going to cause us all to grow three heads. They might (after all, they assured us that feeding ground up bits of dead animal to other animals who were supposed to be vegetarians was fine, and look where that got us), and they’ll probably do strange things to the ecosystem, so it’s wise to be cautious, but overall, I think the whole ‘Frankenfoods’ thing is rather exaggerated.

I don’t think it’s ethically wrong to genetically modify food. After all, scientists are just boys with their toys, that’s what they do. What is wrong is generally what people choose to do with a new discovery, outside the lab, rather than the discovery itself.

However, GM foods are not going to feed the poor. Seriously. Locking people in developing countries into buying seeds and fertilisers every year is not going to help them. Seriously. Do not believe the PR hype. If we really wanted to help people in poor countries feed themselves, we could slash our carbon emissions starting tomorrow so that the entire planet, with the exception of Britain which is going to get colder and wetter, does not turn into a desert. That would be the single most useful thing we in the West could do
to ensure food security for developing countries. That and take our water-intensive cash crops elsewhere. Autonomy is everything.

Now that, I freely agree, is cloud-cuckoo-land talk, but nonetheless, I suspect it might be time to be a good citizen again and be prepared to dust off your ‘writing to your MP’ pen…


Entry filed under: food, GM. Tags: , .

Hallelujah! Sheep and strawberries, cats and peppers

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mara  |  June 20, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    The former lets us to do nothing whereas the latter requires action on our part. We are who we are and of course most people will allow themselves to believe GM can save the world if it means they don’t have to actually do anything themselves.

  • 2. Jenny  |  June 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I take exception to the “boys with their toys” bit, for several reasons, but otherwise I agree. Food goes to those who can pay for it, not those who need it but can’t pay.

  • 3. sproutingbroccoli  |  June 20, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Yes, sorry, Jenny, that was just me being flippant, carried away in my ire.

  • 4. Jon in France  |  June 21, 2008 at 8:01 am

    I’ve said this elsewhere in related discussions, so I apologise for repeating myself, but modern farming practices are mostly built on a foundation of cheap oil.

    Cheap oil for mechanisation, cheap oil for transportation in a global market place (apples from Argentina, onions from New Zealand, grapes from Soth Africa and other assorted madness) and cheap oil for synthetic fertilisers.

    Unhappily for this model, oil is no longer cheap, so this is starting to look a bit like a house built on sand.

    The current rationales behind GM crops therfore also look decidedly shakey.

    I don’t disparage GM entirely – for example, Indian scientists produced a potato with an enhanced protein content that also bred true. This could be hugely valuable in subsistnce farming. But the last I heard there was a dispute over patenting with a US firm. Surprise, surprise.


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June 2008
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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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