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Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved S.384 The Global Food Security Act of 2009, which was sponsored by Dick Lugar (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Bob Casey (D-PA). In my view, this is not good news. The bill specifies that the U.S. MUST fund GMOs and biotechnology. Additionally, the hearing about the bill was so heinous that the bill's intent is crystal clear - and it's not good.

UPDATE: In light of some of the very funny foodie April Fools jokes going around, I would like to clarify that this post is NOT an April Fools.

The bill authorizes $500mil for 2010 and it calls for the creation of a Special Coordinator for
Food Security (Global Hunger Czar?) to advise the Obama on international food security issues. It also calls for partnerships between U.S. universities and their counterparts in the developing world, or food aid to hungry people in other countries.

As for the language about GMOs and biotech, the bill amends Section 103A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to read:

Agricultural research carried out under this chapter shall
(1) take account of the special needs of small farmers in the determination of research priorities,

(2) include research on the interrelationships among technology, institutions, and economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors affecting small-farm agriculture, and

(3) make extensive use of field testing to adapt basic research to local conditions. Special emphasis shall be placed on disseminating research results to the farms on which they can be put to use, and especially on institutional and other arrangements needed to assure that small farmers have effective access to both new and existing improved technology

(4) include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.

(The section you're reading is from the U.S. code Title 22: Foreign Relations and Intercourse; Chapter 32: Foreign Assistance; Subchapter 1: International Development; Part I—Declaration of Policy; Development Assistance Authorizations; § 2151a-1. Agricultural research. The change is in bold)

What worries me the most was that the hearing itself was a big lovefest for the Green Revolution. They lined up panelists that all agreed on absolutely every point, and when Sen. Kerry (D-MA) brought up organics he was shot down by several panelists and Senators. I recommend checking out my coverage of the hearing as well as the letter I wrote to the Senate Foreign Relations committee pointing them to a few sources that disagreed with the panelists from their hearing. If you'd like, check out Sen. Lugar's press release on the bill.

Please take action by writing your Senators about this bill (S.384) and asking that the vote against it when it comes before the full Senate. Below, I've listed some talking points. (You can also see a press release by the U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis (PDF) on the bill and the hearing for additional info - I've included their talking points below my own).

My Own Talking Points:

  1. While the crisis in global hunger is clear, as is the need for our intervention in order to help those who are starving, the Senate Foreign Relations hearing was remarkably one-sided and failed to consider all of the various aspects of the current global food crisis.
  1. Proponents of GMOs and biotechnology rely on the idea that we need to increase food production & yield to combat hunger. Experts such as Frances Moore Lappe (Small Planet Institute) and Eric Holt-Gimenez (Food First) show that the main problem that causes hunger is not a lack of food production, but a consolidation of the means of food production by the powerful. In fact, as food productivity per capita has gone UP, hunger has also gone UP. This must be examined before accepting the idea that yield and productivity must be addressed in order to solve world hunger.
  1. Given the extreme destitution of subsistence farmers in Africa, it concerns me that biotechnology companies will force them to purchase seeds at a premium price and then will prevent them from saving seeds and will pursue them legally if they attempt to do so. Recently, the New York Times showed that biotechnology companies prevent independent research about their products. Other evidence has shown that GM seeds do not deliver the increased yields they promise. Assuming that GM seeds are not the silver bullet to increased yields, it is therefore possible that a starving farmer in Africa might have a bad crop one year, resulting in an inability to purchase seeds for the following year. Such a scenario would make the hunger situation worse, not better.
  1. The UN recently released a report saying that Africa's best hope for the future is organic agriculture. Yet the Senate hearing on the bill S.384 entirely disregarded this notion.
  1. Please consider Indian farmer suicides by consulting expert like Vandana Shiva. India had tremendous success in the Green Revolution by transitioning from sustainable techniques to unsustainable ones. When they began growing food in a way that depleted the air, water, and soil, they did well for a while - until the unsustainability of those practices were felt (just like we are feeling today in this country with the water shortages, soil erosion, etc.). Before exporting a Western technology to Africa, we should consider the effects our technologies have had on farmers in India and what role, if any, those technologies played in the epidemic of farmer suicides.
  1. When examining hunger in Africa & S. Asia, we must also look at the impact our trade policies have on their food security.

U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis Talking Points:
The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis is a group  representing various sectors of the food system, including anti-hunger, family farm, community food security, environmental, international aid, labor, food justice, consumers and others. According to this group:

The [March 24 Senate Foreign Relations Committee] hearing relied primarily on testimonies from "Green Revolution" advocates for the industrial agriculture system, even though it is broken, and failed to address many of the real
causes and solutions to the food crisis.  
While the Committee summarized well what is at stake, particularly in Africa and South Asia— massive human suffering, political stability and economic development—the analysis and solutions offered by the stacked roster were a rehashing of pro-industrial agriculture technologies and practices that have failed again and again to address this human tragedy. Current reliance on
chemical-intensive agriculture and genetic engineering has deepened the gap between the haves and the have-nots, are further deepening the global climate crisis and threatening our planet’s natural resources.  

The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis asks that the Senate consider the following solutions to the global food crisis:

• Re-regulate commodity futures markets to end excessive speculation
• Stabilize commodity prices through international and domestic food reserves
• Halt expansion of industrial agrofuels in developing countries
• Direct farm policy, research and education, and investment toward biodiverse, agroecological farming practices  

The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis' press release goes into detail on each of these points if you'd like more information.

Originally posted to Jill Richardson on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 10:12 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The GMOs piece is not the only worrying (22+ / 0-)

    component of the bill but it's by far the most objectionable. The hearing itself was absolutely horrific (you'd think the people they had on the panel loved pesticides so much that they drank DDT with their coffee at breakfast) but most of the bill's actual language is ambiguous enough even though it can be taken in a bad direction quite easily. But the GMO section in there is pretty unambiguous.

    I wrote a book! You should buy it!

    by Jill Richardson on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 10:14:08 AM PDT

  •  Bullshit waste of tax money to help Monsanto (12+ / 0-)

    Top 10 Donations Recipients of Monsanto for the 2008 Campaign
       1.  Sen Ton Harkin                      $8000
       2.  Sen Mitch McConnell                 $4250
       3.  Sen Pat Roberts                     $2500
       4.  Rep Sam Graves                      $2300
       5.  Pres Candidate Rudy Guiliani        $2300
       6.  Sec of Agri. Tom Vilsack            $2100
       7.  Mitt Romney                         $1750

    Top Donations for upcoming 2010 Campaign

      1.  Sen Christopher S. Bond              $4,600
      2.  Sen John Thune                       $2,000
      3.  Sen Evan Bayh                        $1,500

    Help phone bank for or donate to Scott Murphy for Congress! The election is 3/31/09. We can win this election or we can lose it. The choice is ours!

    by MinistryOfTruth on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 10:16:41 AM PDT

  •  GMO's UNSAFE! Genetically modified liver damage (8+ / 0-)

       GM diets cause liver damage

    The state of the liver—a main detoxifier for the body—is another indicator of toxins

       * Rats fed the GNA lectin potatoes described above had smaller and partially atrophied livers.
       * Rats fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 corn, engineered to produce Bt-toxin, had liver lesions and other indications of toxicity.
       * Rabbits fed GM soy showed altered enzyme production in their livers as well as higher metabolic activity.
       * The livers of rats fed Roundup Ready canola were 12%–16% heavier, possibly due to liver disease or inflammation.
       * And microscopic analysis of the livers of mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans revealed altered gene expression and structural and functional changes.15 Many of these changes reversed after the mice diet was switched to non-GM soy, indicating that GM soy was the culprit. The findings, according to molecular geneticist Michael Antoniou, PhD, "are not random and must reflect some ‘insult’ on the liver by the GM soy." Antoniou, who does human gene therapy research in King’s College London, said that although the long-term consequences of the GM soy diet are not known, it "could lead to liver damage and consequently general toxemia."

        In 1999, Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world’s top GMO safety researcher at the prestigious Rowett Institute in Scotland was working on a UK government grant to design long-term testing protocols intended to become part of the official European GM food safety assessment process. When Pusztai fed supposedly harmless GMOs to rats, they developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and showed signs of a damaged immune system. Moreover, the results clearly indicated that the cause of the problem was due to the unpredictable side effects arising from the process of genetic engineering itself. In other words, his study suggested that the GM foods already on the market, which were created from the same process, might also create such effects. When Dr Pusztai expressed his concern he was fired from his job of 35 years and silenced with threats of a lawsuit. His 20-member research team was disbanded, all testing protocols were abandoned, and the pro-GM establishment embarked on an extensive disinformation campaign to discredit the study’s results to protect the reputation of GM foods already in the marketplace.

    Help phone bank for or donate to Scott Murphy for Congress! The election is 3/31/09. We can win this election or we can lose it. The choice is ours!

    by MinistryOfTruth on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 10:18:09 AM PDT

    •  Maybe not. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise, docstymie, Justanothernyer
      1. GE crops harm human health.

      There is virtually universal scientific consensus that GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After over 10 years of consumption there has not been a single validated report of negative health effects from any GE crop. In contrast every year there are thousands of reported pesticide poisonings (ca. 1200 each year in California alone). The latest report comes from the Joint Research Centre, The European Union's scientific and technical research laboratory and an integral part of the European Commission. A copy of the executive summary of the report is downloadable here.

      Every new GE crop must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Lets direct our efforts to generating new crop varieties that will benefit the maximum number of people.

      Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

      by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 12:25:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for highlighting (8+ / 0-)

    while people were so focused on HR875 and food safety, this one passed people by! so outrageous that they passed it with virtually no public debate! this is monsanto's gift to take over Africa.

  •  here's my letter I sent to my senators (12+ / 0-)

    I am very concerned about the Senate bill S.384, Lugar's bill on the global food crisis. While it's noble to desire to help hungry people in the developing world, I watched the hearing and read the bill, and I am very concerned about the specific methods Lugar is proposing. In his hearing, he included absolutely no dissenting voices. Instead, he heard from proponents of the Green Revolution and chemical, industrial agriculture ONLY. These panelists cited the biotech/pesticide/fertilizer companies' false argument that we need to solve hunger by increasing yields. This is not the truth. In the past several decades, the means of food production have become more consolidated into fewer hands causing an increase in food productivity and a simultaneous increase in hunger.

    The UN recently released a report that called for Africa to go organic as its best hope of feeding itself. And India, where the Green Revolution was previously implemented, now suffers an epidemic of farmer suicides. Yet the Senate committee entirely failed to address these points in their hearing.

    I would ask that you please vote against S.384, but also note that the most objectionable part of the bill is the amending of Section 103A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to require research on GMOs. I understand that the bill will likely pass, and I ask you to please propose an amendment to remove this clause from the bill.


    I wrote a book! You should buy it!

    by Jill Richardson on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 10:25:25 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this informative diary & your post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bablhous, Bouwerie Boy

    on the hearing.  I didn't have a chance to watch it.  

  •  so much misinformation (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karenc, Elise, Bouwerie Boy, docstymie

    so little time....

    GMOs does not mean "Monsanto".  There are projects to help farmers where the seeds are freely available.  This project on flood-tolerant rice for India and Bangladesh is an example of that:
    Waterproof Rice May Help Asia Cope with Flooding

    These countries want this technology to cope with a variety of issues:
    Crops With Attitude
    Poor nations are now starting to shake off the old 'Frankenfood' taboo.

    The farmer suicide issue is not what activists are describing:
    GM cotton in the clear over farmer suicides and be sure to see the graph here:

    Doubts surround link between Bt cotton failure and farmer suicide

    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

    by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:00:57 AM PDT

    •  disagreed, mem (4+ / 0-)

      I think nations in Africa have no trouble with yeild, it is the fact that they cannot afford water, fertilizer and any of the other benefits that Multi-national Big Ag and Bio Ag companies enjoy.

      Fact is, Africa is some of the most fertile land in the world.

      When the natural resources of Africa (Gold, silver, diamonds, oil, uranium) are sold for beans and Africans are paid slave wages, that is why there is rampant starvation, because there is rampant poverty

      And, IMHO, anything that helps Bio Ag and Chen Ag is not helping solve the problem (poverty,hunger), it is helping to save the profit.

      Seriously, when does anything pass in the Senate unanimously without being a total screw job on the public?

      •  So, why not try to create a crop that can grow (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        with less water? Or without fertilizer? Or a plant whose seed includes fertilizer?

        it is the fact that they cannot afford water, fertilizer and any of the other benefits that Multi-national Big Ag and Bio Ag companies enjoy.

        •  nature worked great for 10 billion years (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cedwyn, Hardhat Democrat, marina

          Africa did not begin to starve until imperialism invaded it.

          What we have today is no longer the imperialism of nations, but the imperialism of multi-national organizations and free trade.

          Look at the Codex Alimentarius Commission, or read about the WTO, WHO and the IMF. If they are working for the greater good, why do things keep going from Bad to Worse?

          •  What a data-free crock. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            karenc, Elise

            nature worked great for 10 billion years

            I saw a study the other day that showed in times of environmental stress plants shake up their genomes:  

            Genome Duplication May Have Helped Plants Survive Mass Extinction  But that was only 60 million years ago.  

            Also, you have no idea about the millennia of famine in Africa.  There are plenty of problems with imperialism, but to pretend there was never a food scarcity problem in prehistory is ridiculous.

            Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

            by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:53:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I do not deal in absolutes (0+ / 0-)

              and that makes me open to any and all debates.

              I do not claim total knowledge of all issues, but, common sense (which you certainly do not lack) helps me make unbiased and informed decisions.

              The fact is there have been NO clincial studies on the long term effects GM foods have on human beings, but the facts are out on studies of lab rats and here is some.

              GM Soy and Allergies Soy allergies jumped 50% in the U.K. just after GM soy was introduced.2 If GM soy was the cause, it may be due to several things. The GM protein that makes Roundup Ready Soy resistant to the herbicide does not have a history of safe use in humans and may be an allergen. In fact, sections of its amino acid sequence are identical to known allergens.3 A portion of the transgene from ingested GM soybeans, along with the promoter that switches it on, transfers into human gut bacteria during ingestion.4 The fact that the transformed bacteria survives applications of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, suggests that the transgene continues to produce the Roundup Ready protein. If true, then long after people stop eating GM soy they may be constantly exposed to its potentially allergenic protein, which is being created within their gut. (This protein may be made more allergenic due to misfolding, attached molecular chains, or rearrangement of unstable transgenes, but there is insufficient data to support or rule out these possibilities

     who's headline reads: Climate Change is not a spectator sport

                  When people argue against scrutinizing GM foods, they are unknowingly parroting the same lines used by CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS.

                  I can only encourage you to do some research for yourself, and to draw your own conclusions.

              •  I went looking for that soy allergy data (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                karenc, Elise

                if you have a peer-reviewed source I'd love to see it.  I couldn't find it. All I could find was a company that made its money giving allergy tests...hmmm....


                Optimum Health Resource Laboratories (formerly York Nutritional Laboratories)...

                Smells like someone making money from your fears to me....

                How come Marian Nestle says this about GM foods:

                As I argued in my book, Safe Food, in 2003, the big problem with genetically modified foods is not whether the foods are safe to eat.

                And here's what Obama's newly appointed and celebrated Kathleen Merrigan has to say:

                Would I feed my young children genetically modified (GM) food? Yes. I'm sure that I already have.

                Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

                by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 12:15:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  the problem with peer reviewed sources (0+ / 0-)

                  is that nine out of ten times the people reviewing the info are paid consultants of the Big Ag industry.

                  I think there is a lot to fear from both sides of the argument. That is why the facts are needed. Unfortunately, the facts are often skewed, but, that is where research comes in.

                  It is also revealing to take a look at how the three executive agencies that are primarily responsible for GMOs operate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, oversees GMO foods. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deals with GMO pesticides. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), administers GMO plant testing in the field. All three operate only under their own legislation and none of their efforts are coordinated. The USDA relies on the Plant Pest Act, which narrowly defines plant pests and does not include all the processes or organisms currently used in genetic engineering. Permits for field tests are obtained from APHIS through a simple notification process, after which they are deregulated. There are only bare standards for biological containment of the field test and no provisions for evaluating certain ecological risks. APHIS can require an environmental assessment if the applicant indicates one might be required. A study of over 8,000 field test results submitted to the USDA showed that not one resulted in an environmental assessment.

                  The FDA uses the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to review GMOs. The substantial equivalence doctrine fits nicely with FDA logic. It goes like this: any "novel" substances in food must be tested and perhaps labeled. However, if something can be "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS), as most conventional foods are, then they are exempt. Since GMOs are "substantially equivalent" to conventional food, they are considered GRAS and thus they do not require testing or labels. The EPA makes some effort to deal with the environmental impacts of GMOs. It regulates GMO pesticides (primarily the Bt crops) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA operates under the assumption that Bt is safe, even though GMO Bt has been shown to have detrimental impacts on soil micro-organisms and beneficial insect populations. The EPA recommendations and permit requirements, such as its Insect Resistance Management Plans for farmers, which are supposed to slow down the development of resistance to Bt, are not adequate to the task.

                  Here is an example of how this regulatory patchwork plays out in the field: In April 2003, the EPA announced that a company growing experimental GMO corn in Hawaii had finally satisfied the agency’s regulatory requirements. The company, Pioneer Hi-Bred, had been fined for permit violations in 2002 and was ordered to test and report its findings to the EPA to ensure that their experimental corn did not contaminate nearby fields. When the company failed to report on its testing, in direct violation of its agreement with EPA, it was fined again. Later, after acquiring and reviewing the test findings, the EPA said it was satisfied that the company was in compliance. But did that mean there was no contamination? No, there was. But it involved fields that were regulated by the USDA, so the EPA was not concerned about that. For their part, the USDA had no comment, saying it was investigating. Meanwhile, the company has asked neighboring farmers on the island not to plant any of the crops that Pioneer is using in its experiments, as a way of avoiding cross-contamination.  

                  By Claire Hope Cummings, M.A., J.D

                  I wish I could provide links for peer reviewed studies that support my arguement, but, unfortunately, I do not have the resources that Big Ag/Bio Ag/Chem Ag has to fund such studies.

                  Which again makes me ask, why was it so important to Chem Ag to lobby Michelle Obama about her organic garden?

                  If it is good enough for the First Family, why not the rest of us?

                  •  Ah, more made up stuff (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    karenc, Elise, docstymie

                    is that nine out of ten times the people reviewing the info are paid consultants of the Big Ag industry.

                    Got data on that?  

                    The question in this bill is should we: "include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology."

                    I say it is something we should do because it can help farmers produce local foods for their neighbors with lower needs for pesticides and higher yields.

                    That has nothing to do with Michelle's garden. In fact, many people think the best way to go is to use GM crops with organic practices.  That seems like a great idea to me.

                    Could Frankenfoods be good for the environment?

                    Given the potential of these products to reduce the environmental impact of farming, it's ironic that traditional advocates for sustainable agriculture have led a successful campaign to blacklist GMOs irrespective of their applications. At the very least, they might treat them as legitimate ethical and scientific matters deserving of a fair public hearing. Such a hearing, I would venture, would not only please farmers who were truly concerned about sustainability, but it would provide the rest of us—those of us who do not grow food for the world but only think about it—a more accurate source of scientific information than the back of a miso jar.

                    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

                    by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 12:45:34 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  organic crops no pesticide (0+ / 0-)

                      seems like it is good enough for The Obama's

                      please explain why it is not good enough for the rest of us.

                      Yeild is not the problem, neither is pests.

                      Poverty and hunger resulting form Multi-national corporate imperialism seem like the obvious answers to me.

                      Oh, and then there is this

                      In a study released in October 2006 by Russian scientists, pregnant and lactating rats fed GM-soy had over 50% of their babies die by 3 weeks old! The surviving offspring were 1/2 the size of the same-age rat babies from moms who ate normal soy.


                      I wish I had more conclusive evidence to hand you on the fly, but, as previously stated, I am still trying to raise the MILLIONS of dollars to fund my own peer reviewed study.

                      Meanwhile, there has been precious little independent research on GMOs and health. As Nancy Scola showed in a Gristmill post early this year, public funding for agriculture research has largely dried up, and Monsanto and other big agribusiness firms have filled the void, funneling fat grants to willing researchers.

                      But independent study of GMOs hasn't ended completely. The government of Austria recently released the results of a long-term study showing that mice fed GM corn had lower birth rates and fewer offspring than their control-group peers.

                      From the Daily Mail:


                      The Austrian scientists performed several long-term feeding trials with laboratory mice over a course of 20 weeks. One of the studies was a so-called reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice. The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33 percent of GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto's MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix. The team found changes that were 'statistically significant' in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller. Prof Zentek said there was a direct link between the changes seen and the GM diet.

             - environmental news and commentary

                      •  That Austrian data was dreadful. (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        karenc, Elise, MinistryOfTruth

                        I read that report--the whole thing.  It wasn't peer reviewed and several of the data points and conclusions completely contradict what activists are saying that it did.  

                        Did you read it?  One day someone posted a diary on it here and we shredded it.  But the person was so embarrassed that they deleted the diary so I would hate to reconstruct the whole thing...maybe I can find the comment thread.

                        The junk science or misuse of data that comes out of this field and used by activists is nothing short of climate deniers making up shit.  

                        You are absolutely free to not use pesticide.  I don't know why you keep saying that.

                        Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

                        by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 01:58:17 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  big favor! (0+ / 0-)

                          I am NOT a scientist, just a citizen with an intense sense of curiosity and a lot of free time (unemployed)

                          Please point me to unbiased factual evidence of long term safety exams of GMO's done on human beings.

                          I would really appreciate it.

                          Thanks for the educating and stimulating dialogue.


      •  What part of freely available (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karenc, Elise

        is confusing you?

        Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

        by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:09:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  not confused, just ardently disagreeing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          "No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions," the scientists wrote in a statement submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. The E.P.A. is seeking public comments for scientific meetings it will hold next week on biotech crops.

          The statement will probably give support to critics of biotech crops, like environmental groups, who have long complained that the crops have not been studied thoroughly enough and could have unintended health and environmental consequences.

          The researchers, 26 corn-insect specialists, withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies. But several of them agreed in interviews to have their names used.
          The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

              Address poverty in africa, and these problems disappear.

              Address GMO's in Africa, and every Big Ag, Bio Ag Multi-Ntaional Corporation on Eart  holds out it's hands.

              Is this not another instance (such as Wall St or Big Auto ) of giving money to Corporations to invest, rather than giving it directly to people who need food, water and good paying jobs?

              I wonder why Big Ag/Chem Ag felt so threatened by Michelle Obama's organic garden?

          •  So you don't want researchers (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            karenc, Elise

            to be able to work with local farmers in Africa to improve their yields and reliance on pesticides?  

            I guess we'll have to disagree. Ardently.

            Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

            by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:45:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I want researchers to work with farmers (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I just believe that the fundamental problem is NOT crop yeilds and pesticides, but rather Multi-national free trade imperialism that takes the valuable natural resources of third world nations and pays individuals in Slave Wages, thus resulting in hunger and poverty.

              Our free trade supply side economics creates the problem (poverty,hunger) and then proposes the cure (BigAg/BioAg/ChemAG)

              Monsanto owns 95% of all GMO seeds. Who else benefits here?

              Next up, Genetically modified and patented pigs

            •  That is absolutely not what he said (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jbdigriz, Hardhat Democrat

              But the fact remains that the #1 reason for starvation is poverty--people can't afford to buy food, so farmers can't afford to grow it. All the crop research on Earth will not change that.

              Also, it's completely disingenuous to equate working with local farmers to improve yields and reliance with anything GMO. A team of people from Iowa State and UNI could do that without the assistance of any large corporations.

              [F]or too many, the cruelty of our system is part of its appeal. - eightlivesleft

              by oldjohnbrown on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:52:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  What? (0+ / 0-)

              Before, I was willing to grant you the benefit of the doubt.  But now it's absolutely clear that you're a shill for the companies that you "claim" to be "against"...

              "Researchers" do not equal GM.  I'd point out how, but it's obvious where your loyalties lie.  And I do mean to stress the word "lie".

              Thanks for this quote, though.  Bookmarked!


              •  What are you talking about? (0+ / 1-)
                Recommended by:
                Hidden by:
                Hardhat Democrat

                You are seriously unhinged. I don't even understand this sentence:

                "Researchers" do not equal GM.  

                What does that even mean?  

                Are you familiar with this bill at all?  There's research all over it.  

                I had to come back and look at this post because I wanted to write to Senator Kerry and see if this "mandates" GMOs.  So I forwarded it to his office for clarification.  You might want to clarify this before they come by.  

                Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

                by mem from somerville on Tue Apr 07, 2009 at 05:40:28 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  In other words (3+ / 0-)

            rather than teaching the African countries to fish, they're simply throwing them fish year after year.

            Yes, it's free. For now. It's great PR, too.

            But the simple fact is that the ability to grow food has hardly ever been the problem. The problem is the ability to afford food.

            Besides, if the QA and testing on these products is as dubious as it seems to be, and there are studies showing liver damage and lesions when GMO foods are fed to mice (see comments above), then these are hardly better than nothing and far, far worse than  normally bred crops.

            [F]or too many, the cruelty of our system is part of its appeal. - eightlivesleft

            by oldjohnbrown on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:46:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Question... (5+ / 0-)

    and maybe this is a simple question and the answer should be obvious, but I'm just going to ask it anyway -

    What is the difference between "GMO" and plant breeding?

    Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer? There's a character in the novel who is trying to bring back the American Chestnut and he's spent his life breeding trees with the hope of finding one breed that is immune to the fungus that killed most of them.

    I would call what that genetically modifying the chestnut tree. I think if that can be done then that's great. How is this different from the "GMO" you're talking about here?

    Is there some biologist person who can put this in simple terms for me?

    •  I thought this was a good discussion (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      karenc, Elise

      of that:

      What does GMO really mean?

      This is the researcher developing that flood tolerant rice and giving it away freely.

      Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

      by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:11:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, mem! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mem from somerville, karenc

        I've been trying to answer this question for ages!

      •  Based on the definitions provided at that link... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mem from somerville, karenc

        I think this bill offers language that if vague enough it could be referring to either GMO or genetic engineered crops.

        (4) include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.

        When I read this - I just don't see how this is a bad thing. It seems to me like people are starving all over the place. If we can alter a plant to help it grow better, faster, or larger in an area where it previously wouldn't have been able to grow at all - that seems like a good thing.

        •  Like all technologies, we need to monitor it. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          karenc, Elise

          But there are certainly useful and positive aspects to it.  

          The discussion is usually nearly impossible because everyone shuts down when they hear "Monsanto".  

          Personally I'm working on GMO-modified hair that doesn't catch fire in my spare time....

          Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

          by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:32:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Basically the difference lies in the fact (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbdigriz, Hardhat Democrat

      that we don't know how the process works. Epigenetics is a young science.

      If you breed plants the old fashioned way, you're manipulating a black box, but (mostly) in ways that it's designed to respond to.

      With GMO, you're opening up the black box and fiddling around with the internals.

      Generally, mucking around in incredibly complicated machinery that you barely understand does not produce desirable results.

      [F]or too many, the cruelty of our system is part of its appeal. - eightlivesleft

      by oldjohnbrown on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 11:55:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know what the rules are in.. (2+ / 0-)

    foreign countries, but I do know that in this country, no one can make anyone buy genetically modified seed. If someone chooses to buy genetically modified seed, such as Monsanto's round-up ready soy beans, then one must then abide by Monsanto's patent protection and not save seed from that crop. Personally, I am opposed to patent protection for crop varieties, but I haven't seen any evidence that farmers anywhere are being compelled to buy patented varieties, tricked by advertising, maybe, but that's not quite the same thing.

  •  I just finished reading... (0+ / 0-)

    Lisa Weasel's book, "Food Fray", and there was a great part in the book about the Indian NGO Deccan Development Society and the work they do with women farmers in poor rural villages through community groups - setting up seed banks, sharing knowledge, setting up community grain funds, etc...

    Great quote from one of the women farmers:

    The topic of food security leads back to seeds, which by necessity lie at the center of these women's lives.  When asked about genetically-modified seed, loud murmurs of dissent gush forth in Telugu, the local language.  "Our seeds know our soil!" one woman loudly proclaims.  "We have no interest in in GM crops.  These seeds know nothing of our land."  Although she may not read and write, genetically speaking, she has the science right.  Because the sangham has selected generation after generation of each seed variety grown locally on its lands, the information encoded in each seed variety's DNA has been carefully selected to match the growing conditions and needs of the women who farm here.  The cycle of cost and inputs embedded in the GM paradigm are perplexing to these women as well.  "If we lose our crop with our own seed, it is not really lost.  Imagine if you buy the seed and then lose the crop..." one woman breaks off, and the Telugu word for "debt" is murmured round the room, as heads nod.

    At best, it's the height of arrogance to assume that (fill in country here) can only succeed with the 'help' of products from foreign biotech companies, rather than focusing on native crops that are perfectly suited to a given land.  If one crop doesn't grow its best somewhere, something else does.  Sorghum, millet...

    At worst?  Well...

    Great diary, Jill.  Thanks!

    •  That's what so cool (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      karenc, Elise

      about these countries turning to this technology themselves:

      The result is a second wave of GM food crops adapted to the needs of poor nations. Emerging nations are turning to gene splicing to boost food supply (not just agribusiness profits) and to protect harvests from the ravages of climate change, pests and pathogens. The new crops are hardier and healthier versions of staple crops. In the works are South African potatoes that repel tuber moths, Brazilian lettuce with a superdose of folic acid, a natural source of the vitamin B that aids neural development in babies, and Chinese rice that can withstand heat and drought. India is using biotech to improve bananas, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet corn, groundnuts and okra. Brazil's national agronomy institute, Embrapa, is ginning up black beans to outsmart the mosaic virus that claims up to 90 percent of harvests. Malaysians are fortifying papaya against the devastating ringspot disease. China's goal is "food security," says Stanford economist Scott Rozelle, an expert on rural China. "Their objective is to produce enough food for the country without having to resort to imports, and also reduce poverty."

      So being able to help them with the science is terrific.  

      Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

      by mem from somerville on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 03:20:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you... (0+ / 0-)

        read things, and actually process what's being said - or do you just drop your talking points in reply to things that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic?

        They're already there, they work.  That village does not need, nor do they want, what's being proposed.  And they certainly aren't the only ones out there.

        And as usual, you're ignoring the fact that it isn't a problem of not enough food - it's a problem of distribution and who controls the system.  Access to the food.  The solution to that problem isn't very complicated.

        •  How do you know what the village wants? (0+ / 0-)

          Did anyone bother to ask?

          Provided with the choice to feed their kids or let them starve, you think people wouldn't choose modified crops?

          •  Yes... (0+ / 0-)

            The woman who wrote the book asked.  I suggest you read it, it's a good book.  There's obviously much more to it than the one quote I provided.  But you wouldn't have known that, would you?

            You might want to think before you type, there.  I've found it helps...

          •  And... (0+ / 0-)

            you fail to address this simple fact - the problem is not with production, it's with distribution.  The problem is with access, not a 'lack of food'.  

            But many here just ignore that, as it's inconvenient to their 'argument'.

            •  I would rather local farmers (0+ / 0-)

              were in control of growing the crops they want to.  The things that have the best yield, best tolerance to climate stress, and as little pesticide as possible.

              I don't think it is good to be at the whim of a "distribution" problem.  

              Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

              by mem from somerville on Tue Apr 07, 2009 at 05:50:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah... (0+ / 0-)

            Not that I was really expecting an answer from you in the first place - but it's nice to see you admit that you don't have one, if even by default.

            Can't say I'm surprised to see you buying into (and spreading) the bullshit "GM or starve" line, though...

            Maybe next time you might want to study up on issues about which you know absolutely nothing, before you try to dive into the discussion.

            Nice try though, Elise.  We'll try to pretend this massive (and trollish) failure on your part didn't happen...

  •  I understand your concern on the Green Revolution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but think that you are missing the broader goals spoken of in both the hearing and in what the bill aims to do.

    The main focus of the hearing was not whether we should encourage organic or non-organic farming or whether GMOs are good. The bill, in fact, does not require either, though it does include GMO research.

    I watched the hearing and the main point I got was that they understood that even in tough economic times helping less developed countries get adequate food is essential. I could try to summarize that, but these paragraphs from Kerry's opening statement are the main focus of their effort.

    One of the special challenges of a truly global crisis is that, at the very moment when our assistance is most critical to the developing world, we are under the greatest strain to turn inward and cut our overseas aid budget. To ensure that we are doing our part to feed the world, we must take the long view and resist the urge to abdicate our responsibility as an economic and moral leader. Our foreign assistance budget directly impacts the number of people we can help to feed. Moreover, nothing will do more over the long run to address global hunger than fighting poverty. That is why we must demonstrate our commitment by fully funding the President’s international affairs budget and initiating a foreign aid reform process that will make our interventions more
    effective and efficient. I intend to look closely at introducing authorization legislation to ensure that we have a strong, effective aid program that can tackle the key challenges of our day.

    It’s a pleasure to be here with my friend and colleague, Senator Lugar, who has shown so much leadership on this issue. He recently introduced, along with Senator Casey, a food security bill authorizing new resources to fund agricultural development and alleviate poverty. I commend Senator Lugar and look forward to working with him on this important legislation.

    While we need to be ambitious, we cannot tackle hunger alone. We must engage in a multilateral approach and work in coordination with international institutions including the World Food Program, international aid organizations and the World Bank.

    I don't think this was a "horrific" hearing. The goal of all the Senators was to ensure that there would be less hunger. The overall goals here are commendable and the person selected by Obama to head this will have a major say in decisions on what methods will be used. (That is NOT to say, that I wouldn't prefer to replace most of that committee with people whose views were more in line with Senator Kerry's on organic farming.)

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