Carbon-reducing myths

March 2011

Image Wiki Commons
Policy-makers and corporate executives have been scrambling to find a way to ditch our current dependency on fossil-fuels. Not only is oil becoming increasingly scarce and costly, but we're releasing so much carbon dioxide gas that we're cooking ourselves.

The fashionable answer to the problem is a transition to a 'bioeconomy'. This 'clean', 'green', 'renewable', 'sustainable' economy of the future will be based on biomass from agricultural crops, forests and algae.

Even to those unversed in science, this alternative to fossil fuels is quite clearly no more sustainable than our current energy source. It's simply dependent on other finite natural resources which are already limiting: suitable land area, soil nutrients, and fresh water. 

Truth, beauty and science

March 2011

Image Wiki Commons
The Charter signed by King Charles II in 1662 for the formation of The Royal Society of London was granted in order that the whole world of letters may always recognize the United Kingdom as the universal lover and patron of every kind of truth.

Henri Poincare (1854-1912), a top French mathematician-physicist in his day, defined science in terms of beauty:
“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing and life would not be worth living”.
What Poincare was taking about was
“the ultimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts and which a pure intelligence can grasp.”

Somerset GM contamination

March 2011

In December 2008, the UK Government announced that unauthorised GM oil-seed rape (OSR) had been found growing in Somerset.

The offending grain received EU approval for import, food and animal feed use in 2005 providing the handlers had been given appropriate plans for eradicating any volunteer GM OSR plants which could arise.

The contamination was found in a small trial field of a new non-GM variety of OSR shipped from a Monsanto seed production farm in Idaho. It was found to be contaminated with about five GM seeds in every 10,000. This doesn't sound like a lot, but nevertheless an adjacent OSR trial crop was found to have been contaminated at a measurable level of one in 10,000.

Noticing patent absurdities

March 2011

The huge resources and expertise being diverted into the science of DNA have been pushed relentlessly forward by a commercial carrot dangled by a patent-shaped hand.

Up until now, what's been keeping the biotech seed and gene-testing companies in business has been the acquiescence of patenting offices which exist to promote and protect commercial interests.

Common sense might disallow the idea that a component of life which is self-replicating infinitely evolving, dispersive, and is, in some cases, a result of completely natural evolution can be patented.

Industry and patent offices seem to have easily convinced themselves that common sense can be by-passed when there's profit in the offing.

Poverty, hunger and education

March 2011

Ethiopian mothers with babies. Image Wiki Commons
Consider these statistics.

In March 2011, Michael Moore told his fellow Americans:
“Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined ... Four hundred obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined.”
He explained how these 400 Americans got what they have: “they bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them”, “they control the media” to shape American minds, “they have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take” in the form of a threat of mass economic annihilation.

Dropping zero tolerance to GM

March 2011

The European Commission (EC) had a bad case of indecision about its GM regulations in February.

What the Commission was wrestling with was a proposal to drop its blanket zero tolerance policy on the presence of low levels (up to 0.1%) of unapproved GM material in imported animal feed.

To soften the blow, the suggested new level of tolerance will be limited to GM feed material already authorised for commercialisation in a third country and for which an authorisation procedure is pending in the EU, or, for which a previous EU authorisation has expired.

Feeding the world: non-GM success stories

March 2011

There are over 100 reasons to think GM crops are nothing more than a charade struggling to be real.

Claims on the wonders of GM have been aired regularly for years.
British radio listeners will have heard that:
“Using GM technology, there are now varieties of major crops, rice, wheat and maize being produced that are drought resistant, flood resistant, saline resistant and disease resistant, which could transform Africa's ability to feed its people ... Some products have emerged, for example, from South Africa. They are now planting drought resistant crops that have increased the yield by 30% ... so you can actually save millions of people from starvation by these techniques ...”

The first 'science' of Roundup Ready soya

March 2011

- The basis for regulatory and commercial acceptance of RR soya

In the beginning, there was Roundup Ready soya, a crop with a unique ability to survive a drenching with Roundup herbicide while every other living, green thing around it curled up and died. Its creator saw that it was good, and that there was a lot of profit to be made from it

Its creator also saw that, while regulators would easily be persuaded of Roundup Ready wonders, the public would not.

Therefore, the creator of Roundup Ready soya took steps to oil the wheels of acceptance.

A review of the science of Roundup Ready soya safety in 2008

March 2011

More than 10 years after RR soya was put into our food chain, the question was being asked where's the scientific evidence that it's safe?

'Roundup Ready' crops have been one of the biggest success stories in the short history of GM agriculture. Any crop all, it seems, can be given the gene to make it resistant to Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, with the added attraction that the seed can be lucratively linked to the marketing of the herbicide.

A thought on keeping food pure

March 2011

Every once in a while, you read one thing and it shines a light on something else altogether.

While researching material for SPINNING SOYA INTO GOLD (February 2011), the instructions given by Monsanto to farmers on how to grow its Vistive Soybeans came to light.