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Genetically modified crops - February issue

Ben David b_david2 at netvision.net.il
Mon Feb 8 15:30:35 EST 1999


Wayne Parrott wrote:

> > >And exactly how will GM crops reduce the bird population?  I suspect since
> > >there will be plenty of wholesome grain available, their populations will
> > >increase not decrease.  The geese here in Minnesota seem to be doing quite
> > >well on Roundup soybeans!!!
> >
> > Fewer weeds with Roundup tolerant soya? Fewer weed seeds for birds with
> > specific seed needs? Fewer insects with specific weed habitat needs that
> > birds then feed on?
>
> You make it sound like the advent of herbicide-resistant crops will now mean
> that there will be no weeds in farmer's fields.  However, farmers have been
> eliminating weeds from their fields for centuries.
>
> In the beginning there was fire and there was the plow.  Both were great at
> killing weeds, but both were also great at exposing the soil and leaving it
> vulnerable to soil erosion.  Soil erosion in turn led all sorts of problems.
>
> Next came herbicides, some more hazardous than others, but they made it
> possible to control weeds with less plowing.
>
> Now come transgenic crops, tailored for a new generation of herbicides.
> Compared to original herbicides, today's lack, carbon-chlorine bonds, are
> effective in far far smaller doses, are much more target-specific, and have
> short residuals.
>
> Overall, I think current trends are ameliorating some of the hazards associated
> with high-yield agriculture.

Maybe in Minnesota..............here's Monsanto's marketing strategy for the rest
of us (and it's not just Monsanto, there are European biotech firms doing the same
thing):

Having figured out that it's hard to make money by genetically engineering a more
disease reistant or higher yielding plant (so-called "input qualities"), Monsanto
et al are using GM to develop herbicide/plant sets. The result is "Roundup Ready"
soybeans and other crops.

Here's the pitch:
(1) Monsanto sells Roundup Ready soybean seed (and seed activator, if one type of
terminator technology is used) to large, well-connected landowners who can afford
it. They also sell lots and lots of Roundup - a broad-spectrum herbicide that has
caused so much damage that some areas of the US have forbidden aerial spraying.
(2) The large, well-connected landowners in developing countries are largely
untroubled by environmnetal niceties and unfettered by regulation. They spray
Roundup like it's eau-de-cologne ("a little more wouldn't hurt," said one of my
Israeli farming companions - and that's in a scientifically astute country that
regulates its agribiz to meet EU guidelines. After all, the warnings are printed
only in English.....)
(3) The small landowners, subsistence and tenant farmers that couldn't afford
Roundup Ready seed are wiped out. Their crops are damaged or destroyed by Roundup
"drift". They are forced off their land into urban poverty or serfdom.
...........which frees up more acres for Roundup Ready soybeans.........
The result is stark denudation and ecological damage, disenfranchisement of small
landholders, and oligarchic control of the local food supply.
.......And big bucks for Monsanto. They sell not just seed, but seed activator and
herbicide. Plus any other agridrugs that are needed, once they've got the account.
And the customer has to come back next year.

It seems that farmers are reverting back to using fire to clear the
fields..........chemical fire.
Is this the amelioration of agritech's negative effects that you were talking
about?

Ben




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