February 24, 2013


The Food Threat to Human Civilization (Paul & Anne Ehrlich, 2/21/13, Project Syndicate)

Humanity faces a growing complex of serious, highly interconnected environmental problems, including much-discussed challenges like climate change, as well as the equally or more serious threat to the survival of organisms that support our lives by providing critical ecosystem services such as crop pollination and agricultural pest control. We face numerous other threats as well: the spread of toxic synthetic chemicals worldwide, vast epidemics, and a dramatic decline in the quality and accessibility of mineral resources, water, and soils.

Resource wars are already with us; if a "small" nuclear resource war erupted between, say, India and Pakistan, we now know that the war alone would likely end civilization.

But our guess is that the most serious threat to global sustainability in the next few decades will be one on which there is widespread agreement: the growing difficulty of avoiding large-scale famines.

Anti-GM foods activist sees the science -- and the light (Gwyn Morgan, 02/7/201, Winnipeg Free Press)

 When British environmentalist and author Mark Lynas gave a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on Jan. 3, he was instantly transformed from an organizer of the movement against genetically modified foods into a high-profile apostate.

The text of his speech, available on his website (www.marklynas.org) and widely circulated on the Internet, should be read by all who worry about how farmers will be able to feed the world's growing population.

In the address, Lynas explained the reasons for his dramatic shift from a passionate opponent to a supporter of GM foods. His account reveals how a group of clever activists used fear-instilling tactics to turn millions of people against the only technology that offers any hope of preventing mass starvation.

It's an astonishing account of how anti-capitalist, anti-corporate ideologues campaigned against genome research, one of mankind's most significant scientific advancements, without even looking at the science. "In 2008, I was still penning screeds... attacking the science of GM," Lynas said. "I don't think I'd ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science."
He recalled how he and other anti-GM activists exploited fears about genetic manipulation: "These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe... Africa, India and the rest of Asia. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with."

He described how GM opponents "employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag -- this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends."

Lynas said he began to reconsider things when he decided to look at the science. He found genetically modified plants produce higher yields, thereby reducing the loss of biodiverse natural areas to agriculture. He learned GM requires less fertilizer, thereby reducing nutrient-rich runoff that threatens rivers and streams.

He learned pest-resistant seeds reduce insecticide use and drought-resistant plants lessen the unsustainable depletion of aquifers. And he found GM research is safer and more precise than traditional plant-breeding methods.

Posted by at February 24, 2013 8:58 AM

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