“This house believes…” Part II Debate results… http://econ.st/cedFUj

“This house believes that biotechnology and sustainable agriculture are complementary, not contradictory”

“…in the end the opponents of biotechnology—or, more precisely, the opponents of genetic modification in its current form—carried the day with 62% of the votes, against 38% for supporters of the motion.”

Check out my previous blog on this: http://doccami.posterous.com/this-house-believes-the-economist-facilitates

Economist_biotech_debate

http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2010/11/economist_debates

A Third Way??? Biotechnology and Sustainability…

My contribution to the debate being hosted by The Economist.  [see my blog entry: “This house believes…” http://doccami.posterous.com/this-house-believes-the-economist-facilitates]

“Dear Sir,

Opinions are divided. I would like to refer to a similar debate that the New Yorker hosted online on this topic around this time last year – Can Biotech Cure World Hunger. Opinions were divided amongst experts there as well. However, I was particularly intrigued by the proposal that Johnathon Foley, director of the new Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, put forward. He expounds upon “The Third Way”…

“Currently, there are two paradigms of agriculture being widely promoted: local and organic systems versus globalized and industrialized agriculture. Each has fervent followers and critics. Genuine discourse has broken down: You’re either with Michael Pollan or you’re with Monsanto. But neither of these paradigms, standing alone, can fully meet our needs.”

Foley proposes a “hybrid” of the two: “…take ideas from both sides, [create] new, hybrid solutions that boost production, conserve resources and build a more sustainable and scalable agriculture.”

We need compromise. We need to explore the value, opportunities and gains that can be made through the employment of a variety of production practices including organics, GE, conventional, etc. The more time we spend fighting at the impasse, the less time we can put towards developing viable, practicable solutions – solutions that can benefit everyone.”

CAST YOUR VOTE – GIVE YOUR OPINION! http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/607/showCommentModule:1

 

 

 

 

“This house believes…” The Economist facilitates debate on biotech & sustainability

GM and organics have, for the most part, been viewed as being at opposing ends of the farming production & practice debate. 

To that end, I was pleased to see that The Economist is hosting a debate on this very important matter.  The Economist puts forward the notion that biotechnology and sustainable agriculture are symbiotic and complementary, not at all contradictory.  Moderator, Tom Standage*, looks beyond the ‘crude stereotypes’ and observes that these opposing sides have something in common”

“Both camps are looking for new techniques to produce food sustainably: in other words, methods that minimise environmental impact, maximise farmers’ welfare, can cope with climate change and can be scaled across the developing world. The two camps agree on the ends, if not the means…the idea of a rapprochement between these two approaches is not totally out of the question.”

Professor Pamela Robert (UC Davis) defends the notion of symbiosis between GE and sustainability: “The number of people on Earth is expected to increase from the current 6.7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. How will we feed them? Genetically engineered crops will play an important role.”

Opposing the motion is Charles Benrock of the Organic Center: “Biotechnology is not a system of farming. It reflects no specific philosophy nor is it guided by a set of principles or performance criteria. It is a bag of tools than can be used for good or evil, and lots in between.”

The online forum (scheduled from November 2 to November 12) allows users to vote or provide input into the debate.  Here are a few of the viewpoints that have been put forward – some are the same ol’, same ol’ while others are thought-provoking and intriguing…

“‘…If we continue with current farming practices, [quoting P. Robert]..’, why does it have to be that we have to choose between one bad over the other? The type of farming that would be sustainable not only for the environment but also for the people would be traditional farming.”

“…when I hear about national research institutions that provide the government with information, allow me to have the benefit of the doubt regarding the truth of the scientists’ statements. When scientists are not independent and get paid from the government, (whose decision is lobbied by multinational companies,) how much trustworthy can the research institutions be?”

“…to increase agricultural output on the scale needed, not only must we rely on biotechnology for crop re-engineering and pest control, but we also need it for optimal fertilising…agricultural biotech therefore represents a key tool for smart feed and fertilising which by helping us to close the phosphate loop, will make an important contribution to sustainable agriculture.”

“The thing to be constantly vigilant about in this debate is stewardship. Modifying plants genetically is old hat, when level heads prevail we agree it’s something that requires a regulated environment. Creators of GM crops must act as good stewards of their products and ensure safety for people as well as the environmental.”

“What about the loss of bio-diversity in planted crops or that GM crops cross-pollinate with non GM crops then making them produce GM crops? Natural selection has worked for millions of years so why tamper with it. It is all about making corporations money not feeding the worlds hungry.”

“It is important to remember that GE seeds developed through biotechnology by itself won’t increase productivity. Its part of a technological package that includes the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and heavy machinery and the more vital of all, water. But is an expensive and brutal system that requires education and experience to be sustainable.”

“There is one simple fact about GMO that many politicians and some irresponsible scientists do not seem to be willing to accept: “GM crops cannot coexist with conventional crops.””

“If you ask what the value of the industrial food is, you must deduct the taxpayer money supporting it. We lose something whenever we artificially prop one company up with taxpayer dollars that destroys competition.”

“If the scientific knowledge required for the manipulation of plant genetics is available, then it would be foolish for us not to seek to employ that knowledge for the betterment of mankind simply because of slippery slope concerns.”

“The question is wrong. All sustainable farming is not ecological farming.Considering the limitations of organic farming, it could even be asked if organic farming is sustainable. A wholesale shift to organic farming would lower the world’s food output dramatically, causing famine on a large scale. I am not convinced that GM can make up for pesticide and especially fertilizers. Organic farming may be sustainable for the soil, but it is not sustainable for us.”

“Back in the 70’s, when the world’s population was 2 billion, we developed GM agriculture to prevent a growing problem of starvation. We suceeded so well that now we have more than 6 billion people. Now, faced with the threat of 9 billion people, we need to again step up the technology. When does it end? The term sustainability needs to incorporate population stablity to make any sense at all.”

Economist_debate_header

Personally, I see extremism on either end of the spectrum as narcissistic and counterproductive.  In my opinion, no single process – on its own – has the capacity to resolve challenges for sustainability (see my blog entry of November 1, 2010 “Get over it…” (http://doccami.posterous.com/32102243)).  Rather, we need to explore the value, opportunities and gains that can be made through the employment of a variety of production practices including organics, GE, conventional, etc.  The more time we spend fighting at the impasse, the less time we can put towards developing viable, practicable solutions – solutions that can benefit everyone.

As of today (November 3rd) there were 60+ comments posted to The Economist’s online debate.  This is a very important dialogue – engage in it!

http://preview-debates.economist.com/debate/days/view/606

– – – –

*Tom Standage is a journalist and author from England. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked as a science and technology writer for The Guardian, as the business editor at The Economist, has been published in WiredThe New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published five books, including The Victorian Internet.

More developments on the EU Biotech Policy

“…Importing biotech crops for feed and food will continue to be regulated as now. Member states would not be allowed to prohibit the import and/or the marketing of authorized biotech products. The current list of authorized biotech crops for feed and food use includes one sugar beet, three soybeans, three rapeseeds, six cotton and 17 corn products. What would change is that once a new biotech crop is authorized for cultivation, member states would be able to ban it across all or part of their country for socioeconomic, ethical and moral reasons other than those included in the health and environmental risk assessment of the EU.”

EU Biotech Policy Debate Continues
Ross Korves
July 23, 2010

Excerpt:
“In 2009 the EU grew 234,000 acres of the one biotech corn (MON810) authorized in 1998. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), Spain had 187,900 acres of biotech corn, the Czech Republic 16,000 acres, Portugal 12,600 acres, Romania 8,000 acres, Poland 7,400 acres and Slovakia 2,200 acres. Germany and France had previously grown biotech corn. Romania grew 360,000 acres of biotech soybeans in 2006 before joining the EU in 2007. A biotech starch potato, known as ‘Amflora’, was authorized for cultivation and industrial processing in March 2010. Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary have already notified the Commission they will prohibit its cultivation.”

Full article at:
http://www.truthabouttrade.org/news/editorials/trade-policy-analysis/16303-eu…

Update on today’s Bill C-474 debate… comments and outcomes….

As of today’s debate, Bill C-474 was not referred to Committee. Instead the Conservatives delayed action. There will be another hour of debate in April or sooner. The Conservative Party spoke against the Bill. The Liberal Party mostly spoke against the Bill but left the door open to a debate in Committee…

Quotes of note:

“We have a dominant position in the world in GMOs and so it is important that we consider our future…” Andre Bellavance, Bloc 

“The content and ramifications of the Bill are complex. The wording is problematic. The Member Atamanenko has stated that the Bill was developed in response to the Flax contamination issue. The EU – 70% of our flax export market – was closed due to contamination…if this Bill had been the law at the time, and the study of impact on the market for flax would the knowledge have stopped GE flax and prevented market disruptions?….The Bill does not describe what “market” or “harm” means, we look forward to more debate in the House and maybe debate in Committee.” Francis Valeriote, Liberal, on Agriculture Committee

“This Bill raises the question of how best to manage the market impacts. But we need a process based on sound science. The Canola Growers Association warned to keep the politics out of the decisions. There are technical flaws in the Bill also.” Pierre Lemieux for the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz

“We need to be very cautious about including any non-scientific issues like public attitudes – this has to be resolved by industry, not government. GMOs have been around for 50 years and are important.” Larry Miller, Conservative, Agriculture Committee Chair

NY Times Article of Interest – Can GM Food Cure the World’s Hunger Problem?

Interesting article in today’s issue of the New York Times: “Can Biotech Food Cure World Hunger?”… includes commentaries from six experts (academics, activists, authors) on the subject.

I am particularly fond of Paul Collier’s (economist with Oxford U) encouragement for us to put aside our prejudices: “Genetic modification is analogous to nuclear power: nobody loves it, but climate change has made its adoption imperative.” Particularly, Collier says, for countries like Africa. He says, “African governments are now recognizing that by imitating the European ban on genetic modification they have not reduced the risks facing their societies but increased them. Thirteen years, during which there could have been research on African crops, have been wasted. Africa has been in thrall to Europe, and Europe has been in thrall to populism.”

Johnathon Foley, director of the new Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, expounds upon “The Third Way”… “Currently, there are two paradigms of agriculture being widely promoted: local and organic systems versus globalized and industrialized agriculture. Each has fervent followers and critics. Genuine discourse has broken down: You’re either with Michael Pollan or you’re with Monsanto. But neither of these paradigms, standing alone, can fully meet our needs.” Foley suggest a “hybrid” of the two: “…take ideas from both sides, [create] new, hybrid solutions that boost production, conserve resources and build a more sustainable and scalable agriculture.”

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/can-biotech-food-cure-world…