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Thursday, November 17,2011

Anti-GMO activism is evil

By Paul Danish


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, 88 percent of the 2011 U.S. corn crop consists of genetically engineered varieties — either herbicide-tolerant types like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, or insect-resistant types containing genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), or both. The figure for the 2011 U.S. soybean crop is 94 percent genetically modified. For the 2011 cotton crop the figure is 90 percent genetically modified.

As for sugar beets, the crop that prompted the latest local witch-hunt about growing genetically modified crops on Boulder County open space, the figure for the 2010 crop is 95 percent, according to The New York Times.

The foregoing raises an obvious question about the controversy over growing genetically modified crops on Boulder County open space, which is, why are we even having this conversation? The genie is out of the bottle. The horse is out of the barn. The train has left the station. The attempt to ban GM crops on county open space is meaningless environmental posturing. It would be farcical except for the fact that it is trashing the livelihoods of several Boulder County farm families.

Are GM crops perfectly safe?

Probably not. No activity involving humans is “perfectly safe.” But GM crops are clearly safe enough. GM crops have been grown for 15 years. Anti-GMO activists talk darkly of possible toxins and allergens tainting the food supply, but after 15 years there is a distinct paucity of victims. Given the pervasiveness of Roundup Ready and Bt corn and soybeans, there should be hundreds of thousands of human cases of GMO-induced human illness and tens of millions of sick chickens, pigs and cows. So far, few, if any, convincing examples have emerged.

What has emerged is that some weeds have managed to incorporate the Roundup Ready resistant gene and develop resistance to Roundup. Anti-GMO activists want to believe this is a show-stopper, but it is hard to see why it would be. All it means is that seed companies will develop different herbicides and find genes that impart resistance to them to add to their offerings, or find other work-arounds.

American agriculture has embraced GM crops and the science behind them, and it is not going to give them up because there might be downsides any more than it would give up tractors because they might contribute to global warming. So to return to the original question: Why is Boulder County having this conversation?

No mystery there. Anti-GMO activists see opposition to agricultural genetic engineering as a political organizing tool and as an avenue for attacking American corporations — which they do with an irrational virulence.

For example, a recent letter writer to the Camera characterized the GMO biotech industry as “built on corruption, bribery, intimidation, government complicity and falsehood.”

“The Monsantos, Syngentas, etc. are not to be trusted,” he added.

Well, the guy is entitled to his opinion, but personally I think Monsanto is a lot more trustworthy and has a lot more integrity than the folks at, say, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center who routinely besmirch both Monsanto and its products. Monsanto probably does more good in a week — by preventing famine on a planet whose human population is growing at a rate of 80 million a year, by making it possible for Third World peoples who have scratched out a subsistence existence since the dawn of time to produce the agricultural surpluses that are a necessary precondition for developing First World standards of living — than the entire peace and justice movement has produced in a generation.

The author of the letter also intimated that he “was warned as a child to be very careful about who I hang out with.”

Good point. He ought to take a good look at the denizens of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, the prime instigator of the local anti-GMO program, before hanging with them. The biggest environmental accomplishment of these folks was helping to delegitimize nuclear power a generation ago. The result of that “triumph” has been that three-quarters of the world’s electric power is produced by burning coal and natural gas and will continue to be for decades. They are as responsible for global warming as any oil or mining company.

Back in the 1970s the ideological predecessors of today’s anti-GMO activists were attacking Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which is widely credited with preventing global famine and saving a billion lives, with the same zeal with which they are attacking GMOs today — and with strikingly similar arguments: Someone is going to make money selling the seeds, poor farmers can’t afford the seeds and the fertilizers and pesticides they need, the new crops may hold hidden dangers and be setting the world up for a fall, etc.

To hear the activists tell it, anti- GMO activism represents the apotheosis of environmental morality.

Just my opinion, but I don’t find tampering with the world’s ability to feed itself for political gain a very moral undertaking. In fact, I think it is malignantly evil — and that Boulder County should reject the counsel of those who do it like a disease.


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It sure is refreshing to see someone 'tell it like it is' about GMOs and activists. By now you've received enough hate mail from the anti-GMO brigade to make you consider changing your name and moving to a yurt in Siberia. Don't do it! The activists have been reigning with terror for the last 15 years. We need your courage.


Eric, take a couple of hours and watch "The World According to Monsanto" and then carefully reexamine your claim that the anti-GMO activists are "reigning with terror". You may feel compelled to redact that statement to protect the value of your opinion.


Activist reigning with terror? You really need to get out into public more, Eric. It's called democracy. Perhaps you can muster some courage yourself and take a stand for something rather than just grandstanding for polemic Paul. Seriously, if you want to advocate for something get out and do it. It's our right. You're free to advocate for widespread chemical contamination, forced GMO feeding of the world and universal religion. It's a free country. And if enough people give a damn change might even happen. I do believe that how the US was originally founded...hmmm?


Let’s examine the US fossil fuel industrial agricultural model that Paul and Eric exalt as so efficient. Only 2% of the population is engaged in food production. Such “efficiency” was reached because four million farms have disappeared in the United States in the last 50 years. Food imports have been steadily rising for years. According to USDA ( alarm-keeps-sounding.htm, ), food imports to the United States have almost doubled in the past decade, from $36 billion in 1997 to more than $70 billion in 2007. In 2008 the U.S. imported more agricultural goods than it exported in June and August, the first monthly trade deficits since 1986, a situation that has slowly been aggravated by the economic recession and the millions of acres devoted to biofuels in the Farm Belt. Let’s add to these figures the fact that there are 36.2 million hungry or food-insecure Americans; 50,000 emergency food sites visited annually by 10% of the country’s population; 30 million people receiving food stamps (total food stamp spending for 2006 was $32.8 billion). Farm bankruptcies, foreclosures and forced evictions have driven the farm population to less than 2% of the population or about 2.128 million farms.


Sky Winston, If you believe that the film you refer to is anything other than complete rubbish then you are a fool! Please try to refer to some proper scientific evidence when you want to express a view rather than pure propaganda. Otherwise you give the impression to those of us who have a scientific background that you are incredibly ignorant and that demeans the debate.


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Yeah. Those darned enviro-terrorists, always wanting to make the world a better place. Shame on them!


This is what these stinking eco-terrorists want. Not a change in diet to GMO maize and GM soya so that they can have fossil fuel 'food security' but rather enjoying their own food. Isn't this blasphemous? Since 2008, access to a healthy nutritional diet has declined around the world due to the impact of the global economic crisis that broke out that year in the United States. Against that backdrop, achieving food sovereignty has become even more urgent. The concept of food sovereignty was coined by Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, in 1996. It refers to the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems, rather than being dominated by the demands of markets and corporations. The goal of food sovereignty also includes greater participation in agricultural production by local rural populations, expanded access to healthy, ecological food, reduction of food imports to a minimum, recognition of the right of consumers to control their food and nutrition, and national sustainability and autonomy in food production.


The leading ecoterrorist operational manual 'Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba" (Funes et al., 2002) informs us how the island was unable to import either food or materials needed for conventional agriculture and thus turned inward to self-reliance. Sustainable agriculture, organic farming, urban gardens, smaller farms, animal traction, and biological pest control all became part of the new Cuban agriculture. Agroecological farming is growing and becoming stronger in Cuba. 100,000 families— almost half the population of independent small farmers in Cuba—who are members of ANAP (Cuba’s small farmers association), practice agroecological diversification methods in their farms producing much more food per hectare than on commercial, industrial agriculture farms. These family farmers, many of whom are part of the Campesino a Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) movement, produce over 65% of the country’s food, on only 25% of the land.


It seems to me that there are two types of 'eco-terrorist'; those that for reasons of their own (often poorly informed) oppose advanced plant breeding and those who simply don't like it for idealogical reasons object to private enterprise 'controlling' part of our food supply whilst happily shopping at one of the many superstores owned by the likes of Wallmart. Would they not be better advised to ask themselves who do they want to work on the science? The state funded by taxpayers or companies like Dow, Monsanto et al which put their own cash at risk. Historically there has been a balance and one onky has to examine the work of Shull on F1 hybrid maize to appreciate that BOTH have a role to play. If you want taxpayers to fund it fine but be aware of the mess that this caused in Russia when Stalin did not like the answers he was given. Thousands if not millions starved to death.


Jonathon,  I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of my film suggestion.  I didn't position it as an argument of science. It's more like a refutation to the idea that anti-GMO activists are wreaking a "reign of terror" on Monsanto and it's sympathizes.  The film anecdotally demonstrates in a very clear fashion Monsanto's truly legendary reign of terror on the human race.   Have you seen this film?  Do you acknowledge that I was recommending it within a different context than your accusation suggests? Do you really believe that your "scientific background" garners you any credibility given science's reputation in agribusiness? I'm eager to learn.  Perhaps you can point me in the direction of these scientific studies that show GMOs are perfectly safe for humans.


Dear Sky, Idf you feel that the fil is an accurate refelction of the facts, NB: The comments on Terminator technology then go ahead and recommend it. The trouble is many ill educated people think that the film is evidence based and it plainly NOT but many people will view it as being factual. Rtahr tlike a communist recommending a film about the 'wonderful' regime run by Stalin in Russia and the low unemployment levels it produced. It is 90% nonsense and needs reviewing by proper authorities before and after viewing.


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Fantastic idea! Let's 'roundup' all the biotech employees and shareholders and ship them all to Siberia where they can enjoy thier biotech foods.



Dear Bryan J. Unfortunately for you (and us all)if you want to 'Roundup'the employees and shareholders you will do very little harm as glyphosate is about 25 times less toxic than table salt and about 30 times less toxic than caffeine which is one of the reasons why it is the herbicide of choice for so many farmers all over the world. Geddit it?


Jonathan, you should be happy to go to Siberia so that you do not meet the same fate as some of the Monsanto employees in india... It is good to see that some farmers are taking matters upon themselves and beating the living crap out of Monsanto employees. We need to post names of every monsanto employee on the web and start making their lives sheer hell. Anyone who works for such an evil company does not deserve to exist on this planet.


And farmers could use monsanto employees as fertilizer but the problem is that they are 80X more toxic than glyphosate. I predict by this time next year, we will have see Monsanto reach an ugly fate in the corporate world. They will be penniless once the truth is known and every country on this earth has filed lawsuits for biopiracy against monsanto losers.


So Jonathan, You DO understand that "The World According to Monsanto" is the curriculum vitae of Monsanto's terrorist career.   Then you go and say that recommending it as such is the equivalent of suggesting a Stalinist Russia documentary for its conflated display of economic prowess. And THEN, in the very next breath, you advocate for "authorities" reviewing a person before & after viewing these films, a strangely dystopian idea that Stalin would have heartily endorsed.   Why not let people draw their own conclusions?  Do you really believe them to be incapable of discerning truth from fiction without the benevolent state's assistance?  


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I'm not sure whether to dignify this rant even with a lowly title of propaganda. It's more like smut. Hey Paul, do your research before slanderously accusing people more informed than you, you hateful, arrogant coward.


Dear Bryan, As you are so opposed to GM breeding techniques, how do you feel about using MUTAGENESIS? If you are OK with it (many organic growers use varieties bred this way)do you not understand that this is like supporting the safety of motorcycling but being against travelling by car. Neither is totally safe but cars are considerably safer than motor cycles! I and many other plant biologists would far prefer to eat GM bred crops/foods if they are available than organic ones. It is you who needs to be better informed, NOT Paul Danish who has a really good understanding of the issues!



I really love how Mr. Danish opened his piece. First, he rightly point out the incredible percentage of crops in America that are Genetically Modified and then he asks an incredibly important question:  "why are we even having this conversation?".


I was hoping I could answer that for him.  But there's one thing you need to understand first.  Evil is good.  And good is evil.  I know!  These are tough concepts.  Perhaps I can amplify their meaning by nesting them in the context of the arguments he put forth.  


Let's take the USDA and American Agricultural Apparatus' adoption of GM crops & related science first.  If someone has 88-94% of something, which in this case, is GM's share of the food crop, what do we call that? It's not a paucity.  It's a monopoly.  More importantly, it's a monopoly over the one thing that we all need.  But I'm sure we can trust the USDA with shepherding this one vital resource.  After all, it was their incredible visionary powers that saved us from the latent effects of DDT!  Yes, American Agriculture has embraced GMOs.  And we all know that Americans are amongst the healthiest eaters on the planet and paragons of moral virtue.  That's why we're spreading our view all over the world.  Because it's good.  Which brings me to his next point.  


The world is starving, and if it weren't for GMOs, everyone would be dead.  This does include, of course, the 10,000 Haitian farmers who burned Monsanto's generous contribution of "aid seeds" after their devastating Earthquake.  Why would they do such a thing though?  Isn't Haiti amongst the most impoverished nations?  Don't they need this food?  What can possibly explain this illogical behavior?  I know.  It's because they're evil.  


Really though, how do farmers survive without GMOs?  Don't ask the thousands of generations of farmers that didn't get to use them; they're evil too, and dishonest.  So are the organic farmers.  In fact, these are all just fringe-case luddites hell-bent on "trashing" the livelihoods of Boulder's GMO farm families.  They're just like the lunatics in the 30 other countries around the world who have banned GMOs from their food supply.  And where are these countries' GMO farmers now?  Surely, rotting in a ditch somewhere.  


I think the questions Mr. Danish meant to ask were: Why can't these people shut up and ignore the science that shows GMOs sterilizing lab rats within 3 generations?  Why can't these unruly citizen subordinate their interest in the land they paid for to the benefit of a couple dozen GMO farmers?  Why can't they turn a blind eye from the beltway traffic between Montanto and Federal Regulatory positions?  Why, oh why, can't they just stop caring, lay down, and die?  As it turns out, Mr. Danish would receive the same answer that he did to his original question.  Because they're evil.  So. Evil.  


well said...and now, i'll take my evilness and go enjoy a tasty organic lunch...pure evil!! ;)