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PostPosted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:51 pm 
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WSJ wrote:
Updated July 17, 2013, 7:15 a.m. ET

Insecticide-Contaminated Food Kills at Least 22 Schoolchildren in India
Free Food Was Provided Under Government's Midday-Meal Program

NEW DELHI—At least 22 children died and more than two dozen others are seriously ill after eating food contaminated with insecticide at a state-run school in eastern India, government officials and doctors said Wednesday.

The children, aged between 8 and 12, fell sick Tuesday after eating lunch at an elementary school in Gandaman, a village about 65 miles from Patna, the capital of Bihar, one of India's poorest states.

The meal of rice, soybean and potato curry was provided under the central government's "midday-meal" program, which aims to ensure children at government schools get at least one free cooked meal a day. India has more food-insecure people than any other country in the world.

***

India is in the process of introducing one of the most ambitious food-aid programs ever attempted, with the aim of distributing cheap grain to about 70% of the country's 1.2 billion people. The National Food Security Law is likely to be approved when Parliament reconvenes next month.

Critics say the legislation, which is expected to swell the annual food-subsidy bill to around $20 billion, is an attempt by the ruling Congress party to attract support ahead of next year's national election, and that the money would be better spent on improving agricultural infrastructure.

The issue here is providing more food with less use of herbicides and insecticides. We spoiled westerners with relatively bloated salaries can look down our noses at these people while we pay 3 times the price to buy organic and donate to save the whales. But if you want to do more with less for people who need it most, then you need to be smart about how you grow, process, store, and deliver food.

GMO offers the potential not to have to use chemicals to grow food. Those chemicals aren't just lowering the sperm counts in our men - a trend seen worldwide. In some cases they kill.

We cannot know exactly where this particular food batch got contaminated. India has a crazy system of farm subsidies - not dissimilar to one in the US - whereby they buy food from farmers to keep the price up. Sometimes this food is stored for over 2 years before being used in programs such as these. But the general approach is simple. Do more with less, and do it without dangerous chemicals if at all possible.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:10 pm 
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I can see insect resistant GMO's resulting in less insecticide use, and that was the killer in this case (although the article could benefit from editing, the way the statement is written it can be read as if the contamination happened at the school). But doesn't creating herbicide resistant GMOs encourage the use of more herbicides, not less?

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:47 am 
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Glenn wrote:
I can see insect resistant GMO's resulting in less insecticide use, and that was the killer in this case (although the article could benefit from editing, the way the statement is written it can be read as if the contamination happened at the school). But doesn't creating herbicide resistant GMOs encourage the use of more herbicides, not less?

It depends.

The particular GMO in question is resistant to Roundup - a relatively safe herbicide that otherwise is scorched earth with most plants. The problem comes with having to use herbicides that get rid of the undesirable plants without killing/hurting the desirables. It's these chemicals (e.g. broad leaf weed killers, wiregrass killers, etc.) which give me a ripping headache when I have to use them on my lawn, and cause collateral damage with humans.

I can't stay in Southern States - a local agricultural supply house - for more than 10 minutes without getting ill from the cacophony of chemicals available to kill undesirable plants. And in a way that's a good thing. My body is telling me something, and I listen to it. A lot of people use me to sniff their chicken and fish to tell them if it is good. Loss of this ability through age, illness, reaction to a pharmaceutical, or chemical use is a reason why many elderly get food poisoning.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:04 am 
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Glenn wrote:
the article could benefit from editing, the way the statement is written it can be read as if the contamination happened at the school

I snipped out much of the article. It didn't add much. It pretty much said that they're not yet quite sure how it happened, although something in the process from farm to storage to arriving at the school was likely the culprit.

More as the story evolves...

WSJ wrote:
***

Her cousins, Anshu and Kushboo, died after eating a school lunch now believed to have been contaminated with a pesticide compound, according to a hospital official. The disaster has left at least 22 children dead as of late Wednesday and spotlights the shortcomings in a government school-lunch program intended to feed India's millions of malnourished students.

Initial investigations suggest that organophosphorus, commonly used in farm pesticides, may have been mixed into the rice, beans and potato curry served Tuesday at an elementary school in Gandaman, a village in the impoverished state of Bihar, according to Amarkant Jha Amar, medical superintendent at the hospital.

The students became sick and suffered from vomiting, fainting and foaming at the mouth. More than two dozen victims are still being treated. Mr. Amar said patients are receiving medicine to neutralize the chemical, which is similar to nerve agents such as sarin.

It remains unclear how or where the chemical got into the food. A state-level investigation is under way and the first report is expected Thursday, according to local police and a district magistrate.

***


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:08 am 
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For unknown reasons I have always had a terrible sense of smell, I rarely notice odors anywhere I go. However having taken microbiology in college I am overly cautious on food and probably throw out stuff that is still edible.

I rarely use herbicides on my lawn though, preferring to take care of weeds by hand to avoid poisoning the kids, dog, and wildlife that we intentionally attract. Plus I have found yardwork such as pulling weeds is a nice, quiet rote activity that allows time to think and problem-solve, particularly given no one in the family ever seems to volunteer to help or even comes around out of worry about being put to work. But I believe my typical suburban 60' by 100' yard is much smaller than yours so I can get away with pulling weeds by hand.

Southern States, I haven't been in one of those since I lived in E-town 30 years ago.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:29 am 
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A Wednesday night update indicates that the poisoning may have originated from within the school afterall.

NY Times wrote:
By nightfall on Wednesday, as angry protests broke out, officials said they believed they had found the cause: cooking oil stored in a container formerly used for insecticides.

As news of the tragedy spread, the school’s principal, who had bought the cooking oil from a store owned by her husband, disappeared and has not been seen since, officials said.


That was bad enough, but the situation was compounded by inadequate medical services.

Quote:
But the episode also laid bare the almost complete failure of the state medical system to deal effectively with the crisis. Parents recounted nightmarish tales of sickness and desperate efforts to find medical care in facilities that were rapidly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of children affected.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:43 pm 
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I despise Monsanto and the military industrial complex to which they belong, their unfair advantages and promotion by politicians when we are not given all the facts :evil: ..however folks seem to think it is "Either, OR" either you use GMO crops because they are resistant to pests or you use ordinary crops , which though in my humble opinion a lot more healthful can succumb to a lot of diseases, but there are other alternatives that are healthful and use the best of science............

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2wWTadsBDA


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:20 pm 
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There are quite a few innovative options out there for backyard gardeners, with some potential for going beyond backyard gardening with such technology as vertical gardening

http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2012/11/08/towerstoned2_custom-68cbb7552b69de9037d7445da3ad2a19dcca8850-s6-c30.jpg

But at present such techniques cannot come anywhere close to feeding 7+ billion people on the planet as cheaply or efficiently as conventional agriculture can. And to create that kind of output would likely be more polluting than conventional agriculture. Here are some excerpts from the Wikipedia page on vertical farming, which also brings up the water-pollution problem inherent to hydroponics/aquaponics.

Quote:
Problems

Economics
Opponents question the potential profitability of vertical farming.[47] A detailed cost analysis of start-up costs, operation costs, and revenue has not been done.[citation needed] The extra cost of lighting, heating, and powering the vertical farm may negate any of the cost benefits received by the decrease in transportation expenses.[48] The economic and environmental benefits of vertical farming rest partly on the concept of minimizing food miles, the distance that food travels from farm to consumer.[original research?] However, a recent analysis suggests that transportation is only a minor contributor to the economic and environmental costs of supplying food to urban populations. The author of the report, University of Toronto professor Pierre Desrochers, concluded that "food miles are, at best, a marketing fad."[49]

Similarly, if the power needs of the vertical farm are met by fossil fuels, the environmental effect may be a net loss;[50] even building low-carbon capacity to power the farms may not make as much sense as simply leaving the traditional farms in place, and burning less coal.

The initial building costs will be easily over $100 million, for a 60 hectare vertical farm.[51] Office occupancy costs can be very high in major cities, with cities such as Tokyo, Moscow, Mumbai, Dubai, Milan, Zurich, and Sao Paulo ranging from $1850 to $880 per square meter, respectively.[52]

Energy use
During the growing season, the sun shines on a vertical surface at an extreme angle such that much less light is available to crops than when they are planted on flat land. Therefore, supplemental light, would be required in order to obtain economically viable yields. Bruce Bugbee, a crop physiologist at Utah State University, believes that the power demands of vertical farming will be too expensive and uncompetitive with traditional farms using only free natural light.[10][53] The environmental writer George Monbiot calculated that the cost of providing enough supplementary light to grow the grain for a single loaf would be almost $10[54] (although his calculation has not considered LED growing lights, which are somewhat more efficient - around 1/2 to 1/5 of the cost).

As "The Vertical Farm" proposes a controlled environment, heating and cooling costs will be at least as costly as any other tower. But there also remains the issue of complicated, if not more expensive, plumbing and elevator systems to distribute food and water throughout. Even throughout the northern continental United States, while heating with relatively cheap fossil fuels, the heating cost can be over $200,000/hectare.[55]

To address this problem, The Plant in Chicago is building an anaerobic digester into the building. This will allow the farm to operate off the energy grid. Moreover, the anaerobic digester will be recycling waste from nearby businesses that would otherwise go into landfills.[56]

Pollution
Regular greenhouse produce is known to create more greenhouse gases than field produce,[57] largely due to higher energy use per kilogram of produce. With vertical farms requiring much greater energy per kilogram of produce, mainly through increased lighting, than regular greenhouses, the amount of pollution created will be much higher than that from field produce.

As plants acquire nearly all their carbon from the atmosphere, greenhouse growers commonly supplement CO2 levels to 3-4 times the rate normally found in the atmosphere. This increase in CO2, which has been shown to increase photosynthesis rates by 50%, contributes to the higher yields expected in vertical farming.[58] It is not uncommon to find greenhouses burning fossil fuels purely for this purpose, as other CO2 sources, like from furnaces, contain pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and ethylene which significantly damage plants.[58] This means a vertical farm will require a CO2 source, most likely from combustion, even if the rest of the farm is powered by 'green' energy. Also, through necessary ventilation, much CO2 will be leaked into the city's atmosphere.

Greenhouse growers commonly exploit photoperiodism in plants to control whether the plants are in a vegetative or reproductive stage. As part of this control, growers will have the lights on past sunset and before sunrise or periodically throughout the night. Single story greenhouses are already a nuisance to neighbours because of light pollution, a 30 story vertical farm in a densely populated area will surely face problems because of its light pollution.[59]

Hydroponics greenhouses regularly change the water, meaning there is a large quantity of water containing fertilizers and pesticides that must be disposed of. While solutions are currently being worked on, the most common method of simply spreading the mixture over a sufficient area of neighbouring farmland or wetlands would be more difficult for an urban vertical farm.[60]

I think there is definite potential with this and other innovations for the backyard and community gardens in places that can afford it, but to feed the world I believe we are stuck with conventional agriculture for the foreseeable future.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:08 pm 
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Yeah it's a begining is all I mean.rather than let huge corporations like monsanto destroy the planet, and peoples health and their economies why not look at less invasive methods of food production.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:33 pm 
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I think you are correct with it being a start. The economics of conventional ag are likely to change at some point, probably as a result of continued increases in energy costs and demand for ag products, which may make these innovations more attractive. And hopefully further innovation will decrease some of their negatives by then. At the very least they could have potential to supplement conventional ag well before then.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:27 pm 
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jorvik wrote:
let huge corporations like monsanto destroy the planet, and peoples health and their economies

You are suggesting this is fact, when in fact it is part political opinion and part emotional response to the status quo. This makes your statement a non-starter in a rational discussion.

I rather like Glenn's approach.

Glenn wrote:
feeding 7+ billion people on the planet ... cheaply [and] efficiently

Bingo!

I bring up India because they present a less affluence-centric and more global perspective.

  • India has more food-insecure people than any other country in the world. (WSJ)
    ...
  • Average income is a fraction of that seen in the USA and the UK. What works in USA and UK - populations a fraction of the size of India - will not work in India.
    ...
  • India is the largest democracy in the world, and thus *potentially* in a situation where leadership represents the interest of the people. The obvious barrier - painfully visible here - is corruption.
    ...
  • India is a rising world power, and a leader in certain technologies. They actually are building a database of personal identifiers (DNA specific). While this may alarm civil libertarians and privacy advocates in the US and the UK, such a system will allow efficient management of 1.24 billion people. This will eventually make them a world leader in Electronic Health Record information systems.

The bottom line... India presents a very interesting experimental lab to find out what works in terms of feeding a population both efficiently and safely. Having favorites beforehand is great, but... as a scientist, I advocate letting the data speak for themselves.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:56 pm 
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Let's not forget that India is currently projected to become the most populous country in the world by 2028, which is just around the corner, due largely to the huge brake China's One-Child Policy" has placed on its population growth while India's population is still growing relatively rapidly. (This latest projection is a revision from previous projections that had India taking over the top spot by 2025.)

India to be world's most populous country by 2028

Quote:
India looks set to overtake China as the world's most populous country from 2028, according to the United Nations.

At that point, both nations will number 1.45 billion people. Subsequently India's population will continue to grow until the middle of the century, while China's slowly declines.

The UN also estimates that the current global population of 7.2 billion will reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

That is a faster rate of growth than previously estimated.

The population growth will be mainly in developing countries, particularly in Africa, the UN says.

The world's 49 least developed countries are projected to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050, whereas the population of developed regions will remain largely unchanged.

The UN said the reason for the increase in its projection is largely new information on fertility levels in certain high birth rate countries.

This will change a popular geography trivia question.

Obviously India's population was going to be the same size whether China's slowed down or not, but being ranked as the most populous country in the world highlights better than anything that figuring out what works is by no means just a trivial or academic matter for India, their future is depending on it.

This is also why India is buying up/leasing huge tracks of farmland in Ethiopia and other places around the world, attempting to increase their own food security although potentially at the cost of increasing food insecurity for countries like Ethiopia that are already unable to feed themselves without international aid.

And 9.6 billion globally by 2050, India is not alone. I do not believe we have seen anything yet regarding food (and energy, water, etc) security like we will be.

Here is a trivia tidbit. Global population is estimated to have reached 3.5 billion in 1968 and is now estimated to be just over 7 billion. That means if you were born before 1968, as I was, global population has doubled in your lifetime. Let that sink in for a moment, the entire population of the planet doubling in only 43 years (7 billion is estimated to have been reached in late 2011 or early 2012).

And if I live to 2050, which is not impossible as I would be in the mid-80s, using the 2050 projection global population will have increased to 2.7 times what it was in 1968, i.e. almost tripled in size. And the population actually tripling from 3.5 billion in 1968 to 10.5 billion could happen by 2075, taking 107 years. The current verifiable oldest person in the world is 115. By the way that 115 year old has seen global population increase from under 2 billion to over 7 billion in her lifetime, which is an increase of over 3.5 times what it was when she was born.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:51 pm 
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jorvik wrote:

let huge corporations like monsanto destroy the planet, and peoples health and their economies
Quote
You are suggesting this is fact, when in fact it is part political opinion and part emotional response to the status quo. This makes your statement a non-starter in a rational discussion.

Quote


3. “The U.S. Government And Monsanto Are Teaming Up Against Opponents Of Genetically-Modified Food”

The establishment does not like those that are trying to stand in the way of genetically-modified food. The following is from a recent Activist Post article…


A shocking new investigative report from the largest daily newspaper in Germany alleges that Monsanto, the US Military and the US government have colluded to track and disrupt both anti-GMO activists and independent scientists who study the adverse effects of genetically modified food.

As revealed yesterday by Sustainable Pulse, on July 13th the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung detailed information on how the US Government “advances the interests of their corporations,” focusing on Monsanto as a prime example.

The report titled, “The Sinister Monsanto Group: ‘Agent Orange’ to Genetically Modified Corn,” described a ‘new fangled cyber war’ being waged against both eco-activists and independent scientists by supporters and former employees of Monsanto, who are described as “operationally powerful assistants” and who have taken up sometimes high-ranking posts in the US administration, regulatory authorities, and some of whom have connections deep within the military industrial establishment, including the CIA.
Source
http://thetruthwins.com/archives/20-con ... to-be-true


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 19, 2013 2:28 pm 
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Ray

You need to get some new reading sources. The words hyperbole and paranoia come to mind when reading those sources. The points of view are extreme and the characterizations comical.

This is why often I can't listen to MSNBC or Fox News for more than 5 minutes at a time. It's like being in a room where someone's scratching their fingers on a chalk board. But I do sample the madness now and then just to get a taste of what these folks are thinking. It's informative, but not necessarily in the way that they intend.

Is the US government (through its agencies) spying on ecoterrorists? Duh!!! They should be afraid. VERY afraid. They would be no less vigilant than the Brits would be of the IRA.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:38 pm 
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I am not trying to defend Monsanto or GMOs, but I do have to ask how “The U.S. Government And Monsanto Are Teaming Up Against Opponents Of Genetically-Modified Food” provides facts toward "huge corporations like monsanto destroy the planet, and peoples health and their economies"? What you posted only highlights that two groups have a rivalry going.

More fundamentally, think about what you originally said

jorvik wrote:
huge corporations like monsanto destroy the planet, and peoples health and their economies

That is a broad, sweeping statement that hardly makes for a successful business model. Monsanto is a corporation, with the typical corporate concerns for profitability and longevity. That can be both bad and good, bad in that these needs often force corporations into a knee-jerk reaction of denial when a product is found to cause more problems than it solves but good in that rampant destruction of the planet, health, and especially economies does not help a corporation meet its objectives.

Do corporations act in the best interest of everyone, no. But neither do governments. And neither do scientists. And neither do environmental activists. Unfortunately the only way to not hurt anyone is to not help anyone, i.e. to not try. But is that the best option given the problems facing the world? The best we can hope for is a balance of trying to improve the conditions of the most people while negatively impacting the fewest people. It is not ideal, frankly it *****, but it is the reality of living in a world of 7+ billion people. And it keeps the lawyers busy. Something to keep in mind though is that "huge corporations" are often the only entities with the resources and talent to tackle the big problems.

My perspective in all of this is as a scientist, that is the hat I tend to wear when looking at these topics. Like Bill I believe in evidence and letting data speak for themselves, and while we do not agree with what the evidence says about Global Warming, largely because of complexity of the issue and the incompleteness of the picture, we do agree on the process needed to unravel the puzzle and complete the picture. Such debates are healthy for science and help science to move forward. Contrary to some of the devil's advocate arguments I make when debating Bill, I am not an activist and do not support activism science. I believe scientists should uncover facts with objectivity, and I see activism science as a slippery slope that can remove too much of that objectivity. Would I like to see all policy decisions based on science, sure, but ultimately it is up to society at large to make these decisions and they may or may not be based on science. It is what it is.

That is why I always draw a clear distinction between ecology and environmental studies. My undergraduate major was in ecology, I completed some graduate studies in ecology, I conducted research in the ecological genetics of prairie grasses, and I have taught ecology at the college level. I have never considered myself an environmentalist however. Ecologists investigate the workings of the biosphere, environmentalists push for particular policies and actions. I am by the way not saying society does not need nor benefit from environmentalists, I am saying I believe these two groups should be separate and not combined.

And ecologists and environmentalists do have different perspectives on GMO's. Take a look for example at Genetically Modified Organisms at the Crossroads written by two Australian ecologists. Some excerpts:

Quote:
It is not our task to present a complete account of all possible ecosystem effects, but rather to suggest that what is needed is a systematic approach to ecosystem risk assessment, and this four-way analysis is one way to approach it.

Comparative risk analysis, which involves comparing the relative risks of different activities to make rational policy and resource decisions, is also rudimentary for agricultural systems. For example, because of their sheer volume, introductions of non-GMO plants pose a far greater risk to the environment than does the comparative trickle of GMO crops, but the former receive only a fraction of both public attention and risk assessment resources. Take the perceived risk that a GMO may create a new "super weed." For Australia, it is a hard truth that roughly half of all our noxious weeds were introduced intentionally, mostly as ornamentals (Panetta 1993), and none of them had been genetically modified. It could be argued that, if Australia allowed in only GMOs, which are presently being introduced at an extremely low rate due to the expense of developing them and the limited ability of the agricultural industries to use them, the country would be in far better shape than it is now, when it is virtually inundated by several thousand new non-GMO taxa per year.

Incidentally, we part company with Conway when it comes to his belief that Terminator and similar technologies are unequivocally bad. If horticulturalists could be persuaded to release new ornamentals that were incapable of propagating outside the garden, this would be a major advance for vegetation management. This approach is analogous to work already being carried out by agencies such as ours on "sterile ferals," which aims to resolve the problems that arise when introduced species that are commercially valuable escape into the wild and become pests. Australia has numerous examples of species of this type. The concept is that the GM species is identical in every way to the original except that it requires a particular compound (for example, in its diet) to remain fertile. If it escapes into the wild, in the absence of that dietary component it becomes sterile.

Communication of the risks associated with specific GMOs has been poor. This has resulted in a dialogue of the deaf, with scientists and technocrats as proponents pitted against environmentalists who lack hard data but are full of alarmist claims. Despite the fact that it already takes hundreds of millions of dollars to bring a GMO to market, more funding to explore and quantify the risk side might have resulted in a more informed debate and, paradoxically, perhaps a greater degree of public acceptance. It is also worth noting that some GMOs have apparently been withdrawn by their proponents because existing assessment procedures have identified unacceptable levels of risk. In other words, at least some proponents of GMOs are showing greater caution than might be implied by the prominent public pronouncements, and all GMO proponents should be playing this card more strongly.

Different strata of society may perceive risks very differently, and the social psychology of GMO risk perception is an area that needs to be researched if public concerns are to be properly addressed. Conway is correct in identifying the need to label GM foods, and it defies imagination that agribusiness would not support this in a world in which the market is supposed to reign supreme.

Returning to our introductory comment on the strategic approach to using GMOs, we suggest that a serious effort by the GMO multinational companies to apply GMO technology to environmental problems would be both timely and wise.

This analysis of the GMO issue is far different from the blanket rejection of GMOs by environmentalists, and paints a different picture of the roles and actions of corporations than does your environmental activist article.

Ecological studies have shown that not all GMOs are bad. Simply tossing out all GMOs without question therefore makes as much sense as simply adopting all without question. We need to find that balance.

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Last edited by Glenn on Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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