Girl Scouts tell anti-gmo activists to buzz off

No comment. From the Girl Scout FAQ:

“Our bakers determine whether to use genetically modified agricultural crops (GMOs) in Girl Scout Cookies based on a range of market-related factors. There are some conventional ingredients, such as sugar, which are most prominently available in the United States as GMO. Our bakers are industry experts and have brought their experience and knowledge to the forefront on this topic, and they actively follow the science. For the time being, we feel confident in the safety of all the ingredients in Girl Scout Cookies, including GMO ingredients.

It’s important to note that there is worldwide scientific support that there are no safety concerns with the currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified agricultural crops (GMOs) on the market—the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all share this assessment. In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.”


Ancient Sumerians vs. Modern Greens

One of the mantras of Greens and the Organics is how we have to work in harmony with nature instead of against it.  They also decry the idea of food as a commodity and industrial agriculture.  They would have hated the ancient Sumerians.

The Sumerians invented agriculture around 4,000 B.C.  They mono-cropped. They diverted water needed for  irrigation from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by means of dams, dykes and canals.  They became, as we learned in school,  the Fertile Crescent.  They had a surplus of food.

The Sumerians practiced what modern day Greens despise,  industrial agriculture.  With this taming of nature, came an abundance of food which the Sumerians used in trade. Yes, they used food as a commodity.

Farmland was considered the private property of the farmer. If a farmer’s crop didn’t yield enough, he might borrow food and seed from a neighbor with the hope that the next year’s yield would be enough that he could pay his neighbor back. If that didn’t happen, the debtor farmer could lose his land to his lender or work for him as a sharecropper.

The large scale farming that led to the surplus of food meant that not everyone had to farm. This allowed time for people to develop new interests and invent new things, like the first written language and the  wheel.  

The modern day Organic/Green, (MGO) mindset is one that is at odds which the Sumerian culture. While the  Sumerians pursued modernization and progress, the MGOs want a return to some imaginary past, when nature was pristine. Nature hasn’t been pristine since humans first climbed from the slime.   They want everyone to farm. They want civilization to remain in a labor intensive pursuit.

With the advent of “modern” farming in the late 1800s to the present,  farmers have eagerly adopted new technology and methods to make their back breaking lives easier and enjoy more of the monetary fruits of their labor.  I’d be willing to bet dollars-to-doughnuts if you took a farmer from the late 1800s and brought him into the present, he would be aghast at the organic movement.  If he saw how organic farmers eschewed modern agricultural technology he couldn’t even have dreamed of in his day, he would think they were nuts.

Hell, even though they still farm by hand, the Amish use GMOs.

Ironically the loss of productivity they have due to farming entirely by hand is compensated for by the increased yield of the crop. The use of GM also allows them to not use pesticides, which they see advantageous. ”I myself like biotechnology,” said Amish farmer Daniel Dienner, “I feel it’s what the farmers will be using in the future.”

When you get “technolapped” by the Amish, as a friend on Twitter mused, it may be time to re-think your strategy.

Look at the history of farming. As modern farming started ramping up in the 1890s  it took 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn.   By the 1980s it took 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels.

I looked for the same statistics for organic, but they were hard to come by. I did come across this article Economics of Organic Production.  The article admits that labor costs are higher, and yields lower, but those things are offset by the price commanded by the crops.

The study was done by an organization called SARE, Sutainable Agriculture Research & Education. They make a claim, which I doubt, that claims organic farming’s yields can be 90-95% of conventional farming.  An analysis of  USDA statistics by plant pathologist Steve Savage belies this claim. Anyway, the article is interesting since it looks strictly at the economics of organic farming.  Their conclusion is that although organic farming crop yields are lower than conventional, that deficit is made up in the prices organic crops command.

Yup. There it is. Organic agriculture may produce less, but the profits make up for it. So much for feeding the world.

So, back to the Sumerians.  What happened?  Until recently, the common thought was that it was their industrial agriculture methods that sealed their doom; that it created all kinds of bad environmental problems. It wasn’t. It was a drought; a drought that lasted 200 years.

Several geological records point to a long period of drier weather in the Middle East around 4,200 years ago, Konfirst said. The Red Sea and the Dead Sea had increased evaporation; water levels dropped at Lake Van in Turkey, and cores from marine sediments around that period indicate increased dust in the environment.

If the green/organic crowd had been in charge back then, we’d still be drawing pictures instead of having a written language. Oh, and no cars or the favorite of the Greens, bicycles, because there wouldn’t have been enough free time to invent the wheel.

From the archives: Bloomberg to ban alcohol in NYC bars

The bombings at the Boston Marathon today has left everyone in shock. With that in mind, I decided to post an old column I did when I was writing about local NYC issues for…Ack! I thought we could use a chuckle. This is from 2011.


Fresh on the heels of his latest victory to ban smoking outside, Bloomberg has set his sights on bars. He is proposing that alcohol be banned from bars.

At a press conference in front of a large poster of Carrie Nation, he said that children walking by these bars may look inside and see people drinking alcohol which would turn them into alcoholics in addition to being morbidly obese chain smokers who drink too much soda. He said that along with the alcohol ban, he is instituting a ban on signs that say “Bar” or “Tavern” as this might induce children to ask their parents what those words mean which would, again, turn them into alcoholics, in addition to being morbidly obese chain smokers who drink too much soda.

Flanked by his health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, the mayor warned of the dangers of second-hand alcohol smell on children. Farley, a prominent buzz killer, nodded in agreement.

He also announced that he would order the Parks Department to confiscate any beverage being consumed from a paper bag as it may contain harmful soda.

Bloomberg was supported in his efforts by a coalition of miserable people who can’t stand the idea that someone, somewhere in New York is enjoying themselves.

There are too many people enjoying themselves in New York City,” the mayor said. “And they are not the type we want in our city. They aren’t rich enough or obnoxious enough. Our public spaces aren’t for the average New Yorker to enjoy a cold beer on a hot summer day, they’re for tourists.

Although the press conference was called to specifically announce these new initiatives, Bloomberg took questions on a variety of issues.

Asked about his support of gay marriage, he said that it was “Okay to be gay as long as you’re not too gay, like me. Get married to a person of the opposite sex, have children, divorce and then be gay.”

The mayor also responded to a question about the idea of spending hundreds of millions on pedestrian plazas and bike lanes when firehouses were closing and teachers were being laid off.

Let me say this about that,” the mayor snipped. “The 0.6% of the population of our city that want to make a statement by commuting with children’s toys should be applauded, not scorned. Firefighters and teachers are common people who don’t have the same vision for New York. He also noted that the only people who have fires are poor and not every child is entitled to a quality education if they can’t afford it.

If they want to learn to read, get a job and pay to learn. We can’t be held hostage to everybody that wants an education. Where will our minimum wage workers of the future come from?”

The press conference ended with an announcement by DOT commissioner, Janette-Sadik “Genghis” Khan who enthusiastically said the City’s plan to rid New York City of its antiquated urban ethos was on track. She noted that within 10 years New York City would be the suburban oasis it can be.

She then climbed into the back of a limousine rather than hopping on her bike and utilizing one of the hundreds of miles of bike lanes.

Thinking beyond Argumentum ad Monsantum.

I wish Monsanto would go away. The anti-GMO activist obsession with them has queered the genetic technology discussion. It has clouded their thinking.

Common Dreams has a link to a pdf, which I won’t link to here, that is a history of Monsanto’s evil chemicals.  The logic is since they created or helped create such poisons as Agent Orange, the fact they use GE technology means  because of past work, this must be bad as well. It’s their main argument against GMOs. Argumentum ad Monsantum.

But even if they have invented some gnarly compounds, does that mean everything they do is bad? They were the first producer of bulk aspirin. They developed  chiral hydrogenation catalysts. That made possible  L-dopa, a breakthrough drug used  in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Somehow the anti-GMO crowd (hereinafter referred to as “the crowd”) has to get by their hatred of Monsanto and look objectively at the technology itself. Instead, they look for any industry connection to a study to discredit it. They spend more time looking for industry connections than they do learning about the technology

It baffles me how people who consider themselves progressive can be so regressive when it comes to this issue. Again, it goes back to their hatred of corporations.  It’s really blinkered thinking.

A big misconception of the crowd is that GMO is the answer. In a way, I can’t really blame them since there are companies and people out there who oversell  GM as a silver bullet. It’s not. It’s just another tool. But companies are going to pimp their product no matter what it is.  How many products are New and Improved!  The crowd should be able to see beyond that.

But here’s where not thinking things through raises its ugly head. The technology of GE is safe and proven, or as safe as anything can be.  It is a technology that can provide benefits if only the crowd would stop focusing on Monsanto. They didn’t invent it. They only use it.

At present, the only real benefit is to the farmer who uses the technology. They get better yields, crops that are more resilient and they don’t have to use as much herbicide/pesticide. Yet there are biotech seeds out there that are literally sitting in the refrigerators of universities and small companies, languishing due to the high cost and red tape of getting a crop approved. That is where the future of GMOs lie.

Anti-GMO site, GMWatch recently linked to a story from Cornell regarding  the development of a disease resistant tomato. They used it to promote the idea that GM isn’t needed; that the same result can come from conventional breeding. Cornell plant breeder Martha Mutschler-Chu did come up with a solution, but that solution took ten years.

What if you don’t have the luxury of ten years? What if the threat is imminent?  That’s one area where GM can be beneficial.

The Hawaiian papaya industry was on the verge of collapse due to a virulent disease, papaya ring spot virus. Nothing could eliminate or contain it. Enter Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Cornell and at the time, director of the USDA’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Center. He developed a genetically modified disease resistant papaya and gave it to the growers.  It is now sold to them at cost. They didn’t have the luxury of ten years.

How big of a deal was it? The Governor of Hawaii. Neil Abercrombie declared April 6th of this year as  Dr. Dennis Gonsalves Day

Dr. Gonsalves served for 10 years as PBARC’s director and recently retired. He is most noted for his efforts that saved Hawaii’s papaya industry from the ringspot virus. The transgenic “Rainbow Papaya” that he and his team developed and released to growers in 1998 helped to bring the industry back after ringspot virus had reduced Hawaii’s papaya production by 50 percent.

A few years ago, a plum pox virus was devastating the plum crops in the Adams County, Pa. In order to contain the virus and keep if from spreading across the U.S. the only method to stop it was to pull up the trees and bulldoze them before the disease spread.  Then in 2010, through government research, they came up with the GM Honeysweet, a disease resistant plum that solved the problem.  Should they have waited ten years for a more “natural” method while the disease spread and threatened the entire plum industry?

Then you have the idea that future GMOs can have increased nutrients, like Golden Rice or other beneficial health aspects. That is going to come,  more than likely from smaller companies, universities and government research, not big corporations.  But in order for that to happen, the crowd has to look past Monsanto. It has to allow a faster and less costly approval process.

Toss argumentum ad Monsantum to the sidelines, where it belongs.