The ongoing battle: how to feed the hungry

The genetic engineering world claims that it will feed our ever-growing population; that with their pesticides and insecticides it will create the higher yields necessary to feed the some 6 billion people that live on this planet. Yet, an article in The Atlantic (showed to me by Mr. Coffee) refutes this claim. Adding another dimension to the ongoing battle between those for genetic engineering and those for organic/conventional methods.

Farmers in third world countries, according to Monsanto’s website, couldn’t be happier about the new era of technology allowing them to produce higher yields with less costs for fertilizers, as discussed in my earlier post “The good, the bad, and the ugly“. An interview I listened to on National Public Radio (Npr) confirmed this belief as they spoke to a farmer in Honduras.

Rodolfo Rubio, “who grows corn and vegetables on about 50 acres near the city of Comayagua” is a firm believer in the power of genetic engineering. With the help of Monsanto, Rubio is able to produce corn without and pesticides and without any evidence of silk worms, an ever-present problem in his region of Honduras. Monsanto was able to take a gene from the worm and transplant it into the seed. Therefore, when the worm would eat the corn, the worm would die.

Although Rubio spends an extra $1,000 for the seeds, it “saves him so much time and money, he says, he can’t imagine not using it”. A possibility when you consider that much of Central America is against the production and use of genetic engineering. Believing that “bringing in unnatural genes threatens the integrity of [the corn’s] natural biodiversity”. Although, with the onset of a major food crisis in Honduras, farmers are being pushed “to plant more corn, including genetically modified corn”. So as of late, a ban of GMO’s is still in the distance.

But, why all the fuss? It saves time. It saves money. It should be the answer to our prayers. Yet, many people refute these claims believing that organic methods work just as well without all the risks a new technology brings.

A study at the University of Michigan found food production “could double or triple using organic methods” not only equal that of genetically engineered crops. When done properly, it could “potentially produce more than enough food”. Good news for farmers in developing countries, unlike Rubio, who can’t afford to shell out $1,000 all at once just for seeds every year. Their research concluded that “planting green manures between growing seasons provided enough nitrogen to replace synthetic fertilizers”.

Yet, no one is aware of the seemingly easier idea of organic farming. Shannon Dipietro of The Atlantic believes that it’s a difference in budgets. While company’s like Monsanto can constantly be in the consumer’s face about the looming danger of overpopulation, organic farmers do not have a big guy out front rooting for them. Monsanto’s “ads use facts related to fears that are unrelated to the product they produce” to grab our attention.

So. like the rest of the controversies, this too is unresolved. There is and always will be two sides. Who are you rooting for?

To listen to the full NPR story, follow this link:

Honduras Embraces Genetically Modified Crops by Dan Charles

Advertisements

Alfalfa Sprouts and YOU!

If you keep up with the latest in the food world, then you probably have heard about what is happening with the alfalfa sprouts. If not, then you probably have no clue what I’m talking about and wonder why you should even care. Keep reading and I will tell you why.

Alfalfa sprouts are “the fourth largest crop, in terms of acreage, grown in the United States behind corn, soybeans, and wheat” (Green Talk). It has many uses such as crop cover, since it is so rich in nutrients, and creating more homes for wildlife. If you are not a big of fan of eating alfalfa sprouts, that does not mean that they still don’t affect you.

Cattle is generally fed hay, which, according to Green Talk, will still produce good beef and a good profit. The best feed for cattle, however, is alfalfa. Therefore, if something were to happen to alfalfa your hamburgers, your milk, your cheese, your yogurt, your favorite steak, or quite possibly your ice cream might all be affected.

Well, be prepared. In two days, March 3, 2010, a decision will be made on the safety of genetically engineered alfalfa sprouts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only after being sued by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) for originally approving the crop before proper analysis (Ga3.org). The analysis, which is known as the environmental impact statement (EIS), was first released December 14, 2009 and is open for comment until, as I said earlier, March 3. This analysis is the first ever done on a GE engineered crop and as such will have “broad implications for all GE crops” (Ga3.org).   

The problem is that if the GE crop gets approved, there will be no way to regulate it with the standards that are set in place now. In the documents required for the lawsuit against the USDA “the Court found that contamination had already occurred in the fields of several Western states” (Ga3.org). As mentioned in the Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto post, there are also other ways a non- GE crop can be contaminated such as wind, pollination, and bad practices. Because of this, the once safe alternative, organic foods, will no longer be safe.  Alfalfa may no longer be able to be found without having been genetically modified.

If this bothers you, you should do something! Go to this site and find out where to send your comments. The USDA said that there is no evidence supporting the fact that consumers care about organic crops becoming contaminated with GMO’s. You have the opportunity to prove them wrong and delay the onset of GE crops until further testing has been completed.