Sunday, March 15, 2015

The unsustainability of GMOs

There is just no way that GMOs can feed the world. That's not how they're designed to work. They're designed to line pockets with patent royalties. Besides, nature has already figured out how to feed the world and has been doing that for hundreds of millions of years. Every year, nature gets better at doing it, too. Every year, life becomes more tenacious, despite the idiocy of humans worldwide.

First, set aside all the dangers and problems with GMOs and put this in a practical perspective. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Imagine the humble sippy cup. I have several of them. If you have raised kids, you've bought a few. Someone has to make them. Someone has to extract the materials from the earth to get the feedstock needed to manufacture the sippy cup using injection molding plastic. 

A reasonable question to ask is this: is there enough resources on the planet to create, market and sell 7 billion sippy cups to each and every human? Obviously, most of us don't need sippy cups since we're either adults or well on the way to adulthood. But as a thought experiment, I'd say it's simply not practical to make 7 billion sippy cups in a year.

Such a project is unbelievably damaging to the environment, economically impractical and ignores many natural alternatives.

This is the problem with GMOs. Proponents claim that GMOs are here to feed the world. Yet, as a practical matter, there isn't enough resources on the planet to feed everyone with GMOs. This is especially true when nature had this figured out long before we came along.

GMOs are relatively recent technology, with a commercial introduction in the early 1990s, and no long term safety testing. Setting aside all the dangers, and liabilities associated with GMOs, let's look at the practical matter of growing GMOs for the world. The seeds have to be distributed worldwide. Farmers need to pay the patent licenses to grow and sell the crops. Farmers will also have to buy the chemicals used to support the crops. In most cases, these chemicals are made from oil.

If you buy GMOs (it's hard to tell since they're not labeled), you should know that you are indirectly supporting the oil industry. Oil is used to make the pesticides that must be sprayed on the GMOs in order to ensure a good crop. Worse, pests are developing resistance to the weed killers and insecticides that are used to support GMOs. The amount of oil devoted to this enterprise is probably not easy to calculate. But it should be clear that the farm workers who apply the pesticides dress in full bunny suites with breathing filters to avoid the harmful effects of said poisons.

How many bunny suits will need to be made to protect the workers growing the crops for 7 billion people? Never mind that we already produce enough food to feed about 14 billion people mostly without GMOs. Only the wealthiest nations will be able to afford these GMOs. Which buttresses my point. GMOs are not about feeding the world. They are about lining pockets. From royalties to inflated crop prices, to the demise of the family farm, there is no reason to expect that we can feed the world on GMOs alone. It's not possible, practical or even safe.

It is also worth noting that the UN has commissioned a report to show that small scale organic farming is the only sustainable way to feed the world. A world filled with pesticides, herbicides and insecticides is not good for anyone, especially the next generation of children. Do we want to leave behind a world where food only grows when a commercial chemical is required to be applied before we can harvest it?

I doubt such a world is even remotely sustainable. But you won't hear that from Monsanto, Dow or Syngenta and Bayer. They're too busy lining their pockets to think of the rest of us.
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