“5 GMO Myths By Vandana Shiva” – MB Man Investigates

http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/17/gmo-myths-debunked-vandana-shiva/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=e41fadbc83-Weekly_News_8_30_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-e41fadbc83-85381601

Its been awhile since I have taken much issue with anything I have seen in the alternative media (at least anything worthy of writing about). But this Ecowatch article that I came across a few days ago seems a good challenge.

Upon reading half, it seems to be covering ground that I already have with other similar pieces. But I will do all the legwork here, rather than pointing you elsewhere. Because reviewing your past conclusions is almost never a bad idea (did I miss something?).

But anyway, on to the meat and potato’s.

1. Myth of the Green Revolution

I wrote a book for the United Nations University, “The Violence of the Green Revolution,” which has been republished by many publishers globally, including the Kentucky University Press. Extracts from the book are available on Google.

My study was reinforced by the study done by Dr. Jatindar Bajaj, with whom I did MSc Hons in Physics from Punjab University in 1973. His study comparing pre and post Green Revolution performance showed that the rate of growth of aggregate crop production was higher in the years before the Green Revolution was introduced (1967-68) than after it.

image

The Green Revolution did not save India from famine, as the proponents of Industrial Agriculture and GMO technology would argue, in fact the Green Revolution reduced India’s production. For more information about the Green Revolution read, Nothing Green in the Green Revolution in India Today.

One of the first things that I have to ask is . . . what was the green revolution? Its not something that I have heard of either.

http://geography.about.com/od/globalproblemsandissues/a/greenrevolution.htm

The term Green Revolution refers to the renovation of agricultural practices beginning in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of its success in producing more agricultural products there, Green Revolution technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture.

Dr. Norman E. Borlaug receives the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Burlaug, a 1970 Nobel Laureate, was honored for his work in the ‘Green Revolution,’ saving millions of lives from famine in India, Mexico, and the Middle East.  

History and Development of the Green Revolution

The beginnings of the Green Revolution are often attributed to Norman Borlaug, an American scientist interested in agriculture.

In the 1940s, he began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistance high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug’s wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.

In order to continue using Green Revolution technologies to produce more food for a growing population worldwide, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as many government agencies around the world funded increased research. In 1963 with the help of this funding, Mexico formed an international research institution called The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Dr. Norman E. Borlaug receives the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Burlaug, a 1970 Nobel Laureate, was honored for his work in the ‘Green Revolution,’ saving millions of lives from famine in India, Mexico, and the Middle East.  Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

The term Green Revolution refers to the renovation of agricultural practices beginning in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of its success in producing more agricultural products there, Green Revolution technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture.

 History and Development of the Green Revolution

The beginnings of the Green Revolution are often attributed to Norman Borlaug, an American scientist interested in agriculture.

In the 1940s, he began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistance high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug’s wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.

In order to continue using Green Revolution technologies to produce more food for a growing population worldwide, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as many government agencies around the world funded increased research. In 1963 with the help of this funding, Mexico formed an international research institution called The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Countries all over the world in turn benefited from the Green Revolution work conducted by Borlaug and this research institution. India for example was on the brink of mass famine in the early 1960s because of its rapidly growing population. Borlaug and the Ford Foundation then implemented research there and they developed a new variety of rice, IR8, that produced more grain per plant when grown with irrigation and fertilizers. Today, India is one of the world’s leading rice producers and IR8 rice usage spread throughout Asia in the decades following the rice’s development in India.

 
Plant Technologies of the Green Revolution

The crops developed during the Green Revolution were high yield varieties – meaning they were domesticated plants bred specifically to respond to fertilizers and produce an increased amount of grain per acre planted.

The terms often used with these plants that make them successful are harvest index, photosynthate allocation, and insensitivity to day length. The harvest index refers to the above ground weight of the plant. During the Green Revolution, plants that had the largest seeds were selected to create the most production possible. After selectively breeding these plants, they evolved to all have the characteristic of larger seeds. These larger seeds then created more grain yield and a heavier above ground weight.

This larger above ground weight then led to an increased photosynthate allocation. By maximizing the seed or food portion of the plant, it was able to usephotosynthesis more efficiently because the energy produced during this process went directly to the food portion of the plant.

Finally, by selectively breeding plants that were not sensitive to day length, researchers like Borlaug were able to double a crop’s production because the plants were not limited to certain areas of the globe based solely on the amount of light available to them.

Impacts of the Green Revolution

Since fertilizers are largely what made the Green Revolution possible, they forever changed agricultural practices because the high yield varieties developed during this time cannot grow successfully without the help of fertilizers.

Irrigation also played a large role in the Green Revolution and this forever changed the areas where various crops can be grown. For instance before the Green Revolution, agriculture was severely limited to areas with a significant amount of rainfall, but by using irrigation, water can be stored and sent to drier areas, putting more land into agricultural production – thus increasing nationwide crop yields.

In addition, the development of high yield varieties meant that only a few species of say, rice started being grown. In India for example there were about 30,000 rice varieties prior to the Green Revolution, today there are around ten – all the most productive types. By having this increased crop homogeneity though the types were more prone to disease and pests because there were not enough varieties to fight them off. In order to protect these few varieties then, pesticide use grew as well.

Finally, the use of Green Revolution technologies exponentially increased the amount of food production worldwide. Places like India and China that once feared famine have not experienced it since implementing the use of IR8 rice and other food varieties.

So, the Green revolution was the birth of modern day agriculture.

While this form of heavily chemical based mono culture farming is not the best for the environment (and certainly not sustainable), I think its a stretch to call its productivity a myth. In fact, I would be tempted to go as far as calling that an outright lie.

Take India before this new tech was introduced. Many were dying of starvation. A trend that was reversed.

Though this methodology of farming has room for criticism, the good that it has done is not a myth. But like most every other step in the technical developments of our species (such as the internal combustion engine), its time to move on.

Part of this journey will be by way of genetic modification. Such as plants with higher tolerance to environmental extremes and that can grow with less water than previous species. This is the future.

2.) Myth of GMO Golden Rice as a Solution to Malnutrition

Here is our analysis establishing that our indigenous biodiversity and knowledge is far superior than Golden Rice to address malnutrition. Syngenta owns Golden Rice. It’s promotion as the fruits of public sector research are a blatant lie and an attempt to mislead people across the world.

Further, the Golden Rice paper had to be retracted, any fabricated claims made based on the paper do not stand.

First of all, Syngenta does NOT own the Golden Rice patent anymore. It was given to a non-profit charity, in hopes to avoid such false criticism as what is written in the text quoted above.

Otherwise known as, the author of this article blatantly lied to you right off the bat.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/golden-rice-opponents-should-be-held-accountable-for-health-problems-linked-to-vitamain-a-deficiency/

If that does not tick you off, this should.

It’s still not in use anywhere, however, because of the opposition to GM technology. Now two agricultural economists, one from the Technical University of Munich, the other from the University of California, Berkeley, have quantified the price of that opposition, in human health, and the numbers are truly frightening.

Their study, published in the journal environment and Development Economics, estimates that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes. The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.

These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny. It is absolutely fair to charge that opposition to this particular application of genetically modified food has contributed to the deaths of and injuries to millions of people. The opponents of Golden Rice who have caused this harm should be held accountable.

Who is the blatant liar?

3.) Myth that Obesity is the Only Disease Related to Food

The epidemic of cancer has affected the farmers of Punjab because of pesticides. It has affected farmers of West UP. In a single village, our recent field survey revealed that there were 100 cancer victims. The farmers are getting into debt and committing suicide buying the pesticides and the citizens are dying of cancer because of the same poisons.

This is why we started the Anna Swaraj Abhiyan 2020 from Meerut, the sacred land of our first movement of independence.

Our book Health Per Acre shows we can feed two India’s with nourishing, poison free food through organic.

Our book Wealth Per Acre, for which the Forward was written by the Hon Agriculture Minister, Shri Radha Mohan Singh, shows how the negative externalities of farming with poisons are costing the country $1.26 trillion annually

1.) Cancer in the Punjab on account to pesticides

While the causes of cancer are complicated and still unknown, Thakur and his team found that contaminated water from rapid industrialization and excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high-yielding crops are contributing to the steep rates in the state. Just miles away from the Kaur family’s home are colossal industrial plants that have polluted the irrigation system in the area.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/why-indias-punjab-state-has-countrys-highest-cancer-rates-n158691

I didn’t really doubt this claim. But as is noted, it is not JUST pesticides at work here. Other industry’s have also negatively affected the area, likely also contributing to the cancer epidemic.
one such example is uranium, leached into nearby water supplies from the coal fly ash of local power plants.

From north India, 120 children were randomly selected for an international study. It showed 113 of them had uranium in their bodies, up to 50 times the normal level.

Not a coincidence, people at Baba Farid Centre say that most of the affected children are from Punjab, and also the uranium levels are higher among children from Malwa, which has Punjab’s two biggest coal-fired power stations.

Fly ash from burnt coal contains high levels of uranium and ash that has possibly contaminated Malwa’s soil and ground water.

“Some scientists have also showed in their studies that fly ash from thermal plants is responsible for this uranium toxicity and another suspect is fertilizers,” said Pritpal Singh, president, Baba Farid Centre.

Punjab is heavily dependent on thermal power projects to suffice the electricity needs. Every year millions of ton of coal is brunt to produce electricity. Now many believe that people are paying a heavy price.

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/children-of-uranium-poisoning-400947?site=full

Uranium in fertilizers?

Apparently so.

It can be found in trace amounts in phosphate based fertilizers due to its presence in the phosphate ore used to manufacture said fertilizers (though much of the radioactive contaminants are removed).[

http://www.wise-uranium.org/ufert.html

Typical concentrations in phosphate fertilizer are 4 Bq (= 0.32 mg) Uranium-238 and 1 Bq Radium-226 per g P2O5.

I have no idea what those numbers mean (I am not a nuclear physicist). But I can tell you that the safe exposure level for uranium is 1msv per calendar year for Canadian nuclear workers.

Here is a page that helps break down some of those measurements.

What units are used for measuring radioactivity?

Radioactivity or the strength of radioactive source is measured in units of becquerel (Bq).

1 Bq = 1 event of radiation emission per second.

One becquerel is an extremely small amount of radioactivity. Commonly used multiples of the Bq unit are kBq (kilobecquerel), MBq (megabecquerel), and GBq (gigabecquerel).

1 kBq = 1000 Bq, 1 MBq = 1000 kBq, 1 GBq = 1000 MBq.

An old and still popular unit of measuring radioactivity is the curie (Ci).

1 Ci = 37 GBq = 37000 MBq.

One curie is a large amount of radioactivity. Commonly used subunits are mCi (millicurie), µCi (microcurie), nCi (nanocurie), and pCi (picocurie).

1 Ci = 1000 mCi; 1 mCi = 1000 µCi; 1 µCi = 1000 nCi; 1 nCi = 1000 pCi.

Another useful conversion formula is:

1 Bq = 27 pCi.

Becquerel (Bq) or Curie (Ci) is a measure of the rate (not energy) of radiation emission from a source.

http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/ionizing.html

So it seems that the amount of radiation by way of uranium in the phosphate is quite low. But its possible that bio-accumulation of the stuff (also combined with external sources, such as coal fly ash in some areas) in local water supplies could make an otherwise finite amount, worse.
But the worst pollutant seems to be extremely high nitrate levels in water (due to nitrate based fertilizers).

I have very little to criticize about this claim (cancer in the Punjab). Elevated cancer rates due to overuse (and likely unprotected application) of fertilizers and pesticides has indeed, turned India’s bread basket into a toxic mess. But (the only minor criticism), other industry is likely at fault to.

2.) Farmer Suicides Due To Debt

This is a claim that I have come across before, and I can say right off the bat that it is bullshit. The keywords are culminating factors. Here I will use an excert from the same article that I quoted the last time this came up.

http://issues.org/30-2/keith/

As in much of the developing world, small-holder Indian farmers (those with less than two hectares of land) are most vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and climate change. They also have little access to institutional credit. As the World Bank has noted: “While India has a wide network of rural finance institutions, many of the rural poor remain excluded, due to inefficiencies in the formal finance institutions, the weak regulatory framework, high transaction costs, and risks associated with lending to agriculture.” Consequently, when purchasing seed, fertilizer, and other crop-related items, poor farmers often turn to private money lenders who charge high loan rates.

This financial burden is commonly cited for the wave of farmer suicides that the media—particularly in India—have been reporting the past decade. However, researchers studying the phenomenon also note that it has struck unevenly in cotton-growing regions of central and southern India, where the social and economic stressors vary. For example, a 2012 paper in The Lancet that surveyed India’s suicide mortality rate noted: “Studies from south India have shown that the most common contributors to suicide are a combination of social problems, such as interpersonal and family problems and financial difficulties, and pre-existing mental illness.”

There is a bit more background information that can be gained in the article (I recommend reading it in its entirety). But for my purposes here, this is all I need.

4. Myth of Safety 

While the literature on biosafety is vast and I was appointed as a member of the expert group on biosafety by UNEP to create the framework for the International Law on Biosafety, two recent publications show that the assumption of safety and “substantial equivalence” is false.

One study is from the Norwegian Government, another by an Indian scientist from MIT who invented email.

New research is showing that there is no evidence of GMO safety.

Research is also showing the falseness of the assumption of substantial equivalence.

First, something from the GMO literacy project that all should read.

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/01/26/10-studies-proving-gmos-are-harmful-not-if-science-matters/

One should not forget that genetic modification and genetically modified organisms is/are HUGE topics, with various nuances that have to be taken into consideration (some forms CAN be seen as genuinely dangerous). But that does not mean one should throw the baby out with the bathwater, because not all forms are equal. Treating them as such either highlights ones ignorance on the topic, or illustrates an intellectual dishonesty in how they communicate it.

Though there are THOUSANDS of studies done over a timeframe of decades (if not longer!) that show GMO foods to be safe and benign, a small number of them apparently go the other way. Much like the cases of climate change and the safety of vaccines.

But there is a consensus. Though it is common to see “these foods have not been properly studied” (a claim that even I had fallen for before my last entry!), that is simply not true. As for the 2 studies noted in the article:

1.) Norwegian Government Study

http://sciencenordic.com/growing-fatter-gm-diet

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2012/09/24/does-genetically-modified-corn-cause-cancer-a-flawed-study/

The paper produced by this study was retracted. And republished in a different journal. But the new version seems to be little different from the retracted one.

http://mobile.the-scientist.com/article/40342/retracted-gmo-study-republished

2.) MIT Email Inventor Study

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/07/29/ayyadurais-formaldehyde-in-gmos-claim-challenged-engineer-refuses-verification-offer/

The first thing to note here is that Shiva Ayyadurai did not actually invent email. He just used that claim to pad his resume. And the author of the Ecowatch piece used it to pad their article. Oh, the webs of deceit we weave . . .

http://gizmodo.com/5888702/corruption-lies-and-death-threats-the-crazy-story-of-the-man-who-pretended-to-invent-email

And as the genetic literacy project piece states, of all the degrees that he obtained, none were in biology or otherwise related to the science of genetically modified organisms. His credibility on the subject only declines further when his paper entitled “Do GMOs Accumulate Formaldehyde and Disrupt Molecular Systems Equilibria? Systems Biology May Provide Answers” is released, after he refuses to acknowledge any and all criticism leveled against it.

5. Myth of the GMOs Story as One of Science

The GMO story is not one of science, but of an unscientific and illegal takeover of our seeds and food.

I would say that it is more a story of fear mongering and ideology actively working towards the ensured starvation of many people, the vast majority of which reside in the developing world. If I took a page from the the pro-life crowd, I could view this as standing by whilst a genocide is happening.

What I have read today is not the concerns of the unknowingly ignorant. What I have read today, is propaganda, plain and simple. Very dangerous propaganda due to the number of lives at stake. It may not be quite as dangerous as the junk science hindering vaccination, but I would argue that it is damned close (those that die of starvation are just as dead as those that die of whooping cough or measles).

There is a place for criticism of genetic modification of foods and organisms. But not whole sale. This does not help to move mankind beyond our current paradigm. It only retards our progress further.

Much like any other religion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.