Today in AgBioView
* New Genetically Modified 'euro'!
* India: Nath Seeds, China Firm In Transgenic Cotton Pact
* GM Xmas Tree Will Light Up On Its Own
* Biotech's Stunning Promise
* Dispelling 'Frankenfear': Is Redistribution the Answer?
* Biotech Marijuana?
* Why Goldfish Might Turn Blue
* Bugs, Weeds and Frogs
* Academia Engelberg Foundation
* The Irradiation Solution
* Plant Genomics and Agriculture: Data Mining for Gene Discovery
* Farmers Should Go To Market
* The Spirit Of Science
The 'euro' Note is Genetically Modified!
The European Union is foisting a genetically modified product on its GM-wary citizens soon!
As the EU braces itself for a uniform 'euro' currency from January 1, 2002, the the 'much maligned - GMO' will be a every day fact of life in Europe. Klaus Ammann of Switzerland (which happily is not yet in EU) informs me that the euro currency note is made of cotton imported from US, where much of it is genetically modified now.
Is this a harbinger of things to come in Europe? Would the Greens in Europe would stop taking or handling this very symbol of capitalism as the dreaded GM has tainted the new icon of European unity? or will continue to be business as usual because "We will tolerate that darned stuff as long as it is on our wallet but not in our tummies?" (except for the cherished cheese, of course!).
It would also be interesting to see if this 'untested' product made against 'Mother Nature's Wishes' (by crossing the species barrier) will start perpetrating untold harm to EU citizenry such as increased incidences of gonorrhea or TB as the 'science advisor' to Greenpeace Dr. Doreen Stabinsky has been claiming in India in recently. What about the horizontal transfer of genes from this currency, a la Mae-Wan Ho? Surely, you cannot recall this GM currency once released into the environment, right? Has this product been tested for long-term safety and unequivocal evidence of no harm such as allergenicity? God forbid, what if those Europeans babies stick this into their mouth? Where is the 'precautionary principle' gone?
Check for it yourself the euro facts at http://www.bio-scope.org/disp_doc.cfm?id=524459B9562D497A968BBFB6FA332F6D
I wish you all a Splendid New Year!
From: Mark Mansour
My guess is that the Greens will denounce the euro and the plan behind it as another example of the globalization conspiracy roosting at their door, and will now demand a GM-free euro. That should be fun, watching the Commission wriggle out of that mess!
India: Nath Seeds, China Firm In Transgenic Cotton Pact
- Business Standard, Dec 25, 2001
Nath Seeds, the Aurangabad-based hybrid seeds manufacturer, has entered into a strategic alliance with Biocentury Transgene of China to bring into India transgenic technology for cotton. Nath Seeds will have the license for the exclusive use of Chinese Bt+ genes in India. Biocentury has the patented technology for Bt and Bt+ genes developed by the Biotechnology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Nath Seeds will incorporate the new Bt+ technology into parent lines of cotton hybrid seeds bred by Nath Seeds for the Indian market.
The government of India is yet to clear the proposal of farmers being permitted to use Bt cotton or other genetically modified seeds. The company expects this product to be rolled out by 2004 by which time Nath Seeds expects the nod from the government. Currently, in China, about 30 per cent of cotton grown is under genetically modified seeds and the economic benefit for the farmer has ranged between $150-200 per hectare.
India plants nearly 9 million hectares of land under cotton. The average yield of cotton lint is Rs 320 per kg while the average price in China is Rs 934 per kg. The increase in the cotton yield is expected to make available an additional 2.4 billion bales of cotton, valued at $ 5 billion or Rs 20,000 crore. This method is also expected to curtail the use of pesticides and protect the environment and the crop from the deadly `cotton boll worm'.
GM Xmas Tree Will Light Up On Its Own
- Geoffrey Lean, The Independent Dec 23, 2001
Fed up of fiddling with the fairy lights? Help might be at hand. Scientists are predicting that genetic modification will enable them to grow Christmas trees that light themselves up.
The scientists say that the new GM trees would put an end to the frustrating ritual of fishing the lights out of the loft and trying to make them work. They believe also that trees could be grown to power homes and appliances. Professor Bernard Witholt, chairman of the Institute of Biotechnology at Zurich's Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, says trees could be bred to mimic electric eels. And a group of post- graduate students at the University of Hertfordshire reached the finals of a government-sponsored competition with a proposal to create a Christmas tree that lights up on its own.
Professor Witholt, an expert on cells, said that biotechnology could breed plants that would produce electricity by photosynthesis. This could be accumulated by the same kind of process as is used by the electric eel, which gathers together lots of tiny charges in its cell to produce a charge. The result, he said, would be that "energy can be brought everywhere on earth via small dispersed systems that anyone can build by planting a few seeds".
The Hertfordshire students worked out how to genetically modify a Douglas spruce to shine red, green and blue. But they admitted critics have accused them of "trying to take God into our own hands".
Biotech's Stunning Promise, If It Can Make A Perfect Christmas Tree, Can It Also End World Hunger
- Kathy Read, Charlotte Observer, Dec 22, 2001
A team of scientists at Michigan State University is growing the first batch of genetically enhanced Christmas trees.
It will take seven to eight years for them to reach maturity, but when they are harvestable near the end of this decade they will stand tall, with vibrant green colors, perfect shapes, billowing branches, ramrod-straight trunks, needles that don't shed and a floor life that extends well into February. As I read about these researchers, I began to think about a world in which one country is so rich it can use biotechnology to develop a flawless Christmas tree while others - Afghanistan, North Korea and Sudan, to name a few - are so poor that millions of their residents constantly struggle to avoid death from starvation. But the same biotechnology that's allowing MSU scientists to develop a super Christmas tree already is saving millions of people in developing countries from starvation and dread diseases.
Experts at the World Health Organization predict the development of a new strain of rice rich in vitamin A will prevent the deaths of as many as 2 million children a year as well as 500,000 cases of blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. American biotechnology also holds the promise of developing custom-tailored crops of staple grains like wheat, corn and soy beans that can adopt to arid conditions and bad soil - thus allowing even the poorest of poor countries to grow enough to feed their own people.
And genetically engineered crops eventually may be able to deliver medicines and vaccines to millions of people in their daily meals - a boon to AIDS-ravaged nations in Africa that lack the transportation and public health infrastructure to deliver the elaborate cocktail of prescription drugs now needed to stave-off that dread disease.
America's current farm surpluses may not be enough to feed all of the hungry children in the world today, but increased crop yields from biotech agriculture will go along away toward doing so in the future. It's important to remember that the same biotechnology that produces something as trivial as a perfect Christmas tree may help the world finally achieve its impossible dream of peace and prosperity.
Dispelling 'Frankenfear': Is Redistribution the Answer?
"The neo-feudalists have benefited considerably from whipping up 'Frankenfear'. However, in the long run it could become a liability if genetic engineering starts proving to be a major success. This article argues that GE has an important role to play in improving food security and protecting the environment and that public funding of it should be greatly increased.'. Excerpts...
Opponents of genetic engineering often claim that food security is a distribution problem rather than a production problem. If the world's food supply were equally distributed everyone could have an adequate diet. As it is, average calorie in take varies from under 2000 in some really poor countries to around 3500 in developed countries. In the developed world many people eat to excess and prefer types of food that use lots of agricultural resources for a given level of nourishment. For example, the grain that goes into producing meat, would have fed more people if consumed directly. In developing countries, the poor are hungry because they have small and infertile land holdings or because they are unemployed and don't have the income to buy food. And part of the reason for the lack of good land for the poor to produce food on is the fact that a significant proportion of the land is devoted to producing cash crops for export to developed countries.
The first point to make is that even if mere redistribution were a feasible solution at present, it certainly won't be in the future. Firstly, over the next 20-25 years there will be another 2 billion mouths to feed. Secondly, given the depletion of agricultural resources such as land and aquifers, even maintaining current output will require major improvements in agricultural methods. In other words we will have to produce more with less.
The second point to make is that a serious redistribution simply is not going to happen. This is plain to see in the case of a major part of such a redistribution, namely that from the richest to the poorest countries.
This would require convincing about a billion people to change their eating habits. Then you would have to ensure that the food they are no longer consuming continues to be produced and is distributed to its new consumers. This would require the government paying farmers from increased taxes equivalent to the amount that people are no longer spending on food. The food would then be shipped to where it is needed and distributed freely or at below cost prices. In some cases this would require building distribution infrastructure such as roads, rail, port facilities and airports. In other words, you would not only have to get people to spend less on food but also convince them to hand over the money saved to the government. Simply describing what would be involved, is enough to show how unrealistic the notion is!
Besides, the 'problem' of increased food consumption by the better off is expected to grow as people in middle income countries continue to demand increasingly varied diets including ever greater amounts of meat. For example, meat consumption in Latin America, the Middle East and China is far higher than in Africa and India and still rising.
This distribution view of the food problem is part of a cargo cult explanation of poverty generally. Developing countries are not poor because of a limited ability to produce things, due to a lack of capital accumulation, but rather because they have less than their 'share' of a given quantity of goodies. It is a bit like saying that poor countries have poor sewerage systems because they have less than their share of the stock of sewerage pipes - or to be only slightly less ridiculous, because they have less than their share of the stock of sewerage pipe factories.
What about distribution within developing countries? In some places the small farmers may be politically strong enough to force a distribution that improves their food security. However, there is no sign of a general move in that direction. Furthermore, small scale agriculture is not the road to take if these countries are to develop economically and socially.
Of course, the last thing that anti-biotech greenies want is economic development in Third World countries. They want us all to return to some agrarian golden age and for subsistence farmers to remain that way and for their relatives in the cities to return home.
- 760,000-plus Pot Plants Destroyed, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Dec 20, 2001
(Forwarded by Andrew Apel )
AUSTIN - Narcotics officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, with help from the Air National Guard and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, destroyed more than 760,000 marijuana plants across the state in 2001, officials said. The bulk of the plants were growing wild in the Panhandle, but tens of thousands of others had been carefully cultivated by growers bent on profiting through illegal sales of their crops, DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said.
"We found some pretty sophisticated operations, including one that was being irrigated by an automatic pump, and it appeared that there was some genetic engineering going on with the plants," said Mange, who spent three days in late summer in the field with drug agents. The program led to the arrest of 160 people and the seizure of 77 firearms.
The marijuana eradication program has operated in Texas since 1987. In 2000, more than 415,700 marijuana plants were eradicated, 71 people were arrested and 53 weapons were seized. The program, funded by a DEA grant, "has helped make Texas a safer place," said Col. Thomas Davis Jr., director of the DPS. "This is a program that shows definite, immediate results. Many burglaries and other crimes are directly related to drugs and drug use."
Mange said most of the wild marijuana plants were remnants of previous legal cultivation for hemp in wartime 1940s. "Some of those wild plants grew to about 20 feet tall and were 2 inches in diameter," Mange said. "We took them down with gasoline-powered weed eaters with steel rotary blades."
State offices worked with local law enforcement agencies to locate both the wild plants and those cultivated for profit. Officers patrolled in National Guard helicopters and could easily spot the plants from the air, Mange said. The marijuana that had been cultivated was held as evidence and slated for destruction after the legal process had run its course. The wild plants were left to decompose naturally. "Those plants have a really low THC content," Mange said, referring to tetrahydrocannabinol, the most potent mood-altering component in marijuana, "So it's unlikely that people are going to be smoking it and getting high."
Why Goldfish Might Turn Blue
- Dermot McGrath, Wired, http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,49185,00.html
(Forwarded by Julian Morris
Say goodbye to Birkenstock sandals and woolly jumpers -- tomorrow's eco-warrior will like nothing better than swimming naked in defense of cleaner oceans.
That, at least, is the hope of researchers in Singapore, who are developing a breed of fish capable of detecting water pollutants by changing color. Scientists at the Department of Biological Sciences at Singapore's National University intend to produce commercially viable zebra fish that can be used as a simple, cheaper alternative to current pollutant-testing systems.
Zebra fish are usually black and silver in color, but through genetic manipulation researchers have produced a few varieties that radiate green or red fluorescent color. Scientists have so far succeeded in isolating two types of gene promoters in the zebra fish -- an estrogen-inducible promoter and a stress-responsive promoter.
These promoters -- the part of the gene that contains the information to turn the gene on or off -- have been used to drive the fluorescent color genes in transgenic zebra fish. A transgenic organism is one that contains genes from another species. According to researchers, such zebra fish will be able to respond to the presence of chemicals like estrogen, heavy metals and various toxins in water.
"The most significant benefit of the biomonitoring fish is the possibility to develop an online system to monitor aquatic environment and water quality," project leader Zhiyuan Gong, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Singapore's National University, said. "Compared to conventional chemical measurement, the live fish can tell us the biological effect of the pollutants."
The fish will immediately display the color depending on the type of environment the color has been specified for. Although only red and green colors have been produced in the zebra fish thus far, Gong and his team believe that they can produce up to as many as five colors, with each color indicating a different pollutant. The main advantages of such transgenic fish is that pollutants can be detected with one quick look, and the fish are also economical to breed and biodegradable. All these factors make them very suitable pollutant indicators, said Gong.
Other researchers warn, however, that significant hurdles need to be overcome before transgenic fish can ever be commercially deployed as pollution indicators. "Any truly useful environmental monitoring tool should give us a signal which can be interpreted ecologically," said Donald Baird, a researcher with the environment group at the Institute of Aquaculture in the University of Stirling in Scotland.
"Molecular genetic signals such as color-changing fish are merely proxies for chemical analysis -- they tell us nothing about quantity of the substance present, merely that a threshold has been passed at a specific receptor site in the organism," he said. Baird believes that a more sensible approach would be to work with gene micro-arrays, which offer the possibility of simultaneously detecting a wide range of pollutants by examining the regulation of proteins. "This would be a cheap and non-destructive method of assessing chemical exposure. And it would not involve the use of live vertebrates which is now seen, quite rightly, as ethically untenable in routine monitoring and is gradually being phased out," he said.
Gong estimated that it would take at least another year before the project moves beyond the experimental phase. "We can create such monitoring fish now using our existing techniques. However, we are still not sure how (sensitively) the fish can monitor environmental pollution and will need to do a lot of fine-tuning work," Gong conceded. Besides zebra fish, marine species such as the carp and goldfish can also be genetically engineered to display different fluorescent colors. The Singapore team is working toward producing fish that give off a different-colored glow depending on water temperature, which may lead to using fluorescent fish as temperature indicators.
Bugs, Weeds and Frogs
- Dick Boland, Washington Times, Dec 25, 2001
More bad news. It appears that the ugly milkweed plant is endangered, thanks to the monarch butterfly. Those bureaucratic defenders of weeds and insects in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have proposed regulations to outlaw monarch butterfly farms and eliminate school science projects in which monarchs are raised. It seems milkweed is the favorite food of monarch larvae. We all know what kind of a world this would be without milkweed.
There are farms where the monarchs are raised for profit. People order thousands of the little bugs to be released at weddings and parties. The USDA says that schoolchildren could still raise the butterflies but would have to kill them at the end of the experiment. Will the people for the ethical treatment of bugs stand for this? Is this really something we want to teach our children? Can the teacher explain the reasoning behind killing a monarch so that a milkweed plant might live?
The endangered plants exist in Oklahoma and Arizona. From what I have seen of Arizona, anything growing in the ground is endangered. There is enough milkweed in the rest of the country to fill the Grand Canyon. According to a monarch expert, there is no proof that monarchs feed only on the milkweed in those states. This looks like a case where bureaucrats have run out of things to do. They even want schoolchildren who raise the butterflies and release them to pay a fine of $50,000. "How are you doing in your science class, Junior?" "Good, Dad. I got an A and a $50,000 fine."
This is your tax dollar at work, folks. Right now, the monarch population is judged to be somewhere between 100 million and 400 million. The farm-raised population may hit 100,000. I would guess that the milkweed population is somewhere in the billions. We have far too much milkweed and far too many USDA bureaucrats.
Another agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has determined that there are only about 100 Mississippi gopher frogs left. These have been found around a single Gulf Coast pond and have been added to the endangered species list. The pond, of course, is located near a residential development. If it weren't for the construction of buildings, many endangered species would never be found until they disappeared entirely. The construction people are usually rewarded with some kind of injunction.
The adult frogs spend most of their lives underground in abandoned animal burrows, which makes you wonder how we determined there were only 100 left. Did the wildlife people line them up, or is it possible they counted the same couple of frogs over and over again? The president has asked that we go about our business as usual, but I'm not sure he had this kind of business in mind. If Mother Nature could talk, I'm sure she would ask us to please stop helping her. -- Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.
Prospects and Limitations of Science: Academia Engelberg Foundation
Benediktinerkloster, 6390 Engelberg, Switzerland
(From: Klaus Ammann )
Announcing the establishment of the Academia Engelberg Foundation - a decisive step for a new International Science Conference in Engelberg. Establishing the Foundation has officially paved the way for a new international Science Conference in Engelberg, Switzerland. The first interdisciplinary event under the auspices of an international Advisory Board of Experts will be held in the Engelberg Benedictine Monastery from 23 to 25 October 2002. With a programme devoted to the subject "From Global Inequity to a Humane World - Prospects and Limitations of Science," the Foundation invites to the first of a series of Conferences. The main purpose of the Foundation is to arrange Conferences serving as a high level international and interdisciplinary platform for science, business and the economy as well as society as a whole.
A core group is currently engaged in preparing next year's conference. Members of the group are Prof. Herwig Schopper (former Director General of CERN), Prof. Kaspar H. Winterhalter (formerly Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich), Prof. Klaus Ammann (Director, Botanical Garden, University of Berne), Dr. Beatrix Rubin (Ethics Committee for Medicine) and Dr. Andreas Binder (Head of Biotechnology, Sygenta Ltd.).
For more information: Dr. Klaus Hug, Academia Engelberg. Tel. +41 31 312 67 68
The Irradiation Solution
- Alex Avery, Washington Times, Dec 26, 2001 http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/
After Sen. Tom Daschle's office was the target of an anthrax letter, he declared that all mail should be irradiated "as soon as possible" to make the postal system safe for workers and the public. Mail irradiation would likely have prevented the four mail-related anthrax deaths that have occurred to date.
But irradiation could do far more, preventing literally thousands of American deaths and millions of non-fatal infections that attack Americans each year via the food supply. The roadblock is a dedicated group of anti-technology activists successfully scaring consumers away from a food safety solution by claiming irradiation itself is a food safety problem. With irradiation receiving long overdue recognition as a public health tool, now is the perfect time to consider wider use of irradiation to treat foods, especially higher-risk foods such as ground meats and alfalfa sprouts.
White House and congressional mail is already being trucked to irradiation facilities for treatment prior to delivery and the postal service is buying irradiation technology for installation at strategic postal facilities around the country. This program could eventually be instituted nationwide. In awful contrast, the U.S. government dithered for years over approval of food irradiation when many other countries allowed irradiation of foods decades ago. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn't approve irradiation of red meat and pork to prevent E. coli and Salmonella until 1997, years after the Jack-In-The-Box tragedy.
While the anthrax scare has so-far involved a handful of deaths and a few dozen infections, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food microbes cause more than 75 million illnesses, kill 5,200 Americans every year, and hospitalize more than 300,000. Food irradiation is now approved in more than 40 countries. The American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association and literally dozens of respected health and medical organizations around the world endorse its use to treat food. The World Health Organization calls buying irradiated food one of its 10 Golden Rules of Food Safety. There is simply no doubt whatsoever about the safety and effectiveness of food irradiation.
Some argue that the problem is too many bacteria on our farms and in our farm animals. "Clean up the animals and factory farms before you start messing with my food," they demand. But it is impossible to produce microbe-free foods. Crops and livestock are produced in the great outdoors, where bacteria and fungi thrive. Most pathogens co-evolved with our animals and are naturally present in the digestive tracts of livestock. Nor is so-called factory farming the problem. A recent study in Denmark found that 100 percent of organic, free-range chicken flocks tested positive for Campylobacter bacteria, compared to only one- third of conventional flocks.
Given the heavy human toll, why has it taken so long for the government to approve irradiation of foods? Mainly, it is the result of public fear, whipped up by so-called consumer groups and other self-appointed elements of the fear industry. These groups have misrepresented food irradiation for decades, using the all-too-willing media to scare the public about mythical irradiation dangers. Yet study after study finds food irradiation not only safe, but safety enhancing.
The anthrax scare may have finally demonstrated to the public the difference between real and imaginary hazards. A year ago, barely 10 percent of consumers said they would buy irradiated foods if they were available. A new Porter Novelli survey conducted after the anthrax scare shows that more than half of consumers polled said the government should require irradiation to ensure a safe food supply.
Earlier this year, two nanny groups, The Center for Food Safety and Public Citizen, warned that further FDA approvals of irradiation "would amount to a serious potentially scandalous error in judgment." The true error in judgment would be continuing to listen to the activists, rather than to public health experts and consumers.
Alex Avery is director of research at the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues in Churchville, Virginia.
Plant Genomics and Agriculture: From model organisms to crops, the role of data mining for gene discovery
- V. Mahalakshmi (ICIRSAT) R. Ortiz (IITA), EJB Electronic Journal of Biotechnology Vol.4 No. 2
Abstract : Sequencing and analysing of the Arabidopsis thaliana genome, the first plant kingdom genome to be unraveled, will always remain a scientific landmark. International initiatives to sequence rice, the most important cereal in Asia, are underway. However as functional information piles up in Arabidopsis and rice, researchers working in other crops will benefit from this new knowledge and apply it to their studied plants or crop species. The increasing role of public databases of model organisms and bio-informatics in data mining, presents a new opportunity as well as a challenge to researchers to develop more focused molecular tools for gene discovery and deployment. The work presented in here describes how such an approach has benefited sorghum, a rainfed semi-arid tropical cereal.
Full text at http://ejb.org/content/vol4/issue3/full/1/index.html
Farmers Should Go To Market
- Martin Wolfe, Financial Timers, Apr 4, 2001 http://globalarchive.ft.com/
BY IMPOSING GREEN IDEALS ON AGRICULTURE WOULD BE AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF BOTH CONSUMERS AND PRODUCERS
'By means of glasses, hotbeds, and hotwalls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine too can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgundy in Scotland?- Adam Smith, 1776'
When disease strikes, people listen to prophets of doom. Today, these cry that the Lord - or Mother Nature - is angry because we have forsaken the righteous ways of our ancestors and must repent and sin no more. This, under a thin pseudo-scientific garb, is the green claim: the UK and Europe are suffering plagues of foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalitis because they have embraced globalisation instead of localisation and intensive farming instead of organic husbandry.
The solution, as Caroline Lucas, a green member of the European parliament wrote last week (Personal View, UK edition, March 28), is to pursue a "localist rural and food policy. Its goal would be to keep production closer to the point of consumption and help protect and rebuild local economies around the world." What Adam Smith thought grotesque, she considers sensible. But this account of the current predicament and appropriate solutions runs into an objection: it is nonsense.
First, there has, alas, been little liberalisation of global agricultural trade. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the tax on consumers imposed through raised prices, buttressed by import restrictions, was 36 per cent of the value of European Union farm gate output in 1999, slightly below the 40 per cent of 1986-88 but above the 25 per cent in 1997.* Because of this protection, the UK satisfies far less of its food consumption from countries outside the EU than a generation ago. It does trade more with its European partners, including in live animals. But this has hardly increased health risks to the UK (though its partners may be more concerned).
Second, protection increases the intensiveness of farming. Higher prices increase returns from additional inputs. But, more directly, protection tends to raise the price of land. This creates an incentive to economise on its use by higher yields. Switzerland, whose farm policies are among the world's most protectionist, has been observed to use 10 times as much input of chemicals per unit of land as such land-abundant countries as Argentina or Australia.
The practices that led to BSE are also partly explained by such incentives. In Argentina, with more than 10 times the area of the UK, cattle can live on grass. In land-scarce UK, farmers were tempted by less savoury practices. Foot-and-mouth disease is a different case. It is an old disease, rampant in our organic past but eradicated in the early part of the 20th century. Today's outbreak was probably caused by illegal imports, which suggests that liberal trade was not the cause.
Third, trade and long-distance transport are not necessarily more damaging to the environment than local production. Transport is only one of the ways energy is used in food production and distribution. There is also the energy required to produce things in wildly unsuitable places. More fundamentally, protection can never be an efficient way to reduce the wider costs associated with energy use. It is a principle of good policy that corrections should be as directly related to the distortion as possible. The right policy, then, is to tax energy use, letting the best patterns of production and consumption emerge.
Finally, the view that we must now move to organic, small-scale farming and local trade is romantic folly. Organic farming will mean lower yields (of both crops and meat) per unit of land. One result would be a reduction in total output. Unless people are to eat less, this means an increase, not a reduction, in imports of food by a densely populated country such as the UK. Another consequence is that farms would need to be bigger. The less intensively farmers are allowed to farm - that is, the smaller their net income per unit of land - the bigger the farms they will need. Smaller farms are, for this reason, often more intensively exploited.
As for strict local food self-sufficiency, the consequences must include: a sizeable reduction in the variety of available goods; increased vulnerability of food supplies to local weather and pests; and deprivation of countries with an advantage in food production of opportunities for higher incomes.
These are not the only drawbacks. "Local" cannot be defined in any rigorous way. Colin Hines, one of localisation's principal proponents, offers several alternative definitions, all equally useless: the circulation area for a local newspaper; a radius of 10-15 miles around local towns of 1,500-10,000 people; or, within cities, the area bounded by the nearest supermarket, shopping centre, school and other bits of the social infrastructure.** Imagine, for a moment, the barriers that would be needed to make such sub-national units self-sufficient in food. How else, after all, is one to prevent food from flooding in from neighbouring areas?
Neither liberal trade nor technical progress is the problem and neither greater market fragmentation nor organic farming is the solution. Policy has to be far more sophisticated than that. The broad outlines of wiser policies are not difficult to find. These would include:
* Abolition of producer-dominated farm ministries and their replacement by ministries of rural affairs; * Creation of strong and independent food safety agencies, to regulate both domestically produced and imported food; * Continued liberalisation of trade barriers; * Subsidies directly targeted at desired environmental and rural objectives; * Internalisation of environmental costs through taxes; * Elimination of policies that encourage input-intensive farming; * Labelling of organic and non-organic foods, to allow informed consumer choice.
Hysteria must be rejected. This generation of citizens of rich countries enjoys a healthier and more varied diet than any in history. Still less should one indulge in the reactionary belief that anything smacking of trade, modern technology or large-scale enterprise must be bad. Farming's future cannot possibly lie in a return to the local self-sufficiency of an impoverished past.
* Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries, Monitoring and Evaluation 2000 (Paris: OECD) ** Localisation: a Global Manifesto (London: Earthscan, 2000)
The Spirit Of Science
I. Introduction: Science is a dynamic, intrinsic to the creation of every non-mystic idea, and to the practical efforts for bringing such ideas to reality. This process is a major factor behind every existing productive strategy and action.
Understanding the spirit of science can deliver a person a whole new approach to all areas of thought-intensive work and problem solving. Science-based thinking mitigates thinking errors and mysticisms while empowering individuals to creatively integrate new ideas -- especially controversial and non-traditional ideas -- with practical actions, thereby bringing their ideas into reality. After having read this manual, you will understand the essence of science, the reason why the most innovative research is suppressed in today's civilization, and by which groups, and how you can benefit by applying scientific thinking to your personal and business goals.
II. The essence of science: The general definition of science is: observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation. While this description is true, it is not sufficient for understanding the specific essence of the process of science.
By definition, science is methodology, is disciplined activity. That methodology consists of observing cause and effect -- a process that constantly yields new experience, which is then integrated with reality -- integrated with all facts that are proven, self-evident, or axiomatic. Whenever contradictions result, the facts involved must be reconsidered, until they are all consistent with the integrated scientific picture of reality. This is the key to understanding the specific essence of science. The process of science leads to constant questioning of established theories, facts and beliefs, through the confrontation with new evidence. It discards the notion of establishing authority-based truths (like all other traditional systems for acquiring knowledge) in favor of integrating proven, but never absolute facts that must exist in context with previous knowledge.
Existing "facts" may always be disproven by later, wider integrations of proven knowledge. The essence of science is the in-context picture of reality as the integrated whole of all previous knowledge, and the dynamic, constant questioning of established facts through the introduction of new facts. In turn, such reality-aligned facts yield conscious-based efforts that lead to new, problem-solving technology which overrides the defaults of nature.
A conclusion of the scientific view is also the conviction that nothing in existence is ultimately unknowable to us. Its logic demands proof for every assertion, including that one. Even with a hypothetically provable theory that some certain things are forever unknowable, that theory itself might ultimately be disproved by future, wider facts.
III. Science in an irrational civilization: Free scientific progress is a dynamic that knows no bounds or limits. Therefore, it cannot unfold its potential within Earth's traditional civilization, with its inherent rules of stagnation, limits of freedom, limits of free-thought wide-scope thoughts. To overcome and discard today's dead-end dynamics, it is absolutely necessary to first fully understand and realize their factual presence. Only then, one can discard them forever.
Backed through authority and force, the characteristics of the traditional civilization are fundamentally incompatible with the ever-changing, ever-progressing building of valid knowledge; from the nearly 1500-year Christian rejection and prosecution of different perspectives, to the modern irrational fears of technology, envious/ignorant anti-progress attitudes that are created and perpetuated by dishonest academics, religious mystics, media people and politicians, seldom questioned by the authority-seeking populace, and orchestrated by vast systems of directionless, false-power-seeking bureaucracies. Authority-led societies create and maintain unquestionable, knowledge-diminishing dogmas, while liberated science creates myth-breaking, knowledge-enhancing solutions.
Most of the professional scientific research that takes place today is extremely expensive and inefficient, knowing no cost discipline because of funding from governments and big, mostly "politically correct", corporations, and conservative, expanding knowledge in well-established slow-growth areas, while shunning new, controversial, and largely un-researched fields from politically incorrect, high-energy, resource-eating applied molecular technologies to politically controlled nuclear technologies, to genetics held back and attacked by christian and environmentalist institutions, to widely shunned/prosecuted research directed toward human immortality.
Keep in mind that almost every pioneer of science or technology was ignored or persecuted at the time of his discoveries. Dynamics of mysticisms are identical with anti-technology attitudes: they consist of the automatic or purposely dishonest rejection of the obvious without honest consideration.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for productive, honest-minded scientists are the scientific elite communities and the academic establishment. Today, these communities and institutions function through simple group dynamics, of obeying to the authority, to the popular, to the standards. The Greek philosopher Plato was the founder of his own school, which he called the Academy. Plato's main premises include that 1) objective reality does not exist 2) ideas and subjective thoughts have primacy over reality 3) the State and a government-led society is a necessary, integral part of "reality". Such dogmatic, un-provable truths are the base of his philosophy, and are also the leading viewpoints in today's academic establishment, which persecutes politically incorrect but valid ideas.
Creativity-destroying and immoral -- since force-backed -- compulsion schooling, the foundation of public school systems, are also ideas originating from Plato, which he formulated in his philosophical manifesto, "The Republic". Based on such education is also the Prussian school system, a 200 year-old European system of public "education", explicitly intended to 1) generate obedient citizens 2) create diligent but narrow-minded physical workers and soldiers 3) introduce a set of common, politically correct opinions into the broad populace. In the 19th century, the previous free-choice schooling systems in the US were overthrown by power-seeking statesmen, and replaced with this form of mandatory public schooling, supervised and controlled by the state.
Valid paradigms of education are, in a nutshell, to 1) deliver knowledge without force 2) strive to teach objective, provable facts 3) deliver the practically applicable knowledge necessary for creating new values. <...snip...> (More at the website : IV. Develop a scientific mind; V. Integrate science with business)