Ronald and Adamchak, “Organically Grown and Genetically Engineered: The Food of the Future”

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 02009 by Stewart Brand
link Categories: Seminars   chat 0 Comments

Ronald and Adamchak

Engineered organic

Organic farming teacher Raoul began the joint presentation with a checklist for truly sustainable agriculture in a global context. It must:

Provide abundant safe and nutritious food…. Reduce environmentally harmful inputs…. Reduce energy use and greenhouse gases…. Foster soil fertility…. Enhance crop genetic diversity…. Maintain the economic viability of farming communities…. Protect biodiversity…. and improve the lives of the poor and malnourished. (He pointed out that 24,000 a day die of malnutrition worldwide, and about 1 billion are undernourished.)

Organic agriculture has made a good start on these goals…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

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  • simon ferrigno

    The idea of GM seeds working in an organic (or other sustainable production system) is an interesting one. I work in the field of organic cotton, and would welcome seeing trials. GM seeds will need to work within the production system in a balanced way. Like the author here, I agree it is unlikely there will ever be GM seed allowed in organic, but other labels are possible.
    However, the statement on the 25% of cotton pesticides used to control the cotton bollworm is factually incorrect. There used to be a quoted figure of 25% of all pesticides being used on cotton; however, this percentage has fallen substantially in recent years.

  • Mary

    I support the idea of “sustainable” as a designation. I think that many GE options can safely help us reduce water and pesticide usage, and I’m not afraid of those proteins.

  • Organic food is no healthier, study finds
    Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:29pm EDT

    LONDON (Reuters) – Organic food has no nutritional or health benefits over ordinary food, according to a major study published Wednesday.

    Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said consumers were paying higher prices for organic food because of its perceived health benefits, creating a global organic market worth an estimated $48 billion in 2007.

    A systematic review of 162 scientific papers published in the scientific literature over the last 50 years, however, found there was no significant difference.

    “A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance,” said Alan Dangour, one of the report’s authors.

    “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

    The results of research, which was commissioned by the British government’s Food Standards Agency, were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Sales of organic food have fallen in some markets, including Britain, as recession has led consumers to cut back on purchases.

    The Soil Association said in April that growth in sales of organic products in Britain slowed to just 1.7 percent in 2008, well below the average annual growth rate of 26 percent over the last decade, following a plunge in demand at the end of the year.

    (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Simon Jessop)

  • just eat, don’t think

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  • I think it would be difficult to have a discussion about Sustainability and GM crops without talking about the elephant in the room, Intellectual Property rights concerning transgenic organisms. My personal concern with GM crops comes not from it’s biological validity, but from the agricultural practices that are forced upon growers who are required to purchase GM seeds year after year. The major sustainability concern stems from an Intellectual Property regime that enables ownership of Life and Nature. Where are the Open Source GM seeds?

  • Alexander, I’m a bit perplexed by the article you posted, which states “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” The main reason I buy organic, when I do, is to avoid pesticides, not to get more vitamins.

  • Re. “Organic food is no healthier, study finds”


    Have you read Paula Crossfield’s rebuttal “Organic Versus Conventional Food: UK Report Flawed” in the Huffington Post?

    About the Food Standards Agency (FSA) who commissioned the article to which Paula wrote her rebuttal, I found the following on Jill Richardson’s website

    “The FSA is a branch of the government of the United Kingdom, but states on it’s website that it “works at ‘arm’s length’ from Government because it doesn’t report to a specific minister and is free to publish any advice it issues.” With no oversight, influence over the selected research could have been a factor in the outcomes. A look at the profiles of the head of FSA reveals former employees of agribusinesses like Arla Foods (now part of Europe’s largest dairy), Sarah Lee Corporation, and UK grocery giant Sainsbury’s. Therefore it is not hard to assume that the perspective may lean towards what is best for agribusiness interests.

    The FSA report was commissioned to determine whether or not the nearly 4 billion dollar organic industry in Great Britain could claim higher health benefits when selling its products. By rendering the playing field equal for conventional farmers, the government and the agricultural sector wouldn’t have to begin the difficult work of shifting the unwieldy agricultural system towards sustainability.”

    End quote.

    Mmm, make me wonder…

    Sambodhi Prem

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  • Deborah Bayer

    I am intrigued by the LongNow’s support for GE, but ahve many concerns. What about genetic drift, which we have seen in farm states? What about Monsanto’s sterile crops? Could that type of gene drift? What is the effect of GE on beneficial insects? And how about it making the farmer dependent on one company’s pesticide? I would like to see the LongNow promote a back and forth discussion on these topics, since this is not my area of expertise. I do not trust corporations to work on behalf of humanity. And I too would like to see some open source seeds. Thanks, Debbie Bayer

  • Y’all have got to link to the mp3 file from the blog post. It’s so key and so easy and it’s never there.

  • jollyD

    We all know it’s “shopper beware” these days.
    It’s disturbing to hear Mr. Brand violate his own credo to foster “Long-term Responsibility” by characterizing the organics movement as a marketing scam. Is he just as “hip” to the research and marketing scams of Monsanto?
    This makes me now question whether there is a bias built into the Longnow org? I still assume not.

    Be that as it may, I highly recommend readers to look at the research of Donald Lotter, Ph.D.

  • Mary

    I’m trying to download the video but it keeps giving me a non-video file. Can you guys look into that?

    @Deborah: If you are talking about the Terminator technology, it isn’t in use. Here’s a nice discussion of that with some actual facts:

    There have been studies on insects and some studies actually show increased biodiversity on the GM fields. Pam Ronald did a really great blog post once that addresses many of your concerns:

    And you do know, of course, that Round Up is off patent, right? And that many of the GE crops that academic researchers like Pam are developing have nothing to do with applied pesticides but are about climate adaptations (flood or drought tolerance for example) or increased nutrition, too, of course.

    It’s so frustrating that everyone hears GE and thinks Monsanto because there’s much more going on than that. The fog of Monsanto interferes with any rational discussion on the topic.

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