Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The future of food

Herrick over at The Deliberate Agrarian sent the DVD "The Future of Food" around to a list of folks with blogs. The idea was, as I recall, was to watch it and do a review on the blog.

I watched it and here is the review.

It describes a set of problems, then suggests what can be done to improve things.

As for the problems, the subject matter of the DVD is basically the application of technology to food products in the last decade or so.

This includes emergence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in plants used as food and/or feed crops. It also briefly talks about the same sort of thing with animals.

It deals with this in the context of the centralization of the ownership of the large agribusiness corporations.

It also make the point that patents have been granted to corporations for living organisms, all be it genetically modified organisms, for the first time, within the last decade.

These patents are being protected with harsh measures, basically big companies suing the socks off ordinary farmers.

I don't exactly where the description of a problem, any problem, crosses a line into OHMYGODWEAREALLGOINGTODIE!!!!!! territory, but I think this film gets very close at several places.

That's a shame, because in my opinion, it isn't necessary.

It contains a bunch of throw away lines that add no information and actually serve as a distraction and, for me at least, and caused me to question the credibility of the rest of the information presented.

For example, when pointing out that farmers spray herbicides on their crops, a fact that will surprise no one, they describe 2/4D as "a chemical similar to agent orange".

Well, 2/4D and agent orange are both broad leaf herbicides, so I guess the statement is true enough, but the implication is that agent orange was a scary substance used as a weapon in war, so we should all be afraid of this other stuff as well.

As I said, all this over the top stuff isn't necessary. It runs the risk or causing the viewer to dismiss the whole message as the rantings of a bunch of tin foil hat wearing nut jobs.

I am still not sure what the agenda of the folks that produced this film are.

Here's the deal in my opinion.

All this gene splicing that has been done cannot be undone.

I don't know for sure that this presents any danger to the public. I don't know for sure that is does not.

The pro GMO interests claim that this is all perfectly safe and overall a good thing. They claim science supports their position.

The science they site is beyond the ability of the average person, beyond my ability at least, to evaluate in detail.

They are not of course, disinterested parties. They profit from this technology, selling it or using it.

The film makes the point, not anywhere strongly enough in my view, that the gains provided by this technology do nothing for the consumer. GMO vegetables are not "better" or more nutritious that traditional food.

It is only better from the point of view of the producer. It is (at least in theory) cheaper and less trouble to grow.

The ordinary consumer, anyone is our society today, is exposed to lots of "scientific evidence" to support any number of claims.

Not all of it can be true, science is used to support lots of contrary claims.

From "global warming" to the "heartbreak of psoriasis", junk science is everywhere.

Everyone knows that much of the "scientific evidence" there hear is crap, the problem is that it is difficult or impossible to tell the junk science from the sound science.

Consumers are sceptical, and rightly so.

And herein lies the good news.

Those of use who are willing and able to provide food to the marketplace that does use this technology find a ready market for our product.

We do not need to prove that bio technology is a bad thing, we just need to truthfully claim that we don't use it.

This whole situation presents the small scale farmer an opportunity that we did not have before. That I think is a good thing.

1 comment:

UpSlope said...


I've gotta concur I don't know if GMO food is harmful or not. I DO have a reasonable amount of trust in the FDA to get it at least close to right. At least closer than Jeremy Rifkin.

If GMO stuff is indeed safe, I posit that it's a good thing. If the producers benefit because it's easier to produce, then consumers will, too. Cheap food is a good thing, especially for people who don't have enough. Despite claims on Air America, virtually nobody is starving in the US. But parts of Central America and Africa is still hurting.

If we're going to grow both food and fuel on the same acreage we're growing just food on now, it seems to me either we're going to grow less food which means higher prices, or we're going to get better at it and grow more.

BTW, the guy who was CEO of VW several months ago, a firm that has much to gain if the world embraces the small, efficient diesels they make, says using bio-diesel is "totally pointless", except, I note, perhaps as a vehicle of self-expression.

From a marketing perspective though, it seems to me that the GMO stigma, rational or not, has got to help small farmers that don't use the stuff. With all the extra money people are willing to spend for organics, non-GMO must be well positioned to increase its "share of wallet".

Vince Emmer