Corporations, including Monsanto, are in it for the money. If we dictate public policy based on Humboldt County’s’ economic advantages, how would we be different? Promoting sustainability and decreasing human suffering is a more worthy goal than locking in economic advantages.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “If you are against corporate power, then focus on that.” If you don’t want Big Ag in Humboldt County, then focus on that. I would support you. If you don’t want herbicide-resistant crops in Humboldt then focus on that. Herbicide resistant crops have been developed with other breeding methods besides GMOs; stopping biotechnology will not halt herbicide-resistant crops or bad farming practices.
A study issued by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, provided advice to the nation under a Congressional charter. The report found that biotech crops allowed farmers to either reduce chemical spraying or to use less harmful chemicals. The crops also had lower production costs, higher output or extra convenience, benefits that generally outweighed the higher costs of the engineered seeds.
The benefits for the environment from using these or any crops can indeed be negated by irresponsible farming. If you are concerned about superweeds, then focus on responsible farming practices that solve that problem through Integrative Pest Management (IPM) practices like crop rotation. Because failing to rotate crops develops resistance regardless of the breeding type.
Instead of demonizing a technology you don’t understand, promote IPM practices to improve the sustainability of both organic systems and conventional ones, and you will have my support (they both impact the environment and need to continue to improve without being derailed by naturalistic dogma).
We don’t know what agricultural challenges we will face in the future, we should not limit ourselves by prohibiting one of the more promising agricultural technologies which has proven to be a powerful tool.
As someone who cares about our environment, I don’t know that our county has a current need for any of the GE’d crops currently on the market. But Measure P stands to further confuse scientific understanding of the technology while exacerbating prejudice that stigmatizes Big Ag farmers that are moving in a more sustainable direction.
“P” is for Prejudice, and if we adopt this prejudice, this would go against Humboldt’s green image by standing to further stigmatize farmers who are moving in a more sustainable direction with the use of GE’d crops.
“Genetically engineered crops could carry organic farming much further toward fulfilling all the goals of sustainable agriculture” – Organic farming teacher Raoul Adamchak.
I was anti-GMO. I thought I had the evidence on my side, because I had only ever heard anti-GMO slogans from within my communities’ confirmation bias bubble. But I can now honestly say I had no idea how science worked when I initially defaulted to anti-GMO. My knowledge of the subject was inadequate; much of that knowledge I got from biased sources; and I’m sure I suffered from social conformity bias.
I love my open-minded, freethinking community. By open minded I mean having a willingness to look at new evidence, a willingness to reconsider and an ability to revise a previously held position that was in error. By “freethinking” I mean a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition.
When fear and ideology dictate public policy we get some despicably harmful outcomes like the failed war on drugs, like science denial of climate change, same sex couples being denied marriage rights, and wars. Many people are intuitively opposed to gay unions and believe that this has or will bring about harm. Others believe that jailing teenagers for smoking weed will decrease harm. These are not villains; these people care an awful lot, but do not employ critical thinking and do not value reason and evidence.
Instead of questioning everything, some people do not question the claims made by their own in-group. Reason is a guardian of love, and without it false beliefs can lead to dangerous actions. By employing reason and an evidence based epistemology towards the claims made about these issues we would ensure reaching a more reliable conclusion, I think most GMO opponents would agree.
Some say that global warming is a hoax, a product of thousands of scientists conspiring with governments to falsify temperature data and usher in a new age of global socialism. As if 95 percent of the world’s scientists contrived an environmental crisis, but are exposed by oil companies. Junk science has been published and propaganda funded, and even while the coal industry is much more lucrative than Monsanto, it has not managed to overturn the scientific consensus on climate change.
Just like climate skeptics, opponents of biotechnology issue impressive reports based on strategic cherry-picking. By only referencing its ideological allies in a kind of epistemological closed-loop, they push the perspective of a tiny minority of hand-picked pseudo-experts, and tries to capture and control the public policy agenda to enforce its long-held prejudices. Many of the most influential denialists like those at the Union of Concerned Scientists sound like experts; indeed they may even be experts. Many anti-vaccine campaigners, like Andrew Wakefield, started out as qualified medical professionals.
This is why scientific consensus matters – it is the last line of defense we have against the impressive credentials and sciency-sounding language of those who are really on the lunatic fringe.
End of part 1. Next week: free-thinking, changing one’s position based on facts, the denial of choice and the real enemy: hunger.
Chad White is a local skeptic and science fan.