Borlaug and GMOs
(Re: “The man who saved one billion lives,” Danish Plan, Oct 22. ) Although I found interesting Danish’s article on Norman Borlaug, the end of the article seems to imply without stating it that there is a parallel between Borlaug’s experience (awful if correct) and the GMO controversy. The mark of intelligence, along with a sense of humor, is the ability to differentiate between and among those things that may seem similar but are, in fact, different.
The stated purpose for the development of GMOs is to increase crop yields, reduce costs for farmers, and to use less herbicide.
Actual results? Danish must have seen the data — as differentiated from the P.R. flack emanating from Monsanto and other biotech corporations — that clinically indicates that GM soy decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared to non-GM crops, and up to 100 percent failures of GM cotton having been recorded in India.
There is an actual increase in costs to farmers, thanks to “terminator technology,” in which seeds self-destruct through corporation design, thus forcing farmers to buy them again each year, instead of using seeds from their harvest to plant the following year, which is the traditional way.
USDA data showed that GM crops increased pesticide use by 50 million pounds from 1996 to 2003 in the United States — so much for less herbicide. And Roundup herbicide is lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells; it is used on more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted in the world.
Also, GM crops harm wildlife, and they have been linked to deaths and sicknesses, both in the fields of India and in lab tests around the world.
I urge Danish and all readers to read the excellent and factually substantiated book titled Seeds of Deception to get a true picture of what has been going on for some time now, and why we could be in some deep doo-doo if GMOs are allowed to continue to exist.
Green Revolution downside
I very much enjoyed Paul Danish’s article, “The man who saved one billion lives.” It was well written and very interesting, but I don’t agree with his conclusion that environmentalists shouldn’t criticize “scientific agriculture” or the Green Revolution. What may have been a genuinely heroic and successful breakthrough in the ’50s and ’60s need not be assumed is the proper solution for today’s world.
Whereas the Green Revolution may have saved a billion human beings from starvation, it has failed on several levels. The hybrid seeds replaced time-proven heirloom varieties which were adapted to local Indian conditions and used up to 50 percent less water and fewer fertilizers than hybrid varieties. For the next year’s seed, they could save a percentage of their own harvest. It might have been better to begin hybridizing from Indian wheat varieties and to select for higher yields.
The result of the “Green Revolution” around the world is toxic pollution of our land and water because of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides which are designed to kill and don’t know when to stop killing. In addition, in India poor farmers have become so deeply indebted to buy American seed, fertilizers and pesticides that 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in desperation. So there are definitely drawbacks to “scientific agriculture.”
Now it is time for us to leap ahead in our thinking, to feed the world using sustainable methods that work with nature.
We need to stop throwing in the dump the energy values in our organic wastes, and instead use them to rebuild our depleted soils. And we have to consider the nutritional value of food we produce.
In general, we need to expand our awareness to recognize how our actions, and what they support, affect the world and environment around us. A 21st-century solution has to do more than skyrocket production. Our planet is shrinking fast and we have to think much bigger than volume and profit, and even bigger than saving a billion lives, if our children and other people’s children are going to inherit a healthy planet.
And no fault of Mr. Danish that the Boulder Weekly’s index stated, “Norman Borlaug earned his Nobel through GMOs.” Not so: Hybridizing by crossing two varieties of plants is not the same thing as genetically modifying plants to get a new variety.