Wednesday, January 15, 2014

GMOs, Greenpeace and Public Health

Sometime in July 2013, I had a debate with some Greenpeace activists, about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I initially called them as “anti-CO2, anti-coal, anti-nat gas, anti-nuke, anti-GMO, anti-Bt corn, anti everything”.

The GP guy, Francis, replied that they are “against burning coal and fossil fuels, not only because doing so produces CO2 that causes global warming and nuclear power is beset with a lot of issues, esp. safety issues. but we are not "anti-everything" in fact, we are for other cleaner and safer sources of energy and energy efficiency. our stand against GMOs (e.g. Bt talong) is also a stand for sustainable agriculture. so hindi rin anti-everything.”

Here are the succeeding exchanges….

Nonoy 12 years ago, we have a loooong discourse and debate about GMOs, particularly Bt corn, a cousin of the Bt eggplant controversy. Bacillus thuringensis is a soil-dwellling bacteria, part of nature, that corn borers and other pests dislike and find so yucky. You put the Bt on corn, eggplant, your crop almost become organic -- no need for pesticide, insecticide, as the borers and other pests will simply not attack them. But Greenpeace priests hate natural pesticides, they want what?

Meanwhile, lawyers and judges at the Court of Appeals (CA) can now decide with finality scientific debates that require deep sciientific expertise? You need molecular biologists, chemists, botanists, zoologists, physicians, and other scientists to make a ruling of "safe" or "non-safe".

Greenpeace hates modern science and products of molecular biology. If GM feeds for chicken and hogs were not developed because Greenpeace opposed them and got Court ruling, the price of chicken and hogs could be P200 a kilo or more. Mass production is the clear solution to drastically raise food output and avoid hyper food inflation and food riots. We are thankful that Greenpeace fanaticism against modern science has not reached this far yet. But who knows, maybe tomorrow or next year.

That is why people should not support Greenpeace. The money you donate will be used to further stupefy and idiotize the public -- from GMOs to "man-made" warming to coal to natural gas and nuke. Nothing personal but the ideology of ecological socialism, of anti-capitalism, is what makes Greenpeace and allies become dogmatic in their environmental nirvana

Ipat commented,
“Brilliant PR work. Step 1: hide the multinational giants behind "FIlipino scientists". Step 2: Hide the multinational billions and highlight Greenpeace's money sourced ONLY from individuals, no corporations, Step 3: Make it a nationalist issue, as if the Pinoy scientists have no other backing and invented the GMO technology themselves (heck they're only testing it and if they think it's okay, farmers would have to keep paying for the intellectual property rights!) But with that, I have to tune out also, I've heard Mr. Oplas on this before and ne'er the twain shall meet.”

Meo. alin ba talaga ang issue ng Greenpeace on Bt eggplant or other GMOs-- negative impact on environment or IPR issues? Magkaiba kase yun.

Ipat. NEgative impact ang sa GP. IF they/we don't want the technology, IPR is not an issue EXCEPT the way they sue farmers whose fields are contaminated by neighboring farms. Organic nga ang gusto ng mga ito, tapes ninakaw daw ang kanilang IPR.

Fer. Comments about this bit of information: "Dr. Desiree Hautea said that she got the Bt gene from India 'royalty free' and the rights over it is now owned by UP, a public university. She said that precisely she made the arrangement this way, to ensure that if commercial production of the crop is approved, it is the Philippine government that owns the right to it. This, she said, is to ensure that it is priced fairly for the farmers."

Nonoy. what a mismatch for a debate. All scientists on the pro-Bt side, and zero scientist, only environmental ideologues on the other. 

the "negative impact" on humans or other environment has already been disproven by the scientists' side, based on the article posted by Fer. Bt is toxic only to stem borer, fruit borer, etc. These pests are part of nature. They will munch and munch the talong, other crops, so some farmers, if they don't want crop failure, must spray pesticides and insecticides to the eggplant, and sell them to the public and the public ingest those toxic chemicals from those pesticides.

Bt is part of nature, it is not a chemical or synthetic product made by some blood sucking multinationals. It is simply a bacteria, and the stem borer and other pests find them yucky if not fatal. You include Bt in the eggplant seed, you have an organic eggplant -- no need for pesticides or insecticides, unless other pests would attack the crop.

Its plain ecological socialism and anti-capitalism that fuels the Greenpeace environmental militance, to the point of being irrational and dictatorial. Scientists who want to experiment on Bt -- NO. Consumers who want to eat eggplants free of any pesticide because of organic pesticide in it, the BT -- NO. It's plain dictatorship in the name of environmentalism nirvana.

Ipat  Bt is natural but not as part of corn. Sorry, the jury is still out. It has NOT been disproven and its long term consequences are still unknown. And to dismiss the scientists on this side, the ones that risk a great deal just like Galileo and all the other nutheads before them, is to put on blinders. The Court of Appeals had them slug it out before them -- scientist pitted against scientist asking each other questions in a method known as the "hot tub". And we all now how they ruled.

Nonoy. Neither are those chemical pesticides and insecticides, they are not part of corn or eggplant. The farmers inject those toxic chemicals on those vegetables and sell to us. No labelling whatsoever what kind of pesticides were used, how much quantity, when the last time those pesticides were sprayed prior to harvest, basta lang.

Ipat  Greenpeace religiously avoids all corporate funding and has a toxics campaign against pesticides as well. And contrary to reducing pesticide use, the observation has been the contrary -- more round-up used on herbicide-resistant crops because duh, the genetic modification made them herbicide resistant so it's open season for all weeds and more round up applied! Oh, Step x for the PR - say the pesticide companies may be funding Greenpeace and gloss over the fact that the pesticide producers and the producers of GMO technology are one and the same. No need to fund each other. 

Nonoy. Ouch, the leaders and campaigners of anti-GM are ducking debate while explicitly declaring a national dictatorship of NO to Bt field trials, NO to Bt crops, NO freedom of choice to Filipino consumers. 

Fer. I have NO beef against many of our environmentalist friends' advocacy and I'm too jaded for any ideology. My interest in this issue had been because I want to plant talong for family consumption, and maybe later as a small-scale venture. I just don't want to use pesticides and herbicides and am willing to try new technology, even GMO technology. But only after due diligence. Ideology has no use for me here, only what will work or not given the circumstances.

Nonoy. Yes, let science and scientists do their work. Do NOT drag the courts or any government agency whenever possible, do not involve politics. Science and entrepreneurship lang. But the environmental dictatorship movement hate that. They want all politics, all government, to come in. Prevent scientists from pursuing field trials and do more scientific studies. Prevent entrepreneurs from selling pesticides-free crops, prevent consumers from buying such new products. The will of the environmental nirvana should prevail on everyone else in the planet.

My short take on Bt eggplant, more than 2 years ago,

Ipat No one is stopping scientists from doing their work, if sufficient safeguards are in place. Other countries have stopped GMO cropping due to contamination of wild stocks. They should have a buffer much bigger than the travelling distance of any spores or seeds that can be carried by wind, or do it in closed confines. That is far from what happened here. Fer, recommended reading is The Omnivore's Dilemma. Author set out to plant GMO potatoes. Read his story. No ideologies or pre-judgments, just a story.

Fer. So do I get it that "once sufficient safeguards are in place", GMO testing can proceed? So therefore GMOs are not intrinsically bad?

Ipat. I don't agree with the method, I think it's tampering with the very essence of life and there is no telling what runaway effects it might have (a la Jurassic park, life finds a way), but I cannot wish it away or dismiss the possibility that in a world of changing climate, we may have to use what we know to survive as a species. That is our evolutionary directive even if it is not corn's evolutionary directive, but ours. To determine sufficient safeguards, it would have to be for each crop and in each ecosystem, particularly to determine any impacts on our highly diverse and not yet fully explained and explored biodiversity. So for Talong, the EIA would have to be for each island or at least for each faunal region, assessing possible contamination of the gene pool in that area, and particularly on the endemics there.

Nonoy. I wrote, "Do NOT drag the courts or any government agency whenever possible". If someone is hospitalized or even died after eating lots of pesticides bombarded in some crops and vegetables, or other cases of food poisoning, government should come in.

"no one is stopping scientists from doing their work" Huh? In Davao, the city government officials themselves, upon the prodding and misinformation by the environmental dictatorship movement, entered UP Mindanao campus and uprooted the plants under experiment.

And from the article posted by Fer, "Field trials of the crop are being done in various areas of the country, and the VSU is one of the sites,..Some areas, however, have blocked the field trials and other genetically modified produce." Explicit, dictatorial blocking and banning of scientific studies are being done.

"Tampering with the very essence of life". Then no one should eat many if not all rice varieties in stores and supermarkets anymore. Almost all of them are GMs -- high yielding varieties spliced with pest-resistant genes, or drought-resistant or flood-resistant or fast-harvest genes. The tilapia we eat, they are mostly GM. Previously female tilapia, became male and big tilapia after eating a particular feed. The chicken that we eat, previously harvestable after 50 days, now down to only 30 days or even 28 days, with lots of GM in their feeds and hormones.

Without GM and biotechnology, we should see thousands of dead bodies in our streets due to food riots every year. Thanks to modern science, even if the world population will reach 10 billion, 30 billion, food production will be addressed. But rabid environmentalism would rather see food riots due to lack of food supply, than see GM crops that produce fictional stories and effects many decades or a century from now.

If people wish purity, they should be ready to die at 30 years or so. In the days where vaccines and modern medicines were not invented yet, people just die from ordinary flu, diarrhea, polio, TB or other infectious diseases. Those vaccines are not part of the original human body. They are strange and alien micro organisms that are injected into human body to boost the immune system.

To demand "purity" in some agri products but accept GM and science modernization in other crops; to demand "purity" in life yet beg for those stranger/alien vaccines and modern medicines into human body, is plain double talk.

I am generally harsh on anti-modern science position, so pardon my harsh words sometimes. As I said above, there is nothing personal here, just a battle against ecological socialism and environmental dictatorship. Let the debate on safety or non-safety of Bt corn/eggplant or other GM crops be left among scientists. The ideologues, me included, should step back. But when politics and government coercion is employed, like incidents of City governments destroying crops that are on field trials, that is where anti-socialism ideologues like me come in.

Ok Fer, how about "environmental coercion"? Like when a City or provincial government will enter a private premise and destroy crops there on environmental grounds with no court order or appropriate public hearing, that is coercion. My previous references to "environmental dictatorship" above are hereby amended to a more diplomatic term "environmental coercion."

To prevent modern science to proceed properly is really lousy. In the farm that I regularly visit in Pangasinan (about 4-5 weeks on ave), I saw a stringbean (sitaw) farmer who hates those fruit borers a lot. About 3-5 days before harvest, he would pepper his sitaw farm with lots of pesticides. He spends on those chemicals, yes, but his sitaw looks perfect, very few or zero damage by those pests. What happens to the people who bought his sitaw, I don't know but I saw that one day, he was knocked down by his own sitaw, food poisoning, nagsusuka. After that, I think he either stopped farming sitaw, or reduced the amount of pesticides that he used.

To kill those pests that cause substantial crop failure is a natural instinct among farmers. Some use IPM (pest mgt), some use daily inspection and manual killing of those pests and their nests, or other methods. But the dominant method is to use chemical pesticides. That is why the use of organic pesticide like bacillus thuringensis (BT) is being considered. Kung ayaw ng iba, di huwag. Kung gusto naman ng iba, wag pigilan. Avoid coercion.

MANILA (MindaNews/16 April) --Ten years after the commercial propagation of Baci...See More

Nonoy That news report is a slam dunk on Greenpeace and other environmental militants. The actual data do not conform with their scary "be afraid, be very afraid" scenarios. Farmers benefit from (a) higher harvest due to lower pest attack and hence, (b) lower costs as they reduce pesticide use by 60% (the 40% may be due to other pests other than the Asian corn borer (ACB)) and hence, (c) higher income. The report also mentioned herb/weed resistance on top of corn borer resistance.

Remember Paul Ehrlich, the 2nd father next to Thomas Malthus of doomsday massive global hunger. In 1968, he predicted that by 1975, mass starvation would happen, up to "500 million" will starve,

Many Filipino doomsayers also echoed the Malthus-Ehrlich fear mongering when the PH population in the 60s was only about 20+ million. We're almost 100 million now and there is no massive hunger,no food riots. On the other hand, many Filipinos are fat if not obese. Modern science can solve food supply problems, provided that politics and environmental alarmism and coercion will take a back seat.

See also  Pilipinas Forum 4: GMOs are good, August 31, 2012

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