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Organic farmer visits Monsanto

(7 Posts)
thatbags Mon 16-Dec-13 12:07:26

ffinnochio Mon 16-Dec-13 12:32:34

Very good article and still digesting and learning. I do feel more informed.

janerowena Mon 16-Dec-13 15:18:46

Yes, very interesting. Their use of so many IT literate personnel rather than people actively involved in farming is probably part of the problem.

FlicketyB Mon 16-Dec-13 16:05:16

Yesterday I was listening to Gardener's Question Time on R4 and the programme included a visit to the seed bank at Kew. The scientist there was explaining how they tested and analysed the seeds before freezing them. He also explained how Kew was actively collecting seeds from plants similar to those producing food. So they were collecting seeds from wheats that were not grown commercially and other closely related plants

Reading this article it occurred to me that all the high tech could just as easily be used to analyse the genetic footprint of groups of commercial and closely related plants and transfer desirable traits by normal cross breeding and hybridisation as by using genetic transfer across species. The days of organic farming being all muck and magic are long gone and an enormous amount of scientific research goes into improving seeds and methods for organic farming. Monsanto could just as easily use these methods to produce improved seeds, which it could sell profitably

It is not what hi tech equipment you have it is what you use it for that matters.

thatbags Mon 16-Dec-13 16:14:38

The very first machine described is used to cut the length of time needed to assess a food plant's potential. I think this means that instead of several growing seasons such an assessment takes a matter of hours. So, yes, it's not such much what equipment you have that matters as what it's used for. Something that will speed up the production of food in a world with a growing population sounds like a good idea to me.

thatbags Mon 16-Dec-13 16:17:16

Quotes in support of what i said above, from paras 5 and 6 of the article:

"Instead of planting a whole bunch of seeds, waiting for them to grow, and then observing or testing for desirable characteristics, the selection can happen before the seed even hits the ground."

"It’s like using a computer instead of paper and pencil to perform advanced mathematics: the answer is exactly the same, the only difference is how long it takes to figure it out!"

FlicketyB Mon 16-Dec-13 18:17:13

Exactly, it can just as easily be used to develop new seed varieties by cross breeding plants from the same genus as manipulating the genome to transfer a gene from an unrelated species.

I have no dyed in the wool objection to genetic modification but all the evidence so far - using the technique for developing seeds resistant to Monsanto weed killers, threatening any farmer who uses seed from their own harvest that has been fertilised by pollen from a neighbour's GM crop shows very clearly that it is not what you do but the way that you do it and often the down sides are not directly related to the actual scientific process.

Back in the 1970s we had the 'Green Revolution' a type of rice was developed that was high yield and was promoted as being a money earner for small farmers in Asia, especially in India. Their chance to earn more money, repay their debts, educate their children. It has since been shown that what this rice actually did was mire many of them even deeper into debt than they were before the new 'miracle' seed.

To benefit from the new hig yielding rice they had to buy the seed and buy the extra fertilisers needed to grow it. The extra output required extra inputs. As they had no money they borrowed it, usually from their land lords. When the crop came in, the seed was being used so widely and the crop was so large, that prices dropped and they could not repay their debt and this hasn't changed.

I am very wary of any group that claims to have the universal elixir that will solve all our problems. There is no lack of food in the world for its growing population. Under nourishment is caused by political forces and the loss of so much of the crop before it reaches market, through poor storage, lack of transport and political will. Solve these problems first then see of GM seeds can resolve any of the remaining problems.