March 17, 2008

Suicidal Eggplants

After the Jonestown mass murder-suicide, this one appears to be largest mass suicide by any living organism - in this case eggplants, or as the Indians would like to call them, brinjals. Well, technically they are not suicides but public hanging of a thousand eggplants in different parts of Mumbai, India, by the Greenpeace. A note attached to the rope by which the eggplants were hung said:

I cannot live in this place where my identity is being manipulated. For the first time crazy scientists and seed companies who want profit out of selling my (brinjal) seeds are tinkering with my genes.

Rajesh Krishnan, the campaign manager for Greenpeace said,

"The whole idea is to draw consumer attention to food safety issues as the government is about to commercialise BT brinjal, the first genetically engineered crop in India".

Lest this post be considered prejudicial to the identity of the GE eggplant, I'll point to one of the several articles and research reports on both the benefits and the safety issues relating to genetically engineered foods: Food Safety and Genetically Modified Foods, a report published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

  1. GMO and allergies - 1

    GMO and allergies - 2

    Bt cotton and China

    GMO controversies

    GMO - pros and cons

    Bottom line, IMO:
    1. Honest and open discussion of pros and cons, not PR firms touting only the pros or cons.
    2. Consumers have a right to know and make a choice when buying food- i.e. mandatory labeling of GMOs and food products containing GMOs. If an individual doesn't want to buy/eat GMOs for whatever reason, s/he shouldn't be forced/coerced to buy GMOs. Choices and freedom.
    3. Independent scientific studies, not those done by the very companies that sell GMO seeds - that's a clear case of conflict-of-interest.
    4. No unfair advantage through subsidies or tax-breaks to big corporations who market GMOs, vis-a-vis organic farmers who choose to continue with traditional practices and IPM.
    5. No GMOs like Terminator seeds that force farmers to buy seeds from a monopoly every year - that's clearly not "helping to feed the billions." *rolling my eyes*
    6. No strong-arm tactics and sneaky practices to plant GMO crops (as has happened in India).
    7. No dilution of Organic standards to include GMOs.

    Though I'm not so sure of the wisdom of continuing with large-scale fossil-fuel based agricultural practices when peak oil has entered the lexicon, even among the conservative naysayers. You might want to check out a movie called "King Corn" if you haven't already.

    As for "feeding the poor and billions" there are many inequities in food distribution - the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone. Plus, the grains fed to animals to produce 1lb of meat can feed many more people if eaten directly - that's an inefficient use of food/resources, as any economist would tell you. So, a reduction in meat-production/ meat-eating (or rather factoring in the true costs in the price of meat - right now, it's highly subsidized) has the potential to feed the poor as well as any touted benefits of GMOs.

    And the caveat of "Your Mileage May Vary" applies to above. (-:

  2. anonymous:

    Thank you for the informative links.

    My post was motivated more by the novelty of the protest by Greenpeace than anything else. I am a neophyte when it comes to GMOs, so it's difficult for me to take a reasoned stance on this.

    That said, I agree that no one should be forced to do anything against their will. On your point I'll will go an extra step and say that all subsidies are unfair. In the ideal world where I'd like to spend the rest of my life, there will be no taxes, only fees. The question of tax-breaks or subsidies, therefore, does not even arise :)

    On everything else in your comment, yes, the caveat of "Your Mileage May Vary" applies :)

  3. On your point I'll will go an extra step and say that all subsidies are unfair. In the ideal world where I'd like to spend the rest of my life, there will be no taxes, only fees. The question of tax-breaks or subsidies, therefore, does not even arise.

    TRF, a quick comment/question.
    (I'm assuming) You have studied the philosophy of Objectivism and theories of free market, and you're speaking from that angle. Is that view shared by the CEOs of the companies that line up with a begging bowl (or rather make sure they get those subsidies) and the free market enthusiasts/economists? If not, why do the free market proponents not talk about getting rid of subsidies, if those are anathema to their core values and principles? Is the government coercing them to take the subsidies, or stopping them from speaking out against/taking steps towards getting rid of subsidies? One hears and reads in the media a lot about regulations and how they're an impediment, but there's comparative silence when it comes to corporate welfare... er, subsidies.

    Or are such ideological/theoretical discussions/chimeras left to people like you and me while the CEOs laugh their way to the banks via a golden parachute? ;)

    Would like to know your thoughts on this.

    Maybe a separate post?


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