March Against Monsanto: My “AHA!” Moment

Genetically Modified (GM) stuff doesn’t bother me at all.  I love medical technology and more efficient ag production and prettier flowers.  Trillions of meals have been consumed without any adverse health effects since GM crops went commercial in the late 1990s.  I am an admirer of Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution.

In response to “just label it” initiatives, I have recommended that big food companies like Kraft and Nestle do just that!  As they’ve done with peanut allergy concerns, I say just slap a label on everything they produce which says, “This product contains or may contain traces of crops produced with GMO technology,” or the like!

Today, though, in perusing several good blog posts (I love OregonGreen!) on this weekend’s global “March Against Monsanto,” I had my eyes opened when I read this comment:

I agree not- all bio-tech is bad ,most of the foods that we eat are GMO’s but we would like them to be labeled as such and to have the ability to sue if Monsanto and their competitors harm us through the GMO’s Or our children.

It dawned on me that this whole labeling movement is a Trojan Horse…  just one more way of getting a toe in the door in an incremental effort at tearing down all things industrial.  It matters not whether one “proves” (or fails to prove, as the case may be!) damage from GM products.  What matters is increased ability to name names in a law suit that defendants must spend lots of money to defend, regardless of facts.  It enhances the capacity to inflict “death by 1,000 cuts.”

Photo courtesy of OregonGreen.

Irony: Monsanto’s Roundup and Roundup-Ready products have helped to improve profitability, which is the only thing that “saves farms.” Photo courtesy of OregonGreen.

While we’re here, I might as well discuss some other thoughts (which seem to agitate both sides of this issue!) with you.  🙂

I criticize Monsanto.  When they defend their products on the basis of climate change alarmism…when they imply that the use of chemicals in agricultural production must decrease…when they claim they are defenders of the environment rather proudly embracing the profit motive…when they advance more regulation and Government involvement so that they can boast that they are in compliance with rigorous regulatory standards… they damage true capitalism and endanger all of the wonderful benefits that a free market system delivers.

This paragraph from Fancy Beans, for example, could have come straight from Monsanto:

We have big problems. We need to drastically reduce our carbon [sic] emissions and agriculture is a big source of them — a farmer who can reduce their use of gasoline and produce the same amount of food should be rewarded, even if she uses “Monsanto GMO seeds”. We need farms that support living wages for all their workers — if that means food production is more expensive, how will we make sure poor kids still eat nutritious and balanced diets? We need better regulations of fertilizer and pesticide runoffs — and farmers need a way to make more money when they do better than a competitor at reducing those impacts. We need more research on how to achieve all these goals sustainably and fairly and we don’t achieve that by demonizing scientists at agriculture universities because (unsurprisingly) they are funded occasionally by Monsanto.

It is precicely these types of arguments based on flawed logic and shaky science that take us away from improving productivity and efficiency — which is good for profitability and therefore good for society, the environment and “sustainability.”

We need to drastically reduce our carbon [sic] emissions…

Carbon dioxide emissions are not bad for the environment.  In fact, carbon dioxide is plant food.  We are now at 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Historically, that is very low.  Below 150 ppm, most plants cease to live.  Greenhouse operators add CO2 for enhanced plant growth.  Worrying about CO2 at 400 ppm is like being concerned that your gas tank is going to overflow when you’ve filled it up to 1/8 of its capacity.

We need better regulations of fertilizer and pesticide runoffs — and farmers need a way to make more money when they do better than a competitor at reducing those impacts.

No, we do not need more corruptible government regulations.  This is self-regulating!  Farmers already make more money when they do better than a competitor at reducing runoff!  Thanks to the profit motive, farmers are very good at making sure that their plants are the users of these high-dollar products as opposed to them being wasted by running off.  This problem is really only a problem in green-lawn-dense cities when fertilizer and pesticides are applied at very high rates without significant marginal monetary concern (i.e., profitability does not come into the decision-making process).  In any case, reports of water pollution from fertilizer and pesticides are grossly exaggerated.

We need more research on how to achieve all these goals sustainably and fairly…

The use of the word “we” has become increasingly alarming to me.  Free markets only work on the “I” level.  Individuals make many purchasing decisions daily.  The aggregate of these individual decisions gives us demand.  Farmers, in supplying products that people want, respond to this demand.  Both supply and demand change constantly.  “We” cannot determine what is fair and sustainable.  Every centralized authority who has ever tried has failed miserably.  There is no brilliant individual or committee who beats the market in such wisdom.

Monsanto became successful because they created good products that farmers voluntarily chose and choose to purchase — products that improve the bottom line for farmers.  With freedom, Monsanto and other companies will continue to innovate and invent and farmers will continue to adapt to ever-changing conditions by adopting a variety of products and technology.

♠♠♠♠

I love ag.  I love the personal responsibilty and decision-making that necessarily comes with more freedom.

When we increase the size of government, we make it easier…not harder!…for big established companies like Monsanto to eviscerate their competition. And competition is a very good thing.

In order to continue to feed the world, consumers, retailers, processors, farmers, and ranchers need more freedom, not more laws and regulations.

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29 comments on “March Against Monsanto: My “AHA!” Moment

  1. oregongreen says:

    Hit the nail on the head. It’s a trojan horse to gain control and eliminate capitalism. Same crowd, same story different villain. 🙂

    Thanks for the shout out and keep up the good work!

    Also thanks for addressing the flaws man made climate change theories so eloquently, it’s been really irking me lately and I have been trying to think how to address it myself.

  2. […] March Against Monsanto: My “AHA!” Moment […]

  3. lucibee says:

    Good blog post, but I have to take issue about one tiny thing. CO2 is not at a historic low – at least as far as human beings are concerned. The last time it was this high was at least 3 million years ago. But it’s not the level that’s the main problem, it’s the speed at which it is occurring – which seems to be fairly unique historically. Plants may like it hot and CO2-rich, but I think we might have problems – and the unpredictability of the weather that ensues won’t necessarily be on the plants’ side either. But I guess market forces will determine who survives and who doesn’t… 🙂

    • iloveag says:

      Lucibee, thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, what you take issue with is anything but tiny. “Intellectuals” are working overtime trying to reconfigure our entire economy on the back of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) scam, and “little things” like CO2 levels and the speed at which “global warming” is happening are very important… maybe not to our weather, but at least politically.

      You are correct in that the level doesn’t really matter, because the relationship between warming and GreenHouse Gas (GHG) concentration is not linear but logarithmic. I will post photos from geologist Professor Robert M. Carter’s book “Climate: The Counter Consensus” tomorrow. You correctly identify that CO2 levels have been much higher millions of years prior to today. The Earth handled it…not only survived but thrived, it seems.

      The inconvenient truth for the warmists is that we have had no global warming for the last 16 years or so, while human emissions of CO2 have continued to rise. IPCC Co-Author Kevin Trenberth, in the leaked ClimateGate emails conceded, “The fact is that we cannot account for the lack of warming at the moment and it’s a travesty that we can’t.”

      Climate is extremely noisy…an uncertain science, without a doubt. It seems that the strongest single factor affecting our climate is sunspot activity. But to encourage people to stop eating meat to save the planet is arrogantly human-centered and ignores Earth’s incredible resilience and self-regulating capability.

      I am happy to discuss further, and appreciate your kind engagement. I’ll endeavor to post supporting documentation tomorrow. 🙂

      • lucibee says:

        Here is Kevin Trenberth’s explanation:

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-here-to-stay-trenberth-converstion.html

        I’m afraid that much of the info you have mentioned has been debunked. The Skeptical Science site provides more explanation than I can do here (www.skepticalscience.com), particularly over climate sensitivity. The climate scientists at RealClimate (www.realclimate.org) are also worth a look.

        Sunspots aren’t a strong factor at all. There did seem to be some sort of correlation until about 30 years ago, but correlation now seems very low. In fact, solar activity overall is pretty low at the moment, and yet global mean temperatures just keep on going up.

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm

        Having said all that, I have no doubt that the Earth is extremely resilient – but I don’t think I want to find out whether we as a species can cope with the changes that are going to happen within the next few decades or so if we are caught napping on this one! It really isn’t a scam.

        Lucy

      • iloveag says:

        Lucy, thanks for responding. I’m afraid that much of the info on the links you provided has been debunked.

        I read long ago KT’s explanation. It doesn’t wash with me. But I always encourage individuals to drill down and decide for themselves.

        Skeptical Science dot com was started to attempt to plug the holes in their dam that were emerging because independent skeptical scientists all over the world were finding that IPCC and the political class who would benefit from the human-induced climate change movement had included dissenting scientists’ names on their initial report as though there was “consensus,” ignored facts, used unscientific magazine articles as the basis for entire chapters in their Assessment Reports, and a host of other less-than-stellar tactics. The bastardization of science that was used to construct such false graphs as the infamous Hockey Stick graph (now undeniably debunked!) is sad.

        As for sunspot activity, I believe you are proving my points. People studying the sun’s activity predicted an era of much cooler weather. We have been cooling, not heating up, for the last 16 years or so. If anything, we should be pouring as much CO2 into our atmosphere as possible! Of course, the contribution by humans is so miniscule, it would be a vain attempt.

        At the end of the day, something caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. It was not human activity. You are justified in your respect of nature. But ending the industrial age as a sacrificial offering to Gaia will not keep her harshness at bay.

      • lucibee says:

        Oh dear! Well I would rather trust a climate scientist than a Heartland Institute flunky any day!

        The science on AGW has not been debunked. The good news is that if we really are responsible, then we have a chance of doing something about it. If, as you believe, we aren’t, then we are all doomed. We don’t have to end the industrial age to do that – but we might need to accelerate the technological age…

        The AGW denialist lobby is painfully equivalent to the anti-GMO lobby in many ways. You seem to be as taken in by their myths as the anti-GMO activists are by their mythmakers. Shame!

      • iloveag says:

        Lucy, you said, “The good news is that if we really are responsible, then we have a chance of doing something about it.”

        What do you propose?

      • lucibee says:

        The science is clear that we need to reduce our carbon emissions, and fast. And by carbon emissions, I do mean that – it is not an error, as you incorrectly stated in your article, it is shorthand for greenhouse gas emissions, which includes CO2 emissions, but also includes black carbon and methane (which are also carbon compounds – and don’t start on black carbon – it’s *complicated*!). 😉 Anyway, that aside. We cannot do this alone – the role of the fossil fuel companies is absolutely crucial in this – which is why the contrarian/denialist movement is so disheartening, because they are bankrolled by those industries (allegedly).

        The anti-GMO movement make great play of wanting to ban Monsanto. Other organisations from the same stall (the anti-biotech anti-nuke warmists, if you were) want to ban and blame (and convict) fossil fuel companies, but I don’t think that is the best way forward. We are all responsible to a certain degree – but the faster we all accept that – the faster we can get on with sorting out the problem. This issue affects everyone – and I worry that we will leave it too late.

        You may dispute the science because it conflicts with your libertarian views, but I can assure you that the effects of climate change will have a far greater effect on your freedoms in the future. Science really doesn’t care what you or I think.

        I’ll leave you with this letter that appeared in Science journal a few years ago:

        http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5979/689.full

      • iloveag says:

        Okay, let’s assume there is a problem. We all come together. Now what are we going to do?

      • iloveag says:

        Lucy, you might be interested in this thoughtful post on Watts Up With That regarding Trenberth’s ongoing attempts to advance the faulty theory: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/04/open-letter-to-the-royal-meteorological-society-regarding-dr-trenberths-article-has-global-warming-stalled/

      • iloveag says:

        Lucy, I am unable to upload photos in comments, as promised. Please see this video which includes slides showing what I referenced. This video is 36.26 minutes in length. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpfMM3bVbhQ

  4. JMR says:

    I totally agree with you on the labeling issue being a Trojan horse. I can just see it now that if a bill were to pass to mandate it, then you’d see lawsuits against public schools stating that they must provide GMO free foods. Then there will be prisoners demanding for it, nursing homes will be forced to provide it, public cafeterias must comply with giving equal access based on way faulty reasoning. Then the anti-GM activists will just keep going after every entity because it is “their right.” You hit the nail right on the head!

  5. mikeb609 says:

    Sorry. I’m for GMO, too, but your capacity to defy the 97% scientific consensus on man-made global climate change is just as fatuous as the anti-GMO faction.

    • iloveag says:

      Hi Mike! Thanks for your input. Do you have a reference (with supporting data) on that 97% figure? I have never seen one, and believe this is a statistic that is entirely made up. There are many respectable scientists who believe that the climate is much too complex to simplify down to human emissions of one small GHG.

      The evidence for scare mongering around global warming is 100% a function of models, and they have failed miserably at predicting anything. Dr. David Evans was paid by the Australian Government to develop models, and he has come to believe that it’s a load of rubbish. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di5FyndJbz0 is a video in which he speaks of his experience and his change of mind.)

      In any case, science does not work by consensus, but by scientific method. As Einstein said, “No amount of experimentation can prove me wrong, but one experiment can prove me right.”

      Also, I’m laughing, because the methods used to advance the man-made global warming agenda are the same as those of the anti-GM campaigners. In both movements, people who disagree are called names like “denier” and “industry shill,” among others. In both movements, circular and viral referencing to one faulty study (if the study actually exists) are rife. The change of methodologies within studies, the piecing together of various studies…there are multiple examples of bastardization of statistics and science. Both movements have gone a long way toward undermining science, which is a great, great shame.

      Thanks again. I appreciate your input.

  6. TLN2 says:

    Please read the Purdue study at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029268 This study is not by some organic fanatics, but peer reviewed research.

    Then think about this paragraph of the study: This study was initiated in response to reports of bee kills at Indiana apiaries in spring of 2010. These reports coincided with the peak period of maize planting in the area [11]. Results of analyses of these bees and pollen from the hives revealed that both clothianidin and thiamethoxam were present on dead bees and in pollen collected from a single hive. These compounds were also present in dead bees from other hives but NOT in bees from hives that did not show mortality.

    It is not necessarily the GMO that is directly causing the problems but rather the unintended consequences of the product. We need these pollinators!

    In the early 1990s, we were really good at growing corn using bio-intensive integrated pest management (bio-IPM). In practice, that meant crop rotations, supporting natural predators, using biocontrol agents like ladybugs and as a last resort, using chemical controls only after pests had been scouted for and found. During this time of peak bio-IPM adoption, today’s practice of blanketing corn acreage with “insurance” applications of various pesticides without having established the need to do so would have been unthinkable. It’s expensive to use inputs you don’t need, and was once the mark of bad farming.

    Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, Genetically Engineered corn and neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) seed treatments both entered the market — the two go hand-in-hand, partly by design and partly by accident. Conditions for the marketing of both products were ripe due to a combination of factors:

    •regulatory pressures and insect resistance had pushed previous insecticide classes off the market, creating an opening for neonicotinoids to rapidly take over global marketshare;

    •patented seeds became legally defensible, and the pesticide industry gobbled up the global seed market; and

    •a variant of the corn rootworm outsmarted soy-corn rotations, driving an uptick in insecticide use around 1995-96.

    Then, as if on cue, Monsanto introduced three different strains of patented, GE corn between 1997 and 2003 (RoundUp Ready, and two Bt-expressing variants aimed at controlling the European Corn Borer and corn root worm). Clothianidin entered the U.S. market under conditional registration in 2003, and in 2004 corn seed companies began marketing seeds treated with a 5X level of neonicotinoids (1.25 mg/seed vs. .25).

    In the space of a decade, U.S. corn acreage undergoes a ten-fold increase in average insecticide use! By 2007, the average acre of corn has more than three systemic insecticides — both Bt traits and a neonicotinoid. Compare this to the early 1990s, when only an estimated 30-35 percent of all corn acreage were treated with insecticides at all.

    In 2008, USDA’s Federal Crop Insurance Board of Directors approved reductions in crop insurance premiums for producers who plant certain Bt corn hybrids. By 2009, 40 percent of corn farmers interviewed said they did not have access to elite (high-yielding) non-Bt corn seed. It is now common knowledge that conventional corn farmers have a very hard time finding seed that is not genetically engineered and treated with neonicotinoids.

    Ag is our primary contaminator of ground water, expensive or not.

    • iloveag says:

      TLN, I’ve been hearing my entire life about how the world was going to end because honey bees were threatened. Correlation does not indicate causation. Your hypothesis of causation is easily tested in a scientific controlled study (which the link you provided does not do).

      Just by the by, I’m opposed to all Government intervention in markets, including the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize crop insurance. 🙂

      In any case, in the real world of non-taxpayer funded insurance, when risk is lower, premiums are lower. I know first-hand about the experience of GM (Roundup-Ready, or RR) canola growers in Western Australia. GM canola gave them a much better chance of harvesting a good crop because they could seed into dry soil before winter rains came, then treat emerging weeds with glyphosate after rains came. The risk on GM canola was much less than the risk of non-GM. So, at least in the free-market world, the scenario you paint makes sense.

      As for “conventional corn farmers have a very hard time finding seed that is not genetically engineered and treated with neonicotinoids,” that sounds to me like a great business opportunity!

      • TLN2 says:

        Your entire life? More emotional hogwash.

        What part of this do you not understand: “Results of analyses of these bees and pollen from the hives revealed that both clothianidin and thiamethoxam were present on dead bees and in pollen collected from a single hive. These compounds were also present in dead bees from other hives BUT NOT IN BEES FROM HIVES that did not show mortality. Also found was atrazine, a herbicide that is commonly used in maize production and is relatively non-toxic to honey bees [12].”

        Why do most farmers have bee hives or hire bee hives and why?

        What has happened to bee population in the past 5 Years?

        What other study/research do you have that offers another explanation?

        What about the leaked EPA study results:
        http://grist.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/memo_nov2010_clothianidin.pdf

        What is opinion of the USDA’s lead scientist Jeffery Pettis on the topic?

        Why are other countries banning the pesticides?

        I would say get your head out of the sand but I don’t think that is where it is at!

      • iloveag says:

        TLN, yes, fear mongering around ag chemicals negatively impacting upon bee populations has been going on since at least the early 1970s (about the same time the Global Cooling scare was being advanced). Rachel Carson started it in earnest in 1962. I was born in 1970.

        I wonder if you agree that correlation can exist without indicating causation?

        I wonder if you can clarify just what your interest is in all of this, and what you propose? If you were in control of the world, what would you do?

  7. TLN2 says:

    Please quote your source for: “In any case, reports of water pollution from fertilizer and pesticides are grossly exaggerated.”

    From the EPA: “In the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory, states reported that agricultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution was the leading source of water quality impacts on surveyed rivers and lakes, the second largest source of impairments to wetlands, and a major contributor to contamination of surveyed estuaries and ground water.

    Agricultural activities that cause NPS pollution include poorly located or managed animal feeding operations; overgrazing; plowing too often or at the wrong time; and improper, excessive or poorly timed application of pesticides, irrigation water and fertilizer.”

    Please go to http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/agriculture.cfm for more information.

    The people need facts, not emotional guesswork.

    • iloveag says:

      TLN2, the link you provide is interesting indeed.

      [To all of my agricultural readers: I encourage you to drill down and see what is happening with EPA and USDA in union. Look at the links at the bottom of the little 3-paragraph blurb on “Polluted Runoff” that TLN2 provided.]

      I do not need to quote my source. All I have to do is highlight useful links like the one you provided, and good, honest, independent-minded people will see the problems with the claims for themselves. People might be ignorant of many things, but they are not stupid.

      Finally, I agree totally with your final statement. The rabid environmentalists who are working on issues such as this “polluted runoff” issue for EPA are the ones we might remind of this. 🙂

    • iloveag says:

      “Agricultural activities that cause NPS pollution include poorly located or managed animal feeding operations; overgrazing; plowing too often or at the wrong time; and improper, excessive or poorly timed application of pesticides, irrigation water and fertilizer.”

      So, TLN2, these agricultural activities, in the interest of saving societies’ water, must be controlled. Ah, yes!

  8. TLN2 says:

    “It’s a trojan horse to gain control and eliminate capitalism.”

    Ever read the end user agreement for GMO seed?

    The main players of GMO have an end user agreement that prevents anyone else from using the seed from plants grown from their seed or from performing independent research on GMO claims. So much for good regulation! The regulation needs to be fixed in the U.S. before there is any good independent review of the GMO claims. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

    But why should that be suspicious? Another thing that I find cheesy is that a farmer can’t use seed from the crops he grows. Now we have the “seed police” to contend with and a dependence on seed manufacturers.

    Lastly, we now have the “Monsanto Protection Act” passed into law this year, apparently by congressmen and women that did not even realize it was in the bill, so they claim. http://rt.com/usa/protection-act-monsanto-apologizes-229/ So why is this necessary?

    • iloveag says:

      TLN2, at the end of the day, if you are concerned about GM crops and food, you can grow your own and avoid it all. The weight of evidence suggests that GM crops are not dangerous to human health or the environment. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I will continue to consume products made with the technology. I will continue to defend farmers’ right to choose GM seed and to use chemicals in their agricultural production.

      I personally do not depend upon Government regulation for reassurance. I use my own brain to think through things… most especially if regulations are involved! I favor caveat emptor (buyer beware) and free markets. If there is a problem with the regulatory system being corrupt (and I am sympathetic to that argument), then the regulations cannot be fixed.

      Now, if the environmental lobby were truly concerned about GM corn, for example, being bad for people, they could easily go and purchase a few tons and perform independent research. Monsanto would never know until the damning results of your independent research are released. And if the integrity of the scientific and statistical methodologies withstood scrutiny, Monsanto’s claims of violation of end-user agreements would be laughed at in comparison to the sheer weight of the damning results.

      Finally, I am personally opposed to Government-issued patents (I know that this is a stretch for many people, but I highly recommend Terence Kealey’s book “The Economic Laws of Scientific Research” for a full explanation of my position). But in any case, Monsanto does not hold a gun to farmers’ heads and force them to buy their seed and sign the agreement. Monsanto has every right to make purchase of seed (or any product) contingent upon such an agreement. If you want to grow your own replacement seed, then don’t buy Monsanto’s products and don’t sign the agreement.

  9. Dear Iloveag.
    I am in ore of your blog and your ability to deal so amiable with all those Green types who rellie so much on fear and pseudo science.
    Keynes may not be your favourite economist ,but the gem that I remember is “When I am wrong I change my mind” this is a philosophy some of your respondents should consider.
    The anti GMO people are for the most part Greens there will of course be an element of the self serving and the just stupid.
    I find it very difficult to distinguish between the Fascists the Greensand the Communists, they are all prescriptive, authoritarian, dogmatic and dishonest.
    Iloveag, you are a saint for science. If you are familiar with the Catholic faith, you will be aware of the fait of a lot of Saints.
    To you” I doffs me lid” and I hope that this is as small consolation.
    GC Kall

    • iloveag says:

      Thank you, Graeme. Hmmm… I am aware of the fate of a lot of saints. I would be honoured to be a saint for science.

      Small consolations are welcome.

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