Re: question on labelling genetically modified foods

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sat Jan 08 2000 - 07:34:42 MST

On Fri, 7 Jan 2000 wrote:

> In a message dated 1/7/00 1:51:47 PM Central Standard Time,
> writes:
> > Wouldn't it make sense to have a non-profit
> > organisation developing such crops with the explicit purpose
> > of eradicating hunger in the third world?
> Wasn't something like that already done? The green revolution or some
> such....something about a new variety of rice in the orient....I seem to
> recall that it was a great success....but the "unintended consequences' were
> a bugger....

EvMick is right, there was a Rice Institute, in the Philipines I believe.
It was I believe supported by the Rockefeller Foundation among others.
It did develop very high yield rice strains, in part my making them
"shorter" (i.e. grow faster, devote less energy to stalk production).
They did require higher fertilizer levels which contributes to the
high cost of "commercial" agriculture, contributes to ground water
polution, algae blooms, ecosystem disruption, etc. that Eugene mentions.

I'm with Eugene that "Agriculture" as it is currently practiced (both
the Natural/Organic and Commercial varieties) is about to get turned
on its head. This is a straightforward consequence of knowing the
genetic programs of all of the food crops and animals and the developing
ability to create designer species. Its going to be back to the days
of the wild-wild west and it will be interesting to see how governments,
consumers, wealthy & poor react to all of the coming changes.

Regarding the comments of whether or not current consumers are behaving
"rationally", I think we have been kidnapped by an inertia effect.
Many of the people on the list are probably too young to remember the
'60's and '70's when early environmental movement was just getting
started. Back then, it was true that industry was really laying
waste to the commons (air, water, etc.). The environmental laws were
tough to get enacted and industry resisted them tooth and nail. However
the benefits are quite clear. We still aren't quite there yet with
air quality in some of the cities, but the technology for fixing
this is in the pipeline. However, we have the problem that environmental
"quality" is a very loosely defined thing. The general impression that
people have is that if some is good, more is better. That may be *true*
to some degree, but it ignores the problem of diminishing returns and
increasing costs for incremental improvements. My suspicion is that
you should have a careful analysis of the marginal costs & benefits
of each level of environmental milestones and implement each successive
level only as the economy grows enough to support those additional
quality improvements. But this type of analysis is very hard.


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