A lot of people who are upset that this blog exists have taken to posting links on other social media websites, where they are free to rail about my lack of evidence and sources in a space free from having to look at any of that pesky evidence or sources.
About 40-45% of the hits this blog…
This is really a great tumblr and these kinds of responses to it just prove why. Lots of education needed.
In my most recent regular blog post I, in passing, suggested Washington’s current initiative will get tied up in the courts. @ramez responded: “I’m still going to oppose the WA initiative due to the front-of-package thing. You think that might not hold in court?”
Now, I am most definitely not an expert and I have no idea if it will (ultimately) hold up in court. I do think (should it pass) that it will get tied up in court. I see it as a good thing. It’s a bad law and needs fixing. Being tied up in court means the front-of-packaging part will go away or at least be delayed. Maybe a judge ruling it conflicts with some obscure provision of trade law or federal law. Maybe the industry comes to its senses and voluntarily labels in a less fear-mongering way and then convinces the state legislature to fix the law (since their version would almost certainly be more useful — if it specified which ingredients might be GE.)
I do think it plausible that the front of packaging requirement will just not hold up. The FTC and the FDA both look very poorly on labeling they consider misleading. Consider rBGH. Every company that sells dairy products produced from cows not given artificial (GE origin!) growth hormones and wants to trumpet that fact, also includes a disclaimer about the fact that no differences have been found in milk from rBGH vs non-rBGH treated cows. The FDA didn’t specifically say “you must include a disclaimer”. They just made it clear that without that disclaimer, it could easily mislead consumers. And that was for voluntary labeling.
I suspect front-of-packaging labeling might hit the same kind of general reasoning. We reserve (generally) mandatory front-of-packaging labeling for Very Important Information. Everything else is marketing. If one company’s product has that GE label on the front and another doesn’t, it implies there’s a difference between the two that just doesn’t exist. It stops being informational and starts being something else. Worse, it’s forcing a company to say something misleading about their own product.
But who knows. All I’m pretty sure of is that if the initiative passes, it will probably get tied up in court for a while.
Meet Pax Dickinson. He’s the Chief Technology Officer at Business Insider, a fast growing tech news website. The CTO is a pretty high-level position. They are pretty much responsible for the technology side of a business.
Along with being the CTO of a large web company, Pax Dickinson just happens…
A woman I respect and admire suggested someone try talking to Mike in light of all the post-PAX uproar. This is my attempt to reach Mike and explain what I’m thinking, why his language has me worked up, and some thoughts on aligning his words and actions so that future attendees will feel safe…
Own conclusions: Fighting global hunger is… a team game in which the different players should reach out to each other and see how, together, they can achieve their common goal faster and more economically… supporting Golden Rice and kitchen gardens is not mutually exclusive.
Some sense and facts on Golden Rice.
In Hybrid, Noel Kingsbury writes about Vandana Shiva. Her earlier writing is even more radical than I realized (from p. 323-4):
In her 1991 book, The Violence of the Green Revolution, Shiva maintains that the Green Revolution set off a spiral of social conflict. Between 1970 and 1980, the number of land holdings in Punjab state fell by around 25 percent as a result of poorer farmers leaving the land, often, according to Shiva, because they were unable to afford the higher costs of inputs needed by the new crops. She goes on to claim that increasing indebtedness in Punjab during the early 1980s led to agitation by farmers over the costs of agricultural inputs, which contributed to the destabilization of the state by Sikh separatists, culminating in the attack by the Indian army on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984 and the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She tries to blame the Green Revolution for more or less everything that went wrong in Punjab during this time: alcoholism, smoking, drug addiction, pornography, and violence against women. In particular, she sees the Green Revolution as a “cultural strategy” replacing “traditional peasant co-operation with competition, of prudent living with conspicuous consumption, of soil and crop husbandry with the calculus of subsidies, profits and remunerative prices.”
… [couple paragraphs about Shiva’s emphasis on the importance of seed and how traditional societies self-manage and how the Green Revolution brought in the marketplace]
Radical critics of the Green Revolution such as Shiva tend to ignore the fact that many, indeed most, traditional societies were far more integrated into extensive market-based systems than is often supposed and that many traditional societies were extremely rigid, offering a life of poverty and ceaseless hard work for the vast majority; it is for this reason that many of these millions are leaving the country for the city — they want the possibility of freedom from centuries of class- and ethnically based repression, the change to be part of a labor market that offers minimal options rather than none at all, and the opportunity to better themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurial activity. Interestingly, critics like Shiva rarely discuss the deeply oppressive nature of many traditional societies; instead, the traditional village becomes an idealized golden age. Any mention of India’s own “peculiar institution” — caste — is strangely absent from Shiva’s discourse.
I’ve no doubt that societal change impacted Punjabi (and Indian society) dramatically but it does seem outrageously unfair to blame all social ills on that one change without acknowledging what people were getting out of it.
In Hybrid, Noel Kingsbury points out something I hadn’t realized. Many of the twentieth century egalitarians - the socialists, the land reformers and so on - strongly believed that progressive changes in societal structure, including equitable divisions of land, would inevitably lead to productivity improvements especially in agriculture. Sadly this wasn’t the case (p. 298):
As in Mexico, land reform, which had been instituted by the Nehru government in the 1950s, did little to improve productivity. For many in India, this was a failure of hope and progressive politics. By the mid-1960s, the food situation in India was becoming increasingly troubled: there were serious failures of the monsoon, leading to a real concern that famine would return; there was tension with Pakistan; and there was an upsurge in Communist-instigated political violence. … It was not surprising that C. Subramanian, the Minister of Agriculture, in announcing the Fourth Five Year Plan for agriculture in 1965, decided to go all-out for increasing yields through science and in state support for entrepreneurs.
I’ve been reading Hybrid by Noel Kingsbury and I’m reminded of the mixed purposes of agricultural policy in the 1950s and 1960s (p. 288-9):
Here might be the technology that would enable poor countries to feed themselves, resist the blandishments of subversion [communism], and build their economies — and so become trading partners for the United States. It would be wrong, however, to see the origins of U.S. involvement with the start of the Green Revolution entirely in cynical foreign policy terms. The humanitarian impulse was also very strong and was particularly linked to food policy. With the opening up of the West, America had become the world’s leading agricultural nation; the successes of American farmers and scientists in feeding not only their own nation, but their trading partners, and increasingly, countries in crisis, contributed to an almost evangelical sense of mission — America could feed the world! And had a duty to! Cynics might point to the “white man’s burden” of the European imperial powers, the attitude that the powerful had a duty to arrogate the right to organize the lives of the less powerful, but there is also something very moving about the conviction that a nation that can produce so much, has a duty to help others achieve the same.
I’ve been reading Hybrid by Noel Kingsbury and the section on mutation breeding comments on just how important some mutation-bred varieties are (p. 268):
Perhaps one of the greatest successes has been the durum wheat ‘Creso,’ which covered about one-third of the total acreage for the crop in Italy in the early 1990s. Those who might be worried about “irradiated genes” will by now be choking on their spaghetti. Accountants were certainly not choking — it has been calculated that during ten years of production, ‘Creso’ generated $1.8 billion I’m additional value for Italian farmers — the total costs of the mutation breeding program on durum at the Casaccia center near Rome over a fifteen-year period came to only $3.5 million.
[Contains some spoilers for Pacific Rim.]
So, it’s come to my attention that there are a bunch of people who think Mako Mori is a “weak” female character, because of course.
In fact a good friend of mine (who is a woman and professional film reviewer) thought Mako was too “emotional” , which…