Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Can _your_ potato glow in the dark?

While appreciating the so-much-better tasting and oh-so-subsidized lunches at INRIA, I often think about the Genetically Modified [GM] food in the USA, and of the identical-looking tomatoes that are now available in Patna and elsewhere in India. I also note that my fellow labmates here lament the fact that even the vegetables in France are not safe from pesticides, and the occasional contamination from GM farm-lab pollen.

On that topic, I would like to draw your attention to two interesting news stories on the NPR front page recently.

The first is about Honduras, where farmers are embracing GM technology.
He pulls the husk from one ear and shows off the gleaming rows of white kernels. There are no worms in this corn, which is remarkable, because such worms are everywhere in this part of Honduras and Rubio hasn't sprayed any insecticides.

"No, the only thing we need here is the seed, the fertilizer and the herbicide," he says.

Remember that something similar happened in India with cotton, but there are issues [not including the fact that the husks cannot be fed to sheep anymore]
Others scoff at this prediction. Most farmers in Honduras, they point out, are too poor to spend much money on expensive corn seed or anything else that would boost their production, including fertilizer or irrigation.

The second news comes from China, where an ex-stockbroker has decided to farm organically. He has an interesting perspective on bugs:
Luo says he expects to lose one-third of his crops to bugs and another third to birds — leaving just one-third for him to sell.

"Those bugs have the right to stay here. They're part of the food chain. If we kill them, then there will be no birds on the farm," Luo says.

"Eventually, there will be only human beings on the planet — and it will be a silent spring," he says, evoking Rachel Carson's seminal book, which brought environmental concerns to the attention of a broad U.S. audience.

Sadly, he is not making a whole bunch of money, as expected:
For example, vegetables that have been grown without pesticides often sport holes in their leaves — where bugs have eaten. Luo says his customers know to expect that.

But such "imperfect" vegetables could "never be sold on the conventional market," he says.

Luo has about 50 buyers for his weekly market baskets. He used to make most of his money serving organic lunches to visitors. But that business plummeted after the May earthquake.

Lets see how it develops.
P.S. Yay for the 'motherlode' of Gorillas recently found in Congo [with videos], and prayers that they will now not all be killed by loggers, poachers and Ebola :-|.

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