GMO: Hero or Villian?
Let me explain a few things about the GMO myth/ scam, since a few strong, emotional reactions against GMO crops were brought out by a previous post, Edible GMO cotton could supply protein to 600 million people daily — Genetic Literacy Project . The “NonGMO” food packaging label implies that GMO crops are somehow dangerous, but are they? Most of the fear is based on propaganda by anti-technology advocacy groups such as Green Peace and “Big Organic” organizations. Many companies that sell agricultural produce have been intimidated by these groups into adding the “NonGMO” label to their products for fear of bad publicity, protests and reduced sales. Even products such as salt and water sometimes bear the label, even though they could not possibly have used or contain any GMO crops. This intimidation strategy was adopted by activists when they failed to get the government to require “contains GMO” labels.
What is GMO and why are people afraid of it? Genetically Modified Organism, GMO, means that gene editing bio-technology has been used to insert or remove a specific gene in the DNA of an organism, (plant, animal or microbe) to enhance or add favorable characteristics, such as added vitamins or protein, insect and disease resistance, enhanced yield or drought resistance; or to remove genes for unfavorable traits such as bitterness or toxins. The previous post cited above is about removing a gene that produces a toxin in cotton seeds in order to make them available as a much needed high protein food source for man and animals alike.
For example, if a plant lacks a certain needed vitamin, a gene can be added so it produces the vitamin. None of the other characteristics of the plant are changed. Unlike conventional breeding, which crosses or irradiates entire genomes, sometimes with unexpected negative results, GMO only affects the specific trait needed. It’s the difference between a shotgun approach and a precision insertion.
Conventional breeding has been used for centuries to produce the food supply we have today. Cross breeding over generations changed corn from a plant with a few seeds to one yielding the robust ears we know today. Wheat, by similar method has increased yields, reduced time to harvest and improved disease resistance from the original tall, low yield, disease prone, area-and-season-specific original plant, so that multiple crops can be harvested each year in a variety or environments. Rice has been improved in similar ways. These improved high yield varieties (HYV) have saved millions of lives. Beginning in the 1950s this Green Revolution changed countries like India, Pakistan and Mexico from near-starvation, foreign aid crop importers into net exporters. None of the rights to these high yield varieties have been controlled or retained by “Big Ag” companies or nonprofit organizations.
So, why are GMO improved crops needed? Precision agriculture, (a better term than GMO), can go beyond conventional means to produce specific changes while leaving the other characteristics untouched. One special advantage of GMO is that genes from a different species can be inserted to add nutrients or other traits not present in the original varieties. Golden Rice is a good example of this. By inserting a gene for beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, from corn or similar species, the much needed but absent Vitamin A can be produced in rice. This is very important because Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and death in people who use rice as the staple foundation of their diets. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A deficient children go blind each year, half of whom die.
Source: Black, Robert E, “Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences,” Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group, Lancet, January 17, 2008
Why Do People Fear GMO? Unfortunately, anti-technology groups, led by Green Peace, have opposed these improvements that could save the lives of millions, against any logical reasoning. They claim that Big Ag companies, specifically targeting Monsanto and later Bayer, retain the patent rights to these crops as a way to control farmers. Stories of low yields, crop failures, suicides of farmers and law suits by corporations against farmers abound; as are tales of serious allergies, health effects and GMO pollen “infecting” other crops. When investigated, they are all found to be false, unproven and irreproducible anecdotes aside. GMO crops are the most thoroughly researched and certified as safe plants on the planet. Any that are found to cause even mild health reactions are quickly weeded out and rejected.
At present, there are over 40 companies and nonprofit organizations producing precision biotech enhanced plants around the world. Over 40 countries have approved genetically enhanced crops as safe, including the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
The rights to most these seeds are freely given away to impoverished peoples, without any strings attached. The seeds can be saved from year to year, so that even control through economic means is false. Only hybrids require purchasing new seed from the producer each year. Hybrids are crosses between dis-similar varieties that do not breed true in subsequent plantings. GMO crops are not hybrids, and neither are the Green Revolution high yield varieties, which were originally crosses of very similar varieties, that breed true in subsequent plantings.
Environmental groups such as Green Peace have adopted this anti-GMO rhetoric as a cause celebre to cripple modern agriculture, which they oppose on questionable environmental grounds. The European Union has also taken up the banner in order to block agricultural competition to their subsidized farmers by agricultural imports from other countries like the USA, as well as by poor South and Central American, Asian, and African countries that grow any GMO crops. The internet is awash with outrageous half-truths, outright lies, and conspiracy theories so that the average person doesn’t know what to believe. Most people will choose the cautious approach and avoid GMO products without really understanding why. Remember, it’s all about economics and ideology, not science or actual harm. Meanwhile, it serves to keep impoverished countries poor, thus furthering the overpopulation and genetic inferiority myths.
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” —Mark Twain
“… shake off all Prejudice, nor harbor any favorite opinions: for, if you do, it is not unlikely Fancy will betray you into Error, and make you think you see what you would wish to see. Remember, that Truth alone is the Matter you are in Search after; and if you have been mistaken, let no Vanity reduce you to persist in your Mistake.
From chapter XV of Henry Baker’s Of Microscopes and the Discoveries Made Thereby, 1785.
Saving Africa from Lies that Kill, Chapter 11, “The Green Revolution and Precision Agriculture …,” has more information that could not be included here for brevity.
Over 110 Nobel Laureates sent a letter to Green Peace re: their support of Precision Agriculture in general and particularly Golden Rice. See “Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs)”
My new book, Saving Africa from Lies that Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries is now available at bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, in print and eBook. If you like the book, please review it at any of the above online sites. Thank you.
Updated from original post Nov. 15, 2018
The Overpopulation Myth – 200+ years of doom and gloom
Who says the world is overpopulated? And what does that mean anyway? Hunger? Crowding? Environmental harm? For over 200 years we’ve been told that the world is overpopulated. But is it? Check this out.
In 1798, Thomas Malthus thought the world was overpopulated when world population was under one billion. He wanted to deny aid to the poor in his country and praised malaria for keeping the death rate high and life spans short in Africa and other developing countries. He saw disease, famine and war as good things to reduce population. His philosophy, which prompted Britain to pass laws against helping the Irish, was responsible for a million deaths in the Irish potato famine while still exporting wheat from Ireland to Britain. Malthus made two major erroneous assumptions: no improvements in crop yields per acre and the genetic inferiority, enhanced fertility and inability of the poor to improve their economic status. He was wrong.
“Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and restrain those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpations of particular disorders.”
—Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principles of Population, 1798
When world population was about 1.3 billion, Charles Darwin, whose Theory of Evolution was based on Malthus’ book, thought the struggle for survival would cause the extinction of underdeveloped cultures by developed peoples. He was wrong.
“At some future period, not very distant as measured in centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.”
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871
Francis Galton, creator of Eugenics, the so-called science of improving the human race, thought the African races were so inferior genetically that Chinese should be settled in Africa to drive the Negro races to extinction and replace them. He was wrong.
“My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race.”
— The Times, June 5, 1873, “Africa for the Chinese,” Francis Galton
The Eugenics movement in Britain and America wanted to reduce the population by preventing procreation by “genetically inferior” people, including sterilization and institutionalization. The Eugenics movement influenced policies that limited immigration based on racial and ethnic background because of the assumed genetic inferiority of certain races and cultures.
Around 1920 when the population was about 1.9 billion, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and a prominent eugenicist, believed we needed to get rid of “human weeds,” including dark skinned people from Southern Europe, Africa and India as well as the mentally or physically impaired. She counted among them the generationally poor and criminals. She advocated for sterilization and birth control, and later for abortion. She was wrong.
“The most serious charge that can be brought against modern benevolence is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression.”
— Margaret Sanger in The Pivot of Civilization, 1922
In the 1930s when world population was about 2 billion, Adolf Hitler believed the world was overpopulated and, following an older philosophy of German expansion, sought to gain “Lebensraum” (living room) by invading other countries and exterminating “inferior” people, including Jews and Gypsies. By doing so he sought to create a super race of Arian Germans. He was wrong.
“In the limitation of this living space lies the compulsion for the struggle for survival, and the struggle for survival, in turn contains the precondition for evolution.”
— Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, 1925
When The Population Bomb was published in 1968 by Paul Ehrlich, world population was about 3.7 billion. He believed the world was overpopulated and required drastic action to reduce the population in order to prevent mass starvation and collapse of the society. He was wrong.
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…”
— Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968
In that same decade, US Indian Health Service, using newly created Medicaid money, began sterilizing or implanting IUDs in Native American women without informed consent or knowledge and it was often coerced. For some tribes, it was near genocide. Department of Health Education and Welfare Population Crisis Committee sterilized up to a third of women in Puerto Rico.
Planned Parenthood clinics, which had been placed in poor, mostly black, neighborhoods began the modern abortion industry targeting African Americans as “human weeds;” the US Office of Economic Opportunity also set up “birth control” clinics in black neighborhoods and schools.
In 1966, under President Johnson, US AID began requiring population control quotas as a condition for receiving foreign aid, even in famines or other emergencies. Mass sterilization camps were set up in poor countries using equipment supplied by the UN and US. This has continued to this day except for a recent Trump ban on USAID and US support for UNFPA being used for sterilization and abortion. However, other agencies have filled the gap. Today, the United Nations has stepped up their propaganda and coercion of poor countries for liberalization of abortion laws.
Meanwhile, in the 1960s Norman Borlaug and others began the Green Revolution by breeding more prolific, more disease resistant and more nutritious varieties of grains along with modern agricultural methods. Crop yields increased by orders of magnitude, making it possible to feed the world without sacrificing forests and other pristine wilderness areas. India went from famine to self-sustainability in little more than a decade.
In 1972, after nearly 30 years of controlling disease carrying insects, DDT was banned by the EPA in spite of overwhelming evidence refuting claims of harm; the ban was based more on political fears of a growing population in developing countries than on real science or perceived harm. It had been largely responsible for eradicating malaria in North America and Europe, and reducing its incidence in developing countries in which it was used. US and UN agencies then required developing countries to abandon DDT in order to receive financial support. It is even now only beginning to be used on interior walls in some areas of Africa to control malaria carrying mosquitoes. India never banned its use for homes and has greatly reduced malaria by semiannual spraying of interior walls. Today India manufactures and exports DDT. See “DDT: A Study in Scientific Fraud,” by J. Gordon Edwards, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 9 Number 3 Fall 2004. On the web at these links: http://www.jpands.org/vol9no3/edwards.pdf, and related blog DDT Needed Now in Underdeveloped Countries,
“My own doubts came when DDT was introduced for civilian use. In Guyana, within two years it had almost eliminated malaria, but at the same time the birth rate had doubled. So my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.”
—Alexander King, cofounder of the Club of Rome, 1990
Today the world population is about 7.5 billion. USAID, UNFPA, (Fund for Population Activities), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), International Planned Parenthood, Population Council and other groups continue the abortion, sterilization, IUD implantation and birth control activities in poor countries around the world. China has had a draconian one child policy involving forced abortions, sterilization and denial of benefits. Recently China has allowed a second child, but only after 4 years and only with a state approval certificate. A child born outside this requirement gets no government benefits or education.
So, is the world overpopulated? Let’s look at what we mean by overpopulated.
Do we have enough food for everyone? Yes. Thanks to modern agricultural techniques and high yield crops there is more than enough for at least 11 billion people without any increase in acres cultivated. Advancing technology will probably multiply the yield still further as it has in the past. Is the food distributed fairly? No. Hunger has more to do with local politics than with food supplies. Corrupt governments, propped up by government to government foreign aid, are incentivized to help with international population control schemes, but not to build infrastructure, attract investment and help to raise the standard of living of their own rural poor. Corrupt governments want aid to continue, so economic development threatens this.
Is there enough room for all the people? Compared to the land area of the earth, the population is very small. For perspective, if the entire global population was placed on the big island of Hawaii, everyone would have 1.4 square meters to sit or stand. Using the same thought experiment, if all the people in the world were placed in Texas, each person would have almost 93 square meters. A family of four would have 372 square meters. That’s about 4000 square feet, enough for a 2000 square foot house and a yard or garden. No one is suggesting we actually do this, except for the loony left who are grasping at straws to defeat this argument against the overpopulation myth.
Global average population is 55 people per kilometer of land area, excluding Antarctica. That’s 17.96 acres per family of four. In 2016, over 54% of the population lived in cities, which covers only 2.7% of the land. That means that 46% of the population is rural and lives on 97.3% of the land area. That calculates to 26 people /km2 in rural areas or 38 acres per family of four. Yes, I know that large areas are uninhabitable. Even if we assumed 50% uninhabitable, that’s still a lot of land per person. The fact that only 10% of the land is actually inhabited doesn’t change the picture. There is still a lot of land out there to accommodate and feed a larger population. All this doesn’t even count the 71% of the earth’s surface that is water, which is a food source and a highway between markets.
Is the environment being harmed by too many people? No. Poverty, including subsistence farming, not population, causes environmental harm and deforestation. Modern agriculture and higher yield crop varieties can end deforestation and provide surplus crops to sell. Roads, electricity, clean water and disease control can provide a healthy workforce and energy to attract investors and run industry.
Developed countries have bought into the overpopulation myth to the point that their birth rates are below replacement value. Japan, which reached one of the lowest global birth rates of 1.4 in 2014, has started paying people to have children because of the looming demographic catastrophe. Some of the highest density areas of the world are the richest. Look at Shanghai. It is not only the most populated city in the world, 24 million, but is one of the most prosperous.
Rural poor areas in developing countries are underpopulated. With diseases from insects and contaminated water taking a high toll and attrition from migration into cities by the young and healthy, there are not enough healthy people to build infrastructure and markets and raise the standard of living of the rural poor. They already have population control. They certainly don’t need birth control, sterilization and abortion.
Is the planet overpopulated? By all measures of overpopulation, the earth is far from capacity to support its people. Since overpopulation advocates have been scaring us for 200 years, why should be believe what they keep saying? Quit worrying about an assumed problem that has yet to materialize. The real problem is with the population control advocates, the abortionists, the sterilizers and the international governmental and nongovernmental organizations that keep paying these organizations for killing off the hope of the future while keeping people in extreme poverty: poor, sick, isolated, ignorant and controlled. Free market solutions are the answer, not money given to prop up corrupt government officials and that the poor never see.
The rural poor in developing countries need disease control, electricity and roads to end isolation. They need Employment, Education, Investment, Infrastructure and Disease Control to join the 21st century.
Note: Updated from an earlier post, June 2018.
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The book: Saving Africa from Lies that Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries was published in November, 2018. Print and eBook are available online at Amazon.com. and other outlets.
My first book, Perverted Truth Exposed: How Progressive Philosophy has Corrupted Science was published in 2016. It is available in print and ebook, on line only, through World Net Daily store, Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. See the companion blog at www.realscienceblog.com for related posts.
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