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42 Comments

  1. @Rod: Two points.

    First, Dan Kahan’s correlation of risk factor perceptions is exceptionally illuminating. IOW, the reason “the same orgs” promote opposition to these things is because… they tend to be populated by people who also have higher risk perceptions of these technologies. In other words, birds of a feather flock together. People who worry about nuclear energy also tend to worry about GMOs.

    Second, big agriculture? Are you kidding me? Have you heard of Archer-Daniels Midland and Monsanto? I hate to break it to you, but they’re not exactly opposed GMOs. I think your thesis could use a bit of work.

      1. In the US? A substantial fraction – namely because they dominate much of the supply chain in one fashion or another. Seed, processing, distribution – you name it. If you’re talking about GMOs, Monsanto is GMOs; they’re the ones that produce “Roundup Ready” soybeans and a variety of other GMO lines. Further, Monsanto has a pretty open record lobbying leaders directly in the other direction.

        If you’re going to tie them to anything, tie them to the biofuels nonsense, where there’s certainly a more direct and substantiated connection. But as far as GMOs go, you really need to come up with a better argument. You could always argue that niche players are trying to make inroads by trashing the dominant producers on the market (i.e., casting FUD on GMOs to market “organic” food at a premium), but these clearly aren’t the multibillion dollar corporations you are looking for.

        1. @Steve Skutnik

          Annual farm revenue in the US is about $400 billion. Monsanto’s total revenue (worldwide) in 2013 was $15 billion.

          ADM, which is the recipient of a large portion of the biofuels (ethanol) scam, had a total revenue in 2013 of nearly $90 billion.

          By the way, anti-GMO activism is far more intense in the EU, often led by farming organizations protecting their market share (although the cover story is often that they are more interested in protecting their crops from contamination).

    1. @Steve Skutnik

      In other words, birds of a feather flock together. People who worry about nuclear energy also tend to worry about GMOs.

      “Birds of a feather” don’t make enough contributions to support multinational NGOs with hundreds of millions in annual revenue and thousands of professional employees. Most claim to avoid “corporate” money, but where do you think foundation money comes from?

    2. I had the same thought. You could also add Cargill (> $100B). They are driving GMO’s.

      I think the similarity between anti-GMO and anti-nuke is basically anti-progress, anti-science. They want to pluck bananas off the trees and watch TV with a little windmill on top.

      1. @SteveK9

        You and Steve are free to continue believing that anti-progress people are honestly seeking a simpler life. As was the case with the original Luddites, I think it is more accurate to recognize that the people who successfully slow progress are those who are motivated by protecting their current economic status from competition from superior, more cost-effective products.

        Riddle me this – why do you think portions of France’s farm sector has worked so hard to ban all GMOs?

        1. “why do you think portions of France’s farm sector has worked so hard to ban all GMOs?”

          Because of some idea of “purity”.

          Most farmers want the right to use GMOs.

  2. I think there’s a familiar “story” that the anti’s can tell themselves in both cases. There’s THE MAN, messing with their world, and some faceless unresponsive Bureaucracy that claims to regulate it, but is really in bed with THE MAN. Of course, none of this is true, but since they don’t want to understand the science, it makes for a good story.

  3. @ cpragman. You make a very good point, but I think a bit oversimplified. Especially the “but since they don’t want to understand the science”…. Will agree some people don’t want to be bothered. I also think a lot of folks do want to understand more about current large issues, but where can they get easy access to accurate information as the list of current issues is ever growing? I think a lot of people do care about a lot of this stuff. But everyone’s day-to-day life issues set restraints on the amount of time they can spend doing research on the issues. That is where the mainstream news arena is failing us all. The “old time” news reporting is a lost mainstream art. In fact anyone who actually practices it now, is now branded as an “Investigative Reporter.” Shouldn’t that be the norm, not the exception? I think 40 years ago when I still watched the “news”, I understood there was some opinion in the conclusions drawn, but I felt I got a fair picture of the “big flick”. I no longer feel that way. Maybe nothing as really changed but me.

  4. Big Oil, Big Gas, Big Wind etc. etc.

    Now Big Russia and Germany’s nuke.

    Merkel ask gone 180 at least 2 times on nuclear. I told you a while ago that 3 times is not to be ruled out.

    Expect the nukes to be turned back as Merkel has lost court cases against the nukes operators for forcing closure illegally.

    An national energy stability emergency will be invoked, a peace deal signed with the utilities and voilà my little nukes are back.

    Give it a week.

  5. My theory: The environmental movement has generally been unsuccessful in awakening the public to the seriousness of climate change due to human activity. Then there’s that constant, annoying reminder members have to deal with: the obvious fact that more nuclear power would speed up the replacement of fossil fuel combustion and therefore slow down the carbon emissions. Meanwhile climate scientists are now demanding nuclear and trying to get environmental leaders to pay attention . Some major environmentalists now support nuclear. This is also annoying to anti-nuke enviros, some of whose organizations get funding from the fossil fuel corporations.

    What to do? Change the subject! Go after GMOs.

    1. @Gwyneth

      You wrote:

      What to do? Change the subject! Go after GMOs.

      Close. Add in change the donor base and broaden funding sources to include agriculture interests (established large grain and corn farmers) and your theory works.

    2. “The environmental movement has generally been unsuccessful in awakening the public to the seriousness of climate change due to human activity.”

      Like they care…

      The environmental movement wants to destroy technology, the positive outcomes of science, etc. For them, man-made warming could well be a scam, and they would know that, they would still see a way to destroy capitalism and create some sort of global socialist government.

  6. What to do to eliminate world hunger?

    STOP HAVING KIDS! But Rod you would be against that because you “love people” (puke) and must love crowds. But the breeder-industrial complex wants to keep people hungry and crowded.

    1. @BobinPgh

      As you already know, I think your advice is abhorrent on this topic. You are a misanthrope.

      People are not a burden on the planet or on each other. They are incredible resources with fantastic individual potential.

      1. …At least for Soylent Green..?

        No, no, no, bad. Anyway I actually agree with Rod completely here and will add there are plenty of resources/spaces/energy in this universe to not only overcome all worries but also to conserve living organisms and protect their environments. Far more than enough. We just need to collectively make reasonable decisions on some topics from time to time.

        None of us is in the position or ever enjoys such a complete perspective as to be competent enough to generally judge the relative value of the lives of others, and as a rule of “human” existence, as a collective endeavor, none of us will ever legitimately be in that position.

        Just dont force me watch youtube town halls. Or any youtubes in general.

      2. That’s right, and proud of the fact that I will not be causing more environmental damage because even a steak-eating-every-day, SUV speeding, travel all around the world, golf playing playboy still uses a lot less resources than someone with kids.

        But I understand where you are coming from. Someone has to really like people to be in a tube with 125 other guys, never seeing the light of day for 6 months. I thank you for your service because I could not do it.

        Did they ever have “swim call” on your submarines, where they open the hatch and you go swimming in the middle of the ocean? One of the WWII submariners I knew had this happen

        1. @BobinPgh March 18, 2014 at 3:44 AM
          Mr. Bob, I don’t know how old you are or even where on earth Pgh is. But I am 70 years old and from the USA. This is the second slam in as many days on Rod’s Navy service, and I am beginning to resent your judgmental attitude and the ignorance associated with it. When I was 20 years old, I got drafted (conscripted) by the US government into military service, with a most certain future destination of Viet Nam. I had limited options; my family could not afford to hide me in college and did not have influence enough to get me in a safe, non-deployable national guard unit. I was of sound mind and body, thus 7 medical deferments were not an option. I was not married and not about to marry just to hide behind an obligation of the time. I chose not to go to Canada. So I chose to join the US Navy, and ended up riding a “tube”, rather than go to Viet Nam. That experience has served me well, and I have no regrets. But your ignorant judgmental attitude on this subject does not belong in this discussion. So I’m asking a simple favor, please stop, or learn some history of that era, or go back to Pgh. mjd

          1. So did they have swim call on your submarine? And did you have to “hot rack”? Actually I do commend Rod and you for your service, one reason is I could not do it. I am young enough to miss the draft, but I would probably sneak off to Canada (I know, I am a coward) because there is no way I could tolerate being in a tube for 6 months with the same people all the time.

            Although I do hear that the food is good on submarines.

    2. What to do to eliminate world hunger?

      STOP HAVING KIDS!

      Translate that into Creole and the other languages of people who are still breeding like crazy; your message is utterly wasted on English-speakers, who are all at or below replacement fertility.

      1. Except that an American having a child is equal to about 99 kids in Bangladesh in terms of using resources. But you are completely right, people in poor countries should do family planning too. Too many kids just make people and their countries poorer. Unfortunately, I cannot give to children’s charities because most of them are with a religion and religions always want more kids that just makes the misery worse. But if a charity gave health care and family planning to these countries, it would do humanity a lot of good.

      2. Indeed — the crisis of runaway population growth is essentially just a sub-Saharan African crisis now. Even Iran’s TFR is now sub-replacement.

  7. I bring a unique perspective to the biotech/nuclear fission alignment. I began a short career in farming 60 years ago. My brief farming career was followed by a career in academia, where I regularly taught immunology which has confirmed radiation hormesis. My graduate school degrees are in microbiology and plant physiology.

    When I actively farmed, nearly all farms operated without commercial fertilizer and chemicals for control weeds and pests. My corn crop yield was in the 35 bushels/acre range. Today the corn yield on my farm averages160 bushels/acre. In the 60s we barely produced enough food for our world population of 3 billion. We used cultivation to control weeds and the plow to turn under the cornstocks in order to limit next year’s corn borer infestation. These tillage practices promoted soil erosion and contributed to excessive fuel consumption. Today thanks to Monsanto, no till and minimum till agriculture often replaces soil loss with in soil buildiing and excessive fuel consumption with fuel conservation. Farms in 2005 used 64% less fuel per bushel than the farms of 1970.

    The green revolution is another part of the story. Norman Borlaug made 8156 crosses to produce a short straw, rust resistant, very high yield wheat that thrives over a wide range of climate conditions. India and Pakistan at the brink of massive starvation went from food importers to food exporters at the end to the 1960s. Borlaug’s techniques were applied to rice which produced needed nutrition for many millions in other Asian countries. Borlaug is credited with preventing more than a billion deaths from starvation. In his later years Norman Borlaug fought the anti- biotech lobby: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

    Biotechnology and commercial fertilizer are key elements in feeding the world population. Coupled with cheap emission free nuclear fission we have the recipe for a sustainable future. I have written an essay that ties biotechnology and nuclear fission to a future of abundance. http://scienceandthing.blogspot.com/

    1. @John Tjostem

      What do you think of my theory that some of the marketers in your business prefer a situation where there is never enough to go around to the sustainable abundance that you describe? Have you been involved enough in the business aspects of farming to notice the price (and profit) variations between years with bumper crops and those when there are droughts or other natural events that limit yields and cause near-famine conditions?

    2. @John Tjostem

      Your two part essay is valuable reading material. Do you have reprint rights? (I like your use of the domain registration to point directly to the second part, by the way.)

      1. Rod I have a few copies with me that I have made. I would be happy to mail them if I you can supply an address. I am currently receiving radiation treatment at Mayo Clinic for prostate cancer. I am staying at the Hope Lodge a residence provided by the American Cancer S,ociety. I get treatments of 2 Gy/day five days a week. My total treatment will add up to 66 Gy. This is enough to cause a small probability of a secondary cancer. The mean time for a secondary cancer is about 15 years. At my age that is not a big concern, If I happen to get a secondary cancer they may have to dig me out of a grave to treat it.

        1. @John Tjostem

          Please send them to rod_adams at atomicinsights.com

          May I have your permission to repost a copy of each part on Atomic Insights?

          1. Rod, I will confirm reprint rights with the editor, I am quite sure that there will be no objection. I will get back to you.

            John.

  8. . Rod, Farmers are an independent lot. They are hard to unionize. They readily accept innovation and most are good stewards of the land resource. The one area where they have unfairly benefited is from government manipulation in the form of farm subsidies, bio fuel mandates, and tariffs that prevent foreign competition. This is mostly in the area of bio fuels. The EPA renewable fuel standard mandates the production of bio fuels with a larger number of gallons each year. For a number of years the government also subsidized ethanol at 51 cents per gallon and later 42 cents. Favorable tariffs kept foreign bio fuels out of the market. Ethanol and other bio fuels subsidy is now gone and some reduction in the number of gallons o bio fuel produced in the future is on the table. Farmers certainly didn’t need all three, subsidies, tariffs, and mandates. I believe that Iowa having the first caucus has resulted in politicians promising too much. Farmers have a huge investment in the annual crop and the system must provide a safety net in the
    case of crop failure.

    My view of bio fuels is most dismal. The numbers don’t add up. It is hard to believe that any foreign fossil fuel is replaced by bio fuels. A global perspective is that bio fuels dooms the poorest of the poor to starvation. We are all paying more for our meat because of the cost for cattle feed. Because of the intermittent and diffuse nature of wind and solar offer little reduction in greenhouse gases over fossil fuels, but bio fuels is worst case. It would appear to increase the need for fossil fuels. The government’s bio fuel policy also has attracted farmland speculators who have driven up farmland prices well above the value where farm income can pay for the land. Since I own farmland my position is against my own vested interests.

    1. @John

      I have a deep respect for farmers, but my impression in recent years has been that there has been a substantial shift to corporate farming, partially driven by the bio fuels subsidies and mandates that you describe.

      Large corporate enterprises treat food as just one more commodity to be traded and sold at the highest possible profit. The “programs” that you mention of farm subsidies, bio fuels mandates and tariffs have contributed to the shift to corporate farming and commodity trading.

  9. Rod, I may be too close to the farm to render an unbiased position. I do have concerns about corporate farming in specific sectors of agriculture. Specialty crop markets are in some danger of being captured. The livestock industry has experienced market control by large corporate entities. Meat packers own large cattle feedlots, hog and poultry confinements. Price controls are within their reach.

    In some cases crooks have played havoc. Near my farm in S. Dak,
    a dairy operation, milking more than 10,000 cows, appeared. Odor control was absent and my home town, Veblen SD, suddenly grew from a population of 300 to more than 500. Mexican laborers lived in make-shift crowded housing. The dairy went into bankruptcy after being shut down for violations of environmental regulations. Local farmers did not get paid for the livestock feed provided to the dairy. Sad stories of trusting individual farmers loosing more than a $million in feed bills owe to them by the bankrupt dairy.

    A new owner is operating the dairy in a manner that is accepted by the locals.
    The new owner built housing for the Mexican labor force and hires only documented laborers. To control odor, tile was put in that radiated out several miles in different directions. I gave an easement to allow the tile to pass through my farm. Farmers who sell cattle feed to the dairy are given access to the organic fertilizer that is delivered to various distant locations. This turned out be a favorable solution to the odor problem. Can this large dairy manipulate the milk price? I don’t know.

    In neighboring Postville Iowa, a Kosher meat packing plant was operated by a crook that is now in jail. Undocumented workers were jailed and the locals had to care for their families for months. That community is still suffering the after affects.

    But to answer your question about market manipulation by crop farmers, I do not think it likely. Tax laws are such that nearly all farms are family corporations. Large land holding companies operating mega farms looks to me like a boogeyman that we don’t have to fear. Farming is too strongly dependent timing for boardroom decisions to work. This could be wishful thinking on my part, but I am encouraged by a lack of evidence for that scenario.

  10. Rod,

    I also had the same thought you did about GMOs and nuclear energy, particularly Golden Rice. You can check it out here: utahthoriumenergy.org

    I also like your phrase “disruptive abundance”. I think you’re right on target.

  11. Comparing Big Oil with Big Ag doesn’t really ring true for me. Monsanto, Dow, BASF, DuPont et al are not really interested in solving world hunger – or controlling the global food supply as the anti-GMers would have you believe. They are more interested in developing attractive products for farmers (the herbicide- and insect-resistant GM varieties have been a huge success) and especially if that product happens to go together with their own patented herbicide. Now they are trying to appeal directly to consumers with new varieties that have nutritional improvements like high-oleic acid soy beans. Might take while for consumers to come around though…

    If I was to make an analogy between Big Oil and Big Ag, I would say that Big Ag is the equivalent of Big Oil selling drilling equipment rather than drilling for oil themselves.

    1. @Tom

      Perhaps it is a matter of definition and maybe my usage is incorrect. For me, Big Oil is a phrase intending to capture the entirety of the large corporations involved in the oil business including the extractors, the oil service companies, the pipeline companies, the railroads, the tankers, the financiers, the oligarchs, the monarchs, the sheiks, and the dictators.

      Big Ag includes the fertilizer and seed companies you mention, but it also includes the equipment producers like Deere, Caterpillar, and the corporate farming companies that produce and sell the wheat, corn, soybeans, etc.

    2. “their own patented herbicide”

      “Roundup Ready “1 trait patent expires in 2014:
      http://www.agriculture.com/crops/pesticides/herbicides/postpatent-roundup-ready-1-era-is_179-ar29710

      The herbicide itself is much older.

      “Now they are trying to appeal directly to consumers”

      Now? That have been trying to appeal directly to consumers for a long time, by insisting on the protection against insects => less mycotoxins. AFAIK, studies show that this is true for some but not all mycotoxins.

      At the end of the day, GM seeds look as much or healthier than classic ones, but food quality depends more on farming practices than GM traits.

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