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Lies in the Boston Globe

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 22:54:14 PM PDT

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The Boston Globe just printed a whopper: "Genetically engineered crops are more environmentally friendly than organic ones." This is the same lie we've been hearing from a long time, and it's coming from more or less the same source. In this case, the source is Elliot Entis, a former board member of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) - the biotech industry lobby group.

I know what this article says without reading it: organic yields less than conventional, GMO ag and therefore organic is worse for the earth. People who oppose GMOs and love organics are idealists who don't know the first thing about growing food. We need GMOs to feed the earth. And that is exactly what the article DOES say. None of it becomes any less of a lie just because the Boston Globe was hoodwinked into printing it. Honestly, this is outrageous and newspapers should be held to a higher standard. We expect them to give us the hard facts, not dumb lies.

If you want to express your outrage on this, please write the Boston Globe a letter to the editor within the next week. Use the following points:

1. The Rodale Institute's Farm Systems Trials show that organic yields as much or MORE than conventional, GMO ag for corn and soy.

2. For all crops, organic yields a little more than 90% as much as conventional in the U.S. but produces 80% MORE than conventional in the developing world.

3. Therefore, the entire argument made in the article is blown to bits because it was entirely based on that premise.

4. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that GMOs resulted in a net INCREASE of pesticide use overall. Also, the numbers given for Bt crops that boast a decrease of pesticides do not account for the pesticide produced by the plants themselves.

5. Bt is not as benign when produced by GM crops as it is when sprayed on by organic farmers. That is because when it is sprayed on as needed, it then breaks down in the environment quickly. When it is produced by every cell of every plant, it is always present. Thus, it puts us at risk of losing Bt as an effective organic management tool for pests because it will promote the evolution of Bt-resistant pests.

To submit a letter to the editor
e-mail or use our form.

Letters may be sent by regular mail to this address:

Letters to the Editor
The Boston Globe
P.O. Box 55819
Boston, MA 02205-5819

Or by fax to (617) 929-2098

Please include your full name, address, and a telephone number for confirmation purposes. Letters should be 200 words or less and are subject to condensation.

Jill Richardson :: Lies in the Boston Globe
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Hitting nerves... (4.00 / 2)
Is it just me, or are these people becoming particularly nasty these days?

What is American Salmon Company, btw?  Zero web presence.  It's a member of BIO, though...

American Salmon Company (4.00 / 1)
Looks like a one man band, doesn't it? From the annual report filed one month ago, the business is aquaculture development. No more information, not informative.

[ Parent ]
Elm Farm Research Centre (4.00 / 1)
For that matter, what is the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre? I need to spend some time browsing there.

[ Parent ]
lobbyists (4.00 / 2)
Jeebus, how many lobbying groups does the biotech industry have? How many does it need?

pesticide use (4.00 / 2)
Jill, has any study demonstrated that external pesticide application does not increase after the first three or four years?

Organic farming leads to... (4.00 / 2)
less biodiversity? Oh, really?

That is an amazingly dishonest op-ed piece, even for biotech lobbyists. Every statement needs fact checking.

I would especially like sourcing for this:

Environmentalists will have to rethink their public position on the benefits that biotechnological innovation provides and the potential harm of an overly ideological organic movement. Stewart Brand, the editor of Whole Earth Catalog, recently summed up the issue best: "The environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we've been wrong about. We've starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool."

Entis omits a crucial fact about GMO in the developing world, which is that it has nothing to do with feeding the developing world. The specific point of GMO in Africa and Asia is to monocrop land leased or owned by foreign businesses to grow crops for export to the developed world.

One more question among the many stomach-churning ones the piece prompts: exactly how does GMO maximize the use of scarce resources? He uses the example of drought tolerance, but even there, GE traits having nothing to do with drought tolerance will be introduced into drought tolerant strains developed by traditional breeding.

Stewart Brand and "We"... (4.00 / 2)
What you mean 'we', Stewart Brand?  My, how imperial of you -

Stewart Brand, the editor of Whole Earth Catalog, recently summed up the issue best: "The environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we've been wrong about. We've starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool."

The guy's a utopianist who's always believed humans are the center of the universe, so of course he thinks the answer to all of our problems lies in some corporate laboratory somewhere.  But he gets to speak for "environmentalists" as a whole, because why?  Because he hung around with Ken Kesey a few decades ago, and because he once published something called the "Whole Earth Catalog"?


[ Parent ]
my LTE to the Boston Globe (4.00 / 2)
I'd like to ask that you print that a spaceship landed in my backyard last night and little green men got out and gave my dog an anal probe. As you may have guessed, this is not true. However, given the quality of fact-checking The Boston Globe clearly does, I have no doubt you'll print this anyway. A number of "facts" cited in the Green Thumb piece are provably, demonstrably false. For example, in The Rodale Institute's 20+ year study, organic corn and soy equals or outyields GM corn and soy grown with chemicals every single year after the first five years. A University of Michigan study found that, if the world switched to organic farming methods, developed nations would see a very slight drop in productivity, but developing nations would increase productivity by 80 percent. Also, Union of Concerned Scientists found that switching to GM crops actually results in a net increase in pesticide use. Next time you let an industry shill write an op ed, please check his facts before printing them.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

a question I never asked (4.00 / 1)
Productivity is only one aspect of agriculture. Regardless of how organic farming compares with chemical and biotech farming in productivity, I wonder what a large shift to organic, or even more sustainable, methods would mean for farm profitability and food prices.

I never thought to ask this question before. Have any good studies been written about it? Think of the massive structural changes that would have to take place for it to happen.

In developing countries, consequences of adopting the dominant American agriculture model would be the extinction of small landholdings in favor of large, probably foreign-owned operations, and the increased impoverishment of increased millions of people. Doesn't look like a pretty future to me.

[ Parent ]
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