This whole blogging thing has certainly put a bit of craziness into my life. I just got off the phone with BBC Worldwide's show,"World Have Your Say." The podcast should be available here so you can hear my awful voice trying to get a word in edgewise.
The topic was whether or not to produce food for the world at any cost using any technology, or to do something more sustainable and safe. Their focus was on issues such as GMO foods, conventional agriculture methods, and animal welfare and cloning.
My bit was just long enough (one minute of fame) to interject that studies show organic methods over the long term have a higher yield and less detriment to the soil quality than conventional agriculture. Here is a link to that research for those who are interested. And here. And here.
Now, it will take time to implement sustainable agriculture systems in developing countries, but in the meantime, giving those countries cheap food has not been effective in at least one large-scale study in treating malnutrition. The food in the study, an enhanced peanut butter, was produced in the African country of Malawi. Treatment allowed malnourished children to remain at home, not in a hospital as with conventional treatments, and was successful in 89 percent of the critical cases in comparison with a previous treatment success of 50 percent. So, better food works better, and it can be produced in country. Peanut butter is not the long term best either, but getting good nutrition in place until the foods can be produced is saving lives.
Which begs the point, if we are able to save lives using foods like this, without the untested extremes, why not use these good foods now and take the time to put in the right solution for the people and the planet?
These improved short-term solutions are important for the immediate need, while long term, sustainable solutions can be reached. The solutions need to allow farmers in the countries to produce the foods, providing income and self-sufficiency to fuel a better economy. Tough to do with the AIDS crisis and war in the backdrop. Going to take time and global effort.
Other food production ideas discussed on the show included the recent approval by the FDA of cloned animal meat and milk for human consumption. Well, based on the FDA's politics, ties to special interest and "stellar" track record, I wouldn't be touting their stamp of approval.
The long term safety of cloned animal products was tested for a whopping three and a half months by feeding the products to other animals. Further, there isn't a huge benefit to the process that limits the gene pool, is extremely expensive and not very successful for the animal's survival as a fetus (high fetal mortality rates) and sometimes a hazard to the surrogate mother. Nature was doing just fine, with a better track record and selective breeding as it was. This just allows certain companies to patent the genes just as has been done for corn and soy, and make more profits. It's not a hunger solution.
GMO crops? Well, given that we are headed for tremendous climate change, I can't see how limited gene pools and monoculture is going is going to do much to save our butts. The gene pool, and diversity of plants as well, need to be able to survive these kinds of changes. Diversity is the only intelligent response.
So, there's what I would have said, given a chance to interject my opinions.