Arguments against GMOs

By Mary Odum

I recently decided to take an epidemiology course to fill in gaps in my knowledge base. The entire online graduate certificate in Environmental Health looked interesting, so I applied for the entire certificate. Environmental Health was the first course that I took online at this flagship Florida university. The online experience would be a separate post in itself — the online course was mechanically flawless but grossly deficient in interactions and building critical thinking skills.

One of my class assignments was to argue in a paper against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Since the course and the textbook were too reductionist for my tastes, I argued using macroscopic arguments. I doubt the teaching assistants read it–like all other assignments in this MOOC, it received a grade with no comments. Various friends are asking me what I think of GMOs, and most students in the class and most of my friends think that GMOs are a great solution for our food problems, so I am reposting the paper here.

Corporations promote GMOs as the solution to world hunger through expanded global food sources. That hopeful argument is not based on evidence, and there are many arguments against widespread GMO use. Most science and policy arguments are reductionist. But Einstein said that we cannot solve problems from the same consciousness that created the problems. We must learn to see the world anew, from a larger scale to see a complete picture of the processes involved. Reductionist science is not the answer to the problems engendered by a finite biosphere with a human population in overshoot. Therefore, the arguments presented here address macroscopic arguments against GMOS, including the impact of peak oil production on the current developed countries’ system of industrial agriculture, the rapidly expanding pesticide treadmill that accompanies GMOs, replacement of natural biodiversity, water and soil loss or degradation, and expanding corporate domination, with increasing social inequity, loss of small farmers, monopolization and unsustainability of our food system, and the potential link between gut health and inadequately studied GMOs.

Feed the hungry or “cows and cars?”

gmo-cartoon1Cassidy (2015) critiques the argument that GMOs can feed a rapidly growing global population this month in an Environmental Working Group paper. The author contrasts the reported need for a doubling in food supply in the next 50 years with the progress up to now in GMO crops, which primarily feeds “cows and cars” while expanding social inequity through monopolization and profit-making by large corporations. The expanding social inequity and loss of small farmers contributes to more poverty, which is the real source of hunger. Feeding cows and cars instead of people also puts added pressure on water use and soil degradation, while expanding nitrate pollution in our waters and nitrous oxide pollution in our air. Cassidy also argues that crop yields with GMOs are no better and are sometimes worse than yields of traditional crops. Holt-Giménez et al. (2012) add a different argument against the claim that GMOs can feed the world. We already grow enough food for a global population of 10 billion people, but because of social inequity and poverty, that food is not distributed evenly. Even if we expand food production faster than population growth, GMOs are not the answer.

High transformity agriculture

The most systemic argument against GMOs is the energy-intensive nature of high-tech agriculture that requires the extraction of profit, not letting Nature do the work through traditional diversity and seeds. Energy/emergy intensity of agriculture has increased many fold during the past century of agricultural industrialization (Rydberg and Hayden, 2006). Global energy production has plateaued and is forecast to decline, with a large discrepancy in available fossil fuels to support our current developed society (US-EIA, 2013). The Middle East retains about 2/3 of all proven reserves of oil, while the United States oil production peaked in 1970 (BP Statistical Review, 2014). These facts do not bode well for the sustainability of industrial agriculture, which has evolved to rely heavily on natural gas and fossil fuel subsidies for fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, over-sized tillers and harvesters, and now tech-intensive GMOs that are necessary to stay ahead of plant blights that impact monoculture farms. The

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx
http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx

research, marketing, law, and other complex necessities of high-tech agriculture each demand more emergy from society, which takes resources from other needed societal supports. Renewable energy sources have less net energy, so renewables are unable to sustain industrial society in the place of non-renewable liquid fuels (Day et al., 2009). GMOs make us less sustainable, as they make our food system increasingly dependent on fossil fuel inputs and increasingly centralized and high-tech.

The pesticide treadmill

Tilman et al., 2002
Tilman et al., 2002

The second controversial argument against GMOs relates to environmental health and the accumulation of increasing volumes of pesticides in the environment as a result of the pesticides treadmill. Annual proprietary seeds that demand concurrent use of changing, untested and expanding mixes of both fertilizer and proprietary pesticides leads to a pesticide treadmill (Tilman, 2002). The evidence on how much pesticide use is increasing globally varies greatly by report, ranging from a superweedssympathetic meta-analysis report of a reduction in pesticide use by 37% over the past 20 years (Klumper & Qaim, 2014), to an increase of 7% over that same general period (Benbrook, 2012). The information on global pesticide production is proprietary and not widely touted, but the evidence is visible in healthy, growing corporate profits. Corporate pressure may influence scientific reports through funding and publication bias. Pesticide-resistant super weeds develop, old patents expire, and

Stephanie McMillan Code Green http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/
http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/

new GMO seeds are repeatedly developed for new crop categories in hopes of expanding corporate markets and profits, leading to increased costs for farmers and increasing damage to the environment. What is the relevant endpoint if corporate survival mandates ever-increasing growth of herbicides, which kill plants, insects, and birds in the environment? The loss of creatures who eat crop-eating insects leads to the need for more pesticides, and around we go again.

Monocultures replacing natural biodiversity

Stephanie McMillan Code Green http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/
http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/

How much is too much pesticide for the planet as a whole, given the additive toxicity of many pesticides and non-food uses? The third large-scale argument against GMOs is the loss of biodiversity, water, and soil nutrients/erosion, through expansion of pesticides, replacement of natural systems with industrial-scale agriculture, and over-fertilization and irrigation. Replacing natural biodiversity and insects with insect-free monocultures hastens the demise of our environmental support systems that we cannot live without—witness dead zones in the ocean, depleting and nitrate-polluted aquifers, and so on. Rockstrom et al. (2009) name biodiversity loss as our greatest problem, and Rhodes’ excellent recent article describing the linkages between the problems of biodiversity and soil loss with bee declines and other problems illustrates this.  Additionally, chemical and GMO-based agriculture is fertilizer and water-intensive, adding to ocean dead zones and water shortages, which some claim as the biggest problem of the 21st century. In essence, the idea that we can outsmart Mother Nature and replace her biodiversity with a genetically new agricultural system is arrogant.

Unsustainable corporatization and centralization

Bradford, J. Dec. 21, 2007. Does less energy mean more farmers? The Oil Drum
Bradford, J. Dec. 21, 2007. Does less energy mean more farmers? The Oil Drum

The fourth large-scale argument addresses expanding corporate domination of seed patents, farm ownership, research, marketing, and so on. Fossil-fuel-based industrial agriculture winnows small farmers and creates a trend towards large-scale production with an inverse correlation between per capital farmers and energy intensity (Bradford, 2007). Since we are now beginning energetic descent, we will need more small farmers, less intensive methods such as agroecology, and

Stephanie McMillan Code Green http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/
http://www.stephaniemcmillan.org/codegreen/

less reliance on technology to become sustainable and avoid collapse of societies. The loss of small farmers adds to social stratification and inequality within the farming industry, but also in society at large, as regulatory capture by corporations leads to weakened regulations, more GMOS, more pesticides, and so on, in an autocatalytic merry-go-round. Feedback loops for policies favorable to corporations beget more large corporations, which expands unsustainable trends into overshoot.

Poorly studied GMOs and health

Benbrook, 2012, Environmental Sciences Europe  (Bt Corn in Acres planted and CDC data)
Benbrook, 2012, Environmental Sciences Europe
(Bt Corn in Acres planted and CDC data)

The fifth argument is the question of human health and poorly studied GMOs. The United States in particular places the burden of proof for regulation of hazardous chemicals on the Environmental Protection Agency and citizens to defend environmental health based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Laws in the last decade in the European Union assume a more precautionary approach by ruling that the proponent of an activity must bear the burden of proof in showing safety. One must wonder whether there is a correlation between the new “disease” of gluten intolerance and the recent rapidly expanding production of GMO foods. We do not know the human health or environmental results of gene manipulation of our food are. A quick search of the literature suggests that there is much research on genetic treatment of diseases, but very little study of the questioned link between human health and GMO-based diets. The only studies so far consist of 90-day rat-feeding trials. A small, longer-term study in 2012 of rat health by Seralini et al. (2014) received great criticism and the journal editors retracted the article. Large corporations can pay for biased research, and can control publication and news media. Who will fund neutral research on GMOs and human health?

What is the energy basis of GMOs?

The claim that GMOs exist to feed the world is a false one, derived from corporations’ desire for profit. This post has raised energetic, ecological, social, and health arguments against GMOs.  Other arguments include the unknown, unintended consequences of intentional mutation of the gene pool of our food, and the biased funding and publication of research.

In an era of population overshoot and resource scarcity, being able to fall back on our biosphere’s ecosystem services will be critical for a society that prospers. An industrialized, high-tech food system that requires increasingly complex research, laws, profit-making corporations, and annexation of natural systems into massive fields sowed with machinery, sprayed with poisons, fertilized with fossil fuels, and irrigated with our children’s aquifers while being supported by massive research labs to stave off the next pesticide-resistant insect is not a sustainable model. In my opinion, the only way to avoid collapse of our food system is to return to agroecological systems which show four systemic properties: productivity, stability, sustainability, and equitability.

The land company—that’s the bank when it has land—wants tractors, not families on the land. Is a tractor bad? Is the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If this tractor were ours, it would be good – not mine, but ours. We could love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours. But this tractor does two things – it turns the land and turns us off the land. There is little difference between this tractor and a tank. The people were driven, intimidated, hurt by both. We must think about this (Steinbeck, 1939, Chapter 14).

As Steinbeck suggests in The Grapes of Wrath, there may be a point at which technology owns us, and takes us to a place from which we cannot return without revolution of the system. We’re going to need a lot more farmers and less technology in a future with less fossil fuel, and more sustainable and ecologically based agricultural practices. GMOs only move us further towards an unsustainable goal of continued growth for a global economy in overshoot.

  • Good to see you back, Mary!

    Excellent paper that I’ll pull info from, arguing against the pro-GMO trolls… 🙂

  • Thanks, Jan. How are you?

    • Thanks for asking.

      We keep struggling with same old issues in slightly different forms: primarily the impacts of transience. For some reason, people see us as a Rorschach Test, and then they get involved and try to impose their idea of what they think we are. Needless to say, this diverts a lot of effort that could be moving us toward A Prosperous Way Down.

      But we keep increasing local food and amenity production and decreasing energy use, now featuring a line of goat milk soap, using our own goat milk. We’re currently talking to several local meat growers to see if we can reasonably make tallow soap without tropical oils. (Haven’t tried making our own lye from wood-stove ash yet… 🙂

      • Interesting. The dominant culture has powerful feedback loops that keep trying to push your tires back into the ruts in the road 🙂

        How do you prioritize which things you will produce for yourself?

        I see the trolls have arrived at Resilience.org. The only real argument for GMOs is expanded food production in the current industrial system, which only expands the population, sucks energy from a society in descent, and further expands the power of corporations. Do we need any argument other than that?

        • Brian Cady

          Hi Mary,
          Other arguements for Genetically Engineered plants include
          1) enhancing carbon fixation, to reduce GHGs.
          2) Growing stable yields on the diminishing farmland left arable, and the diminishing irrigation water, to stabilize society.
          3) Avoiding industrial nitrogen fixation, with it’s associated carbon release and technically induced centralization, via GEed crop nitrogen fixation.

  • Bob Crosby

    Excellent analysis, Mary!

  • Stefeun

    Bonjour Mary,
    upon vehement request from Jan Steinman (just kidding), I paste here the comment I made in OFW about your article:
    Mary Odum’s article on GMOs is excellent, very clear and factual, and well documented (http://prosperouswaydown.com/arguments-gmos/).
    However, I was somewhat surprised that she didn’t insist on the risks specific and inherent to GMOs (while most of her arguments apply to Ag-business in general, not specifically to GMOs).

    In her own words: “This post has raised energetic, ecological, social, and health arguments against GMOs. Other arguments include the unknown, unintended consequences of intentional mutation of the gene pool of our food, and the biased funding and publication of research.” http://resourceinsights.blogspot.fr/2014/08/ruin-is-forever-when-precautionary.html

    I won’t discuss the “biased funding” (nor the catastrophic landgrabbing, the ignoble role of the World-Bank, the rigged property laws on lands and patents, the secrecy of R&D, etc…), but with respect to the “unintended consequences” of a genetic manipulation, I recently ran across a review by Kurt Cobb of a paper by Nicholas Taleb et al, titled “The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions”.
    It takes 2 examples, GMOs and nuclear power (although IMHO they haven’t dealt with the latter at all) to show when a normal risk management is sufficient, and when the precautionary principle should apply, i.e. when there’s a risk of irrecoverable systemic ruin (as opposed to ‘simple’ local and temporary damage).
    So I dare to propose this excerpt, “the Russian roulette gene gun”, as a complement to Mary Odum’s argumentation:

    “Crops created through selective breeding have long histories of success and toxicities that are well understood and unlikely to change suddenly. As each new GMO crop is deployed, we cannot know ahead of time whether it will lead to systemic health and/or environment problems because there is little testing and, in any case, the amount of experience we have with GMO crops is far, far shorter than for the products of traditional selective breeding.

    With each step we take in the production and deployment of new GMO seeds, we are playing a game of Russian roulette. The first few times we’ve pulled the trigger, we did not get catastrophic systemic effects–not yet, at least. But, since there is a nonzero risk of such effects, the probability of creating catastrophic outcomes becomes certain over time. The risk is virtually 100 percent that we will ultimately reach the chamber in the Russian roulette gene gun that causes catastrophic and widespread damage to humans and/or the environment.

    Saying that there is no evidence so far that this will happen is a failure to understand that hidden systemic risk can often only show up on very long time scales. And, of course, when that risk does show up, it’s too late to do anything. Remember: when we manipulate a gene or genes inside a plant, we are not doing just one thing. Without knowing it, we are affecting multiple systems in the plant and in the environment the plant lives in. We are creating multiple possible pathways to ruin.”

    Sounds like perfect recipee for a Normal Accident (cf. Charles Perrow).

    Link to the 1st comment in the thread: http://ourfiniteworld.com/2015/05/06/why-we-have-an-oversupply-of-almost-everything-oil-labor-capital-etc/comment-page-5/#comment-57977

    • Bonjeur, Monsieur Stefeun. The paper was a class assignment with a 6-page limit, which is also the limit of what I post on my blog (2000-2500 words). Most people don’t read longer articles. So I had to make choices, and my blog and my being is about changing world views. One changes world views through macro arguments such as religions, big picture science, and culture (grassroots role modeling). The reason the paid trolls can get a grip is because they immediately personalize and reduce the argument. If you can keep the reasoning at the macro scale, they have no purchase, and no comeback. There are no arguments against the energetic truth–we will need a lot more farmers and diversity in a future with less fossil fuels.

      The unintended consequences of creating your own manufactured domestic ecosystem based on oil are already appearing in cancer rates, That said, I believe that the threat of unsecured spent nuclear waste in descent is a much greater and more imminent threat than GMOs.

      • Stefeun

        Thanks a lot for your detailed answer. Now I understand you had to make a choice, as well as your motivations for this choice.
        It’s true that “the risk” and its evaluation let room for polemics and grip for trolls. I however thought useful that Jan had it on his list 😉 and found the “Russian roulette gene gun” image quite telling.
        Also fully agree with your final remark about nuclear waste, it dwarfs many other considerations.

      • Aubrey

        We can’t overemphasize the importance of empirical
        observation. The observations and the data that they produce are essential but
        then we have to figure out what it all means. The curve of Inflammatory Bowel
        Disease and acres of BT corn is one example of the potential for Induced Impairment
        through GMOs. If genetic material from a bacteria can be added to the genome of
        a corn plant and cause that corn plant to produce the same toxin that the
        bacteria produced, then what other toxins can a corn plant be modified to
        produce? In this case of BT corn and cotton, the toxin is alleged to be
        specific for certain insect larvae. What else was added to that corn genome
        that is not on the label?

        With the immense number of cells that are activated or
        suppressed by the immense number of biologically produced molecules that
        interact to produce life, I believe that GMOs have as great or greater
        potential to negatively impact our world than the radioactive materials.

        The ruling elite have numerous programs to induce impairment
        in the population. It’s harder to fight back when your mind is confused and you
        don’t feel like getting out of bed.

        • The problems are additive or even synergistic multipliers, Aubrey, all impacting our immune systems in different ways. No one knows, which is one reason the big picture is ignored–there is no science addressing the synergies of these different toxins. All we can do is look at the graphs of large scale production (I finally found a database–NAWQA) and the graphs of large scale impacts (such as http://globocan.iarc.fr/Default.aspx) to see what’s happening.

          Giving up is a choice. Taking care of ourselves is a choice. Walking away from empire is a choice. Speaking truth is a choice. Getting educated is a choice.

  • Stefeun

    That was not on the MSM:
    “EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal.
    US trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal”
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/eu-dropped-pesticide-laws-due-to-us-pressure-over-ttip-documents-reveal

    • I saw that–our government is 100% corporate-owned, and too powerful. In the end, we will be forced to relocalize and grow our own as safe options in food are reduced again and again. Too many dangerous unknowns . . . .

  • Stefeun

    They aren’t big enough:
    “Monsanto Bids to Take Over Syngenta—A Move to Assure a Pesticide-Saturated Future?”
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/26/glyphosate-pesticide-exposure.aspx

    Sure you were already informed of that; I wasn’t, and it made me think that we’re getting really close to the “Brave New World”. IMHO we’ll have collapsed before getting there, but it’s not a consolation, though.

  • Brian Cady

    “GMOs make … our food system increasingly
    dependent on fossil fuel inputs and increasingly centralized and
    high-tech”
    I don’t think this will be true in the future. GMOs promise nitrogen fixing corn, reducing crop fossil fuel dependency and associated CO2 release. GMOs can enhance photosynthesis to use green sunlight too, thus adding a quarter to the sun’s energy caught. And GMOs promise elimination of photorespiration, boosting C3 crop yields and expanding their suitability toward hotter, drier lands, reducing irrigation needs. The tools to genetically engineer crops are becoming increasingly available. They will remain high-tech, but are no longer centralized.

    “The claim that GMOs exist to feed the world is a false one, derived from corporations’ desire for profit.”

    Past GMOs were privately developed for profit, but these techniques are now within reach of community science laboratories. This need not hold true in our future.

    • Hi, Brian. I think I want to reduce this to the big question here. Why are we trying to replace natural systems with a completely engineered system with no naturally evolved checks and balances, with massive pesticide use that kills the natural systems?

      • Brian Cady

        Hi Mary,

        Massive pesticide use is crazy, granted. A completely new engineered system would be a troubleshooting nightmare. And no single technofix can keep ahead of an exponentially growing population for long. Sooner or later we humans need to learn restraint to fit on our limited earth. So why mess with things the way they are?

        1) One reason is simply because we humans need more time to learn restraint – learning restraint hasn’t gone so well recently. We could use buying humanity just a little bit more time to learn to adapt to real limits to growth before exponential growth takes us beyond even nudged limits to growth.

        2) Also there’s a chance here to ‘bake a bigger pie’ for earth, to feed more sunlight energy to life. And life in general needs the breathing room now, too. Only occasionally can we humans use our strengths to expand options for life overall sustainably. Bringing water to deserts is one, but salination limits this. Expanding sunlight caught by life ever-so-slightly moves the limits to growth. There will be drawbacks to the three changes I’ve mentioned, but there are also advantages.

        More of the sunlight reaching earth could feed life. That could enduringly support more biomass. That biomass could be part human-associated and part wild. That’s what excites me about these potential GEed crops, and about ocean iron fertilization – the chance to lastingly sustain more life on earth. I don’t know whether it will be possible to pull any of these off before collapse snips funding, but I think it’s worth looking into and trying.

        Genetic Engineering of crops doesn’t have to be done by cancerously
        growing corporations for private gain, despite public loss. Isn’t the
        problem not genetic engineering, but free market capitalism, ignorance of the centrality of life and growth
        fetishism?

        A further point: I’m not trying to completely re-engineer crops. I propose only to transfer a few traits found in bacteria but not in chloroplasts. These are natural existing biochemical methods. Perhaps evolution alone would eventually integrate these in eucaryotic crops, but we can speed this.

        Brian

        • Hi, Brian, thanks for answering.

          1. GMOs are a pretty energetically wasteful and roundabout way of teaching restraint to capitalists and molecular biologists. Energetic limits will provide that lesson to all of us soon enough–they already are.

          2. The sunlight is not going to “reach earth” any faster, and is already being used most efficiently by millions of years of trial and error through evolution to maximize power. The only reason we can monkey with the system is because of MASSIVE inputs of complexity through added, temporary, waning fossil fuels. This is about the worst possible time to be trying to replace the natural, diverse ecosystems with fossil-fuel based systems that are almost completely based on oil.

          If there were no profit in GMOs, why would we be doing it? If the economy and capitalism collapses, will we continue to sell GMOs?

          • Brian Cady

            Hi Mary,

            On 1. You’re right, GMOs don’t teach restraint, and, as implemented in Roundup-Ready crops, don’t improve things. And energetic limits teach us all, if we can listen. But if undertaken, not for profit, but for real public benefit, GMOs might be part of sustainably fitting our large society on our small earth.

            On 2. You’re right that we can’t speed or increase the sunlight reaching earth, but as efficiently as evolution has gotten, evolution hasn’t finished yet. The ancient cyanobacteria that became chloroplasts lost nitrogen fixing ability in the transition. This was an accident of life’s history. It might have worked out differently, and eventually probably will, given life, genetic diversity and enough time.

            Proteorhodopsins naturally power bacteria with colors of sunlight (green) that plants don’t now use.

            Chloroflexus sp. now efficently avoid photorespiration, using ‘Dark Reaction’ enzymes insensitive to oxygen.

            Eventually evolution will try these new combinations out, (i.e.nitrogen fixing chloroplasts and green-light-using chloroplasts and oxygen-tolerant ‘Dark Reaction’ enzymes) but we don’t have to wait. We also don’t have to build a completely engineered system from scratch, which is good because we probably can’t. We can mix and match, using proteorhodopsins in plant chloroplasts to turn green light into plant energy, and etc.

            You’re right that life is massively complex, and that there’s only a small window of time before ongoing collapse closes the door on successfully creating such new GMOs. But don’t we have a responsibility to all life to see if we can stably build a wider foundation under life on earth? Perhaps we can see where things are both understandable and improvable, and just work there.

            I agree that we can not sustainably replace natural ecosystems with fossil-fueled agriculture, or fossil-fueled anything else. But new GMOs can be a bridge away from fossil fuel use. Not the GMOs that exist today, eliminating weeding labor with toxins, when we have not enough work for all us workers, but potential GMOs that solve real problems.

            The reason to do nonprofitable things can be widespread public benefit. If we can adjust capitalism and the economy, perhaps some of what we as a species has accomplished that is good can survive.

          • “But new GMOs can be a bridge away from fossil fuel use” You describe a utopia with all of your “coulds, cans, and ifs.” What is the emergy basis of one molecular biologist? What is the emergy basis of Monsanto, and all of its lobbyists on Wall Street, and its massive PR mechanisms? How can we live if we kill all the birds and the bees? What is the benefit of expanding manipulated genomes, and to whom? Does your salary depend on GMOs in some way? No mas, por favor.

          • Brian Cady

            Hi Mary,
            I don’t know the emdollar cost of one molecular biologist. Nor so I know Monsanto’s emdollar cost. Monsanto is a disaster.
            We can’t live by killing all birds and bees, but that’s not inherent in GMOs, even if it’s inherent in Monsanto’s survival. I suspect Roundup killed a few friends of mine, who I sorely miss.
            I am unemployed, and control no investments in GMOs or anything else.
            Aren’t you are conflating a lousy out-of-control corporation with a whole class of genetic tools? Why blame GMOs for Roundup? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

          • High tech solutions to problems are high transformity, so they fade as soon as the energy does.

          • Brian Cady

            Is this true for GMOs? DNA in living organisms has maintained advantageous traits for hundreds of generations. Wouldn’t advantageous traits such as nitrogen fixation, photosynthesis using green light and oxygen-tolerant dark reactions last in competition? Perhaps we can, through high transformity means, create yield increases, etc. that can persist into a low transformity future.

          • How long did evolution in nature take to create a system that maximizes power and builds complexity in a diverse biosphere? The only reason we can even conceive of turning all that on its head and replacing nature by creating our own nasty monocultures laced with poison is because of the vast potency of fossil fuels, which are what runs the tertiary structure of Wall Street, Madison Ave, K street, lawyers, and researchers that are necessary for GMOs to work and prosper, at the expense of the birds and the bees. Are we insane?

            The invisible hand is really just another demonstration of maximum power. The tertiary structure will keep building until it can’t, until the energy wanes enough that it can’t be supported. The clues are coming fast now that we are just about there with all of this. What happens when it collapses?

          • Brian Cady

            Evolution in nature is not finished yet. It has’t yet maximized power or finished building complexity. In fact, we’re not separate from nature.
            I don’t propose to upend nature, nor do I propose creating monocultures.

            The invisible hand fails fairly often. Ideal markets only occur rarely in society; usually market share predominates, the rich get richer and poor get poorer.
            After collapse, a few things might survive to be useful to what’s left of our descendents.
            I think I’m not being listened to here, so I’ll stop replying.

          • We are not separate from nature, exactly what I mean. The human economy is perched on and reliant upon the natural economy, except that it is boosted into another two or three levels of complexity by the addition of super-charged fossil fuels. So it is the human economy that is almost finished building complexity. At this point, a lot of what is being added has limited value in maximizing power, and instead redirects energy into profit-making schemes that add a lot of complexity, but not much value, such as GMOs.

  • Jennifer Arnold-Delgado

    Hi Mary , I am here in Kauai , where protesting the GMO usage , is mixed with a GMO experimentation economic factor ( they are doing the development ( R & D ) here . I instantly loved your way of speaking about things , but know , as a song writer , that it takes a lot of really refined words to get a point across . What I have found, in song writing , is that a song is a cluster of commonly used phrases , Such as ” you walked into the party , all the girls dreamed , I was still quite naive , ” then, the song writer introduces a new phrase ” Clouds in my coffee ” and suddenly , clouds in my coffee is a way of explaining that experience . First of all , I do not call GMO’s by that title. I call them Genetically Mutilated Operatives . because the phrase “M O ” and ” G” aka Gee , MO — has a previous connotation , like Oh , thats how we are going to move forward . I have noticed that with other huge toxic mechanized behaviors , such as ” Fracking” and “Atomic Energy ” or “Nuclear Energy ” People have given these actions names , that are actually the OPPOSITE of what the action is resulting in . For example, A frack , is done in the singular action . It is not a moving reality , which means that it is a continued action. Water runs, and is running , but every frack is a single conscious act , done one at a time . Atomic energy , is not what is created by nuclear negative enactions . Atomic Implosion creates a default energy field, which is coming from mother earth herself. “Atomic energy” is nuclear negative . Its like calling an oreo a cookie . It is not a cookie , its a concept , and its a toxic concept . When the advocates of nature , start to stop using the words that THEY are winning this strange anti nature campaign with , and start using words of truth , and introducing phrases that allow new concepts to arrive , we will win this battle . I have begun to study the Hawaiian Culture and Language , which was a nature based society , where all the words, refer to natural events , and have a wonderful book by a woman who collected hawaiian phrases in the early 1900’s — Mary Kawena Pukui — ‘OLELO NO”EAU — I highly recommend it to you , to reference , as you think clearly into this discourse . I had to get the book just now, to make sure I spelled it all right , and this phrase was what the book was opened up to : ” The fish that whispers to the feet and speaks to the fingers ” and that is just perfect , for both of us , to think about — we don’t need phrases that make logical sense, we need a way to touch the feet and the tips of the fingers, to make the changes that need to happen in the world at this time . Sincerely, Jennifer Arnold

    • Hi, Jennifer, thanks. Words are powerful and both reflect and inform the world. The Alaska Native languages are the same way–complex, powerful descriptions of nature. Yet we are losing them quickly, just at the moment we need them most.