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The Green Revolution:
A Critical Look 

Paul Goettlich 10oct00

[More by Paul Goettlich]

 

In retrospect, 

Corporate America had only profit in mind when inventing the "Green Revolution." By introducing synthetic fertilizers and pesticides along with massive machinery to roam endless plots denuded of trees they insured a long-lasting flow of income for decades to come. By way of money used to advertise and influence government agencies, politicians and universities, industry dictated not only that we needed it, but that we wanted it as well. Not far below its thinly disguised benevolence, the so-called 'revolution' was only a way for industry to make a buck without regard to humanity's long-term well-being.

Whether they knew at its inception of the environmental and human health consequences this new type of farming would have on us all is inconsequential. It would be preferable that they at least own up to it so that the problem could be properly corrected. However, their lust for profit has grown even more offensive with the lightening-fast introduction of genetically engineered foods. They go unlabeled and untested. In today’s world of scientific research, an unbiased opinion is extremely difficult to find.

While there can be no argument that the "Green Revolution" created major increases in shear quantity, it’s been a major disaster for efficiency, quality of life, productivity, and the environment. The norm today is monoculture farming, which is founded on highly flawed logic --  massive plots of thousands of acres planted with one highly inbred crop that is drowned in highly toxic chemicals and managed by behemoth machinery. Small traditional farmers around the world are being driven into bankruptcy and worse. 

Industry argues that there are trade-offs for living in this modern world of comforts and luxury. Some of the trade-offs are poisoned water, air, soil, and food. Because of all that poison and other products commonly found in any home, cancer has been constantly increasing. Don't be misled by the American Cancer Association's advertising that the rate of cancer survival is increasing. Keep your eyes on the rate of incidence, not the rate of survival. The primary goal should be the prevention of cancer, not the cure. The focus of industry, the American Cancer Association being included in that category, is on "The Cure" because prevention is not nearly as profitable. But cancer is not the only thing to focus your attention on. The sperm count of industrialized nations has been falling at a rate of 1% per annum over the last 50 years. Behavioral problems are increasing rapidly. Leukemia cases are not only increasing but the average age of the victim is decreasing. Asthma is increasing as well. The list of increasing disease is staggering and is covered elsewhere on www.mindfully.org

A child removes the Golems amulet, ending his power.

Other trade-offs are more social in nature. The bulk of farming subsidies are now going to the industrialized corporate farm rather than the small family farmer. As a result, the small farms are disappearing at an alarming rate, with the land being gobbled up by the mega-farm, or being turned into urban sprawl --  a homogenized corporate vision of America that lacks any feeling whatsoever. One community looks just like the last. Each area has its own Wal-Mart, Kinko's, McDonald's, Starbuck's, K-Mart, Safeway, Walgreen's, and so on, ad infinitum. Not one of the clerks has basic knowledge of anything they sell. Nothing is repairable. Everything is made of toxic plastic. Laborers are treated as slaves, and no regard is paid to their health, families, or futures. 

As they merge into one massive Golem, corporations wealth swells while tens- of-thousands workers lose their jobs. Our governments have never truly represented the masses, but there is no disguising the fact that they are fully controlled by industry. In fact, government, industry and academia are nearly indistinguishable. At present, George W. Bush is the visible head of industry. He is, shall we say, well-oiled. 

Food is a very political item.  

go·lem (gōʹləm) noun
In Jewish folklore, an artificially created human being supernaturally endowed with life.

Efficiency

In comparing the use of petroleum products to human labor, it is human labor that comes out far ahead in terms of energy efficiency, even without including the costs associated with pollution and global warming. Industrial monoculture farming's widely spaced rows on enormous plots are an open invitation to pestilence. Efficiency must be measured with a more holistic yardstick than just the growth of wealth for very few. Full employment of farm workers and a more efficient use of energy would be possible if we relied on diverse organic farming, and not at all on polluting machinery, toxic chemicals, and genetic engineering. 

Update 4jun2008
— If things looked difficult before, ponder the cost that food will rise to along with the rising cost of energy in the form of fossil fuel. Virtually everything done on a corporate farm relies on petroleum in some form, whether it be for energy, fertilizer, paint, containers, piping, or anything else it uses. And the petroleum is all running out.

Quality

Quality of life must be judged including the suffering caused by all forms of deleterious health effects from cancer and behavioral problems, to premature breast development in very young girls and the skewing of the male birth ratio, as well as a lack of decent employment that provides a living wage. Is it worth having our food contaminated with highly toxic chemicals? Is it worth destroying the world's biodiversity with genetically engineered crops and animals? Think about the thousands of generations to follow. How will they live if we leave them soil that is dead, water that is poison, air that removes paint, and food that kills us? The problem must be understood before it can be solved. Otherwise we treat symptoms rather than problems. The Green Revolution was a rather thinly veiled attempt at treating symptoms, each step of the way, adding layer upon layer of further errors. Today, genetic engineering is supposed to remedy the evils of the Green Revolution. It is but one more layer added to the deck of cards, a little more distance between nature and humans, and a lot more control of wealth by industry.

Productivity

In order to be complete, the productivity equation must include a dollar value for all the environmental damage that the "Green Revolution" has caused, and will continue to cause long after toxic industrial scale farming methods are retired. Think about the multitudes of farm workers injured by toxic pesticides and fertilizers, the water supplies that have been destroyed, the increase in cases of asthma because of air pollution, the soil made compacted and lifeless. Small organic farms are, by far, more productive than industrial-sized farms

The Cause not The Cure

When judging the "Green Revolution" in a complete view, one must admit that it is the cause of the problem, not the cure. Adding genetic engineering further complicates the lies of pesticides rather than ending them. But unlike the brutally toxic legacy of pesticides which have only killed and injured people and animals, poisoned water, air and soil, caused part of global warming, caused the bankruptcy of many thousands of farmers, some of whom have committed suicide by drinking the pesticides. The stakes are significantly higher with genetic engineering. Unlike the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a gene spill is permanent. What that means is that once natural crops have been mixed with genetically engineered crops, it is permanent and cannot be undone. At present the EPA requires a buffer zone between GE corn and natural corn. The buffer is measured in feet, while pollen travels miles. This buffer is only required because industry would like to appear as if they are playing it safe, while all the time they know exactly what they are doing, to make the world's food supply completely genetically engineered and in their control at any cost. This genetic pollution is already occurring. Recently the Wall Street did a study to find out if genes from genetically engineered crops were in natural crops by testing some consumer products that claimed to be GMO-free. 

Genetically engineered crops are not only designed to resist pesticides but those pesticides are quite necessary for the crops to grow. Monsanto has even been approved by EPA to have a greater residue of its most popular pesticide, Roundup, on crops. Does that sound like reduced pesticide use to you? And Roundup has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and a carcinogen. Many endocrine disruptors act at extremely low doses that are not tested for. Typically, testing is done in Parts Per Million. Endocrine Disruptors (Hormones or Hormone-Mimicking Substances) must be measured in Parts Per Trillion, several orders of magnitude higher.

Feed The Swelling Masses

Afghan refugees, estimated at 3 million, being denied aid by Pakistani "hosts." Foreign aid trucks are turned away by the Pakistani government under the impression that the Afghans  will stay if fed.

Time photo 

One overtly exploited justification is that we need GE crops “to feed the world’s growing population.” But while the UN estimated the earth’s output would feed 9 billion if distributed equitably. With 6 billion on the Earth presently, that leaves enough food for another 3 billion. Many go hungry and starve so that few can eat to obesity. We should only be concerned with the reasons for hunger rather than treating the symptoms with GE crops. The causes of hunger and starvation are poverty, inequality, discrimination, lack of access to food, and war. Even though foundations, such as the Ehsan Bayat Foundation, exist to work with Afghans in feeding them and even though there are others like it around the world, single foundations will always have trouble feeding the hungry when they stand alone. 

To say that countries lack food is a false generalization. Much of the starving population lives in countries with gross food exports. The food is exported to industrialized nations able to pay a higher price. And much of that food is exported to industrialized nations for the purpose of feeding animals such as cattle. 

Who's looking out for us? 
Don't count on the FDA, USDA, or EPA

You know what a revolving door in a department store is. But do you know about the revolving door between government, industry and academia? Read the next paragraph carefully, it is an excellent example of the revolving door.

Linda J. Fisher, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation, a leading developer of biotech foods, has been nominated for the second-ranking job at the Environmental Protection Agency. Fisher, who worked as Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances for 10 years before heading Monsanto's Washington lobbying office, was nominated for the post of deputy administrator. She also served on a U.S. Agriculture Department advisory committee on biotech foods.  One of the major issues currently before the EPA is a request from Aventis SA to approve a genetically- modified corn known as StarLink for human consumption. StarLink, a variety altered to repel pests, was barred from human food in 1998 due to concerns that it might trigger allergic reactions in some people. - source: Reuters 1may01

"Academic biologists and corporate researchers have become indistinguishable, and special awards are now given for collaborations between these two sectors for behavior that used to be cited as a conflict of interest." - Richard Strohman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.

Health risks - "In view of this unbridled commercial approach to genetic modification, it is perhaps not surprising that companies have paid little evident attention to the potential hazards to health of genetically modified foods. But it is astounding that the US Food and Drug Administration has not changed their stance on genetically modified food adopted in 1992. They announced...  'FDA has not found it necessary to conduct comprehensive scientific reviews of foods derived from bioengineered plants . . . consistent with its 1992 policy'. The policy is that genetically modified crops will receive the same consideration for potential health risks as any other new crop plant. This stance is taken despite good reasons to believe that specific risks may exist." - The Lancet, Volume 353, Number 9167 29 May 1999

Regulatory Vacuum - Key U.S. food safety and environmental regulatory agencies have allowed the introduction of genetically engineered crops into the food supply and the environment without sufficient precautionary testing.

 

Effects Unaccounted For

Listed below are a few of the things totally unaccounted for by the multinational corporations that dictated that we use this untested technology. Once Pandora's Box is opened, it is too late to undue the harm.

The Cure

As opposed to current industrial farming, the cure must be efficient, sustainable, easy to use, reliable, inexpensive, available to all without regard to wealth, cause no harm, give back at least as much as is taken from our Earth, give back the pride and reward of "working the land" to those who do the toil, make our food safe once again.

Good Examples

Small Organic Farms

Small organic farms of 27 acres or less have more than ten times greater dollar output per acre than larger farms and they don't destroy the land, water, air, and living organisms.

Find out how you can be part of the solution. Write to mindfully.org for more information on Organic Farming. 
Also look on the Genetic Engineering pages of this website.

 

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