"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

Part VI-E: Agriculture

Part VI-E: Agriculture

 

Amongst problems in agriculture, there are many. Let’s first look back at what happened the last time there was an economic downturn combined with rapid advances in technology: The Great Depression. We all know what happened, but these two things had the biggest impact: intense financial instrument usage (money upon money) and technological innovation. That innovation just happened to hit the agricultural industry quite hard. It is difficult to determine what effect an efficiency might have on individuals, because they operate on the masses.

Where are the crickets? They got killed by pesticides. Where are the bees? Killed by pesticides. The local plants? Killed by herbicides. Things dying around us. Rivers shrinking. What is going on? We must change the way we do things. Life does not come back after you kill it off. No matter the attempts at cloning a woolly mammoth. As much as our sacred modern science and technology can accomplish, we cannot resurrect a species that threatens our lives through its extinction. We will not live long enough to counter the biological extinction. We must address the source of all of these problems collectively in order to solve any of them. They are far too endemic and prevalent to address individually adequately. We must strike at the root in order not only to save ourselves, but to usher in an incredible new future. Please excuse my optimism in revolution.

GMO: genetically-modified organism. This is an organism more or less “created” by human hands to serve a purpose. In the case of agriculture, for food or wood fuel or fabrics or some other need or want. The plant started out in its natural form, from which we have then altered at the genetic level, through gene removal, addition, or splicing. We alter the basic form of what makes this plant (or animal) grow and exist.

In the natural world, there is a symbiosis between all forms of life; a circle that has allowed organisms to live and die, breed, plant their seeds in new soil, etc. Living and dying by their fortitude, ability to breed, resistance to other forms of life (bacterial infections, viruses, other encroaching plants or animals), and ability to consume energy. The interweaving of these forms of life is something that makes our natural world so amazing. The intricacy of interaction, such tiny causes, leading to a stable system of rising, falling individual species. For so long in our history, thousands upon thousands of years, it has been extremely difficult to put a dent in this system, it seemed so hardy. But as our strength as a species has risen, and in the last 200 years, especially the last 50, we compete with the power of nature. We directly influence it. In fact, we can direct it. We can destroy entire swathes of land. Eradicate species. Alter the weather. What once was so strong, so granite-tough, has become as delicate as a Faberge egg.

We still have a long history of GMO usage, before we could even make changes at the genetic level. Selective breeding has created the crops and livestock we know today. It was selective breeding, over generations, that made the dog. Selective breeding that gave us the soybean. Selective breeding that created corn, wheat, bananas, strawberries, broccoli, potatoes. In their present form (just before true genetic modification), we created these organisms. What was nice about this is not only that we could make a plant that better fulfilled its purposes, i.e. as food, but it was also an incremental shift from the previous generation of similar plants. There was enough of a similarity to previous generations of the plants that large-scale usage progressed at a pace that nature could “keep up with”. In that bees could adapt to the new strain, that fauna could learn to eat or not to eat, that those crops which were specialties could only be grown by actually doing it, and that nature could compensate accordingly for the shift in local, dominant species. Even in that case, we were still doing damage to the system, and altering it for our own purposes, our own reproduction, that took precedence over the system itself, upon which we still and will always depend. It is more important that we protect this system than we feed ourselves. It is more important that we protect this system than we even live, for we cannot live without it. Individuals will perish and civilizations will crumble, but humanity will live on if we protect this system. This, of course, is the primary concern. We were meant to be shepherds of the earth, not its butchers.

 

So, let us further examine the problem with GMOs.

First off, I would like to implicate myself in the use of them. I at least eat genetically modified corn and soybeans on a regular basis. They are available in grocery stores. They show up in corn chips, soy milk, and a thousand other things. I use ethanol fuel in my vehicle to drive places, coming from modified corn, again. I eat modified wheat in bread, drink the modified fermented grain that becomes beer. I do it because it tastes good, provides energy, and is cost-effective. I am no stranger to the spoils that come from GMO crops. If you wish to call me a hypocrite, I will not begrudge you that. It may very well be true. I disagree with the usage of these things, and yet I use them myself. But how could it be otherwise? And how could one alter a culprit society that utilizes these things if one were not just as much a culprit? I find this to be the case. That, as individuals, we are able to effect little in this respect. If I were to quit all usage of GMOs, I would not be present as you see me. I would be something else. I would not be able to sit at a computer and write these things. For fear that I would indulge in that which I consider ultimately wrong would weigh heavily upon me (and it often does), but I indulge anyway. To follow through on these ideals, individually, would sever me from society, put me in the dark from the people around, living on dirt, and not engendering the respect required for people to listen to ideas. Such it is a necessary evil to live as I do. Such it is a necessary evil for others, as well.

Compound this: when it comes to GMOs, as well as all the other necessities and conveniences of modern society, we cannot simply stop using them. At the very least, millions would starve. Our population has grown based on the assumptions and fruits of our science and technology. To stop would be to cut off a gangrenous leg, one that can and will kick the surgeon in the face. We can treat it, however, calm the patient enough for an injection, stop the infection and keep walking. It will take a very patient, very deliberate changes in policy to effect what is necessary.

We ought first to weigh this argument based on intention. What is the intention of GMO crops? The companies that create them are corporations, designed for profit. That is the first intention: profit. Corn that yields more product per acre makes more money for associated cost, right? A uniform crop that allows for better “control”? Patent rights for future usage? Profit again. But altruistic motives cannot be denied either: Corn that yields more product per acre will feed more people, right? Less time per individual spent on farming? Sure. Please forgive me if I cannot divine further, but this is enough for an analysis.

First off, we should disregard profit as an ultimate motive. It does nothing to further our species, in itself. It can only reasonably be used as an ethical motive in aid of some other proper goal. Of other goals, say feeding more people: our system does not allow for distribution to those that need it. Our government provides food to Sudan or Ethiopia or other impoverished regions by way of either furthering its own ends (indebting those people to our generosity) or by way of sympathy for fellow man in need. Get enough well-off, democratic people with regard for human life and you may very well see them give to those less fortunate. This is no guarantee, however, even in a truly democratic society, but it can happen. But for those companies, say Monsanto, who make those GMOs, do you see them giving away their crop out of sympathy? Of course not. Unless it is a public relations stunt, which could only ever be a novelty, an advertisement, meant to engender support for their profit motive. So long as these companies are ruled by the fiat currency that we hold so dear, there will be no change in that respect. Profit can and will be their only ultimate goal.

GMO crops are another example of how something that is inherently good in itself can be warped and twisted to suit the wants of those that would profit from it. Which can at absolute best be morally considered on the macro level a neutral motivation. This is not to even broach the end goal or unintended consequences or environmental devastation. If the FDA (which is incorruptible, of course) says its okay to eat, then fine. Hell, I eat the stuff on a regular basis. I use the ethanol from corn in my vehicle. But I do not pretend to be righteous in that usage, nor should anyone else. These for-profit crops, and industrial farming in general, are destroying our planet. Or rather, the planet that we consider “habitable”. Deforestation, destruction of local plants, heavy-handed, sudden alteration of ecosystems, herbicides and pesticides that do not affect the crop in question (as a result of that genetic modification) but which ravage the local ecosystem, climate changes with large swathes of said crop replacing native species (different intake of oxygen, output of carbon dioxide), inability of native species to adapt to new introduction which often necessitates introduction of other species, erosion and reliction of soil, depletion of nutrients with repeated planting of the same crop, that crop which is viable not because it naturally grows there, but because blunt-force economic energy makes it profitable, and therefore happen, an economic energy which is by nature temporary (fossil fuels).

Policy is the answer to this problem and many others, not personal consumption, whose consuming biological mindset is unalterable and the basis for that ill-gained profit in the first, and the continual, instance.

[Of course, there is much more to be said of this topic. In due time, I will return to it.]