Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Joel Salatin & Monsanto, Part Deux

This post doesn't really deal much with anything to do with the title, I mostly just wanted to use the word deux.  Now I can feel like a co-producer on one of the Hot Shot movies.

Marty Duren took the time to read my post and his response was gracious, logical, and fair.  This is what makes him one of my favorite people to read.

Since tractors nowadays drive themselves, I had time to think about my previous post and some of Marty's and Jay's feedback.  I think fundamentally we agree, or, at least I don't have any problems with their feedback.  I'm trying to approach this topic from the perspective of how can we feed a growing global population.  In other words, what's it going to take in terms of production, technology, economic factors and so forth.  That's what undergirds most of my thought processes, at least on this topic.

I had some additional random thoughts and considerations on the topic (some of which can be connected to the previous post), so I'll just spill them all over this page in no particular order.  Hopefully I'll remember most of them.  Here we go:
  • It's easy for us in the U.S. of A to say things like "don't eat meat" or "only eat organic." But try that line on someone in India or Ethiopia.  How does that help the rest of the world?  What does that do to help alleviate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in third world countries?  They just want to eat, and would like to know another meal will be there the next day too. 
  • Vegetarianism is fine too, but as Jim Gaffigan states, animals are "fun to pet but better to chew." 
  • If I get sick enough, I go to the doctor and they usually give me an antibiotic.  People do this for themselves, and for their pets.  Why not do this for livestock as well?  The same thing can be said for vaccinations.  People get them, pets get them, how about cows?  Granted, this is a multi-facited issue with multiple approaches on how to care for and feed animals and how to raise them, impact of droughts etc.,  in other words there is a lot more to this than sad looking pictures of CAFO's, but I'm happy for people to have the choice.  If you want to only eat grass fed, free range, organic, antibiotic free beef or poultry, that's great.  There's a market for that, and people are willing to pay a premium to have that.  If you're content with McDonalds, there's a market and a medical field for that as well. 
  • I know of now other industry in the United States more heavily regulated, moderated, tested, or scrutinized than agriculture.  It's not fail safe, that's been proven.  But I feel safe to eat the salad and the steak from the grocery store or the local restaurant.
  • When a seed is altered to make it tolerant or resistant to something, it's been genetically modified, hence GMO's.  The two common GMO seed traits we use are plants that are resistant to the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) for weed control and Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) which protects the plants against worms.  Roundup attacks an enzyme in plants that humans don't have, and Bt is naturally occurring in the soil.  The funny thing about Bt is that it is an "approved" insecticide spray on organic crops, but when it's incorporated into a seed, it's now an evil GMO.  Another common corn herbicide goes by the name Callisto, and its active ingredient is derived from the chrysanthemum flower.  
  • With all that, those darn weeds and insects still come back.  Maybe they don't stick around poisoning the soil as much or as long as we're sometimes led to believe.  Perhaps sunlight and soil microorganisms start breaking them down or feeding on them immediately.  Thanks for the thistles Eve. 
  • If I used commercial fertilizer mined from the Earth, I get blamed for mining from the Earth and polluting the water.  If I use manure as fertilizer I get complaints about the odor and polluting the water.
  • If I till the ground I get accused of raping the soil and creating erosion, polluting the water, dusting the air, and burning too much diesel.  If I go No-till, I significantly reduce erosion and fuel use, but I use more herbicides to achieve weed control, and I pollute the water.  2 out of 4 isn't bad.    
  • Biotechnology is not the end all, but in my opinion it helps get us toward the goal of feeding people.  Community gardens, farmers markets, buying local are all great ideas and should be utilized.  I'm just not convinced we can feed the masses with those methods alone.  

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