The good HRH Prince Charles has delivered his unsurprising opinion on GM agriculture in today’s Telegraph. GM’s bad. GM’s gonna kill the planet.
No, I’m not a scientist, but unlike some people whose ability to advance an informed opinion is inversely proportionate to their influence, I do like to employ critical thinking. Believe it or not, if you study the arguments presented by both pro- and anti- GM lobbies you will find more scientifically proven evidence favouring the pro- argument. The anti- science doesn’t stand up.
I favour the pro- arguments because I prefer the idea of feeding the masses of poor people on the planet to the idea of salving the consciences of privileged eco-warriors with a sanctimonious streak that’s so strong you couldn’t swipe a credit card down the crack of their arses when they’re in Eco Smug mode. These are people who attach greater weight to imagined or statistically improbable events over the immediate needs of human beings.
Here’s HRH’s science:
Oh, hang on, there isn’t any. It’s just an opinion.
I tried hard to find the evidence that might have formed his opinion, and in the interview with the Telegraph reporter the Prince cites two events.
"Look at India's Green Revolution. It worked for a short time but now the price is being paid.Yeah, well fuck you HRH as you’ve “been to the Punjab” in your dandelion-powered zero emission flying saucer. Being there isn’t the same as understanding if you’re looking at the world via the lens of preconceived ideas.
"I have been to the Punjab where you have seen the disasters that have taken place as result of the over demand on irrigation because of the hybrid seeds and grains that have been produced which demand huge amounts of water.
"[The] water table has disappeared. They have huge problems with water level, with pesticide problems, and complications which are now coming home to roost.
"Look at western Australia. Huge salinisation problems. I have been there. Seen it. Some of the excessive approaches to modern forms of agriculture."
About the Punjab. The New York Times (22/6/08), the Wall Street Journal Asia (28/4/08), India Today (31/12/07) describe the rocketing demand for food, over-use of land, mismanagement by government and failure to educate farmers as the reasons for the Punjab’s failure, NOT the GM crops.
Secondly, salinisation in Western Australia. What? Unlike the Punjab situation, I can’t find a single reference to GM being a proven cause. The peculiar thing is that in regions where salinisation is a problem, GM crops modified to grow in such conditions can thrive.
The net effect of stopping GM now would be, if my basic 6th form economics is up to scratch, increased wealth. That’s good, isn’t it? It is if you follow the basic Malthusian economic theory. Any increase in effective technology increases the population and decreases their living standards. This is called the Malthusian Trap, which kept the vast majority of humankind in relative poverty up to the time of the English Industrial Revolution. This is why surviving English peasants enjoyed unusual prosperity after the Black Death wiped out over 30% of the population in the 14th century. There was increased demand for their labour, so their wages went up.
Like it or not, the world’s population is rising. Stop GM and millions of people will die, but average living standards will improve.
There's a word for people who would advocate action to cause such a thing to happen, and it isn't a nice one.