Sustainable Agriculture Forum Part 3: Audience Question and Answers

Sustainable Agriculture Forum Part 3: Audience Question and Answers


Boulder County Presents: Sustainable Agriculture
Forum November 6, 2010
Silver Creek High School Part 3: Audience Question and answer, facilitated
by Rosemary Highman, Boulder County League of Women Voters Rosemary: Is there any difference between
what you are doing, and what Monsanto is doing? (How many minutes do they get to do this,
or?) Pamela: Maybe Iíll go first. So we donít
work with, neither of us work with Monsanto; I donít have any money from private industry,
this comes up a lot. The rice we developed has been distributed freely in the less developed
world. Itís all non-profit work. Monsanto is a large corporation whose goal is to sell
seed and profit from that seed; and they have been very successful. Theyíve used many tools,
they use conventional breeding to both use genetic breeding, genetic engineering. I think
one misperception is somehow that genetic engineering technology is completely tied
up with Monsanto, but technology is simply technology. Anybody can use it. Genetic engineering
technology was developed in the public domain. Itís certainly being used by Monsanto and
large corporations, but itís also been used by virtually every scientist in the world.
I mean itís a very common, simple technology. The predictions are that in about, just in
about five years ñ it is true that Bt crops, for example, Ht crops in the United States,
much of that seed is sold by very large corporations, but itís also true this technology is so
powerful that I hope you have seen from our slides, that itís being rapidly adopted all
over the world, and itís predicted that within four years, most of the genetically engineered
crops around the world will be leased by national institutions for the use of their own people.
So for example, China, Brazil, India, all those companies have University scientists
like myself working to develop crops that are important for enhancing sustainability
and for the public good. So I think there is unfortunately a lot of resistance to the
technology, simply because it has been used by Monsanto. But I also want to point out
that if you do not want to by anything from corporations, and certainly I understand that
and respect that, but rejecting the process of genetic engineering will not get you to
that goal. And thatís because these large corporations are using all approaches. Theyíre
using approaches such as mutagenesis, precision breeding, many different types of laboratory
approaches that are all allowed to be certified organic. So, and in the United States, most
farmers do buy their seed, they buy from for profit corporations, companies, organic farmers
and conventional farmers. So I think we have a very productive seed industry in the United
States, ,,, certainly there are farmers that are saving their own seed, but Ö itís dramatically
different from other parts of the world. So for example, in Bangladesh and India, most
farmers are not buying their seed. They donít have money. So, when you develop new varieties
to those countries, farmers need to be able to self pollenate their seed. And whether
the seed was developed through Ö they can still self pollenate their seed. Seed is seed.
And so thatís something I think that is not widely understood. That there are different
farming systems that in the U.S. much of our non-profit seed breedingÖ Rosemary: Excuse me. Pamela, if you could;
we have lots of questions. Weíll go to Raoul for just a bit. But in the interest of time,
and your time, the questions will be posted on the web, but we appreciate all your answers. Raoul: Iíd just like to say briefly, that
the main idea in our book is to develop ecologically based, sustainable farming systems that integrate
both the practices of organic agriculture, you know, crop rotation, and things that I
spoke about, along with the most improved seed, the most appropriate seed that can be
used to create the most sustainable farming system. So, I donít think those are necessarily
Monstantoís goals. But I think that those are the, those should be the goals of the
people trying to develop the most sustainable farming system. Rosemary: Thank you. The next question, and
Iíll just put this open and someone can put their hand up and David will give you the
microphone. Should Boulder County Parks and Open Space use ìprecautionary principleî
and not allow GMOs on its ag and forest lands. Tim: You know, itís like the speaker here
was talking a minute ago. Itís about a sound agricultural system. And so, I think, that
rather than have a broad anti-GMO policy, that the county, the citizens in the county,
and the producers in the county, should be able to look at whatís the appropriate, what
fits the ecological, environmnetal, economic niche, for those producers, and have flexibility
for what kind of inputs they choose to use. I think it serves everyone well to be progressive,
and open minded about whatís out there, there are certainly issues where plant and animal
biotechnology has had questionable outcomes. On the other hand, there is certainly yield
improvements, drought tolerance, salt tolerance issues that have benefited a lot of the population,
a lot of the growing population and people, so I think again, it should be an issue by
issue, case by case determination, and not a broad policy. Rose Mary: Thank you. Would anyone else like
to address the question? Cindy: I would like to agree with what Tim
said. I think that there are best management practices that need to be employed with any
management tool. And I look at transgenic crops as a tool. It can be misused or used
properly. And so I think it should be the whole complement of best management practices,
and to use it properly is appropriate. Itís just like with pesticides ñ they can be used
properly, or they can be misused. And so this is just one more of those tools that has to
be used wisely for the benefit of the producer, benefit of the public and for the future use
of that tool. Jim: Well, clearly this is a decision to be
made by the people of Boulder County, what kind of environment they want to live in.
But I think you certainly have to look at the evidence to date. The first GMO is the
recombinant Bovine somatatropine, injected into dairy cattle, and evidence now shows
that it does elevate the levels of IGF1, which is linked to prostate and breast cancer in
humans. The herbicide tolerant crops now have yielded an agricultural landscape with at
least 20 herbicide resistant weeds. And it was predicted, and if the precautionary principal
were being used, they wouldnít have been commercialized, but now we have widespread
herbicide resistance in the weeds. And the same thing is happening with the Bt, there
is resistance developing within the insect populations, and itís quite misleading to
say that the GM crops have lead to a decrease in pesticide on crops; itís actually had
been an increase in pesticide applications, and thatís not accounting for the fact that
every cell of the Bt crop is registered as a pesticide. Those pesticides remain viable
in the environment. Research from the University of Indiana is now finding the Bt toxins in
water sources, and theyíre not just limited to the corn borer, they are toxic to catasfly
larvae in the aquatic ecosystem, and catasfly is a keystone specie, eaten by many other
aquatic organisms. So you have to look at the evidence, and the evidence is not good.
And itís unnecessary. We have high beta carotene corn, high protein corn, salt tolerant wheat,
drought tolerant rice, high yielding lentils, and soy beans with low levels of saturated
and trans fats, all without genetic engineering. And, itís my understanding that the rice
youíre working on is not transgenic, correct? Correct? Itís not transgenic. The DNA is
from rice. Itís selective breeding using geneticÖ Rose Mary: Could you hand the microphone to.. Jim: Yes, I will. But I just wanted to clarify. Pam: So a couple of things. One thing we try
to be very careful about is to use science based information. And I think that is very
critical when you talk about sustainability. What is science based information. Ö and
so if you look on line, itís a debate between myself and Charles Benbrook of ìThe Organic
Instituteî .. and I have every statement that I have said today is really supported
by facts;
the reduction in
the
use of pesticides is really indisputable now, and so I would encourage you to look at the
references. Please donít interrupt. So I would encourage you to look at that science
based information. So one thing that I really want to emphasize is that weÖ the first two
speakers, transgenic is just a tool. Itís no better or worse than conventional breeding.
Itís just a different kind of seed, and it must be integrated into a managed system.
And thatís something that weíve seen with herbicide tolerance. It doesnít matter whether
the herbicide tolerance has been developed through eugolosis or conventional methods,
or thorugh genetic engineering. If you use a lot of herbicides, you will develop herbicide
tolerance. So again, if you donít want herbicide tolerance, you need to cut out the use of
herbicides, or manage it in a different way. So again, it doesnít have to do with the
technology of genetic engineering. And genetic engineering can introduce, to answer your
question Jim, genetic engineering can introduce a gene from rice into rice, it can be used
to introduce a gene from a completely different species into that crop. So genetic engineering
is really simply a method of gene delivery. And I think what the first two speakers were
pointing out, what matters is the trait, and what matters is how the farmers are able to
use it, and that the larger questions of sustainability must be addressed. Is it benefiting farmers, is it reducing pesticide, insecticide use, and
thatís that. (applause) Rose Mary: If you would hold your applause, weíll have
more time for questions. If you want to do a ìthmbs up,î fine. Hold your applause,
please. These two are related. The presentation did not address the objective of the GMO companies to own the intellectual
property, to own the key to rice, wheat, corn genes. And then this question is: How do we
assure that diversity is maintained, and that farmers have affordable access to the results of genetic research, given the current atmosphere
of privatization and monopolization. David: Is that all one question? OK, so I think weíll
just go down the table again. Pam: Very good questions. So, I think the answer to the second question was how can we be sure that

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