Filed under: Africa, Capitalism, Developing Nations, Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Environment, Junk Science, National Security | Tags: Anti-Chemical Activists, Genetically Modified Food, Organic Food Fables
Food prices are up, and manufacturers are trying hard to keep you from noticing. Cereal boxes remain the same height, but they are thinner. Baker’s chocolate, formerly in 8 oz. boxes, now comes in boxes that are about ¼” smaller in every direction, contains half as much chocolate “NEW! 4 oz. Easy Break Bar, Same great chocolate. ” Still the same great price, for half as much. Sugar packages have lost a pound of content. I don’t like seeing food prices climb, but I object even more to manufacturers’ attempts to fool me.
If we insist, as a nation, on putting most of our corn crop into our gas tanks — the result is food price inflation. Food prices are rising faster than overall inflation. Core inflation is running around 2%, but the USDA said food prices would be up 3% to 4% last year. Corn ethanol does nothing for the climate, and it contains less energy than gasoline. You’re just paying farmers to grow fuel instead of food. A rise in the price of corn affects the price of other farm commodities such as meat, poultry, dairy and soy products. Congress ended the direct ethanol subsidies in 2011, but the renewables standard remains, and it is the biggest factor. Food prices hit the poor the hardest, and the ethanol mandate is essentially a tax on the poor.
“Organic” foods have been heavily promoted. They cost about 30% more than non-organic foods, but the label “organic” means only that growers used “natural” fertilizers and “natural” pesticides, but pesticide residue does not cross the conservative safety thresholds set by regulators. Natural fertilizer refers to animal manure —pathogen-laden animal excreta. “Organic” is supposed to be better for the natural environment, but it isn’t so, it just uses more land. The term “organic” refers to the practices and procedures a farmer intends to use. It does not indicate superior nutrition, flavor, or healthful qualities. It’s not better for you, just more expensive.
And for sheer silliness, consider the locavores. Now that with modern transportation we can have summer foods in the winter, plentiful vegetables when it’s snowing out, and strawberries all year around, the purists insist on locally grown food, with the suggestion that it is much fresher. But there’s not much local in the winter, and it may be flown in faster anyway.
Environmentalists are the loons who care more about the environment than about people. Fringe anti-biotechnology activists are hell-bent on banning anything containing a chemical. Chemicals are bad. A current interest is genetically modified food. Modify people’s genes as much as you want, select the desired sex and attributes of your potential baby, but don’t modify plants to be more resistant to disease, or insert a gene for Vitamin A to prevent blindness, as in “golden rice,”— an incalculable benefit to parts of the world dependent on rice, yet lacking the essential vitamin in their food supply. Better to have blind kids than mess with their food. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are not GMO skeptics, as they like to portray themselves, but fringe anti-chemical activists operating on the “precautionary principle” or the theory that if something is ‘suspected’ of potentially causing harm, you have to prove that it will not.
We are growing more food on less land, the green revolution, that will help to feed a hungry world. Food for the Poor is asking for help to feed starving Guatemalan children. Egypt is having trouble feeding their own people. We have over 17 years of successful GMO cultivation, millions of acres, hundreds of millions of servings and not one instance of adverse health or environmental effects. It is a remarkable achievement, and there are far more achievements in the pipeline.
Biotechnology offers an unparalleled safety record and demonstrated commercial success. Remarkably, however, biotechnology might not reach its full potential. In part, that’s because outspoken opponents of GM crops in the U.S. have spearheaded a “labeling” movement that would distinguish modified food from other food on grocery store shelves. Never mind that 60%-70% of processed food on the market contains genetically modified ingredients. In much of Europe, farmers are barred from growing genetically modified crops. Even in Africa, anti-biotechnology sentiment has blocked its application. In Zambia, for example, the government refused donations of GM corn in 2002, even as its people starved.
Opponents of GM crops have been extremely effective at spreading misinformation. GM crops don’t, as one discredited study claimed recently, cause cancer or other diseases. GM cotton isn’t responsible for suicides among Indian farmers—a 2008 study by an alliance of 64 governments and nongovernmental organizations debunked that myth completely. And GM crops don’t harm bees or monarch butterflies.
Anyone who cares about alleviating hunger and protecting the environment should work quickly to remove the bias against GM crops. A good first step is for educated, scientifically literate people to avoid being taken in by the myths about genetically modified food. These innovations have too much potential to empower individuals and feed the world to be thwarted by falsehoods and fear-mongering.
Filed under: Cool Site of the Day, Developing Nations, Foreign Policy, United Nations | Tags: 40 World Maps, Expanding your Knowledge, Useless Knowledge?
A Visual Representation of World Population Distribution. (click to enlarge)
U.S Map of the Highest Paid Public Employees by State. (click to enlarge)
Here are the entire 40 maps. They make you think a little differently about the world from the distribution of McDonald’s across the world to which side of the road the world drives on.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Junk Science, Politics | Tags: American Foreign Policy, Misguided Climate Ideas, Speaking to Young Africans
President Obama speaking to young Africans, on his vacation trip to Africa.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Energy, Foreign Policy, Health Care, The United States | Tags: No Cars- No Air Conditioning, Quietly Renovating a Clinic, Solyndra for Africa
President Barack Obama told a town hall in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday that “Ultimately, if you think about all of the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning and everybody has got a big house, well the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.”
According to Obama global warming constitutes “the biggest challenge we have environmentally,” one greater than all other environmental calamities like “dirty water, dirty air.” Sorry, not true. The World health Organization estimates the “global warming” is responsible for approximately 140,000 deaths each year.
The greatest problem that we can actually do something about is unclean drinking water. According to UNESCO, unsanitized water causes billions of preventable diseases annually: from diarrhea (4 billion), cholera (120,000), malaria (300-500 million), intestinal parasites (25% of world’s population) typhoid (12 million), trachoma (6 million), and schistosomeisis (200 million) — listed from the highest to the least affected. We know how to treat water to make it safe, even in the far abroad. There is absolutely nothing that we can do that will affect global warming in the slightest.
Somehow that just doesn’t come across too well. The president flies in on Air Force One, with a bunch of cargo planes in tow to carry the 12 limousines, and that already puts the trip over $25 million, and he tells the Africans that they can’t have air conditioning and cars and big houses, because he’s still stuck in AlGore fantasy land. He implied several times that the U.S. would only encourage growth in Africa if it is grounded in “clean energy strategies.” I imagine there are a lot of places in Africa where solar energy could provide some energy in a place where none has been obtainable, and the cost of solar panels has been dropping. Some energy is preferable to none at all. But the president apparently has in mind some big investment like Solyndra. Uh huh.
George W. Bush and Laura are in Africa too, but they are quietly helping to renovate a women’s clinic in Zambia, U2 frontman Bono, who is an activist for the poor and sick in Africa is crediting evangelical Christians and former President George W. Bush for saving 9 million from the ravages of AIDS, a campaign the musician says is blessed by God. Barack Obama cut back on the AIDS funds, last year and this. Priorities.
Filed under: Developing Nations, Economy, Energy, Environment, Freedom, Science/Technology, The United States | Tags: Carbon is a Natural Fertilizer, Makes Plants Grow, More Resistant to Water Stress
The true story of “Carbon Pollution.” Somebody tell Mr. Obama.
Filed under: Developing Nations, Environment, Science/Technology | Tags: Surprising Animals, The Dhole and The Babirusa, The Fossa and the Gerenuk
This handsome fellow with the spectacular horns and amazing beard is a Markhor, a large species of wild goat found in Northeastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The species is classed by the IUCN as Endangered, as there are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. The Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. When it chews its cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This dried foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting the poison from snake bites.
This collection of 22 animals that most of us didn’t know existed simply accentuates Dr. Tim Ball’s column in the previous post.
We don’t know how many species there are. We don’t have even crude estimates of populations. We don’t know how much population numbers vary.
Animal populations and distributions vary considerable over time. Every report of decline or discovery in a new location is now attributed to human induced climate change or other human activity. Perhaps the most outrageous is the claim of humans hunting Ice Age species to extinction. All ignore natural variability, but that is the pattern of anti-humanity environmental hysteria.
The Endangered Species Act doesn’t have a very good record of success. Some stopped being endangered when we stopped shooting them, some were never endangered in the first place, some stopped being endangered when numbers of their predators were reduced, and some—like the wolf, beloved by the environmentalists, have returned in such numbers that they are a threat to ranchers and other wildlife. People aren’t very good at establishing the balance of Nature.
Filed under: Capitalism, Developing Nations, Economy, Foreign Policy, Freedom, United Nations | Tags: Economics Professor Mark Perry, Ending Extreme Poverty, Free Market Capitalism
From Economist Mark Perry at AEI, an excerpt from The Economist:
The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) —such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.
The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.
The world now knows how to reduce poverty. A lot of targeted policies—basic social safety nets and cash-transfer schemes help. So does binning policies like fuel subsidies to Indonesia’s middle class and China’s hukou household-registration system that boost inequality. But the biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalizing markets to let poor people get richer. That means freeing trade between countries (Africa is still cruelly punished by tariffs) and within them (China’s real great leap forward occurred because it allowed private business to grow). Both India and Africa are crowded with monopolies and restrictive practices.
Many Westerners have reacted to recession by seeking to constrain markets and roll globalization back in their own countries, and they want to export these ideas to the developing world, too. It does not need such advice. It is doing quite nicely, largely thanks to the same economic principles that helped the developed world grow rich and could pull the poorest of the poor out of destitution.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Education, Economy, Environment, Energy, Developing Nations, National Security | Tags: Genetically Modified Organisms, Monsanto Corporation, Developing Nations
For most people last weekend was the observance of Memorial Day, a time to remember the fallen. For the easily aroused, it was a time to march in a global protest against Monsanto and genetically modified seeds. Well, the global warming thingy is in freefall as a protest message, since most people are noticing that it is significantly cooling (where is summer anyway?), with late snow to emphasize the fact. Are the protesters always just the same people? The pictures look like it. Is there a certain type who just loves to march and wave signs?
Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” demonstrations were being held in some 300 cities in more than 44 countries that weekend. It was described as a social media-generated call to action against genetically modified foods and the multinational corporations that produce them. Goodness, you alter a gene to include vitamin A in rice, creating “golden rice,”which will save millions from blindness, and the perennially suspicious go bonkers.
Genetically modified seeds help farmers to grow more on less land, and to conserve resources such as water and energy. Some supporters just want any foods grown from GMO seeds to be so labeled, others want to prohibit the process. Proposition 37, a ballot measure that would have made California the first state to require labels on fresh produce and processed foods whose DNA had been modified by scientists, was defeated at the polls.
Unsurprisingly, much of the misinformation on GMO crops comes from promoters of Organic Food. “Organic” is merely a marketing campaign. Multiple studies have shown no benefits of any kind from organic food, other than the higher prices it brings to marketers, and Whole Foods.
Demographers expect world population to keep growing until about 2050, and then start declining. The industrialized nations , for the most part, have declining birth rates, and as prosperity increases, that seems to be the natural tendency. Until 2050, we need to produce more food to feed the world. If the world continues to cool, we might desperately need GMO foods that are more adapted to cold. Varieties of grains adapted to particular soils or climates can dramatically increase production. Reducing the cost of weed control, or reducing susceptibility to a virus, can be a very big deal. Reducing pesticide use makes food healthier. Adding beta carotene to golden rice could prevent millions of cases of blindness. Do people not recognize that countries like Egypt cannot feed their own population?
Growers and marketers are sensitive to the protests of activist groups. They have seen foolish scares do tremendous damage to their businesses. Remember the cranberry scare, Alar, and activists attempting to destroy crops? Here’s some information on genetically modified food:
“The World Needs Genetically Modified Food” WSJ, April 14, 2013
“Organic industry’s credibility eroded by misinformation about GE foods” American Enterprise Institute, May 20, 2013
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Politics, Science/Technology | Tags: 15000 Crocodiles, Rakwena Crocodile Farm, The Great Limpopo River
South Africa has called out the police to join the hunt for as many as 10,000 crocodiles that have escaped from a crocodile farm during floods and been washed into one of Southern Africa’s biggest rivers. Do not go swimming in the Limpopo River.
Heavy rains and flooding have claimed at least 20 lives in Mozambique and South Africa and led to evacuations. The flood gates at the Rakwena Crocodile farm close to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders ere opened on Sunday because it was feared that rising flood waters would crush the reptiles, releasing some 15,000 crocodiles. Most are less than 78 inches long.
Crocodile farmers, locals and police have trapped thousands of the reptiles, using plastic bands to tie their legs behind their backs and piling them into pick-up trucks. They have more success at night, because it is easier to see them. Huh.
I have never lived where crocodiles are common, nor alligators, nor do I want to. Someone once sent us a baby crocodile as a joke. Not funny. Fortunately, a worker at the Humane Society had a husband who was a Herpetologist who was delighted to have the chance to raise one. Took me a long time to get over being angry about that.
Filed under: Developing Nations, Environment, Science/Technology | Tags: Democratic Republic of Congo, lesula, Newly Discovered Species
These are two young lesula (cercopithecus lomaniensis) a previously undiscovered species of monkey from the central Democratic Republic of Congo in one of the country’s last unexplored forest areas. The 6,500 square mile area where the shy lesula is found is remote and sparsely populated. The adult male has a unique and highly identifiable blue rear end. They say it is a new species, but of course it is only new to us.
Researchers say that the species is vulnerable as a result of hunting for bush meat. They called for controls on hunting and the creation of a protected area to conserve the lesula. Bush meat or wild game is dangerous in Africa as it may transmit Ebola or HIV to humans.
Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered in just a few years. The challenge for conservation is to intervene before losses become definitive. It’s complicated when the need for meat protein is high.
(photos by John Hart)
Filed under: Capitalism, Developing Nations, Domestic Policy, Election 2012, Environment, Statism | Tags: Crazy California, Genetically Engineered Foods, Golden Rice
“A fight over genetically engineered foods has been
heating up in the nation’s grocery aisles.
Now it’s headed for the ballot box”
Unbelievable. Every time you think that California has finally dropped off the West Coast and drifted away into Never-Never land, they pop back up with some other weirdness in the news. Banning ‘Happy Meals” and pet goldfish is not enough, now voters will decide whether to make California the first state in the country to require labels on products such as sweet corn whose genes have been altered to make them resistant to pests.
Proposition 37 will be a big-money battle pitting natural food businesses and activists against multinational companies such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kellogg. Backers and opponents have already raised nearly $4 million to sway the minds of the state’s voters, and it will expand into tens of millions as the November election approaches.
There is no health magic contained in “organic” food. The magic occurs in the idea that using manure is more “natural” than fertilizing with nitrogen derived from carbon-based fossil fuels. The only qualifications for food to be “organic” is in the process of growing only with “natural” fertilizer, and “natural” pesticide — usually derived from pyrethiums, an extraordinarily poisonous substance. Activists have a semi-religious belief that anything derived from petroleum must be evil. Organic food is not better for you, not healthier, not fresher, and about 30% more expensive.
Genetic engineering has been peacefully going on for centuries, but when accomplished by scientists instead of by the wind and happenstance it supposedly somehow becomes threatening. Visitors to Mesa Verde, and to the museum there, may have seen corn cobs that were the genetic predecessors of today’s tasty ears. Tiny, only 3″ to 4″ long.
Genetic engineering has created “golden rice” by adding beta carotene to rice for areas of the world with great Vitamin A deficiency. A lack of Vitamin A means millions of deaths and thousands of cases of blindness, with the worst effects on children and pregnant women. The original strain has been improved and studies show that it performs as hoped. Crop yields are also higher . It is hoped that it will clear the final regulatory hurdles and reach the market in 2013. The Gates Foundation and Helen Keller International have been supporting development efforts.
Anti-GMO activists like Greenpeace have the usual conspiracy theories, and quasi-religious objections to any genetic engineering. Their noise has been sufficient to scare the gullible, hence the presence of Proposition 37 on the California ballot. GMO foods have been declared completely safe by U.S. regulators, but it’s easy to scare people with hints of “the unknown.” People have been scared by the term “genetically engineered,” and the people who sell products containing GMO foods are worried about losing sales.
70% to 80% of all processed foods sold in supermarkets could be affected as well as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
We are so blessed in the great variety of foods available to us today. Relax and enjoy.
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Education, History | Tags: Educational Potential, Missing Knowledge, The True size of Africa
(Click to enlarge, you have to see this big)
This handsome graphic representation of the continent of Africa gives us a whole new understanding of the size and potential of the continent in a way that verbal descriptions cannot. Many kinds of graphic representations become easier on the computer and more shareable. The right combinations of visual and text can add to learning in new ways that we don’t understand well yet.
For example, there is a YouTube video that is a representation of wars throughout history and the change that the wars bring about, that really impressed me. It is much too brief, and too fast in the speed-up of centuries, to be very useful; but there is a tantalizing glimpse of the potential for a new and better understanding of history in seeing visually the sweep of armies and population shifts. Bill Gates is involved with something like this, but the little I have seen is different but interesting.
When my youngest was in high school world history, the teacher called everything to a halt and inserted a class in geography. He found his class was clueless about basic geography which made any attempt to explain history meaningless.
We were being transferred frequently, and my oldest missed telling time completely. He left his old school just before they reached that section, and the new school had already completed it. Took ages for us to discover that he had no idea how to tell time.
In any given group, we do not know what knowledge is missing unless some accident exposes the missing information. If we know a thing, we assume that those around us do as well, and it is not always apparent that they do not. Kids especially have lots of missing knowledge, but as they are unaware of it, cannot tell anyone that they don’t know. And we don’t think to ask.
If you have school age kids, have you read their books to see what they are learning and what is missing?