American Elephants


The Worst Food Regulation Ever by The Elephant's Child

A government shutdown not only allows the rest of us a chance to think about the usefulness of government and all that it does, but quite a few people have been talking about the unnecessary size of government, the things the government does that they don’t really need to be doing, and there was an article in the Wall Street Journal today titled “This May be the Worst Regulation Ever” with an even more interesting subhead: “A USDA rule about labels on ‘bioengineered’ food cost hundreds of millions and has no benefits.

Well, Frabjous Day, Henry I. Miller has hit on one of my pet peeves. He is talking specifically about the “Non GMO” required label, but the “Certified Organic” is almost as bad. I blame it all on suburban housewives, who are supposed to be “highly educated”, but in my experience are highly susceptible to phony claims.

The “Organic” movement started because they got it in their heads that their food was being fertilized by the petroleum industry. Well, yes, petroleum products are rich in nitrogen which is a fertilizer for plants, and oil companies made fertilizers. Panic time! Poisoning children. The Organic movement wanted “natural” fertilizer, not fossil fuels. “Natural fertilizer” comes from cow poop and chicken poop. Food grown without a lot of noxious chemicals in a “natural way” grew, and the Dept. of Agriculture agreed to certify foods produced by organic farmers as “Organic” so folks could be sure to reach for the right can. Unfortunately  cow poop and chicken poop have a risk of e-coli, which is poisonous, And when you get to advertisements on the radio for “Organic Cotton sheets for your bed” it gets remarkably silly. If the cotton fields from which the cotton was picked were fertilized with manure, what earthly difference does that make to the fabric eventually woven for your bed?

The GMO scare was similar. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. They tweaked the genes of the plants that grew what eventually became food to add a more desirable element. In some cases it helps to resist a virus, or resist a certain kind of bug, or need less water or fertilizer when growing. The statute acknowledged that bioengineered food is neither more nor less safe than other food, but the new rule — the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) will not help consumers to understand that. So you have labels on most of the canned food on your supermarket’s shelves that identify Organic foods and Non GMO foods, that give you useless information and cost you a whole bunch. Organic food costs about 30% more than its non-organic counterpart, and is a complete waste of money.

I refuse to buy anything with an “Organic” label, but stores now have a large organic fruit and vegetable section. I blame it, as I said on suburban women, and on Gwyneth Paltrow, who has always been very big on food scares.

The original article is here, but may be behind a subscription barrier. Henry I. Miller is a great debunker of things that need debunking. Watch for him.



The World Needs Genetically Modified Food! by The Elephant's Child

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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

The  Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops” Reason, Feb. 22, 2013

Organic industry’s credibility eroded by misinformation about GE foods”  American Enterprise Institute, May 20, 2013




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