Saturday, December 7, 2013

The War on Monsanto

Freedom Tax

Most days I get at least one tweet or Facebook post telling me about the evils of Monsanto and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms ). It usually accompanies a link to one of the conspiracy sites. When I research something I look for education websites or journalist I trust. I have spent the past decade trying to learn as much as possible about climate change. I must admit that I haven't put as much time into researching Genetically Modified Organisms. I do try to understand enough to know if the foods I'm eating are killing me. I'm sure most things we do in life affect life span in some way.

The one thing we know for certain is that people are living longer than ever. We also know that is mostly due to hygiene, medical care, home environment, and an abundance of food. I'm sure most of us learned in history about the 1930's dust bowl. That was when a large portion of the plains states were trapped in cloud of dust because of bad farming techniques and a drought.

A dust bowl of today is much less likely, not because there aren't droughts, but because of better farming techniques and drought resistant crops. Some of those crops are a result of hybridization and some from genetic modification. Because of hybridization and genetic modifications we can grow far more food per acre than in the dust bowl era.

Hybridization has been done for thousands of years. It is through the hybridizing process that we have those Granny Sweets. For most of history apples were used only for cider because they were too sour for table fruit. A farmer could grow a thousand trees and only a few would have sweet apples suitable for eating off the tree. Farmers began to save the seeds from those sweet apples and grow only those. Problem solved, right? No. If you replant seeds from the same plant over and over the fruit will get smaller and eventually stop producing. To solve this problem farmers grafted parts of the sweet trees to those that produce sour apples. After about a thousand years of this process we now have an abundance and a large variety of sweet apples.This is an over implication, but it gives you an idea about the process.

Modern science discovered a way, through genetic manipulation, to duplicate the process that sometimes took a thousand years. Science on the genetic level is relatively safe. Until the learning curve is straightened out there are risk. We have always heard that without great risk there are no rewards.

Today, when we see the outcry over GMO, we must ask which one. It seems the one that most worries people is the addition of the bacteria Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is a natural pesticide. The biggest danger found so far is the killing of Monarch Butterflies in proximity to fields.

We know there are many insecticides that are reasonably safe for humans, but deadly to insects. Because of insecticides we have greatly reduced crop loss that allows more people to be fed from less land use. Less crop loss keeps food prices low, making it more affordable to the poor.

Monsanto has a long history of government cronyism. That fact alone doesn't make them good or bad. We do now that cronyism interferes with the free market. Anytime a company gets special treatment it's not the American way. Today environmental companies are getting huge subsidies. People often turn a blind eye to environmental cronyism while decrying Monsanto.

In politics we too often choose sides and defend them vigorously. When we do that we defend cronyism. We are hypocrites if we defend cronyism when it support our favorite cause. The only way to solve the cronyism problem is to limit federal power in step 1. In step 2 we turn to our own states. Until we limit governmental power we will always have cronyism in some form. If you truly believe Monsanto is evil then the only way to prevent more of the same is to eliminate federal power.

Fighting the symptoms of a disease does little to cure the illness. We must stop forgiving broken promises. We have got to stop looking to government for solutions. Some believe the only way to control companies like Monsanto is with more government. That's like curing a broke leg by breaking the other.

Yes, this is the libertarian way at looking at a problem. It's also the way our founders looked at problems. They were men of the world and had seen countries rise and fall. They were well aware of what lay ahead for the United States. Despite that forewarning we have fallen into almost every trap they tried to avoid with the Constitution.

To lessen our fears of GMO we must stop putting our faith in government and then crying foul when it lets us down. Life offers no guarantees. If you want food labeling, then go to the retailers and demand it from them—not forced by government. This has worked well for organic foods. Almost every market has an organic foods section. There is a retailer that has placed it's business plan on the organic foods industry. I only ask that you have more faith in the free market than a government that has continuously let us down. Have more faith in yourself—the consumer—because in the end you hold all power over the market.

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