Thursday, November 7, 2013

Left-Wing Racism: Anti-GMO Liberals and Malthusian Consequences

Thomas Malthus
The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.
—Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Chapter VII, p61
Opposition to Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) foods represents a new form of racism, one that is subtle and very likely unintentional, but racism nonetheless.  And it's a racism that the left-wing seems blind to as they campaign against GMO.

It's a passive racism, predicated on a premise that the Earth's ability to feed people is limited and technologies like GMOs are an immoral answer to the question of starvation.  I suspect if you were to ask this child,

if GMO food is immoral, you might not get the same answer.  And that's not hyperbole.  Children like her, millions of them, are going to rely on GMO foods to improve nutrition and the ability of their poor nations to produce food.  Cut them off, and those millions of children are likely to suffer and many will die.

Golden Rice (on the right) has a distinctly yellow color which comes from the introduction of genes which produce β-carotene 

Take, for instance, The Golden Rice Project.  Golden rice is a genetically modified rice crop to improve the nutrition in people in rice cultures, mostly in Asia.  This variety of rice provide beta-carrotine, an important nutrient often lacking in the diets of impoverished Asians.

Dietary micronutrient deficiencies, such as the lack of vitamin A, iodine, iron or zinc, are a major source of morbidity (increased susceptibility to disease) and mortality worldwide. These deficiencies affect particularly children, impairing their immune system and normal development, causing disease and ultimately death. The best way to avoid micronutrient deficiencies is by way of a varied diet, rich in vegetables, fruits and animal products. 
The second best approach, especially for those who cannot afford a balanced diet, is by way of nutrient-dense staple crops. Sweet potatoes, for example, are available as varieties that are either rich or poor in provitamin A. Those producing and accumulating provitamin A (orange-fleshed sweet potatoes) are called biofortified,* as opposed to the white-fleshed sweet potatoes, which do not accumulate provitamin A. In this case, what needs to be done is to introduce the biofortified varieties to people used to the white-fleshed varieties, as is happening at present in southern Africa by introducing South American varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. 
Unfortunately, there are no natural provitamin A-containing rice varieties. In rice-based societies, the absence of β-carotene in rice grains manifests itself in a marked incidence of blindness and susceptibility to disease, leading to an increased incidence of premature death of small children, the weakest link in the chain.

Golden rice solves this problem.
Rice produces β-carotene in the leaves but not in the grain, where the biosynthetic pathway is turned off during plant development. In Golden Rice two genes have been inserted into the rice genome by genetic engineering, to restart the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway leading to the production and accumulation of β-carotene in the grains. Both genes are naturally involved in carotene biosynthesis. The difference here is that the reconstructed pathway is not subject to downregulation, as usually happens in the grain.
Since a prototype of Golden Rice was developed in the year 2000, new lines with higher β-carotene content have been generated. The intensity of the golden colour is a visual indicator of the concentration of β-carotene in the endosperm.Our goal is to make sure that people living in rice-based societies get a full complement of provitamin A from their traditional diets. This would apply to countries such as India, Vietnam, Bangladesh. the Philippines, and Indonesia. Golden Rice could still be a valuable complement to children's diets in many countries by contributing to the reduction of clinical and sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency-related diseases.
Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness but there can be many more consequences as well.
According to the World Health Organization, dietary vitamin A deficiency (VAD) compromises the immune systems of approximately 40 percent of children under the age of five in the developing world, greatly increasing the risk of severe illnesses from common childhood infections, thus causing hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths among them.
White people in white nations (Americans and Europeans mostly) reject GMO food out of some misguided sense of "impurity".  The genetic cross-breeding of species to produce new foodstuffs is "unnatural" or "frankenstein-like."  But when asked for alternatives to managing crop yields in the face of irreversible global warming, they have no real solutions.  When challenged with the ongoing crisis not just in starvation deaths but in rampant malnutrition and the consequent health challenges faced by those without access to a well-stocked local Co-Op, they remain silent.  It disgusts me.

They all seem to share a belief in a magic, organic future where global climate change and the inability of developing nations to feed themselves will be remedied by an ill-defined concept of "sustainable agriculture."  That future will never exist.  It is a white man's fantasy based on the myth that organic food is morally superior to non-organic food.

Let me tell you, to someone starving in Africa or Asia, the only immoral food is the food you don't have access to because some first-world racist white person thinks you shouldn't.

Left-wingers who oppose GMO as a technology are frequently driven by their hatred of Monsanto, the largest GMO producer, and their business practices.  But their conflation of Monsanto with GMO is what's really immoral.  They seek first-world solution to third world problems and they reject science as an appropriate vehicle to drive Matlthus back into the shadows where he belongs.

It's a surrender to the forces of global warming.

It's an irrational fear.

It's the hubris of the wealthy and well-fed.

People on the left, people who, in most cases, recognize the need to support the poor and oppressed have let their hatred of a single corporation, Monsanto, to cloud their better judgement.  They have stumbled into a position of abject racism and Malthusian cruelty in their desire to unseat a bad corporate actor.  Shame on them.

Hate Monsanto if you must, but a rejection of GMO technology condemns millions to starvation, disease and premature death.  That's the real immorality.


  1. How about the risk of GMO crops ending endemic species and then collapsing due to a super plague that developed resistance? How will poor communities survive then, without seeds of their own, having to buy new seeds from big companies?

    1. You didn't really address my core proposition. You merely asserted an unfounded fear of what might happen rather than what is happening.

    2. I support development of nutrient improvements and increased yields in staple crops and promoting their acceptance in developing countries. Clearly, these are important developments for the Third World.

      Unfortunately, much of the current GMO effort is devoted to developing herbicide and pesticide resistance in crops that are to be drenched in these companies' proprietary herbicides and pesticides. Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, and others are squeezing small farmers and organic farmers by patenting their herbicide and pesticide resistant seeds.

      How can this be good for people in developing countries?

    3. You do realize that with the increase in glyphosate use came the commensurate DECREASE in the use of much more toxic chemicals to control weeds, right? Plus, the GM crops modified to be pest resistant have resulted in a significant DECREASE in the use of aerial pesticide spraying.

      "The purpose of this article is not to claim that glyphosate and GR crops are the be all end all of weed control (they’re not), nor is it to claim that they were causally responsible for any and every desirable change we see in herbicide usages patterns. Rather, the purpose of this is to show that when opponents of GE technology and of glyphosate claim that GR crops are bad on the grounds that they increased glyphosate use, they are leaving out critical information that would be highly inconvenient for their narrative."


      “Opponents of glyphosate often seem to hold this unfounded notion that, if they can manage to get glyphosate banned or simply willingly abandoned, then it would mean an improvement in both food and environmental safety, but the truth is it would likely be the exact opposite of that. Weeds are a legitimate problem in farming that has to be dealt with one way or another. In its absence, it would have to be replaced with something else, and it would likely be something more caustic: not less.”