The end of the world…read all about it!!!

Anyone can. All you have to do is read the January issue of Wired Magazine. There on page 68 is an article by noted writer Bill Donahue titled “Superproducer.” The subhead gives the clue: bionic agriculture…turbocharged seeds, precision chemistry.

Because of overly complex, toxic, opaque financial engineering which layered derivative upon derivative in an attempt to boost return on investment yield, we may be only half way through a financial panic of world-shaking proportions. Only a few financial analysts foresaw that it could unravel and cause a global credit crash. All the king’s MBAs and geek computer modelers created a doomsday machine that simply, as in the words of Alan Greenspan, became a “once in a century credit tsunami.” What was different this time was the central role of computer modeling and internet technology that could instantly and simultaneously disperse a sup-prime mortgage tranche to Brisbane and Oslo, insuring that everyone would be taken in.

Now the same out-on-a-limb, never-done-before gene splicing and manipulation, combined with pesticide cocktails, are being engineered to increase soybean yields. In Donahue’s words, “Modern farming is science, awash in crazily capable machinery.” Speaking of a featured farmer, we are told, “He burns up thousands of cell phone minutes each month talking to Pioneer and BASF technical advisers — chemistry PhDs who can expound on the relative merits of Respect insecticide formulated from zeta-cypermethrin, and Headline fungicide…Dozens of these experts are on hand.” The article goes to extol the brilliance of the plan to employ “unusually high herbicide use” by SPRAYING HERBICIDE BEFORE PLANTING!

That’s not even the scary part. The real potential for frankenfarming is in the gene splicing. In a war for profits Pioneer, a seed supplier, is using patented and proprietary DNA manipulation of the soy plant’s genes to increase, you guessed it yield and force the farmer, who wants this yield, into buying patented seeds from them. But, it gets better. Monsanto and others have created genetic mutations that are pesticide specific…with their pesticide… so you have to buy not only their seeds but also their toxic chemicals to unlock the seed’s potential.

When this all goes awry, it will be just like the financial derivative mess. We may wipe out soybean or corn crops, perhaps worldwide. One small, unforeseen, unpredicted flaw in the manipulated DNA-altered chain could cause a cascade of events leading to systemic crop failure.

Unlike the fiscal meltdown, the government cannot just print more plants to undo the unintended consequences. People could starve all over the world. The entire chain of domesticated plantings that started millennia ago in the Fertile Crescent could come crashing down. Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you it couldn’t happen. That’s what all the world’s top bankers said about the mortgage loan markets. When there is money to be made, man always puts profit ahead of caution and long-term vision. As in the fiscal crisis, the search for higher yield often leads the searcher into calamity, to everyone’s detriment.

Contrast this to Organic and Biodynamic farmers, who listen to the land rather than to corporate engineers: farmers who respect the entire chain of life, starting with the earthworms. Biodynamic farmers use the earth’s and animal resources rather than patented, for-profit seeds and chemicals to increase yield. And by not creating new and unknown genetic mutations, they are not putting us all at risk for a catastrophic failure of one of the crops that is a primary food source.

I can see the senate hearings now. All the key executives from the global seed and chemical companies testifying on Monday on what they were hoping for profit wise when they started these programs. Were they aware of the unintended consequences or did increased chemical and seed sales override all other considerations? Tuesday is the scientists and genetic engineers, all full of mea culpas. They were only trying to feed the growing and hungry world. Wednesday will be the hubris-shorn farmers, humble in their denim overalls. They were just trying to increase their farms’ yield.

The Wired article goes into great detail about the mechanics, science and marketplace shenanigans of this new-fangled farming, Please read it for your own edification. It ends with the ultimate ironical words, “…and I can’t even imagine what sort of strange magic these fields will sprout in the future.”

Let’s hope we never find out.


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