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A Less Thirsty Future Through Engineered Crops? - The Equation

A Less Thirsty Future Through Engineered Crops? - The Equation | A perennial future | Scoop.it

An important reason for considering the current state of genetically engineered drought tolerance, and its prospects, is to inform our investments in agricultural science to improve our ability to confront the challenges that Thompson and others have noted. Should those investments be based on our best information regarding what works, as we contend, or on the hope that we will find ways to make GE substantially cheaper and more effective?

And the truth is, we can make major headway toward answering agriculture’s challenges now–we don’t need to hold our breaths to see if GE will improve! We already have multiple ways to substantially address Thompson’s agricultural challenges, but we are not implementing them widely, or adequately supporting research to improve them.

Conventional breeding is already producing numerous drought tolerant crops, as noted in “High and Dry”. There is also substantial evidence from recent genetics studies to suggest that conventional breeding can continue to produce big improvements in drought tolerance and other traits, which is also discussed in the report. And there are clear benefits from ecologically-based farming systems that employ practices like long crop rotations (alternating crops from year to year) and the addition and recycling of nutrients and organic matter in the form of manure, mulches, and cover crops.

For example, Thompson wants to blunt the damaging effect of fertilizers and pesticides on the environment. But we already know that cover crops can typically reduce nitrogen fertilizer pollution by 40 to 70 percent, reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers, enrich the soil, and maintain or increase crop productivity. Cover crops are not widely used today due to misplaced policies like insurance penalties, and lack of research and infrastructure to make them more farmer-friendly. Other ecologically based farming methods can provide similar benefits.

The typical refrain from some promoters of GE is that we need all of these methods of meeting our agricultural challenges. That remains an assertion that has never been demonstrated, because there are probably several paths to achieving food security that include conventional breeding, agroecology, reducing food waste, empowerment of poor farmers (especially women), and more judicious consumption of meat, which is an inefficient source of protein and calories.

And Thompson never mentions that producing enough food alone won’t ensure that everyone is well fed, as the billion people who have too little food now demonstrates. It is not enough to understand the safety and efficacy of a technology, as Thompson contends, we also need to understand whether it may be compatible with justice and fairness.

One could argue that prudence suggests that every technology should be aggressively pursued unless there are compelling safety reasons to the contrary. In a world without substantial resource constraints, that might be the case. But in the real world of limited resources, we need to make informed choices. Our reports, and major reports like the IAASTD, are part of a growing body of evidence that supports an emphasis on agroecology, other agronomic and infrastructure improvements (e.g. more efficient irrigation and reducing waste) and conventional breeding, not GE.

And then there are the Errors

A second serious problem with Thompson’s article is that it contains several errors. He claims that DroughtGard increases water use efficiency (WUE; less water use in “normal” times). That’s important given that agriculture already uses about 70 percent of extracted fresh water. But Monsanto’s own data in their petition to USDA for deregulation shows that this is probably not true. Thompson makes the common mistake of equating WUE with drought tolerance, but the scientists who study WUE show that this is not the case. Typically, drought tolerant crops do not use less water. And there have been only 9 field trials testing experimental GE crops for WUE compared to thousands for herbicide resistance and insect resistance. This does not demonstrate a commitment by the industry to develop this trait.

Thompson also claims that the risks of GE have been well managed. This is emphatically contradicted by the millions of acres of resistant weeds that have arisen due to mismanagement, which in turn undermines his claim of reduced herbicide use. And insect resistance to Bt is now hot on the heels of weed resistance.

Finally, he compares GE food to GE medicine, expressing exasperation at the greater acceptance of biotech drugs. But these two applications of biotechnology present very different benefits. Medicine is a choice, and we may accept serious side effects because the alternative may be more dire. Food is a daily necessity, and when our food supply is inundated by GE, our choices become limited.

As we note in our report (and other work), GE may make some contributions to drought tolerance and other important agricultural problems in coming years. But that does not answer the question of whether those benefits outweigh problems and risks from GE, and certainly does not demonstrate that GE is needed to improve agriculture.


Via Giri Kumar
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Permaculture Around the World Series with Joseph Lentunyoi/Permaculture in ... - Santa Maria Times

Permaculture Around the World Series with Joseph Lentunyoi/Permaculture in ... - Santa Maria Times | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Permaculture Around the World Series with Joseph Lentunyoi/Permaculture in ...
Santa Maria Times
Featured is Joseph Lentunyoi from the Maasai tribe, who is the co-founder of the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya.
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Montana's first edible forest to grow in Helena's 6th Ward Park - Helena Independent Record

Montana's first edible forest to grow in Helena's 6th Ward Park - Helena Independent Record | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Montana's first edible forest to grow in Helena's 6th Ward Park Helena Independent Record On Tuesday night, Jacke will introduce the vision of forest gardening to Helena, sharing scientific background and successful examples of such gardens...
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Secret Garden of Survival: How to grow a camouflaged food- forest.: Rick Austin: 9781481839778: Amazon.com: Books

Secret Garden of Survival: How to grow a camouflaged food- forest.

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Sustainable Gardening Design: Intro to Permaculture - Community Impact Newspaper

Sustainable Gardening Design: Intro to Permaculture - Community Impact Newspaper | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Sustainable Gardening Design: Intro to Permaculture
Community Impact Newspaper
In the broad sense, permaculture is a design philosophy aimed to lessen our ecological footprint.
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Edible forest garden taking root along polluted river in Ohio; healthy goals for people, too - InfoTel News - Vernon

Edible forest garden taking root along polluted river in Ohio; healthy goals for people, too - InfoTel News - Vernon | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Edible forest garden taking root along polluted river in Ohio; healthy goals for people, too - http://t.co/XJy4SxtGhU
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Agroecology: A Review from a Global-Change Perspective - Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 36(1):193

Agroecology: A Review from a Global-Change Perspective - Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 36(1):193 | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Thomas Tomich gives a video summary of his review on agroecology: Watch here, along with full text: http://t.co/FB1cUwrZmG
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Indian student to build innovative orphanage using Israeli permaculture techniques - Jerusalem Post

Indian student to build innovative orphanage using Israeli permaculture techniques - Jerusalem Post | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Indian student to build innovative orphanage using Israeli permaculture techniques Jerusalem Post For 33-year-old Joshua Godfrey, studying the farming models of Israel's kibbutzim firsthand has provided the framework he needs to open a permaculture...
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Tribal Farmers & Agroecology – Lessons From Their Fields « IDEX ...

Tribal Farmers & Agroecology – Lessons From Their Fields « IDEX ... | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Tribal Farmers & Agroecology – Lessons From Their Fields. 2013. Posted by IDEX. At IDEX, to learn about deeply sustainable farming practices, we approach the original scientists, the farmers who experiment over lifetimes ...
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The Jakarta Call: “Agroecology is our option for today and the future ...

The Jakarta Call: “Agroecology is our option for today and the future ... | A perennial future | Scoop.it
La Via Campesina, the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around ...
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Giant Extinct Toads Invade Climate-Killing Banks - Permaculture Magazine

Giant Extinct Toads Invade Climate-Killing Banks - Permaculture Magazine | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Permaculture Magazine
Giant Extinct Toads Invade Climate-Killing Banks
Permaculture Magazine
Jump to Navigation. log in register · Permaculture: Inspiration for Sustainable Living. Main menu. Home · Contact · About · What Is Permaculture?
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Agroecology Grows Food and Self-Sufficiency | Grassroots ...

Agroecology Grows Food and Self-Sufficiency | Grassroots ... | A perennial future | Scoop.it
The embattled northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. Yet in the midst of this brutal dry spell, one farmer settlement is brimming with abundant vegetables, fruits and crops.
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Agroecology Program: Ag Research is More than Farming - USDA.gov (press release) (blog)

Agroecology Program: Ag Research is More than Farming - USDA.gov (press release) (blog) | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Agroecology Program: Ag Research is More than Farming USDA.gov (press release) (blog) Some say careers in agriculture are a thing of the past, but don't tell that to Krish Jayachandran, a professor and co-director of Florida International...
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Could open-source GMOs bring down Monsanto at last?Edit - io9

Could open-source GMOs bring down Monsanto at last?Edit - io9 | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Could open-source GMOs bring down Monsanto at last?
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Fair Shares of Food - CounterPunch

Fair Shares of Food - CounterPunch | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Fair Shares of Food
CounterPunch
Given that dependence, even the best strategies of nutrient recycling, agroforestry and agroecology will not be sufficient.
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Permaculture Singing Interview with Toni at Panya Project Thailand ...

Permaculture Singing Interview with Toni at Panya Project Thailand ... | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Check out Panya Project's lovely permaculture garden manager, Toni Robinson, as she sings her way through this interview with her signature ukulele symphonies.
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Edible forest designed for 6th Ward Park - Helena Independent Record

Edible forest designed for 6th Ward Park - Helena Independent Record | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Edible forest designed for 6th Ward Park Helena Independent Record This coming week Dave Jacke, a national leader this type of garden design and author of “Edible Forest Gardens,” will lead a Helena workshop, July 9-14, with 33 people from around...
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Agroecology in Europe: conforming – or transforming the dominant ...

Agroecology in Europe: conforming – or transforming the dominant ... | A perennial future | Scoop.it
by the Transform Sub-group: Les Levidow, Open University, L.Levidow@open.ac.uk; Michel Pimbert, Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS), Coventry University; Pierre M. Stassart, Université de Liège; Gaetan ...
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Permaculture A Quiet Revolution

"Permaculture - A Quiet Revolution" produced by @JohnPozzi1 http://t.co/Idc2Gi5Gaz #permaculture #nature #naturalsolutions #GRBnow
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What is Biointensive Permaculture? | Urban Farm Consultants

What is Biointensive Permaculture? | Urban Farm Consultants | A perennial future | Scoop.it
Learn about our inspiration from Nico's travels in Peru! http://t.co/o54kBNYmjY http://t.co/gLS9YYKKTv
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If We Rely on Corporate Seed, We Lose Food Sovereignty | Health Impact News

If We Rely on Corporate Seed, We Lose Food Sovereignty | Health Impact News | A perennial future | Scoop.it
The world's top six agribusiness companies are focusing their research on just a dozen crops. They are putting the future of the world's food supply into 12 crops. That's no way to ensure the future, Mooney says.
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