Friday, October 23, 2009

Bills Gates Shills for Monsanto

Thom Philpott over at Grist has done a bang up job of analyzing a recent speech Bill Gates gave on The Bill and Melinda gates Foundations intention to open up Africa to GMO seeds.

This is a must read article here are just a few of my personal highlights:

25-year Monsanto veteran Rob Horsch to the position of “senior program officer, focusing on improving crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa.”

(me: That's a good way to stay open to all the possibilities now isn't it Bill?)

Here’s a summary of a 2005 paper published in Bioscience comparing yields of organic and conventional corn. The 22-year study compared yields of corn and soy for the following systems: 1) conventional chemical-based agriculture; 2) organic ag using manure for soil fertility; and 3) organic ag using “green manure” (nitrogen-fixing cover crops) for fertility. From the summary, here’s the key nugget of the study:

“First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems,” said [researcher David] Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators. [Emphasis added.]

Note well the “especially under drought conditions” bit. Here is a technology for “drought-tolerant” corn that’s ready right now—no need to wait until 2018. It doesn’t rely on the benevolence of Monsanto to waive a technology fee; and there are no questions about seed-saving. It asks no one to accept a drop in long-term productivity as the price paid for sustainability. And not only does it help farmers adapt to climate change with its drought-tolerant qualities, but it helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. From the summary:

The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.

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