Sunday, May 23, 2010

Can biotechnology feed the world?

Some discussions recently have been inspired by the recent visit of Ms. Revathi, a schoolteacher-turned-organic farming advocate from India. Ms. Revathi visited the School of Environment and Natural Resources at OSU last week, bringing stories of widespread suffering from the Green Revolution and ongoing injustices from free trade, industrialization, capitalism, and corporations. She argues that ecologically- and traditionally-minded development can create healthy, prosperous farmers, while the American model has brought environmental, social, and economic ruination.

from Diaz, Robert J. and Rosenberg, Rutger. Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems. Science 15 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5891, pp. 926 - 929

Her viewpoint is uniquely different from that of main-stream American discourse about globalization, free markets, and the benefits of technology. Her years of experience growing sustainable farms in India seems similar to the experience of independent American local organic farmers, but leads her to make conclusions almost opposite to beliefs so accepted they are almost obvious to most Americans; for example, that the world has become better: wealthier, healthier, happier, etc because of technology, corporations, and development.

In some ways, the arguments of those who speak for the establishment, pass right through and do not apply to those who see the world differently. One of the best examples of this is a Congressional meeting held almost exactly 10 years ago. For the most part, these issues about biotechnology and aid, are still unresolved. This meeting was notable because it brought together some of the biggest hitters from both camps, who proceeded to talk right past each other, thoroughly confusing the moderater. Can there be a middle ground?

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