This summer has thus far been brutal across the nation. Drought and high temperatures are making life difficult for farmers and ranchers alike. And it’s no surprise that widespread drought in Texas specifically is causing the deaths of cattle, but the reason behind it is certainly unexpected. According to the Associated Press and seen on Accuweather.com, the deaths are caused by too much water. Cattle aren’t dehydrated in the way you would expect. Instead, they drink too much.
The latest GM crop up for deregulation is Monsanto’s drought resistant corn. Although much of the nation’s corn crop is genetically modified for pests and herbicides, this will be the first GM crop approved for drought resistance. Monsanto wants approval fast because with drought becoming a growing problem throughout the country, there’s big money in getting this seed to market. But the problem is the USDA has openly stated that the new GM corn doesn’t work as well as many natural corn varieties already on the market.
Drought has become a growing problem across the globe and the United States especially has been hit hard. According to the New York Times:
In North America, up to 40 percent of crop-loss insurance claims are due to heavy or moderate drought, according to some estimates. Worldwide, corn-growing regions lose about 15 percent of their annual crop to drought, and losses run much higher in severe conditions
There’s big money is selling a GM corn crop to desperate farmers. Even bigger money considering that the seeds are patented and can’t be replanted so Monsanto gets paid by farmers year after year. But it’s unclear to me why when the USDA has openly said that the seed doesn’t perform well, would they want it on the market. According to the USDA as seen on the New York Times:
“The reduced yield [trait] does not exceed the natural variation observed in regionally-adapted varieties of conventional corn,” the report says, adding that “Equally comparable varieties produced through conventional breeding techniques are readily available in irrigated corn production regions.”
The USDA deems the crop safe for the environment and for humans though according to Natural News, it has never been tested on humans. So in the end the USDA will likely approve a corn for deregulation that’s both ineffective, could cause contamination with non-gm varieties, and we’re not sure the impact on humans down the road. This is especially scary considering that already approved GM corn crop varieties have been shown to cause organ damage in mammals.
The USDA is currently taking comments on Monsanto’s petition so get your opinion in.
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More on GM Crop Deregulation
USDA Moving to Deregulate Genetically Modified Plums
Country By Country GMO Breakdown: Guess Who Has By FAR The Most
USDA Allows GMO Sugar Beet Planting Even After a Landmark Court Decision Says No
Climate Change Consensus Unsettled?
Playing at the Royal Court Theatre in London, The Heretic is supposedly a play about why politics and science should be kept separate. Asking “what evidence do we need before deciding what to believe”, the play explores the apparent dilemma of Dr Diane Cassell, an expert in sea levels at York University, who finds herself vilified by colleagues when she starts to question the scientific consensus around climate science.
The plot thickens when Cassell discovers her colleagues have been making deliberately false statements in academic papers, and have manipulated data to “bury the downturn” (sound familiar?) in tree ring data.
Fictitious Accounts of Climate Change are Common
I haven’t personally seen the play, so this is not intended as a review—but I do think it is an interesting case study in how theater and other art forms interact with public discourse. We, as environmentalists, can hardly complain about the existence of “fictitious” contributions to the debate any more than skeptics can complain about the existence of Ian McEwan’s novel Solar, Age of Stupid’s dystopian vision of the future, or even the ridiculously Hollywoodized Day After Tomorrow.
The Politics of Skepticism
But we can point out their flaws; we can note that this is, indeed, fiction; and we can draw attention to the fact that the similarities between this play and the events it is clearly inspired by are tenuous indeed. James Murray over at Business Green has a review of The Heretic which sets out just how far this play differs from real events, and makes it clear that for a play about why science and politics should not mix, it takes a pretty overtly and selectively political stance:
“The pacing of the entire narrative remains shockingly uneven throughout as Bean crowbars in as many climate sceptic tropes as possible, stretching the running time to a hugely overblown two hours and 40 minutes in order to fit them all in. Cassel ticks them off: sea levels aren’t rising evenly around the world, temperatures have not climbed since a late 90s peak, there are doubts about the famous hockey stick graph, the IPPC has become a political body, universities kow tow to corporations, sceptical climate scientists are forced to suppress evidence, deliberate mistakes are included in academic papers for political purposes, Al Gore is outed as a carbon trading billionaire, with sledgehammer subtlety it even snows at Christmas.”
There is, of course, no mention of the fact that the scientists involved in climategate were vindicated by three separate independent inquiries.
But then this is fiction—so why should there be?
According to the Guardian, when villagers in Fintry in Scotland heard that a wind farm was going to be built in the hills above their community, they got together to put pressure on the developers. But rather than trying to stop the project, the community instead demanded that the developer build an additional wind turbine and sell it to the village to make some money. The resulting funds have since been ploughed into making the village even more green:
“The Fintry turbine has now been operating for more than a year, and has already earned £140,000 for the villagers, money that has been put aside for energy efficiency schemes. Around half of the 300 households have already had roof and cavity wall insulation fitted, and some residents have seen their heating bills cut by hundreds of pounds a year. When the loan on the £2.5m turbine is paid off, Fintry could be making up to £500,000 a year from the electricity its turbine feeds into the National Grid.”
It’s a pretty smart move for all concerned—and it could be an interesting way for renewable energy developers to appease local opposition. After all, if communities are being asked to live next to gigantic turbines, it only makes sense for them to derive some income from the scheme. If that money can go to greening homes and cutting bills in the process, then we all benefit too.
More on Wind Turbines, Planning and NIMBYism
NIMBYs in Minority? Residents Support Wind
Cape Wind Faces Spiritual Opposition from Native Americans
Earth First!’s Maine Wind Protest
Stunning Urban Turbines Circumvent NIMBYs