Monday, January 5, 2015

Musings: Two Steps Ahead

Though some may be starting the work week yawning and scratching, I woke up early and excited, eager to see that fat, full moon set behind the mountains, aware that each day is now growing longer, glad that the holidays are officially pau, with the blank slate of a new year before us.

Over the weekend, I ran across a New York Times article about how small towns that passed laws against fracking are now locked in legal battles. It's a situation that closely parallels what is happening in Hawaii with the anti-GMO laws.

As the article reports:

In an aggressive response to a wave of citizen-led drilling bans, state officials, energy companies and industry groups are taking Longmont [Colo.] and other municipalities to court, forcing local governments into what critics say are expensive, long-shot efforts to defend the measures.

While the details vary — some municipalities have voted for outright bans, and others for multiyear suspensions of fracking — energy companies in city after city argue that they have a right to extract underground minerals, and that the drilling bans amount to voter-approved theft. They also say state agencies, not individual communities, are the ones with the power to set oil and gas rules.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor who opposed the ban, predicted that it would fall at every level of appeal, including at the Colorado Supreme Court, because only the state can regulate drilling. Now, as the case heads to higher courts, Mr. Baum said he believed many in town were developing buyer’s remorse about the ban.

“If we took that same vote, I think it would come out differently,” he said. “It’s cost the city a lot. It’s not just the money that it costs to defend these — it’s the opportunities and the industries it could’ve brought to our community.”

Sound familiar?

The SHAKA supporters of the Maui initiative, who initially agreed to have a federal magistrate hear the case, withdrew their approval, perhaps because they felt that Judge Barry Kurren, who overturned the Kauai and Big Island anti-GMO ordinances, would deal their measure a similar fate. Kurren, who also was subjected to a smear campaign by anti-GMO activists, in keeping with their MO of trying to discredit anyone who isn't in lock step, reassigned the case to Judge Susan Oki Mollway.

Yet despite the financial and social costs to Hawaii communities, and the likelihood that the laws will be overturned on the basis of state preemption, activists are still holding out a false promise to others:

Maui stands as a beacon of hope for other towns throughout the US who are interested in banning GMOs.

Mmm, don't count on it....

Meanwhile, the biotech industry is developing products that are genetically modified using new methods, such as “genome editing,” that are outside the purview of federal regulations. Which means they don't need to be approved by federal agencies before they're field-tested and sold.

Already in the works: herbicide-resistant canola, a corn that would create less pollution from livestock waste, switch grass tailored for biofuel production, Roundup-resistant grass that requires less mowing, an ornamental plant that glows in the dark and a potato that is supposed to make french fries less unhealthy.

But companies using the new techniques say that if the methods were not labeled genetic engineering, novel crops could be marketed or grown in Europe and other countries that do not readily accept genetically modified crops.

Freedom from oversight could also open opportunities for smaller companies and university breeders and for the modification of less common crops. Until now, in part because of the costs associated with regulation, crop biotechnology has been dominated by Monsanto and a handful of other big companies working mainly on widely grown crops like corn and soybeans.

Regulators around the world are now grappling with whether these techniques are even considered genetic engineering and how, if at all, they should be regulated.

“The technology is always one step ahead of the regulators,” said Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, head of biotechnology research at Syngenta, a seed and agricultural chemical company.

And two steps ahead of opponents...

The article concludes:

Jennifer Kuzma, co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, said that there would soon be a flood of crops seeking regulatory exemptions and that there needed to be a public discourse about what should be regulated, in part to allay possible consumer anxiety.

It’s not that I think these are risky,” she said of the crops escaping regulation. “But the very fact that this is the route we are taking without any discussion is troubling.”

Problem is, the GMO issue has become so politicized and polarized that any discussion, much less one that is reasonable and rational, is nearly impossible. Ironically, the activists who intentionally created this divisive climate may be left scrambling as the technology shifts and the “enemy” is no longer “Monsatan,” but dozens of small companies and universities.

Funny, how things work out in the end.


Anonymous said...

I am very reasonable, but I will not have a discussion with any one who believes or cites facts regarding GMO. People who think there is any value to GMOs are not worth any conversation. These are stupid people and they kill the earth.
The only way to get some balance in the GMO subject is to have a forum of like minds and come up with a real solution. No solution should involve the people who kill the earth.
We need group-think to create a paradigm, a real "out of the box" strategy, an iconic system that can be the banner for world sustainability. We are the little island that could and we will arouse the million little fistees.
Namaste and peace and harmony to the world.

Anonymous said...

"I am very reasonable, but I will not have a discussion with any one who believes or cites facts regarding GMO."
Congratulations, you created an oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

The first commenter is a joke right? Joking to illustrate the crazy cult mentality of the redshirts right? I sure hope so. If not, holy moly! And thanks for the reminder (shudder).

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, anonymous 8:57 is a troll.

A type defined by Wikipedia as a "concern troll:"

A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold... The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.[38]...
Two studies published in 2013 and 2014 have found that people who are identified as trolls tend to have dark personality traits and show signs of sadism, antisocial behavior, psychopathy, and machiavellianism.[36][37] The 2013 study suggested that there are a number of similarities between anti-social and flame trolling activities[36] and the 2014 study suggested that the noxious personality characteristics known as the "dark triad of personality" should be investigated in the analysis of trolling, and concluded that trolling appears "to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism."[37] Their relevance is suggested by research linking these traits to bullying in both adolescents and adults. The 2014 study found that trolls operate as agents of chaos on the Internet, exploiting hot-button issues to make users appear overly emotional or foolish in some manner. If an unfortunate person falls into their trap, trolling intensiļ¬es for further, merciless amusement."

Joan Conrow said...

Isn't that a rather harsh judgment from someone who is remaining anonymous? I took the comment as well-done satire.

Anonymous said...

12:17 Welp. It looks like you fell into 8:57's perfidious and sardonic troll trap, as detailed in your laborious and byzantine response.
8:57 appears to have outlined da Hoos, Mason and JoAnn's idear of the perfect individual to be part of a groupthink cabal that make rules and regs regarding agriculture.
Please lighten up.

Anonymous said...

The legal strategies used against fracking and biotech farming may appear similar, but the rationale of the underlying arguments couldn't be more different.

Fracking produces fossil fuels that are implicated in global warming. There is well-documented evidence of ground water contamination by the chemicals in fracking fluid. Fracking requires vast amounts of water and depletes a valuable resource, often in areas where water is already scarce. These facts are well documented, unlike all of the claims made by opponents of biotech ag.

Parallels in legal strategies are interesting, maybe even instructive, but that's where the similarities end.

Anonymous said...

Actually fracking does very little to contaminate ground water that is already at the level of the petroleum deposit. And as far as those silly movies showing flaming water pipes, they have been thourouly debunked by no less than the EPA.
Likewise global warming. Clearly the models are wrong, wrong, wrong. Fifteen years with no rise in average temperatures in spite of NOAAs efforts to alter data to further the agenda.
Ace hardware is sold out of firewood.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:23: There's ample documented evidence to debunk both of your claims. Fracking fluid contaminates both surface and ground water.

But what do these guys at Cornell know? They're just scientists.

The global warming denial rebuttal doesn't even need a citation. The body of scientific work showing it's occurring (and accelerating) is overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

BRRRRRRR, but it sure is cold this mornin

Anonymous said...

No trades and Waialeale is dry again. But no worries because it's cold.