GM and the Farmer

Farmers eagerly adopt GM varieties, especially herbicide-resistant soybean and insect-resistant cotton and corn, for several economic reasons. Farmers like to rotate soy with corn, for example, because soy, a legume, nourishes the soil corn depletes. However, soy is sensitive to the residues of glyphosphate herbicide that control weeds in corn. A glyphosphate-tolerant (Roundup-Ready) soy allows rotation; an insect-resistant corn goes far toward eliminating that risk. As farmers produce a more predictable crop—and are able to plant more closely because they do not have to cultivate it—their harvests increase. This is a mixed blessing, however, because the resulting surpluses drive down prices. As the risks decrease, moreover, farms become a target for vertical integration by agribusiness.

In the developed world GM crops represent the latest turn in the technological treadmill, with the usual consequence: glut. According to the pure theory of the treadmill, as overproduction causes crop prices to fall, farmers adopt new technology to increase yields and lower cost. The early adopters of the new technology eke out a profit by underpricing the competition, thus driving farm prices down farther. Those who are late to adopt the technology go broke and sell their land to those who still operate, leading to ever-greater concentration in the industry. The survivors must adopt increasingly more efficient technology, and so the cycle continues (Cochrane, p. 429).

In the twenty-first century, although about 593,000 Americans identify farming as their principal occupation, most of those farmers produce less than $100,000 in annual sales; only about 172,000 farmers produce the bulk of American crops. Demographers expect these numbers to continue to fall; for every full-time farmer under age thirty-five, three are over sixty-five years old. The majority of the nation's crops, many experts predict, will in a few decades be fabricated by computer-run systems overseen by engineers and other technologists directing huge machines over a vast unpeopled landscape covered with grain (Berardi and Geisler).

Whatever services are not automated will be provided by contract labor, as is presently with hogs and chickens.

Farming in the traditional sense may become a "cottage" industry like glassblowing, or there may be two different kinds of agriculture: one method utterly industrialized and efficient and the other a "craft" system responsive to aesthetic, cultural, landscape, and noneconomic concerns. Large corporations may integrate food production vertically by absorbing farms. Those companies also may make and market "craft" food products, as General Mills manufactures organic foods through its subsidiary, Cascadian Farms.

Critics protest with good reason that industrial farming by megacorporations—genetic manipulation of seed is only one aspect of the industrialization of agriculture—undermines the cultural, aesthetic, ethical, ecological, and landscape values and commitments that are associated with pastoralism or with the traditional farming of the agrarian past (Comstock). These critics contend that the products of industrial agriculture, even if they are technically safe, are so manipulated, artificial, and unnatural that they are inherently disgusting, distasteful, demoralizing, and repellent. Even if food safety is not the issue, one can argue that food is more than nourishment; it is part of a way of life and has symbolic and aesthetic value. GM undermines nature and, with it, the value of food.

These are credible criticisms, but there is a rub. The people who make these charges generally are unwilling to grow their own food. They expect other people, such as farmers, to do it for them. Farmers do the best they can against nearly impossible economic odds. They find that they cannot provide the variety, quality, and abundance of food people demand at anything close to the prices people pay unless they take advantage of the efficiencies offered by technology. Farmers will absorb the relatively higher costs of raising GM-free crops, however, if people are willing to pay a large enough premium for them. Just as members of religious communities—Jews who keep kosher, for example— pay a little more for food that meets their requirements, so too may people who prefer non-GM foods. Consumers should have an "exit" option with respect to GM foods; presumably, the market for "organic" food provides that option.

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.

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