Seed saving and all that stuff
A long time ago, probably about 7 years since, I organised a debate at my rugby club with a scientist from Monsanto. A lot of green types turned up and basically had a go at this guy who tried to use logic to persuade them he was right and they were wrong.
As is usually the case passionate people do not always have the coolness of thinking to put their arguments forwards in a way that is not easily reputed and shown to be wrong. But the problem with scientific logic is that it includes a leap of faith without which the whole argument will not hold water.
Let me explain. Einstein said the energy holding a nucleus together that is released in nuclear fission was equal to the change in mass times the square of the speed of light in metres er second. WHAT?? What’s it got to do with the speed of light? You can almost hear the old school Victorian Newtonian physicists scratching their heads.
It took a leap of faith to make that correlation. Science is a mixture of art, observation, inspiration, maths and faith. Faith is the hardest part.
But if the faith is based on something not real, or left out or misunderstood, or worse still deliberately altered because you can make money out of it, then the whole argument holds no water and you have to invent ways of making it work. (By the way, Einstein did this by inventing a special constant to make his maths work.)
Anyway, the Monsanto idea is two fold. Lets make a poison that kills weeds. Then lets change the genetics of the plants we want to grow so they are not affected by the poison. Easy!
Trouble is, the faith bit comes in this case by ignoring the fact that ecological systems are so much more complex. Something is bound to go wrong, life is like that, but they don’t believe it possibly could so they ignore it.
The next belief is more arrogant. If we have changed the genetics with our code, we own the copyright to the code, therefore we can charge people for its use!
Now all this is getting a little heavy for a gardening blog, but it illustrates a point. Monsanto (and others) have not produced the extra amounts of food we need to feed an increasing population. The passionate really know and care about it, the rest of us go to the shops and buy food. But without sounding to be a green hippy nutcase (not being rude to anyone – I’ll explain) factors are changing fast in the globalised provision of food. It seems obvious that tomatoes grown in Kenya (and salads and potatoes and so on) or legs of lamb raised in New Zealand, or wheat grown in Ukraine, prawns grown in ponds in Thailand or lobsters caught off the Canadian coast, cannot be a healthy way to run a food supply.[ratings]