The GMO Debate should be over, but it’s not. Activism is trumping Science. Again.

Folks concerned about GMO foods (GMO=genetically modified organisms).  Should very carefully read and research this piece by former anti GMO activist  Mark Lynas, one of the folks who started the anti GMO campaigns that plague us today.   As he notes everybody is entitled to their *opinion*, but the science of GMOs is settled – they are safe and beneficial.
Very sorry to see Southern Oregon become entangled in the anti-GMO debate.  It’s so frustrating to me to see activism trumping science, though I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to change..
“The organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.”

Read his text. It is *very* smart. Here is a summary:

“I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journalNature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.”

Gift of Grameen

My favorite gifts over Christmas – both in terms of giving and getting – are donations to organizations fighting poverty in the developing world.   Foreign Aid is becoming a controversial and intriguing topic (as it should be), but even aid cynics should recognize that most research supports the idea that helping the poor with small farms and businesses tends to raise standards and help people at the most basic level.

Grameen Foundation is a charitable branch of the Grameen Bank, and their work includes many innovative technology projects such as helping to use mobile phones to help the poor interface with important resources.

College Football Bowl Games – 2012 2012 season

I found this list online here from a fan HERE who seems to know what he’s doing with the list.   For me this is mostly an SEO experiment to see how much traffic this list of College Bowl Games brings to this page.

I’m especially intrigued by those I have never heard of like the “Kraft Hunger Bowl”.    College football and charities – what a great concept!      As a non-football fan I’ve never understood the level of enthusiasm folks show for the game when they don’t even play it.   Fun, sure, but people seem to go crazy with statistics and concern even though they really doin’t have much of a stake in the game.   I think it must be part of our human tribal heritage where you kind of “latch on” to your team and then root them on as they conquer the imaginary foes.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Sat., Dec. 15, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. MWC, (Played in Albuquerque, NM)

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Sat., Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
WAC vs. MAC, (Played in Boise, ID)

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Thur., Dec. 20, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
BYU vs. MWC, (Played in San Diego, CA)

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. Big East, (Played in St. Petersburg, FL)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Sat., Dec. 22, Noon EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. Sun Belt, (Played in New Orleans, LA)

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Bowl, Sat., Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. MWC, (Played in Las Vegas, NV)

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Mon., Dec. 24, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
MWC vs. C-USA, (Played in Honolulu, HI)

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Wed., Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big Ten vs. MAC, (Played in Detroit, MI)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Thur., Dec. 27, 3:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Army vs. ACC, (Played in Washington, DC)

Belk Bowl, Thur., Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. Big East, (Played in Charlotte, NC)

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Thur., Dec. 27, 9:45 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. Big 12, (Played in San Diego, CA)

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Fri., Dec. 28, 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. SEC, (Played in Shreveport, LA)

Russell Athletic Bowl, Fri., Dec. 28., 5:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big East vs. ACC, (Played in Orlando, FL)

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Fri., Dec. 28, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big 12 vs. Big Ten, (Played in Houston, TX)

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m. EST, ESPN
C-US vs. MWC, (Played in Fort Worth, TX)

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. EST, ESPN/ESPN2 (NETWORK TO BE CONFIRMED)
Navy vs. Pac-12, (Played in San Francisco, CA)

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 EST, ESPN/ESPN2 (NETWORK TO BE CONFIRMED)
Big 12 vs. Big East, (Played in Bronx, NY)

Valero Alamo Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. Big 12, (Played in San Antonio, TX)

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big 12 vs. Big Ten, (Played in Tempe, AZ)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Mon., Dec. 31, Noon EST, ESPN
SEC vs. ACC, (Played in Nashville, TN)

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Sat., Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m. EST, CBS
ACC vs. Pac-12, (Played in El Paso, TX)

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Sat., Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. SEC, (Played in Memphis, TN)

Chick-fil-A Bowl, Mon., Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. SEC, (Played in Atlanta, GA)

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, Noon, ESPNU
C-USA vs. Big Ten, (Played in Dallas, TX) Gator Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, Noon, ESPN2
Big Ten vs. SEC, (Played in Jacksonville, FL)

Capital One Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. EST, ABC
SEC vs. Big Ten, (Played in Orlando, FL)

Outback Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big Ten vs. SEC, (Played in Tampa, FL)

Rose Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 5:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Pasadena, CA)

Discover Orange Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Miami, FL)

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Wed., Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in New Orleans, LA)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Thur., Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Glendale, AZ)

AT&T Cotton Bowl, Fri., Jan. 4, 8:00 p.m. EST, FOX
Big 12 vs. SEC, (Played in Arlington, TX)

BBVA Compass Bowl, Sat., Jan. 5, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
SEC vs. Big East, (Played in Birmingham, AL) Bowl, Sun., Jan. 6, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Sun Belt vs. MAC, (Played in Mobile, AL)

BCS National Championship, Mon., Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2, (Played in Miami, FL)

GRPH Stock, John Person, and the Bottomline Newsletter

Just got a mailing that sure looks like a newsletter called  “The Bottomline Newsletter”, with somebody called “John Person, Market Analyst, Editor” pictured at the top right.

To even a careful reader this appeared to be some sort of report on the prospects for a stock called GRPH which is a US graphite producer.    But a look at the tiny fine print on page 6 reveals that John Person received $20,000 in cash compensation from Greenstone Media to “endorse this advertisement”, and that another payment of over *one million dollars*  (say this with an Austin Powers accent please) was made as part of this advertising campaign.

My recommendation is that if you are going to buy *anything* you read the fine print!

Update:   Wow, it appears this John Person fellow also participated in some sort of advertising scheme for the stock  MDMC.   Note the activity peaks about June (looks from online buzz like the MDMC Bottomline stock report and other promotions for that company came out about that time) and then the stock tumbles.

Disclaimers state that the Bottomline newsletter people are not actively trading the stock  so perhaps they stay clear of legal problems because they are just advertising it, even as this is a company that is supposed to be providing people with trading advice?

Back in the days of Rum Running and Joe Kennedy, “pumping and dumping” was a common stock swindle.   Basically insiders would all agree to buy up shares of a stock (the pump), and after the price went very high as others “got in the deal”  they’d all agree to sell  out at the higher price which would send the stock price falling.    By working together and agreeing how to proceed the insiders had a big edge.    This activity used to be legal but is now a serious crime.

I’m not sure how this relates to modern media, but it appears that the idea behind these advertising campaigns is to pump up the stock price of companies.

How Proflowers (and other online flower sellers) charge $40 for their $20 bouquets.

I wasn’t surprised that the “$20 bouquet” offers online were bogus but I’m hoping others might find this post before they go through the painful upselling process at Proflowers and many other online flower places.

Note that $20 for a bouquet is too cheap – you’d expect to pay more than that at almost any florist shop, but I wish that Proflowers and others would simply state all their extra charges up front so you can buy informed rather than uninformed – having to wait until checkout to see the extra fees.     Next time I’ll probably just call a local flower shop directly – that’s what I’ve done in the past but I wanted to see how these online “$20 bouquets” worked.    In fact a project I’ll finalized some day helps people find local florists.   Google does this pretty well, but will have a database of all florists with easy free access to their information.    Contacting florists directly helps cut out the FTD or other middlemen, and in theory gets you a better bouquet for the same price.

In the case of Proflowers the specials offer what look like great bouquets  (I’ll report back on that when I have a report on the one I just sent), but then add a delivery charge of about 10 and ‘fees’ of about another $5.    Add to that a basic glass vase or “morning delivery” and you  can be over $50 quickly.   In my particular case I took the upsell that included chocolates and a vase but then discounted my “order” by 15% – though they did not discount delivery so again they are being misleading.

None of these charges are unreasonable, I just don’t like that they obscure them until checkout.    The right online approach is to do what vendors like Kayak and Orbitz do – display the FINAL pricing so you can make an informed decision.

In my case I had to spend about a half hour on the Proflowers site and enter my order twice because changing a  discount coupons seemed to require me to re-enter.    There was probably a way to avoid that by me, but the site does the common and frustrating online trick of presenting you with different pages depending on your entry point – ie the same items can cost different amounts depending on how you enter and navigate the website and use coupons.

I guess there’s nothing really wrong with that, but I prefer more transparency so I know what I’m getting and paying *during the choosing process* rather than at checkout.

… More to come when I hear how and when the flowers arrived  …