Sunday, April 27, 2008

"In Lean Times, Biotech Grains Are Less Taboo"

"With food riots in some countries focusing attention on how the world will feed itself, biotech proponents see their chance. They argue that while genetic engineering might have been deemed unnecessary when food was abundant, it will be essential for helping the world cope with the demand for food and biofuels in the decades ahead.

In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky.

'We cannot afford it,' said a corn buyer at Kato Kagaku, a Japanese maker of corn starch and corn syrup.

The main reason some Japanese and South Korean makers of corn starch and corn sweeteners are buying biotech corn is that they have dwindling alternatives. Their main supplier is the United States, where 75 percent of corn grown last year was genetically modified, up from 40 percent in 2003.

In the United States, wheat growers and marketers, once hesitant about adopting biotechnology because they feared losing export sales, are now warming to it as a way to bolster supplies. Genetically modified crops contain genes from other organisms to make the plants resistance to insects, herbicides or disease. Opponents continue to worry that such crops have not been studied enough and that they might pose risks to health and the environment.

'I think it’s pretty clear that price and supply concerns have people thinking a little bit differently today,' said Steve Mercer, a spokesman for U.S. Wheat

The group, which once cautioned farmers about growing biotech wheat, is working to get seed companies to restart development of genetically modified wheat and to get foreign buyers to accept it.

Even in Europe, where opposition to what the Europeans call Frankenfoods has been fiercest, some prominent government officials and business executives are calling for faster approvals of imports of genetically modified crops. They are responding in part to complaints from livestock producers, who say they might suffer a critical shortage of feed if imports are not accelerated.

Whatever importance biotechnology can play in the long run, food shortages are making it harder for some buyers to avoid engineered crops."


The tone of the original NY Times article does not read as this post does, I simply rearranged the order of paragraphs and cut a few others out because I felt the original merely brushed by what is critical in this discussion.

For the question is not if genetic food will broach feedstock barrels, grocers, and restaurants, or when, because this has been happening for years already (remember: 75% of US corn is GM) - it is what - what are the consequences to food markets, the hungry, our environment, and our bodies, when someday soon 75% or more of what we consume is made of "DNA from one organism, modified in a laboratory, and then inserted it into the target organism's genome to produce new genotypes or phenotypes."

Furthermore, as long as men, women, and children are allowed to die of starvation when there is extraordinarily more than enough food to feed every human on Earth - the primary agricultural issue should be radically rearranging our heinous world food system to stop this from happening, 'less we chalk up human society as a failure.

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