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  • AndrewHowe's picture
    AndrewHowe
    08.25.2013
    Dr. Chi-Ham,
    Thanks for replying, I'm excited to participate in such an open forum! I've reviewed the articles you suggested, and I am familiar with the work of some of your colleagues, especially Dr. Zilberman. I am a graduate student in International Studies and I have focused my research on agricultural innovation in biofuel production juxtaposed against food security in the Sahel.
    A reduction of fertilizer and an improved income for households are important, even paramount in the short-term, but the notion that these benefits can be achieved from GM crops alone is unsubstantiated. What is also unsubstantiated is the long term impacts of further integration of peasants into a global commodity market. However, Phillip McMichael (and many others like, Santurino Jun Boras, Walden Bello, etc.) offers valuable insights relevant to the GM crop debate and the agrarian question. The consensus: GM production relies on an unsteady, (inter)national market that leaves peasants facing the brunt of market changes and international food policy. This article by Tony Weis is useful: http://geography.uwo.ca/faculty/weis/papers/Weis%202010%20-%20The%20Acclerating%20Biophysical%20Contradictions%20of%20Industrial%20Capitalist%20Agriculture.pdf
    The important questions these individuals and others raise is acknowledged and addressed by Miguel Altieri and many others working to support agro-ecological solutions to reduce poverty, improve food security, and reinforce local ecologies. This type of approach offers increased capabilities and resilience (a la Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum) to various types of shocks, both endogenous and exogenous. Moreover, proper agro-ecological systems can eliminate the need for (most all) pesticides while diversifying incomes (that often include a more gender balanced system compared to commodity crops that men tend to dominate.
    Approaching agricultural development unilaterally from a GM crops offers little assurance to farmers, but places them in danger of international market fluctuations and does little to reinforce the environmental resource capacity of these producers. Moreover, packaged innovations (seeds, inputs, machinery etc) often comes in the form of credit which risks trapping farmers in debt rather than alleviating cycles of poverty.
    I guess my argument is also my question: Why doesn't GM development consider use in agroforestry systems to maximize the benefits I mentioned and many more? It seems to me that there is so much potential for prudent development of GM crops, especially regarding maturation times, root structure, etc.
    I hope we can continue this discussion, thanks again for the reply!
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