Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Genetically Modified Food Controversy

Gene Transfer

Gene Transfer


[From Deardra MacDonald - Based on a presentation at the Philosophy Club in The Villages, FL, 25 March 2011. Powerpoint charts are available on video at the end of topic. The proprietor of this Blog does not necessarily agree with this material.]
My main reason for doing this topic at the Philosophy Club was to become familiar with the controversy surrounding the Giant Chemical Corporations, Small Farmers, Activists, and the Consumers. Three months ago I was like most Americans and had absolutely no idea that over the past couple of decades, giant Chemical Corporations has achieved a virtual monopoly on some of the most important seed markets in the United States and the world. So I started with the basic question, “What is a genetically modified seed?" The section that started my education was Wikipedia’s “Genetically Modified Food Controversies”. My research started by just reading this website and trying to absorb, or should I say struggling to understand genetically modified organism controversy! From that point my research took on over 100 website from Universities, Independent Research Centers, Lawsuits, Monsanto vs. Small Farmers, White House Involvement, on and on and on… to many to write in this article.

Consumer’s Fear That No Independent Research Done On Humans

An article by the Center for Research on Globalization Stated, “One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of genetically modified plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats. The real reason has now come to light. The genetically modified agribusiness companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta and others prohibit independent research.

An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of genetically modified products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests! They are covered by the US constitution patent protection, allowing a monopoly of that invention for 20 years. The Internet is the places to go to find out about the research and risks.

The Revolving Door Policy George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama

The support between Monsanto and White House is unprecedented in the history of corporations. Monsanto is an American company; its headquarters is located in Saint Louis, Missouri. “ A statement was made by our President in 1992 proclaimed that genetically modified seed is “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO seeds”. The genetically modified seed was approved in the United States beginning with our President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and supported by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. High Level Connections.

Small Farmer and Monsanto Contract

The contract has been call by activist and farmer An Ironclad Contract. It is a contract that profits Monsanto. This contract is fundamentally unfair to farmers. Ironclad Contract What needs to be understood is that it is also fundamentally unfair to society, we the consumers are the third unrepresented party to such because we end up consuming the products of this agreement.

People have said if working with Monsanto is so difficult, farmers should just plant conventional seeds. That sounds like an easy fix, but where are they going to get the seed? The Center for Research on Globalization explains why Monsanto keep farmers and everyone else from having any access at all to buying, collecting, and saving of NORMAL seeds. Monsanto has bought up the seed companies across the Midwest. They’ve written Monsanto Seed Laws and gotten legislators to put them through, that make collecting and storing of seeds so onerous in terms of fees and paperwork and testing and tracking every variety and being subject to fines, that having normal seed becomes almost impossible. Monsanto is pushing the law that remove community’ control over their own counties so farmers and citizens can’t block the planting of GMO crops even if they can contaminate other crops.

Small Farmer vs. Monsanto Lawsuits

Whenever you see the words Small Farmer and Monsanto in the same article, it is describing a lawsuit against small farmer by Monsanto. Monsanto is filing lawsuits around the world. See what Vandana Shiva from India says about small farmers. Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food-Part 1 Vandana Shiva Video.

Monsanto's efforts to prosecute farmers can be divided into three stages: investigations of farmers, out-of-court settlements, and litigation against farmers Monsanto believes are in breach of contract or engaged in patent infringement. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.

Activist rally for labeling all genetically modified.

This is where the Activist and consumers have rallied together and have signed petitions to label all foods that have been genetically modified. Allergic reactions are a real concern of genetic engineering because it may transfer new proteins into foods, causing allergic reactions and many other symptoms in human. Since law does not regulate labeling genetically engineered food, those who have known allergies will have no way of identifying the contents of their food. The first Taco Bell crisis and the mixing of genetically altered corn not approved for human consumption into the nation's corn supply reveals how poorly government regulators have been doing their job. It was biotech opponents, not the FDA, who discovered that Taco Bell brand taco shells -- made by Kraft and sold in grocery stores -- was contaminated with animal seed Cry9C corn, marketed by the French biotechnology company Aventis under the name StarLink. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved StarLink in 1998 for use in animal feed or non-food industrial purposes only.

Where does the American Medical Association Stand on Genetically Modified Food

When I talk about the giant Chemical Corporation and genetically modified food, the first response I get back from other people always centers on a similar comment. People say that doesn’t make sense? Why would the American Medical Association support a corporation that produces a product that could be potentially harmful to humans? Then I patiently… remind people of the support that both the doctors and American Medical Association sided completely with the Giant Tobacco Corporations. The Journal of the American Medical Association published it advertisements of the safety of smoking in the early 1930’s. In medical journals and in the popular media, one of the most infamous cigarette advertising slogans was associated with the Camel brand: "More doctor smoke Camels than any other cigarette." The campaign began in 1946 and ran for eight years in magazines and on the radio. They are still bills in the House and Senate today trying to pass stronger wording against tobacco. Tobacco Regulations

When I put in “American Medical Association and Monsanto” using Google search engine, the first 3 websites on American Medical Association and Monsanto are on Monsanto’s letterhead? After the first 3 website then came the flood of websites reporting negative information. I selected this video under the topic American Medical Association and Monsanto: Video.

Summary

It is up to each person to decide what side of the “Controversy” they support. It is mandatory that consumers have a good understanding of “both sides” of this controversy because over 60% of what you buy in the grocery store is genetically modified food and ends up on your dinner table. This new genetically modified organism in our food has not been tested on humans. It will take generations to determine which side of this controversy is right?

Deardra MacDonald

videoPress for full screen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nuke Tsunami Makes Clean Coal Look Better


I've just published this over at Watts Up With That?

The recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which shut down several reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex in northeastern Japan, followed by a failure of the backup cooling systems that resulted in hydrogen gas explosions and fires, has me re-evaluating my support for nuclear power.

Don’t get me wrong, I still favor nuclear power as part of what Sen. John McCain called an “all of the above” energy policy. We need all the energy we can get to power a vibrant, growing world economy. Our energy future should include nuclear along with clean coal, gas, oil, and renewables, as well as improved energy efficiency and usage. I welcomed the recent resurgence in interest in building more nuclear power plants in the US, a policy supported by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama re-iterated that support a day ago.

Read the rest HERE and please comment here or go over there to join what will soon be many dozens of commenters and hundreds of page viewers. (Click here to see all my Watts Up Topics).

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links

[from Andy Wible]

I enjoyed giving a talk at the Villages’ Philosophy Club on February 25th on some of the issues raised in my new book Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links. I have been a lifelong golfer and I currently teach philosophy at Muskegon Community College. So, I decided to bring my two lifelong passions together in the book. I don’t think any other sport affects fundamental philosophical issues in our lives like golf. Golf affects where we live, such as the Villages and often who we our friends are. Also, unlike most other sports, we can play it nearly all our lives. The Power point presentation that on the book I gave is available at: http://www.muskegoncc.edu/PDFFiles/C&P_Arts/Wible_Villages.pdf The narrative below is a sketch of the lecture that accompanied the slides.


I started the talk by explaining a common theme that runs through the book and philosophy in general. The theme is the importance of finding the essence of a concept. The essence is what makes something what it is. Let’s look at a simple example. There are many different tables in the world, but what makes them all tables? One might say it is a flat surface with four legs. But four legs do not seem to be necessary for being a table. So, “four legs” should not be part of our definition of table. A flat surface is not enough for being a table for we know the floor is a flat surface and is not a table. To get the full essence of a concept, we are looking for the necessary (required) conditions that are jointly sufficient (enough). A better answer might be that a table is an elevated flat surface (this is close to what the dictionary says). This definition is closer to the truth but still does not seem to be sufficient for some things like buildings fulfill this definition.


We can use this conceptual framework to look at the essence of golf. The Casey Marin court case was an examination of the essence of golf. The question was whether giving Martin a cart would change the nature or essence of the game. If it did, then the cart legally did not need to be given. Is walking a necessary condition of golf? Many argued it was. Of course, many people use carts and are still playing golf. So, on the surface it seems that he should be given the cart given his disability (the majority on the Supreme Court agreed). It is a tough issue though, because we might argue that walking is an essential part of “professional golf” where greater excellence is demanded.


A similar issue is whether golf is a sport. Some have argued that it is not because there is not as much of a physical requirement as sports such as football or basketball. A cart clearly would change the nature of those sports. Running though does not seem to be a necessary condition of playing a sport. A tennis player who walks to her shots is still playing tennis. So, what makes some games qualify as sports? In chapter 15, Holt and Holt suggest that a sport be defined as a competitive game of inclusively gross physical skill. Do you think that this definition provides the necessary and sufficient conditions of the concept “sport?” If they are on the right track, then we can safely say golf is a sport.


We next turned ways golf can teach us about big issues in life. The first way golf can help us to understand personal identity or who we are. What makes me who I am? Why am I the same person as five years ago even though I have changed? If I change and yet remain the same, then whatever changed in me is not who I am essentially. That quality that changed was not a necessary condition of who I am. For example, many people say that their jobs make them who they are. “I am Joe the Plumber.” It is true that many peoples’ identities are influenced by their work, but we are not essentially our work. If someone changes his job he is still that person. We are also not our body or our soul for we could change our body or soul and still be the same person.


Golf helps us to get a better understanding of who we are by noticing the importance of memories when playing. If we remember a bad short putt, then that memory causes our current self to shiver over the next short putt. The reason is that we largely are our memories. I am who I am because of the memories that I have. If you lose all your memories, then you are no longer the same person (we often say that Alzheimer’s patients are not the same person, but cancer patients are the same person.). This theory of personal identity is not perfect for I could have false memories of something that I never did. I might remember playing golf with my Grandfather at Doral, but there could be good evidence that I never did.

Nonetheless, it does seem closer to the truth. Philosophy does not always give us the right answer, but attempts to get us closer to the truth.


We next turned our discussion to the meaning of life (chapter 16 of the book). I asked whether living a happy life is sufficient to living a meaningful life. One problem with saying that happiness if sufficient for a meaningful life is that a happy immoral person could be said to have a meaningful life. I think most of us would think that he does not for a generally moral life is necessary to live a meaningful life. Golf can again help see this. Our most meaningful rounds are not the ones where we cheat and win the bet we make with opponents. Our most meaningful rounds tend to be the ones where we did the right thing and achieved moral and physical excellence. We also looked into friendships and how golf (done right) can help us to make meaningful friends (moral friends).


I concluded by looking at ethics and golf. Does golf make us more or less moral persons? Beller and Stole argue in chapter 5 that golf is the one sport that the more people play it, the better their moral reasoning skills become. Other sports seem to have the opposite effect. Why is this? Is it correct? I think it might be due to players calling their own rules and the history and civility demanded by the game. Lumpkin talks of an interesting result of this data in chapter 7 of the book. She says that golf is the one sport that the professionals are moral than the amateurs when they play. The pro basketball player would never say that he fouled another player, but an amateur commonly does. In golf, amateurs touch their golf balls all the time for a better lie, but pros never do.


I don’t mean to make golf sound perfect. We know the elitism, racism, and sexism that has plagues the sport. As one questioner nicely pointed also pointed out, “Couldn’t be we doing something better with our time and money? Are we isolating ourselves from more important issues?” We should work to make golf overcome these problems. Some attempts are out there. The First Tee program helps to diversify the sport and the PGA tour has given over a billion dollars to charity. Pushing ourselves and others in the sport to do better is essential to preserving and improving the game.


Thank you allowing me to talk about golf and philosophy. More in-depth analysis and topics are available in the book which is available at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or can ordered by your local bookstore. The Villages is directly mentioned in the book. Can you find it? Comments and questions about all these topics or the book are welcome!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First Amendment Rights and Responsibilities

[from Don Hess]

  • I’ve hosted a group in The Villages called the World Affairs Forum for almost 4 years. Ira and I have had a few conversations and he’s given me the “keys” to contribute occasionally to the conversation here. Thanks Ira for the chance to present what will probably be provocative - and maybe controversial – views.

With regard to my views today, I’ve got to make the disclaimer that I’m no legal scholar or “expert” in any way; just a guy who is interested in being governed fairly and well and being a good citizen of this country and the world.

It seems to me that there are issues today that deserve our serious attention, and that many of them get ignored in the noise of what is euphemistically called “debate”. What I’d like to talk about is HOW we debate and whether that is productive of any real solutions or not.

It has been said that it is a “curse” to live in “interesting” times. The events of the past several months here and around the world lead pretty convincingly to the belief that those are certainly the kind of times we are living in. The curse is in trying to understand them.

In Tunisia and Egypt, in Yemen and Bahrain, in Jordan, Syria and Algeria there have been uprisings against dictators – both “benevolent” rulers and tyrants – in the region. The uprisings no doubt, currently have their origins in the terrible economic conditions of our times. But the historical causes have certainly been oppression and corruption. “Freedom” has been the cry of the protestors …the freedom of Democracy and self-rule.

So we are asking ourselves why this is happening now. Why not decades ago? Some of these tyrants have been in power for three (Mubarack), or four (Khaddafi) decades. In Iran, whose Green Revolution foreshadowed by months the revolutions of today, the Mullahs have been in power for over 30 years since the overthrow of the Shah in 1978. So why now?

I believe the answer is freedom of speech - not that “that” has been granted by the tyrants who maintained their tight control through a monopoly on communications - but that it has simply been taken by the protestors through the power of new technologies – satellite T.V. and cell-phones, the internet, and Facebook - that transcend the powers and borders of state control. And now the citizens of those countries, using the freedom of speech that they’ve ripped from the dictators, are dying in a fight to win the other freedoms of Democracy that we’ve enjoyed and taken for granted for a couple of hundred years since our Revolution.

John Kennedy, in his inaugural speech fifty years ago, declared that “the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” And in the same speech he also declared that, “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.” (and that we, as a nation, are) “…unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

So today, while others die to gain the liberties we have been assured in our Constitution's Bill of Rights, I would like to look at what is “at issue” in this country of ours with regard to what James Madison declared the “most important of rights” – the 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.

The 1st Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition their Government for a redress of grievances.”

Aside from religion, there are two issues here; freedom of speech (personal and press) and freedom of assembly - for the redress of grievances. In the current events of the past few months and weeks we have seen both several efforts to exercise these rights and some challenges to this exercise.

We have seen the exercise of that right in the face of world government secrecy by Julian Assange of Wikileaks. (Please go to "You Tube" and type in "60 Minutes" + "Assange" to see a 30 minute interview with Steve Croft and Julian Assange).

That exercise has been challenged in our country by our Defense Department, State Department and Department of Justice. There are those among our politicians who have called him a traitor and a terrorist and demanded his execution because his actions put in jeopardy those in our military, diplomatic and intelligence services. But the questions he has raised may have really helped bring about the revolutions for democracy in the Middle East by exposing cables between Arab rulers and our State and Defense Departments.

So the questions to be asked about the “issue” of freedom of speech concerning Wikileaks, I believe, are the following.

  • Is government (or corporate) secrecy really covert censorship of the 1st Amendment right in this country?
  • Does revelation of secrets (aside from redacting the names of combatants, CIA “operatives” or their foreign contacts) really pose a danger to our country? If so, why and who should make that decision - the government or the publisher of such secrets? And if so, would more transparency among governments as to their dealings with each other lessen such danger?
  • Are our laws and the enforcement of them adequate to protect “whistleblowers” both outside and inside of government or do we need organizations like Wikileaks to protect them? Does that “whistleblower” have the right to make the determination of “abuse”? If not, who does?
  • If the primary reason for “whistleblowers” supplying documents to Wikileaks is their firm belief that there is not enough internal transparency or external forces (co-opted media) to enforce disclosure, does the “whistleblower” have a duty to force that disclosure through supplying Wikileaks with secret data?
  • Should a “publisher” such as Assange, be free of prosecution if he does not either seek or pay for particular information, but simply makes himself a conduit for those who offer it?

Meanwhile, here at home we have seen the exercise of the 1st Amendment right of assembly for “redress of grievances” against the government actions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. The same example of peaceful conduct has been observed in these protests as was set in the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. And yet there has been a consideration of attempts to provoke and thwart that good conduct revealed in a “prank” conversation between Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and a Boston blogger. The reason Walker said he decided not to use “troublemakers” as Mubarack did in Egypt was a practical one - not a moral one - the “public” was getting irritated with what had already gone on. Then he shut the capitol to protestors.

Maybe it will seem that it’s a bit of a “stretch” to equate an attempt at union-busting to free speech. But perhaps you will recall that last year the Supreme Court, in a decision called Citizens United, decided that money was equivalent to free speech. I doubt that when the Bill of Rights was written there was a consideration of the enormous power of corporations. All politics and the spread of information about it - through newspapers - was local. Editors were fiercely independent, and there was little chance of corporate control of media.

Today huge corporations have huge budgets to influence elections, and the decision in Citizens United gave them even more opportunity through making it possible for them to fund “ads” against or for any candidate – out of their “general” revenues - through 3rd party organizations. Only a weak provision for “disclosure” of funding sources for these organizations prevents total secrecy about who is “pulling the strings” in any campaign and thwarts investigation into what reason for that is.

So, money is now the power behind the huge “megaphone” available to corporations and unions that wish to heavily influence the electoral process. But, if the unions can be “busted”, and the provision for dues “checkoff” taken from them and therefore their political contributions, then the playing field is heavily, and I believe unfairly tilted toward corporations whose funds come from profits and are paid for by the very consumers who buy their products and who may very well not agree with the corporate political purposes.

Do you suppose that could be a reason for the fight in Wisconsin? Do we suppose that using consumer money is any more “fair” than using “taxpayer” money (an allegation which has proven to be a false conflation with union dues)? Do we want to condone by silent witness the actions of a government of the sort Wisconsin has shown itself to be? Is the Golden Rule not the rule by which we, ourselves, would LIKE to be treated? If we allow others to be treated in an inferior or underhanded way, can we expect more for ourselves and OUR objectives?

The final thing I would like to talk about today is responsibility in return for privilege. Is a right always a “RIGHT” under ANY circumstances without ANY obligation to use it responsibly? Is “hate” speech a responsible use, or an ABUSE of the 1st Amendment right? Does this “right” require “us” to “give up” something (our personal prejudices and bad behavior) in order to get something (freedom to express ourselves fully, usefully and responsibly)?

Let me propose a simple example of what I mean. We are all familiar with the “right” to proceed with a green traffic light. But that “right” denies a person from proceeding who is coming from a different direction and is faced with a “red”. This is a rule that is agreed upon by everyone. It is easy to understand because its violation will produce physical consequences that will ruin somebody’s day.

But it seems to me, that with regard to the equally consequential right of free speech, because it is more esoteric, and the consequences are not so vivid and immediate, that we all now wish to shout “freedom” and ignore the obligation to act responsibly. Here are a few examples:

An assistant Attorney General for the state of Indiana – a high public official with an obligation for leadership in the public eye – recently “tweeted” that he favored the use of “live ammunition” in dealing with the protestors in Wisconsin. He followed this up by declaring in an interview that, “Hell yes, I’m for the use of deadly force.” Imagine THIS in the United States of America which has inveighed heavily very recently AGAINST the use of deadly force in Egypt and Libya. Needless to say, the man was fired. Someone at some level - probably Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels - had the good sense to exercise the responsibility that this official wouldn’t.

In another example of hate speech, at a rally by Paul Broun, a member of Congress in Georgia, an “elderly” man asked, “Who is going to shoot Obama”. Instead of taking a position of moral leadership and rebuking the man, the representative “allowed”, that, yes, “I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year.” It took him three days to realize that what he had tacitly condoned for another by his refusal to rebuke, could help create a climate in which the same thing could happen to himself as happened to Gabriel Giffords in Tucson, and which he was condoning by his silence for Obama. At the end of three days his staff issued a disclaimer.

So, I would like to ask whether, by the actions described above in Wisconsin, Indiana and Georgia, we are creating a climate of irresponsibility in this country that will “witness” and “permit the slow undoing of those human rights” which we have been greatly privileged to enjoy and which were paid for by the blood of generations before us as they are being paid for in our time by the blood of those who are fighting for them today in the Middle East.

George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright, journalist, critic, and Nobel Laureate once wrote, “Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve”. I think we all, in this nation, will determine by our present behavior, by our attitudes and behavior toward our “rights”, and by our civility, or lack of it, toward each other, just what kind of government it is that we “deserve” and wish to preserve for future generations.

I hope that we will, in the future, treat our problems with the seriousness and responsibility they deserve and not just give lip service to their solution while each demanding we have our own way. I believe it will be only through courtesy, civility and cooperation that they can be solved. God help us if we don’t realize that and practice those qualities in our discourse and in our politics, and insist on them from our leaders.


Don Hess