Even Sterile Seeds Are Better Than Natural Seeds
Posted by softestpawn on March 20, 2009
Here is a poor farmer who is not far off subsistance. He grows his crops, and he and his family eat most of it. The rest is kept to seed the next growing seasons crops; it has to be protected against rot, animals scoffing it, parasites growing in it, people stealing it, weather ruining it and so on. If he’s lucky, he’s got enough left to seed the next crop, and if he’s very very lucky there’s a little bit left over to sell to supplement the diet, perhaps buy some tools, maybe some simple clothes, possibly some basic medicine.
Life is grim. But it could be better.
Some clever (but possibly quite evil) people in the richer countries have deliberately and directly modified genes in some crops to make them more productive. They are more resistant to pests, or rot, or they grow bigger and fatter, or they need less fertilizer. Some can compensate for particular environments, say defiencies in the soil. And some can compensate for defiencies in the diet, by drawing into the foodstuff certain minerals (such as iron) from the soil.
So our farmer, with perhaps a community loan or some charity, buys these better crops. Each year now he will have more left over than before, and so he can sell more and buy better tools, warmer clothes, more effictive medical treatments, wider diet, knowledge, perhaps some beasts to burden, and so improve his farming even more, and so drag himself and his family out from grinding poverty.
But Genetically Modified crops could ‘contaminate’ ‘natural’ crops (whatever they might be) just as, in fact, any crop that does better than any other might do. This is seen as a Bad Thing by some environfundamentalists, so the possibly evil (but definitely clever) people have offered to make their crops ‘sterile’ by inserting a so-called ‘terminator’ gene. This means that any crop grown from these seeds cannot breed, and will just die, so not affecting the inefficient crops should the farmer feel he misses the natural environmental-friendliness, unrelenting work, pain, disease and death that comes with subsistance farming.
Now of course this means he has to go and buy a new seedstock every year. This is also seen as a Bad Thing. It makes the farmer dependant on evil grasping GM seed companies, and once they have him, they can screw him for as much money as they feel like. His independence is lost and he becomes a slave to the evil capitalist machine for ever more.
He is of course a slave just now, and in much worse conditions. Right now, he has only one choice of seed – the stuff he’s already got. And the dangers of losing that seed between growing seasons are significant, what with the rot and pests and weather, and requires effort and resources to protect. He depends on and is vulnerable to a host of unpleasantly nastiness.
Life really should be better
With a sterile Genetically Modified crop, he gets better productivity (that is, after all, what they are modified for), so he gets a better crop at the end of the year, or uses less resources on pesticides and fertilizers. This means he has more surplus to spend on medicine, books, tools and booze.
And it means he only has to keep money for buying the seed the next growing season, which is not invulnerable but is much much easier and safer to store than seed.
And when he goes back to all the GM companies he gets to select between them (within the limits of the local market); every time he gets the latest in crop seeds; every time he gets to refine his choices as to what appears to work best.
But no, your local envirofundamentalists deny him even a chance to try.
Rich people and their fads, eh?