I'm Always Open to Change...
...but I don't know if either of us can truly say we are free of the current myths of our time, any more than we can say we have freed ourselves of our parental conditioning.

If you mean what you say, go read 'Making Free Marketeers Angry' from start to finish. It's not all my own work, but it IS all completely verifiable. Read, if you can, with an open mind. Then we can talk.


posted by DamonLeigh on October 6, 2003 at 12:56 PM | link to this | reply

I accept the challenge, but...

...for right now I am out of time.

One point, though, I definitely am NOT tied to academic texts, etc. as you implied and partly stated in your comment. I also am not reeling off material supplied by whatever. I have arrived at my point of view entirely independently. I have spent a lifetime examining each claim as it comes to my attention. I examine it not only in the light of what I personally know, but also in the light of what I know to be true because of my own personal background and experience. I am decidedly NOT tied to any "myths," but have learned to view the world without ANY political spin--period.

What I have seen in your writing thus far is a (thoughtful) regurgitation of the entire line of the intellectual left. To date, I have seen no room in your point of view for anything that appears to you to conflict with "what you know to be true," even though these "truths" are demonstrably misunderstood at best, or false at worst.

I trust we can find a way to proceed where we do more than simply present our own perspectives. On may an occasion I have sat at committee conference tables with avowed "Greens," pointing out their errors in thinking, misconceptions, and falsehoods, point-for-point, without making the least impact in their thinking, although inevitably, I was able to change the entire rest of the table (assuming a change was in order in the first place). I don't want to waste my or your time if this will be the inevitable result.

On the other hand, if you really will reexamine your premises in light of information I document, then we can make progress. Obviously, I open myself to the same "rules." The only caveat is that information must be completely verifiable.

posted by arGee on October 6, 2003 at 12:25 PM | link to this | reply

I happen to agree with you, to a point, on genuine free markets, but you know as well as I do that when the US has an oil man in the White House - more than one, in fact - and we in the UK have our GM debate being led by Lord Sainsbury, the link between big business and government is with us for a while yet, alas, along with all the nastiness that brings.

In your post, you do talk about fresh taste and character, and never mention nutrition ONCE!!

I'm not sure where you get that stuff about starving people rejecting food from. Sounds a tad unlikely to me, and it certainly doesn't apply to water.

The problem with most modern economists is that they are still operating within the current paradigm. As Einstien (I think) once said, You can't solve a problem using the same thinking that created it (or something along those lines). Economists talk in terms of economies of scale, a term from the Industrial Revolution. It works in industry. But then they apply it to agriculture, and it simply doesn't work any more.

Arable monocultures are more prone to disease, which need more chemicals to combat them (good for agri-chemical giants) and more treatment afterwards to ensure they are safe. They also deplete the soil rapidly, so the next crop requires more fertilizer (good for agri-chemical giants) until eventually, the land turns to desert (as is happening right now in the Mid West). All those chemicals get into the ground water, of course, and into our water supplies, which then need further treatment to make the water safe (good for...oh, you know). I could go in this vein for hours.

Monocultures are all about lots of energy input for relatively little output, and all about battling with Nature. Small scale, local agricultural models, that have ALWAYS worked better than any industrial model, require less input for far more output (nutritionally), and is all about working with Nature - co-operation over competition.

I would echo your sentiment - the facts are there if you will only seek them out and understand them.

I am already assuming you are a decent person! And I am enjoying our debates, as I rarely come across anyone quite so wrapped up in the current myths. But I do think you need to extend your reading, your research, your thinking, away from the safe academic texts and look closer at some of the ideas you oppose. I've done that. I know where I stand. I'm open to change, but you're simply reeling off all the arguements used in support of the industrial-military complex we see before us. If you want to look deeper, I'll happily give you some pointers. Otherwise, I'm still happy to cross swords, one decent person to another!


posted by DamonLeigh on October 6, 2003 at 12:01 PM | link to this | reply

Shame on you, DL...

..for spinning my comments so completely.

I never implied that Monsanto, et al, represent the "free market." In fact, I didn't even use the term "free market." I plead guilty to believing (for very good reasons) that unfettered markets serve everybody's needs better. In a genuinely unfettered market, monopolies cannot last, because they don't have government force to back them up.

Furthermore, while I did put food characteristics in the order you mention, by my emphasis, I CLEARLY made nutrition the significant factor. Perhaps you are aware that relief organizations have discovered that people, even starving people, will reject food that they consider unfit. It is important, therefore, that food be made as appealing as possible, so that people will actually consume it.

Agriculture doesn't need price supports. These supports (which exist throughout the first world, incidentally) have resulted from misguided attempts by government (typically--but not always--when the left-wingers are in control). Most modern economists realize that argiculture would thrive much better without the supports. Many of the large corporate farms might have to readjust, but agriculture as a whole would prosper.

The facts are there if you will only seek them out and understand them.

At the very least, PLEASE presume that I am a decent person whose arguments are based upon sound reasoning, and whose goodwill is pointed at people in general, not to "greedy corporations," although I have some definite arguments about that concept.

posted by arGee on October 6, 2003 at 11:30 AM | link to this | reply

Leave it To the Market...
...presumanbly means leave it to the likes of Cargill, Monsanto and the rest. And they TRULY have the interests of the worlds poor at heart don't they? Way above shareholder value or any other such nonsense. NOT!

Check out my blog 'Making Free Marketeers Angry' to see how and why this myth is rapidly imploding.

And I find it...informative...that you talk about the preservation of the visual and taste appeal of a food, and just tag on nutritional value almost as an afterthought.

Nutritional value is all that matters, especially to the hungry! And anything that happens to a fruit or vegetable from the time it's picked to the time of consumption reduces this. Even time reduces nutritional value. So local has to give th highest nutritional value (not to mention saving the vast quantities of fossil fuels spent on transporting the stuff).

Industrial agriculture is failing. If it was as successful as you claim, how come it NEEDS hundreds of billions of dollars to prop it up, and trade barriers against cheap imports from the Majority World?


posted by DamonLeigh on October 6, 2003 at 10:27 AM | link to this | reply

Do you do this just to be obstreperous?

...  If you do the numbers, you will discover that it is NOT possible to feed the world using small, local agriculture methods. People are starving, in part, precisely because these methods still predominate in the third world. The rest of the reason hinges on distribution. Many people, myself included, believe that the best way to solve the distribution problem is to get governments out of the problem and let the markets perform. The obvious need will very quickly vector food in the correct directions. When you insert governments, whether bungling but well-meaning or tyrant controlled, the problem always gets worse.

Technology is NOT the problem as I see it. In fact, technology is offering solutions that could not have been available decades ago. I agree that sometimes these solutions bring their own problems. A very good example of this is milk homogenization, which is used because it extends milk shelf life from 3 to eleven days. It turns out that this process enables xanthine oxidase to enter the drinker's blood stream with disastrous consequences. You can read the details of this in my post: Drink your Milk...and Die!

One of the effective technology solutions is irradiation of preserved food. Since distribution is a real problem, and since it remains unlikely that governments will get out of the way, if we can make the food last longer while retaining its visual and taste appeal, AND its nutritional value, we have gained a lot, at nobody's expense.

This, I submit, is REAL progress.

posted by arGee on October 6, 2003 at 10:15 AM | link to this | reply

Food Irradiation is Nothing More...
...than yet another technological 'answer' to a question that's only arisen because!

It's only the current fad of industrial agriculture that's causing us food shortage problems. This planet is more than abundant enough to feed all of us well. What stops us is...

- thinking that growing crops artificially in parts of the world they don't belong is 'a good idea'
- thinking that turning over millions of acres of good arable land in the US and EU for cattle feed, for chrissakes, rather than people feed, is 'a good idea'
- propping the whole charade up with $180 billion in subsidies in the US alone last year is 'a good idea'
- whilst over a billion in the developing world still live on under a dollar a day, and 25,000 a day die of starvation - all part of the same 'good idea'.

We don't need irradiated food. We need good, locally-grown food for all.


posted by DamonLeigh on October 6, 2003 at 9:45 AM | link to this | reply

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