Tagged with mark lynas

Dewey Decimal Project: 664 LYN Seeds of science : How we got it so wrong on GMOs

I continue workingSeeds of Science book cover through the “Technology” class of the Dewey Decimal System, with 660–669.9 being “Chemical Engineering.” It’s easy to forget this while I’m browsing the stacks and I wouldn’t have guessed that’s where I was when I saw this book about GMOs.

There are a handful of areas where my liberalism becomes a bit heterodox and one of these is with respect to GMOs. I’m willing to believe the arguments for the safety of GMOs (a far bigger problem, as far as I’m concerned is not the artificial manipulation of genetic materials, but rather the application of intellectual property laws to organisms and associated legal actions surrounding the escape of said protected genetic material beyond the initial customers).

Lynas was originally part of the anti-GMO crowd and took place in a number of actions to disrupt the development and distribution of GMO plants. Then, while trying to justify his actions, he did actual research and discovered that so much of what he believed was wrong. It’s notable that this project began with a book about being wrong.

As it turns out, there’s an over-romanticization in many instances of old ways of doing agriculture that reek of first-world privilege. Subsistence agriculture means that those practicing it can only subsist and not advance beyond bare survival. Meanwhile the first world is poisoning the earth and, through its burning of fossil fuels, changing the climate so that subsistence in the third world becomes that much harder. Many of the GMO innovations would allow farmers to go beyond subsistence to being able to prosper—the children, especially girls, would be able to attend school and the family would not be living harvest to harvest but would be able to have a financial cushion that would lift them out of poverty. But thanks to the demonization of GMO crops, these innovations are foreclosed and the agricultural ministries in these countries are unable to make improved crops available to their farmers.

And despite fears about health effects of GMO crops, it turns out that there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that they exist.


2019 in reading

I had set a goal for 2019 of reading 100 books and nearly made it with 95 books. I’ll aim again this year.

My favorite reads for the year, in alphabetical order, were:

It’s interesting to note how much of this highlights list is non-fiction (fully half). The fraction that are written by women has declined somewhat to just under half, but white men continue to be almost absent from the list again.

My overall stats for the year had the fraction of women I read decline a little from 52.4% to 49.4%. PoC also slightly declined from 21.4% to 19.3%. Dead White Men continued to decline from 10.5% to 5.4%. Non-US 34% up from 25.7%. Translations 7.5% up from 4.6%. Authors new to me 80.1% up from 76.7%. Re-reads 0.3% down from 0.7%. Authors I’ve met 4.5% down from 7.5%. Median publication year 2014 vs 2013. Books advanced in the reading queue to meet demographic goals, 23.7% down from 35.8%. Books read as novel research 9.7% down from 16.4%.

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