Mar. 11th, 2007

lurkitty: (fudog)
The first time I went to Thailand, I met an older gentleman from my friend's home neighborhood in Nakhorn Rachteshima. He was very nice and instisted on giving us an historical tour. Unlike any other Thai person we had met, he insisted on talking politics. Being a political animal, I was only too happy to oblige him. I found out later that he was the local mayor!

One of the issues we talked about was the (then) new Bush Administration's policy on trade. He could not understand why America was turning its collective back on Thailand, their long-time ally in the region. He said the US was trying to force Thailand to let multinational corporations into the market for it's signature crop: Thai Jasmine Rice. They were doing so by trade embargo.

There are many varieties of rice, but only Thailand can claim to grow Jasmine rice. The government closely regulates the industry, overseeing the grades of rice released for export to ensure quality. Jasmine rice is their lifeblood, but the multinational agribusinesses would like to get into the market and sell the Thai farmers terminal seed stock so that they, too would become dependent on the companies for seed stock every year.

The Thai, to their credit, have not buckled. Jasmine rice is still Jasmine rice, not genetically modified.

The Washington Post reported last week that the Dept. of Agriculture has approved a genetically modified form of rice that contains biologically active human proteins. The proteins will be extracted and used to make an anti-diarrheal medicine. What is worrisome is that proteins are what people tend to be allergic to if they are allergic to something. Adding a foreign protein to a food is adding an additional risk factor for people becoming allergic to it. The company, Ventria Bioscience, assures us that there are plenty of measures taken to ensure that the plants, seeds and their genes do not "escape"

That's good because there have been two more incidences of genes "escaping" into the general rice population, resulting in a shortage of seed.

From the second article: "Everybody's frustrated," said Bobby Hanks, who employs about 100 workers at Louisiana Rice Mill near Crowley. "At this point, the industry has very little confidence in researchers to keep these things out of the food stream."

A string of recent court rulings has revealed regulatory shortcomings for other biotech crops. In August, a federal judge criticized the USDA, saying it had "utter disregard" for the risks posed by plantings of biotech corn and sugar cane that the agency had endorsed in Hawaii. Two rulings in February took the agency to task for not fully considering the risks posed by biotech alfalfa and turf grass.

It seems the Thai people may have had a good point.
lurkitty: (Default)
I am still reeling from last week's trainwreck of a Battlestar Galactica episode.
If you've seen it, you will appreciate Heather Havrilesky's column over at Salon today. But don't go there unless you've seen it.

I couldn't have said it better myself. And the bit about Olmos and the model ship is...priceless!


lurkitty: (Default)

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