18 September 2007

GMOs vs. Global Climate Change

Bad news/good news:
Researchers in Bangladesh say that a new strain of rice may be able to withstand the floods which wreak havoc there every year.

Researchers at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute say that the rice type, called Swarna Submergence One, can survive up to two weeks in water.

Every year, about one-fifth of Bangladesh disappears beneath the monsoon rain waters.

The floods cause huge destruction to the country's staple crop.


The government reckons that this year's floods - the worst in years - have so far caused losses worth up to $290m, hurting rural communities and pushing up food prices in the cities.

Scientists at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute say that the new strain survived the recent floods.

The institute's Director of Research, MA Salaam, told the BBC that Swarna Submergence One type rice plants they were growing on two farms in northern Bangladesh lasted more than 10 days under water.

Other rice types might benefit from being submerged for two to three days, but after any longer, they begin to die.

The new strain, a high-yield variety invented in the Philippines, has obvious benefits.

Dr Salam said that next year, the test will be greatly expanded and if that too proves successful, the rice may then be made widely available.

We definitely don't know enough about the long-term consequences of GMOs. Nor do we know just where global climate change is going. But the simple fact of the matter is that just as science has been a hugely contributing factor in getting us into the mess we're in, it's also going to have to carry the load in getting us out of it. People need to eat, and an abstract moralistic
stance against GMOs because we "don't know enough" or shouldn't be "playing God" frankly doesn't play with me.

1 comment:

Manfred said...

This is a wonderful blog, really some of the most fun I've had reading online in a while.

As to GMOs... I agree that a general anxiety about science run amuck shouldn't get in the way of life-saving research.

Still, I'm not sure that GMOs are a panacea for hunger (I realize you're not making that argument). Most famines have been as much the result of price problems (with food even going OUT of starving areas to other places that could pay more for the products), incomplete information (as in the Great Leap famine) and unemployment. Hunger in general follows suit.

I'm pretty much on board---with my very limited knowledge--with Amartya Sen's belief that these things call for a complete economic re-thinking more than simply growing more food.