November 9, 2012

Pollan is Mystified


Michael Pollan:
Q: Are there any positive advances that biotech has made recently in the food industry? Any on the horizon?
A: They’ve been on the ever-retreating horizon for a long time. I started writing about biotech in ’98 and I remember being told by executives at Monsanto that Roundup and Bt were just the first chapter in this wonderful story and within five years so many other interesting crops, crops that could withstand saline or salty soil or crops that could withstand drought or crops that might even be able to fertilize themselves with fixed nitrogen, crops with higher yields and for reasons that remain something of a mystery to me, those wonders have yet to appear. I don’t know why, whether they’re proving harder to engineer than expected might be one reason. Or they could tell you regulatory hurdles are standing in the way but in fact there are very few regulatory hurdles introduced in these crops.
Allow me to lift the veil of mystery for Mr Pollan:
The fact is that only two things about GMOs ever sort-of worked for a little while: Herbicide tolerance and internal pesticide expression. As predicted by anyone who knows even the slightest bit about how nature works, the weeds and pests which Roundup and Bt expression were supposed to suppress quickly transformed themselves into Roundup-resistant superweeds and Bt-resistant superbugs. Roundup has totally collapsed. (Which is why the next generation of 2,4-D resistant GMOs is in the pipeline. This ever-escalating herbicide treadmill is an intended outcome of corporate/government policy. Otherwise the USDA would admit that herbicide tolerant GMOs don’t work and refuse to authorize any further commercialization of them.) Bt crops no longer work, and ever more toxic pesticides need to be sprayed on them.
In fact, we’re left with only two meager things that GMOs do as advertised: Bt crops do express Bt toxin, even though it no longer works. And glyphosate-resistant crops can have glyphosate sprayed upon them without killing them, which doesn’t help because glyphosate also doesn’t kill the weeds it was supposed to kill.
That’s all GMOs do.
And for that worthless performance, we’re willing to physically poison ourselves and economically and politically enslave ourselves? I think humanity better wake up and abolish GMOs, by whatever means necessary, while there’s still time.
But the fact that we’re not likely to do so with any help from liberal elitists is exemplified here: “I await those products and I would love to see this industry make a significant contribution to solving one of the world’s problems. But they’ve been promising that for a long time and have so far grossly under-delivered.”
Pollan doesn’t specify which “problems” he means. He knows perfectly well that the only problems with the world’s food are problems caused by corporatism, especially GMO corporatism, and that the only solution is the abolition of food corporatism. But as a good technocratic and pro-corporate elitist he can’t countenance real solutions.
Like all liberals, in the end he’s a triangulator in the total war of corporations vs. humanity. He wants to procure somewhat Better Policy within the corporate framework, but also wants to run interference on behalf of corporatism. In the end, when they’re finally forced to choose, most of them will side with Monsanto.



  1. It was so disappointing to see the California initiative favoring GMO labeling defeated that I came to visit your blog after a long absence. I fail to understand how it helps your cause, or anyone’s cause for that matter, to slander liberals.

    Comment by LeeAnne — November 9, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    • I’m sorry your return was unsatisfying, but nothing here is any different from what it always was. The main thing different is that lots of people who spent a few years post-2008 entertaining real criticisms of the system have gone crawling back to it. I hope you’re not one of them, but it’s hard to see how anyone familiar with my writing isn’t familiar with my low regard for liberals.

      Who slandered liberals? I repeated the same truth I’ve written at this blog, NC, and everywhere else a thousand times. Is Pollan a liberal, is he typical, and does he do this stuff? Yes (Obama supporter), yes (he flipped his whole position from 2008 to 2009; he does for the food movement exactly the same thing his kind does for every sector), and yes (supported the Food Control Act in direct contravention of everything he previously wrote; supports GMOs in principle in direct contravention of everything he previously wrote). You’ll have to be more specific about what the “slander” was.

      You didn’t previously mind my commentary on liberals and their historically proven record of pro-corporate triangulation. All that’s changed is that I’m refining my analysis and critique.

      Of course conservatives also support food corporatism, but that’s what everyone expects. The fact that liberals are equally corporatist, however, still seems to elude lots of people, no matter how clear the evidence record for anyone who looks.

      Comment by Russ — November 9, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    • To clarify further, both the “liberal” and “conservative” forms of elitism are false paths leading to the slaughterhouse. People who do actual work and live on the Earth must reject both, just as much as the two Washington gangs which nominally represent those two ideologies, which by now are both forms of conservatism anyway.


      While it’s true that to hold a faith, any faith, is normally a source of strength, progressivism is by now not in fact a faith in the future, but another kind of conservatism. A strong proof of the political progressives’ lack of faith in the future is their characteristic desperation to grab any crumb they can get right now, their inability to ever gamble the possibilities of the moment in expectation of a much bigger payoff down the road, and their delusions which turn the most empty words and the simulation of “access” into actual achievements. In all this, the progressives are even more focused on short-term gain than the banksters.

      Liberals are another type of conservative, both in the content of the policy they support (“hard right” by any objective or historical measure) and their fundamentally timid, fearful temperament. Isn’t a true progressive by definition an optimist who says “let’s roll the dice and run risks for big gains”? Yes he is, and by that measure we have only the most wretched conservatism, anywhere we look.

      Comment by Russ — November 9, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

    • But what do liberals stand for anymore? And where do they draw the line?

      Do they draw the line at using drone bombers to murder women and children? Indefinite detention under NDAA? Backdoor bailouts of Wall Street? The failure to prosecute Wall Street crimes?

      As far as I can tell, self-described liberals do not draw the line with any of these things, so my question is what do they stand for, if anything, and where would they draw the line, if anywhere?

      And how about all those “progressives” who voted for Obama a second time and/or urged people to vote for him a second time (as the lesser evil) a long list that includes Rebecca Solnit, Matt Taibbi, the editors of the Nation magazine, Bill Black, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, etc.

      So I don’t know what the terms “liberal” or “progressive” mean anymore (they’ve been so debased over the last few years) although Michael J. Smith (of the Stop Me Before I Vote Again blog) has a pretty good definition of what “liberal” used to mean, five or ten years ago, before the age of Obomber.

      Michael J. Smith:

      “This brings us back to what that word “liberal” really means, as applied to politics rather than culture.

      Political liberalism, as opposed to the social kind is, above all, an elite outlook — though it’s an elite of SAT scores and educational credentials rather than an elite of wealth and power. It’s not at all a Left outlook, since it values institutions and regulations, law and process, over the unruly wills and affections of ordinary folk.

      Political liberalism has no quarrel at all with wealth and power. It timidly exhorts the wealthy and powerful to play nice; but if they don’t choose to take liberalism’s advice, then liberalism sighs, and wrings its hands, and murmurs something about being “realistic.”

      Liberalism is about anything but liberty. Liberalism is about regulation — regulation drawn up after careful study by qualified experts, people with credentials, people who know what’s good for you. Liberalism is about lawyers arguing the esoterica of Constitutional interpretation before the Supreme Court, and you having to live with the result.

      In the same way, political “conservatism” — the thing that, say, the Republican Party claims to stand for — is about anything but conserving the values and the way of life that people are attached to and want to conserve. “Conservatism”, as, say, Fox News understands it, is all about sweeping away any remaining obstacle to the relentless aggrandizement and enrichment of already-huge and rich corporations.

      In fact, both political “liberalism” and political “conservatism” belong to the Right, as I understand that term. They are both about preserving and enhancing power and privilege. Liberalism defends and promotes the power and privilege of the professional elite, and “conservatism” defends and promotes the power and privilege of the corporate elite.”


      Comment by SR6719 — November 9, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

      • Chomsky too, hm? It’s amazing how many people affirmatively said, Vote For Monsanto, Vote For Wall Street, Vote For Permanent Aggressive War, and so many other evils. That’s the best indictment of the complete and permanent moral collapse of liberals and radical chic-ists (like Chomsky by now). They actively support evil and call upon the people to affirmatively support it, and in many cases don’t even realize what they’re doing. It’s the same old “I joined the Nazi party hoping to be a moderating influence from within”.

        Post-1945, of course. Prior to that they simply were supporters.

        Comment by Russ — November 10, 2012 @ 5:32 am

      • I was surprised by Chomsky as well. To clarify, I believe he said that he would be voting for the third party candidate Jill Stein, but he encouraged people in “swing states” to vote against Romney, meaning vote for Obama as the “lesser evil”.

        Comment by SR6719 — November 10, 2012 @ 6:56 am

      • That’s perhaps the most contemptible position of all, and demonstrates once again how it’s not possible to write satire on the immorality and navel-gazing stupidity of liberal wonkery, because reality will outstrip it. The whole notion that “who should I vote for?” is answered with “first, what state are you in?”, is an insult to every imaginable principle, not to mention being an admission on the part of those who argue it that they believe their own “alternative” votes are just a self-indulgent whim. Here’s the great Noam Chomsky calling himself a shallow, frivolous dilettante. Of course he’s not alone in such depravity. There’s a whole “left-libertarian” blog I stopped reading because it was capping its year-long pro-Dem trend with daily posts of the “what state are you in?” variety.

        Comment by Russ — November 10, 2012 @ 8:05 am

  2. Giving more thought to it, control of the stock market has more political power than any other metric or initiative. The stock market won in 2010, and it won 2012 for Obama. Its the craven middle class who, bipartisan, and losing in the world of small business, entrepreneurial endeavors, and creativity, have lost their mojo, and gained in the stock market -the politically manipulated stock market. We’ll see how long that lasts. It’ll last as long as it serves the interests of the same corporate oligarchs now in power who’ve been in power since Poppy Bush was Vice President to Reagan.

    Comment by LeeAnne — November 9, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    • Yes, the reflating of the stock bubble has certainly played a big role in luring back most of the straying sheep.

      Comment by Russ — November 9, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  3. To me, the above comments reflect how much our thought is.. conditioned ? by the existence of words in the form of “liberalism”, and the “stock market” which are convenient for sticking under one heading complex processes with multiple, diverse actors involved.
    As for what unites “progressives” and “conservatives” and bottoms out the distinction between the two is the conviction ? belief ? that men and women can collectively and actively… liberate themselves from ALL forms of contingence on this earth. The legacy of the Cartesian ? Enlightenment which even the radical Republicans embrace, unbeknownst to themselves.
    An… absolute “liberty”, if you like.
    I believe that any new… liberty simply displaces constraint elsewhere in the world…
    If you look closely, the ideal of salvation is still the motor for Western civilization.
    But… what happens if one decides that salvation is not the be all, end all we have thought it was from way back when ?
    What if we could start thinking outside of this little box ?

    Comment by Debra — November 10, 2012 @ 4:02 am

    • I believe that any new… liberty simply displaces constraint elsewhere in the world…

      In spite of yourself, you just gave a concise description of liberal- and conservative-celebrated Western middle class “freedom and prosperity” fueled by cheap oil and globalization.

      Comment by Russ — November 10, 2012 @ 5:26 am

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