Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sunday all over the Web:
Forget the Water.
Don't Eat the Pork!

Today's roundup begins and ends with that which makes the human species unique: Systems we've so defined as to create a divergent understanding of the meaning of just about everything.

First, from the not entirely oxymoronically named Scientific American comes an article on the threat to civilization oft overlooked: Food Shortage. Page four of the piece contains this tasty morsel:

Some commentators point to genetically modified crop strains as a way out of our predicament. Unfortunately, however, no genetically modified crops have led to dramatically higher yields, comparable to the doubling or tripling of wheat and rice yields that took place during the green revolution. Nor do they seem likely to do so, simply because conventional plant-breeding techniques have already tapped most of the potential for raising crop yields.

Not that this discourages the purveyors of such super strains; nor will the will of the people. Just within the last month, after much hypocritical fence sitting on the issue, Germany's Ministers of Agriculture and the Environment to the EU respectively voted against lifting Hungary and Austria's bans on MON810, a genetically modified corn created by gen tech giant Monsanto. Despite the ministers' public stance against the crop, they had declared their intentions to abstain from the vote. Only a last-minute online petition made them reconsider. And then last week, Minister of Agriculture Ilse Aigner imposed a ban in Germany. Monsanto's response? What the press refers to as legal action, I call "force feeding".

And I'll conclude with a return to Scientific American's answer to its own question,
What Makes Us Human? Here's the nugget I've extracted from that research just in case you don't feel like cligging:

Aside from undergoing changes in form, our ancestors also underwent behavioral and physiological shifts that helped them adapt to altered circumstances and migrate into new environments. For example, the conquest of fire more than a million years ago and the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago made foods high in starch more accessible. But cultural shifts alone were not sufficient to exploit these calorie-rich comestibles. Our predecessors had to adapt genetically to them.