In other News no matter who wins the debate, Mankind and the rest of the Natural World will probably still lose
|Illustration by Erin Dunn|
The illustration in the animation above is most likely not what you think it is. It's not mycorrhizal fungi clinging to the roots of plants. Look closer and you'll see the roots of the corn are shaped like the DNA double helix model commonly used to represent genetic codes etched along the DNA strands. However the article, "The Complex Nature of GMOs Calls for a New Conversation" written by author Maywa Montenegro, from the online Agroecology magazine ENSIA focused mainly on the two competing Agricultural sides of Industrial Biotech & Industrial Organic who have two opposing views on how to acquire drought resistance in corn through genetic traits. The Organic side proposes that this can only be accomplished by breeding and cross breeding for inherited traits while the other Biotech side focuses mainly on the usual modern day popular molecular manipulation for a genetic trait from one organism into another to obtain drought resistance. Hence the reason for the animation. This same debate topic about Drought Resistance and how to go about it was first brought to us all via the now infamous (and waste of time) Intelligence Squared Debates for which I previously gave my own critique and personal comment on this specific argument of how to acquire drought resistant traits for cultivators of Corn/Maize for Africa. Both side were wrong then and they are wrong now in this article. Here are the same tired old arguments from this article:
|image cradit: Guy Calaf/Polaris/eyevine|
Loss of crops to drought contributed to a food crisis in Ethiopia in 2008
The Organic Argument as given by the Author:
"Conventional breeding also appears to be outperforming genetic engineering in the race to develop crops that can maintain productivity in the midst of drought, extreme temperatures, salty soils and shifting pest regimes. A September 2014 Nature News article describes the work of researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or CIMMYT, in Mexico City and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria, around the use of non-GMO methods to develop drought-resistant corn varieties in 13 African countries. In field trials, these varieties are matching or exceeding yields from nonresistant crops under good rainfall — and yielding up to 30 percent more under drought conditions. The project already has 153 varieties in trial stages, and other seeds are already well beyond trial stage, enabling some 3 million smallholder farmers in Africa to increase yields by an average of 20 to 30 percent."At the Intelligence Squared Debates in December 2014, Charles Benbrook and Margaret Mellon stated that there were programs in Africa at that time which had been breeding and cross breeding for drought resistant traits in Corn/Maize for over a decade now and they had been successful thus far with drought resistant cultivators of Corn/Maize. *sigh*
The Biotech argument as given by the Author:
"Meanwhile, Monsanto, CIMMYT and other researchers are still hoping to get a transgenic drought-tolerant seed trait to Africa “by 2016 at the earliest.” Even then, Monsanto’s drought-tolerant seeds [Drought Guard] have been shown to increase yield only about 6 percent in the U.S., and only under moderate drought conditions. Direct comparisons are always tricky, of course, but as the Nature article put it: “Old-fashioned breeding techniques seem to be leading genetic modification in a race to develop crops that can withstand drought and poor soils.”
Here also is the link to the article in Nature which she referencedIf you again recall from the Intelligence Squared Debate back on december 4th 2014, Monsanto's Robb Fraley and UC Davis' Alison Van Eenennaam insisted that the Biotech giant Monsanto was been working very hard on genetic engineering in choosing traits from heat tolerant organisms and incorporating these into the genome of Corn/Maize seeds. They assured the audience that these seeds would be ready for African Farmers in about 10 years. Seriously, that's what they said. This was the most disappointing thing I found in that entire debate from both sides since drought resistance in any plant/crop can be obtained that very first growing season using the proper tool from Nature's tool-kit. Here is that photograph once again from the University of Florida study where they tested Mycorrhizal Application Inc's (Grant Pass, Oregon) product MycoApply on Corn for drought resistance.
|image credit: Mycorrhizal Applications Inc|
And there it is folks, the picture that is worth a thousand words. I've posted it before and I'll post it again and again. The problem here really is that it translates to the loss of many many 10s of 1000s of dollar$ for the interested parties. That's most of the problem here. Often the investment in mycorrhizal fungal spores is relatively little in comparison to the huge investment in so-called special seed and the many chemicals they are engineered to be working with for success. But the photo cannot lie, drought resistance is glaringly successful when compared to the control part of the experiment illustrating the conventional farming practices. First seasons corn planting. No decades of research, cross breeding or years of genetic manipulation in some top secret expensive high tech lab. You can even see where the mycorrhizal fungi has moved underground over to the control site where the outer rows have been colonized and the health benefit effects revealed. The use of mycorrhizal fungi also requires far less fertilizers or the fungi will disconnect from the plant. Actually, the over abundance of fertility will cause the plant to have no need for the fungi's services and the plant will stop producing the chemical signature which signals the fungi to colonize it's roots. Previously I wrote about another University of Wisconsin and Maine study on growing potatoes with mycorrhizal fungi where common conventional industrial requirements on fertilizer for conventional grown potatoes required 130 lbs of phosphorus per acre, but with the fungal colonization only 30 lbs per acre were required. Even the yield of potatoes increase per acre with less money on investment. Again, can everyone here reading understand the economic reasons giant Agro-Chemical and Biotech companies won't even remotely mention or pursue this practice ? Here is the link to that post.
Recently when I posted this same photograph of mycorrhizal corn in a discussion forum, I was accused of promoting an unproven idea based simply on a single photograph which meant nothing. The accusation came from a Nebraska resident, Carl Lux, who is supposedly the principal Manager of Almalgamated Sugar Co LLC which runs GMO Sugar Beets (a nonMycorrhizal plant) through their factory farm. The usual derogatory approach to debate is not important, but I'll provide a gallery of other photographs of other Mycorrhizal Corn at the bottom references. The sad thing on the Corn again is that apparently neither the Biotech side nor the Organic side appears to have any interest in bringing it up for discussing and it is hard for me to believe that either side is ignorant of the potential here. As I stated, this debate has always been about money and the power over global food supply. Now shifting focus here with an article from Nature News which has some interesting observation with what goes wrong with scientific research. Many of you will relate to these major problems with scientific research below.
How scientists fool themselves – and how they can stop
"Humans are remarkably good at self-deception. But growing concern about reproducibility is driving many researchers to seek ways to fight their own worst instincts." Article's Introductory ForwardI won't re-post all the points listed in the article which I enjoyed thoroughly, but simply provide the Author's four main problem subheadings which will be made clear as to what really goes on behind closed Lab doors. I'll post the link at the end and you can further read what he regards as solutions to the problems, although I am skeptical when it comes to human imperfection motivated by personal and corporate and/or group biases and prejudices. This first one deals with tunnel vision and any lack of peripheral vision or thought which is one of my pet peeves when it comes to scientific researchers who prefer to work in their own personal comfort zone of thought which is most often motivated by personal bias, prejudice, fame glitter and glory for some amazing discovery and that ever present flaw of personal economic enrichment. I have no problem with making money and helping the economy, the world needs healthy economies. However, many of these corporate firm's scientific researchers are pressured for quick results, not only by their corporate Executive task masters, but also those Wall Street investors who figuratively [sometimes literally] want return on investments yesterday or they'll pull the financial plug. It should also be noted that Academia faces the same financial challenges and pressures as the Industrial world.
[ translation - Tunnel Vision, incapable of any peripheral view]
"One trap that awaits during the early stages of research is what might be called hypothesis myopia: investigators fixate on collecting evidence to support just one hypothesis; neglect to look for evidence against it; and fail to consider other explanations. “People tend to ask questions that give 'yes' answers if their favoured hypothesis is true,” says Jonathan Baron, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia."
"For example, says Baron, studies have tried to show how disgust influences moral condemnation, “by putting the subject in a messy room, or a room with 'fart spray' in the air”. The participants are then asked to judge how to respond to moral transgressions; if those who have been exposed to clutter or smells favour harsher punishments, researchers declare their 'disgust hypothesis' to be supported. But they have not considered competing explanations, he says, and so they ignore the possibility that participants are lashing out owing to anger at their foul treatment, not simply disgust. By focusing on one hypothesis, researchers might be missing the real story entirely."
The Texas Sharpshooter
[ translation - This is an informal fallacy which is committed when differences in data, evidence, lab results, etc are ignored, but similarities to one's pet theory are stressed. From this reasoning a false conclusion is inferred]
"A cognitive trap that awaits during data analysis is illustrated by the fable of the Texas sharpshooter: an inept marksman who fires a random pattern of bullets at the side of a barn, draws a target around the biggest clump of bullet holes, and points proudly at his success."
"His bullseye is obviously laughable — but the fallacy is not so obvious to gamblers who believe in a 'hot hand' when they have a streak of wins, or to people who see supernatural significance when a lottery draw comes up as all odd numbers."
"Nor is it always obvious to researchers. “You just get some encouragement from the data and then think, well, this is the path to go down,” says Pashler. “You don't realize you had 27 different options and you picked the one that gave you the most agreeable or interesting results, and now you're engaged in something that's not at all an unbiased representation of the data.”
[ translation - When things don't turn out as religiously assumed because of one's faith commitments, then blame the data, evidence, experiment, fellow scientists, etc, but don't you dare touch my worldview]
"The data-checking phase holds another trap: asymmetric attention to detail. Sometimes known as disconfirmation bias, this happens when we give expected results a relatively free pass, but we rigorously check non-intuitive results. “When the data don't seem to match previous estimates, you think, 'Oh, boy! Did I make a mistake?'” MacCoun says. “We don't realize that probably we would have needed corrections in the other situation as well.”
"The evidence suggests that scientists are more prone to this than one would think. A 2004 study observed the discussions of researchers from 3 leading molecular-biology laboratories as they worked through 165 different lab experiments. In 88% of cases in which results did not align with expectations, the scientists blamed the inconsistencies on how the experiments were conducted, rather than on their own theories. Consistent results, by contrast, were given little to no scrutiny."
[ the long definition - most people consider Science to be the Revealer of the Grand Story. Except more often than not it's a collection of numerous metaphysical short stories loaded with assumptions, assertions, speculations in which creative and purposeful storytelling is used to fill in either small gaps or large Grand Canyon-like chasms where data and other evidence are lacking. Origins science is loaded with massive amounts of story telling irrespective of what position a person favours. Most often the storytelling itself will be denied as just so story telling. Astrobiology is yet another example of creative storytelling since in reality it has yet to discover it's subject. It's the science discipline of 'could', 'might', 'probably' and maybe. (see post on Astrobiology)
"As data-analysis results are being compiled and interpreted, researchers often fall prey to just-so storytelling — a fallacy named after the Rudyard Kipling tales that give whimsical explanations for things such as how the leopard got its spots. The problem is that post-hoc stories can be concocted to justify anything and everything — and so end up truly explaining nothing. Baggerly says that he has seen such stories in genetics studies, when an analysis implicates a huge number of genes in a particular trait or outcome. “It's akin to a Rorschach test,” he said at the bioinformatics conference. Researchers will find a story, he says, “whether it's there or not. The problem is that occasionally it ain't real.”
For further read of the article by Author, Regina Nuzzo, follow the link here:
There never really was any such thing as "The Scientific Method" (Berkeley)
Below is an excerpt taken from Berkeley's own website inside their pages of understanding evolution. Science as a strictly neutral unbiased process or method to obtain true understanding of the observable world around us according to them is a myth. This is true as long as human beings are in charge of practicing science irrespective of their background, education, culture, race, ethnicity or worldview. Now you'll understand why this attempt at obtaining consensus or at least claiming consensus is so sought after. The simplified so-called layman version of the "We have Scientific Consensus" soap box stumping is, "Anybody who's anybody knows and believes this."
"If you go to science fairs or read scientific journals, you may get the impression that science is nothing more than "question-hypothesis-procedure-data-conclusions."
"But this is seldom the way scientists actually do their work. Most scientific thinking, whether done while jogging, in the shower, in a lab, or while excavating a fossil, involves continuous observations, questions, multiple hypotheses, and more observations. It seldom "concludes" and never "proves."
Important Update, October 25, 2015 - Discover Magazine
"It’s probably best to get the bad news out of the way first. The so-called scientific method is a myth. That is not to say that scientists don’t do things that can be described and are unique to their fields of study. But to squeeze a diverse set of practices that span cultural anthropology, paleobotany, and theoretical physics into a handful of steps is an inevitable distortion and, to be blunt, displays a serious poverty of imagination. Easy to grasp, pocket-guide versions of the scientific method usually reduce to critical thinking, checking facts, or letting “nature speak for itself,” none of which is really all that uniquely scientific. If typical formulations were accurate, the only location true science would be taking place in would be grade-school classrooms."Well, that was the first paragraph in the article. It is popular now to hear terminology and expressions such as "Anti-Science" and Pseudo-Science" being lobbed by one side towards another side's position in hopes of elevating another's position as that of the enlightened version of Science. The real hard facts are that there is truly only good science and bad science. The terms above as cuddled by those who have need to be reassured that their worldview of life is still the warm and fuzzy one.
Such now-familiar pieces of rhetoric as “science and religion,” “scientist,” and “pseudoscience” grew in prominence over the same period of time. In that sense, “scientific method” was part of what we might call a rhetorical package, a collection of important keywords that helped to make science comprehensible, to clarify its differences with other realms of thought, and to distinguish its devotees from other people."Yup, sure enough. And while both sides of the Agricultural argument will claim "scientific method" as their own and at the same time demonizing their opponents, often times neither side has really utilized such scientific method practice in coming to their conclusions as it was originally intended. There is too much to gain financially and even more to lose as far as from a "Prestige" standpoint because more often than not the scientific method exposes both side's flaws. Take note of the real motive behind the competitiveness of both sides from the article:
All of this paralleled a shift in popular notions of science from general systematized knowledge during the early 1800s to a special and unique sort of information by the early 1900s. These notions eclipsed habits of talk about the scientific method that opened the door to attestations of the authority of science in contrast with other human activities."
"Such labor is the essence of what Thomas Gieryn (b. 1950) has called “boundary-work”— that is, exploiting variations and even apparent contradictions in potential definitions of science to enhance one’s own access to social and material resources while denying such benefits to others."Wow, no wonder our world looks the way it does. The so-called superior business model is nothing more than a cloak of Science wrapped around the the hidden ulterior motives of power, wealth, prestige and fame. This is what 100+ years of scientific enlightenment has brought us. It is insisted upon by many that the peer-review process is what keeps these flaws in check. The problem however is who are these peer-reviewers. Why we are told that they are the Watchers and Safe Guarders of Science, but as someone once said, "Who's watching the Watchers ?" This is why true biomimicry or the practice of biomimetics can be used and practiced by the average person around the globe. Don't worry, you won't need some fancy title before your name nor Alphabet Soup initials after your name to arrive at correct conclusions. The practice biomimetics is nothing more than viewing nature, observing how it really works and making practical application in your management practices after that. Word of caution however. Nature have been damaged. Much of the natural phenomena that used to be observed is either no longer existing or if it does, it's a bit rusted and in need of restoration. So the actual task will be more of a challenge than it was back over one hundred years ago when enlightenment took over and started to correct the imaginary perceived flaws that the later day experts saw in Nature when they attempted to make shortcut innovations to counter Nature's bad design and mistakes by means of those infamous copying errors and bad luck. Take a look below at areas where nature's engine still operates when all pistons are firing and no rust can be found.
Back to the topic of Drought Resistant and what can be found outdoors when you read Nature's Book on the subject
|image: Alpha AG Solutions|
|image: Plant Healthcare Inc|
Now I figure there are a couple of reasons why BOTH the conventional Industrial Agro-Chemical-Biotech business model and the Industrial Organic business model leadership refuses to discuss mycorrhizal fungi for enhanced performance, especially with regards the subject of drought resistance. First, let's be perfectly clear about what the reason is not. Neither side is ignorant nor stupid here when it comes to this specific subject of mycorrhizal fungi modifying and enhancing the performance of plants in resisting drought stress either under normal circumstances or in the News Reports of the coming apocalyptic climate change event which is forecasting hotter temps. So clearly it's something else and that something else is wealth, power and influential control over the globe's food supply. So let's illustrate even further to get the full flavour of how nature's mycorrhizal after market add on parts can improve high performance.
|photo image by Terry Shea|
Factory Stock 1970 Chevelle SS
The image above is a typical Dealership factory stock 1970 Chevelle SS with just the basics, much like any nursery grown plant germinated in a sterile environment minus all the modification tools and aftermarket parts found in Nature. Below is the after market purchased car where the owner has modified it with many add on parts, mostly unseen and under the hood where it counts, but also reflective on the outside with exterior decor. Any Questions ???
|image: Wikipedia by Vegavairbob|
1970 Chevelle SS 396 Hardtop Coupe
So how does this above illustration help us understand the unseen modifications which make all ecosystems a success in an undisturbed scenario where humans hands are absent ??? There is also a word of caution to be noted here. Going the holistic approach route is not going to be an over night success story where you take a bag of Mike Amaranthus' MycoApply and view it as magic dust which is going to provide you with a high yield success story that first farm crop growing year.Anyone who would believe this is not taking into account of the need to rebuild the soil health by increasing the mycorrhizal fungi through cover crops which the industrial agriculture business model has for the most part effectively destroyed through excessive overuse of industrially produced synthetic chemicals [fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, etc] Those 'glittering promotional Adverts' are the type of advertising normally found in the propaganda storytelling from the real world of Agro-Chemical sales pitchmen. Like building a high performance muscle car, any Car Mechanic will tell you there are far more after market parts which are needed for that full muscle car potential can be realized. A Film TV or Movie Star, Sports Star, Political darling or whatever takes years building up their careers to attain that celebrity status. It doesn't come over night. however, one single act of stupidity and foolishness can destroy a career seemingly over night. In order to recover, they must rebuild and hopefully regain the public trust that was lost by a stupid life changing decision. The same believe it or not is true of soil health. Nature took 10s of 1000s of years to build and sustainability maintain that healthy soil systems for which one act of industrial irresponsibility has ruined in a short period of time [mere decades] that cannot be repaired over night. You need to rebuild the soil with not only the multi-species blends of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacterial, but also the cover crops for which they thrive and do their work at building up the microbial soil carbon necessary for crop success. This may take a year or two, but the long term health benefits and money savings are well worth it.
|image by Mycorrhizal Applications Inc|
Factory Stock Corn Plant on the left and Corn Plant on the
right modified with Nature's aftermarket high performance
modification parts. Any Questions ???
While certainly there is money to be made in the farming and sales of mycorrhizal products, it's not the same type of obscene profiteering that comes with the deluge of chemical cocktails and outrageously priced seeds as the situation exists today. The Mycorrhizal approach is long term, where the agro-chemical & Biotech business model practices are short term. Both effect the environment in differing ways, one good and one bad. Aside from providing drought resistance, in order to thrive, it is imperative that mycorrhizal crops not be heavily fertilized or the colonization process is in danger of failure. In conventional farming, the biological crop root absorption components are limited as compared to performance enhanced mycorrhizal rooting infrastructure. Hence under the industrial model, it's a numbers game. Saturate the soil with heavier than necessary chemical fertilizers than is actually required by the plant and hope like heck a certain percentage sucks in somewhere. All excess as we know becomes runoff waste which pollutes lakes, streams, rivers and eventually the oceans. Over fertilization of plants triggers an epigenetic off switch which informs the plant that it doesn't need the mycorrhizae and that causes the crop plant to stop the manufacture of the signaling chemical formula released from it's roots which alerts the fungal spores to germinate onto the potential plant host's root system. Over abundance of food resources tell the plant it doesn't need help from any mycorrhizal partner. So perhaps you can see why very powerful Industrial Agro-Chemical companies would prefer to keep the status quo and why Biotechs will never discuss or consider it for drought stress. But there is no excuse for the Industrial Organic side unless they too have their own version of products for sale. And yes they do. The biggest problem is that most people haven't taken the time to read Nature's book and really decipher what is being said and in turn making practical application of what has been observed.
Human Beings forget or maybe take it for granted that Nature is really an owner's manual book that is not only decipherable, but eager to be read, as if in the very beginning it were written to be so. The problem today is that powerful forces from this world's various authorities [both powerful political & corporate business interests] have tried to censor what is written in nature's book with their version of a Gestapo tactics of a black marking pen to blot out what corporate entities imagine to be damaging information to the present consensus science. In other cases they have gone and deliberately ripped pages out of this book by means of grand scale habitat destruction by means of a figurative book burning demonstration in public squares and the invaluable information is no longer available by observation. It's called extinction at worst, whether we are talking various component organisms or entire ecosystems or at best, still existing, but in hidden away in small niches still untouched and unexplored by humans. Much of what was natural phenomena no longer exists in most places around our globe and trying to bring back what was lost can only been found in some cases in historical journals or diaries of early explorers over one hundred years ago. Nature's book today is a mere shadow or dust cloud as far as the full richness of what it's former historical glory once was. There are attempts to say the information in that book was never there, or such and such functions in Nature never worked that way. There are clearly attempts by large corporate business interests to rewrite Nature's book, but the spurious scriptural texts they replace the original information with are exposed when we see it doesn't harmonize with the rest of the chapters. Most chapters in Nature's book can be looked upon and viewed as various ecosystems which though clearly different from one another have the same basic fundamentals and principles which guide and direct the life within them.
|Illustration by Jakub Vitek|
I'll close this with another interesting link from Penn State University's Agricultural Extension on the subject of mycorrhizae which I found very simple to read, understandable and very informative at the same time. After that I'l provide the promised picture gallery which itself is educational.
Mycorrhizal Fungi and Crop Root Photos Gallery
|image: Mycorrhizal Applications Inc|
Corn Control vrs Mycorrhizal Corn in Thailand
|Millborn Seeds Inc - South Dakota, USA|
|Photo courtesy - Eddie Loy of Star Seed Inc - Delphos, Kansas, USA|
|Corn Drought Stress Graph - University of Wisconsin, USA|
Special note on cover crops and their importance which also has implications for restoring large acreage involving both ecosystem habitats and mismanaged rangelands infested with noxious weeds
|Image: DuPont - Pioneer Seed|
These photo images both above and below are crops which exhibit what is called Crop Fallow Syndrome (CFS Syndrome). The Corn in the picture above on the right hand side in the photo is exhibiting (CFS Syndrome) following corn planting after the growth and harvest of Sugar Beets (nonMycorrhizal plant). In the picture below here the Corn on the left hand side of the photo was grown after Soybean (Mycorrhizal host plant) cover crop, but the Corn on the right hand side was grown following Canola (nonMtcorrhizal plant). Allowing the land to remain fallow between crops is also detrimental to a mycorrhizal soil. The Mycorrhizal fungi cannot live and thrive without a host and therefore perishes and allows a bacterial system to take control of the soils. This favours other nonMycorrhizal plants used as cover crops like Mustard, Canola, Buckwheat, forage Radish, Camelina, etc. But you should also take note that this is what allows weeds (ruderals) to thrive and it should illustrate why weed invasive plants have taken over many parts of the earth because of ignorance towards land management. This includes both agricultural crop production, Rangeland management for grazing operations, weed problems faced in the urban landscape both with homeowners, commercial and municipal landscape projects and their employees. Can you now understand how the practices which favour a bacterial soil system also favour the industrial Agro-chemical business model and why these entities try so hard to stifle and squelch any positive information to be published or spoken about ?
Had mycorrhizal fungi been more respected and understood in it's role as an ecosystem maintenance tool, we wouldn't be fighting wild mustard and radish, we would be dealing with Yellow Star Thistle and Cheatgrass, etc, etc, etc. Please ponder, meditate and think deeply the next time you are outdoors in any type of plant restoration establishment and maintenance project (garden, urban landscape, habitat restoration, commercial farm, etc), because disrespecting what you cannot see will reveal itself eventually by the eventual negative conditions you do see. As for Farmers, for agriculture to improve, there are some major deprogramming to be undertaken with both men and women being sent back to school to study Nature's tool-kit book and how the real world in the outdoors really works. Same can be said for people who claim they love gardening and landscaping, even habitat restoration.
On a similar topic note, you may find two New York Times article on combating Cheat Grass by microbiological controls, one a bacteria and the other a fungus very interesting & informative:
|Photo: Penn State Agricultural Extension|
Important Update October 15, 2015:
"Gabe Brown: Keys To Building a Healthy Soil"
I'm including this video about building up soil health which is being presented by a North Dakota Farmer named Gabe Brown who farms over 5000+ acres. For all the in your face Industrial Agriculture proponents who tell you an organic approach that replicates Nature's biological soil building program won't provide high yields, they are either totally ignorant of how nature actually works or they are out right lying for their preferred business model. The video below is exactly what I have been doing in Habitat restoration and commercial landscape installation and maintenance. It runs about an hour, some give yourself some time.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"