>Folks: I'm trying to follow this issue, and have become
>confused on a couple of points.
>1. It seems that such a large variety of foodstuffs are
>currently available, at least to those with money to buy
>them, grow them, or free access to them (e.g. as weeds),
that's the first severe restriction - free access.
>such that Vit A deficiency should not be occurring at all.
>Indeed, some have stated that Vit A precursors are so widely
>distributed in so many different foodstuffs, that it is
>difficult NOT to get enough. If that is indeed true, then -
as i was one of these, who wrote that, let me please explain
my reasons a bit deeper (and also correct them in parts):
we certainly will have to differenciate between the people
in the country and those in the cities. city population is
on the rise and esp. in less developed countries. today's
largest cities are not found in industrialized countries. and
it's obvious, that you won't find much weeds in the city
bounderies, instead you'll see favelas as far as you can look
around and people, whose main care is to care for the same day's
i just saw a very depressing picture of a chinese worker in the
newspaper: a man with a poster around his neck saying "will go
for ANY work". the number of these workless "army" in china
meanwhile has reached 100 million. that's the number of the WHOLE
american working population !!! imagine the explosive forces
behind that number of hungry people. i assume, that's one of the
reasons, why china cannot be governed like we expect and decided
it in our countries. these people NEED to be fed somehow or anarchy
will result. 100 mio hungry will mean 100 mio civil war soldiers!!
and such a country will do everything to keep food prices as low as
possible. the same tendancy can be seen in western countries:
keep the prices for food as low as possible and as high, that
there still are enough people, who will produce them. social
aspects will be ignored, if 1 farmer can produce the food for 200
other people. and these 200 others are only interested in enough
cheap food, but not in adequate wealth for farmers..
another story: many years ago there was a young man, who did
not want to join the forces, but instead deciced to do his
service as a development agent in an governmental agency for
3rd-world countries (in germany you can choose between these two
options). he was a learned farmer and vegetable grower, had also
studied these businesses and he got his chance, when brazil asked
the german government for exactly such an expert. he went there
and managed two projects (one a usual project for peasant farmers
and one farmer education project for joung "little" criminals
from the countryside). after one year he was asked to advice his
german development agency on an agricultural project of a
university: a haziendero had offered a large, though minor part
of his land to the university for free as an experiment farm,
another part in that region was rented to local (and very poor)
peasant farmers. this also meant: ALL the land belonged to that
haziendero and noone was allowed to farm there without paying a
rent (so even no free picking of weeds!). the whole area was near
a large water dam - please remember this !.
the young man went there two days before the meeting between the
haziendero, the university delegation of 8 experts and the young
consultant, by aid of his counterpart came in good contact with
the peasants and asked them about their situation and the
questions around. he learned, that these peasant could only grow
tomatoes, beans and corn, just enough for their own consumption.
they had tried to grow vegetables and several other fruits, but
in vain. they did not know the reason for their successless
efforts, but they had tried several years and finally gave up.
and they felt cheated, but the only alternative would be to work
in the city, where already thousands of workless were trying
2 days later the delegation arrived. the consultant met with
them and they told him, that they would teach these "dumb"
(o-tone) peasants how to farm and how to convert their
fields into a green paradise with vegetables for the city
and meadows for future animal breeding. together with the
haziendero they went to the area, which should be offered
for free to the university (some farmers should have to
leave, didn't matter). they arrived there and the first
thing the consultant spotted, was kind of a lightdark shade
on the whole area, as if it had just rained some mm of rain
and was to dry up soon. but it hadn't rained for weeks. he
got suspicious and kindly asked one of the university
experts to analyse the soil for salinity, which that one
harshly refused. another expert explained, that they would
need kind of a simple street to the fields from the next
larger state street a lot of miles ago.
result: the young man consulted his agency NOT to support
the project, took his own soil sample and learned, that the
soil was HIGHLY salinated. the haziendero had watered it for
years from the dam, whose water was also extreme salty and
when it became impossible for him to farm on it (and only
after that), he rented it to the local peasants....
the young man got suspicious and made further investigations. he
learned, that experts from five other development agencies prior
to him had given the same advice.
years later (when he was already back in germany) he got some
additional information: the university had succeeded in finding a
seventh organisation, who paid for the project, the soil
consultant had become well-paid manager of the project, the
project was a failure and there was NEVER any real effort to grow
anything there and help the peasants to switch to a more variable
farming, the haziendero now was the owner of a road to the city
(paid by the fund) he did not have before, the raod-building
company belonged to the brother of another scientist of the
delegation, the soil scientist had made a career by writing
wonderful papers on how to improve nutrition and help the poor
peasants in the region, two master thesis on food diversity in
this region were written from university students (meanwhile
working in well-paid government jobs), the peasants are still
paying -increased- rents, are still growing their tomatoes and beans
(still no other fruits possible except beets - a hint from
another external consultant from a private australian development
organisation), the had lost income, when advised by the
university experts to grow leak !! (highly saltsensitive),
cabbage (nobody in the cities wanted to buy, because there packed
food from the us was cheaper and "trendier") and were now using
pesticides for their corn (yep, this one was a success in yield
because of some kind of borer usually found there).
what would you learn from that experience ??
you know that ugly joke, where a mexican couple tried to
illegally pass the border to the usa ? the man swam through the
river marking the border, succeeded to reach the american side,
then saw his wife try to swim through, she drowned and the
mexican said to himself: "damn, she was just a mexican chica, we
americans do not need these here in god's own country".
i learned: there is egoism, corruption, elitism of the better
educated and rich and small farmers are often cheated by their own
"upper class". the actual discussion in china's government is
symptomatic for this situation.
now the moral question: WHO THEN IS WILLING TO HELP THE
POOR, if not the better educated there, who are working into their
own pockets ?? does the expression "shareholder value" ring a bell,
what similar things are going on in our countries ?
there's absolutely no reason to distrust, what dr. shiva wrote
and as she's a well-known activist, i believe, that she's on the
side of the poor. but what i would REALLY like to see (because of
my own experiences), is what the peasant farmers THEMSELVES have
to say. and that's what i meant, when i said, that we will never
hear from them through the internet..
another example from africa: some wealthy farmers there import
hybrid corn and plant it. the harvest goes to the market, where
in the way of the distribution channel part of it is resold as
seeds to the small farmers. do not imagine an african seed market
as in america or europe with certification or differenciation
between grains for seed and grains for food. "seed" is sold on
farmer markets by the pound and the corn seeds offered there are
a REALLY colorful mixture of different seeds. don't expect bags
with a label "hybrid seed, WHO 250, variety xyz, germination 97%,
25.000 units". it's just sold like food grain from obscure
origin, by aid of a primitive balance and that's it. result for
the small farmer: a mixture of land races, kind of varieties and
kernels from hybrid origin. you can imagine the result from the
hybrid F2-generation he partially gets in his fields, and the
farmer's father wonders, why yields are lower than he knew them
in his youth. again some cheated farmers, to whom the meaning of
a "hybrid" is a total mystery...
>as stated by others - in order to actually become Vit A
>deficient and suffer risk of blindness, one would have to be
>severely malnourished. If I am understanding this all
>correctly, how then is golden rice going to rectify Vit A
>deficiency if the real problem is simply such extreme
>poverty or deprivation as to prevent the unavoidable intake
>of sufficient Vit A (precursors)? As a corollary, if
>malnutrition were alleviated, would not the Vit A
>deficiency, by definition, likewise be alleviated?
maybe that's the 2nd restriction. i'm no nutrition expert, but
it's MY understanding, that vitamin and mineral deficiencies
follow the "law of the minimum". so increase in vit a would not
improve health conditions as long as there is another deficiency,
which restricts related organic functions. with the blind it's
evidently vitamin a, so according to usual experience one should
expect a significant health improvement, if there are no other
adequate restricting factors. (provided enough fat is given in
his diet - vit a is fat-soluble -, very often not the case!).
but: knowing, that the world health organisation was successfully
treating blindness by vit. a-pill supplementation, there seems to
be none or only minor ones.
and that's the point, where i'm becoming DEEPLY unsure. isn't it
really worth a try ?. as things stand, the improvement of the
rice is for free, so prices should not rise. the costs for the
invention are paid by swiss government and the philantrophic
rockefeller foundation. so there should be no additional costs
for the poor (ignoring future social aspects). i'm really, really
unsure, if well-fed people should teach hungry people in other
countries (even other cultures) about social and moral aspects in
their lifes, the majority of their own people does not care about
(vitamin supplementation in the us is a billion $ industry).
which means, i'm happy NOT to HAVE to decide on that.. it's the
people there (yep, not government, but really the people, don't
know how to achieve that, maybe simply by offering the
shouldn't we start helping them SOMEWHERE instead of mourning
about the lack of an overall solution? you're a scientist
and as such you know, that NO scientific advancement was made (good
and bad), because scientists reasoned much about the negativ
implications. it was ALWAYS a "let's try" and there will ALWAYS
be some objection against. the question: who has to weight them
in the rice case. us or them ? and dr. shiva certainly is only
one side of the discussion in these countries.
>2. Is it indeed the case that prior to the advent of green
>revolution (GR) rice, people in the IRRI target regions of
>Asia suffered less Vit A deficiency and blindness?
rice was cultivated for AT LEAST 8.000 years in asia. do you
really expect, that there was a deficiency over this whole period
of 8 milleniums without some experimenting people ? some time ago
i wrote about rice and beri-beri and the mycotoxin citreoviridin.
the so-called beri-beri caused by rice started with cannon-boat
colonisation by the brits ! caused by a shift in distribution
systems.. but before there were no cities as we know them today..
and at last: healthy nutrition is not only a question of access
to healthy food, but also of social preferences (and thus
certainly education) and can be summarized like following:
children's books you will never see:
"the boy who died from eating all his vegetables"
"the mcbootleg corporation and their overcharges
for lard patties they call a cheeseburger."
+- [quote of the day - by. k. wiegand]--------------+
| A Short History of Medicine |
| 2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root. |
| 1000 A.D. - That root is heathen. |
| Here, say this prayer. |
| 1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition. |
| Here, drink this potion. |
| 1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil. |
| Here, swallow this pill. |
| 1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective. |
| Here, take this antibiotic. |
| 2000 A.D. - That antibiotic doesn't work anymore. |
| Here, eat this root. |
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