Day 2

Tuesday, May 22nd

“Digital Storytelling: A way to Increase the Literacy of both Students and the Public”

8:30 a.m. – Breakfast (7th floor Cabot Center)

8:50 a.m. – Walk to Tisch Library

9:00 a.m. – Digital Storytelling Project “Urban Agriculture” and “Brownfield Developmnt” (Tisch Library Digital Design Studio)

10:00 a.m. –  Break

10:15 a.m. – Digital Storytelling Projects cont’d

12:00  p.m. – Lunch (Austin Room, Tisch Library)

1:00 p.m. – Digital Storytelling Projects cont’d

3:00 p.m.  – Conclude

Homework Assignment:

1. For tomorrow’s discussion on BioTechnology and Sustainable Agriculture, please read this debate in the Economist (linked). There are multiple days of exchange, please read the exchanges on Nov 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th and 11th, which you can link to from the top navigation bar. Don’t read the millions of comments from readers!

2. Please comment on this exchange/debate.  What arguments did you find most compelling?  How has your attitude toward Biotechnology changed (and why) as a result of this exchange?

5 Responses to Day 2

  1. Caroline says:

    Since I know very little about both biotechnology and sustainable agriculture, I found this debate very interesting and informative. I don’t think I ever had any particular problem with biotechnology before reading this debate, and, based on Pamela Ronald’s comments, it seems to have potential for addressing food security issues.

    One of the concerns I have with genetically engineered foods after reading this debate, however, is the heavy production of genetically modified corn and soybeans. If GE foods are going to help with food security and food justice, it seems to me that they have to move away from a model that favors these crops. The dominance of corn and soybeans in the U.S. agriculture system seems to contribute toward public health problems like obesity by keeping sugary, fatty, calorie-rich foods cheap and more nutritious fruits and vegetables expensive and less accessible.

    As for the question of whether biotechnology and sustainable agriculture are compatible, it seems to depend upon our definition of sustainability. Both participants in the debate, as well as the featured guests, had different ideas about what this term means. I’d like to discuss this loaded word, to think about what it might mean and whether it is still worth using.

    • Gülfer says:

      Not having made any research on SA or GE before, I began reading the debate on Benbrook’s side. I share Caroline’s concern about the overwhelming ratio of corn and soybeans as genetically engineered crops as opposed to other vegetables and fruits, as Benbrook mentions, to sustain a variety. Even though Mataruka’s and Ronald’s arguments about the poor communities seem to make sense for a moment, they also bring forth questions of control and hegemony. As Cory also mentions, who decides on which crops to engineer? Does not that decision, made by Western scientists and by “global” corporations, mimic the justifications of colonialism and imperialism? How ethical is it to make such a life, community and future changing decision for people who live in an African or a South American village? How do these choices affect the consumers and production technologies all over the world? How does patenting affect the farmers? One can even go further and ask how a legal personality can own the rights to a vegetable or a fruit. To me, it sounds as absurd as a legal personality owning the rights to rain or sun (and it also reminds me of the 2010 movie “Even the Rain.” It draws a parallel between the Spanish Conquest of 500 years ago and the privatization of Bolivia’s water supply still going on today). So, as you can see, having read the debate, I am still opposed to Biotechnology mostly on the grounds of equity.

  2. Cory says:

    The participants in the Nov. 2nd debate both make salient points, arguing respectively for the food needs of a burgeoning global populace and for the malleable nature of BT as an approach that can be used to achieve multiple contradictory objectives. However, neither participant interrogates the function of corporate control on BT sufficiently. Ronald refers to deleterious “current farming practices” that BT might redress without defining those terms, and avoids explicating the market forces that drive those practices. Benbrook alludes to the importance of farming culture by mentioning “local farm skills and culture,” but elides the specific challenges to those terms as manifested in global agribusiness models. I would suggest that we can’t approach the impact of BT without interrogating the issues of patenting and profit bound up with GMO products. The material concerns and the monetary gains derived from BT potentially impact farmers and consumers to a greater degree than this specific debate reflects, reminding us to question the motives behind the mobilization of data.

  3. Beth says:

    While Charles Benbrook’s point that GM crops are just a band-aid approach to fixing the issues of world hunger and food security is compelling, I was struck by Pamela Ronald’s refusal to accept the “more data needed” argument as we watch food insecurity increase with the rising world population. Ronald’s argument regarding the marriage of genetically modified engineering with organic farming is not new to me, but I’m becoming more convinced that these two systems of agriculture do not need to be mutually exclusive. My concern is that the politics and business that drive decision makers will prevent us from discovering the possibilities of this marriage on any large scale. I applaud The Economist’s efforts in promoting this exchange of ideas as a means of rapprochement between supporters and opponents of GM crops.

  4. Emma says:

    As with many such debates, I found myself struck by the degree to which the opponents did not seem to be disputing points/facts so much as values. Furthermore, as is so often the case, I found it extremely difficult not to root for the speaker with whom I agreed prior to reading any of their statements. I also noticed myself taking more note of facts/ideas that I had previously considered over ones that were new to me. Although my opinions were not changed (as far as I know) by this debate, I find myself particularly interested in how a speaker could bring about a shift in values to the point that virtually the same data leads to a different conclusion. For example, how do we decide that producing more food is more important than producing a greater variety of foods?

    As for specific points that particularly resonated with me, I was quite struck by the question of how one knows you have enough data to determine something is safe. I am inclined to be more wary of GM than Ronald is, though her emphasis on saving lives now was compelling.

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