Friday, November 26, 2021

When the rains came


When the rains fell in British Columbia recently, bringing devastating floods and landslides, they also brought something else. That something else was, and is, the growing recognition that nature is not under the control of humans. We are now not only seeing, but experiencing for ourselves, first-hand that humans can harm the natural world but cannot control nature’s reactions.

Does anyone remember Dr James Lovelock?

He is the much acclaimed and award-winning independent British scientist. Remarkably, he is still working today at the age of 102. When his book The Revenge of Gaia (2006) came out it created quite a stir. His theory is that the earth is one organism, and because everything is connected in this organism, an injury in one part of the earth’s body is felt throughout the whole. If this is true, then humankind has been trying to beat the Earth to death one way or another for what feels like a very long time now.

Let’s just focus on the last 500 years, and the legacy of one prominent thinker of that time, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).  Bacon was a titled English intellectual and philosopher who gained high esteem through his political and scholastic work. Although he got into financial trouble in his sixtieth year, and was disgraced, he also saw his release from external duties as an opportunity to give his undivided attention to his scientific studies.

He believed that the only way to study the natural world was to get it organized, labelled, and each part of an inquiry being separated from other parts in order to find the ‘true’ nature of any part. In other words, each part being studied had to be treated as an entity unto itself, fragmented and separate, apart from its relationship to anything else. Bacon wanted tangible proof of the function of every part of nature culminating in, he believed...’the commerce of the mind with things”. He was therefore one of the first to popularize the scientific method of inquiry into nature’s secrets. Thus, the world has moved forward, with the scientific method, in part due to Sir Francis Bacon, being faithfully applied to this day.

Many wonderful things have been produced by this method. I am alive today because of findings that have relied on the scientific method.

But there’s a real problem that we’re all beginning to see – that everything is connected to everything else after all.  We cannot treat the parts of the earth as though they do not belong to the whole. I believe the idea Bacon had concerning “commerce of the mind with things” as desirable to a certain point, but without any meaningful controls has resulted in “things” taking over the mind.

This is what Dr Lovelock has been trying to tell us for years now. His influential Gaia theory remains a central part of modern climate science, where the upper layers of rock, oceans, and atmosphere are all a single living superorganism which regulates itself as much as we humans do.

His book scared me, but also filled me with hope. He also proposes some radical ideas which are divisive. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s time to think differently because more of the same thinking will only bring more of the same consequences when the rains come.

More next time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Sometimes Labels Are Good



A letter arrived in my mailbox last week from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network warning that Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are proposing “to exempt some genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) foods and seeds from regulation”.

Why have these government agencies decided to do this just now? And so quietly? Could it be because these agencies that are supposed to protect people’s health want to usher in quietly a new way of engineering GMO’s that are, in their disturbed minds, superior to the old ways of genetic engineering?  And need a very broad testing field?

The national news, as far as I know, haven't talked about it or made any kind of fuss about it. As the Canadian people have already proved ourselves to passively accept the role of Guinea Pigs in previous government experiences, we are being called upon to serve in this role once again, with very little hoopla. How can I make this claim?

We don’t have to look very far. If I may, I offer a bit of background. I first became aware that way back in the 70’s the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were working closely with BC fish farms to solve a problem that was rooted in nature. When the small fry come from the hatcheries the sexes are roughly evenly divided as in nature. However, when the salmon in the pens are getting close to harvest up to 20 per cent of the male salmon will “jack” early, that is, release their sperm early before the females are ready, and then the males die in the pens.  This is a financial loss to the fish farmers and a gain in the trouble of clearing the pens. The farmers appealed to the government for help.

What the fisheries and oceans people came up with was the beginning of the end of salmon’s proud history. Government biologist began their experiments. They came up with changing the sex of all salmon intended for fish farms to be all, or mostly, female. Trying to just sex them by just guessing the sex didn’t work. But something else did.  They would bath a few known female fry in testosterone, which effectively turned the females into males. They would produce sperm and act as males. But the eggs from the sex changed females would all (or most) also female as the sex change of their mothers did not change their female genes. Viola! Problem solved for the fish farms. 

We still have no idea of what the long-term practice of eating fish from sex changed mothers will have on the populace as the fish was never labelled as such. But the surely the hatcheries don’t do that anymore, right?

No, they do something far worse. They changed the genetic structure of the salmon eggs by slicing and dicing their genetic structures with genetic material from other sea creatures that make the salmon grow much faster, much stronger, and in much less time than natural salmon. These have become known as Frankenfish. They first came onto the Canadian market in August 2017. They came quietly with no national announcement and guess what? No labelling in the stores that they were GMO fish. Or any discussion the fact that this Frankenfish was born in tax supported Canadian universities, nurtured in Newfoundland, with the eggs now sold worldwide.

But there is one big difference. In Europe and even the USA, GMO fish must be labelled as such. But not in Canada.

Does that make you queasy? It should.

Next time.


For more information about how to demand ‘No Regulatory Exemptions’ for salmon in Canada, please visit The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.