Saturday, April 30, 2005


Interesting comment from a reader about Quiggin's unsubstantiated claim that the great majority of climate change sceptics are also creationists:

Wow is this guy off base! I have yet to meet a creationist (I used to share an office with one) that believed the world was older than a few thousand years (varies from 5000-50,000). Given that much of the climate data, such as the graph used, spans a far longer period, the size of the group of people who are A) Creationist and B) Believe in an Earth of over a 100,.000 years is so small a group they would probably fit in this guys bathroom.


Chinese farmers growing genetically modified rice produced larger crops, saved money on pesticides and were less likely to get sick from exposure to poison intended for insects. An analysis of dozens of farmers growing two strains of rice modified to resist insects showed they used much less pesticide than those using conventional rice. None of the farmers using only the genetically modified (GM) crop was sickened by exposure to pesticides.

In contrast, 8.3 percent of farmers in the study growing only conventional rice reported pesticide-related illness in 2002, while 3.0 percent of them did so in 2003, researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science. "Small and poor farm households benefit from adopting GM rice by both higher crop yields and reduced use of pesticides, which also contributes to the improved health of farmers," said Carl Pray, an agriculture, food and resource economics professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Pray and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of California at Davis studied farmers using two rice strains that had been modified in different ways to make the plants resistant to rice stem borer and leaf roller. In 2002, researchers studied 40 farmers using modified rice on all or part of their farms and 37 farmers using only conventional varieties of rice. In 2003, they looked at 69 farmers who were using modified rice on all or part of their farms and 32 who were growing conventional varieties. The farmers were not paid for their effort and were not assisted by technicians. They made their own decisions about using pesticides by studying their fields. On average, farmers working with genetically modified rice used pesticides once a year while those with conventional varieties applied pesticides 3.7 times annually. The researchers found that the total amount of pesticides used was eight times to 10 times more for the conventional farmers than those with the genetically modified crop, saving the farmers with the new strains a lot of money. Yield for the insect-resistant rice averaged 14,033 pounds per hectare compared to 13,563 pounds per hectare for the conventional crop. A hectare is about 2 1/2 acres.

The researchers said they included pesticide-related illness in their study because it is common in developing countries. They asked farm family members if they experienced any headaches, nausea, skin irritation, digestive discomfort or other health problems during or after spraying pesticides on their farms, and whether they had visited a doctor, gone home to recover or taken other actions to deal with the symptoms. If they had, it was recorded as a case of pesticide-induced illness.

Although China has commercialized cotton modified to produce a natural pesticide against the bollworm, it has not developed any genetically modified food crops for the commercial market, the researchers said. In the United States, genetically modified soybeans, corn and canola are in use as well as squash at some times of year and papaya from Hawaii, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

This Chinese study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Chinese Academy of Science.



"Peak oil" is the name for the ever-popular but constantly-disproved theory that our oil supply has "peaked" and will hence soon run out. The following post is lifted whole from the libertarian blog The arguments are familiar to anyone who knows anything about economics but there are regrettably few of those and this post does access some nice graphs:

"People are getting worked up about peak oil theory. I'll reply to some of the deluge of mail in the next day or two but first, three things:

(1) Lawnorder, the blogger at Daily Kos who I wrote about in "Oil and Instinct," has written a follow-up posting ("Peak Oil Myth and the Easter Island ecological disaster") in which she corrects a previous (and unintentional) misrepresentation of my perspective on peak oil theory, while still disagreeing with my perspective. I guess this shows that it actually is possible to have a polite blog debate.

As to Lawnorder's new arguments: I'll repeat that societies that include significant levels of self-ownership and private property, along with a low-friction exchange system ("money") tend to have a "price mechanism" that creates incentives for producing, conserving and replacing scarce and desired commodities. Unless the economies of Easter Island and North Korea included this price mechanism they're not counterexamples. And North Koreans didn't starve because of a shortage of national natural resources. There may even tend to be an inverse relationship between natural resources and wealth-creation; see for example The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria:

"Wealth in natural resources hinders both political modernization and economic growth. Two Harvard economists, Jeffrey D. Sachs and Andrew M. Warner, looked at ninety-seven developing countries over two decades (1971-89) and found that natural endowments were strongly correlated with economic failure. On average the richer a country was in mineral, agricultural, and fuel deposits, the slower its economy grew -- think of Saudi Arabia or Nigeria. Countries with almost no resources -- such as those in East Asia -- grew the fastest. Those with some resources -- as in western Europe -- grew at rates between these two extremes. There are a few exceptions: Chile, Malaysia, and the United States are all resource rich yet have developed economically and politically. But the basic rule holds up strikingly well."

(2) Reader Philip Brydon (letter below) has brought to my attention an article by geologist David Deming, "Are We Running Out of Oil?," that makes some of the same arguments that I've made but that contains information that I didn't know. Everyone interested in the subject should read this short and readable article.

(3) Republicans, Democrats and peak oil theorists seem to agree that "dependence on foreign oil" hurts Americans. As in Bush's: "Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American Dream -- the tax our citizens pay every day in higher gas prices, higher cost to heat and cool their homes -- a tax on jobs. Worst of all, it's a tax increasing every year."

The Theory of Comparative Advantage is hard to understand but how hard is it to understand that oil companies import oil into the USA because foreign oil is cheaper than domestic? If oil companies depended on only domestic suppliers (all things being equal) oil would be more expensive for American consumers, so depending on foreign suppliers is like a tax rebate."


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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