24 January 2012

Help Wanted: Mystery Eggplant

Call them Aubergine. Call them Brinjal. Call them Eggfruit. Call them anything you like, but I love Eggplant. Especially when they're from my own garden! Organically grown, they just taste hugely better than shop-bought.

This year I have 3 varieties growing. Or maybe more... (and that's where I need your help!)

I planted Black Beauty (common locally), Japanese White (which I've grown before and loved) and (new to me) Korean Long Black. The Korean Black has been a start performer. By far the earliest, and really trouble-free. We had the first pickings for supper the other night, and the flavour is beyond my abilities to describe. I don't believe I've ever tasted another Eggplant that can compare!

Trouble is, there's a Fly In The Soup. A couple of the "Korean Black" plants are clearly not. Korean Black, that is. Even quite early in their growth it was apparent that they were not true to type, lacking the darkness of stem and leaf that the rest of their bed-fellows show.

So here presented, for your delectation and my edification, some rogue Eggplants. The seed all came from the same packet as the Korean Black, so I guess there was a mixup by whoever packed the seed for Baker Creek Seeds (the supplier I bought them off). Not a problem for me - I'm equally happy to have some new varieties, even if I don't know just what they are. They may or may not be the same variety, these two rogues. Your guess as good as mine.

There is, of course, a chance that they may have cross-pollinated with the surrounding Korean Blacks, but hey... life's full of random! So I'll be saving their seed separately towards the end of the season (all gods willing!)

Can't wait to taste them!

But if any of you, Dear Readers, are able to put a name to them, please, please drop me a line and let them know.

It's a funny thing... many gardeners are pretty casual about the names of varieties and will casually call a variety something new. Me, I like to honour the gardener who first bred the variety by trying - as best I can - to keep the name given it by that gardener, though they may be a thousand years passed-on!

22 January 2012


Summertime, and harvest-time approaches. We are just taking the first Tomatoes and Chiles. A feeling of satisfaction and reward, a sense of achievement and relief.
Patent pending
All rights reversed.

What the birds are leaving for us!

Little bastards are very active... The main pests are the Mousebirds and a large and unruly flock of Finches. The Finches demolished the sunflowers I was growing for Chicken food, and have taken to eating the seed out of Tomatoes that the Mousebirds have opened up for them.

In an attempt to create some "ScareAllBirds"1 I made a few CD-mobiles and have strung them up around the veg patch. We'll see how well they work. Personally I am skeptical.

Frankly, none of the gardening books I have talk about the real problems I see in the garden. They bang on about Blights and Aphids, Beetles and Caterpillars, but not one of them mentions Bushbuck (which have played havoc with the Tomatoes and Chiles this season) or Mousebirds! Time for a new gardening book, maybe?

Software Mobile?

[1] We don't really have much trouble with Crows. They occasionally try to catch young Chicks; seldom succeed. I can't really see how a Scarecrow would be much use against the Crows or the Mousebirds...

12 January 2012

The Great GMO Scam

I am assuming that we all understand roughly the same thing when I speak in abbreviated fashion about Genetically Modified Organisms -- particularly GMO food plants. Some people are tempted to sidetrack the conversation into irrelevancies with arguments like, "All our food crops are genetically modified, anyway, because we've been selectively breeding them for thousands of years." While true, it is either foolish misdirection, or deliberate obfuscation of the crucial differences between conventional genetic evolution (whether consciously directed by ourselves, or whether the result of natural evolutionary pressures) and the deliberate introduction, removal or rearrangement of isolated snippets of genetic material into otherwise-unrelated gene sequences using advanced cellular "surgery". Those who deliberately obfuscate this point clearly have an agenda.

I am no techno-luddite. I am not opposed to improving the yields, flavours, nutrition or agronomic properties of the 5 Fs1 that constitute our reasons for farming. Quite the opposite.

Hell, we've been doing this stuff for thousands of years, as witness the amazing variety of delicious and nutritious heirloom varieties we still have access to3. I am actively engaged in various small projects to try and cultivate new veg varieties using traditional methods. So its not progress per se that worries me, but I am deeply bothered by the whole pro-GMO lobby and its bought politicians.

In short, I think that the whole GMO programme is (at best) stupid. (At worst it is an out and out con job conceived and executed by greedy, lying bandits.)

Parts of the GMO Proposition might even be dangerous, as some GMO opponents argue. Certainly the effects of introducing essentially alien genetic material into our life-support systems largely untested seems a bit foolish and short-sighted, at best. But frankly I am spectacularly uninterested in whether we humans do actually endanger ourselves by introducing weird genetic combinations into our food-supply. We will reap as we sow.

I am equally pretty unworried by the possibility that a Tomato might harbour Cow genes to the detriment of my (vegetarian) karma. I do understand those arguments. They may have substantial merit. But they interest me not. They are Other Peoples' Problems.

I am concerned by the PR schmaltz spread by the pro-GM lobby. At best it is yet another manifestation of nothing more nor less than the usual corporate self-serving, soul-sucking greed, greed and more greed. At worst it fuels a smokescreen that blinds people to the true dangers of this technology, that suffocates the honest debate, thoughtful challenges and many very serious questions we should be asking about GMO crops under a blanket of misdirection, deceit, ad hominem denunciation, pseudo-answers and frequently, outright lies.

The Central Problem Of GMO is this: Evolution.

Life on this planet evolves4. As the energy flows impacting any ecosystem change – be they changes in rainfall, solar-energy infall, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, trace elements or key nutrients,... just anything, in fact – so the ecosystem changes, adapts to the new reality. And that means that the organisms within ecosystems are in a constant and ongoing state of flux, genes ever dancing and gyring to adapt to changes. Life has been doing this for something like 3.5 billion years – basically ever since the Earth got cool enough for any life forms to exist.

We're really very, very good at evolving. All of us Earthicans! We're all evolution Badasses of the highest capability.

To put it another way, the Central Problem Of GMO is this: It Cannot Possibly Work.

Let's take a quick look at some of the things we're told that "genetically-modified" crops are going to really great for:

  • Pest- and disease-resistance. This has really been the main song sung by the pro-GM lobby so far. We're told that by growing these "genetically enhanced" crops we won't have to use as much toxic pesticide, fungicide, herbicide as we5 currently do, "So really, choosing GMO crops are a very Green thing to do!"
  • Resistance to agrichemicals design to kill off pests, competitors or diseases that prey on our crops.
  • We can add Antibiotics/Vitamins/Trace elements to our food supply, thereby enhancing peoples' health and wellbeing at a very tiny cost. Good! I have no objection to that, as long as people have a clear and informed choice in the matter. That means Food Labelling. However, I think there's likely to be some unexpected fallout...
  • And the latest in a desperate gambit to keep those GMO profits rolling in... GMO crops can be engineered6 to be drought resistant, so that we don't have to worry so much about rapid global climate change.

The first two are pretty closely related. In both cases the germplasm of a crop-plant is modified to impart a resistance to environmental pressures. In both cases the outcome is very highly predictable... evolution happens.

In the first case the pests and diseases that the genetically-modified variety is supposed to resist evolve their way past the newly-injected defences, bringing the whole affair back to its starting point: a crop plant that no longer has resistances to those pests and diseases.

In the second case it is extremely likely that the pests/diseases that we're spraying against will out-evolve the agrichemicals involved. Just as before, we're soon back to square one.

The last two arguments might have some merit, except that we are perfectly able to introduce the necessary nutrients and breed drought-resistance into our crops by a combination of conventional breeding practice and sound soil-management. (Read: Organic cultivation.) At no cost at all. I am working on drought -resistant Tomatoes and Potatoes right now.

I don't wish to delve too deeply into the issues around the transfer of modified genetic material into the wild. It happens. That is well documented. And unscrupulous, greedy corporate blood-suckers want (and, so far, too frequently succeed) at gouging money from unsuspecting farmers who have been the unwilling recipients of this alien germplasm. Suffice to point out that Roundup-Ready weeds are well documented as wild plants. So the Genetically Modified genes have escaped into the wild, with no telling what the consequences might be. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Now I don't believe that microbiologists are stupid people. Quite the contrary. It is my experience that they are highly intelligent, thoughtful people. So I greatly doubt that they are unaware of this Fact Of Evolution. I'm pretty sure they know that the rest of the ecosystem is going to evolve around the manipulated organisms introduced into it. There is no other possibility. In part I believe that scientists don't really have a very good idea, yet, of just how quickly evolution happens. We are just beginning to find out. It seems that resistances show up in as short a time as 3 or 4 growing seasons! Much faster than anyone expected.

Interestingly, the pro-GMO lobby somehow altogether fails to mention that their products are certain to be out-evolved in short order. In other words, the useful lifespan of such a product – the timespan for which it is likely to be effective for the purpose claimed by its makers – is really quite short. After which we'll need to do something else to "combat" the "hostile" predators, pests and diseases that seek to enjoy their portion of our crops. I'm pretty sure I know what the agri-industrialists are likely to propose... More and newer GMO crops, allowing us to use new and stronger chemical cocktails in the "War on Bugs".

And so another Arms Race chases its own tail...

In short, I don't believe that the GMO industry is telling the full story. And why would they, since the full story doesn't paint a picture that leads inexorably to Perpetual Profit. I would guess that the Techies (the scientists involved) are simply not allowed a voice by their corporate overlords, since the truth is so much more complex and nuanced than the Marketing Department would like. So much more ambiguous and uncertain.

In even shorter, the GMO producers are misleading everybody. They're lying.

They're prepared to risk unpredictable (possibly lethal) consequences on the ecosystems we depend upon for life, all in the name of This Quarter's Profits.

[1] Food, fodder, fibre2, fuel, pharma(ceuticals).

[2] And by "fibre" I also mean "framework" material that we use for building... OK, so maybe I should make it "The 6 Fs". You tell me.

[3] ...despite the best recent efforts of the monopolistic seed kakistopoly.

[4] Sorry, creationists/intelligent-design proponents, you'll have to seek elsewhere than this blog for a sympathetic hearing or equal consideration.

[5] For some value of "we". Reality is that the bulk of humanity is fed by modern factory farming methods. We pro-organic growers are still a splinter minority.

[6] And that really is "engineered" as opposed to "bred"...

05 January 2012


I've been busy writing and writing... a long writeup on Compost Making for the website, and a blog-post on why I believe the whole GMO program is no more than a scam by a bunch greedy bastards. Coming soon...

While you wait for me to finish up, you might enjoy this video I ran across whilst checking on some composting... err... material?


You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...