Science and Values - November 4.pdf

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History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Paul Thompson

HPS: Science and Values Agriculture Continued Tomatoes today bears little resemblance to any tomato variety 2000 years ago or even to those found in Mexico by Cortes in 1519 • Tomatoes started out as small berries growing on bushes in the west coast deserts of South America • The Aztec domesticated the tomato, which resulted in a fruit closer to ones familiar today Without human manipulation of nature, it is exceptionally unlikely (a probability approaching 0) that we would have anything remotely close to the contemporary tomato The same is true of cattle, goats and other agricultural animals; they have all been domesticated by humans (shaped by artificial selection) for human purposes - not that different in overall structure but its trait characteristics--those that are useful for agriculture--are vastly changed/selected No organic farmer would take these human superseding of natural processes to be a reason to avoid growing the selected potatoes - they aren't going to want to turn their back on the available stock of farm animals and plants today--they are going to be planting things that are not natural in the primordial sense - emphasis not placed on wholly "naturalness", but on molecular manipulation-- selecting for is not a focus If an organic farmer did, the acceptable plants and animals for farming would be near zero. - we will suffer if we try to eat entirely naturally - we could eat less - could hold yields where they are for a while just by being more prudent in diets - if we were to only eat plants, we would dampen our demand on agriculture - this most likely won't happen - even if it does, eventually we will get to the point where we have to increase yields somehow AProblem for Organic: Yields Notwithstanding some complexities, the evidence that has been generated does seems clear, organic yields are lower, sometime dramatically lower, than conventional yields Many EU countries have promoted organic farming and provided significant subsidies; nonetheless the organic sector has remained very small Acres of organic farming to total acres of farming vary: – From a high of 11.1% in Austria (US$9.9 million in subsidies; US$27.5 per acre) – To a low of .4% in the US (in between: Denmark is 5.5%, Canada .58%, France 1.9%, Italy 7.7%, Switzerland 7.4%, and Sweden 6.4%) Sources: data on total acres in agriculture is from Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and acres in organic farming is from International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements In a pluralistic and open society, there is clearly a place for organic farming in the overall solution to the environmental concerns but it will remain a boutique part of agriculture It must be complemented by GM agriculture Locavore Movement (eat locally) Mercatus Center: Georgetown University POLICY SERIES: GLOBAL PROSPERITY INITIATIVE ‘Yes We Have No Bananas: ACritique of the “Food Miles” Perspective’ (October 2008) by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu - This Policy Primer examines the origins and validity of the food miles concept. The evidence presented suggests that food miles are, at best, a marketing fad that frequently and severely distorts the environmental impacts of agricultural production. At worst, food miles constitute a dangerous distraction from the very real and serious issues that affect energy consumption and the environmental impact of modern food production and the affordability of food. Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey “Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Domestic vs. Imported Vegetables. Case studies on broccoli, salad crops and green beans” by Llorenç Milà i Canals, et al “This report presents the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies that have been performed as part of the project to compare the environmental impacts generated for the delivery to UK consumers of vegetables produced in different countries. It presents detailed results for three case studies, each one focusing on a vegetable produced in different countries: - Brassicas (broccoli) from the UK and Spain - Salad crops (lettuce) from the UK, Spain and Uganda - Legumes (green beans) from the UK, Uganda and Kenya.” “One of the main outcomes of this study is the confirmation that working with ‘food miles’ as an indicator of environmental impacts for food products is potentially misleading: imported produce may have lower environmental impacts than domestic produce supplied off-season through increased storage and/or production using enabling technologies such as heated and lit glasshouses.” They then give some of the complexities involved The Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU) Lincoln University, Christchurch New Zealand “Food Miles – Comparative Energy/Emissions Performance of New Zealand’s Agriculture Industry” by Caroline Saunders, Andrew Barber and Greg Taylor July 2006 - “Food miles is a very simplistic concept relating to the distance food travels as a measure of its impact on the environment. As a concept food miles has gained some traction with the popular press and certain groups overseas. However, this debate – which only includes the distance food travels – is misleading as it does not consider total energy use, especially in the production of the product.” Comparison of energy used and CO2 emissions between NZ and UK Dairy. The UK uses twice as much energy per tonne of milk solids produced than NZ, even including the energy associated with transport from NZ to the UK. This reflects the less intensive production system in NZ than the UK, with lower inputs including energy. Comparison of energy used and CO2 emissions between NZ and UK Lamb. The energy used in producing lamb in the UK is four times higher than the energy used by NZ lamb producers, even after including the energy used in transporting NZ lamb to the UK. Thus, NZ CO2 emissions are also considerably lower than those in the UK. Comparison of energy used and CO2 emissions between NZ and UK Apples. NZ is also more energy efficient in producing and delivering apples to the UK market than the UK is. NZ energy costs for production are a third of those in the UK. Even when transport is added NZ energy costs are approximately 60 per cent of those in the UK. Consequentially the CO2 emissions per tonne of apples produced are also higher in the UK than in NZ, reflecting the higher energy use but also the lower emissions from NZ electricity generation. Comparison of energy used and CO2 emissions between NZ and UK Onions. The energy associated with onion production is higher in NZ compared with the UK. However, when storage is included for the UK, so they can supply the same market window as NZ can, the UK energy costs rise to 30 per cent higher than those in NZ, even accounting for transport. Science and Values: Economic Theory Modern economics began with Adam Smith (1723-1790) – ABritish moral philosopher – Held a chair at the University of Glasgow – Lectured on: • Ethics • Economics • Jurisprudence • Natural theology The Wealth of Nations (1776) - Provided an account of how rational self-interest in a free-market economy leads to economic well-being (The Invisible Hand) - Self-interest is not incompatible with empathy and charity; indeed rationality demands it - “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” (The Theory of Moral Sentiments) The major economic theorists since Locke Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) - inspiration for Darwin; Malthus had a view that there would come a point when the population would outstrip the means of subsistence - at this point there would be an oscillation around the equilibrium point - Darwin saw that this was happen
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