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Saline Agriculture As the Future of Food

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the rice-goes-with-shrimp-and-mango dept.

Earth 153

Damien1972 writes "To confront rising salinization, authors writing in the journal Science recommend increased spending on saline agriculture, which proposes growing salt-water crops to feed the world. Jelte Rozema and Timothy Flowers believe that salt-loving plants known as halophytes could become important crops, especially in areas where the salt content of the water is about half that of ocean water."

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the Future is Poop! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25993695)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Re:the Future is Poop! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25993945)

damn, now I'm hungry. and horny. :)

No spices needed. (3, Funny)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993801)

I am sick of salting my popcorn anyway.

I fully endorse this. (5, Funny)

ValuJet (587148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993805)

Next step, salt water taffy farms.

Re:I fully endorse this. (1)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993823)

Mmm, my favorite, I just need to find some taffy seeds and I am set.

Sushi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25993811)

I love halophytes...especially wrapped around raw fish and rice.

Other seafood.... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994837)

And don't forget..those brackish waters are good for growing yummy oysters too!!!

Re:Other seafood.... (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995111)

But can we get pigs and cows to grow in the ocean, too...

Re:Other seafood.... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996007)

"But can we get pigs and cows to grow in the ocean, too..."

That would be cool...they would basically be "Pre-Brined" for you to throw them on the smoker!!

Just curious... (-1, Flamebait)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993853) there anyone still denying global warming?

Is the point of contention now whether or not pollution by people are to blame? I forget where we are on the issue.

Re:Just curious... (0, Offtopic)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994011) there anyone still denying global warming?

Yes. Yes there are -- which you damned well should know if you've ever read nearly ANY Slashdot science discussion. And thank you so much for feeding the delusional trolls so that yet ANOTHER science discussion will be hijacked in a "debate" between people who do and don't believe in the issue.

Yes, thank you, because it's largely irrelevant to the issue of salinization. Salinization is about excessive irrigation. It has little to do with global climate change directly.

Re:Just curious... (0, Troll)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994117)

Yup, me, and these scientists: []

Read some Roy Spencer, he knows his stuff. The way I see science is there is fact and theory, and no one should be making a policy decision over a theory. The warming we are seeing now (I suspect) is due to the Earth's position relative to the Sun and and increase in solar activity (sun spots, flares, etc.) And there really isn't as much CO2 in the air as you think: []

Furthermore, if you do a search on youtube (cant get there from work or I would give you a link) you can find a special from MSNBC from '05 or '03 (I think) that shows a close-up of Gore's infamous hockey stick, that shows a rise in CO2 is result of a rise in temperature, not a cause of it.

Re:Just curious... (0, Offtopic)

tripdizzle (1386273) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994207)

LOL, modded troll for answering a question

Re:Just curious... (0, Offtopic)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995623)

LOL, modded offtopic for pointing out how shit mods are.

You don't scare me mods.

Re:Just curious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25996097)

We don't need to scare you, we can just make you silent.
Now sit down and wait for the agents.

Re:Just curious... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994643)

Parent is informative.

Parent is disinformative (2, Informative)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994811)

The idea that the sun is the dominant factor in global warming has been resoundingly debunked. []

And the idea that warming has increased carbon dioxide (and that somehow carbon dioxide is just an innocent bystander in the whole affair) is frankly facile. Carbon dioxide is the dominant cause of global warming (with methane coming in second). Global warming is increasing the release of some natural carbon dioxide sources. However, these natural releases are DWARFED by industrial releases, a fact commonly ignored by "global warming causes increased CO2" reality deniers. It's a theory that only holds up if you completely toss large amounts of data out the window, which frankly isn't uncommon among the "global warming is a myth" crowd.

Re:Parent is disinformative (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995013)

As opposed to the completely made-up data and completely erroneous and overly-simplistic models by the "global warming" crowd. The debate has moved squarely into the realm of competing religions and completely away from the scientific method.

Re:Parent is disinformative (2, Interesting)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997581)

As opposed to the completely made-up data and completely erroneous and overly-simplistic models by the "global warming" crowd.

I hear that said a lot by people who aren't willing to back up their wild claims. If you've got some proof that data is "completely made-up" or that modeling is "overly-simplistic," I'd love to hear it.

Re:Just curious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994903)

Giving a personal (out of one's own ass) opinion is not informative.

Re:Just curious... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995505)

A list of scientists opposing global warming is not a personal opinion, it's a hard fact.

Re:Just curious... (2, Interesting)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997559)

There should not be any list of scientists opposing global warming. A scientist would never be opposed to any interpretation. They might consider the interpretation incorrect, but that is a VERY different thing from being opposed to it.

As an example: I think intelligent design is incorrect, I am opposed to teaching intelligent design as science. I am NOT opposed to intelligent design itself. That would be stupid.

I'm sure you'll accuse me of being pedantic, and nit-picking, but if you do you are missing my point. Linguistic laziness and poor communication skills are the source of all flame wars and I am god damn sick of them. People need to learn how to speak.

Re:Just curious... (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994211)

Is anyone still subsidizing corn-based ethanol so we can save about 2% on carbon emissions per mile, while we drain those midwestern aquifers even faster than we were before?

Re:Just curious... (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994229)

I think that you're missing the fact that the majority of Africa has been an unliveable dessert hellhole that can't support human life for pretty much all of human history. What happens when you plant corn in Zimbabwe today is the same as what happened when you planted corn 1000 years ago there. It doesn't grow cuz it's too hot and there's not enough water. No crops means no animals which means no meat and veggies for the humans and the result is starving people in poverty. So either grow seaweed, eat it, and like or move somewhere better.

Re:Just curious... (4, Interesting)

bockelboy (824282) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994747)

Zimbabwe, physically, is actually one of the best places to grow corn in Africa. They were once a breadbasket of the region.

Of course now, the entire economy has completely collapsed, so much of the country is starving.

That aside, it's a decent place to grow some corn.

Re:Just curious... (-1, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994857)

You're joking, right ? Zimbabwe ?

You can't grow anything there because they have a white-hating socialist government. As a result the people plunder any field before harvest time. If you can secure a farm, paris hilton could fill oil tankers with grain with a burqa on backwards. IF you can secure the farm. Otherwise she'll just get raped, sliced open and left bleeding to death for being white.

Pretty much anything you throw on the ground just about anywhere in Zimbabwe will grow. The problem is security, and this has been true for 1000 years.

During the best years for Zimbabwe, during colonization that is (nobody, except the government of zimbabwe disputes this), enough crops grew in Rhodesia to feed the entirety of Africa.

Just like before the muslims the sahara was a forest region that fed most of Europe. I'm not saying they're responsible for that (even though their agricultural practices are somewhat ... I really must avoid the terr... word ... "drasticly wrong"), but before Northern Africa fell to the invaders from the middle east, it was the richest region in the world, some cities had economies rivaling Rome.

Africa was not always poor. It was the richest, most fertile, and certainly most beautiful part of the world until the arabs decided to harvest and export the "black gold" from there (in case you don't know, before black gold meant oil it meant black slaves, which was exactly what muslims exported before oil was discovered)

Re:Just curious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995103)

I don't know which is worse: your post, with its selective recall of history and clear anti-Arab prejudice, or the fact that someone modded it up.

One can only hope the "insight" they found was with the thought process, not with the facts revealed.

Re:Just curious... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995449)

What? Arabs created the Sahara?


"The Sahara is currently as dry as it was about 13,000 years ago."

Were Arabs destroying the Sahara 13,000 years ago?

Re:Just curious... (1)

DJDuck (1172519) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997403)

Actually North Africa was once the Roman Empires major wheat farming area. Most of that is now part of the Sahara. Funny thing is, we are still basically using the same stupid farming business models of ploughing & massive monocultures. Expect most of the current grain fields to end up more like the Saraha soon.

There is no global food production problem (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994245)

"We're all going to starve" is just fear mongering. It is hard to say who's behind it, but I'd finger big agri-biz, trying to prevent being forced into more sustainable farming practices.

We have vast excesses of food in this world. There are now more fat people than starving people.

Talk to any farmer (as I do, living in a rural area) and the problem they face is not production, but stimulating consumption to help increase demand and prices.
Feedlots are highly inefficient ways to process food. Take 20 to 50 food units of grain, put them through a feedlot and get one food unit out. A vast % of the food stream is handled this way. Reducing feedlot meat consumption by 20% and the world's food supply will probably double.

Re:There is no global food production problem (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994661)

Except you have to eat a fucking lot more grain to get half the nutrients in meat; the other half aren't there. You need a few grams of fiber, that's about it.

Re:There is no global food production problem (3, Informative)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994869)

That's just plain wrong. Many crops, especially soy beans and nuts, will provide tons of proteins.

Pick up any environmental studies textbook and they will confirm that a vegetarian diet is more efficient from an environmental standpoint.

Having said that, the only nutrient that cannot be obtained from plants is Vitamin B12 [] , you must consume some animal product (even a small amount of something like milk or eggs is enough) to get enough of it.

Note: I'm not trying to force a vegetarian diet on you, go on and enjoy your steak. But know that it is possible to do without it.

Re:There is no global food production problem (0, Troll)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995525)

Oh, yeah, tons of protein-- but not the same protein. You can get dozens of proteins and divide them into about 15 amino acids, and then realize you need 23 and you're missing 8 types. Also certain macronutrients are harder to get from non-meat sources.

Tons of books explain why vegetarian diets are the way to go. I know several people who can't, they can't maintain weight. I know one girl that got severely sick and had serious skin problems, tried the beans-and-nuts thing, then became pescapalian (eats fish) and it all went away. Do you really think this is healthy?

Re:There is no global food production problem (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994885)

You could go the middle road : make chicken the only meat that's produced. Or pigs, who are much, much more efficient than traditional cattle.

Re:There is no global food production problem (2, Interesting)

J05H (5625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997089)

Are you familiar with the actual practice of chicken (esp. layers - egg production) or industrial pig farming? They may be more efficient grain-consumption-per-pound over beef but are incredible polluters.

Chickens are treated as pure product in a typical egg facility and it is not much better for meat birds. Arguably, "ichto" or "octo"-vegetarians have a less ethical stand than a meat diet WRT chicken farming. Fish farming produces more sewage than humans in cities.Pig farming has created massive water-pollution issues in the US Southeast. Is beef feed-lot production better or worse? Soybeans? Modern Corn? They are all pollutants in some ways either as oil-consumers or waste producers. How do you complete the circle between those problems?

Free range makes more sense of course put has land-use issues that would be opposed in some environmental circles. Terrestrial fish farms produce pollution in quantity, plus contribute to the depletion of feeder fish in the oceans as fish meal.

All food has ethical issues.

So what? I still like an omelet or steak once in a while. Food more than anything is a commercial enterprise - people vote with their dollars and overwhelmingly vote for (some) meat.

There are ways around the ethical problems but the steps to get there can be tremendous. One is to use biomass more efficiently, another is create habitat that attracts exploitable species (reefs, buffalo reintroduction) a third to mandate industry and utilities to be zero-effluent (good luck w/ that). Personally the idea of saline agriculture is an interesting co-opting of this as it would enable both the plant crops as food and better fish farming practices. Creating more ecology, living space for more life that can be harvested, is the really important step - especially in the seas. Increase density of habitat, increase amount of life - things like floating reefs in the mid-ocean and build other artificial reefs, in quantity. Much of the ocean is sandy wastes - a little terrain goes a long way underwater. Mats of floating plants could work using saline crops and mangrove, once started they could drift as floating islands or be anchored in place w/ tide generators.

There is a huge food shortage. Get independent. (0)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996867)

Much of America is not planting because of cost and crop failure. There are just as many Americans in percentage starving as the rest of the world, and it has to do with food quality at its best. GMO'd plants are screwing-up the heirloom varieties, and the hybridization they cause will always ruin the growth and fruit of the plant if not the attornies that sew the plantation owner for another cropper's pollen blowing in the wind.

A good read is about permaculture farming. A man bought the saltiest ungrowable land in Galilee [] and found that dumping piles of unburned weeds on the topsoil would cause a fungus to grow and render the salt inert thus allowing anything to grow; and an added symptom, whichever fruiting plant grown somehow is affected to the oddity by fruiting near five-fold quicker than in the rest of the world: plants that previously would only fruit after 4 years would do so within the same year.

The quality and variety of franchise grocery stores is somewhat odd. I get headaches now from eating certain strains of meaty plant fruits like apples and oranges. Water-quality itself is killing everyone's kidneys and pancreas, so the best source of water is to get it from vegetables and fruits to let them filter the water if it didn't kill them off. I have taken the incentive to my own to move onto hydroponics-grown heirloom plants, and leave the super-production plants like goji, super garlic (remedies hepatitis, pneumonia, and whatnot), heirloom red onion (hard to get, because they produce magnesium while the modern GMO'd ones can't) in a regulated soil to maximize effectiveness.

All the crap they put in the grocery stores is grown like a strip-mine. It's bastardry, and Monsonta Corporation and its pretty step-children are the cause of it. Even look at how the Doomsday Seedbank in Norway will not accept the non-GMO'd varieties of heirloom fruiting plants from various countries as though it is preparing to begin class warfare at the level of food quality. Plenty of that on YouTube.

Re:Just curious... (1)

moo083 (716213) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994489)

I guess you have to treat these people like alcoholics. The first step is admitted the world has a problem. The next step is to accept a higher power. Its not our fault. God did it. The third step is to turn our will over to God. I'm starting to get worried because I don't know what that means.

Necessary (4, Informative)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993931)

I'd like to recommend the book "Collapse," by Jared Diamond (the author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel," another book I'd recommend). He spends several pages explaining the damage that salinization has done to farmland in places like Australia. It's kind of an eye opener about how wasteful irrigation policies have ended up basically permanently ruining large ares of Australia's farmlands by drawing salt up into the soil.

The damage, once done, is ridiculously expensive to fix, so we need to find crops that can grow in the unusable land, especially as the world's population grows -- especially its meat-eating population as third world countries acquire first world living standards, which multiplies the need for vegetable crops.

Re:Necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995559)

I'd like to recommend watering crops with Brawndo.

Brawndo's got what plants crave. It's got electrolytes.

Re:Necessary (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996357)

From TFA ... Iraq is pumping out old saline groundwater, presumably so new fresh groundwater can come in -- copying a technique used in Australia.

I'd guess Australia doesn't share aquifers with any other countries, and intends to "refill" from rainforest runoff, which I expect the northern parts of Australia have more of than they need.

I'm wondering if Iraq's rivers and runoff suffice to replenish its groundwater, without "robbing" groundwater from a neighbouring nation??

As to saline-friendly crops, occurs to me that those areas most affected are also most likely to shortsightedly irrigate with salt water when such crops are available, making the net problem worse.

Re:Necessary (2, Informative)

DJDuck (1172519) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997295)

To add to your reading "Back from the Brink" by Peter Andrews. The guy is no scientist, but as a life long farmer, who has proved that he can rehabilitate land, his ideas must be seriously considered. And what's more, they are cheap, just let the weeds grow and stop leaving ground bare.

Bioremediation (4, Interesting)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993941)

I love to hear about innovations like this. However it can be taken a step further.

Not only can we make crops resistant to salty conditions, we can breed them to fix the soil and remove that salt. Bioremediation works on all sorts of poisoned soils, removing all sorts of poisons.

Hell, we could have pre-salted potato chips!

Re:Bioremediation (2)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994325)

I'm totally in favor of bioremediation, but can we please draw a clean line between bioremediation crops and crops I put into my mouth? Pre-salted potato chips are good as long as the salts in question aren't toxic metal halides (Cadmium Chloride... YUMMY!). And no PCBs, dioxin, or radioactives, please.

Re:Bioremediation (3, Funny)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994421)

You've obviously never eaten Pringles then.

Re:Bioremediation (3, Interesting)

SwordsmanLuke (1083699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994853)

I used to live in Idaho, literally up the street from a potato processing plant. After I found out what kind of potatoes Pringles were made from, it took me three years to be willing to eat them again. :)

Re:Bioremediation (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997601)

I used to live in Idaho, literally up the street from a potato processing plant. After I found out what kind of potatoes Pringles were made from, it took me three years to be willing to eat them again. :)

Now you have me curious. Dish.

I know that what goes into processed food is usually the crops which aren't photogenic enough for the grocery store shelves, but what would seriously put you off?

Re:Bioremediation (0)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994929)

I have. Say what worried me is that this morning I logged in on the neighbour's wireless and checked my mail. I responded to a mail from my boss.

After a while I realized I had eaten the pringles can in my sleep and ... my laptop was not powered.

Do you think this is a problem ? I also keep hearing internet radio whenever I'm near an access point.

Re:Bioremediation (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994347)

"Hell, we could have pre-salted potato chips!"

STOP! Stop right there. Let this line of thought go before we think too much about the manure they're grown in.

Though it does explain plain dorritos.

Re:Bioremediation (1)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994905)

Hell, we could have pre-salted potato chips!

That probably wouldn't be good. The salt would be distributed evenly through the chip instead of on the surface where more comes in contact with our taste buds like current chips. To get the same "flavor" of saltiness, the amount of salt would have to be several times higher and we have too much salt in out diets as it is.

extracting salt with barley and/or sugar beets (3, Informative)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995015)

I found some information [] on wikipedia about that:

"Salt-tolerant (moderately halophytic) barley and/or sugar beets are commonly used for the extraction of Sodium chloride (common salt) to reclaim fields that were previously flooded by sea water."

Re:Bioremediation (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995163)

Not only can we make crops resistant to salty conditions, we can breed them to fix the soil and remove that salt. Bioremediation works on all sorts of poisoned soils, removing all sorts of poisons.

You mean that it will concentrate heavy metals and other materials into crystals that could be harvested, returned to a refinery and the products fed into adjacent factories that can turn out weapons?

vaporware.. (3, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25993947)

Sounded interesting until..

While the authors admit that "the use of saline water for irrigation is in its infancy", they see enough promise in saline agriculture that they believe it to be "worth serious consideration and development."

The only crop they suggest grow is Salicomia bigelovii crops.. Good for making soap but not so great for eating..

What we really need is more research into GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason.

It's proven to work in the past and has 30 year track record of bringing food into places where it was once not liveable.

Re:vaporware.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994033)

There are actually lots of edible Halophytes. A quick search of the wikipedia yields one genus of 100-200 species, many of which are edible: [wikipedia]

Planting my flag now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994493)

Anyone else considering making an Atriplex sheep farm in the desert, or am I just wierd?

Re:vaporware.. (1)

Poppler (822173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994037)

There's nothing wrong with researching GM crops.

When it starts to get more complicated is when you put them into production without sufficient testing.

Re:vaporware.. (2, Interesting)

Entropy2016 (751922) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995147)

You're forgetting also the legal ramifications of patented GM organisms which require licenses to grow.

Nothing like GM crops accidentally creeping into an unwitting farmer's crop, giving the GM-corporation (coughmonsantocough) an excuse to sue the heck out of people who didn't even want anything to do with their modified crops.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

Poppler (822173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995725)

I've heard a bit about that, very nasty. Makes the RIAA look like honest businessmen.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995983)

That's an environmentlist lie. GM crops undergo a lot of testing, watch this [] @ 6:50

Re:vaporware.. (2, Funny)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994079)

At least we can finally fix the unwashed part of the whole unwashed masses thing...

Re:vaporware.. (1)

wakawakka (1424101) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994467)

The "GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason" are the ones developped for the sole purposes of using herbicides and pesticides, baring no usable seeds, used in huge monocultures that wash out the soils and the microorganisms living in it, along with helping breed super-pests that cannot be controlled by their natural predators, killed by the pesticides mentioned earlier. Silly environmentalists... On another note, I thought we could eat saline algae... Can't they just figure out the tastiest ones and breed them? Or is it just soft-water algae that are edible?

Re:vaporware.. (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996263)

My mother used to mix dried seaweed into stir-fries. I hated the stuff as a kid, but I've gotten over all my other childhood food issues (except olives) so it might taste ok now.

GM Crops (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994601)

What we really need is more research into GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason.

I'll try to field this one. I'm a moderate on the issue. I don't think GM crops are themselves a bad idea, but I am studying environmental law, and I have pretty good exposure to what people in the movement worry about.

You can summarize the problem with GM crops into a few distinct worries:
1) A love of "natural" foods.
2) Worries about crop contamination.
3) What GM technology is *actually* being used for. (Instead of the "feel good" science.)
4) Safety issues in the creation of GM crops.

First, a lot of people worry about "frankenfoods." They don't want "unnatural" crops because they're worried about the safety of these crops. As my use of quotation marks suggests, I'm not a big supporter of this viewpoint, but a lot of customer do feel that way which is one reason why organic food certifications don't allow GM crops. I won't defend this view because it's not my own, and I haven't gotten a good solid explanation of it.

But it brings us to point 2. Pollen from GM crops is a HUGE problem for organic farmers. Planting GM crops freely in an area can destroy the market for organic crops at home as well as for selling to Europe and other parts of the world where GM crops are disdained by customers. You simply cannot protect your crop against contamination in many cases. (Also, besides market concerns, there's the infamous Canadian patents case, Monsanto v. Schmeiser [] .)

The third point is one that really cheeses of a lot of environmentalists. You hear a lot of awesome things in the news about how scientists have invented rice with extra vitamin A or tomatoes with longer shelf life. The truth is that there are really only two major types of changes which companies have fought to get onto the market -- crops that come with their own built-in Bt insecticide and crops that let you liberally sprinkle around the herbicide RoundUp. (A notable exception to this would be GM papaya engineered to resist the papaya ringspot virus which saved the Hawaiian conventional papaya industry while wiping out the organic industry there.)

Personally, I would have no problem with eating crops modified to be more healthy, but both of the above practices do nothing but help prolong the survival of crop monocultures. A lot of farming pest problems exist largely because farmers fight tooth and nail to plant the same plant over and over again, providing excellent feeding grounds for pests and opportunistic species. The use of Bt has taken a surprisingly long time to create resistance pests, but hey, so it begins. [] Oh, and RoundUp resistance is starting to become increasingly common, meaning that farmers are going to start turning to more toxic chemicals.

It's like disease resistance and the use of antibiotics in farm animals, another tragedy of the commons situation. People realized that if you give cattle antibiotics, they grow larger, so farmers started pumping cattle full of a variety of antibiotics. One by one, bacteria have become resistant in the animals themselves, through plasmid swapping in the soil and environment, and through exposure throughout the environment thanks to runoff of cattle urine and wastes into streams. So, they keep trying new chemicals as the old ones cease to work (or in the case of tetracycline resistance endanger human health).

So, as insecticides & pesticides become useless, farmers will turn to increasingly more hostile and dangerous chemicals to farm. ...Which they wouldn't need so much if practiced more sustainable agriculture methodology. But the USDA subsidizes the current monoculture-friendly, heavy petroleum byproducts using methods, so as game theory suggests, no one wants to change.

Anyway, the last major point is the safety of engineering methods. A lot of crop engineering involves basically slamming genes from specially engineered bacteria into embryonic cells in a method best described as playing the genetic lottery. The idea of "gene splicing," suggesting surgical and precise addition of genes is not really accurate. One common technique is to include a gene for resistance or reaction to some chemical, spray the resulting seeds to see which ones "stuck" and then trying to raise the good seeds to see if you lucked out. A side effect of this is that all sorts of genes you'd rather not have show up in the final product -- antibiotic resistance (from the crapshoot methods used to make the donor bacteria in the first place), viral protein coats, etc. There are safety issues with letting these plants into the wild.

For example, kanomycin resistance (nptII) is commonly used as a marker to detect a successful addition. Though the probability of gene transfer into soil bacteria is very, very small, it has been demonstrated in the laboratory, and what's possible in the lab over a short time seems probable over a crop's entire planted area for decades on end. Thanks to pollen contamination, releasing a GM crop into the wild means that you can expect those genes to persist in perpetuity as a problem.

So, yeah. I don't agree with ALL of the issues in GM crops. If safe crops meant to increase health were released, then I'd be very disdainful of a lot of worries about GM crops. However, if crops that do nothing but increase the use of pesticides and herbicides which contain potentially dangerous genes are what we're predominantly seeing, then I can find myself siding with enviros. GM crops have tremendous potential, but it's potential that's being squandered right now.

Re:GM Crops (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995395)

The third point is one that really cheeses of a lot of environmentalists. You hear a lot of awesome things in the news about how scientists have invented rice with extra vitamin A or tomatoes with longer shelf life. The truth is that there are really only two major types of changes which companies have fought to get onto the market -- crops that come with their own built-in Bt insecticide and crops that let you liberally sprinkle around the herbicide RoundUp. (A notable exception to this would be GM papaya engineered to resist the papaya ringspot virus which saved the Hawaiian conventional papaya industry while wiping out the organic industry there.)

Here's a surprise -- companies developing GM crops are fighting most for the ones with the largest profit margin.

The fact that commercially valuable GM crops are the first ones available in the market is hardly a surprise. But it's quite a leap to say that, just because there hasn't been a marketplace success of other GM crops means they won't ever be available.

I think you should be impressed that vitamin-A-enriched rice even exists given the low profit potential. The fact that it isn't readily available is related primarily to all the whining about how GM foods are terrible, not because no one is working on them.

Re:GM Crops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25997799)

Regarding the last point, there are methods to remove the antibiotic resistance by linking the gene to an artificial transposon ( and allowing it to be transposed to a different region of the genome where it will segregate separately. Then the antibiotic resistance can be selected against using markers for it and markers for the introgressed trait can be used to select for it. Also since the added genetic material is known, it is quite easy to determine where and how many times a trait has been inserted into a plant's genome. So, overall I believe that in practice it is at least a little more directed than you seem to be claiming it is.

Safety does not seem to be much more of an issue than with traditional methods of breeding. Introgressing desired traits from wild progenitors (very common for disease and pest resistance) can also introgress traits involved in increased production of toxins (which may be the same traits that make them pest resistant) and these are not regulated or tested at all. Furthermore, in the past randomly induced mutations were common for producing new varieties (red grapefruits for example: These never underwent any special testing and I believe that this is a far more unpredictable method, with a higher possibility of dangerous consequences.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994709)

What we really need is more research into GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason.

It's proven to work in the past and has 30 year track record of bringing food into places where it was once not liveable.

Insightful my ass.

You should really read more about GEO (and GM foods in particular), not only Monsanto's leaflets. As of today, there's hardly any, ANY proven benefit of GM foods, except for the seed/herbicide makers and their tools in congress and FDA/EPA.

So what positive GM examples you have in mind?

Re:vaporware.. (1, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994793)

Here you go [] .

Re:vaporware.. (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994979)

sorry, but this is simply propaganda, and not a very good one at that.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995181)

You are blinded by your faith of environmentalism that you can not see other peoples points of views. I bet you didn't even watch the video to the end.

It's easy to just ignore things as propaganda just because you don't agree with the point of view. A lot of environmentalists do this, which is why no one listens to them or takes them seriously. I can only hope one day you'll wake up and realise how wrong you have been to not even look at all points of view.

I voted for the green party in the UK where I live however their stance on "no GM research" and to ban it will mean they won't be getting my vote next time.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996125)

I don't have to watch the whole video to judge it as propaganda. Just watch how he repeats his initial claim about how GM crops save lives over and over again without any facts to base it on (BTW, i stopped watching after he pulled of this ridicolous card game stunt). And FYI, a story why patents on, espececially human, genetic code are a really bad idea: Sick babies denied treatment in DNA row []

Why o why? You started off so well (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996535)

The beginning of your comment was on track for an insightful mod, then you ended your comments about how to judge propaganda with a link about SICK BABIES. Dear god, think about the children man, did you not see the irony in that?

Re:vaporware.. (2, Interesting)

serbanp (139486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997707)

My point was that that video presented no actual content. Come on, showing malnourished black kids and then panning the camera to lush, green corn fields is a basic manipulation technique.

The thing about GM food is that it has been touted as a magnificent cure for all sort of issues, but the reality is that it keeps failing reaching its stated goals. There are no demonstrable examples where GM food is in any way better, hardier, more nutritious, higher yield or cheaper to produce comparing to the "conventional" agriculture. However, interested parties kept beating the drum about "in the past x years, GMO were shown to have saved y lives with no adverse effects etc" to such extents that it became a dogma. Keep repeating a lie and it starts ringing true.

For example, I read a little more about the beta-carotene producing rice, a.k.a. "golden rice". It's supposed to save untold number of children in Africa from blindness. In fact, the beta-carotene content is so low that a kid would have to eat a few pounds of rice every day to meet the required level. A vitamin booster tablet given twice a year cures the issue and costs less than half a dollar. Perfecting the useless golden rice strain cost several hundred million dollars. It looks to me that all was a PR stunt to improve the GM image after all the publicized failures from the nineties.

Again, try to push aside the PR fog and check a few facts; you'd be surprised by how much BS the big pharma and agri companies put out in the last two decades.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

PIBM (588930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995435)

Any proven benefits of GM foods ? Some companies make tons of cash out of it.. definitely a benefit for them!

Re:vaporware.. (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994787)

What we really need is more research into GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason.

I consider myself an environmentalist, but I'm not against GM crops per-se. I'm against the most prominent examples of how they've actually been implemented and the companies responsible.

Basically, it comes down to this: If DRM is a bad idea for software, it's a fucking insanely retarded thing for food crops.

Re:vaporware.. (0)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994865)

You've been brainwashed by bad examples. You should see some of the good work being done in India and Africa to bring growable food to the population.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995631)

I'm not "brainwashed" by bad examples. I'm talking about, and am only against, as I explicitly stated, the bad examples.

Feeding someone today, at the cost of the right for them to control their own food sources in the future, and eliminating the foundation of millennia of agriculture in the right to plant seeds from last year's crop, is not "good work". It's an act of cruelty and enslavement. It's the "good work" of the devil, taking advantage of the desperate in order to control them. Some African countries have been rejecting aid that came in the form of Monsanto's Terminator breeds for exactly that reason.

When we aren't talking about DRMed food, then it's a completely different story. But right now, that's not the story the largest GM crop producer wants to tell.

Re:vaporware.. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994911)

What we really need is more research into GM crops which the environmentalists hate for some reason.

Just wanted to note that it's only a subset of environmentalists who oppose GM crops... and there are plenty of people who don't consider themselves environmentalists who oppose GM crops.

Some reasons, outside of fear of the unkown and religion, that people oppose GM crops:

GM crops tend to promote monoculture, which heightens risk of catastrophic widespread crop failure.
GM crops can be used to make farmers dependent on a single supplier for their seed stock (Monsanto, anyone?)
GM crops can interbreed with native varieties, resulting in loss of diversity (which could be especially important considering the potential for quick (on a geological level) climate change.
GM crops often promote the use of massive amounts of herbicides (Roundup, anyone) which have an impact on local flora.
GM crops can cross-pollinate with non-GM crops, which can be a terrible thing when the modified genes are patented.

You don't need to be an environmentalist to be wary of GM crops -- you could be a personal property rights advocate, you could be a pragmatist wrt: genetic diversity, you could be a supporter of people's right to be able to farm without having to pay the Monsanto tax (which is especially nasty considering the strings that much WB aid comes with).

Re:vaporware.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995849)

Good for making soap but not so great for eating.

Salicornia spp. seeds are rich in veggie oils, good for making soap OR biofuel.

Biodiesel out of Salicornia is a far better option than etanol out of food crops.

I say go with the halophytes farming!

Re:vaporware.. (1)

DJDuck (1172519) | more than 5 years ago | (#25997369)

The use of GM crops to replace traditional crops that are failing to produce 50% of what they used to in the same fields is madness. You need to fix the root cause, not just look for a band aid to prop up a failing business model (just like the RIAA really). Modern farming practices have stripped the ground of its fertility through practices of ploughing and leaving fallow (completely stripped, not the traditional left to grow weeds). Farmers in the 19th and early 20th century were the richest people around. Now due to the massive inputs of fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides required to keep the drained land productive, they are amongst the poorest in our society. see [] for the low down on what has to happen if Australia want to continue to be able to farm. At least it's real and tested by real farmers on real properties.

More hope than practical reality (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994007)

The article states that only 1% of terrestrial plants can grow in such conditions and it names exactly one crop that might, theoretically, be valuable for its oil. Wow. That's a pretty slim basis on which to try to feed humanity.

Gills for everyone! (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994021)

So why don't we just artificially mutate the human race, to have have gills, so that we can all just live in the ocean?

And eat coral and seaweed, and stuff like that.

If we lived in the ocean, we might more enjoy eating stuff that grows there . . . like each other!

Re:Gills for everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994133)

The answer is simple. Sharks.

Re:Gills for everyone! (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994193)

Its not the sharks. its the lasers.

Re:Gills for everyone! (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994437)

Isn't that similar to what produced the whales and dolphins? Their ancestors lived on the land and said "screw this, we're going back to the ocean".

Re:Gills for everyone! (1)

thomawesome (957456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995419)

It would be really hard to make that idea popular due to the fact that it would be so closely associated with Waterworld.

Brawndo (3, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994045)

It's got electrolytes!

Re:Brawndo (1)

ZirbMonkey (999495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994309)

It's what plants crave

The present is the future (3, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994161)

The future of food is exactly like the present. There's plenty of food. There's so much that they're converting it into transportation fuel to prop up the price of the food. They're subsidizing food production because farmers can't pay their bills because huge surpluses drag down the market price. Obesity is a growing international problem because there's so much food.

Re:The present is the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995293)


Just because we'd rather waste our surplus food instead of feeding the members of nations that are starving to death does not mean there is a world wide surplus of food.

Re:The present is the future (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995927)

The is a worldwide surplus of food. Famine only occurs where local food supplies fail and outside supplies are impeded, usually by war. And FYI, we export at least as much food as we consume.

wetlands (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994303)

yes, why don't we convert more wetlands, seeing how well Louisiana fared with Katrina!

Great idea! How about resistance to polution too? (3, Informative)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994359)

This article (at Mongabay, not Science) starts out strong, saying "accessible and unpolluted freshwater is a necessity for every nation's stability and well-being." Unfortunately, that first sentence was the last reference in the article to the issue of pollution or non-salt contamination.

What we really need is the ability to farm directly in the ocean without producing inedible food. The article's referenced halophytes [] (plants that can grow in salt water) are just one piece of the issue, as the ocean is also filled with other contaminants (mercury, industrial waste, and so very much more). We can probably do some farming with net-like filters around enclosed areas (similar to the way most fish farming [] works). Wikipedia calls this "open cage aquaculture." However, these filters can only get so much, and once you get complex enough to need a treatment facility, you've defeated the purpose of farming in the ocean (unless you treat the whole ocean...).

The referenced Science Magazine [] article gets published tomorrow, but you can see related documents by searching for the authors (Rozema and Flowers) and salination [] . Perhaps the actual article will discuss this issue...

Eat it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994365)

What kind of edibles does this really produce? I don't wanna eat no stinkweed.

Re:Eat it (1)

devotedlhasa (1298843) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996005)

I'll take the skunkweed!

Mushroom mycelium can sequester salt (1)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25994473)

Greening the desert []

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25994927)

Why change the damaging farming practices when you can just change the crops?

Soylent Green (1)

devotedlhasa (1298843) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995067)

Could also be a future food ... although it's PEOPLE!!

Health? (1)

naturaverl (628952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995347)

... Because we don't already have enough salt/sodium in our diets...

Soylent Green (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25995377)

Don't fall for it, we know the truth...

Can Corn grow in salt water? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25995941)

Because that could solve a lot of problems.

Dont fight it, use it (3, Interesting)

sirusv (903008) | more than 5 years ago | (#25996145)

Locatated [] in the upper south east of South Australia my father has been very sucussful in converting once barron salt pans in to usable pasture with Puccinellia [] . This grass originates from the west coast of Turkey and it is claimed that it is the most salt tolerant of all the commercially available grasses. James has always had an environmental eye in how he approached farming. I have heard him say 'don't fight it, use it' on more than one occasion. Field studies into the use of Puccinellia at his property have shown that the results were spectacular [] . Puccinellia has now become an intergral part of the farm providing highly productive and useful pasture component.
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