June 3, 2012

I was sorely tempted to write yet another weed blog this week. The question was going to be, “Do we blame our woes on GMOs?” Nice little rhyme, there, don’t ya think? At any rate, my friend Mardi Mellon (with her friend Jane Rissler) had predicted that herbicide tolerant Round-Up®Ready crops would lead to “super weeds.” These are not, to be sure, weeds with powers like Loki or Doc Oc; just weeds that can’t be controlled by spraying Round-Up. Marti and Jane said they would be a major nuisance. Well, as both regular readers of the blog know, the bad boys are here, and it seems Mardi and Jane were right.

At least they were right about them being a nuisance. There continues to be some debate as to whether we should blame herbicide tolerant pigweed on GMOs. The weed guys at the weed summit say not. They say it’s because farmers used too much Round-Up, creating a perfect opportunity for herbicide resistance to evolve. Farmers growing GMOs could have adopted better practices and avoided this result. Of course, farmers started using glyphosate (that’s Round-Up for you non-aggies) 24/7 mainly because of Round-Up®Ready GMOs, but still and all they did have a choice. It turns out weed guys are major defenders of the metaphysical existence of free-will.

I was going to blog about that, but three blogs would be overkill when it comes to herbicidal mania. So I thought I might talk about my friend Richard Bawden. I went to a dinner party at his house last night with nine other guests, but Richard had set the table for eight. Holy discrete charm of the bourgeoisie, Batman! We assumed that he was posing an epistemological puzzle for us, owing to the fact that Richard is fond of telling about an argument he had with an ichthyologist about some shrimp that grow in the temporary pools around and on top of Uluru  after a rain. It seems that the aboriginals claim that the shrimp come from dissolved pieces of Uluru, while the ichthyologist says they come from shrimp eggs carried to Uluru by the wind.

Richard told the ichthyologist that both explanations make equal sense, to which he responded, “Yeah, except one of ‘ems right and the other wrong.” So Richard says, “Who would you rather be stuck in the outback with, an aboriginal or me?” Even the ichthyologist knows that he’d rather be in the outback with the aboriginal, so Richard has his epistemological triumph, asserting, “But you just dissed their epistemic framework as faulty.” Now, I’m just sayin’ here. But what would you have done if you’d be invited to a dinner party with more guests than place settings by such a person?

What we did was just add a couple of extra settings to the ends of the table and squeeze around. So maybe a blog about Richard’s dinner party is not such a good idea, after all. After resolving his epistemological challenge we had a delicious meal. Which is what members of Thornapple CSA did this week, too, even if the arugula looked a little wilted. In my capacity as Thornapple CSA’s unofficial Master of Space and Time, I’m pleased to announce that we celebrated our first pick-up of the season last Wednesday. I’ll provide the ritual link to the first First Pick-up blog from back in 2010, then I’ll just quit without resolving the question of what this week’s blog is actually about.  Does this make me a relativist?

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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