Tuesday, September 24, 2002

There is, for some reason, a huge food and environment conference here, now. It is being webcast, which is the least useful way I can imagine to popularize such a thing....

I went to the special "preaching to the choir" session last night, with Pollan, Schlosser, Alice Waters (no hat!) and some guy named Corby Kummer (!) from the Atlantic, and it was a mildly interesting summary of the obvious. We had to leave before the question and answer session because of the Berkeley Clappers,* but it was clear that nothing substantive was going to come out of such a venue. It did (sort of) dispell my first impression, of the bizarreness of conducting such a gathering under the rubric of "journalism," because Pollan, Schlosser, and this guy Hertsgaard were surprisingly articulate. Hertsgaard, in particular, made a point of saying: this is about more than the "tragedy" of flavorless tomatoes, because one out of six people are starving. This is, in fact the issue. But it is a non sequitur in terms of GE food, at least so far. Chapela and some others today noted that Golden Rice -- the one example industry has of something that is supposed to help feed people -- is pretty much irrelevant. And he had some very interesting things to say about gene transfer. Unfortunately, these were quite brief, and he wasted a lot of time rehashing the Nature saga for journalists who knew nothing about it. Which gets back to my point about why journalists are running this thing.
*These, for those of you lucky enough not to know, are people compelled to laugh and/or clap loudly at more or less inappropriate points of public spectacles (esp. movies), apparently to demonstrate either that they get the joke (if there is one, which often there isn't), or that they agree with the sentiments expressed. It is a form of mass self-congratulation for being rich and white and liberal together. Last night's first example was a hearty round of applause when Alice rather bizarrely suggested that Schlosser would be a better VP than Cheney.

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