Genetically Modified Thinking

I came accross an article recently which helped to catalyse some thinking for me around the concept of Biomimcry, but also lateral vs verticle thinking. Those of you that know me will also know that I have a penchant for Lateral Thinking (De Bono Stylin’) and that I can’t stand seeing organisations/people/companies divert and focus their thinking Vertically when they are simply not ready for it. Bad ideas, bad logic and wasted resources occur when people choose not to invest a simple hour or two in some good, lateral thinking.

Anyways, in the article, it spoke of the current growth of the worlds largest (don’t quote me on that) Genetically Modified Organism (and crops) company, Monsanto’s. It discussed how the company had gone from a stock price of $US8 in 2002, to the current price of $US104.84 in December this year. Thats a 1000x return on your money. It has a PE ratio of 58.6, about two points higher than google, the naughties market darling.

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The interesting thing about the company, is that it sells GMO crops (mainly commodity crops such as corn, soya beans, cotton and canola) that don’t end up on your table directly because of the large (predominatly bad) PR against GM crops. Instead, they sell commodity crops which are further down the value chain, and so don’t directly end up on the kitchen table for dinner.

What’s interesting about all this, is that GMO crops are simply the next verticle step in a long history of verticle thinking which has taken place in the farming and food procution industry. What started as a simply way for one person to reduce the amount of time they spent hunting for food, has now turned into a highly complex, intensly logistical, process that feeds the population of whole countries. And yet, our farming techniques have been delivering diminishing returns for some time now, as soil quality and reliance on chemical growth addititives kill off any ‘natural’ growth which may occur. Essentially, we are now pumping 4000 Kilojules of petro-chemical energy into our crops to produce only 1000 Kilojules worth of food energy (Biomimicry, Benyus) to the permanent detriment of the soil.

So my question is….at what stage do we stop and smell the crop paddocks? To become a more sustainable economy we must find a way to reduce our dependance on fossil fuel. With our current line of thinking in the agriculture industry, our verticle thinking, we seem only determined to continuously improve our chemical mix to kill the new strand of ‘super-bug.’ I say, lets have some lateral thinking about what a new crop production method might look like… 

2 thoughts on “Genetically Modified Thinking”

  1. I think the question should be framed in where the value lays for the organisation. Clearly it’s a bottom line issue. However, engaging with the market place to illustrate the importance AND the REAL value or non-GMO is what will surely drive the consumer and in turn the organisations away from such products. Framing the market place around the $$$ is what dictates organisation action, so if we want to influence the market as individuals and organisations one of our main focuses should be demonstrating the REAL value of non-GMO compared to it’s $$$ value…. in the end the REAL value pays for itself….

  2. Yeah, I agree with you on this Paul. As idealistic as we may get, it always seems to boil down to the $$$.

    The biomimicry book I linked to above talked about a farm in the states which has grown non-GM, perennial plants in a prairie formation. It has produced superior yeild rates to normal crops, with no costs for pesticides and keeps the soil richer (read, less need for soil treatment/care). Also it provides different revenue streams for the farmer, as these parries can grow legumes and roots in off-seasons.

    So, the question now becomes one of market forces…what will push the GM competitors out of the market? Is this crop growing method a substitute? A supply chain issue? A competitor? What are your thoughts?

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