I very much dislike the idea of GM. We're far too arrogant for our own good. But, I have to say that is a subjective argument.
GM does have some up sides and down sides: Up side is that some GM can reduce pesticide use and also allow crops to grow where they could not grow before (eg. reduce the need for irrigation). The down sides are all the concerns with messing with nature. Deciding whether the good outweighs the bad is generally a subjective call.
2) I did not say that organic farmers use toxic substances, though they do. It is OK to use some natural toxic compounds within an organic framework. What I did say is that some organic measures might be considered to be non-environmentally friendly. For example, consider flame weeding which typically uses propane, or diesel flames to scorch the weeds. That generates a lot of CO2, so it becomes another subjective judgement call: is burning fossil fuels to kill weeds worse than spraying? It depends on your point of view.
It is all very well asking producers to change their patterns, Generally all that happens is that they can change one set of destructive practices for a different set.
By reducing consumption or by changing your consumption you are going to reduce the impact regardless of how stuff is produced.
The major usage of soy and grain is in feedlot feeding of meat animals. It takes about 15 pounds of grain/soy to make one pound of meat. Reduce your meat consumption by 50% and you reduce your effective soy usage by almost 50% and by implication your GM + pesticide "footprint" by 50%.
Remember, farmers are not really being nasty just to be nasty. They are growing crops and food for you because you pay them to. They are your proxy that you pay to do these things. When a farmer in the Amazon cuts down rain forest to plant soy to feed pigs to make into bacon that you eat, they are acting as your instrument. Buy the bacon raised in feedlots and you are paying someone to go chop down trees in a rain forest, develop GM soy and use pesticides.
Consumption drives production. It was not always that way. In the old days, agricultural products were production constrained. Now there is more than enough food, many times over, but the industry is always wanting everyone to increase consumption so that they have a bigger demands to serve.
Written in March 2009