My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Wheat Genome Cracked - GM for US and Jamaica's Agriculture Revitalization

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wheat Genome Cracked - GM for US and Jamaica's Agriculture Revitalization

Extra, Extra
Read all about it!
Scientist crack Wheat genome and may save starving millions with disease resistant varieties!!

Parodied cry of the Extra! Newspaper Seller by Lindsworth Deer

It seems that there are SERIOUS plans afoot to revive the Agriculture Sector, as Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture, has made clear in his speeches around the island, albeit no mention had been made of Spring Plains.

Same thing Again.

Where have I heard this song before?

Anyway, as a twenty (20) year resident of Rest, Milk River in Clarendon, I, John Public, take serious umbrage with this fact, as it seems that the Minister of Agriculture after divesting the unproductive yet potentially profitable sugar estates for a reasonable US$10 million to the People’s Republic of China Venture Capitalist COMPLANT as stated in the article “Gov't seals sugar deal with Chinese firm”, published Saturday, July 31, 2010 BY PATRICK FOSTER, Observer writer, The Jamaica Observer.

A follow-on, pardon the cricket pun if you will, from a previous newspaper article “Sugar Rush”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner and confirmed by the article “Sweet China Deal”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, , by Alicia Dunkley, Senior Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Observer.

COMPLANT, famous for their rebuilding of the National Stadium was recently the focus of a foist by the University of Technology, who, in their Engineering Guile, wished to deceive Senator Olivia Grange, Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture to part with while they planned to streamline it for their own good misdeeds.

Good to know the good Senator or at least her Advisors, realize that the proposal by UTECH was Snake Oil, as obviously the Stadium’s alleged JA$3 million (JA$3,000,000) bill was mainly due to wastage of money on water, lighting and security, which John Public, a seasoned Maintenance Technician, can spot from a mile away.

So Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture aka the Cassava Man, has something to crow about in the form of securing the John Hancock of COMPLANT. With Coffee as stated in the article “Gov’t signs US$148-m coffee deal with Chinese entities”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, by Patrick Foster, Observer Writer, The Jamaica Observer and confirmed by the article “A Coffee Break for Ja”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Rice as stated in the article “Doing it the Rice Way”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner and confirmed by the article “Jamaica signs coffee supply deal with Chinese Firm”, published Wednesday July 4th 2010, The Jamaica Observer. on the list for divestment to Chinese interest.

The Agriculture Sector is one of the few bright marks in the Jamaica Economy, and it looks like Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America and his commitment of US$1 billion worth of Venture Capital money to Silicon Valley to aid in the development of economy-of-scale Solar Power Technologies as stated in the article “Obama commits billions to solar firms”, published July 4, 2010 11:34 AM PDT by Reuters, CNET News - Green Tech.

This would almost be on par with Jamaica’s continued investment involvement by FDI (Foreign Direct Investors), from a showing-of-faith in Venture Capitalism point of view.

Getting the Economy going by the direct involvement of the Private Sector and Foreign Interests is what is required, not repeating the mistakes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose decision to reduce Federal expenditure in 1937, a move that cost him and the Democrats their Majority in the Senate and their hold on power in Congress and ushered in a mini-Recession, giddy with the success of the New Deal in 1935.

A curious parallel drawn by Dr. Julian E. Zelizer, Professor of History and Public affairs at Princeton University as he opines in his article “Bad timing could sink Democrats”, published Tuesday September 7 2010 by Dr. Julian Zelizer: Commentaries, CNN, as it is the same thing that is being played out in the United States of America. In Jamaica parlance and to paraphrase the words of the Dancehall Artiste Assassin, “Same t’ing again”!

Now I remember where I heard that song! Agriculture still suffers from not being properly organized and praedial larceny, which still plagues the Industry thus, ironically resulting in Jamaica still having to import most of the food that it consumes on the island for abroad, mainly from the People’s Republic of China, despite the mantra of “land of wood, water and sunshine” and the blessing of ample fertile land, herein an assumption of God’s Existence, not an assertion.

Past attempt have failed due to one reason: farming is inherently wasteful process, as any farmer will tell you. Even if the fertilizer and other inputs, all expensive, are subsidized, you are prone to the vagaries of the World Market.

The only involved farmers who make money from farming are the farmers who make VAS (Value Added Products) from your reaped fruit or vegetables, and the only way you as a farmer can make any money at all is if you are the owner and maker of this VAS.

An example readily comes, along with the visage of the bald-headed Aubyn Hill, the hired gun for the Government of Jamaica who first made mention of it on an episode of Smile Jamaica on Television Jamaica, the Broadcast Arm of the RJR Communications Group as it relates to the production of rum by Appleton Estates, wherein J. Wray and Nephew owns the sugar estates and makes the rum, the profit from which is used to make sugar cane farming profitable.

And even more potent example is the production of anhydrous ethanol from sugar cane by the company JB Ethanol, which makes the product to be exported to the United States of America to make E85, now currently in a slump as stated in the article “Ethanol fall off drags down Broilers' profit”, published Tuesday September 7 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

The opinion of John Public vastly differs from that of Aubyn Hill: Jamaica’s products, by virtue of the utilization of natural means of farming, which are more expensive, attract a higher pricing point that speaks to the quality of their origin and in the eyes of Americas awash with cheap, undervalued Chinese products, are labeled as Organic, a selling point in its own right.

Add in the fact that Jamaica is the Sprint Factory of the world, producing the likes of Usain Bolt, Melanie Walker, Asafa Powell and Germaine Gonzales, who finally has stopped eating American food and thus is detoxified, and fighting fit and a niche market that ONLY Jamaica in the Caribbean can supply suddenly pops up.

From natural, unprocessed food, such as Jamaican sugar cane molasses, Jamaican coconut Oil, long demonized by the Americans as being unhealthy, Jamaican eggs that are not prone to salmonella poisoning (is that really possible, by the way?) as stated in the article “380 million eggs recalled over possible salmonella tainting”, published Wednesday August 18 2010 By Caitlin Hagan, CNN all of which by the way the fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt eats.

And I save the best for last, ma cherie. An eau de Paris unique product: Sea Island Cotton, the quality of which grows in ONLY Jamaica and is handpicked, like our unique Blue Mountain Coffee and is in demand by fashion houses worldwide such regulars as DKNY, Beyonce’s House of Dereon.

Even elitist brands such a Yves St. Laurent and Polo, of all brands, which says much for Organically Grown Produce as stated in the article “Geographical Miracle - World's best cotton unique to the Caribbean” published Sunday July 18 2010 by Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Vogue is even coming to Jamaica, supporting the Jamaica Observer and self confessed well heeled Fashionista Novia McDonald-White crib version of Fashion Night Out on Friday September 2010, a near carbon copy of Vogue’s splash in the Big Apple.

Also coincidentally called FNO (Fashion Night Out). Darlings of the Elitist American Establishment do bother and have a look-see, as it will be Simply Fabulous and smashingly fun!! An article on this is currently on the production line waiting to go to the Press at print time.

But back to my soapbox.

Spring Plains or the Milk River Bath area is yet to get any attention from Local Government officials. Calls for a State of Emergency for Agriculture as stated by contributor Jeffrey Hall, Managing Director of Jamaica Producers Group in the article “Rescue the Perishing”, published Sunday August 1st 2010 by Jeffrey Hall, The Jamaica Gleaner are not necessary.

Denbigh Agricultural Show boosted interest in the Agriculture Sector, as more people from the snobbish Uptown parts of Kingston many of them well-to-do investors with cash on hand to splash after pulling their money out of Government of Jamaica Debt Instruments and are looking to invest in Agriculture for export as suggested by the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) president Titus Evans in the article “JDX makes exporting more atractive”, published Wednesday, April 21, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

NCB (National Commercial Bank) lowering of their base lending rates by three (3) percentage points from 20.75% to 17.75% as stated on Prime Time News, aired Thursday July 25th 2010, Television Jamaica and confirmed in the article “NCB cuts as loan portflio declines”, published Sunday July25 2010, The Sunday Gleaner, Business Section, The Jamaica Gleaner is a possible spur, no doubt.

Despite these positive indications in terms of the recovery of the Macro-Economic outlook in Jamaica as stated by Senator Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance, trouncing the naysayers of the JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) as stated in the article “Stability in the bag, investment now the target - Shaw”, published Sunday August 1 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

If all holds, we are on the path for Economic Stability and thus further cementing Senator Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance wish for economic stability by Fiscal Year 2011 – 2012.

No one has addressed the inherent problem of farming that of the natural inefficiency of plants themselves, yet we possess the tools that should make it possible: genetic engineering. And the best means of testing out this idea of using genetically engineered crops is Spring Plains. Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms properties are currently under the stewardship of the NIBJ (National Investment Bank of Jamaica), which has been charged with their divestment of the currently idle lands to potential investors, among who it is rumored to be several local and foreign interests.

In the area where I live in Rest, Milk River, Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms was a source of massive employment in the 80’s and a technological marvel to many. Equipment such as tractors, never before seen by any of the people in the area, as some recalled, were brought into the Development and farming of this fertile valley by Mr. Eli Tisona, an Israeli investor who had ploughed millions of investors money into developing the hundred of acres of fertile land during the 1980’s as described in my blog article entitled “South Coast developement in Clarendon necessary for JLP victory

But Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms was not just the dream of a foreign investor. At the time, it was an agricultural showpiece of the then Prime Minister Edward Seaga, a model of what the Jamaica farm of the 21st century would look like, growing sweet potatoes, sweet pepper, mangoes and other fruits and vegetables.

It was built with the financial blessing of the then Government of Jamaica as a part of a “winter vegetable” project in order to produce crops of all varieties both for the export, the surplus being sold on the local market.

However despite the good intentions, bumper crops and the employment that this utopian vision of farming may have engendered among the people working in the area, it was not economically feasable.

From the very day that it began operation during period from 1982 to 1986 within which the farm was said to be productive, it incurred losses of nearly JA$135 million as stated in the article Spring Plains divestment awaits Cabinet approval”, published publishes Saturday 7th April 2002 by Petulia Clarke, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

According to the article, Eli Tisona was himself later banned from entering Jamaica in 1998 by the ruling PNP as he had been convicted of narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in the United States of America, though the JLP has pointed out that his convictions occurred after the failure of Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms.

Since then there have been numerous attempts to divest the lands by the PNP, but to no avail, as each investor who approached the then Government of Jamaica had ideas but could not provide financial funding to support their ambitions and neither could they demonstrate that they could make the farm profitable.

A difficult task, as most large scale farms are rarely profitable due to praedial larceny, water wastage, high interest rates of local and foreign borrowing, the high cost of input material, the unstable commodities market and competition from farming powerhouses such as China and North and South America who heavily subsidize farming in their countries.

Today the Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms properties are being utilized by Grace Kennedy in their Agro Grace Aquaculture Facility which raises Fresh Water Tilapia for local and export markets. Jamalco also mines the hills for bauxite and the remaining Spring Plains lands have been graded and the overgrowth removed, ostensibly by the JLP, as the activity on the land began as recently as 2009. Is this a sign of a return to farming on these still fertile yet idle lands? 

I hope it is. Even better if the Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture decided to embrace the concept of using Genetically Engineered crops that are not only resistant to pests and disease, but can also grow in conditions requiring less water, savings in the use of irrigation water.

Water is a scare resource in Jamaica which is prone to drought due to un-seasonal rainfall stoppage and poor management of water resources. Examples of such value added products readily come to mind such as the new varieties of rice being grown in a test pilot island wide that needed a lot less water than other varieties.

Even wheat, now with its genome completely sequenced by Dr. Doug Kell of the University of Liverpool, lead researcher of the team that cracked the wheat’s genetic code and head of Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK Government science body that provided financial support for the work

The result of which is only 95% complete and in the opinion of many, long overdue due to the long complexity of its genome structure and modifiable to make it more resistance to pests as stated in the article “Scientists: We've cracked wheat's genetic code”, published Friday August 27, 12:13 pm ET, by RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer, Yahoo! News and confirmed in the article “Scientists publish key wheat genome”, published Friday August 27, 3:16 am ET, PARIS, AFP, Yahoo! News could be genetically modified and tested in the Spring Plains area, a return to the booming Economic Prosperity of a bygone era.

The global potential for this crop is huge, now that we are armed with wheat’s genetic “Bible”, a sentiment best expressed by Dr. Doug Kell himself: “Recent short-term price spikes in the wheat markets have shown how vulnerable our food system is to shocks and potential shortages”.

Genetically engineered crops significantly reduce the usage of pesticides and fertilizers, and results in plants that mature much faster, thus reducing not only the usage of water but also the turnaround time from planting to reaping, as is currently the case in the EU as stated in the article “EU authorizes GMO potatoes”, published Tue Mar 2nd 2010, 8:49 am ET, Yahoo! News, BRUSSELS (AFP).

After much opposition in the past by the Europeans to the introduction of genetically engineered crops, they have finally decided to introduce them, as they realize that with further research, they can be made to be as suggested above, making it unnecessary to provide incentives and subsidies to make the inputs into farming artificially cheaper in order to compete with developing world farming powerhouses like the People’s Republic of China, which basically can mass produce crops without then need for such incentives and subsidies.

Thus, all that is needed are suitable investors to plough money into the farming of the Spring Plains area in conjunction with the University of the West Indies, who can introduce genetically modified crops, such as Dr. Paula Tennant’s Genetically Modified or the more politically correct term, transgenic Papaya that would not only make farming actually more efficient.

Combined with alternative energy, cheap enough to be competitive with even the United States of America and even the People’s Republic of China and their mass production of food, thus tapping into the growing market for food as will surely occur as the World is now on the brink of the greatest food shortage, brought on by the Recession in the United States of America.

This US Recession projected to last seven (7) years due to its reliance on debt to encourage spending in the short term, its abundance of ill-placed faith in the Services Sector and lack of investment in the Production Sector. This Second Recession, referred to as a Double Dip Recession or “W” shaped Recession Recovery as opposed to a long term “U” shaped Recession Recovery is a theory which is echoed by Dennis Chung in the article “RISK OF A DOUBLE-DIP RECESSION?” published Friday, September 18, 2009, contributed by Dennis Chung, The Jamaica Observer.

If Jamaica is still has an economy dependent on Oil and still importing Oil for energy purposes by 2015 with no net investment (local and foreign) and increase in production as opposed to an emphasis on services, the global inflationary effect that this increase in the main driver of production will have will most certainly force the entire world into a Second Recession

It is now possible and shaping up to occur in the United States of America, as evidenced in the drop off in Oil prices to a record low of  US$71.92 since Wednesday September 1st 2010 as stated in the article “Oil prices drop as economy still looks shaky”, published Wednesday, September 01, 2010, The Jamaica Observer. This despite the slight uptick in American Consumer Confidence as stated in the article “US Economic confidence ticks up slightly”, published Wednesday, September 01, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Like Energy, we need to make Agriculture production as energy efficient as is the intention of Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy and Mining, as it is well known that the Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy, has made statements in Parliament in 2009 that indicate a soon coming liberalization of the Energy Sector

This as indicated by the Energy Policy and an adoption of the usage of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) in Generators modified to use this fuel, projected by JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service company), our local Power Utility Company to reduce the cost of Electricity by about on average 20% to 30%, a reflection in the electricity bills of consumers as stated in the article “Government eyes LNG cure for energy problems”, published Wednesday June 16 2010 by Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

It is also and endorsed and prescribed by  Dr. Ernest Moniz, Director of the prestigious Engineering Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a recent publication of Time Magazine, a prestigious USA publication within the United States of America as stated in the article “Fuel of the future?”, published Sunday July 4 2010 by Dwight Bellanfante, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner

The recent good news with regards to the possibility of Oil off our coastal waters by Sagres Energy, the parent of Canadian firm Rainville Energy that had drilling rights in Jamaica since Thursday June 15th 2006 AD, announced Friday August 27th 2010 AD and reported in detail on Wednesday September 1st 2010 in the Jamaica Observer as stated in the article “Jamaica may have 3 billion barrels of Oil”, published Wednesday, September 01, 2010, The Jamaica Observer. is staggering to say the least.

Ironically, it is right where I had mentioned to a bunch of contractors from Shurpower it could be found, that is, off the coast in the Pedro Banks area as published in the article “Sagres yet to commit to Jamaica Oil drilling”, published Friday, September 03, 2010, The Jamaica Observer and the article “Wright affirms Oil potential”, published Friday September 3rd 2010 by The Jamaica Information Service, The Jamaica Gleaner. Sagres has until March 2011 to cash in with a big spending equity partner to finance the drilling or cash out and cede it to someone else.

It is being thus suggested by John Public that to achieve this desired level of efficiency, Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture needs to lay out an Agriculture Policy that includes the usage of genetically engineered crops, inclusive of their testing and experimentation at Spring Plains that will not only reduce the production time of crops and thus make Agriculture overall cheaper, using Spring Plains as the test bed for these technologies.

This would be then expanded to the rest of the island, combined with real time monitoring of rain and water resources island wide with the help of interested Private Sector bodies, have mini weather stations installed on each Telecom Provider’s cell tower to produce hyper accurate rainfall and wind maps of the island, making Agriculture, for once, a very efficient, scientific, and (words bankers like to hear) profitable enterprise.

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