My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association plans to Grow Genetically Modified Potatoes for Ethanol

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association plans to Grow Genetically Modified Potatoes for Ethanol

“The farmers are so excited that they are asking when is it going to be ready. This is an opportunity and it is always good to know that persons can come to farmers, and say, 'hey, I want you to produce this', instead of farmers always wondering what is it that I am going to produce next and how am I going to get it to market”

President of the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association, Soyanni Holness explaining the Hybrid Ethanol Project to The Jamaica Observer on Monday, December 30th, 2013

However, I’m very skeptical when it comes to the use of Arable land to make Bio-Fuel, even if it’s inedible (GM) Genetically Modified Potatoes a reported in the article “Turning Food into Fuel”, published Monday, December 30, 2013 BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter, The Jamaica Observer.

President of the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association, Soyanni Holness, has solicited the help of a pair of Canadian with expertise in the growing of Hybrid Potatoes to make Ethanol. These two persons are CEO of Toronto, Canada -based Green Club Inc, Earl Chapman and Canadian scientist Dr Emmanuel Moya.

Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association, despite its name, represents some 17,000 farmers from St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Ann, and Trelawny. So that's a lot of interest in growing Potatoes for Ethanol which is understandable, as the Bio-Ethanol Market is still very strong, especially in the US of A.

Dr Emmanuel Moya is the Potato Expert – Not convinced that this is the way forward

Having more land dedicated to making Fuel, even if it earns Foreign Exchange, isn’t a good idea in the long run. Then again, I suspect these farmers are attracted to the value added nature of an inedible Potato that can be made into Ethanol that no-one can steal without getting diarrhea.

According to Dr Emmanuel Moya, who has already spearheaded the same concept in China and The Philippines, the Fuel yield is up to 150 liters per Potato plant and is a low maintenance Fuel producing plant, quote: “This product is the best, it doesn't require too much fertilizer, it doesn't require too much water," he told a group of farmers from the co-operative recently. The main objective of the sweet Potato is Ethanol, but you can also produce alcohol”.

Despite all of this, I’m not sold on the idea at all. All of those countries mentioned have significant tracts of forested non-arable land. They can easily utilize such land; deforesting their country in the process to make Ethanol as to them it would be worth it as they have enough land to spare to achieve economy-of-scale to make it profitable.

The issue of who to sell the ethanol to hasn’t been though out as yet, albeit it appears to be the US of A and other Developed World Countries as noted by President of the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association, Soyanni Holness, quote: “The challenge is going to be to get the ideal marketplace to say Jamaica is going to produce ethanol. We have to demonstrate that we can”.

Canadian scientist Dr Emmanuel Moya claims the Potato isn’t edible, a dissuasion for the would-be thief, quote: “That's why you will know who is stealing your Potato, because the moment they eat that, they will have stomach cramp, because it has lots of gas, it has lots of sugar, and it has lots of carbohydrate. So if you eat that without proper preparation or without removing the gas, you will have lots of gas in your stomach, to the point where you will run to the clinic and ask for help, because you cannot endure the pain”.

Despite this, thieves will do damage if they can’t get to steal edible Foods and it poses a danger if the thieves steal then decide to resell these GM Foods to the Jamaican populace. Plus there may be Jamaicans who know how to prepare the GM Potatoes to be edible.

Jamaicans will effectively end up eating GM Foods that have unknown effects on humans but possibly contaminating our local strain of Potatoes with their gene pool. Bio-Hazard Signs would have to be put up to clearly identify to the would-be thief and the Public at large that these Potatoes cannot be eaten under any circumstances.

Recycling to produce Bio-Fuel – Garbage and Hydrogen to produce Vehicle Fuel in Jamaica

I’m all for any technology developed in Jamaica to produce Alternative Fuel for Motor Vehicles as it helps to reduce Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) pollution and thus Acid Rain as argued in blog article entitled “Ministry of Technology launches ULSD on Monday June 24th 2013 - Lower Sulphur in Diesel open possibility of the Bio-Fuel Industry Hammer of the Gods (2013) to wean ourselves of Imported Fuel”. 

I especially like it if it involves Waste Recycling such as Dr. Michael Coley’s and the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) YCWJ (Youth Crime Watch Jamaica) joint Project to Recycle Cooking Oil as noted in my blog article entitled “UWI and YCWJ team up to Recycle Waste Cooking Oil - Yendi Phillipps on How to make National Bio-Diesel Production from Waste Cooking Oil Insidious Chapter 2”.

This reminds me of the plan some Russian investors had to come to Jamaica to make Ethanol by growing sorghum as reported in my blog article entitled “Russians see potential in Ethanol Fuel Plant in Jamaica – From Russia With Love for sorghum”. Though I was initially excited, I still harboured doubts back then about the use of Land to produce Fuel.

We currently have a gigantic Food Importation Bill thanks to our love for Foreign Foods in preference to our own as noted in my blog article entitled “Jamaica's Basic Item Food Bill mostly from 1st World Countries - Buy Jamaican Build Jamaica made from Imported Raw Materials in containers that says Made in Jamaica”.

Jamaica doesn’t have that much land to spare to make Fuel via this dangerous GM Experiment and yet we can barely grow enough Food sustainably to feed ourselves muchless manage our Agricultural Land Resources properly. Especially when one considers the warning by the UNFAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Association) predicts there won’t be enough arable land to grow meat, forcing us to eat Insect Protein as noted in my blog article entitled “United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says Insects is the Meat for the next 20 years - Soylent Green may be avoided via Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”.

Throw in the cost of Fertilizers and Water, even if very small, as it points to a product that may end up with spiraling costs that can’t be easily controlled given inflation i.e. increases in Fertilizer, Fuel and Manpower.

Food for Food Production – Other Value-Added Products from Potato to help Humans

It’s best that the focus remain on products humans can consume. Alternative product from the potatoes I’d suggest to the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association range from Potato Flour to Wine as there’s a shortage of Wine Coming as predicted in my blog article entitled “Australian analyst Morgan Stanley Stats say World Faces Global Wine Shortage - The Glass is either Half Empty of Half full as Chinese and Americans become more like the French”.

Hopefully the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association will come to this realization. Despite the promise of more money from this value added potato product, once it has to use small acreages of land, it won't be profitable. The Russian Sorghum Project is an example; it's yet to get off the ground despite similar promises.

Stay tuned for more on this interesting issue on my blog!

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