Though I am sure there will be some good information in the movie, a lot of the hype of GMO's is hype in my opinion and all too often negative and one sided. There are many companies that have developed GMO's. But it is important to get the facts and not get onto the emotional bandwagon.
The reality is the GMO's have the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on pesticides. If you can breed a plant that is resistant to disease and insects, less pesticide is needed or used. In my opinion this is a good thing. Also transgenic plants can be grown on saline and sodic soils where they previously were not able to. I see GMO's as a potential beneficial technology that if used correctly can help solve many of the challenges we face with increasing populations and less land. GMO plants have developed to need less fertilizer as well, and less water(drought tolerance).
Of course some are uncomfortable with corporations owning seed and essentially copywriting their seed but this has been done for years with hydrids etc.
You will always see people reject technology...and with some technology there are trade offs and detriments. But there are also efficiencies that are exponentially better than the detriments. For example cell phones are a technology that has greatly helped society but at the same time caused numerous car accidents. So I respect those who have a different opinion than me and do the work of pointing out the weaknesses of progress.
drobarr, I generally agree with you. People are leery of new technology and GM technology affords a better opportunity for fear than most—my gosh, they're messin' with my food! For instance, I firmly believe that we (as a nation) have been frightened into rejecting nuclear technology, which I think was a huge mistake. On the other hand, the general thought of some GM technology—incorporating Bt into food, for instance—creeps me out. I worry about contamination of “wild” plants. Here's a perfectly good, almost totally harmless insecticide that will, I think, be made useless since widespread exposure to Bt WILL result in it being made useless as Bt tolerance evolves in insects. And Roundup-ready crops worry me, too. My food is being sprayed with Roundup, which is absorbed readily by plants and therefore consumed by all of us. Regardless of the safety claims for glyphosate, I strongly suspect that long term exposure effects to Roundup, and many other “chemical” formulations, are not well understood. I do think that labeling of GM foods is the right thing to do. Like you, I respect the opinions and feeling of those who disagree. Truth is a hard thing to find.
I'm all for labeling GMO. I have no problems with that.
You are right the more one uses Bt, the more likely pests will develop resistance. Resistance is always there...it really doesn't develop...it is just selected for. Whether you apply it foliarly or have the Bt toxin bred into certain parts of the plant, insects can still be selected for resistance. Bt foliarly sprayed actually kills many beneficial insects along with the bad ones. In a GMO plant with Bt you only kill the bad ones that consume the plant. Beneficials are unaffected. There already is reisistance to Bt and was before GMO Bt corn and cotton came to the market. The Bt toxin is not a toxin to humans. Whether you spray it on your plants and consume it that way or its in certain green parts of the plant you still ingest some and is non toxic.
All pesticides both organic and conventional will become useless, the more they are used, with time. Some weeds have adapted to being pulled...they just break off the top and the root stays and regrows...plants and pests adapt to any slection pressure put on them. You ever tried to smash a tic? they are rock hard! they have adapted that way.
As far as RoundUp ready crops I can understand your concerns. However, prior to RoundUp ready GMO crops (corn, soybean, cotton, sugarbeet, canola) all of these crops were sprayed over the top with other herbicides to kill weeds. In fact they usually were sprayed preemergence with an herbicide and then sprayed again at early post stage, with both a foliar active herbicide to kill grasses and another one to kill broadleaves. Then likely they had to be sprayed later in the season again. Weeds are very difficult to kill, especially when the weed is closely related to the crop. This means everything you ate potentially had all these herbicides in them. And I can tell you these herbicides were much more toxic than RoundUp. Also growers still had weeds. With Roundup ready crops now all weeds could be controlled and in many cases with just one application. So much less total herbicide was needed. Less applications were needed. Less herbicide was absorbed into the plants. Thats less tractor trips, less diesel fuel...you can see the benefits. RoundUp thus is a more sustainable product with a smaller carbon footprint. This is why it was so quickly adapted in 1996 when first comercialized.
All pesticides and GMO crops go through about a ten year process to determine what and if any residue or anything toxic is in the final food grain or fruit being produced. In many cases pesticides are absorbed into the plant but do not go to the grain or fruit portion of the plant. For residues that do make it, feeding studies are done on rats over multiple years at 1000 times the levels found and tolerances are established with huge safety margins. Now I am sure you do not trust all this research that is done and that is fine. But I am personally involved in it and I do. I feel more safe about the safety of my food than I do about the safety of my soap, shapoo, cleaning products I use around my house, deorderant, lotions, laundry detergent, or any other product that doesnt go through the kind of testing pesticides and GMO crops go through. It is even more rigorous than medicines.
How about organic pesticides? have those been tested for their toxicity? How about copper and lime sulfur? How toxic are they and what health threats do they have?
You ever considered the toxicity of table salt? bleach? aspirin? Lemon juice? alcohol? Extremely toxic but most people arent afraid to touch and handle and even consume. Most pesticides are much less toxic but people have a phobia. They have this emotional association that pesticide will kill you instantly if you touch it or give you cancer. That some how you are contaminated and are going to die. Much of it has been spread by fear mongers that do not understand that many of the pesticides we have are synthesized versions of natural products such as nicotine.
Now I agree that with all technologies, there are some unknowns and risks. We still don't know if cell phones cause cancer. But we havent done hundreds of controlled studies over multiple years before thewy were sold to see if they do. With GMO crops many studies have been done and they appear to be safe. At least as safe as spraying the Bt over the top.
Perhaps we also need to label every pesticide that has been used on a food crop so we know what residues we might encounter. I would also like the GMO label. I would in most cases only want to buy GMO. Because I know GMO crops have less pesticides on them than non GMO crops(unless they are certified organic). They are also more sustainable and better for beneficial insects. They require less fuel to produce.
I'm sure there is nothing I can say to help ease anyones fears or bring forth anything convincing because with everything there are still risks.
Don't eat any yougurt...full of bacteria that also produce many toxins. Actually dont eat. All food is loaded with bacteria. Your mouth is full of bacteria that produce toxins. The water you drink is full of bacteria as well even though its chlorinated(very toxic). Bt are found naturally in the soil. They are on every carrot you eat too or any other root crop.
You already have been eating Bacillus thuringensis all your life and their toxins and you are still alive! If you dig in the soil with your hands you have Bt in your skin and under your fingernails.
In fact you probably will ingest more Bt toxin growing your own organic produce in your yard from soil exposure than from consuming GMO crops.
It is a safe bacteria to humans. The toxin is not harmful to us.
Bt has a much better safety record than airplanes and automobiles or cell phones...I think sometimes the fear itself or unfamiliarity can be more detrimental to your health than the actual substance...the truth is out there.
You are brave to insert yourself into this sensitive topic, but I think your reasoned approach is much to be preferred over those who would either automatically reject or embrace any new approach, and seems to be echoed by other experts I respect.
It is sensitive to many people and I understand that and respect that. I know for some it is also a moral or religious issue and who is anyone to make anyone feel bad about their faith. I don't grow any GMO vegetables in my garden nor do I spray pesticides if I do not have too. But I believe our conventional food production is very safe and healthy especially if it comes from a domestic source which includes GMO's and pesticide use.
But many of the arguments I hear against GMO's arent based on any truth or science and are based on emotion or fear.
We really have opportunities to make plants resistant to many diseases and insects. We have the potential to reduce pesticide use, increase production, enhance quality and nutrition through this technology.The agricultural industry hasnt been very good at explaining the technology, its benefits etc.
Breeding and modification of plants has been done for thousands of years. Even our prized hierloom varieties have gone through hundreds or thousands of years of changes. Almost every fruit and vegetable we eat today doesnt resemble the wild types.
I'm not saying all GMO's are necesarily good. But they have the potential to be good...and so far the work that I have seen done has been to improve the varieties and improve production, and reduce pesticide use. And to me that is a good thing. They still need to be tested and regulated.
It seems like reducing inputs and ecological sustainability is the basis for an organic system and here we have an organic community opposing a technology that can do just that...they should be the ones embracing it...and some are. For instance environmentalist and former anti GMO Mark Lynas:
"I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops,” he said. “I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.”
Thanks for providing some detailed comments. You were loaded for bear! I'm glad to hear you work in field and I would love to hear more details if you're willing to take the time to post them. Far too much “garden wisdom” is based on groundless opinion, not science. As to the comments in your first response, the answer to your questions “Have you considered...” is pretty much “Yes, I have considered those points”...and more. Here's a link to a an article written by Mark Lynas that has been on my desktop for several months: http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/lecture-to-oxford-farming-conference-3-january-2013/.
In general, I see GM technology as a significant refinement of hybridization and I am generally supportive. I am concerned about some individual cases, Bt is one. I think we still have a tendency to think a bit short sightedly and we continue to make mistakes equivalent to releasing rabbits in Australia.
I am in agreement with you about "organic" pesticides. Too many equate “organic” with “safe”. They're still poisons and I generally try to minimize the use of all poisons in my garden. Broad use of a wide spectrum poison upsets the ol' ecology! My favorite insecticide is insecticidal soap, which pretty well targets only what I want to kill. I have yet to use any of it this year as no pests have been a problem. I am not totally rabid about avoiding “chemicals”; I have used glyphosate twice to control Bermuda outbreaks in the last year (the Bermuda was probably brought in with a load of "organic steer manure", a bit of irony), because once Bermuda is loose in the garden—you're doomed. People forget that even Rachel Carson was not opposed to all “chemicals”, just overuse and careless use.
As to Roundup ready, I'm not sure I understand everything you said. Did you say that crops were already directly sprayed (“over the top” means ?). If yes, why doesn't that kill the crops? Or are most herbicides selective enough to target only “weeds”? If that's the case (and I'm guessing you said it is), then we apparently consume even more residues than I have assumed. Are most herbicides as easily absorbed into the plant as glyphosate? It isn't at all obvious to me that a single application of glyphosate is adequate weed control. It definitely hasn't been in my experience. Why do you say it is? Also, let me make it clear that consumption of Bt is NOT a concern of mine.
I'm not clear on how my comment regarding insects evolving resistance is inaccurate. I do understand selection and I do understand that a genetic characteristic—say, the ability to tolerate a substance-- must be present in order for selection to act on it. Perhaps I should have said “as Bt resistance spreads more widely in the population”? I certainly understand that tolerance of almost anything will occur in a species over time if selective pressure is great enough—look at the number of antibiotics that have become less effective. As for Bt in particular, my understanding is that it is still generally quite effective and that resistance is not widespread at this time. If that isn't true, please correct me. My concern with Bt crops is indeed that a useful and quite safe pesticide will be made useless. A comical side note here: I have never used Bt as I have never had a need. I handpick what few hornworms I have and I've never needed to use the “i” or 'sd” strains either.
I do think that we rely too heavily on pesticides in general in the home and home garden; I like the IPM approach. I am most thankful that my livelihood does not depend on raising food. If my crops fail, I don't have any tomatoes or green beans in the freezer. If a farmer's crop fails, he or she has no income. That's a heavy “selective” pressure in itself! My thanks go to those who raise our food.
Thanks for your message. Most farmers use IPM. They do because it is cost effective. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on various acres on a pesticide and application if it isnt needed.
For insects a threshold population is known for each pest and when it is reached, at that time a pesticide application is needed and justified because the cost of not treating will be higher than treating. So most growers will accept losses up to the cost of the pesticide plus the cost of the application. So when pests are below threshold not insecticide is applied. When they are above threshold then an application is made. Growers try to rotate the modes of action of their pesticides to extend the use of the products and minimize resistance.
For diseases it is a little more challenging since most of the fungicides are not curative in nature...which means that if you start applications after you discover the disease, then you have started too late. They are protective and so they must be applied very early. It is important to scout fields and use modeling that predicts disease development and most growers use these models to predict conditions conducive to certain disease development before starting applications. When the favorable conditions for disease development stop then they stop applying.
For weeds it is almost a given that they will be a problem every year and are the biggest concern for a grower. Most herbicides are selective...meaning that they dont kill all weeds and crops but only a certain spectrum of crops and weeds. Some kill mainly grasses, others kill mainly broadleaves. Some kill some broadleaves and some grasses but not all. Others only kill some grasses but not all grasses. Some kill only some broadleaves but not all broadleaves. Some have foliar activity or postemergence activity and others have preemergent activity only, which inhibits a seed from germinating. Some of these preemergent herbicides work only on small seeded broadleaves while others on grasses etc. So the types of herbicides and what they control is unique to each product out there. A grower has to know what weeds he has and what herbicides can control them and in what crops they can be safely used in. Some herbicides are generally placed preemergence at the time of planting to prevent weeds form germinating, but then follow up applications of a postemergence herbicide can be made numerous times throughout the season to control any weeds that do emerge.
A number of different postemergent herbicides may be used to acheive control of a diverse weed population. Preemergence herbicides arent perfect and do not always last long in the soil. They need moisture to activate. In dry years they dont work. In dry years more dependence on postemergence herbicides are needed. Roundup is only a foliar herbicide...it has to be applied postemergence to growing weeds to control them. Roundup is non-selective which means it kills all weeds.
Prior to the Roundup ready system it was very complicated to know which premergence herbicides to use. This would be based on weed problems from previous years. Sometimes 3 to 4 different herbicides would be applied preemergence to try and cover all the potential weeds that would emerge. This included products like atrazine which potentially have negative affects on the groundwater and environment. Also it was common for both preemrgent and postemergent herbicides to harm the crops from time to time under certain enviromental conditions.
Then the grower might use several postemergence applications with 2-3 different herbicide cocktails to control emerged weeds.
RoundUp simplified this. You only had to use one herbicide at the early post timing and it would kill all the weeds. For short annual crops like corn or soybeans the first 6-8 weeks are most critical for weed control that 1 application worked well. In severe cases a second application could be made. So tillage at planting, an EPOST appliication when corn and bean were about 6 inches tall would kill everything and then the crop would start shading the plots and very little weeds would grow after that. It was very easy for growers. Much less herbicides were needed. Growers controlled their weeds better too, yield increased.
Glyphosate isnt absorbed into the crops anymore than any other herbicide. It replaced where 3-8 or 9 herbicides were applied in the past. Growers wouldnt have adopted the technology if it wasnt beneficial. Nobody forced them to buy Roundup and GMO seed...but the benefits outweaighed the previous way of doing it. The adoption rates were tremendous with 85% of corn growers using Roundup corn in a 3-4 year period.
In my opinion Roundup ready systems significantly reduced the total number of applications and total amount of herbicide on active ingredient significantly. It also likely reduced the amount of herbicide residues in crops.
In terms of IPM, which means applying a product when a pest reaches threshold...Roundup makes sense. You apply it when the weed threshold is reached. With preemrgent herbicides you are applying whether you know if weeds are going to grow or not. Of course there are other postemergent herbiocides out there but you may be using several different ones to kill all the weeds a grower might have verses one application of Roundup.
Roundup was seen as the silver bullet. The only problem now is that some weeds are developing resistance to Roundup. But not to fear there are several other non selective herbicides and crop herbicide resistance has been developed for them as well. These systems can be rotated to prevent resistance.
In the area of unintended consequences, the planting of GMO corn and soybeans and the subsequent spraying of fields with Roundup is impacting the Monarch butterfly. This article is from 2011, but the population has really crashed this year due to continued eradication of this butterfly's foodplant from thousands of acres in the Midwest. Naturalists are finding that there simply are few to no Monarchs to be seen in their usual habitat, and while significant numbers were typically noted as they migrated south, there are almost no signs of them this fall.
>> New technology is not the problem. The eternal choice of avarice over wisdom is the rub.
That's the best comment on the subject I've read in years.
>> those who would either automatically reject or embrace any new approach,
>> People forget that even Rachel Carson was not opposed to all “chemicals”, just overuse and careless use.
This thread is full of gems!
>> Because I know GMO crops have less pesticides on them than non GMO crops(unless they are certified organic). They are also more sustainable and better for beneficial insects. They require less fuel to produce.
That's probably the next-best comment. Less-toxic and less persistent pesticides and herbicides can be usedwith GM crops.
Comparing GMO crop practices to "traditional modern agriculture practices" (persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphate nerve poisons) makes GMOs obviously preferable by a wide margin. And we used to use arsenic and nicotine!
>> unless they are certified organic
Personally, I think that's the hub of the debate. If you can afford to pay 2-3 times as much for your food, and get greatly reduced productivity per acre, and can acquire and afford huge amounts of compost every year, organic practices surely pollute less and avoid possible risks like "who ever really KNOWS what might be discovered decades from now?"
I'm sympathetic to people who trust nothing the hear from Monsanto, or the government, because there have been unintended consequences, arrogance and greed. But we have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some of the "anti" hype is as manipulative and untruthful as it's possible to be.
Except for one thing, I would say that the Third World NEEDS GMO crops to avoid famine - deaths and wide-spread malnutrition.
The "one thing" is the long term question of what we will do if world population keeps growing and absorbs any increase in productivity until 10 billion people, or 15 billion people are at the edge of starvation?
That's a problem that needs to be solved, whether the world has 7 billion people or 12 billion, spending 10% of their income on food, or 25%.
Similarly, if global climate change is going to reduce arable areas or productivity, we may ALL NEED higher productivity and/or fewer people. Anyone who now lives where crops may stop growing REALLY needs solutions. In the short term, that sounds like GM crops managed with wisdom instead of avarice.
I would hate to think that World War III could be fought over food, arable land, or water. If that could be averted by the WISE use of GE and climate modification technology, we should.
Organic farming methods may be the answer for people so affluent and with so much good crop land and water that they can afford to pay 2-3 times as much for food grown on twice as many acres.
Or organic food may be the only food - when the 2-3 billion survivors of some global climate catastrophe, do without any pesticides or diesel fuel or refrigeration because there isn't any.
The "post-apocalypse" scenario is too alarmist, at least for the next few decades.
But if we are concerned about the remote possibility of hypothetical, subtle, long-term GM food dangers, let's also think about the certainty of ongoing famines and poverty. And here-right-now limits on irrigation water and salinization.
And totally plausible long-term climate concerns.
lots of good thoughts there! I am enjoying reading about everyones perspectives.
Your points about organic are well taken. Organic on the surface appears to be "good" but you mention the reduced productivity form those systems that would lead to world wide starvation if adopted everywhere. Not only would it lead to starvation becase of reduced efficiency and yields on a per acre basis but it would require much of our natural and or protected lands, lands in conservation to be used for growing food. There also wouldnt be enough natural fertilizers nor labor etc. To truly go all organic at least 30-40 percent of the population would need to go back to the farm and spend all day hoeing weeds.
Those articles do make the point that organic methods would be more productive than some traditional practices in the parts of the Third World where rural poverty is the norm.
"organic and sustainable small scale farming could double food production in the parts of the world where hunger is the biggest issue."
"Small scale farming, according to the report, can serve to create self sustainability amongst those in rural poverty."
The second article also admitted that the main place where organic methods would be beneficial is in the Third World.
True, probably what's being done now by desperate people with no resources and little education would be greatly improved if they did (and could) adopt improvements such as "lots of compost" and crop rotation including cover crops for green manure.
That isn't comparing organic methods to intensive chemical-fertilizer-and-'cides methods.
It's comparing modern organic practices measured in places like Switzerland and the US to traditional Third World methods that were probably determined by a total lack of resources.
(By the way, if they were only talking about what would help the Third World, those articles should probably also point out that where famine and productivity are worst, they can't afford tractors, combines, fertilizers, GM seeds and pesticides anyway.)
To clarify what I'm saying: probably organic methods WOULD improve yields where severe poverty and starvation are most rampant. IF they could afford to raise green manure on some of their fields or raise enough animals to provide brown manure, the yields in their other fields would go up. Or there are practical ways they could apply organic principles, like composting vegetation cut from nearby forests, or gradually converting infertile slopes into mulched hugelculture terraces.
And that is much more plausible for them than to suggest they can or should buy into the Green Revolution of whichever incarnation, when they plain, flat can't afford to.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that. What some of us question is how the billions that are now fed by relatively few acres and few farmers using "factory farming" will afford groceries if those same acres were converted to organic methods, and the supply of compost, manure, mulch and green manure stays the same.
Those articles are persuasive about the case where almost everyone is a peasant farmer doing hard hand labor all day every day, trying to bring their few acres up from starvation level to subsistence level.
But that has almost nothing to do with the industrialized world, where there is a choice between intensive technological agriculture and organic methods.
THAT is a good question, worthy of being addressed factually, and not with straw-man arguments like "advanced organic methods would be more productive than the very worst methods used by the most desperate and uneducated farmers anywhere".
For a practical attempt to teach organic methods usable by people in poverty with little infrastructure, see The Farmer's Handbook.
>> >> I get awfully tired of hearing that GMOs are necessary to feed the world and with organics we'd all starve.
I wish I had more time to address the parts of those articles that seemed to address the question of relative productivity of organic and "factory" farming in the industrialized world, where we really would rather have enough productivity that we didn't turn every acre into farmland or pasture, and 80-90% of the population want to be able to afford to buy most of their food instead of being farmers.
"Where there is a yield gap, it tends to be widest in wealthy nations, where farmers use copious amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in a perennial attempt to maximize yields."
That sounded a lot like conceding the point.
Then it challenges the idea that "there wouldn't be enough compost for every farm in America to go organic, by citing one study that shows there's only enough manure for 1/4 of the farms".
Their 'refutation' was to say that organic farmers depend on much more than just manure. Those four words were almost the only thing I noticed that was really on point, for a topic like "Can organic methods feed everyone".
Then they went over to the straw-man argument, which I think of as changing the subject, instead of saying something like "only this much non-agricultural land would have to be used to grow cover crops to provide all those factory farms with compost and mulch" or "this many trains and trucks could haul that much green manure to all those factory farms".
I suppose I'm skeptical, but if there WERE reasons that organic food costs 2-3 times as much, and there WERE reasons that agribusinesses (who care only about tons per acre and profit) don't use organic methods, that did NOT prove agribusiness is more productive and efficient in dollars per acre and yield per dollar, that DID look good for organic methods, that organic proponents WOULD BE stating those reasons.
Instead, there are vague or narrow claims like
"There are actually myriad studies from around the world showing that organic farms can produce about as much, and in some settings much more, than conventional farms."
(It's vague & substantiated to say "there are studies".)
(It's narrow and misleading to say "can produce as much" - that claim could have compared the most productive organic farm in the most favorable, irrigated environment and 12" of compost added per year to a dryland pasture that some conventional farmer is trying to coax a meager crop out of with minimal investment.
if someone who is trying to make a persuasive point stoops that low, my first assumption is that their best shot is really lame, and they don't have any truly persuasive studies to cite.
"More up-to-date research refutes these arguments. For example, a recent study by scientists at the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture in Switzerland showed that organic farms were only 20 percent less productive than conventional plots over a 21-year period. Looking at more than 200 studies in North America and Europe, Per Pinstrup Andersen (a Cornell professor and winner of the World Food Prize) and colleagues recently concluded that organic yields were about 80 percent of conventional yields. And many studies show an even narrower gap."
Now, that would have been interesting if they had also said anything at all about comparable costs and comparable climates or any kind of control at all to relate productivity starting with the same kind of soil.
Did they leave out details that would have clinched the argument they re trying to make?
Or did they leave out details that would have clarified that the 80/20 claim was actually comparing apples to ants?
Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and ANY agriculture there is going to be the most intensive and well-managed imaginable. So I can well believe that they have defined the state of the art in organic productivity.
But their comparison was to "conventional yields", not "yields where an equal amount of money and resources were spent as in the organic farms we selected when trying to see how productive organic farming CAN be".
Anyway, those were at least claims that would interesting if true and done in a balanced and representative way, not biased.
So I went to look them up. Quotes like this made me think the article was reputable and would cite support for its claims:
"Looking at more than 200 studies in North America and Europe, Per Pinstrup Andersen (a Cornell professor and winner of the World Food Prize) and colleagues recently concluded"
That article had NO citations. Page after page of rhetoric, I had to scroll past, trying to find out what "studies" they were referring to.
They were clearly pushing an agenda, stretching and using straw-man arguments to sound like they were proving more than their facts supported, AND were unwilling to provide links to what they were claiming as facts.
So I stopped reading. When Monsanto's flacks show clear bias and a willingness to stretch, but cite no facts, I stop reading.
Sadly, I was much more sympathetic to the anti-GMO and pro-organic arguments before I started reading their literature carefully. I had always assumed that the blatant propaganda and scare-mongering were the exceptions to the rule, and reasoned arguments were also out there somewhere.
These were far from the most slanted articles I've read, especially on the subject of GMO crops, but the bias was still clear, repeatedly, in the pages that I did get through.
Joe McCarthy made a name for himself by waving blank pages of paper and claiming the have documents that proved whatever agenda he wanted to push. But the he self-destructed because not everyone is credulous, and his bias and agenda were clear.
That doesn't PROVE that they are wrong. Saying they must be wrong because they are willing to stoop to rhetorical tactics and misrepresentation would be like an argument ad hominem.
But I see tons of slanted rhetoric and NO references to something where you could ferret out the actual facts behind the vague claims in unspecified studies. Either they are only preaching to the choir and want "feel-good" prose instead of reasoned argument, or they DON'T have any facts that favor their agenda.
I had an open mind before I started reading the literature. There is so much blatant propaganda and so little substance that now I'm struggling to keep an open mind despite the arguments I read. When reading one side's literature pushes you away, it's not a good sign.
Let me be up front about my preferences: In my own garden, upon which my livelihood is NOT dependent (just my taste for good tomatoes on my BLT), I prefer an organic approach and I rarely use poisons of any kind, organic or "chemical". I have come to believe strongly in a diversity of plant and animal populations. I believe that careless use of pesticides often causes more trouble than it solves. I am not a particularly good gardener, as testified to by the fact that most of my 'mater plants died this year, but I rarely have a pest problem serious enough to warrant my attention, much less the use of a poison. In my opinion, an organic approach in my own garden makes a lot of sense and is somewhat intuitive. Of course, intuition can be dead wrong at times. Adding organic matter to my sandy soil dramatically increases water retention, a big deal here in these here dry parts of the country.
I have spent quite a bit of time reading books and magazines, listening to gardening shows, attending Master Gardener conferences and such in an attempt to learn the "truth" about the "best" way to garden. Rick Corey, my conclusions are, I think, similar to yours. There's just too da@@ much propaganda. One side, the "chemical" folks (Jeez, isn't there a better term than "chemical"?) do have science and data for support since a substance can't be released for use without meeting some control and regulation. My big concern here is unknown long-term effects, not just on the health of consumers but larger effects on the environment as a whole. It's like I mentioned in an earlier post--the rabbits in Australia problem. As a current example, what's happening with bees? The cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is still unknown, but it seems likely that the problem is "stress" caused by poor nutrition and continuous exposure to low levels of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides,not to mention being carted all over the country on a semi truck.
On the organic side, most all advocates are well intentioned, but they surely lack data and often even accurate information. Like you, I hear repeated claims but all too frequently no evidence. One of my favorite scare tactics is citing that chemical fertilizers came from explosives production (for the most part true enough). So what! Armies use metals and fabrics, and soldiers eat food. Is that reason to give up pots and pans? Clothing? Sandwiches? A radio talk show host of a gardening program (one I like and listen to) hawks a particular brand of bottled water that has only "natural" minerals, not "synthetic" ones" I am pretty sure that we are not yet capable of synthesizing minerals, at least not the elements that make them up. What is a "synthetic mineral"??? Another claim I often hear is that "chemical" fertilizers destroy soil life. This sounds plausible to me, but is it true?
It'd be most interesting, informative, and enjoyable if we could get Dave's Garden readers to post links to scientific studies supporting various claims.
Here are some books that I have enjoyed: Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food". Any of several books by Professor Jeff Gillman of the U of Minnesota. Joel Salatin's "This Ain't Normal".
I hope we can keep this thread going and learn something to boot!
Let's compare what I believe is a parallel situation. This situation is comparing pharmacetical drugs to natural health supplements like herbs, vitamins, anti-oxidants, etc.
Drug companies may spend a billion dollars and more bringing a new profitable drug online. They may have reams of data and citations.
A new product of natural alternative ingredients may be quite useful to thousands of people, but there just isn't the money to run millions of dollar trials and still keep the product affordable to thousands of people.
I compare the drug companies to the big agriculture interests and the cheaper natural supplements to the organic type of interests.
[quote="WillyFromAZ"] One side, the "chemical" folks (Jeez, isn't there a better term than "chemical"?) do have science and data for support since a substance can't be released for use without meeting some control and regulation. [/quote]
Unfortunately the FDA and ag interests allow the companies that are producing the product to conduct the studies; these companies also make it difficult if not impossible for neutral researchers to evaluate the material independently because they cite patent laws which they use to prevent access. However, here are a number of studies and articles which suggest that considerably more research needs to be conducted before GMO products are distributed freely:
Right now we are barely producing enough food to feed all of the worlds population. If we shifted even 10 percent of the land into organic production, not only would food become more expensive...but there just wouldnt be enough food to go around to feed everyone. This is a fact. Historic world food stocks have been declining which has lead to an increase in the price of food as several of the last few years consumption has outweighed production due to drought and ethanol production.
As far as having people in the third world adopt organic techniques to become self sufficient those are noble goals but very unrealistic considering that most in the 3rd world do not even own or have access to land or even credit to buy seeds or tools or the know how to make this all happen.
I agree that right now GMO's are not necesarry to feed the worlds population. But conventional production agriculture is essential.
GMO's are however reducing pesticide use in total active ingredient going out per acre as well as number of sprays right now as wee speak. Less sprays also means less fuel etc. They are more green. They are more efficient. To me GMO makes as much sense as solar or hybrid cars. They are more efficient and better for the environment.
I believe that GMO's will however be critical to sustain food production output into the future. Through this technology we will be able to develop plants able to grow on soils that currently arent suitable such as saline and sodic areas. There are already GMO's plants with drought tolerance, disease resistance, and insect tolerance as well as herbicide tolerance.
A pesticide takes about 10 years and 250 million dollars to develop. It takes a company 10 years of testing before it can start selling a product. It goes through a 2 year process of review by the US EPA, USDA, and FDA...three government organizations that evaluate its safety, environmental impact, and risks. These products are also evaluated by each of the 50 states with CA and NY having even more rigorous standards. Some of these products are approved and some arent. Other countries including Canada, Japan and in Europe also independently evaluate these products. Some of the testing is some by the companies but much of it is done by universities and other 3rd party labs and contract reseach companies and state agricultural experiment stations. Pesticide registrations are three times more rigorous than pharmaceuticals. It takes ten years because of the numbers and types esperiments the government agencises require that are done. It is really quite extensive what is required. Here is an article from Canada called "Lab to Label" which outlines pesticide development and registration. A similar process happens here in USA. http://www.croplife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/CROPLIFE_LabToLabel_WEB.pdf
Patent on a pesticide is 17 years...so after registration that leaves 7 years to recuperate the investment. These regulations which are good in many ways but has made producing pesticides so expenseve and so time consuming that it has reduced the numbers of companies able to invest and develop them. Many companies have gone out of business because of the regulations.
Agriculture is not a very profitable enterprise. Whether you are a farmer or a pesticide company profit margins are not very good with at least one out of every three years being a bust.
By the way I work for a major ag chemical company. We have numerous "organic" products as well as conventional ones. All of the Ag chemical companies also produce organic products. So Ag chemical companies certainly arent against organic products like some seem to insinuate. Its simply another segment. Organic products can actually be more profitable.
One thing to note is that organic products tend to not work as well. Biologicals are not as effective at controlling pests.
Also think about this...right now organic growers are relatively few...but lets just imagine an organic apple grower. In most cases he is surrounded by conventional apple growers who are regularly spraying for diseases and insects. Even though he isnt using any conventional pesticides on his apples, he is benefitting from the fact that those around him are to reduce innoculum and insect populations. If all the growers around him also became organic the levels of insects and diseases would increase and organic would be alot more challenging than what it currently is. Just a thought!
I agree that the most likely long-term effect will be on the environment. first, caused by the fact that there so many of us! Second, by the loss in genetic diversity of food crops, and wild species. Third by the drift of selected or other-species genes into non-GMO crops and weeds (and possibly insects and microbes).
I'm just not very worried about the remote risk of "who-knows" long term effects from eating our current level of GE crops. I consider climate change a much more likely problem, just not THIS year.
I grew up with second-hand smoke, leaded gasoline, aerial spraying of DDT over residential areas and open-air nuclear testing. Plus, I worked in the chemical industry and saw some of THEIR pollution.
I think that those combined were 1,000 or 10,000 times worse than corn syrup made from corn that had RO sprayed on it. Maybe 100,000 times worse. I didn't and don't lose a lot of sleep over those, but I sure did use a mask and gloves when I sprayed with malathion.
(I admit that I had doubts then, and shudder now, to recall that we bought surplus Army DDT "bombs" (aerosol canisters) for spraying INSIDE our Boy Scout tents while we were inside them. Horrible as that was, the health effect was not observable. Hence the remote possibility that some long term effect from RO-Ready soy products MIGHT become observable despite current evidence just doesn't twitch my worry-meter.)
Too bad the "chemical awareness" in the 1950's wasn't 10 or 100 times greater! And maybe the concern of some people today about remote possibilities is 10 or 100 times greater than the evidence would support.
But maybe "today" is a reaction against all the overly optimistic industry spokesmen and public health yes-men from the 1950s.
Maybe it's faint praise to say that GMO crops plus RoundUp pollute less than traditional crops and traditional persistent herbicides ... but true and relevant.
I guess it's in dispute how organic method's productivity compares to "factory framing" methods, and what the costs are to push organic productivity higher, for example on marginal land.
My guess is that "factory framing" is much more productive and cost-efficient than organic farming, unless you are using organic methods on the very best, most fertile and productive soil in the world.
If it were practical and affordable to improve every farm on the planet to that level of productive soil, great, but my unsupported suspicion is that it might take another earth or two with cultivated fields but no population to provide all the compost we would need. Or letting 1/2 or 2/3 of our existing farms to lie fallow or grow green manure crops at any given time.
But what would we do with 1/2 or 2/3rds of our population meanwhile?
>> "natural" minerals, not "synthetic" ones"
That a great argument ad absurdum. If you can extend an argument into an obvious absurdity, maybe the original argument was flawed also.
As a kid, I laughed myself silly the first few times I heard the term "organic food" since to me, the only alternative was inorganic food, and the definition of inorganic was "no carbon". Oh, well, words mean what people make them mean.
>> Another claim I often hear is that "chemical" fertilizers destroy soil life. This sounds plausible to me, but is it true?
I can think of three possibilities, one that comes from a textbook on microbiology.
1. Mycorhyza develop in plant roots when needed If the soil has plenty of N and water, far fewer root fungi are seen in the plant roots. That's what I read in one textbook, anyway. Hence fewer of them are found in well-fertilized and irrigated soil. But when it dries out and looses its fertility, the mycorhyza come back from spores and re-infect plant roots..
2. If you rely ONLY on synthetic mineral fertilizers, like NPK but no organic compost, certainly the soil life will consume whatever organic matter was previously in the soil. Deplete the C, then die or sporulate. They can't live without food.
Once compost is returned to the soil, I trust the bacteria and maybe the fungi to come back from spores and dust blown in from other fields, and indeed to be present in the compost that was added.
But what about worms, fungi, insects, and so on, that died when NO organic matter was replenished for several years? The more complex the organism, the longer it will take longer to re-populate a starved soil (in my unsubstantiated opinion).
That's where I get cranky and grumpy about imprecision. If we said "total lack of organic matter matter will eventually starve most beneficial soil organisms", I don't think we'd be having heated arguments. More like, "Yeah, healthy soil needs OM". Chemical fertilizer promotes this season's yield, not next decade's soil fertility.
But when we are imprecise and say "fertilizer kills soil", we're half way to an unreasoned flame war already.
3. EXCESSIVE fertilization might be killing a lot of soil organisms. Heck, too much urea can "burn" plants, so why not fungi? What constitutes excess might depend on soil type, crop, and type of N in the fertilizer, but if you only consider this year's yield when you decide how much to fertilize, it's plausible to me that someone would use more than is good for the soil's health 10 years from now.
Smart farmers with plenty of choices might not use any more fertilizer than is in their long-term interest, unless they're renting the land. But when profit margins are tight, farmers might be as short-sighted as industrial managers and politicians, and push the limits, since a little extra fertilizer is cheap relative to the risk of a crop being stunted or yield being low enough to put you out of business.
Rick, I don't mind mixing farming and gardening as I live in the country. Just this morning I was surprised by a very low flying plane across the road flying back and forth over the corn field. i wondered what it was doing this time of year when the corn was beginning to dry up. it turned out that it was aerial seeding what looks like rye grass. A few days ago the same thing was happening in another field the farmer farmed. For the most part I am happy to see a cover crop. Perhaps some things are being taken to a higher level. Only downside is that herbicide may be used to kill it next spring. I don't think that roundup would drift my way much, but 2-4-D is scary concerning volatility...especially overnight hanging vapors.
[quote="Indy"]it turned out that it was aerial seeding what looks like rye grass...Only downside is that herbicide may be used to kill it next spring. I don't think that roundup would drift my way much, but 2-4-D is scary concerning volatility...especially overnight hanging vapors.[/quote]
Annual grasses are widely used as cover crops. They doesn't ordinarily need to be killed in the spring, and even if the farmer did want to kill it, 2-4D isn't likely what he'd use - it's a broadleaf herbicide and grasses typically don't respond to broadleaf herbicides.
Most microbes benefit from application of nitrogen to the soil. Yes some Nitrogen fertilizers are more toxic than others to some microbes...but fertilizers actually feed microbes and help them broak down organic matter faster. Adding a little fertilizer to your compost heap is like feeding those microbes...it is because microbes, though they release nitrogen as they decompose organic matter...they also use it up and it actually can become limiting. When it becomes limiting the decay of organic matter slows down...and when it slows down, Nitrogen from organic matter is less available...it is all a balance. Too much fertilizer and certain forms can be toxic...but soil microbes are not endanged and they recover very quickly and when they die they also release nictrogen and other nutrients beneficial to plants. So killing microbes isnt always a bad thing...they are always dying on their own...in fact that is how the nitrogen is released from decomposting organic matter.
On another note...no-till farming increases soil organic matter significantly. But herbicides are needed to successfully do it.
In organic production repeated cultivation is used for weed control. This repeated cultivation causes soil erosion, soil compaction, uses more fossil fuels, drys out the soil, reduces the soil organic matter portion of the soil etc.
The idea that organic is better for the environment in my opnion isnt always true. It may reduce some residues on the food...or replaces the residues with "safer" residues. Organic folks never explain that their technology has some downsides.
As a gardener I utilize the best of both worlds...organic and some non-organic. I love to increase and maintain organic matter with good tilth. To my mostly clay loam I have added goodly amounts of sphagnum peat moss from a local bog...love the results. In many beds I also used medium/coarse local sand. I chop and mow up plant residues and leave them in place. I have added strawy/hayey partly rotted horse manure in late summer and fall along with leaf compost and shredded leaves. I then till things into the soil a bit. I also used some organic fertilizer and some not as organic fertilizer.
It has worked wonderfully well. I wish to add that I plant tillage type daikon radishes in late summer after the first five plantings of sweet corn are chopped and and the soil has been enriched. Also I plant them in other areas where I can. They are an easy cover crop that smothers out weeds and leaves things so nice in the spring.
>> fertilizers actually feed microbes and help them break down organic matter faster
>> it is all a balance. Too much fertilizer and certain forms can be toxic...but soil microbes are not endangered and they recover very quickly
I agree with all of the above. Adding N when it is limiting stimulates soil microbes as well as plants (but perhaps only if there is enough organic matter to support lots of microbes. Really excessive N harms both.
But according to what I read, you only see lots of mycorhyza growing in roots (actually interpenetrating the roots) when nitrogen or water are scarce - as if the root "knew" that it needed the help, and only tolerated the root fungi when they helped the plant acquire N and water more than they cost the plant in energy supplied to the root fungi.
If that's true, very infertile soil might not support as many "free swimming" soil microbes, but it does increase the population of root fungi "infecting" roots (a good thing).
Adding a moderate amount of N would stimulate both plants and free soil microbes, but might decrease the number of mycorhyza associated with roots.
Adding excessive N is bad for everything, and some forms of N are worse than others.
... that is, IF I understood what I read, and IF it's true. It sounds like you know what you're talking about, whereas I've just read a few things.
>> In organic production repeated cultivation is used for weed control.
I didn't know that! I thought deep mulching was the rule.
I read elsewhere (if I remember accurately) that no-till practices around the Great Lakes caused many people to use a different fertilization strategy that resulted in increased runoff during a rainy spring.
>> I plant tillage type daikon radishes in late summer
Indy, I thought your balance of techniques made complete sense. I also tried Daikon radishes for tillage one year, but planted too early and they went to seed (tasty seed pods, by the way). Now they keep volunteering around that bed.
However, sometimes the radish wins and sometimes the clay wins. I'll try to get a photo of one volunteer that looks fairly vigorous, except that the top 4-5" of root have pushed up out of the clay like a tiny tree trunk.
Rick, It is normal for the radishes to have 4 inches of the white root above. These radishes grow so fast that they do suppress almost all weeds. Here in Indiana you do not want to plant them before about July 20th as they are confused and some or many will go to seed and not develop the deep large root.
'tillage' is a trademark name. The ads tend to scare you into thinking that there is only one line that will work...not true. I get my seed from Fedco and they have to label them 'forage radishes', but they are the real thing too.
>> It is normal for the radishes to have 4 inches of the white root above.
Thanks, Indy. That one is an OP Daikon radish 'Minowase' from Hazzards, sold as a vegetable, but pretty good at digging into clay.
They say "sow summer or fall, 52 days". I agree with you: sowing in late summer is better than early summer where I live. Well, unless you prefer the seed pods to the roots. Hazzards calls these roots " low pungency," but they are much too hot for me. But the seed pods were tasty and just a little hot.
These volunteers are popping up in September which suggests they germinated around July.
I like for the plants to be 4 or 5 inches apart. Further apart is better if you have few weeds coming up with the radish. My, these things get huge where they have several inches of clearance...15 inches tall;15 inches across; and 3 inches thick in the root.
I think that can be used as an argument for either side of the GMO debate. One side would say "never trust scientists and public policy-makers when they tell you that something won't hurt you!"
The other side would say that even when there was a radioactive, quarter-mile crater 320 feet deep, either no human was demonstrably harmed, or a statistician might have been able to make a case that 1% of the lung cancers in that state in the next 5 years were NOT caused by cigarettes.
Horrendous disaster or barely detectable health impact? I'd say "both".
Life in the real world has enough REAL hazards that do "relatively little" lasting harm that focusing on remote hypotheticals is misplaced effort. I think that climate change deserves more concern. Certainly global hunger, disease, poverty, diminishing clean water resources and risk of wars are real hazards.
Probably the genetic diversity, ecological and financial risks associated with crop "monopolies" are greater long-term risks than the hypothetical risk of some long-term as yet undetected subtle harm caused by foods with ingredients from GMOs.
But not everyone agrees with that, to make an understatement. And even I agree with GMO labeling requirements. When people see that EVERY bit of processed food has "GMO ingredients", maybe they'll think about what it means. Or even eat some fresh fruit. It couldn't hurt.
Interesting input, greenhouse_gal. I'm looking forward to reading responses.
I attended a Master Gardener conference last week and one of the speakers was a Ph.D professor who spoke on GM. He told a story about Zambia refusing a shipment of 10,000 tons of corn (during a famine) because the US wouldn't certify it to be GM-free. The corn was to be used for food, not planting. He also stated that it cost about $250M and took about 10 years for a typical GM crop to be approved. He felt GM crops were safe.
I'd really like to hear more from knowledgeable folks, both on GM and "chemical" vs organic in general.
If you use Bt you are using an Organic Insecticide that causes insects stomachs to blow up. This is the the same insectide that is put into GMO corn, to help contol worms. So gardening Organically doesn't change the effects of this chemical. Chemicals can be synthetic or natural. I don't like the idea of it being spliced into the DNA of crops but the effect is the same.
Round up ready crops are only going to be an issue if you use Round up. If you some how have this seed the plants aren't going to be drenched in herbicide unless you do it yourself.
No Im not for GMOs just for a clear understanding. It is my understanding that GMO seeds are not available to the home gardener anyway.
GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.
The GM products that are currently on the international market have all passed risk assessments conducted by national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including an assessment of environmental and human health risk. These assessments are thorough, they have not indicated any risk to human health.
No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.
First, I want to say (again) that I'm not addressing the comments below to greenhouse_gal. I'm talking about the writers of the AP "report" and the "Monsanto Denies" article.
Were you able to find any citation so we could look at the study referred to? Not just the "AP report", but the study done by Dr. Carrasco.
I noticed this, and was curious to see what rationale they used to equate "injecting embryos" with what's happening in a field.
I know I'm decades out of date, but way back when, that would be the kind of thing you would do to cause abnormalities with something that was totally harmless by any other test you tried.
>> Molecular biologist Dr. Andres Carrasco, of the University of Buenos Aires, injected small samples of the chemical into embryos, ...
>> “If it's possible to reproduce this in a laboratory, surely what is happening in the field is much worse," Carrasco said.
I also noticed that the website assumes the point that (I thought) was under debate:
>> AP carried out interviews across Argentina with doctors and people who had suffered harmful effects from Monsanto’s pesticides.
I do want to gripe about a very minor detail: why do they call an herbicide a pesticide? Are weeds now called "pests"?
Or they are deliberately using any word that sounds scary and is likely to be recognized, no matter how unrelated it is to the facts they are "reporting".
I'm reading the link now, about the "AP report", to which I can't find a link either. I assumed that a "report" would have more facts and at least a pretense to some methodology.
What I see is that they ASSERT that the RU caused health problems, but no evidence other than "that province" has high rates of this or that medical problem over a period of (?a decade?) during which use of GM crops rose. That's incredibly lame.
EVIDENCE would be a correlation between occupation and disease rates, or distance of homes from fields, prevailing wind direction, and disease rates. Like, a dose-effect curve.
They say the GM crop usage in Santa Fe province increased, and claim a relationship to cancer rates in that province. (That's the logical flaw "after it, therefore because of it", but ignore that for the moment.)
Next ... am I misreading this? ... they say as if it was evidence for their claims:
>> in the neighboring province of Chaco birth defects have quadrupled
So the cause occurred in one province, and they seem to think that reporting an effect that occurred ELSEWHERE is evidence of a link? If they think that's evidence, their target audience must not have very high standards for logic.
I could use MORE logic than they are using, and claim they "proved" that planting GM soybeans in Santa Fe province protected them from birth defects. (I'm not6 claiming that, just pointing out how (excuse me) STUPID the article is about connecting evidence to conclusions. Calling it "stupid" is probably flattery - the reality is probably "deliberate manipulation and misleading interpretations".
>> Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta who lives in Santa Fe told AP that her children had been covered in pesticides recently while swimming in the garden pool.
I'd love to know what she meant by "covered by". Also, if true, did they have any symptoms afterwards? Any at all?
That's when I think about the real toxicity of the herbicides that were replaced by RU, and get impatient about wild claims and lack of evidence.
I appreciate their honesty in reporting the following, but it would seem to me to be evidence exonerating RU and condemning other (unspecified) chemicals, and working with the toxic ones without protection.
Yet the article or "report" is titled "MONSANTO's pesticides poisoning Argentina". (Let's ignore the fact that RU is an herbicide.) you have to read the entire article to get to the detail that "mis-using RU" is actually "making millions of liters of a cocktail of different (unspecified) chemicals". The artical thumps the drum of "GMO crops" but the EVIDENCE they offer is that the NON-RU chemicals (probably organo-phphate INSECTIcides, not even herbicides at all) do have the toxicity that everyone knows they have: neurological disorder.
Once agin I reach the same conclusion that I usually do when I follow up on articles that try to invoke "scientific studies" in support of GM fear-mongering: if this is their best evidence FOR their side, they are doing a good job of proving there IS no good evidence for their side.
(If they gave a link to the actual evidence and not just inflated and unsupported claims, maybe there IS something in their study that supports the side they have such obvious bias for).
Hiding the relevant fact in a paragraph at the very end shows they know it invalidates all their claims in the first 3/4 of the article. t least they had the integrity to include the one word "cocktail" which gives away the fact that their rhetoric is contradicted by their evidence.
>> Argentine farmhand, Fabian Tomassi, who worked preparing a cocktail of chemicals to spray crops for three years. He now suffers from the debilitating neurological disorder, polyneuropathy, and is near death.
>> “I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing," he said. "I didn't know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists.”
Good comments, RickCorey_WA. Like you. I do see a lot of appeal to emotion from the anti-GM/organic community with little reference to facts, tests, and research. On the other hand, there is a long history of products being released that eventually are proven to be damaging. This is true not only in agriculture, but in medicine and other fields.
The GM and climate debates offer an interesting contrast. Most (not all!) anti-GM folks are pro-anthropogenic global warming and they mock folks who ignore the "concensus" of science on global warming. Conversely, many pro-GM people cite scientific "concensus" that GM is safe and they mock anti-GM people for ignoring the consensus of science.
A quick note on pesticides: I believe that the term pesticide encompasses any agent that kills or controls a living thing, be it plant, animal, fungal, etc. "Herbicide" and "insecticide" are sub-categories of "pesticide" in my understanding.
All very good point, Willy. I never noticed the irony of disbelieving every scientist on the subject of GMOs, but believing them on the subject of global climate change.
>> on pesticides
I guess I had better update my own usage. I'm glad I deleted my rant about their "ignorance" for confusing herbicides with pesticides. (Duhh!)
>> appeal to emotion ... little reference to facts, tests, and research. On the other hand, there is a long history of products being released that eventually are proven to be damaging.
I try to remember to keep saying that - just because "one side" only cites totally flawed research, doesn't mean they're wrong. And a chorus of scientists unison-chanting "DDT won't hurt you (much)" doesn't make them right, either.
Back when I thought the anti-GMO position was 'we don't have enough evidence yet, so we should remain cautious", I was very sympathetic even though I didn't think human or animal toxicity was a plausible risk.
But Once I carefully read a half-dozen or so "studies" that allegedly "proved" things like "GMO causes leukemia", I lost all sympathy and patience.
It is still a form of 'argument ad hominem', but if their most visible publicists are (in my now-jaundiced view) deliberate propagandists who consistently stoop to misrepresentation, I'm willing to assume they HAVE no better arguments and I'll stop listening to them.
But I'm voting FOR the labeling of foods with ingredients made from GE crops.
At least I'm consistent in being angered by misrepresentation from either side: the pro-GM industries are spending tons of money to push half-truths and lies down our throats, and that strengthened my previous support for labeling. If I can do anything about it, liars will never prosper!
Corey ~ I do not need a "study" to prove to me that GM food will cause cancer. I would just rather not eat anything that have viruses and/or herbicide injected into them. It just does not even make common sense.
As well, the weeds are becoming more resistant and are growing even more tolerant of the herbicides designed to kill them. So they just use more and/or stronger herbicides which are being absorbed by our plants grown for human consumption.
Yet we are not allowed to see all that is in our foods. I have been staying away, as much as possible, from "processed foods". Yet there are so many more ingredients in our everyday common foods that are not on the label, because the law does not require it.
Yup, read the first one. That's the most interesting study I've seen. And i agreed with their ACTUAL conclusions: that if you look hard enough, you can find variations that go somewhat beyond normal statistical variation, and yes, more excruciatingly difficult, long term studies that look at every imaginable body and cellular change with tests more discriminating than are usually applied to anything would be nice.
But I'm not worried at all. Just interested. Exemplary study, long-term and expensive, except for the fact that they fed moldy GM feed and significantly less moldy normal feed.
Of course, I was led to it by following 24-point headlines screaming "scientific study proves GMOs cause leukemia"...
Notice the GM food had (unintentional) mycotoxins and some other toxin both showing that they were getting moldy. The non-GM food had none, or fewer and less, if I recall correctly.
Someone countered that the amount of mycotoxin and other toxin (_REAL_ serious toxins, like aflatoxin, not speculative or imaginative maybe-do-something-bad-someday substances ) were "within legal limits". The observed changes were so subtle that OF COURSE they could have been caused by something a slight as a "legal" amount of aflatoxin contamination (and other products of fodder being stored so it got moldy). Didn't they say they used all one batch of feed for the GM fodder, as if it were being stored somewhere for the entire lifetime of the study?
Also, they were not talking about people eating a diet with some foods with some GM ingredients. They were talking about pigs fed 100% GM food (BT, I think) for their whole life. Humans don't eat 100% BT corn or soy.
To find ANY differences at all in the pigs fed GM soy and corn (I think those were the foods), they had to do more detailed tests than are usually done in toxicology studies, by their own admission.
I accept their conclusion that the variations they saw exceeded expected statistical variations. It sounded like the stomach irritation was a "real" effect. I would be interested to see if it showed up in a long-term study with very detailed autopsies like they did, fed normal fodder with legal amounts of aflatoxin etc, compared to clean fresh fodder.
The ovaries that were enlarged enough to fall outside expected variation were also interesting. I wish there were more studies that went to such lengths, so we could see if variations like that showed up elsewhere, when you look for them.
The changes in cell morphology sounded to me more like they had some cell morphology assays developed that they were really proud of, threw those into the study, and yes found variations that no one else ever even looked for. Meaningful result or scientific gingerbread?
In all three cases, I agree strongly with their conclusion that more excellent studies of the sort they pioneered should be done, so we could learn whether this was a blip or two caused by uncontrolled circumstances, or a real but slight effect of feeding 100% GM corn or soy and nothing else for nearly a whole lifetime. Or if it was the mold having effects that no one else ever looked closely enough to find.
But my personal take-away is that they had to do more detailed autopsies than anyone ever does in tox studies, just to find anything. And they still were not smoking guns, they were stomach irritation (real), ovary enlargement said to be greater than statistical norm, and (maybe) some cellular morphology changes if you look hard enough.
That's the harshest study I've heard of "for" the anti-GMO side, and to me it sounds like "barely detectable effects" that Monsanto could have cited as "the pigs were healthy enough to pass any NORMAL test with no unhealthy effects detectable".
Also - "was it the BT or was it the mold present only in the GM batch of feed"?
I don't have time to read the others today in detail, but the middle one is typical of most articles I've read - assertions without any reference to a specific study. It sounds like some cows died, and a farmer decided to blame the feed.
Then many indignant assertions. it seems like, if the implication were true, every farmer feeding that kind of corn would have mostly dead cattle. And it would be obvious. But it isn't.
Is that kind of corn still on the market? If there's no [u]pattern[/u] of mortality associated with it, then scattered reports of bad things happening in one herd or another don't mean anything.
If I hadn't read so many obviously propagandist articles, I would have been curious enough to follow up more than a brief Google search. But there is no flood of reports complaining about this strain of corn.
I'm sure if I worked at it, I could write an article about bad things happening to herds in red-painted corrals. If there's a pattern, it's evidence. Otherwise, not.
why did "Cattle Industry" publish it? Maybe to inform their readers that they, too, can sue Syngentia. If there WERE a pattern, they would. And could start a class action lawsuit with everyone else feeding that strain of corn. But they aren't.
Reuters was citing an article in Entropy - an open-access journal "devoted to the exploration of entropy in statistics and science." Note that they focus on entropy, not agriculture, toxicology or any other science relevant to this issue. And the impression that I got - just my impression - was that their policy was more about "open-access" than "peer-reviewed".
Note also the first word in the Reuters title: "Heavy use of herbicide Roundup linked to health dangers-U.S. study"
"Heavy" use of any herbicide would, but with herbicides other than RU, they could have show you a body count!
I read enough to see that it was the same article by Seneff that someone touted in some other thread. Back then, I took the time to follow through and read parts of the article and find some of her other work and primary research interests. She has no credentials, academic training or experience in toxicology. She's a computer scientist with a background in AI .
Samsel and Seneff did not conduct ANY studies to write this article. None, zero.
Her hobbyhorse seems to be esoteric aspects of entropy and inventing new terms like "exogenous semiotic entropy".
I think she realized that no one was taking her abstract ideas seriously, so she coupled them with things like "Roundup causes bad things" and got published in "open source journals", and got widely cited by credulous people and widely bashed by everyone else.
"After reading the paper, I had to wonder -- who are Samsel and Seneff? Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Her advanced degrees are in electrical engineering. She describes herself as having "recently become interested in the effect of drugs and diet on health and nutrition." Samsel describes himself as an "Independent Scientist and Consultant," and, for the last 37 years, has run Anthony Samsel Environmental and Public Health Services, which does "Charitable community investigations of industrial polluters." I think it's fair to say they probably went into this with a point of view."
"we show that glyphosate is a 'textbook example' of exogenous semiotic entropy: "
Now, that may be true, since Seneff invented the term and whether or not it means ANYthing is a question only she can answer.
Read the paper, it uses many very long words in scary ways, but in my opinion is unscrupulous hot air. I don't know whether Seneff is sincerely trying to prove something abstract and incomprehensible about AI and information theory, or just a publicity hound. But they way she cites other people's articles suggests she either doesn;t understand the subjects she has no training in, or plays very loosely with what might be relevant to her cliams.
I dropped out of the GMO discussion a long time ago as i had no luck trying to reason with unreasonable people, but drop in here occasionally.
I have been surprised that no indignation has been expressed because Washington State rejected the GMO labeling during the recent election. So, it looks like the majority of voters realize that a simple label, not backed up by an extensive and expensive supervisory, testing and enforcement regime on both the growers and the goverment bureaucracy is worthless.
No, it looks like Monsanto and the other companies that are heavily invested in GMO products raised many more millions of dollars to pour into the campaign than those who backed labeling. They were simply little people who wanted to know what was in their food and they lacked the dollars to mount a huge media blitz. What's interesting was that despite the enormous disparity in spending the vote was as close as it was.
>> You'd think that if this were pseudo-science, though, that MIT would have vetted it better. Disappointing.
I read in one place (that made it sound like a positive, innovative thing) that she has a "name" at MIT for making lots of use of "open source journals". In other words, if you can't get published elsewhere, these are somewhere in-between an online journal and a blog. Almost anyone at all can say anything at all, and their "peers" will publish it (online).
I don;t recall for sure, but it might have been Entropy, or might have been someone praising Entropy, that trumpeted something like "at last a journal that will print things that are not just written by mouthpieces for Monsanto".
(I think they published something that used fear about GMOs to publicist her own very abstract ideas about "exogenous semiotic entropy", whatever that is, if anything. I don;'t know whether they have an anti-GMO bias, anti-establishment bias, or any bias at all. But they are not very selective about asking their authors to support their claims!)
I'm NOT holding up Monsanto itself as any kind of saint of source of truthful info, but there is no conspiracy of scientists everywhere to lie for them. I'm sure there are some researchers who are biased pro-GMO, for good and/or bad reasons.
There are also writers and websites (and maybe some "open source journals") that are predisposed AGAINST GE crops and RoundUp, for good and/or bad reasons ... but lately I've read mostly too-obvious propaganda from the "anti" side.
I keep reminding myself that just because some point of view attracted a bunch of people who will say anything to get published, does NOT make their point of view wrong. They just are not producing any reasons to suggest that it is RIGHT. Yet.
I suppose I sound schizophrenic and as if I don't believe anything I read. Those aren't COMPLETELY true!
It's just really hard to do "good science" when the thing you're trying to detect is certainly subtle and long term, and may not even exist.
And the small amount of good science that IS done despite the cost and long-term nature and difficulty is then reported by biased and somewhat unscrupulous people on both sides who think they know what's best for everyone and wants to make decisions for them or browbeat them into agreement. Some publicists simplify the technical results grossly ... like "this proves there is NO risk" or "GMOs cause XYZ".
Wasn't there a movie titled "It's Complicated"? Well, it is!
I understand the conflict between people who want to eat food grown to the "organic" standard (call it "no 'cides and compost-not-fertilizer") and people who trust that enough herbicides and pesticides can be washed off "industrial food" to make it safe, or safe enough". In my mind, that comes down to a conflict between costs and productivity on one side, and (totally reasonable) concern about 'cide residue and long term soil health on the other. those two side can argue reasonable facts and positions at each other.
But when it comes to GE crops, I think both sides have weaker positions. One side can't "prove a negative", all they can prove is that no one has yet shown plausible evidence of health risk. So "pro-GMO" is weak if consumers don't want it in everything they eat until it is proved safe to an almost impossible degree.
The anti-GMO side is weak because they still haven't found any evidence that any GM crop does any harm to health. How can they dismiss the productivity and economic benefits when foods made form those crops pass every test that any other food ever had to meet? Or how can they be against anything that lets farmers use less of the known-very-harmful 'cides?
I wish "the marketplace" would give people more options of paying as much as it takes to get organic food, which I guess is already GMO-free.
Right now, in the USA, that might exclude almost every kind of processed food. WA tried to pass a GM-labelling bill, but it was voted down after a media blitz claiming it would be hugely expensive and unfair.
i think if they had passed that law, 80% of the population would have woken up a few months later and said "what do you MEAN we're already eating GM ingredients!!!!!!! Then the "parallel paths" for non-GM ingredients would start to come into existence so companies could market boxes that said "No GMO ingredients".
What I find especially suggestive is that the company that produced the hybrid in question developed it to address demands for non-GMO export grains or consumer demand for meat, poultry and dairy products in regional food markets. "Dairymen seem to be particularly intent on feeding non-GMO corn silage to their herds," the developer commented.
I do understand that there is a technical difference between GM and hybridization, but I hope I'm not the only one to detect at least a little bit of irony in someone producing a hybrid corn because they reject the idea of GM products. :Â«)
Hybrids have been with us for ages - it's nothing more than cross-breeding in a natural manner. Current dog breeds were created that way, as well as many other animals and vegetables. GM products use gene splicing and combine organisms that could never cross-breed in the real world.
Still hoping that Aardvark will weigh in on his or her experience in the industry.
Like I said, I understand the two processes aren't exactly equivalent--GE is much more sophisticated and can accomplish what normal hybridization could never do (I freely confess to being creeped out by crossing two widely different species, say, a bacteria and a plant)--but in the end, both are just genetic manipulation. As for being "natural", I am equally creeped out by hairless breeds of dogs and cats that were bred "naturally". For that matter, Chichuahuas seem a bit unnatural, too. (Relax, that was just a cheap joke).
I don't like hairless dogs either, but breeding them isn't opening the kinds of Pandora's boxes that GM flirts with. If a hybrid isn't viable or has other negative aspects, it usually doesn't persist. So there's a natural attrition which occurs.
That is interesting. I wish they had said what insecticides and herbicides they used with their non-GMO corn.
I see this:
"produced 3 to 10 more bushels per acre when compared to nationally known GMO corn hybrids"
The varieties in the trial produced between 230 and 270 bu/acre, so 3-10 bushels is 1.2% to 4% more productive.
I also saw this:
â€śThere are a few key considerations to make the most of a hybridâ€™s potential, and this includes rotation,â€ť Odle says. â€śCrop rotation and mode-of-action rotation are critical to slowing the development of difficult-to-control weeds and resistant insects.â€ť
It makes sense to me that one alternative to GMO insect-resistance and RoundUp tolerance, (other than falling back on REALLY toxic tradicional insecticides and herbicides), is non-chemical pest management. Isn't what Odle said one aspect of Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
When an efficient lab technique was discovered for splicing "whatever" DNA into plant cells, it changed hugely what scientists could do to genes and genomes. Instead of just crossing two existing plant varieties, and selecting from the resulting RANDOM crosses, now they can read, write, edit and inject DNA nucleotide sequences almost at will. They can pluck any gene sequence from any organism, or draw on libraries of synthetic DNA sequences. Pandora's Box is wide open.
They figured out how Agrobacterium normally injects its own bacterial DNA into plant cells (it has some sneaky plasmids, or circular DNA segments) that can SPLICE THEMSELVES right into the plant genome. In nature, that just produces warts or galls (technically "plant tumors", I think).
So genetic engineers hijacked this "natural, organic" process of sneaky plasmids to let them efficiently inject DNA into plant genomes ... but now they can inject ANY DNA sequence they can contrive.
That let them use all the GE methods they've been inventing for bacteria and viruses, since around 1960. They can use recombinant DNA methods to grab genes from other species, other genera, even other Kingdoms. They can splice in synthetic sequences that were built up a nucleotide at a time from scratch. They can use gene sequencing to read exactly what any existing DNA sequence is, then use editing methods to change it ("synthetic mutations"), and polymerase chain reaction to "write" new DNA sequences and multiply them.
Power tools. "With great power comes great responsibility." Or, at least, the ability to do many good things or make many big mistakes.
Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't know that the GE process had to be that roundabout. I guess that at least some traditional varieties [u]will[/u] be preserved, even if for no other reason than the GE labs' need for them!
Funny that very old corn varieties should be MORE tolerant of tissue culture than the highly tweaked modern hybrids. I guess they got fussy and demanding of the conditions they were optimized for.
P.S. I meant to say, in my previous post, that all the biochemical methods and knowledge of DNA sequences in bacteria, viruses and multi-cellular creatures that have accumulated since 1960 let genetic engineers perform non-random changes where they can partly predict that a certain gene is highly likely to affect certain traits. That's one of the main things that makes GE practical.
If they had to breed "with their eyes closed" and just hope that some useful gene would cross from one plant to another, they could work for centuries and find nothing. Instead they can go to a gene library and pull out a half dozen things that ought to have SOME potent effect related to what they want to meddle with.
Genetic engineers have tried to synthesize new genes that would make more efficient enzymes or more efficient biochemical pathways. They assumed that they could do better than random selection because they "knew what they were trying to achieve".
In every case, natural genes were much more effective than anything they could tweak or invent from scratch.
Now they mainly try to find better existing genes to steal from, and maybe make small changes or borrow "a little from here and a little from there".
Yield drag can occur with genetically modified plants at least initially. This is because you are purposefully selecting for the traits such as insect tolerance or herbicide tolerance or disease tolerance and putting those traits above yield or crop quality. This same thing can be said about naturally crossing disease resistant cultivars. Often the most disease resistant plants do not give very good yields or very good quality fruit/grain. An example is in tomatoes...there are some wild types with disease resistance to late blight or early blight. These varieties give fruit that is not very good to eat and do not give much yield. It is as if the resistance comes at a cost. So it takes time to cross the resistant varieties with the tasty and high yielding varieties. This is also true in GMO.
For corn and soybean varieties this is also true. Even with genetic modification there are still many many steps of traditional breeding that must be done and years and generations of the crop to ultimately get the variety that is wanted with the desired resistant traits, the desired yield traits and the desired quality. Also many of the corn and sybean varieties are locally adapated and will yield poorly if grown in areas it is not adapated to. It takes many years to get these GMO traits into all the varieties.
But I can assure you that a GMO herbicide, insect or disease resistant cultivar will not have a yield drag at all in the presence of the weeds, insects or diseases. So this whole idea of yield drag isnt of much importance with the commercial varieties on the market. In real life farmer scenarios they are not dragging yields at all. They are out performing non GMO varieties while requiring less pesticide to do so. They are more sustainable because they require less sprays, less tractor trips and less fuel and more ecological because with less sprays there is less harm to the beneficial insects, less soil compaction etc..
"Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?
Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. That restriction must end."
In the US and most other countries GMO traits are patentable. So if a company develops a patent for a particular trait they developed then they have control over any publishing with that trait and the rules apply as it would to any other patented product. A researcher always has to get certain permissions with the patent holders. Often in order for the researcher to even get the GMO trait to begin with they have to get a confidentiality agreement with the company that will stipulate what if anything can be published.
Many GMO traits are owned by agrichemical companies, some are owned by seed companies, some are owned by universities. But whoever owns them they then have control of those traits and their publication until the patent expires.
One can argue about the whole patent system. It does provide a short term monopoly to the developer of the technology but its the American way. Its always been the way to reward those who come up with the newest technologies. The money they acquire during that patent phase pays for the work it took to develop the technology and provides funding for new technologies.
I understand the rules regarding patents. But in that case there is no way for the FDA or any other entity to determine that these substances are substantially the same as conventionally-grown foodstuffs and to allow them free rein on the marketplace. That's the problem here. If there's a short-term monopoly, use of the product should be severely curtailed until independent research and results can be reviewed.
The FDA, EPA and USDA require numerous rigorous tests on every GMO trait that goes into commercial production before they will approve them. These tests include environmental fate, toxicology, exposure etc. This research is not all done at the company that develops it. It is done at private contracted research companies, universitties etc under confidentiality. It takes 8-12 years to develop a trait mainly because of government testing that is required.
For some this is too much regulation. For others it is not enough.
I am sure if automobiles were put such types of testing they would never be approved since they kill roughly 50,000 people a year. GMO crops do not kill anyone. But people fear them more than they do cars. I know cars are so important to our society. They get us to where we need to go. But how important is eating?
Once the applications are submitted to the goverment agencies for approval it becomes all public knowledge at that time...even all of the various tests that were required. Often the submission package amounts to thousands of pages.
It is ultimately the FDA, EPA and USDA that determine if the products are safe to eat or not after reviewing all of the research as well as conducting their own. Then and only then can the product be approved and sold.
This thread continues to be interesting and informative. I'm glad it hasn't degenerated into chaos and name calling. My sincere thanks to drobarr, greenhouse_gal, and RickCorey_WA for their information, research, and comments.
As I age, I discover that I am less and less certain of many things and this thread certainly emphasizes that thought.
After originally (thoughtlessly) buying the idea that patent protection is a valid argument to protect manufacturers of GM products from independent evaluators, the absurdity of the idea just whacked me upside the head. Tons of products, or at least components in them, are protected by patents, but that doesn't stop Consumer Reports and others from reporting on them. Books, movies, and music are copyrighted, but reviewers regularly rip some to shreds anyway. Why should producers of GM product have legal protection from independent investigation of their products? That just don't sound quite right to me.
I read comments from farmers on AgTalk. Some non Gmo plantings out yield GMO plantings and vice versa. I suspect that some of the success for non GMOs is due to reduced insect pressure due to GMOs. If so, how long will this last? Perhaps as ling as others are planting GMOs.?
>> conventional crops due to higher yields and lower costs:
I wonder if they are using things like Integrated Pest Management that takes a lot of work and expertise, but keep costs down? Or maybe they are using conventional, highly toxic pesticides. I don't know. The last time I followed a link like that, and the links that trailed off from it, they just cited "higher yields and lower costs" without specifying the conditions.
Hmm, I see:
" During the growing season, Huegerich sprays both his conventional and his GMO corn twice with herbicides and twice with pesticides, despite the GMO’s theoretical resistance to rootworm. “It gives me peace of mind,” Huegerich says."
“Five years ago the traits worked,” ... " Now, the worms are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant. "
The writers of the article said:
" In pockets across the nation, commodity growers are becoming fed up with traits that don’t work like they used to."
In the cost comparison, the writers assumed exactly equal costs for herbicides and insecticides for conventional and GE crops. Well, if you don't TAKE any advantage of the GE features, I wouldn't expect them to have much economic advantage.
It sounds like "GMO resistance" in the pests is accumulating faster than I guessed it would. If they truly do lose all of their "edhe", the issue will become moot.
Or, more likely, even more GE will be used to create even more modified crops, to evade developing resistances. That turned out to be a "diminishing returns" scenario with antibiotics.
And (hurray) resistance in the domestic supply chain may be emerging.
People who don't want to "risk" eating foods from GMOs will soon be able to pay more to get what they want, and conventional seed development will resume.
>> " Wyatt Muse, a merchandiser for Clarkson Grain, which buys conventional and organic corn and soybeans, pays farmers a premium — up to $2 extra per bushel over the base commodity price of soybeans, $1 for corn — to not only grow the crop but also preserve its identity. (That is, keep it separate from genetically modified grain all the way from planting through harvest, storage and transportation.) "
>> Why should producers of GM product have legal protection from independent investigation of their products?
Because Monsanto buys legislators by the bushel?
Campaign financing laws are a joke?
We have the finest Congressmen hat money can buy?
(Full disclosure: I don't have any training or serious research into this aspect, I just have strongly held opinions without scientific evidence. )
>> As I age, I discover that I am less and less certain of many things
I agree with you! It might even be that thing they call "wisdom", though I don't know if I would recognize it if I fell into a vat of it. Much less certainty, but hopefully also less stubborn wrong-headedness.
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
William Butler Yeats, 1919, " The Second Coming"
>> I am sure if automobiles were put such types of testing they would never be approved since they kill roughly 50,000 people a year.
When I briefly worked in a lab in a Nutrition and Food Science Department as an undergrad, I heard a lot of stories. One was that orange marmalade (pure, organic, no-additive orange marmalade) would NEVER pass modern FDA testing since orange peels are full of known toxins and carcinogens. Enough to kill? Naah.
Enough to harm? By whose standards? By the standards applied to GMO crops and ingredients? Yes, for sure. You could NEVER market anything as deadly as orange marmalade. It would be caught early on and thrown out on its ear. Never mind that you would have to eat tons of it, or make a 1,000X concentrate. to be able to MEASURE the effect. This is the standard of safety that is being applied.
That's one reason I get so mad when I see headlines that have to be malicious propaganda, or clueless ignorance. There is a mile of distance between "CORN CAUSES LEUKEMIA" and "we have not yet done enough long term studies (30 year tests, not 3 year tests) to be SURE that we have PROVEN that there CAN BE NO RISK WHATSOEVER, EVER.
Current tests go a mile beyond establishing reasonable safety. After all, current testing would reject orange marmalade as if it were Agent Orange (the contaminated kind).
The long term studies that everyone (including me) would LIKE to see may be almost impossible to do, and surely will be very expensive, and perhaps would still not convince everyone who dislikes the idea of "Frankenfood".
But for a journalist to imply that there are actual, PLAUSIBLE risks involved with things now on the market has to be irresponsible or poorly informed (my opinion). If they were responsible, they would try to establish some kind of index like "proven to be TEN times safer than orange marmalade, but not yet proven to be ONE HUNDRED times safer than orange marmalade".
My theory is that GMO corn syrup, sugar and soy lecithin ingredients ARE probably 1,000 or 10,000 times safer (except for obesity, empty calories and so on, which are not GMO-caused). But how would you prove that?
GE salmon and fresh, whole ear GE sweet corn ... I don't know. That's about where my superstitious conservatism kicks in.
I'm afraid of the monopolistic/legal, loss of genetic diversity large-scale mono-crop tendencies and possible ecological "genetic pollution" caused by widespread use of GE crops. That's made worse by my severely limited trust in government agencies, and zero or negative trust in Monsanto et alia. And yes, scientists can be ego-driven, arrogant, carried away and enthralled by their new toys.
I don't mind at all being cynical and suspicious - I just WISH I was totally wrong.
The very scariest thing I can imagine is that even the people that seem to me like hypocritical, lying, self-serving low-lifes do sincerely believe that their own creepy idea of some ideology is "virtue".
Some #@%^##*## from Forbes magazine was saying that there should be no Food Stamps in America until children are roaming the streets with distended bellies and dying of starvation. And even then, he thinks private charity is the only "fair" thing to do.
Perhaps, "shame on me for thinking ill of him".
But the fact that he thinks he's Fighting For the Right (I mean "correct" Right, not "Right Wing Right") scares the pants off me.
This has all been very informative. I also applaud everyone for staying polite.
Sadly, many people fearing the worst health effects from GMO foods already know of other well documented actions they could take to protect themselves from known health risks (dietary/ exercise) and yet they don't take those actions either. We are all tragically human.
[quote="sallyg"]This has all been very informative. I also applaud everyone for staying polite.
Sadly, many people fearing the worst health effects from GMO foods already know of other well documented actions they could take to protect themselves from known health risks (dietary/ exercise) and yet they don't take those actions either.We are all tragically human.[/quote]
Labeling GMO foods would be a joke.
Just think about it.
Most corn & soybeans grown are GMO.
Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, poultry all eat corn & soybeans.
So meat, milk, eggs and any other product connected to animals contains GMO.
Most foods are made with something derived from corn or soybeans.
Another point I will make, (now I am not opposed or in favor of GMO's or BT & Round up).
There is a lot of sweet corn grown here for processing. Before Bt Sweet corn came along, the airplanes would fly on pesticides to kill the earworms & corn borers. The company would post signs on the ends of the fields cautioning you to stay out of sprayed fields. I have no idea what they used, but it must have been very toxic.
The days before Round ready soybeans, the farmers had to "ride" beans. What this was, people would sit on a toolbar in front of a tractor. Each one had a sprayer wand. They would shoot spray on weeds as they went by. Guess what, end of the day those people, mostly teenagers, were drenched in the spray. Could that be good ?
Everyone should sit back & really think this stuff through before condemning certain practices & companies. There are lot more companies than Monsanto involved in these things.
A study in Norway found that GMO soybeans contained significantly higher residues of glyphosate as well as AMPA, a toxic breakdown product, than were found in either conventionally grown standard soybeans or organically grown soybeans. Organically grown soybeans also showed a healthier nutritional profile. Their point was that GMO soybeans are not substantially similar to non-engineered soybeans, contrary to industry claims.
Thanks for linking.
I cannot criticize the study. It seems complete. I wanted to see what they said about other pesticides, and that is addressed.
I'm not sure I agree with their conclusion that GMO soybeans are not substantially similar...maybe I just disagree with a general statement, rather than saying that 'GMO soybeans have glyphosate/AMP residues, and have 2% less protein .." which it seems to me is what the results are, quantitatively.
I think what they were looking at was whether there were significant differences along the lines that they wished to study - e.g. "we investigate whether plant products from a defined geographical region, produced under different agricultural practices are substantially equivalent or not, in terms of quality indicators like nutritional content, elemental characteristics and herbicide/pesticide residues." If nutritional content, elemental characteristics, and herbicide/pesticide residues aren't parameters which concern health officials and nutritional scientists, then you're right, they're not substantially different. But since those are major concerns for me when I choose which foods I'm comfortable eating, for me it's significant.
You can eat Cheerios now & not worry about GMO's.
They are using the minute amount of corn & sugar that are not GMO.
I am not sure it makes up for the oats that is used, which is undoubtedly sprayed with
broadleaf pesticides such as 2,4-D.
Nobody seems to care about chemical pesticides.
Bernie, I noticed the new version of Cheerios; it definitely says something about what the public is interested in if a major brand like that thinks it's worthwhile to go GMO-free. I wouldn't eat them because of the pesticides, though, and many other people feel the same way. There are organic versions of Cheerio-like cereals and that would be my choice.
Yes, they differ. Is 1.7% less protein significant? 1.7% over 34.6% protein in the GMO -= about 5 percent difference. Well now that sounds more meaningful.
CHeerios= what it says is the company fears the black blot of the GMO issue looming over the industry. It indicates something about consumer opinion, that's all. Consumers are asking if there are GMOs, and not asking about pesticide residues.
That's because GMO is a good hot topic now. Give it a few years & you won't hear any more about it.
Every hear about Agent Orange from the Vietnam war ? Same class of pesticides as what is used on Oats, Wheat & Barley. Kills broad leaf weeds on contact. Covers all the grain as it is sprayed.
If they are really concerned about GMO in their cereals, why not take it out of their corn based cereals ?
I think people are growing more and more concerned about pesticides in foods. Five years ago I could find almost no organic foods in my local supermarket; now there's a huge selection of products and they wouldn't stock them if they didn't sell. Interest in organics seems to be burgeoning.
I don't want to give organic farmers a hard time. They don't spray field crops with herbicides, use artificial fertilizers, or engage in a lot of other dubious practices common in conventional agriculture. But let's be realistic. If you're a farmer, whether organic or otherwise, you're faced with a host of bugs, weeds, vermin, etc., that are trying to wreck your crops. Your job basically is to destroy the little bastards before they destroy you. (Or at least interfere big time with their life cycles.) An organic farmer tries to accomplish this in a natural way with a minimum of collateral damage. That doesn't mean zero risk. For example, excessive use of copper sulfate can cause copper buildup in soil, which is detrimental to plant growth.
[Am I telling you not to buy certified organic food? Not at all. Although organic produce accounts for only 2 percent of crops in the U.S., increasing sales in this category send a powerful signal to the agriculture industry. While it may not be practical or desirable to apply strict organic methods to mainstream U.S. farming, a related set of techniques known as integrated pest management is gaining wide acceptance. IPM doesn't condemn synthetic chemical use but downplays it in favor of crop rotation, biological pest controls, use of bug-resistant varieties, and so on--many of the same techniques organic farmers use. Some surveys say half of all farmers now use IPM techniques to some degree, and the U.S. goal is 75 percent by the year 2000. Greater consumer interest in organic food adds to the national sense of urgency regarding this goal. I'm not big on symbolic gestures but buying organic is one that arguably makes sense.]
If people would follow common sense instead of getting on some band wagon against things that will not be changed anyhow, the whole world would run better.
People should let the farmers & companies supplying them raise the food & be thankful you have an abundance of food to eat.
You could be in a foreign country where there isn't enough food to go around.
I bet those people would be very happy with Cherrio's that contain GMO sugar & corn.
Sally and Ernie, I think you are very right. Risks from obesity, alcohol and slat are hugely greater than from GMO foods. I think the jury is still whether GMO foods are safer or less safe than conventional - since both have pesticide residues, and the non-GMO pesticides are MUCH, much more toxic than RU.
>> ... substantially equivalent or not, in terms of quality indicators like nutritional content, elemental characteristics and herbicide/pesticide residues."
I'm sure that GMO crops would have higher levels of glyphosate and AMP residues since they were sprayed with RoundUp (glyphosphate). And presumably those are more toxic than "nothing" would be, in a 100% organic, non-chemical garden. But non-GM farmers who can compete on price are surely using "traditional" pesticides. I guess we're just repeating known positions.
>> Consumers are asking if there are GMOs, and not asking about pesticide residues.
That's the kind of thing that makes me pull my hair out and think that all activism is futile. Only fashion matters. Back in the era of "Silent Spring", the wake-up call was clear, relevant and easily supported by obvious facts. The facts about chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates have not changed, but the activist fashions have changed.
Five seconds in a cereal isle will reveal that there must be relatively few parents concerned about stuffing children with concentrated sugar, as if they were geese to be harvested for hyperactive foie gras that can give you diabetes.
The "Chips" isle and the beer, wine and liquor isles show that huge numbers of consumers don't care about salt, fat and alcohol - so the heart, arteries and liver must be considered relatively unimportant.
Maybe the knowledge that we eat like suicidal, high tech maniacs has sunk in at an unconscious level, but most people just don't want to listen to their subconscious tell them that "everything you eat is bad for you". Maybe the conclusion (I should eat bland foods that I won't like) is so frightening that we suppress obvious knowledge.
Or we know it consciously and do it anyway (raising my chubby hand and blushing).
Maybe it's easier for that knowledge to surface as a fear of something "unknown" and "futuristic" like GM crops, especially if you don't pay attention to the fact that they are already everywhere. It still feels like fear of "the future" if you can ignore the fact that it is, after all, "the present".
Maybe we're lucky that at least processed foods are only loaded with sugar, salt, fats and just a dash of chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates. No shredded tobacco or opiates. Maybe the consumer demand "just isn't strong enough yet".
>> I think that the GMO attributes would not show up much if any in sugars and starches...proteins would likely be so.
I agree. Also, I would expect no difference in GMO-sourced chemically pure extracts like cornstarch, high fructose corn syrup or beet sugar (sucrose).
When we start to see whole ears of sweet corn, or apples genengineered to not turn brown, or salmon with transgenes to let them survive being farmed in each others feces ... then I worry. I'd be eating the whole cells including the nucleus and DNA that's modified.
I don't have facts to make me worry, just uncertainty. I would want to trust the organizations that do the testing, and my faith in politicians has been eroding since I learned to read.
THAT is when I really want labeling. But no one will take my bet that few people will buy a clearly labelled "genetically engineered apple". Or "sweet corn with bacterial DNA".
- - -
Countrygardens and Grayce, I agree that "consumer awareness" (if that is not a contradiction in terms) is the only ting that will change industrial practices. The power of the buck. If it hits their bottom line, doing smart things like IPM, or strictly enforcing pesticide residue laws that are probably on the books, will become worth their while.
How about extending the "Fancy", "AA", "A" and "B" labeling laws to indicate the actual measured AMOUNT of pesticide residue? Side-by-side bins of apples labelled "up to 30 PPM malathion" or "less than 15 PPM Malathion" would motivate ME to buy the more expensive, smaller, insect-damaged apples.
However, the idea that some lobbyist convinced someone to vote that 300 PM was not THAT toxic, does not fill me with confidence.
Too bad we don't have black-light gadgets like CSI we could shine on produce to produce a blue glow if there are low levels of organophosphates!
>> So the concern is that you will absorb the weird DNA?
That and every other changed cell product - proteins, enzymes, cell membranes.
>> But have you absorbed DNA from everything else you have been eating your entire life?
True - from a fairly short list of animals and plants. And a much shorter list of microbes (yeast, mainly, in any quantity). And whatever is in yogurt and cheese, I think mainly a very short list of bacteria.
The real GM foods, as they hit the market, will have some intentional genes from whatever the genengineers got their hands on, plus the antibiotic resistance gene they used to select transformed cells, plus the Agrobacterium plasmid that splices the transgenes into the engineered plant, plus whatever baggage happened to migrate with the transgenes, randomly picked up and carried along.
The plasmid is what worries me most on an ecological scale. OK, it is probably an ancient plasmid that has been causing warts on leaves for millions or billions of years.
How many of those plant-gall species did our ancestors eat?
Aren't those galls really bitter so that we would have spit them out?
I would like to think that someone has checked really thoroughly to be sure that Agrobacterium plasmids only have quick-zip access to plant chromosomes, not primate chromosomes.
But mainly, while scientists are grinding them up and spinning them down and playing games with their libraries of synthetic and borrowed DNA, the intended genes, the plasmid genes, the antibiotic selector genes and the unintended DNA sequences have been going through "unnatural" manipulations that probably cause some crossovers and mutations, especially in the DNA regions that are not intentional. In rare cases, there's nothing to prevent an unintended carry-along sequence from being activated and doing something unintended.
Yes, very unlikely and just about as superstitious as any other fear of anything that can't be clearly understood and predicted from past experience.
In this case, I can imagine several steps where a little unplanned DNA from the lab could creep into our bodies through food - but not into the DNA in our gonads where it could accumulate in future generations.
Say (oops) there was always a 2-3% inclusion of unknown and unplanned DNA in each GE crop modification, ...
... we already triple-stack some GE changes
... and (oops) suppose there was a 0.0001% rate of DNA crossover from eaten corn or apples into human gut cells,
... and 0.0001% of those crossovers included functional gene sequences
... and 0.0001% of those were harmful
probably a few people on the planet would have something like a tumor or a griowth that had never been seen before.
But it seems unlikely to me to become a big human-health issue becuase I don't know of any plausible mechanism for transformed DNA to migrate from our gut to our gonads. If we can't pass on alien DNA to our children, how could it accumulate.
Anyway, that thought leaves me merely grumpy and reluctant to be among the first few thousand people to eat lots of GE plant and animal tissue. Sucrose and corn starch: who cares? But whole GE corn kernels for direct human consumption? Oh, well, at least we have a few decades of animal consumption to suggest that the risks are lower than, say, Doritos or orange marmalade. So I'm not storming the barricades, I'm just in favor of honest labelling.
Sorry this was so long and rambling! I should have gone home hours ago.
Honest and accurate labeling sounds great to me. I just wonder how honest we can make them, and how accurate labels will be . For example, the drift of GMO genes into non GMO fields and crops. (Drift from one corn plant to another, which is way different from drift of a corn gene into a person)
And to what expense to get a federal agency ramped up for more labeling accuracy. And how much information to require on food labels, and how much testing to require of foods to ensure accurate honest labels. discussion just above of
RicCorey, I think you were speaking in the voice of the skeptic with your discussion of transfer of mutations. We need a scientist, or scientific source, to address that. Of course, You can't prove something will never happen, but I think your odds of something happening are like you said, effectively yielding a 0.0000000001 chance of it happening. Or something.
I do think one group of fearful people ARE out there saying- ''that GMO gene is getting into my body and will make a giant tumor and kill me'.
What I got from the article is that buying Organic produce/products is NOT ANY INSURANCE that you are "Free and Clear." Oh no, it is not that simple. There's yet another consideration: pesticide RESIDUE. This means, organic spraying. Maybe worth a new thread?
RickCorey_WA, you confirm what my father often advised: "Vote with your money."
Now I have some thinking to do. No, I will not go back to ignorance and support GE foods knowingly, but I certainly will look a bit further into the creation of organic and non-GMO produce/products as much as possible.
SallyGg, after reading the article, I can certainly see that a product labelled as Organically-grown means, for the most part, that I need to concentrate on the "Organically-Grown" issue.
This seems scarier than Non-GMO/GMO, for, and correct me if I am wrong, either something is GMO or not from "birth," and the concentration of this does not change - it stays at 100%.
However, treatment of Organic produce is NOT consistent, so this is what needs to be addressed. Will even more labeling discourage farmers from producing Organic goods? Will it refine techniques in a consumer-protective way?
In my own garden, I use one organic product (after research), until I am educated to another one. Then I compare and choose. One thing that I stay clear of, though, is genetically-engineered seed. I wish to support the farmers who follow this philosophy, as I believe their cause is just. And, their offerings are what I wish to grow.
Thinking about my dear father, who used to spray the ____ out of his produce, with some rather nasty chemicals, is why I read these threads and choose a different way. He used what was most successful. His family farmed, and their fore-family farmed...they believed the hype, and the results made their hard efforts bring about a beautiful, bountiful crop. The American population desired PERFECT - looking food, and farmers complied. Maybe the tide is turning toward accepting an imperfect-looking product, and rejecting the more "staged" food?
I thank everyone for their ramblings, peruses, and opinions in this thread. It helps form my opinion.
Rambling, perusal, my opinion is evolving as well:
I was told in some class or another- that our digestive tract is an extension of our skin. It's a continuous surface connected to our outer skin at opening such as mouth and nostrils. (Respiratory system too)
So as a skin, digestive tract is very good at blocking invaders. We are chock full of bacteria in our mouths and guts. Do they get into our blood and kill us? Only rarely, with some horrible aggressive pathogen, injury, disease. right? We live a century with a teeming horde of completely foreign genetic material right in our tummies.
So why is my GMO food any more likely to get into me/ affect my genes than the person I work next to who is a genetic carrier of some genetic disease. Or even marry?
>> The American population desired PERFECT - looking food,
That is a lot of the problem.
>> So why is my GMO food any more likely to get into me/ affect my genes
Right - probably not, 99.99999% not. But if there is a risk, it is probably out in the 9th or 12th or 15th decimal place. And if one person out of a billion or trillion might get a tumor, well, one person on the planet over the next 1,000 years is an acceptable risk.
But IF (another unlikely IF) the genetic transfer COULD move from a gut cell to a gonad (or a corn cell to a weed to something else) and PROPAGATE, then we've introduced truly foreign genes into the population.
Truly a long shot and low probability, but if the discussion started out about eating beef who ate GM corn having human health effects, we ARE discussing low probabilities.
Being reasonable ... all this speculation about "what if a gene was transferred ..." is not reasonably likely to occur to any one person.
And the rationale for even talking or thinking about it is that, if something happens once in a billion times, but there are billions of people, and a thousand days in every 3 years, then eventually, unlikely things are likely to happen at least once.
>> So as a skin, digestive tract is very good at blocking invaders. We are chock full of bacteria in our mouths and guts. Do they get into our blood and kill us? Only rarely, with some horrible aggressive pathogen, injury, disease. right?
Yup, totally. Done that for millions of years. Done it with agricultural species for 5-10 thousand years. And, just like bacteria being "mostly sexless", we "mostly" never import DNA from those gut bacteria into our body's DNA, let alone our gonads' DNA. But like bacteria, there is probably a low rate at which it trickles across the gut barrier.
Before they discovered Agrobacterium plasmids, they would "transform" plant cells by just mixing raw DNA with the cells. Some found its way into the cell, into the nuclei, then crossed over into the DNA. Just a little. They sped it up a little by using (literally) a modified Crossman pellet gun to "blow" tiny fragments into the nuclei and let them diffuse from there.
I assume that something similar happens in the human gut, but at a rate to low to observe.
"Real" genetic engineering was born when someone remembered that Agrobacterium species had some efficient mechanism for inserting DNA INTO plant cell DNA. They identified the plasmid that does that (like a zipper that can unzip itself and then re-zip so that it is merged INTO the plant chromosome. Hey-presto!
Now they can transform plant cells some millions of times faster and easier. Sadly, the magic-zipper plasmid is carried along with the transgenes and are present in every cell of every GM crop. So it's presence in the environment has been multiplied by something like a billion-fold or trillion-fold.
And each plasmid in every cell in every plant in every GM field has "leftover" DNA sequences that happened to come "along for the ride" when someone extracted a trans-gene from any source whatsoever (plant, animal, fish, fowl, bacteria, fungus, virus or purely synthetic).
Bon apetite! That's where my "I don't know but think we're very safe" changes to "I don't know but Gee Howdy I wonder how this will play out over the next few hundred years!"
(They are called "transgenes" or "Frankengenes" when they came from a species other than the one plant itself, like "not-corn" genes.)
>> We live a century with a teeming horde of completely foreign genetic material right in our tummies.
"Completely foreign genetic material" ... but we have had time to evolve defenses to the stuff that we have been exposed to since we were all monkey's uncles.
However, really completely foreign genes that someone found in rare African frogs, or weird anaerobic microbes living in deep sea hot vents now ARE being inserted into food crops and being multiplied a billion-fold and spread across the globe and onto my dinner plate. We never evolved any resistance to that, or tested it's interaction with common human cold viruses.
I suppose the subconscious fear is that something like AIDS or contagious sterility or spontaneous combustion (to make things up from imagination) "might" pop out of some unexamined sequence of DNA that some researcher assumed was just harmless junk DNA.
I have a queasy feeling that I shouldn't even say that after labeling it as pure speculation or subconscious fear.
>> either something is GMO or not from "birth," and the concentration of this does not change - it stays at 100%.
I would say you are right. It is what is. Now, they might then decide to spray LOTS of Roundup on it if the Roundup won't kill the plant, but I still think that is better than 2,4D or dioxin.
On the other hand, they are inventing "stronger" and more varied GM genes. And they are combining more than one intentional change into each crop. Look for the words "double-stacked" or "triple-stacked" GE changes.
Newer varieties of GE crops might have more genes from outside the Plant Kingdom than older GE crops.
>> One thing that I stay clear of, though, is genetically-engineered seed.
Even though many seed vendors proudly announce that they do not knowingly sell any GM seeds, they are just blowing smoke up our skirts.
It is a little like boasting that they don't sell antimatter or plutonium. GM seeds are only sold wholesale to farmers, and there are or used to be heavy legal agreements that had to be signed before Monsato or other GE vendors would ALLOW you to buy their seed.
I don't think any mail order seed store or any store that supplies hobbyists and home gardeners is ABLE to sell any GM seeds.
(Some people feel strongly about growing even F1 hybrid seeds, since those can't be effectively saved from one crop to the next. They prefer OP and heirloom seeds. That's a valid choice, if you care about saving seeds or preserving heritage varieties of vegetables or plants. But hybridizing is so NOT Genetic Engineering!)
>> (Drift from one corn plant to another, which is way different from drift of a corn gene into a person)
Totally agree! And I'm not worried about the corn genes that we've been eating for 5,000 years. I'm worried about the ragged bits and trailing edges of DNA from "Frankengene libraries" that humans have never been significantly exposed to, before now.
>> Drift from one corn plant to another
And also from corn to weed (transferred RU resistance). And "genetic pollution" moving from arcane DNA libraries to crops to anything else in the plant kingdom that Agrobacterium plasmids can infect.
That environmental concern or "plant gene pool pollution" is more real to me than the human health risks. I totally expect weeds, crops and other plants to start acquiring whatever DNA Monsanto puts into large scale cultivation (intentionally or otherwise). Weeds have already picked up the RU resistance gene, and I bet a dollar that the antibiotic marker gene can now be found in plants and microbes that never had it before.
(BTW, that's one way we got "superbugs" - human pathogens with multiple antibiotic resistances, like MRSA. One species developed pretty good resistance. It jumped to other pathogen species and genera and gained resistance by combining with mechanisms from other microbes. "Generic antibiotic resistance" started to emerge that would pump almost ANY dangerous antibiotic out of the microbe. Then those "generic" pumps started spreading through hospital germ populations. Now there are human pathogens out there that have resistance to antibiotics we have not even invented yet, due to the generic nature of the pump mechanisms. When humans apply selective pressure like RoundUp or penicillin etc, nature responds almost faster than we can invent.)
>> RicCorey, I think you were speaking in the voice of the skeptic with your discussion of transfer of mutations.
Yes, exaggerating the "maybes". We can stretch things either way when we don't know: Monsanto can say a risk "is probably less than 0.000000001" but if I'm leaning towards caution I can say "but it might be greater than 0.0000001".
I think the only "fact" is that we are both speculating. When you don't know, you DON'T know.
When the discussion was only about human health damage from refined GMO ingredients my speculation was that "very very probably there are no effects".
When it was "do pigs eating 100% GMO fodder for most of their life get more stomach irritations than control pigs" my speculation was "I would have thought not, but there WAS that one study that either suggested that, or suggested that fodder with low levels of aflatoxins is not so good".
Now that it's "would Rick Corey eating GM whole apples and sweet corn and salmon ever notice a difference", my inclination is to say "probably not, but now my skepticism is triggered enough to ask for better proof before I shrug it off".
Actually, I'm old enough that I DARE Monsanto to market anything bad enough to hurt me detectably in my remaining years! Fat chance I should live THAT long! But I do care about everyone else!
Well! This thread has prompted me to start doing a bit more detailed research, so I've ordered through the library two books: 1) Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith, and 2) Mendel in the Kitchen, by Nina Federoff. One seems pro-GM, the other definitely anti-GM. Anyone have any other recommendations?
In reviewing both books on Amazon, I did come across one quotation supposedly from a Nobel laureate named George Wald: "The results will be essentially new organisms, self-perpetuating and hence permanent. Once created, they cannot be recalled" and "Up to now, living organisms have evolved very slowly and new forms have had plenty of time to settle in. Now whole proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism, or their neighbors."
I guess that remark sums up the best reason, at least to me, to be careful and skeptical about introducing GM crops into the "wild". On the other hand, new technologies always frighten some. I firmly believe that irrational fear destroyed the nuclear industry and now we live with coal plants spewing CO2 into the air (leading to climate change), not to mention making airborne far more radioactive isotopes than any nuclear plant could even begin to introduce. Even for a disaster like Fukushima, the release of radioactivity was small compared to coal plant emissions.
Anyway--this is a great thread. Thanks to you all for your comments.
Sentiments similar to those attributed to George Wald are what concern me, too.
I also wonder whatever happened to Aardvaark, who popped up early on this thread and said "OMG - having worked to develop GMOs in the past, I have always wondered when all the issues would finally get the publics attention. Glad to see folks are discussing and engaged."
We asked for more information but never got any. I'd be interested to know what he had in mind.
Yes, what about our grandchildren, and those who follow us?
I also think of the dangers of Fukashima Daiichi, and the constant leaking of radiation filled waters into the sea, and what it is doing to our planet, not just our own region, but the whole ecosystem, which to we are connected. They are not talking...afraid of what we would say or think...People are put in jail if they say anything public about it.
George Wald http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wald
died in 1997 at age 91- making a quote from him about GMO's perhaps not the best to support an argument. What do all the other Nobel scientists think?
Thanks for those links, greenhouse_gal! It's going to take me time to get around to them.
I've learned to be wary of journals with "open source" in their names, but good ideas can come from anywhere. Especially ideas about speculative processes.
There is so much passion on both sides that reading almost anything on either side requires a lot of skepticism and effort.
My own purely speculative concern is that the plasmids used to transform crop DNA with transgenes leave part of themselves IN the crop DNA. If those remnants are still enough to promote any amount of the plasmid plus payload popping out of the crop DNA and floating free as a plasmid again, or trnaferring to other crops or crop viruses or other parasites, they might become something analogous to a synthetic "jumping gene" and have a higher rate of transfer to other crops and weeds.
And every genetic modification carries some "junk DNA" or rather unintended sequences that just happened to be picked up along with the desired gene complexes. Not literally "junk DNA" in the technical sense of long repeat sequences.
"…..If those remnants are still enough to promote any amount of the plasmid plus payload popping out of the crop DNA and floating free as a plasmid again, or trnaferring to other crops or crop viruses or other parasites…or me..."
If that's possible, that concerns me too. I would like to see that specific question addressed somewhere.
The thing is that this DNA doesn't behave like the DNA we know and love, and with which we evolved. No one really knows what it will do once it gets into the environment. So all bets are off. Those articles indicate that there is some horizontal gene transfer, despite the insistence of the promoters that that can't happen. And they probably sincerely believed it couldn't. So what else is going on that they're not aware of?
>> Horizontal gene transfer and recombination is the main route for generating new pathogens and spreading antibiotic and drug resistance, and genetic engineering is nothing if not greatly facilitated horizontal gene transfer and recombination.
That killed my sympathy for them and any potential trust dead in its tracks. It's by far the sleaziest thing they said.
They seem willing to play fast and loose with using words one way in one place and a totally different way later as if to drum up confusion and fear:
>> is the main route for generating new pathogens and spreading antibiotic and drug resistance
(Like saying that natural bacteria transfer and recombine DNA "horizontally" all the time - mostly within the species or genus - like conjugation)
>> genetic engineering is nothing if not greatly facilitated horizontal gene transfer
(B.S. plus it confuses "genetic engineering" inside the lab with what crops do in the field after the GE is over)
So they may be right and may even have some evidence, but if so, I'll look at the evidence, not any conclusions they push.
- - -
>> Furthermore, there are indeed reasons to suspect transgenic DNA is more likely to transfer horizontally and recombine than natural DNA (see Box adapted from  Living with the Fluid Genome, ISIS publication), and this has been borne out by accumulating evidence, even though dedicated research is still extremely rare.
Fine, good, that Box is what I'm looking for. Do you see it in this article? I can't find it.
Geeze, wait a minute! They have numbers for their references, but they do not LIST the references in the article??!??
And the link takes me to an ad for what looks like a tear-jerking fear-mongering "personal" whine.
BZZT, that takes them AND all ISIS publications off the list that I would willingly spend time reading.
That's McCarthyism, "I have here in my hands a list of 50 Communists in the State Department" ... blank paper.
I have to remind myself not to use "argument ad hominem" and think that the theory is disproved because its advocates will stoop to propaganda.
Funny - they keep beating their own drum like "we've been warning people about this for YEARS" as if that would make people agree with them by itself. No, if they have been pushing their theory for years and no one reputable agrees, that makes it LESS believable. Not wrong, just less likely.
It sounds like ISIS is also very into agreeing with itself, and mostly citing its own people to support each other. I usually call that "huffing their own flatulence", thinking that they don't stink.
In any kind of academic research, whining that the people who already agree with you think you're right is a red flag to look more closely at the choir that's singing in unison. Check twice for things that would persuade people who are NOT already committed enthusiasts.
They spend several pages of text to assert what I already speculated, that the Agrobacter plasmid MIGHT promote cross-species transformation - speculation is cheap, but at least if you read closely, there are the weasel words that actually mean "I'm making this up and most of what I'm saying could have phrased as "it's not IMPOSSIBLE that the following COULD happen", though they do make it sound like lots and lots of this surely IS happeneing!".
And agreeing with me is no big plus! Like Groucho Marx, I worry about any club that would have ME as a member! (Partly kidding.)
>> The borders of the most commonly used vector for transgenic plants, the T-DNA of Agrobacterium, are recombination hotspots (sites that tend to break and join).
>> 6. Transgenic constructs tend to integrate at recombination hotspots in the genome, which again, would tend to increase the chances that they will disintegrate and transfer horizontally .
Kind of saying the same thing.
>> 7. Transgenic DNA often has other genetic signals, such as the origin of replication left over from the plasmid vector. These are also recombination hotspots, and in addition, can enable the transgenic DNA to be replicated independently as a plasmid that is readily transferred horizontally among bacteria and other cells.
Kind of the definition of a plasmid ... not quite.
>> CaMV 35S promoter active in all species including human cells
They cite this as a hazard of GM plasmids ... while saying that most normal cells have the same thing. That seems a contradiction. Maybe I misunderstood those paragraphs.
Scanning the rest, it seems very repetitive while changing the words slightly, as if to imply that each paragraph is a new reason to agree with them.
>> There, Agrobacterium could multiply and transfer transgenic DNA to other bacteria, as well as to the next crop to be planted. These possibilities have yet to be investigated empirically.
>> this has been borne out by accumulating evidence, even though dedicated research is still extremely rare.
I can't really say without seeing the sources that they "cite" without naming them. But the text that I read is almost entirely "could" and "might" and mostly from ISIS or SiS. After a few things I read here, I can't take their word for anything even though it supports my own speculation.
I think the strongest thing I could conclude if I accepted most of their arguments for GE plasmids promoting "jumping genes" or "horizontal transfer" is that they keep citing examples from nature where those things happen, and saying that GE plasmids are "like that".
But, if that is their strongest argument, they are saying that inter-species "horizontal transfer" is already occurring everywhere. If true, then the similar risk from GMOs is only a little more of the same thing we've already had since vascular plants, bacteria, and animals all existed.
All the claims about preexisting natural mechanisms whipping genes in and out of mammalian DNA from various sources was really interesting, and plays into thoguhts I've had since high school, though more often about bacteria than humans. However, since they hide their sources and clearly have an agenda and are not above playing with words to make white sound blacker, I can't believe that what they say is even honest speculation by people who know a lot more than I do.
They might be right, and well-intentioned and only huffing and puffing accidently.
They might be wrong and darned liars.
Or they might right and weakening their own cause (AND the truth) by advancing it in a dishonest way.
It was the most interesting thing I've read on the subject in years, but I have to file it under "maybe true, maybe science fiction, and maybe a darn lie".
It's a shame that there isn't more peer-reviewed science out there to discuss these issues. Usually when I see a paper like that being promoted I look for the original site which would have the references and all the rest of the material, but I didn't do that here. And maybe there IS no original site. Still, I think there's an increasing concern out there, for whatever reason, and there's some good research to back it up based on everything I've read. I don't mind being cautious. For example, I never bought a piece of cookware with Teflon because I didn't trust it, and it turns out that I was right.
>> It's a shame that there isn't more peer-reviewed science out there to discuss these issues.
I don't think it's a conspiracy by Monsanto-like companies to suppress research.
1. it's hard to research (or get funding, or get past peer reviews) with speculative things like "maybe eventually ..." or "what if something like"
2. Long-term studies are expensive and hard to do in a really tightly controlled way.
3. Almost any tests of things that are rare (like "genetic pollution" or cross-over into other species or the toxic effects of things that are not VERY toxic) tend to be inconclusive which makes fundign and peer review difficult.
4. Research likely to immediately benefit some group with money is most likely to be funded. Drug firms pay to have their new drugs tested. Monsanto pays for testing that seems likely to show no bad effects.
I suppose in principle the "organic farming lobby" or "healthy food lobby" would pay for testing likely to show hazards of GMOs. But do those lobbies exist and are they well-funded (which is to say, do they have rich backers or turn a big profit themselves?)
I'm cynical about politics and think that government funding tends to go in directions that make well-funded lobbyists donate to political campaigns.
To the extent that the FDA or EPA are non-political, they might fund "anti-industry" testing ... but will still only fund "good science" which means testing for things that are relatively easy to find and prove.
I think my last few posts have been pretty anti-GMO, at least about eating entire GE organisms. I should repeat that even though I support "truth in labeling", I think my reluctance to eat GM corn, apples and salmon is somewhat superstitious and not well-supported by any research.
My perceived, possible, slight risk to the "genetic environment" is also speculative. The idea that you MIGHT get some "horizontal drift" of transgenes still does not suggest that they could go from the body (let's say the gut, or microbes and viruses) specifically into gonads and gametes. If they can't do that, the risk to humans is still negligible: things that happen once in a billion times to body tissue is so much less risky than crossing the street that it's not worth thinking about.
Crop genetic drift, and weed genetic drift (plus selection by RoundUp) is a real likelihood. However, even there, I think the biggest risk to agriculture comes from Monsanto lawyers, not transgenes and GE! Cornering the market on seed sources is, all by itself, a huge and real harm to all mankind. No matter how good those 5-10 crops are, all the risks of monocrop agriculture are multiplied when you talk about mono-cropping the whole planet!
That link you gave was the ONLY thing in print I've ever seen outside of science fiction that wandered down the same speculative paths, and I don't know how much to trust anyone who claims to have sources but won't show them.
When you get right down to it, I want to plant what the good Lord gave me. I love the satisfactory feeling of giving what I produce to my friends and family, with a clear conscience. This is why this discussion is so interesting to me. In fact, I believe it should get the highest rating of any discussion in Dave's Garden, if there IS such a thing. And should there be? Methinks so.
Just saw this today in Huffington Post. It refers to several studies that I think I've mentioned here or in the previous thread on GMOs. Very interesting, especially since GMO-promoters like to label GMO-objectors as anti-science:
I want to second greenhouse_gal's comment. The quotation from George Wald simply expressed my biggest concern re GM. I am most definitely NOT using it to support an argument, especially since I don't even know which side of the argument I support! :«)
As for tsunamis, evelyn_inthegarden seemed to suggest a perhaps nefarious cause for the Fukushima tsunami, so I was looking for an explanation.
Gracye, you are right. This is an excellent exchange. Thanks especially to rickcorey and greenhouse gal for keeping it alive and informative. I hope others with insights and experience in the field will weigh in.
>> Ironically, none of the criticisms called for more research on the effects of Bt crops on the environment, a testament to the unusual response and unscientific perspective of GMO proponents.
That is telling. I think the most frequently expressed scientific opinion of all time is that whatever-it-is would benefit from more study.
That's like a doctor telling to get at least moderate exericse and not over-eat.
Not to defend Monsanto for attacking science, but rather to suggest that peripheral evidence hints that it is the kind of thing they would do, I'll mention that they've gotten legislators to pass a law prtocting them from being sued over soimeting (I forget exactly what).
I recall thinking at the time that it was so blatent and indefensiible that it was like them putting up a billboard saying "we could make Congress vote for killing kittens".
There are also allegations (that i beleieved quickly, perhqps with slight evidence) that Monsanto lawyers would nuisance-sue anyone who "got in their way".
Since this thread is trying for objectivivity, I should be citing links to support those claims but I don't have them.
Anyway, please let me reverse what I said earlier:
>> I don't think it's a conspiracy by Monsanto-like companies to suppress research.
They can't prevent research, but they can make it more difficult to get funding and intimidate some researchers.
Probably they can intimidate any organization whose funding is influenced by legislators who need campaign funds. And that would be all federally funded research.
And making life harder and more expensive for journals might deter them for publishing marginal research. But, my guess is, they are meanwhile making those journals' staffs and researchers in related fields FURIOUS, so that if and when any clearly persuasive research IS reported, it will be fast-tracked into publication and widely quoted.
I agree this has been a very interesting discussion, but i believe it reveals more about Human nature, fear of the unknown, closed minds, and lack of common sense than it does about the possible dangers of GMO.
Every living organism continually changes and adapts, whether by climate change, evolution, lack of survival of the least fit, or by human manipulation. And as those changes occur, Survivors adapt, so there is no logical reason why one more change should induce all the panic that the GMO has.
It was only a few years ago that feeding Growth Hormone to milk cows was going to wipe us all out, panic ensued, but nothing happened. Some dairies stopped using it to placate the noisy few, but most of the milk still contains traces of it.
So, until something bad does happen, i am going to remain skeptical.
I agree this has been a very interesting discussion, but i believe it reveals more about Human nature, fear of the unknown, closed minds, and lack of common sense than it does about the possible dangers of GMO.
10 rats per group - if he can get actually significant results out of that small a sample, he must be looking at something grossly obvious, which I don't think the Bt change is.
>> MON 810 (Monsanto) borer resistance trait
I wonder if this is something other than the widely used Bt gene? ... no, a quick Internet search suggests that it is only the Bt change.
I wonder how he can get results that sound so different from everyone else's?
It looks like Ajeeb is a big fan of organ weight and serum enzymes for detecting otherwise-undetectable changes. I guess that is different. Good for him! Look in a new way, maybe find a new thing.
If those two tests DO have any real validity, I hope that he, or someone, repeats the test with a non-joke number of rats.
If these changes do mean anything significant, and do turn out to be repeatable, they would hopefully point at some mechanism of organ damage that Ajeeb did not even speculate about. Or point towards anything that could be looked for in more informative ways.
Hmm, it looks like the changes are really slight. I wish Tables 2 & 3 had columns for "% change" and "% variation" expressed either as range or 2-3 SD.
Honk! The "=/-" numbers in the table are only ONE SD! So the likelihood of the 'real" number being outside the listed range are what, something like 13%?
He was very honest to cite this other study, where the author criticized his own results for only being twice as meaningful as Ajeebs! (if I understand the Table comments about +/- SD and P> (Hammond et al., 2004) ... decided that these differences not considered being test article related as they were of small magnitude and fell within ±2SD of the mean of the reference groups.
I agree with Hammond et al.! 2 Standard Deviations are not much. In theory, "95%" is "statistically significant" but it wouldn't give me any conidence that repeating the test would get the same result.
If Ajeeb is using a "ONE SD" criterion on a small-sample test (ten rats per group) to decide that he was seeing an "actual difference" as distinct from a "statistical difference", I would criticize him.
But he is saying "statistical difference", not "meaningful difference". You can use any kind of statistics that you want, as long as you don't claim that they also indicate anything meaningful.
His Tables suggest that he using some kind of "one sigma, small sample statistics". which sound to me like lame bunkum. I might be wrong.
But his conclusions are modest, and I wouldn't argue with them.
>> "These findings indicate potential adverse health/toxic effects of GM corn and further investigations still needed."
"Potential" is true until conclusively and unarguably proven otherwise. There are "potential" adverse effects in the presence or complete absence of this study. And further investigations are always needed.
The valuable thing that i see here are two methodologies: organ weight / body weight ratios, and looking at levels of certain things in serum that might indicate certain specific kinds of damage.
(The introduction sounded like what any research group says to defend its favorite methodology. If it was widely accepted as meaningful, they wouldn't have defended it, they would have just named it. So I think in part they are "advertising" their organ-weight-and-serum-chemicals method by using it on something that will get them publicity: Bt corn. Much like Seneff, the MIT computer scientist who promoted her hobbyhorse "exogenous semiotic entropy" by talking about (not doing any lab work on) Roundup in the "open source journal" Entropy.)
IF someone can repeat those tests and get results that are "actually significant" using normal, plausible statistics and useful numbers of animals, then those tests would be shown to be more sensitive to something that no one else has seen clearly. THEN people could go looking for what that effect really is, what makes it better or worse, and eventually what the mechanism is.
Alternatively, this paper might be just a wish to publish, plus totally expectable numeric fluctuations in a tiny number of lab animals.
I have also enjoyed reading everyones perspectives. As an agricultural scientist I havent found any data yet to support any harmful affects to humans. But I also respect those who oppose the technology for whatever reason. It does seem silly when there are those just hoping they will come along and find that one study that shows some harm somewhere. But thats what happens when we get on the emotional or moral thinking of things instead of looking objectively at what the potential benefits this can really provide to society. Its more of a feeling than facts. How can you argue with someones feelings? You cant.
We really need to control this toxic compound...much more dangerous than any GMO is dihydrogen monoxide which is a corosive etc. I'm not sure why the EPA isn't doing more. There are lots of studies to show all of its harmful and negative effects.
NPR discussing the chemical spill in WV, described a bit about passage of environmental laws in the 70s and that there are tens of thousands of chemicals in industrial use for which little or no safety research exists.
What if we had known how many deaths would be caused by automobiles, as cars were first marketed?
Greenhousegal...you are on the side of big water...the water companies with their monopolies? That are pumping dihydrogen monoxide into our homes? And gouging us with those high water bills in summer lol
Actually much of what we read out there can be presented in a way that can be pretty convincing. But water is pretty deadly when you think of all the harm it causes and drowndings etc. It causes things to rust and soil to erode etc. Even though it is necessary to sustain life I am surprised there arent some anti water folks out there.
To me being anti water would have more merit than anti GMO. Its proven water is dangerous and that it kills numerous people each year.
But GMO's havent killed anyone.
Organic crops have killed many folks with fecal laced greens or vomitoxins in grain but nobody seems opposed to it...in fact organic is promoted as being healthier...which again scientific studies have not been able to prove.
I just think that often emotions get in the way of facts. I think some folks want to incite fear. The dihydrogen monoxide link is just one example.
HAppy gardening everyone! I cant wait for spring to arrive.
Don't take offense at my sarcasm...I know water is very valuable. I grew up in California and I know most of the west is currently in a drought condition. Im not really in support of an anti water movement.
My point really wasn't to make water "bad". My point is that it is always interesting to me when certain industries or technologies or chemicals are attacked while others are not. And often how huge movements arise that are often based off of nothing but fear and peoples emotions and in many cases plain fiction.
There are often far more hazardous things around us in our daily lives that should concern us much more.
I have to chime in with support of drobarr (not that he needs it) but i agree; it's funny that many people accept and ignore plenty of proven daily risks, while getting worried about perceived possible, unproven ones.
(Not including greenhousegal or others who want to be cautious and who try very hard to form an educated opinion on these possible risks.)
Raise your hand if you
-ate high fat food today
-ate less than your five fruits and veggies today
-rode in a car (the dumb driver next to you)
-did not exercise three hours this week...
(I raised five hands...)
sallyg - wanna come over and garden with me? Between the two of us. we have 9 handsies...that's alot of pickin' and shovelin'...oh, one day, it'll be time to get out there and do these things! Right now, we're looking at Wednesday being 16 degrees at the low...
[quote="Gracye"]sallyg - wanna come over and garden with me? Between the two of us. we have 9 handsies...that's alot of pickin' and shovelin'...oh, one day, it'll be time to get out there and do these things! Right now, we're looking at Wednesday being 16 degrees at the low...[/quote]
hahahahaha...hee, hee...LOL!! Cartwheels in the snow???
I received a copy of "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffrey Smith after ordering it thru the library system and I am still waiting for the other book, "Mendel in the Kitchen", to arrive. As for "Deception", what a piece of crap! I started reading and was immediately put off by the general tone. GMO proponents are always "admitting", "forced to admit", etc. They are always conspiring and lying. Even the FDA is nothing but a bunch of crooks determined to inflict harmful foods on an unsuspecting public while feeding greedily from Monsanto's teat. GMO opponents, on the other hand, tend to be rather upright, almost angelic. Monsanto feed GMO crops to rats, many die, and both Monsanto and the FDA just look the other way. The stories Smith tells just don't ring true. People, even "greedy capitalists", just don't behave the way Smith describes. I cannot recommend avoiding this book strongly enough. If you must read it, get a copy thru the library. Don't put another nickel in this man's pocket.
Since I smelled a rat, I Googled Jeffrey Smith. It turns out that he was a big promoter of "Yoga flying" in the mid-1990s. Smith has zero scientific credentials. Here is a great take-down video of Smith by some fellow: http://theprogressivecontrarian.com/2012/10/02/deconstructing-jeffrey-smith-yogic-flyer-dance-teacher-and-gmo-expert/. The video is almost an hour long, it's far from professionally produced, and it includes a touch of "vehement" language, but it really illustrates what a charlatan can do to influence a generally ignorant (I mean that in an objective way, not as a slur. I include myself in the ignorant category.) public. The video maker deconstructs a Smith TV interview almost line by line to give a sense of how deceitful Smith is. Watch it! You'll even get to see Smith "in flight"!!
As I dig deeper into the GMO controversy, and even into the organic vs. chemical debate, I find a lot of folks with strong opinions, but very few actual facts. Much of this stuff is more like politics than science. The other guy doesn't just have a different opinion than you, but, by golly, he's just damned evil.
To repeat--do not buy this book. DO NOT put money in this man's wallet.
From what I have heard about Jeff Smith he doesn't have the background to assess the relevant research on GMOs, pro or con. I'm not surprised that his book turned you off. But it still doesn't mean that GMOs are harmless, just as he can't demonstrate that they can cause harm.
I think you have a really good point. There ARE hazards that provably DO cause widespread harm every day. But because we are used to them, and we could have control over them, we accept them calmly and even ignore them to our own harm.
At least diet and exercise are under our control. I don't know about finding a job and an affordable home within walking distance of each other!
I can see two reasons to have strong feelings about foods made from GMOs.
We are NOT used to eating plants with bacterial DNA grafted into them, or salmon with (?? cow??) DNA. That is new and different and it feels very intimate to be eating them.
What re-assurance is there? Not every one is a science groupie or trusts scientists as a group.
Many people have little or no trust for politicians, marketing people or (it sounds like) scientists whose funding comes either from the industry or from government agencies. i think the point is well taken that, based on the popular press and popular impressions, "they" told us not to worry about DDT, thalidomide, radioactive fallout or cigarettes.
"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. " Some time around Vietnam, scientists became Bad Guys to a lot of people. Perhaps it was a recoil from Pangloss and Boosterism, perhaps '70s era anti-establishment-ism.
Second, unless you can afford the cost and time to eat organic, and in the absence of GMO food labeling laws, it is or seems to be outside our control to find food that is not from GMO ingredients. That's infuriating.
If you have to take someone else's word for something uncomfortable, that's bad enough.
If you didn't trust them to begin with, it's terrible.
if you then have no choice in the matter, strong feelings are understandable.
As with several other posts: How people feel doesn't prove or disprove food safety at all. Emotions being understandable doesn't make a fear reasonable or complacency reasonable. The existence of some many pathetic propagandists on both sides doesn't disprove either side.
I think the success of normal food testing ("many animals and people ate it and didn't get visibly sick or fall down dead any time soon") and the implausibility of the suggested mechanisms for hidden, subtle harm throw the balance of belief onto the side of "GMO foods we've seen so far either aren't very bad or are pretty safe".
I can't argue with the idea that "we don't KNOW the long-term human health effects", especially with GE crops not yet released, where humans will eat the whole thing (mangiatutto GMOs).
I seriously wonder what the long-term ecological consequences will be of accelerating the tendency towards a global mono-crop style of agriculture (loss of genetic diversity in available crops).
My own emotional threshold of new-thing-discomfort is crossed when I expect to see unlabelled GE apples, sweet corn and salmon in supermarkets. The fact that we can't get labeling laws past a money-controlled political system infuriates me.
Addendum to my earlier post: I did not read the entire book. It was tedious and boring and obviously full of $%#@!&(*^. Perhaps if I believed Smith's claims, I would have been enthralled and riveted by it. Second point: the book is copyrighted in 2003, at which time Smith claims rats are dropping like flies and many humans are becoming sickened, some severely. Here we are, more than ten years later and there are no valid claims that GM crops cause disease. No human has died from eating GM crops, at least that I'm aware of. Virtually everyone in the country eats GM crops and no issues yet?
greenhouse_gal, I think you and I share a common suspicion that the introduction of GM crops might have unintended consequences--what I have referred to as the "rabbits in Australia" problem. For me, there is not a way to evaluate this potential problem. No amount of testing can assure us that if--I should say when--these genes end up in "the wild" that there will be no negative consequences. On the other hand, I doubt that, whatever the "escaped" genes do, it will not mean the end of the world. It will just mean more problems to deal with and, hey, that's really what life is anyway, eh?
Anyway, back to Smith. He is a very influential anti-GM author and speaker, perhaps the most influential. Many people buy his crap--and it is crap--at face value. His book is rated at well over four stars on Amazon. I know one person who regularly reads his web site and passes his crap to everyone she knows. Here's my bottom line, whether or not Smith is a good scientist, he is a bright man. If there was substantial evidence of harm from GMOs, he would have used it. Instead, there was no valid evidence at the time he wrote the book, and probably still is none, so he resorted to using poor studies, exaggeration, and anecdotal evidence so he could sell some books and go on paid speaking tours. Please everyone, watch the video I referenced. It's quite an education in how we can all be hoodwinked.
Whew--no ill intent meant here, but I really got wound up. I am very disappointed that a book I expected to give me some sensible, accurate information came from a fool who once tried to convince the public that he, and the public, could fly. If anyone knows of a good book that examines the downside of GM crops, I'd appreciate you passing the title on.
If I'm to be totally honest, personally-
I feel that it is plausible that unintended transfers will occur, I don't trust those GMO plasmids to stay in place forever but that there's no way GMOs are going to stop now,
"whatever the "escaped" genes do, it will not mean the end of the world. It will just mean more problems to deal with and, hey, that's really what life is anyway, eh?"
I don't know if labeling would make me choose or not choose a food item.
This is such a great discussion; I really appreciate the respect and open-mindedness being displayed on this thread. Just came across another article to throw out here for review. It seems fairly well researched but I'm not a scientist. Rick, what do you think?
Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article/op-ed (Page A15) on the General Mills decision to create a GMO-free version of Cheerios. I can't link to it since access is limited to WSJ subscribers. Interestingly, GMO critics are quoted as belittling General Mills for its effort.
I will read that, but screeched to a halt at this sentence:
''In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. - ''
say WHAT? Explain please! You can't mean that of the entire mass of the blood sample, there is more plant than human. Can you?
" In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The plant DNA concentration shows a surprisingly precise log-normal distribution in the plasma samples while non-plasma (cord blood) control sample was found to be free of plant DNA.” (0)" Ok, better--that doesn't say the plant DNA is all GMO=plant DNA, maybe this is how digestion has gone on for millenia. Still want to understand how they measure 'amount' of DNA in blood sample.
" microbes found in the small bowel of people with ilestomy are capable of acquiring and harboring DNA sequences from GM plants." Ok- are microbes in the small bowel capable of acquiring DNA from ALL plants? Is this again something that's gone on forever?
" fact that DNA from GM foods can be transferred to humans and animals, " Define transferred, and specify in what way. again, is all plant DNA transferred, is this actually a normal part of digestion?
I'm just saying, there are ways to say things that leave the reader able to make assumptions based on his/her pre-read position. Pointing out that DNA transfers from crops to weeds, can lead some people to think transfer to humans is just as easy. I say that is not credible.
So what I'm saying is, this title
Confirmed: DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them -
will be read as some to say
It's Been Proven that GMO DNA is Altering Human working Dna and causing mutations
Very detailed and I can't find a criticism (but I'm no RicCorey)
Interesting sentence page 51
"One explanation for the (stomach) inflammation results could lie with the Cry 3Bb1 and Cry 1Ab
proteins that these GM corn varieties are engineered to produce"
So it may be a protein causing the inflammation, not the actual genetic material doing something to the stomach. To me, an interesting difference, but if MY stomach was inflamed I guess that wouldn't matter.
Ah America! Land of the Free (opinions)...Yoga Flying? Where was I when this started up? Can I sign up fer it somewhere? And while I'm up there, guaranteed I'll meet up with some flyin' saucers...yippee!
I LOVE this thread!
Hey, some guy in Texas claims to have shot Bigfoot, so now all we have left is the Loch Ness Monster. Better get to Scotland before Nessie is gone too. I hear they make some decent whiskey. Scotch and haggis, YUM-O!
I'm going to have to go back and read that when I have more time and more objectivity. The Frankenface on the ear of corn, and the cute little child suggest propaganda to me.
Another prejudice trigger for me:
>> PLOS is an open access ... journal
The website's banner and mission want to "expand my way of thinking" so that I will "begin thinking consciously about what it means to be a human on the planet".
The ads are about testosterone boosters, how to become a (title case) Expert Lucid Dreamer, and an 88 year old yoga teacher sharing her "secret" to never ending energy ...
They say they are "one of the worlds most popular alternative media" and they have the biggest and most persistent Facebook banner I've ever seen. I don't see any pictures of wind chimes, but there was an article about "joining the movement" (cannabis). And one titled " Psychedelics Don’t Harm Mental Health; They Improve It ".
These are ALL popular topics among a group of people who often pooh-pooh analytical thinking altogether. I'm not saying I'm not [u]interested[/u] in those two articles, but if some Journal of Extreme Technical Specialization boasted all of those together on its TITLE page, I would be a little skeptical of their attention to mundane detail and mundane logic.
Does "Collective evolution" even believe in the scientific method? I'm somewhat into New Age spirituality, but my Skeptic Meter pegs when I think I'm encountering someone's idea of "New Age Science". After I expand my consciousness, I want to [u]come back down[/u] before I rely on my analytical faculties or operate heavy machinery.
As I say, I need to feel more objective about them before reading the article, to give them a fair chance. When I know I have an ufair bias, I do try at least somewhat to balance it off.
One friend of a friend IS mixing New Age consciousness and traditional science, but I trust her scientific training and integrity, so I'm interested in what she can do with the combination.
But a website I've never gone to before, that starts out mooning about so many "alternative" topics has to earn my respect back after abusing it.
But if you recommend it, I will try when I have time. "Collective Evolution" should have an interesting take on speculative horizontal gene transfer ... but if they play as fast and loose with facts, logic and language as all of the other strongly New Age - flavored and 'alternative-flavored" websites have turned out to be, so far, I would trust any of their claims without completely independent sources.
The " stomach inflammation" article sounds like the best study I've read yet. I assume it's the same one that I read and reviewed a few weeks or months ago, maybe in some other thread.
It was long term, and done with actual GM fodder, not artificial concentrates or extracts of triple-stacked bacterial products. They did point out, somewhere, that they were doing autopsies more detailed than ever before done for animal studies (they didn't go that far, but they stressed that they were looking closer than your average lab study). They also did cytological studies on blood cells that I couldn't evaluate (but it sounded to me like their lab's specialty).
The results they found, I thought were very subtle, even though it was cited somewhere with a headline like "Study proves GMOs cause leukemia". Monsanto could have spun it like "well-conducted long term study only found trivially minor changes due to GMO fodder in pigs". That wouldn't be fair: THIS study, I thought, genuinely DID point out some things that should be pursued with similar expensive and long-running studies. Or maybe experts know to dismiss minor gut irritation and cytological studies for reasons I don't know - but this was the first study that seemed honest and interesting to me.
One weakness - they did take one big batch of of GM fodder at the beginning of the study and used that for the whole study. I THINK the control feed was GMO-free but (perhaps) fresher. In any event, they documented levels of aflatoxins and other nasty toxins that form when fodder has certain mold fungi (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus,) I thought it was possible that the GM fodder was accidentally stored poorly, got moldy, and caused stomach irritation.
They made the point that the levels of tested-for toxins would have easily passed legal standards for pig fodder, but no test for determining such standards would have been as demanding as the test they were performing. They might well have spent tons of money to find a more sensitive way to test for damage caused by normal or legal pig-fodder-storage methods.
That's one small example of why long-term animal studies can be difficult. Drug testing in rats and mice was ALL hooey until someone realized that using CEDAR CHIPS in their cages activated production of certain enzymes that invalidated all the tests being done. Talk about phase of the Moon!
I respect the first source for saying this:
"There are many, sometimes contradicting, theories concerning the release of cfDNA and its distribution in the body. Also, we are only at the first steps to uncover the cellular and molecular mechanisms that transfers cfDNA from cells to blood."
DNA from consumed food is usually not considered as a possible source of cfDNA since during food digestion all macromolecules are thought to be degraded to elementary constituents such as amino acids and nucleotides, which are then transferred to the circulatory system through several complex active processes . Though, there are animal studies, mainly focusing on the GMO issue , supporting the idea that small fragments of nucleic acids may pass to the bloodstream and even get into various tissues. For example foreign DNA fragments were detected by PCR based techniques in the digestive tract and leukocytes of rainbow trouts fed by genetically modified soybean , and other studies report similar results in goats , pigs ,  and mice ."
I finally found the Source #0 (PLOS) pargrapoh where they assert their conclusion.
I did not understand the text they used to support that claim:
"The number of aligning short reads shows large differences between the various samples (see Table 2). Most of the matches are in the 1st fraction of IBD that contains the longest (10 kb) intact DNA segments. This is surprising in the light of the current paradigm , which assumes that during digestion and absorption DNA is degraded to nucleotides. Our results show that not just some of the DNA can avoid the complete degradation, but fragments large enough to carry complete genes can pass from the digestive tract to blood. "
They are clearly saying "this must happen all the time with normal plants"
I guess they are implying that if a whole gene might get from the gut into blood circulation (which surprises everyone), a transgene or genetically modified gene could get into our blood circulation.
Then implying that it could cross over into white blood cells or blood vessel walls. I'm OK with saying "COULD", or "potentially could".
But if this is happening all the time with plant and bacterial genes, the risk seems like an evolutionarily familiar one.
Except for the idea of plasmid promoter regions, "zippers", alleged fragility and so on.
If true, the chain of unlikely events that would be needed for GE genes to make it all the way from a crop into human gonads is one step shorter (the gut wall DOES sometimes pass lengths of DNA into the blood).
To be excessively cynical, speculate that the paper might have floated around for a while, being rejected for a variety of reasons, despite being pretty good. But papers that just chew over data from other papers must have an uphill struggle to get published.
Then suppose the authors got the idea of adding a headline about "COMPLETE GENES might enter your bloodstream" and puffing up the results a little where a fraction of DNA looked surprisingly big. Then they submitted to a New Agey "Collective Evolution popular medium" that was delighted to have a staff author puff it up much more and put a Frankenstein face on it.
Anyway, I hope someone does confirm that whole DNA or other macromolecules can pass through the gut! And put some numbers on it, like one part per billion or one part per trillion. And make sure that it applies to non-cabncer patients. That would be new knowledge (if true). Then find the mechanism.
My pleasure, Rick. And thanks for the analysis! I agree it was a bit New-Age-y in its packaging, and those sources are always suspect. Usually I try to find the original research and put in a link for that so that it's not tainted by sites with a specific point to make. But in this case I just copied it and posted it here.
I do think the whole issue with discrediting Seralini (the guy with the rat tumors) is fascinating; a lot of scientists are saying that the only reason to withdraw a study is fraud or errors, neither of which was the case here. But time will tell what happens with that one. I do know that the EU is having scientists attempt to replicate his work, so at least they're taking it seriously to that extent.
No matter how flawed, a paper that causes other people to prove something interesting is a valuable paper!
I guess that makes even the sleazy "open source" journals valuable. I just have trouble getting over my resentment when something looks like a scientific paper, but oozes with bias and intentional misleading text, or even propaganda.
>> Usually I try to find the original research
I agree that that's the way to get past people who deliberately misrepresent studies to support their own hobby horse.
Say, I found some links over in Cubits that claim that barcodes on fruits and vegetables already document whether an apple is GM, or was grown organically, or grown "traditionally, presumably with pesticides.
But by now my skepticism knows no bounds! What if an evil conspiracy is just spreading Internet rumors, and the "8xxxx" barcodes mean something totally different, or are never used at all? That would get us to buy GE crops, thinking they were not!
Or, more likely, there are loopholes, or the labeling scheme might even be voluntary.
Rick, I had read about the bar codes a while ago, but I don't see how they can reflect whether there are small amounts of GMO foods in the form of for example canola oil or corn starch. Sometimes even the food producer isn't sure which ingredients have gone into their product. For me it's much safer to go either organic or look for the GMO-free symbol on a package. I wish I had a source of organic pork, though. Meats are a problem for us.
Here's another interesting study comparing the proteins in GMO vs. non-GMO corn. This one is from Brazil. It discusses the differences found and their implications as a baseline for further research.
Here's the ever present challenge to the general public- Finally we get our hands on something that looks (to me) completely scientific and unbiased. And I can barely understand it for the depth of technical language.
The conclusion is "...the genome changes in GM maize may have an impact on the gene expression, but with a significant environment modulation. Nonetheless, the detection of changes in protein profiles does not present a safety issue per se; therefore, further studies should be conducted in order to address the biological relevance and implications of such changes."
Or, I think can be restated--they find (chemical, metabolic) measurable differences in the plant parts of GMO plants, which vary significantly with the growing environment of those plants.
Pretty much, Sally. They're saying that gene changes can affect phenotype, or the appearance of certain traits, but so far it's unknown whether that can cause a safety issue currently or in the future, so more study is required.
Ok, so as I read the "plosone" paper, it says (to me, a non-biologist) that whole DNA might be able to "get into" the blood stream. I don't see this in anyway as a connection to GMOs. If it's true, it's been happening "forever" and is something creatures deal with all the time. I think, if my understanding is correct, that an organism wouldn't know genetically spliced DNA from any other DNA, so there'd be no preferential transfer of only spliced-in DNA, and, furthermore, it seems to me that all of the DNA in a GMO that is spliced-in, as opposed to "original", has come from another organism that we've likely eaten all our lives.. For instance, if the crop you eat is a bt GMO crop, you've been eating bt bacteria all your life (YUM-O) and you've been eating soy all your life, so the fact they are combined in one organism (the soy) rather than two (the bacteria and the soy) seems irrelevant in terms of creating some new "threat".
Willy, that is pretty much as I am seeing it. Slight difference, maybe.
I would say for myself, whole DNA MAY have been getting into our bloodstream all along ( we may not have known cuz we didn't look) . And the addition of the plasmids (?) that make gene insertion possible is a new variable, which may or may not change that. Have the plasmids made the DNA-to-blood possible? Could the plasmids make DNA in blood able to further be inserted into other body cells?
>> whole DNA MAY have been getting into our bloodstream all along ( we may not have known cuz we didn't look) .
>> And the addition of the plasmids (?) that make gene insertion possible is a new variable, which may or may not change that.
I agree: maybe, maybe not. That is really real science: every possible answer opens more questions than were resolved.
>> Have the plasmids made the DNA-to-blood possible?
Almost certainly not. Most (or all?) of the macromolecules they mentioned were unrelated to the GM transgenes so they were from entire whole other parts of the chromosomes.
>> Could the plasmids make DNA in blood able to further be inserted into other body cells?
Maybe! That would be really interesting and very scary. But most or all researchers in the area thought that was impossible or the work would all be done in Class 5 bio-isolation chambers and not corn fields ... or am I too trusting?
At least a whole plasmid is MUCH bigger than any 1-2 genes, and the likelihood of a whole one getting into our blood is tiny even after that one study.
Could we speculate that some fragment OF a plasmid might have some horrible unexpected potency? I was speculating about that in one post, but I intended to include the words "science fiction" several times in that post.
But who knows? No one, until we know whether the "circulating free DNA" study is accurate (by replicating it), and then figure out what the [u]mechanism[/u] of the alleged passage through the gut is. And discover some instance of the science-fiction-speculation actually occurs.
The fact that we bumped into lots of new questions and "more study is needed" makes me think that now we are finding some "real" science. First a few hints at surprises, then more studies while teams try to scoop each other to get there first, then tentative "discoveries" that lead to more questions and more studies ...
Then years later and millions of dollars later if we're lucky, something relevant to the "real world".
I originally thought I wanted to do research in molecular biology, but research is too hard and frustrating and underpaid and totally lacks job security. I went into computer programming instead.
>> something that looks (to me) completely scientific and unbiased. And I can barely understand it for the depth of technical language.
I agree. I'm guessing they said the same thing you thought they said.
One upside of the scientific method is that an article like this is a thumb in the eye of everyone else who published studies that said "not much difference".
Now many teams (who DO understand the esoterica of those particular specialties) HAVE TO answer this study, either by replicating the results or by debunking whatever defects are invisible to you and I.
The Brazilian authors hope that the effect is to make more researchers start to use THEIR fancy proteomic - gel electrophoresis - mass spec technique, which would count as a big feather in their cap.
Of course Monsanto et al. need to debunk it. If they can't or they cite "defects" that are bogus, then we can trust this study as meaning something.
With luck, by the time the specialists finish one-upping each other and saying "Nah nah nye nah nah" or "you stink" in very esoteric ways at scientific conferences, some of those studies will also happen to reveal something relevant to human health about GM corn.
That's what funding priorities are supposed to accomplish: to direct research in directions that are useful to normal people, not just researchers who want to study things, understand a little more about Nature, get grants, and impress other nerds.
Evelyn, I agree that we suck up herbicides and pesticides in most food, and that they cause more human heath damage than GMOs do or are likely to.
I would also say that GMO crops tend to have much fewer toxins added, less of them, and less toxic toxins.
>> I don't see how they can reflect whether there are small amounts of GMO foods in the form of for example canola oil or corn starch.
Those links only addressed the mini-barcodes stuck to fruit and vegetables. For any processed food, unless it has some convincing "organic" sticker, I assume that it contains ingredients from GMOs. But those don’t worry me at all - those ingredients are practically pure chemicals and once they are THAT processed, I doubt you could find differences with a mas spectrometer.
Maybe proteins in some processed ingredient could have tiny differences, and who can say what causes allergies for someone, somewhere?
The article that claimed that huge macromolecules can migrate right through our gut and into our bloodstream was interesting ... if true.
Carl Sagan coined the phrase: ""Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". I agree.
Interesting study! I hope their technique is more widely used. It seems very sentive, or at least it seems to detect things that no one else was able to prove.
They picked good strains to compare: a Yieldguard ® corn with it's pre-GM parent. But it's funny, I thought they had to do a lot of selection after inserting the plasmid, which I would have expected to cause some genetic drift.
"one GM P32R48YG maize hybrid (MON810 event; Yieldgard ®), containing a single insert, was subjected to comparative profiling using the near-isogenic non-GM hybrid P32R48 as the comparator."
>> comparing the proteins in GMO vs. non-GMO corn.
At first I thought they weren't finding different [u]proteins [/u] in GE corn and non-GE corn. They were looking at how the patterns of protein [u]expression[/u] changed [b]"under different agroecosystems conditions in Brazil".[/b] Which I think means the exact same thing as "under different conditions in Brazil"
"Protein expression" being simply what % of what proteins were present", or maybe in different parts of the plant or at different growth stages.
Most of the test I saw at first seemed to be about pattern differences mainly due to changed location.
Then I found this, which IS interesting:
"The Campos Novos experiment presented eight proteins that were detectable only in the GM. The remaining eight proteins were absent in the GM (Figure 4a and 4b)."
So they found some protein differences between GM and non-GM in areas that were surprising to me. I hope they found some control for "these non-GM plants were devastated by insects and highly stressed, while the GM plants were expressing normal protein patterns for healthy plants". They didn't say anything loike 'and the plants grew similarly, with similar yields and rates of growth" (or I missed it in a quick skim).
They have me interested (if there isn't some glaring defect I missed). I would agree that their fancy technique of gel electrophoresis and mas-spec identification of proteins like enzymes (I didn't know they could do that!) sounds like a really valuable and sensitive way of examining subtle plant changes.
If indeed the GM plants changed ONLY in their producing of Bt or resistance to RoundUp and some antibiotic resistance), then why WOULD this array of enzymes be changing noticeably - either between one location and another, or between GM corn and its close parent?
I am keenly aware that Wiki is what might be called "open source" and that one needs to be careful in using information from it. Nonetheless, the Sokal affair is a fairly famous incident (I vaguely remember it) and the Wiki article gives a good summary of it. Do a search for Sokal hoax" or "Sokal affair" and you'll see that is true. Here's one link to a reliable source for you to check out: http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/weinberg.html. (I hope it works this time) My point was simply to offer another example of how being published doesn't prove validity.
In defense of Wiki, I find it to generally be a very good source for general information. I wouldn't blindly trust it for inflammatory or controversial topics.
Last summer we had a strange creature in our strawberries. Found what it was called, but no info. Went to Wiki & found lots of stuff about it. It was a newly imported fruit fly. It decimated our strawberry crop. Now we hope to beat it this year.
I still think dihydrogen monoxide is a much more dangerous threat and would be making better use of our time if we read studies about how dangerous water is. I mean an objective look at water. Its not all good. Maybe some animal studies to see how drinking too much water caused an animal too have irritated bowels or die, and thus water is bad. Since this is a plant forum perhaps studies that show the detrimental effects of too much water on plants. Ok I'm just being silly again. No honestly I am one of those people that just wants to see both sides of water...and try to find the truth about it. Makes sure I'm not being lied to by American or United water companies or Desani or Aquafina. By the way did you know they add chlorine to the water? Pesticides in our drinking water added there on purpose! Chlorine is a weapon of mass destruction...a chemical warfare agent... That discussion could be a whole nother forum topic.
It is very fun to read all of your comments.
One thing I would like to say is the most of these animal feeding studies are skewed in my opinion. Because the animals are usually feed a mono diet of whatever food they are testing. Also one thing to consider is who is conducting or paying for the study and what the objectives of the study are. Also if all of the data is presented or not and the size of the study.
Often times associations are not proof of causation and studies need to follow the norms of statistics at a certain level of confidence...usually 95%.
I certainly understand the concerns of folks when we have plants producing bacterial toxins with insecticidal properties. One thing to keep in mind is that plants naturally produce many toxins to ward of insects. Some plants are able to sense insect predation and thus produce many toxins far more toxic than the toxins in Bt to minimize attacks. On a molecular level in a plant there is constant chemical warfare going on to prevent attacks from disease and insects. Also there is great variation in the varieties of a species in their ability to be resistant to insects or diseases. It might not be a bad idea to understand the naturally ocurring plant toxins to make sure these arent jepordizing our health.
One also should consider the millions of bacterias we consume on a daily basis...whether they be the ones that live in our mouth, on our hands, are on our food, that we breathe in etc. Bt is very common in the soil and is very non toxic to humans.
Many of the "good" bacteria found in yogurts and cheeses or that line our intestinal tract also contain toxins but very few avoid eating yogurt...in fact some look for the yogurts with the most diversity of bacterias to be more healthy!
How many have looked at studies to see the long term effects of all the other bacterias we come in contact with and the potential toxins they contain?
It is likely some of them might cause some irritation in some people.
Sometimes it takes years of exposure to determine that there's a problem. I can't think of the specific item now, but the FDA recently questioned the use of a substance that had been accepted as GRAS for decades. I forget if its use was implicated in heart problems or what the issue was. Caramel coloring, ubiquitous in sodas and other foods, has just been implicated as a carcinogen, too.
Bernie, why follow it, then? Obviously some of us are getting something out of it or we wouldn't be wasting our time here. That's the nice thing about DG - something for everyone. I just ignore what doesn't interest me.
Silliness has a certain amount of entertainment value, which is part of the reason i drop in to read this thread once in a while. So, Since Bernie pays his dues to DG, it seems to me he has the right to both watch the thread and to express his opinion of it.
The other reason i watch it is because of my lifelong interest in, and trying to understand human behavior. I have yet to figure out why some people spend their lives worrying about all the possible things that MIGHT harm then, in preferance to just going ahead and enjoying a worry free life, while waiting to see which of the myriad possibilities finally do us in.
LOL!!! I see that the same people are regurgitating the same garbage in knocking GMOs despite the fact that they can't even buy a GMO seed. Irrational fear is hilarious at times, which is why I rarely stop by anymore. The "but, but, but, I read it on the internet so it must be true" mentality is astounding given that they have no facts what-so-ever to support them. Equally amazing is that the links they provide are always asking for donations to support their cause.
You are right Greenhouse_gal. Sorry if my comments in trying to be silly came across disrespectfully.
One thing that is interesting though is that in relatively progressive states such as WA and CA in recent elections the majority of the people voted not in favor of requiring foods to be labled as GMO.
Even though labeling will be a little more expensive for the consumer I am really not against it though i would probably not vote in favor of it. For me GMO is an indication of a more sustainable product with likely less pesticide residues and I am satisfied that it is safe or as safe or safer than organic or conventionally grown food.
Right now GMO is pretty much limited to soybean, canola, sugarbeets and corn. Still no GMO wheat, rice, potatoes, peanuts, sunflowers, or perenial crops like small fruits, tree fruits, and grapes.
For corn, soy, sugar beets or canola products one can buy organic to ensure they are not eating GMO's already. So without labeling one can avoid GMO's already if they want thus labeling isnt necesary because its a choice already in the marketplace? Of course food producers are free to state whether their food contains GMO's or specifically that their food doesnt contain GMO's if they want...but to mandate it? I think some consumers that dont want GMO's will demand that in the market and companies like Frito lay and General Mills will provide products for that segment. And Im fine with that.
I guess the argument is should a label be required for something that is proven safe? We don't label food to say a pesticide was used for example. Maybe we should put a label that explains the food was washed with dihydrogen monoxide lol...ok Sorry Greenhouse_gal...cheap shot
drobarr, that comment wasn't directed at you. You and Rick have contributed a lot of very interesting comments and information to this discussion and I hope I have, too.
You do have to look at the reasons why WA and CA ended up voting against labeling, though. A very expensive campaign was mounted by the grocers' group with falsehoods and halftruths, which convinced voters that labeling would increase food prices all around. Prior to that campaign a large majority of voters polled were pro labeling. I think they were just afraid of being priced out of the supermarket after the media blitz was launched.
Right now a lot of food producers are voting against GMOs with their pocketbook, and choosing traditional crops instead. From what I've been reading (and this is in farm bureau types of journals and newsletters) they not only get better production rates from their non-GMO crops but they can also charge more for them because the market is now demanding them. Especially producers who grow corn for China are realizing that it's a lot better to steer clear of GMOs for that market.
Funny how I live right in the middle of the corn belt & there is no price difference for non GMO or GMO corn. All gets dumped into the same bins. These elevators are handling millions of bushels of corn & soybeans. No way they can keep them separate, because they do not have the facilities to do so.
We have one small operation that buys organic crops. Some of the things that happen there, well who knows. I am a friend with an organic farmer. Couple years ago he went to buy organic oat seed. They had none so gave him some kind of wavier voucher to buy oat seed from a regular seed dealer. It was not organic, but it was approved to grow organic oats.
So when all these kind of things are under control, then maybe you can buy what you really want.
Labeling would likely increase costs. Not because it costs anymore to change the labels or add a few words. The reason it would cost more is because there would have to now be two different distribution channels that begins with the farmers combine, storage, transportation all the way up to packaging. GMO and non GMO would have to be separate much like organic is. This is part of the reason organic is more costly apart from higher production costs.
For just one state to demand this would be unreasonable and a whole industry nationwide would not likely go through the expenses and headache just because one state demands it. So I am not convinced that a higher price is a falsehood...but I am sure both sides had some half truths for sure.
Again I'd let the market regulate this.
In general GMO crops that farmers use do out perform coventional ones...it only makes news when they dont. I know this as a fact working in the industry. Since there is no premium for growing GMO's growers do it because many see it as more sustainable, more efficient as well as also better for their bottom line. I think if the public realized that non GMO crops generally require more pesticides and more tractor fuel the consumers wouldnt be so anti GMO. But they dont have the truth. So the half truths in my view tend to be more skewed coming from the anti GMO crowd much more so than the pro GMO crowd. Many of the anti GMO folks have a notorious record for using falsehoods, emotional arguments, and fear.
This fear in my opinion is much more hazardous to ones health than one realizes...
Drobarr, I have had a front row seat watching what the environmental regulations have cost the country, since it started in the 1970's, and while every thing you listed does increase the costs that are all passed down to the consumer, you missed the biggest one. That is the huge bureaucracies that are created to do the inspections and enforce the regulations. And of course, the producers have to spend money for employees and facitlities to balance the bureaucacies and make sure their products are within regulation, and lawyers to defend any slipups.
And i can tell you absolutely, that every penney spent, both by the Agencies and by the Producers, is not paid by the producers, it is all paid for by the ultimate consumers. That is why everything we buy now costs a bigger part of our income, young people cannot buy homes, old people cannot save enough for retirement, etc. ad nauseum.
Politicians and activists promote all of this by lying to the uninformed public, telling them the costs are paid for by the Corporations, but they only finance it temporarily, and prices are immediately raised and costs are passed on to the consumers.
Some people are beginning to understand who pays for it, and that is why the labeling laws did not pass. It is just too simplistic to blame the losses on adverse advertising. How long has it been since your mind was changed by a political ad?
In case anyone misunderstood my remarks about Bernie's silliness comment, I was not referring to the very interesting, factual and informative posts by people like RickCorey, who has educated all of us as to the processes of proper research. There have been several worthwhile contributors to this discussion, and the ones that are based on facts, not fear, deserve the respect of all of us.
drobarr, I keep reading that because GMO crops are resistant to pesticides/herbicides, much more of that product is being used to eradicate the competition. That's why incidental foliage such as milkweed is no longer growing between soybean and corn rows, so there's no food for monarchs, whose population crashed last summer as a result. I'll post the next article I read on increased Roundup use.
There are complaints that because of GMOs there is much more pesticide residue in the corn and beets that we're eating, both on the surface and systemically. I'd be glad to see something that suggests otherwise, though.
Sally, I just want to stress that it was pure speculation on my part that MAYBE the cause of different expression was something obvious like responding to different insect damage.
Since they did not seem to be clumsy, congenital liars in other ways, I would rather assume that they discovered something subtle and repeatable and meaningful. Eventually someone will replicate it or debunk it.
Willy! I think I ruptured my spleen, laughing!
The facetious "Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" is more believable than Seneff's straight-faced "exogenous semiotic entropy".
Umm ... when I stopped laughing I remembered how sad it is.
Everyone who has an idea, no matter how good or bad, seems to immediately shoot that idea in the foot by taking it to an illogical extreme and then proselytizing it maniacally.
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
The Second Coming
I agree with you about (normal, non-GE) plants conducting continuous chemical warfare against insects. Also:
>> How many have looked at studies to see the long term effects of all the other bacterias we come in contact with and the potential toxins they contain?
>> It is likely some of them might cause some irritation in some people.
Everyone IS trying to test GMO ingredients and GE-whole-foods to a higher standard than anyone tests anything else. In some cases that is bias or superstition (that's my main excuse for being skittish about eating GE salmon, apples and corn).
Maybe you could argue by analogy to Carl Sagan's "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Extraordinary genetic changes probably SHOULD require some extra regulatory attention. Not just for the first few crops actually approved, but as genengineers get into triple and quadruple-stacking traits, or incorporating blow fish venom or what-have-you.
Also, consider the GE apple intended to NOT turn brown when bruised or really old. I personally WANT to know if an apple is really old or been abused in transit. Won't that genetic change HIDE real reasons to throw fruit away, for no better reason than cosmetics/saleability?
However, it would have been reassuring (to me - I read a lot of science fiction) to know more about the long term environmental effect will be of multiplying Agrobacterium plasmids with scraps of "whatever" DNA dangling all over the planet. If those turn out to be "man-made jumping genes", to coin a bogeyman phrase, it might get interesting.
Unfortunately, knowing the future is impractical (and hopefully that long-shot imaginary risk won't materialize, or will be manageable).
[quote="greenhouse_gal"]drobarr, I keep reading that because GMO crops are resistant to pesticides/herbicides, much more of that product is being used to eradicate the competition. That's why incidental foliage such as milkweed is no longer growing between soybean and corn rows, so there's no food for monarchs, whose population crashed last summer as a result. I'll post the next article I read on increased Roundup use.
There are complaints that because of GMOs there is much more pesticide residue in the corn and beets that we're eating, both on the surface and systemically. I'd be glad to see something that suggests otherwise, though.[/quote]
There are several GMO crops on the market. Some that have herbicide tolerance and some with insect resistance and some with stacked or both insect and herbicide tolerance genes. Several GMO crops are in various stages of development for herbicide tolerance as well as disease and insect resistance and traits that enhance quality or drought tolerance etc.
In the case of herbicide tolerance, pesticides such as the herbicide that the crop is resistant too will increase in the crop. For example Roundup would kill a corn plant normally. So Roundup wasnt used in corn until Roundup GMO corn was developed. So obviously Roundup use increased dramatically in corn. But just because Roundup increased doesnt mean that herbicide or pesticide use in corn has increased. Because before Roundup ready GMO corn you still had to control weeds. And you still applied herbicides. In fact you applied several different herbicides. Many of them multiple times and which were far more toxic than Roundup. Google Atrazine. Roundup ready corn simplified weed control...because now all you needed was one or two applications of Roundup and that controlled all the weeds. Wherease before you put out an herbicide such as atrizine preemergent, then came back with some sort of broadleaf herbicide at the early post timing( 3-4 corn leaf stage) and also a grass type herbicide and then another set of applications at the late post timing. Then often a layby application was needed prior to the corn getting large enough to shade the rows and compete better with any late season weeds. So though Roundup use increased, all other herbicides decreased. Roundup was so easy and so effective in Roundup ready crops with just a few years there was a 90 percent adoption rate. Weeds were also better controlled...as you mentioned less milkweed which is a terrible weed in corn.
So of course here is where the half truths are...isnt it terrible Roundup use increased? More Roundup residues... But they always neglect to report that all the other herbicides have decreased imensly...and total herbicide active ingredient per acre has decreased. Other herbicide residues have been reduced. Also number of tractor trips and applications has been reduced which minimizes the carbon footprint, is more sustainable, causes less soil compaction and is more efficient. Roundup is much safer than many other herbicides out there. But it is a pesticide and there are risks especially if the label is not followed.
As far as the monarchs are concerned...I'm not sure Roundup is the only culprit. Its good weed control in general which can be achieved by tillage and other organic methods as well. There are other herbicide tolerant GMO crops besides Roundup. I guess one could debate whether it was the job of corn growers to provide monach butterfies the habitat they need.
Insect and disease tolerant GMO crops use much less insecticide or fungicide than conventional crops and have reduced applications.
So GMO's whether they be herbicide tolerant, insect or disease resistant all reduce numbers of applications of pesticide and total pesticide used. In most cases controlling these pests has also improved compared to non GMO methods. That is why they have been adopted. When weeds, diseases and insects are better controlled...crop yield increases. Savings in tractor hours, man hours, diesel fuel etc and higher yields on less land is a win win for the environment.
From my perspective sombody who is anti GMO supports methods that require higher pesticide use, increase pollution through increased use of diesel fuel, supports inefficiencies, supports soil compaction, supports less biodiversity...since additional insecticide sprays needed in conventional systems kill a wider range of pests including important beneficials.
Speaking of milkweeds. We try not to kill them unless absolutely necessary. We have grass, wildflower & shrub strips throughout our gardens to stop soil erosion. Milkweeds flourish there. Also we let the milkweeds grow in our flower beds & asparagus beds.
Hardly any Monarchs around last summer, so not for lack of milkweeds.
I agree on the corn pesticide spraying. One thing he didn't mention. Corn rootworms are controlled by a GMO now. Before they used a deadly poison put on with the seed.
If left where birds could get it, birds were dead in an instant.
One guy though it would be good to kill nightcrawlers in his l;awn. He got the worms but also any bird for most of the summer.
You people need to study all the facts before you start condemning things.
One problem with modern day farming and agriculture in general is that we have become so efficient that only a very small percentage of people are farmers and really have a grasp on what is required to produce food. The other 98% often have views and legislate policies that make that production more difficult.
I totally agree with Country gardens...it is very frustrating when those not involved in agriculture dont understand the facts. The public is often misled or simply are ignorant to the point when something more sustainable, something more efficient comes along they reject it.
And its easy to mislead the masses when they are so far removed from Ag.
Agriculture interests should do a better job at communicating the benefits of these technologies...not only how they are greener...but also how they are better than what we were doing before. And what these technologies will be able to do in the future.
>> Insect and disease tolerant GMO crops use much less insecticide or fungicide than conventional crops and have reduced applications.
Thanks for making that point, drobarr. I think it is about THE strongest argument for GMOs.
>> only a very small percentage of people are farmers and really have a grasp on what is required to produce food.
>> And its easy to mislead the masses when they are so far removed from Ag.
Good points also.
MIT's magazine "Tech review" has a great article about GMO crops. They stress the fact that world population is still rising, but crop yields are no longer increasing fast enough to keep up with the mouths.
Increased yields fed the world while population climbed from 3 billion around 1960 to 7 billion in 2011. We did not increase cultivated acreage very much (though fertilizer and water usage did increase to support "Green Revolution" crops).
The bad new is that world population is expected to climb to 9 billion by 2030 to 2050. That has to come from somewhere. If it isn't increased yield per acre, then we have to use more land and probably much more marginal land.
If we're going to have use marginal land (and/or climate change requires drought-tolerant and extreme-weather-tolerant varieties, giving up on GE techniques would be like shooting ourselves in the foot right before we had to run for our lives.
Unfortunately, GMOs are not being developed very much for drought and heat resistance, instead focusing on relatively profitable traits like insect and herbicide resistance. (BTW, typically the most damaging heat stress is the number of extremely hot days, not average temperatures, and climate change seems to be giving us lots of extremes). Developing resistance to heat and drought sounds like it will require physiological changes, not just one-gene quickies.
Resistance to plant diseases also seems to be harder to breed for ... even hard to genetically engineer for.
Unfortunately, GE research isn't the main cost of getting a new variety into prodcution. Jumping through the testing and regulatory hoops is more time-consuming and expensive. That expense has made commercial GE a "natural monopoly" (or "legislative monopoly") of a few very large, very cash-rich companies, like Monsnato and Dupont.
Speaking of profits, one potato researcher was asked what mattered most to consumers. "Looks, looks, looks." Hence things like the GE apple that won't turn brown. That won't keep anyone from starving, but will boost someone's profits.
This Tech review article also cited the number of US permits and "notifications" for testing new transgenic crops. NONE of these have become commercial ... yet.
rice - - - - - 286
wheat - - - - 461
potatoes - - 863
Not only do Bt crops reduce insecticides and pests on GMO crops...they reduce pest pressure in non GMO fields around them resulting in less insecticides applied to the tune of billions of dollars. I work with some who grow corn organically and they have noticed lower European corn borrer pressure since the advent of Bt.
The most successful organic growers are surrounded by conventional growers that keep pest populations in check either chemically or by means of GMO's! Some organic growers also use conventional means on portions of their farms as well for the same goals.
Good job LA times for getting a piece of the truth out.
Actually Monsanto came out with a drought tolerant trait in corn that was developed by BASF Corporation and released last year.
And yes there are hundreds of patents on numerous crops...but it is correct that it takes 10 to 15 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop GMO traits. Much of this is due to the regulations and required testing mandated by the FDA, USDA, and EPA.
Over the next few years more traits will be coming out.
How many have heard of golden rice? And how it has helped to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the 3rd world. http://goldenrice.org/
Can you believe people oppose this? With all the good it does and suffering it prevents?
Here's a paper on golden rice. I have read many articles that suggest that there are a multitude of cheaper and more efficient methods of boosting vitamin A which are more accessible to the subsistence farmers who would need to purchase and grow golden rice.
And here's a comment from someone who does a good job of reflecting my opinions and concerns:
"J Smith • 11 months ago
I think the point is not to knee-jerk react based on emotions, but rather to point out that, time and time again, the forces of industry often fast-track dubious research, ignore inconsistencies, or otherwise twist the facts to support their financially beneficial programs, all the while claiming that their (highly profitable) products are merely a public service. This pattern is easily demonstrable using "fact-based logic". GMO crops aren't a product that can be recalled if there's a problem. Once they're out there, they're out there. We should very carefully weigh the benefit of each altered crop against the potential permanent damage. It's all very easy to point to the masses of children who go blind because of vitamin A deficiency and suggest that those who would be cautious regarding GMO organisms are heartless and petty, but the truth is that those who are cautious about releasing GMO organisms into natural systems merely understand that narrowly focused, corporately sponsored, interventionist policies are rarely good solutions to complex, interconnected problems that involve a host of different interdependent systems. Indeed, we see time and time again where the interventions we make based on "fact-based logic" make things worse due to unforeseen consequences.
Generally speaking it's accurate to say that solving the problems of industrialism with industrial fixes is usually bad."
So saying that solving an industrial problem with an industrial fix is bad. But nobody has the right to say one is bad for opposing golden rice?
I totally disagree.
I dont believe there is an industrial problem nor is it an industrial fix so the whole premiss is flawed.
Second, gmo's if found to be unsafe could stop being grown at any time.
A crop field is not a natural ecosystem. Most crops are already domesticated and are dependent on their survival by humans. In fact corn itself is practically genetically modified by humans over centuries much more drastically then anything ever done in a lab. A field is artificially manipulated with fertility and chemicals regardless if organic or conventional.
Golden rice seed is free. Many of the mal nourished do not live on farms or are farmers. And most people are not able to afford any alternative foods. That is why there is mal nutrition. Golden rice makes the most sense. It was a very well thought out way to assist in nutrition and no company developed it...it came about by two European university scientists. So to try to associate this some how as industrial or in any way related to any business is a farce.
There are good people inside and outside of businesses trying to solve problems and to oppose this initiative is hard for me to even understand.
The anti gmo folks cant even accept something good resulting from gmo's or their whole argument goes down the drain.
>> Actually Monsanto came out with a drought tolerant trait in corn
That's really good news, especially since (I think) corn tends to be heat-tolerant already. Do you happen to know what mechanism they improved, or the name of the strain?
>> golden rice
I heard that it was released, then was pushed off the market or withdrawn (or at least there was a push to do that) ... then improved and the amount of carotene increased ... but I hadn't heard it was back in production. Reducing nutrition-casued blindness in children is certainly humanitarian.
In the area of antibiotics and anti-fungals for human use, there was a strong tendency for drug companies to invest only in things that would sell well in rich countries. "Invest where the profit is best", not where human need is greatest. Golden rice always seemed like an exception to that idea.
I see from the "ISIS" link that funding came from
the Rockefeller Foundation
the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology,
the European Community Biotech Program
and the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science.
I saw plenty of rage and spleen and ranting from the ISIS screed, but the only practical part I could make "sense" of was [b]the idea that poor people wouldn't NEED the golden rice if they had more food, and better variety, and Vitamin A pills. [/b]
??? At first I thought "How can they insult anyone's intelligence THAT much and expect to get away with it?" Then I thought "In effect, they object that the world is not EXTREMELY different from the way it is, and they blame science and technology and big business for every way in which things differ from their ideal image."
Although ISIS accused advocates of golden rice as saying worse things than "let them eat cake", the only part of the ISIS article that seemed to support their claim was exactly what they were accusing others of doing. For them to miss that suggests that they are not only passionate ideologues, but pretty blind to anything I recognize as the "real" world.
I would like to think that I totally missed their point, not that they were as biased and double-talking as it seemed to me.
It seemed VERY biased, to the point of bizarre, though I can't do enough research to make sense of their claims. I guess it makes sense to some audience ... which is a little scary.
Here is where one bad paper poisons another. i remember reading another ISIS BS piece, perhaps the Seneff paper. I did spend the time to be sure to my own satisfaction that they had to be idiots or propagandists to run the first paper. So I won't spend my time, a second time, to try really hard to find a pearl in the second compost heap.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
ISIS had a reputation with me of putting out at least one sleazy snow job. Now two.
All they get from me is a fast scan now. It doesn't hang together, it looks like a feeble hook to hang more anti-GE vitriol on, they put the big scare words up front and bury the "substance" deeply so it's harder to see that the "substance" is BS.
The guys who were profiling protein "expression patterns" still have my respect and I would read carefully something they wrote. Or a critique, or someone carrying that work further.
But ISIS seems to live up to its reputation. I'll make a guess: their dogma is that "science and technology are bad" and part of their way of living up to that is not caring about evidence or logic.
Putting the word "reductionist" up front, as if it proved that anyone disagreeing with them was using an invalid part of their brain, should have been a tip-off to stop reading.
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason ... is like administering medicine to the dead ...”
― Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
Disclaimer: just because one online publication can't be trusted doesn't prove that they are wrong about everything. But ISIS is not a trustworthy source.
I noticed that the ISIS article cast doubt on whether promises of giving the seed away in poor countries were being carried out. My first thought was that, if they are only [u]casting doubt[/u], probably that means the seed IS being given out for free, despite the $100 million spent developing it.
While i doubt very many of the people that are so obsessed with the idea that Corporations are willing to kill people just to make big profits are smart enought to read and understand a profit and loss statement, if they could, they would quickly realize big corporations do not make big profits. Someone reported a couple of days ago, that it takes millions of dollars to modify just one plant. And that research, along with all the other corporate expenses, does not leave much room for profit. So, it seems to me that so much of the negative opinions must be based in plain old envy, resentment or jealousy, that some folks have more money than they do. If they would simply look around, they would see that a lot of folks have less than they do, so, by their way of thinking, their own money must have been made in crooked, dangerous, or nefarious ways.
The J Smith article, referenced above, certainly sounds to me like a very typical "knee jerk reaction based on emotions" since there is little or no truth in what he says. I have never been a part of a large corporation, but have met many corporate management employees , and everyone has been just like the rest of us. Worried they will make a mistake or do some harm that will cause them or their Corporation to lose money or reputation. And that mindset is absolutely contrary to someone that sets out to rob, pillage and steal, regardless of the deaths they cause, just to make a quick buck.
So, granting there are exceptions, however rare, blanket condemnation of the large corporations that are striving to develop a service that will provide improvements so people will buy the product, must be based in ignorance, since i have seen no facts that prove otherwise.
Very well said. The reason only large corporations can develop pesticides or GMO crops or airplanes or pharmaceutical drugs is because it takes many years of investment and often hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a product. Small companies just do not have the capital. And every time regulations are increased then the amount of time and the amount of money needed to develop something increases. And as a result, fewer and fewer companies have the capital to develop anything. So it is government regulation that is determining the size of companies...how much they must spend...and ultimately what must be charged for the product so the company can stay in business.
So many Ag chemical companies have gone out of business and there has been major consolidations in the last 20 years. We are talking around 40 large international ag chemical companies to less than 10 now. And only 6 actually have R&D programs that are bringing new chemistries to market. (BASF(German), Bayer(German), Syngenta(Swiss), Monsanto(USA), Dupont(USA), Dow(USA)).
I can tell you none of these companies have any obscene profits. Many of them have years with losses. And most of what they earn they put towards R&D.
Often times after spending 250 million dollars and 10-12 years to develop a product the government decides to not approve it. By the way it takes 2 years for the government to review if it will approve it or not...and the companies pay hundreds of thousdands of dollars just to have their petition be reviewed. The costs of when a products registration is rejected has to be factored into into any future products. This idea that some how the US government just blanket approves everything an ag chemical company comes up with including GMO crops is not true. So many products have been denied registrations and many products have been taken off of the market.
Now I am not against all regulations. And I agree some are good and necesary.
"In the area of antibiotics and anti-fungals for human use, there was a strong tendency for drug companies to invest only in things that would sell well in rich countries. "Invest where the profit is best", not where human need is greatest."...more than profit it is getting back what they spent and to pay off their loan to develop the medication. So they can keep making more medications. Companies cant just give things away and still produce something of value. Before anything can be given away it needs to be paid for.
Thank goodness for big drug companies. Big ag chemical companies...for relieving so much suffering, curing so many ailments, and providing such an abundant food supply. If they didnt do it nobody could...and remember the size of those businesses are a direct reflection of the required regulations in those industries and the investment required to develop those products.
Corn can be sprayed with 2,4D & not hurt it. Why would you need to GE it for 2,4D.
2,4D spraying is almost non existent now with the use of Round up. Farmers realize the danger with it & are happy with alternatives.
Monarch butterflies & bees are probably gone because of the chemicals they spray on soybeans in August to kill soybean aphids. We don't even have mosquitoes any more. It is a deadly spray & the only thing that will stop it is something in the plant that the aphids don't like. With no spraying the insects & butterflies will return.
Bernie, farmers may be happy with it but it seems that it may have serious impacts on public health.
Here's a recent Washington Post article on the impact of GMO crops on the decline in monarchs, which a professor who has studied the butterflies for decades describes as the most egregious cause of the population crash.
I just told you the spray used on soybeans is killing all the insects & Butterflies. Did you not get it.
When there was GMO crops & no aphid killer, there were all kinds of bees & monarchs around.
Besides Monarchs do not feed on corn or soybeans!
I did not place any special significance on the word "article", so the fact that it was just a comment, is okay and does not affect the points i was making. But thanks for the clarification, in case it confused someone else.
2,4-D as well as dicamba even though they are mainly broadleaf herbicides and are approved for use in corn, they can both cause severe injury. They can cause the corn to lean over and deformations on the brace roots. So a 2,4-D resistant corn would be beneficial to avoid the losses from crop phytoxicity.
They would allow higher rates and longer application windows.
Before GMO crops there was a lot of crop injury because herbicides with their potency to kill weeds always can damage your crop. However this is rarely seen with herbicide tolerant crops.
I forgot about the 2,4-D damage to corn. I guess most farmers here were pretty good at timing it to minimize the damage.
I guess I feel respectable farmers & co-ops will do their best not to harm things with their growing of crops. You can't abuse the land or environment very long & still continue profitable.
I know of two farmers locally that tried the organic route. There was no way they could control weeds, so now both are out of business & renting their land to conventional farmers.
So it goes.
This message was edited Jan 31, 2014 9:39 AM[/quote]
These studies particularly the one on glyphosate in my opinion is skewed. They took pure glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup albeit at low rates and fed it to the rodents directly on a daily basis over their entire lives. It is a worse case scenario. It is exposing them to much higher rates than what anyone is going to encounter in real life. All pesticides at high rates are toxic and can case certain problems. Even water is toxic as we all know at hi enough rates. But glyphosate is about 100 times safer than table salt and many other foods we eat.
But the reason this is skewed is the following. In soybeans for example, glyphosate is applied early in the season a few months before the soybean even flowers or sets seed. So the only residue on the soybean would be from inside the plant any glyphosate that is absorbed and then later translocated to the seed two months later. The problem is that the glyphosate is rapidly decomposed inside the soybean plant and broken down into other components and stored in vacuoles inside the leaves before the plant even reaches reproductive stage.
Residue tests conform that harvested soybean seed have no detectable glyphosate residues.
So again the study would be valid if people were exposed to the residues which they arent...unless they are spraying their food on their plate every day with glyphosate.
I am going to repeat my personal role as a guinea pig in testing the dangers of Roundup for the benefit of new followers of this thread. A helper was coiling up a sprayer hose, that was under 80 pounds of pressure,and accidentally sprayed me directly in the face from 2 feet away. I did not have time to close my mouth nor blink my eyes, and took the full force of the spray, including up my nose.
I assumed i was going to die, and headed for the house, washed out my face and mouth the best i could and prepared to meet my maker. But nothing happened. so about 20 minutes later, i went back down to the Nursery and worked the rest of the day. We were killing Lupine on the hillsides as they are poisonous to sheep, and were using a very strong solution.
As i recall, shortly after i posted this, early on, someone produced an article by a College Professor that said roundup is composed of Glycerin and Phosphorus, or something close to that, and neither component is toxic by itself, and as the roundup breaks down, the parts return to their basic states. This may need correcting by someone more knowledgeable than I, but at the time i read it, it seemed to be reassuring.
But i would think almost a steady diet of many chemicals would eventually kill anything.
Im glad nothing more serious happened. Having anything under pressure can be dangerous. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup is pretty safe on the scale of toxicity...much safer than any household cleaning products or even a salty water mixture.
We have been conditioned to thinking that pesticides are super toxic materials that if we get one drop on us we are going to get cancer and die. The reality is that many pesticides are not very toxic at all...especially the herbicides and very few of them are carcinogens. However, some pesticides are very toxic, especially some of the insecticides. One should always have care using all the proper PPE and always read and follow the label regardless of their toxicity.
There is acute exposure and chonic exposure. And though a material may be safe from acute exposures it doesnt necesarily mean there are not chronic concerns and vice versa. This is where the PPE is so important for folks who use pesticides regularly to reduce exposure.
I even put on the tyvek suit to spray organic products on my fruit trees, use goggles, and spray upwind etc and do all possible to protect myself.
Roundup and most pesticides break down very quickly in the environment. If it isnt by sunlight or water it is usually by microbes. Most pesticides are microbe food...and are rapidly broken down in the soil. Glyphosate is one of the herbicides that becomes inactive in the soil very quickly and breaks down readily.
I spent 3 years spraying crops for a co-op when I was in my early 30's. We had 4x4 pickups with sprayers that were ground driven. No by passes on the pump, all spray had to go out the nozzles.
The controls were right out the window. I reached to turn the nozzles on, but my foot slipped off the brake, a line burst & the spray hit me in the face. We washed it out immediately & then headed for emergency room. It was a mixture of Treflan, Atrazine & 28% liquid nitrogen. The worst was the N, because it made my eyes burn. After the trip to ER, I was back in the field. Doctor looked up the chemicals & said neither would harm me.
I am still here 37 years later with no problems.
When i see people living in dread and complaining about Roundup being used to control weeds, it does not make sense to me, when we compare Roundup to what it replaced. Sixty years ago i started an Asphalt Paving Company, and the only way to keep Bermuda grass from growing up through the asphalt parking lots was to sterilize the ground with Arsenic. It was a vile looking and smelling green syrup, that we bought in fifty gallon drums. We were all rightfully scared of it.
I do not know of anyone dying from using arsenic to kill weeds, but of course in big enough doses, Arsenic is poison. But now, there seems to be much more fear and dread from Roundup, than there was back then when it would have been reasonable. Ernie
Thanks for everyone sharing their personal experiences. Most of the pesticides that we use now a days are much safer than the ones used previously. Of course we should still be careful with all of them.
But this fear that people have of them is probably much more dangerous to our health then the actual chemicals them selves. That would be an interesting study on life expectancies for chemophobes vs those who arent.
It is correct that some of the most toxic things on this earth are "natural". And to think that natural is always better...is a farce.
Glyphosate and many herbicides may not be perfect...but they sure are a lot better than what was used previously.
The same goes for GMO's. Weighing all the pros and cons there are more pros compared to the alternatives. I'd like to compare the benefits of GMO's to the benefits of wearing seat belts in cars. Seat bealts save lives. The reduction of pesticides by using GMO crops reduces worker exposures significantly and saves lives. Using GMO's makes as much sense to me as wearing a seatbelt. Its just a better way.
Of course you will always find a study that tells you how the seatbelt causes bruising...they just never explain what would have happened if you werent wearing one...ok I'm being silly again...maybe its all this snow!
>> Most of the pesticides that we use now a days are much safer than the ones used previously.
I'm glad someone is repeating the most important fact. I think it's an uncontested fact.
Some old Insecticides were really nasty neurotoxins (organophosphates). Replacing some or all of those with Bt genes is a huge improvement for human toxicity, both farm workers and consumers, and farm animal toxicity, since SOME insecticide residue must linger, and other residue washes off into ground water or evaporates into the atmosphere.
Even speculating that Bt or RuR genes may transfer "horizontally" into something elese is a lesser danger than the certainty that insecticides and pesticides were killing birds and beneficial insects wholesale, and were certainly present in ground ater.
I'm not sure what the worst old-fashioned herbicides were (but arsenic is pretty bad and very persistent). And glyphosphate is pretty benign.
I guess in principle the idea that RoundUp Ready crops COULD enable a farmer to spray with much more RU than he needed, but I'm pretty sure that residue from a double or triple dose of RU is still less toxic to humans than residue from the traditional cocktail of many different herbicides sprayed at many different times.
BTW, my science fiction-like speculations that plasmid-injected DNA "might" be more mobile than other DNA was pure speculation. And the only thing that made that speculation even interesting was the fact that some of the DNA being swapped around was transgenic (from species other than the crop plant's own species). I think that's the "scariest" part of first-generation genetic engineering. Pulling genes out of bacteria or animals and injecting them into a plants genome and then mono-cropping that plant over square miles ... if you agree with the old margarine commercial that warned "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature", that transgenic aspect was food for thought.
I'm working on a post about some new GE tools, "Talens" and "Crispr". They give greatly improved control over WHERE changed DNA is inserted into a plant's genome, which makes it practical to tweak existing genes rather than slam in genes from entirely different species. They would also eliminate dependence on Agrobacterium plasmids and their speculative "spare luggage" DNA.
Once again, let me say that this has been a very interesting thread. Thanks to you all, especially Rick_Corey and drobarr for their valuable inputs, research, and such. Here are my conclusions at this point. First, let me say that I am still “creeped out” (irrationally) by some of the wider, inter-species crosses being done. I also feel very confident that some genes will “leak” into the larger environment and cause unintended consequences. Of course, those folks engaged in GMO activity know this better than I and they are certainly working to minimize this possibility. Let me say clearly that I am not predicting catastrophe here. I am simply stating that, as with everything we do, there will be unintended consequences. They will not destroy the earth. I am not worried about the consequences of eating GMO foods. The risk there seems vanishingly small. I am very confident that the companies and Government agencies involved in GMO development testing would not let a potentially damaging or dangerous product onto the market. Folks concerned about “greedy profit-mongering corporations” willingly and knowingly killing or sickening people need to get a grip—and an education.
I am still waiting for “Mendel in the Kitchen”, but, based on what I've read to date, I have concluded that there is no legitimate case against GMOs beyond being concerned about the possibility that something unexpected might crop up in the future. The anti-GMO stuff I've read to date is almost uniformly non-scientific, non-factual, sometimes minimally factual, and occasionally hysterical. If someone knows of a rational anti-GMO book, I'd love to read it. The anti-GMO side reminds me a lot of young-earth creationists (or rabid political partisans); there ain't no amount of facts gonna change their minds. By the way, the reason it's taken the library so long to get “Mendel” to me is that the library's copy has turned out to be “missing”. Pardon me for suspecting an anti-GMO proponent caused the book to go missing. :«) Anyway, Amazon will deliver the book tomorrow.
None of what I've said above is meant to criticize people who are cautious and wary about GMOs. As I've indicated, I have concerns too. In the meantime, something else good has come out of this discussion. I'm going to look into seeing if I can learn to Yoga-fly.
Willy, doesn't the fact that so many European and South American countries are concerned about GMOs and regulate their use suggest that perhaps there are some issues that we're not facing here? It seems to me that there's a lot of science that indicates that further research is necessary before we give GMOs the green light. But certainly if you've read this thread you're entitled to draw your own conclusions from it. They're obviously just different from mine! Anyway, thanks for chiming in.
The main reason most countries that i have spent time in or had an interest in products, usually put up barriers to imports to protect their own farmers or producers, not the health of their citizens.
New Zealand is terrible about that, as well as Japan,[remember the apple embargo} and Greece that i happen to know of.
When you see the highways of France blocked by tractors from small, inefficient farmers, you can understand why the Politicians try to blocklower cost imports, and because of the trade treaties they must find some back door reason for doing so,
I doubt very much if any country has more concern for their citizens than our country has.
>> First, let me say that I am still “creeped out” (irrationally) by some of the wider, inter-species crosses being done. I also feel very confident that some genes will “leak” into the larger environment and cause unintended consequences. ... Let me say clearly that I am not predicting catastrophe here. ... I am not worried about the consequences of eating GMO foods.
I'm with you completely there, Willy. Hopefully the Talens and Crispr tool kits will permit GE to go forward with less alarming changes to plant genomes.
However, when it comes to trusting corporations, I trust them to look after their profits and their stockholders, and to protect senior officers from going to jail. Some companies may also take ethical considerations under review, but MHO is that most of those companies will only be looking for ways to maintain good PR.
I hope you're right about that and I'm wrong!
I look at certain bad apples and extrapolate: tobacco companies, Enron (gross accounting fraud), British Petroleum (history of many gross safety violations leading up to a mega oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico) and JPMorgan (mortgage fraud, subprime mortgage trading leading to a global recession and massive bonuses for the responsible parties).
The following is based on rumors that we all believed where I used to work for a chemical company. Once regulations tightened up on dumping toxic waste, some companies put their toxic waste into tank trucks and drove them around on highways with the drain valve cracked slightly open. When they got to the disposal sites, it was pretty inexpensive to detoxify since it was empty.
Hopefully, average companies don't cross the ethical line as far as those examples, but I put not my faith in the profit motive, when it comes to "save the earth" or "feed the poor". The plant I worked at dumped acid and carcinogens into a river until forced to filter and treat them. And they continued to dump things that regulators were not looking for.
Why it is that I mostly trust researchers until they prove that they're sleazy and play word games, but DON'T trust corporations until they do something responsible that they weren't forced to do?
I guess because I worked for a bunch of researchers who wouldn't fudge anything, and their income and promotions did not depend on beating the profit margin of someone who WOULD cheat and sleaze wherever he could get away with it.
Two experienced, well-to-do New Jersey realtors truly did not seem to understand the word "ethical". They explained that they were sure the thing was LEGAL. We tried to explain to them that some things might be considered LEGAL but were still unethical. They looked at us like we were crazy. They had not even been exposed to that concept enough to recognize it. They truly thought that "ethical" meant nothing more than "legal". And in practice, from other conversations, they knew and cared most about exactly what could be gotten away with than what was legal.
They must have looked "ethical" up that night or asked someone, because the next day they kept using that word as if it were a new and amusing toy. It was clearly a novelty to them.
That set a tone for me to expect from business people in competitive markets. Who gets promoted? The one who makes the most profit without important people going to jail.
I was thus inclined to believe an NPR reporter who went to check out a business school, and rode the bus listening to conversations. Allegedly he heard this:
"Hey, whatcha got there? That book says "Business Ethics". What's that?"
"Unnhh ... sometimes ya gotta do bad stuff. But ya should think about it."
I'm sure that the CEOs or VPs who made decisions that poisoned people and the Gulf of Mexico, threw the global economy into a serious recession, stole retirement funds from seniors, caused millions of lung cancers and heart attacks and emphysema had some QUALMS along the way. But they got over those qualms and did what got them the most bonuses and promotions - anything that increased profits without arrests.
This may be a philosophical difference of opinion, or something unprovable. I don't claim to be able to prove it, or even persuade someone disinclined to think it.
And I would not have laughed at the idea of a compassionate large company 30 years ago, or one with ENLIGHTENED self-interest ... 30 years ago.
But despite the recent specious claim that "corporations are people my friend", I agree with Baron Thurlow: "They have no soul". And they reward soulless behavior among decision-makers, and punish anyone on Mahogany Row who lets it be known that they would ever put people ahead of profit ... or anywhere near the same importance.
The last 20-30 years have convinced me that many business leaders must be closet Social Darwinists, and if there was profit and bonuses in it, would be willing to see poor people starve and die from lack of basic medical care as a result of corporate decisions, as long as the finger was not pointed too clearly at them ... in a court of law, perhaps.
I guess the point where I back away from "Occupy Wall Street" is where they claim that everyone (including corporations) is responsible for taking care of fellow human beings. I'm not sure that is a proper use of governmental power: enforcing charity or good will.
But I would like to see high-functioning sociopaths in the board room recognized as worse dangers to society than less-well-educated sociopaths in dark alleys.
I guess I don't put any faith in government actions--at least in terms of interpreting them as being sensible. GMOs have caused a lot of ruckus and European governments have acted to appease the population, not necessarily because there are real risks. As for South American governments, I have no trust in some of them period. Venezuela, Argentina...those countries are different worlds. I have seen Europe in particular back away from nuclear power since Fukushima and most countries in general have put nuclear on the back burner for decades in response to popular opposition. I know a fair amount about the subject and I am certain that anti-nuclear opinion is largely founded on ignorance and hysteria (the China Syndrome). Just because a government opposes something doesn't mean they oppose it sensibly. Sorry, not trying to turn this into a debate on nuclear energy--just trying to make a point.
As for my faith in corporations, perhaps I wasn't too clear. I have no more faith in corporations than I do in politicians. Corporations certainly do--and really should--place a high degree of emphasis on being profitable. If a business loses money, it doesn't last long. That's true of non-profits as well. I just don't think most people in corporations would stand for blatant manipulation of facts just to sell a product. Not to support Mitt Romney's idea too much, but corporations are indeed composed of people--people just like you and me. A "conspiracy" like that would be too large to contain. Also, does anyone really think Monsanto or whomever would knowingly release a product that would kill or harm people? The threat of lawsuits alone would prevent the unethical from knowingly doing that.
Here's a thought that struck me recently while reading a pamphlet from our local co-op. The pamphlet described the profit sharing amongst co-op members (folks who gave money to get the co-op off the ground). I realized then that the co-op structure was pretty much the same structure as a typical corporation--shareholders and all.
Again I would agree with you about governments doing things that appeal to people, instead of appealing to reason.
If I trusted corporations more, I would agree with you about nuclear power. The danger is not in the science or the technology, it's in the boardroom.
I knew one guy who worked in the nuclear Navy, then tried to transition to civilian nuclear power (many years ago). What he saw there shocked him into a career change instead of trying to blow whistles. He might have been TOO safety-conscious for some people, since the Navy didn't have to show a profit.
>> Corporations certainly do--and really should--place a high degree of emphasis on being profitable. If a business loses money, it doesn't last long. That's true of non-profits as well.
I'm with you there. Good point about non-profits ... I guess governments can go deeper into the red, and longer, than corporations, (the debt turns into circulating capital) but going TOO far causes toxic inflation.
>> but corporations are indeed composed of people--people just like you and me. A "conspiracy" like that would be too large to contain. Also, does anyone really think Monsanto or whomever would knowingly release a product that would kill or harm people?
Unfortunately, we diverge there. Yes, even the board room boys are "people", but much more driven and ambitious people than I am.
Normal people are very prone to believing what's convenient, and almost everything we've discussed is subject to opinion and debate. No VP would vote to put ground glass into baby food.
Probably few would even if they could get away with it.
But look how many tobacco executives (all of them) "believed" studies that were obvious falsehoods until the government forced them to print warning labels.
>> would knowingly release a product that would kill or harm people?
I have to answer based on the historical evidence: yes they would until forced to believe evidence SO overwhelming that not even lobbyists could convince legislators to deny it.
That's more cynical than I LIKE to sound, but it is how cynical I am. I wasn't 30 years ago! But I do think that the moral sea level has gone down in the last 30 years, at least if measured around big businesses or near election time.
Maybe I could honestly back off this much: no corporation will market a product where people drop dead while still clutching the open box in their cooling hands.
But if it takes 5-10 years to cause hair to fall out of 10% of users, won't there be company flacks arguing that "the science isn't in yet", and "bald mice don't mean bald people" to recover their investment before FORCED to take it off the market and pay for people's wigs?
As the evidence gets clearer and clearer, more people will change their opinion. The second-to-last people to change will be those with prestige and careers invested in the untruth.
The very last people to change will be those with a world view and ideology invested in the falsehood.
P.S. I'm not saying that "GMOs gonna kill you" ... just that no part of what I believe about them came from a Monsanto press release. Just as I've learned not to believe anything I read in ISIS unless corroborated by a reliable source.
I would even go farther than "GMOs are better for you than pesticide residue from highly toxic pesticides".
I would say that the last 15 years of testing and experience almost prove that there's no discernible or plausible human toxicity from the GMO-derived ingredients common so far, and farm animals fed mostly GMO fodder have either no ill effects or effects so difficult to discern that there are at most ambiguous hints.
But every new crop will be different, and feeding whole GMO corn, apples, salmon, papaya etc. directly to humans might be interesting 15 years after it becomes widespread. I would give 50-1 odds that there will be little or no human toxicity and 100-1 odds that there will be no obvious or provable human toxicity, unless we get sloppy about reviewing what is released for consumption, or stupid.
For example, apples that can't turn brown no mater how old they are? Maybe we'll learn a little about the human effects of eating really old, over-age rotten apples that LOOK fresh!
And salmon that produce their own antibiotics so they can be farmed in ever-denser, less healthy conditions? Let's keep an eye on how unhealthy salmon are when farmed so densely that they NEED constant doses of antibiotics just to prevent die-offs.
Not every product of a power tool is a good idea, even if you don't drop dead shortly after taking it out of a package.
And I wish the potential of GE WOULD be directed at the fact that world population is still rising, not just at cosmetic marketing factors and profit margins of producing rich-country foods.
I don't expect the profit motive to drive that. I expect the profit motive to draw cheers and applause about rising "bottom lines" until rising sea levels and starving hordes (or whatever) come flooding through the doors of the board room.
I think it highly unfair to try and blame CEOs and Corporations for any large problems this country may have. Highly unfair! Corporations are people, and that is where the blame should fall. The man who drove the truck, the guy who turned the valve to let the contaminates leak out, was he a CEO? All the people who assumed such actions were happening? What actions did they take, the inspectors why did they fail? The truck driver did not want to lose his job, the employees did not want to lose their jobs, the politicians do not want to lose their jobs, and the CEO does not want to lose his job, and the American people who have their retirement and investments in Corporations insist that the companies make a profit or that the management be fired. I have discovered that almost everyone's beliefs, their politics, their willingness to help society is directly tired to their source of income, follow the money! That holds true from the Top all the way down to the lowest level, yes it is the fault of all of us our country is in the state it is in, from our government to our Corporations. I read a story about a doctor who removed I think gall bladders for a living, after doing this for years and years it ended up he removed everyone of his patients gall bladders, he had become convinced that all gall bladders were bad and should be removed. Follow the money!
You're probably right to include everyone in the blame chain. CEOs, employees, stockholders and politicians. Even the propagandizing "journalists" who infuriate me so much.
Everyone wants to keep their job and tends to believe things that make that comfortable for them.
I knew a really smart young woman, but she lived in the Connecticut River valley, in the middle of tobacco country. She plain did NOT believe there was ANY health risk in tobacco. Other than that, she was intelligent and well-informed. Is that the money, or ideology? Both?
I take it as an example of belief being influenced by emotions. Are we rational creatures, or rationalizing creatures?
Let me add a few people to the blame chain, now that you've pointed out, in effect, that "We have met the enemy and they is us."
Consumers who want all fruit to look like the most gorgeous fruit that ever came off a tree.
Consumers who always buy the cheapest product, but would try to legislate quality.
Anyone who wants the government to do anything, but also tries to minimize their taxes (i.e., "everyone").
(I would add "people who support corporate subsidies but oppose food stamps", but I know that gets into party politics.)