Monsanto has done a lot of good over the years...whether its programs that have supported food banks or scholarships or Future Farmers of America they have always been involved in the communities of which they are a part and give back. They are often mis-characterized by the folks who oppose GMO's who really have no clue about Monsanto except what they hear from others. I work for a competitor of Monsanto...and even I can say good things about them.
I love working in agriculture...because its my feeling and experience that in general there is a different spirit in our industry that sets us apart from the rest of commercial businesses. Most farmers and people in farm industries are good people. People dedicated to their professions, professional, honest, hard working, willing to take serious financial risks with little reward and motivated by good intentions much more than greed.
Don, I don't agree with either of the assumptions the authors of that article made.
First, that if the FDA thinks GMO ingredients are safe or identical to non-GMO ingredients, that is enough reason to make their presence secret or not mandate labeling. Obviously everyone who WANTS labeling has already decided that they don't agree with or trust the "safe and identical" claim.
The above assumption would only be true or relevant if everyone believed everything the FDA said, or perhaps were required by law to believe everything they read. FFFPPTTTTT.
My personal philosophy is that each person should decisions for themselves, and that anyone pushing an agenda that "Daddy knows best" and "people should only be told what we want them to know" should have several pine cones shoved up their agenda.
Second, how can anyone prove that GE crops not yet released will always be "identical to" or "materially identical to" non-GE crops? That argument could have been made about "organic" food with almost as much science backing it up. I suspect that the fact that lobbying money is more concentrated for GMO foods than "non-organic" foods is the main reason that anti-GMO-labelling laws are opposed by expensive ad and lobbying campaigns.
Well, also the fact that around half or more of people want labeling as long as it won't be as expensive as some ads claims.
If people really do start avoiding GM corn or apples, and that helps the organic food movement, OK. Isn't that kind of like a free market, or something?
My belief is that, if we label everything that has corn syrup, beet sugar or corn starch in it, people will realize that THAT kind of GM-derived ingredients just don't matter. Then I hope they'll focus on whether they want to eat whole-GMO foods like salmon, apples and sweet corn.
Or we'll just stimulate more parallel non-GM supply chains like Trader Joe's must have. No big. I don't see why parallel supply chains have to be so much more expensive. It's not like there is only one corn silo in the whole USA, and tracking non-GMO corn would require us to double the number of corn silos. We already keep durum wheat separate from other kinds of wheat, and it seems to me that "non-GM-wheat" would be just one more "variety".
Isn't the real issue in GM labeling "we don't want people we consider ignorant to be afraid of this product, so we want to hide the facts so we can make that decision FOR everyone"?
If you grant that principle, then the same reasoning could be used to hide the level of pesticide residue, radio-iodine, or anything else that someone decided was in the public interest to hide from people. My cynicism leads me to substitute "well-funded lobbyists" for "someone". Or a politician who ran on the promise to lower food costs. Ban publication of pesticide residue levels, then spray, spray spray. Prices would go down.
I lean the other way: let people make their own decisions even if you think they are unsupported by facts.
If non-GM food does get more expensive, some people will go back to eating GMO. Eventually, people will notice that eating "non-GMO" does NOT convey any health benefits and things will even out.
Many of the food producers and processors are not entirely opposed to labeling. But what they fear is 50 states each with different rules...then its not just one extra silo...but 50 for each and every crop.
It would be better to have a national standard set of rules like usda organic that covers the nation.
Read the article above that I posted from a produce growers publication.
And by the way there is no commercial GMO apples commercialized.
Drobarr, I agree with you that 50 different labeling laws would be very unfortunate.
But, as that article pointed out, the US House of Misrepresentatives is already working on a law to forbid labeling. Since my own current approval rating for the US congress is, like so many peoples', "lower than dog poop", I don't trust the US Congress to ... do anything at all.
Persoanlly, I think the labeling laws should distinguish between "whole-GMO food" like GE salmon, sweet corn, eggplant (India), papaya (somewhere?) , and food made with corn syrup, sugar or starch from GMO sources. Maybe not everyone would agree.
I think I heard that India withdrew approval of eggplant, and salmon aren't out yet. I thought "these apples can't ever turn brown" were far along the commercialization pipeline. I sure want to know when they hit the stores so I can avoid them!
And my understanding of the goal of the GE salmon was so that they could be farmed in even more crowded, more disease-prone conditions without becoming unmarketable. If I can't know that the conditions for farmed salmon wee healthy enough for normal salmon to survive, I would give up on farmed salmon completely.
That may come from my ignorance of the issues, but I certainly understand why marketers would NOT want me to know what I was getting in those two situations!
P.S. I forget who posted it, but the academic who spent the first page or so claiming that everyone should believe what he said because he was a Big Authority from a Big University or Organization made at least one good point about GE corn. The multi-year experience we have with feeding it safely to livestock doesn't really translate into long-term food-safety studies for humans. We cook the kernels before we eat them. If the Bt proteins are expressed in the parts that we cook and eat, I would like to see at least some studies that test the cooked corn meal on humans or animals.
I would 'expect' it to have no immediate effects and no easily-detectable long-term effects, but the studies should be done. I didn't like the arrogance (or inaccuracy) of the article that claimed labeling was necessary since "all GM foodstuffs are identical to non-GM foodstuffs".
Somehow I seem to have drifted towards the "anti" side even though that isn't my overall position. I guess I just dislike exaggeration from whatever side it comes from.
Now that we have CRISPR GE tools, I would expect a greatly increased rate of development and commercialization of GE varieties where humans eat the crop itself (mangiatutto GMPs). Before they've even started, there are claims that "since CRISPR makes smaller, more precisely controlled changes, we don't need as many field trials". That may be truish, but I wish I trusted both sides of this issue a lot more so I could trust things that I read!
That's a great point. Thank you! Next time I'm indignant and energetic, I'll look for a "grass roots comments" email address for the USDA & FDA and ask them to start up a national GMO labeling process to prevent 50 states from creating a mess.
Maybe we could gain SOME traction if SOME stores started voluntarily labeling fruits and vegetables that are NOT GE.
Thanks for the name "Arctic Apple". I went hunting and found a web site from the team that produced it. It sounds like they were as careful as they could be, using the older Agrobacterium-plasmid GE technology instead of CRISPR. Most of the rest of this post details how much transgenic DNA is present in GMO crops even when the development team is as careful as they could be with "first generation" GE tools, meaning Agrobacterium plasmids.
It sounds like they are going to GE many varieties of apples:
"We decided to first convert two of the most popular apple varieties of all time, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. Next in the queue are Fuji and Gala."
These guys say they spliced one set of genes isolated from some apple variety into another apple variety to "silence" the PPO gene so that it produces only 10% as much of the PPO enzyme as it used to.
However, they also spliced in a promoter derived from cauliflower mosaic virus and "nopaline synthase" from an unspecified species as well.
As usual, they also needed an antibiotic-resistant marker gene (in this case the nptII gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin, derived from E. coli.
So even the genes and other DNA regions they deliberately inserted are partly transgenic.
Besides, they used "first generation" GE tools (not CRISPR or TALENS) so they have the whole Agrobacterium plasmid in there as well. The virtue and vice of that plasmid is that it makes it easier for the inserted DNA to jump from plant to plant.
At least they make a good case that the nptII gene is not expressed in the fruit. BTW, the protein that gene produces is "Neomycin phosphotransferase II" or "aminoglycoside 3'-phosphotransferase". It was derived from a transposon ("jumping genes") in E. coli. It also protects against a range of related antibiotics including
geneticin (G418), and
So that is a gene that we would particularly NOT want crossing over into other bacteria that are pathogenic to humans or farm animals. That's "horizontal transfer", a very bad thing if it ever happens. However, we are filling entire fields with plants with this gene added, and added inside a plasmid that evolved for the sole purpose of infecting other plants.
I think every GMO has a similar antibiotic-resistance "marker gene", needed to let the scientists pick out the transformed plant cells from unmodified ones. I'm hoping that they always strip away as much of the "jumping" DNA as possible before re-using the rest.
BTW, the kanamycin marker gene nptII is usually used with a strong "promoter" DNA sequence, derived from the filamentous fungus Ashbya gossypii (a.k.a. Eremothecium gossypii). So the website makes it obvious that used genes from apples, but much less obvious that they also used an E. coli gene, a promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus and (probably) a DNA promoter sequence from a fungus.
“GM crops are safe and have important benefits for people and our planet. They use less water and fewer pesticides, reduce crop prices by 15% to 30%and can help us feed a growing global population of seven billion people. The FDA, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and U.S. National Academy of Science have all found that foods and beverages that contain GM ingredients are safe and materially no different than conventionally produced products.
“Consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled ‘certified organic.’ The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients, making this law’s legality suspect at best. In light of this fact, in the coming weeks GMA will file suit in federal court against the state of Vermont to overturn the law.
“We encourage policymakers in Vermont and across the nation to support alternative legislation that would ensure that food labels are accurate and consistent for consumers. Bipartisan federal legislation, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, HR 4432, would require a label on foods containing GM ingredients if the FDA – our nation’s foremost food safety authority – determines there is a health or safety risk. Any labeling of GM ingredients would therefore be based on science, not fear or the varying politics of the 50 states"
Interesting article...of course I wouldn't make the comparison with climate change. Climate change has many unknowns and is very complex...where as with GMO's there have been hundreds of repeatable scientific studies showing GMO's are safe.
I've wondered what the term Luddite really means. And learned- it had to do with groups of laborers who broke machines in order to try and save their jobs. It became an anti machine mentality apparently. I wonder where we'd be in these debates without the Luddites, and the Shakers and the Amish, ; or maybe being wary of manmade things is a natural human tendency.
I have always noticed a tendency, sometimes among even some older members of my family and friends, that are wary of, or plainly against, Progress of any kind, believing the old way was better. And of course, since most progress is man made, or man discovered, I agree it is a natural reaction for some people.
Progress or Change also seems to be very scary to a considerable percentage of people, so that added fear makes their natural dislike of progress even deeper.
Here's a link to a podcast (Inquiring Minds) episode dealing with genetics, including the use of CRISPR. It's the first of a three part interview on GE, though I'm not sure that GMO food will be discussed. I found the first part pretty interesting. Enjoy!