Just wondering what folks think of all the genetic engineering going on in relation to our food supply. One of the points of organic gardening is choosing disease resistant varieties etc. so in theory this could be a good thing. I can't help but think though that considering the mess that has been created of our food supply by the very same folks developing and marketing these things they do not consider sustainability much of an issue, only profit.
Take for example the new "round ready' food crops. In theory, good idea. Reduces the need for tilling etc. which reduces fuel usage etc. However, we all know in nature there are no garauntees. The possibility of the round up resistant trait being passed to other plants in the environment cannot simply be discounted in nature where life finds a way against all odds. For this trait to be passed on to other species would be disasterous. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in roundup has been around a very long time and has been proven safe time and again. It has a higher LD 50 than sugar and has stood the test of time. While it would be nice to not use ANY chemicals in food production for the moment this is not a reality. If weed species were to develope a resistance to glyphosate it would mean that other herbicides would be used that do not have as long a track record and also by the way would of course be much more expensive because Glyphosate recently became off patent and can be produced by any company now which has resulted in a dramatic price drop.
So what are your thoughts, genetic engineering? Good thing, bad thing as far as sustainability?
And now that I'm thinking of it what are your thoughts on hybrid versus open polinated seeds? Again, increased disease resistance often is plus whith hybrids, but we are deffinately lowering our gene pool by so much reliance on hybrid seeds. Any thoughts?
Personally I think the goal should be to move towards things that allow us to grow food without use of chemicals (integrated pest management and things like that). Not grow things that make it easier for us to use chemicals. And I think there are some people out there who would disagree about glyphosate being safe...I don't use the stuff so never researched the various positions on it to see which one I would agree with, but I know that I've run across the opposite opinion many times.
spot, we'll need to use caution in discussing this topic. It NEEDS to be discussed, but if the discussion gets too "political" or contentious, DG admins will yank the thread. That being said, I'm going to present some information on the topic for this forum to ponder and discuss "amiably".
Organic gardening and farming prohibits genetically engineered plants and animals, and for good reason.
Genetic engineering is definitely a bad thing for sustainability and planetary health.
All of the truly independent studies performed on these plants in a food supply have shown that they cause damage to the immune system, intestinal tumours, diseases and previously unknown allergies. There has been a 50% increase in soy allergies since the introduction of GE soy in infant formula. Not sure if you are old enough to remember the incident with GE StarLink corn that "accidentally" entered the food supply in the US and Mexico. It was found in TacoBell taco shells and other supermarket foods. Quite a few people with no prior history of corn allergy went into anaphalactic shock after eating foods containing the GE corn.
The other negative side effect of the the bT corn is that it kills beneficial insects. 50% more green lacewings died after eating caterpillars that had fed on GE bT corn than those caterpillars which had been fed bT directly. Ladybugs that ate aphids from GE potatoes had 30% fewer offspring and only lived half of their normal lifespan. http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/homepages/eclark/assumptions.htm
Russian studies of GE soy fed to pregnant rats versus non GE soy showed that the GE soy group had smaller pups, slower growth and within three week 55.6% of the pubs in the GE soy group were dead versus 9% and 6.8% for the non GE soy groups.
Australian studies of GE peas were abandoned because the peas caused severe inflammation of the lung tissues in the mice.
The genetic engineering is not needed. The so called "problems" that the biotech companies are claiming genetic modification can solve, can all be addressed through proper plant and soil nutrition. Conventional agriculture kills off the soil biology and fails remineralize the soil with the nutrition required by the plants. This is by design, it's a marketing plan from the chemical companies. A malnourished plant with attract insects, which boosts sales of chemical pesticides. The chemical pesticides further disrupt the protein synthesis of the plants, which then attracts more insects and weakens the plant further so that they are susceptible to fungal diseases. This then boosts the sales of fungicides, which kill off the beneficial fungi in the soil, which then allows weeds to grow and boosts the sales of herbicides. (All of this has been documented in over 50 years of scientific study as published in the various peer reviewed science journals and assembled by Francis Chabousou) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healthy-Crops-New-Agricultural-Revolution/dp/1897766890
Weed growth is a sign of a disrupted soil biology. The weeds require a more primitive evolutionary environment than domesticated crops. Our domesticated plants prefer a higher evolutionary order and prefer different microbial communities in the rhizosphere. A soil with a higher ratio of beneficial bacteria to beneficial fungi (mycorrhizae) will produce more weeds. They thrive where there is a lack of beneficial mycorrhizae in the soil. http://www.soilfoodweb.com/
Biologically active soil sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. Conventional chemical ag practices kill off the soil biology and put more carbon into the atmosphere.
I have to disagree with your statement that glyphosate (Roundup) has been found safe. Glyphosate blocks progesterone production, disrupts mammalian estrus cycles and sperm counts leading to infertility and hormonal problems. It as been shown to have negative impacts on the pancreas and liver. http://www.guarding-our-earth.com/aggrand/roundup.htm
Heirloom and heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables have been shown to have higher nutritional content if growth in well nourished soils. These older varieties have consistently won out in lab tests for nutritional content. Maybe that's why folks kept them around and kept growing them?
If your fruit are bruising easily, you may have a calcium deficiency in your soil, or insufficient microbial activity to get the nutrition in to the plant. I invite you to learn more about sustainable biological agriculture and the connection between agricultual methods and human health.
Thanks Garden Mermaid, very informative post. No my intention is not to get political here but to have a civilized discussion on the pros and cons. Like I tell my son you can't have a truly informed opinion unless you listen to BOTH sides of the story. This is a subject that I know very little about and was hoping folks will jump in like gardenMermaid and provide what info they have and their own takes on the situation so we all can all have a truly informed opinion whether pro or con.
My point about the glyphosate is that it is relatively safe as chemicals go. It has been around a long time so we know a lot about it. Personally, I would rather see a farmer using glyphosate than some newfangled chemical that the chemical companies are pushing because they can make more money. I think we can all agree that eliminating the use of chemicals would be the ideal but seeing as thats not likely to happen soon, IMHO the known is better than something new.
Besides glyphosate resistance does anyone what they are supposedly trying to acheive with genetic engineering in plants? Is it disease resistance, better yeilds? Any know any specifics?
By the way Mermaid I totally agree with all you said about organic being better than chemical for growing food. It is well documented that the actual nutritional quality of our food has fallen as a result of modern farming methods and this is deffinately NOT sustainable. Do you have any info as to how organic methods can be applied to large scale farming? To be sustainable food also has to be affordable can this be done organicly to feed the amount of people we have today?
I am a 'never say never' person. This subject, like many others, is one where it is extremely difficult to get an objective appraisal. One can get two sets of studies which have opposing conclusions. Human nature dictates that we immediately cast doubt on anything which conflicts with our strongly held beliefs. I am certain that problems have occurred with GE products. So should ALL use of genetic methods to improve food production be stopped?? Seems drastic and a waste of technology and know-how to me. Should we proceed slowly and monitor closely? You bet. I hope that government agencies and University programs will help us keep things safe. They should be forced to go through a lengthier safety analysis before approval is granted. But one thing is certain. With projected population growth being what it is (forget about any additional stress brought on by climate change), yields have to be increased. Loss to disease and pests needs to be decreased. If that can be done completely without any GE, then I'm for it. Hard to believe it can, though. Unfortunately, things are rarely black and white. As the E.coli outbreaks show, even well-intentioned organic approaches can have unforeseen negative consequences. If manure use was one of the reasons for that, should all manure use be banned??
victor, from what I have seen so far, all of the genetic engineering of plants and animals has been purely for market control (control of food supply). The roundup ready seeds were initially marketed as allowing reducing cheminal use in the fields. In actual practice, it has increased it. The bT corn was supposed to be labour saving in that the farmer would not need to spray with bT as the toxin is already in the plant. The unintended consequences have caused an increase in labour needed.
To date, none of the GE crops released have been engineered to make them more nutritious. All of the crop problems needing genetic engineering to "solve", can all be solved by improving plant & soil nutrition.
Some biotech companies are trying to grow pharmaceuticals in plants. If they kept these plants isolated from all other plants, perhaps there would be a valid argument. But how can we trust that proper security would be maintained and the pollen not allowed to contaminate other plants? To date the genetic engineering industry has a dismal human and environmental safety record. Personally, I think the companies that created the seeds should be held liable for the cleanup and the damage done. To date it has been the farmer that has been persecuted.
Consider too, that the GE product that is being pushed right now is the one containing the Terminator gene. These are crops that produce seeds that will not germinate unless you apply an enzyme or other product produced by the company selling them. Seriouly folks, why would we want to introduce a food crop designed to be sterile?
"It would be a big boost to seed company profits if people who now grow non-hybrid crops would have to buy new seed every year. This may have been the major incentive for developing the Terminator Technology."
If you haven't already seen the DVD "The Future of Food", I recomend it. You can see the main film at the link below. I recommend renting or buying the DVD as the extra features wherein they interviewed many acclainmed scientists who studied the effects of GE foods on animal health. Anyone who publishes a study showing the hazardous effects is blackballed by Monsanto and cohorts and forced out of work. http://www.mercola.com/2007/jan/11/the-future-of-food----you-need-to-watch-this-video.htm
For those of you who got the erroneous impression that the E Coli outbreak from Salinas Valley spinach came from organic growers, you can thank the media for misleading you. No E Coli was found in a single package of organic spinach. All of the contamination came from conventional spinach, yet the media all focused their cameras on the Earthbound Farms sign at the packing plant.. Natual Selections foods processes for both organic and conventional growers. We knew something wasn't kosher when it took so long to find the source. The chain of custody under an organic program is so tight that it would have been easy to find the source of contamination. There is no such requirement for conventional ag products. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_2407.cfm
Organic certification is a certification of a process, not the end product. Although organically produced foods are often more nutritious that those grown with some chemical fertilizers, it is not guaranteed, especially as big industry is moving into the organics business. The biological or sustainable agronomy model can be followed under an organic program or not to increase crop nutrition and the health of the soil. Under the biological ag program, some farmers will use small amounts of phosphoric acid (like in coca cola) or aqua ammonia (like the household cleaner) in foliar sprays. This would prevent organic certification, but is a farming method that greatly reduces chemical use as chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are not allowed.
Can you explain your following statement for me as to how the bt seed treatment for cornroot worm beetle larva causes more labor usuage than spraying the plants? The bT corn was supposed to be labour saving in that the farmer would not need to spray with bT as the toxin is already in the plant. The unintended consequences have caused an increase in labour needed.
The gist of the study showed that continued crops of Bt corn killed the beneficial soil microorganisms, which thereby decrease soil fertility and increased incidences of weeds, which then required more spraying of herbicides. Apparently the Bt corn leaches its toxin into the soil, where it remains toxic for up to eight months, even after being plowed under.
I'm searching for the link to the study (clearly need to organize my Favourites menu on my browser) so you can read the full documentation. It was quite interesting and surprising.
Have you or your neighbors had any experience in growing Bt corn in your area? What have been your experiences with it?
More background food for thought. Here is another interesting view of genetic engineering of life as a new form of colonization. This is an interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center's In Motion Magazine staff: http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/shiva.html
"But this is not just a violence against farmers whose basic right, in my view, is seed saving. A farmer's duty, is protecting the earth, maintaining it's fertility, and maintaining the fertility of seed. That is part of being a farmer. A farmer is not a low-paid tractor driver, that's a modern definition of what a farmer is. The real definition of a farmer is a person who relates to the land and relates to the seed and keeps it for future generations, keeps renewing it, fertility."
"The roots of genetic engineering go back to the thirties when molecular biology was planted as a new science with no foundations. They didn't know what it would be. They knew two things. One that eugenics had lost repute in Europe and the project of eugenics had to have a disguised presentation to the public. It couldn't be so overtly social. It had to be rooted in a so-called scientific basis. It had to be rooted more in biology. The entire enterprise was financed through the Rockefeller Foundation. It was called the social psychology program. The only thing they knew at that point was let's find something deeper in the way things work biologically to say that this is inevitable. That selection is inevitable. The selection of human beings is inevitable because they are the way they are biologically determined to be -- poor, criminals, etc. -- the kind of arguments they had used for the eugenics movement in Europe in the past."
"...they could see that the deeper you can manipulate living structures the more you can control food and medicine. We're getting that new round of propaganda now which is suggesting that somehow manipulation at the genetic level always gives you superior products, which is not at all the case. It could give you higher risks. They are just using the fact that you are intervening at a deeper level in living structures and equating it with superior, with human progress. There is no correlation between these two things."
I don't farm, but grew up on the farm and am surrounded by farms of corn and soybeans. I read a farm magazine weekly and it contains the latest versions of "stacked" traits for seed treatments. Now they try to have a seed treatment to resist rotting in cold wet soils. Also it is now popular to have corn rootworm resistance built into the seed rather than having an exterior poison on the seed...It's getting hi-tech nowadays.
I too hate those corn rootworm beetles as later plantings of my sweetcorn are attacked by them wanting to eat the silks and therby preventing good polination. ...and poor pollination can result in a few very large starchy kernels with a lot of missing ones and silks impossible to remove.
How high has the brix been on your corn? That will help you determine if the plant is getting all the nutrients it needs for complete protein synthesis. The insects, including corn worms, are attracted to plants with free amino acids.
Brix is a measure of dissolved solids in the plant sap. Most of it is sugar, which is what the plant uses for energy. Short of sending samples to a lab for complete analysis, measuring the brix with a refractometer has so far proven to be the most reliable way to determine the nutritional health of the plant.
More info at the link below and at the HighBrix Gardens site posted above on March 18th: http://crossroads.ws/brixbook/BBook.htm
The ag consultants I've spoken to say it usually takes 3 to 5 years to completely convert a conventional farm to a biological one, depending on how dead the soil is, but the farmers are seeing improvements even in the first year. I've seen a dramatic improvement in our garden in just six months. Granted, I live in a climate with a 12 month growing season.