GMO's - continued part II

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

We have come from here:

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)


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.

This message was edited Apr 22, 2014 11:09 AM

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

This is a link to an article about a report casting doubt on GMO labeling. I don't expect it will change anyone's opinion, but to be fair, you ought to read it.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

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.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

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.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

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!

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

The USDA or probably the FDA could set a national standard for labeling without the congress similar to how the USDA organic standards were set I believe.

The arctic apple is not yet commercialized but it is close. There will be a golden and a green one. Not sure where they got the trait.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

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.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

The FDA has not approved the GMO apples and the US apple growers association oppose their introduction. Time will tell if they are commercialized.

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

Neil deGrasse Tyson ‏@neiltyson 15 Mar 2013

Most who fear genetically altered food are unaware that nearly all food has been genetically altered via artificial selection

I agree.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

I agree too!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)


Vista, CA

Anything Drobarr posts should be watched carefully, because you are pretty sure to learn something.


Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

Law suit filed against the recent GMO labeling law in VT.

“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"

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

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.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

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.

Vista, CA


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.


Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

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!

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

I just saw an article on a poll that found 80% of those polled favor labeling of foods containing DNA. Any thoughts from y'all?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I wonder if they were trying to make a distinction between:

"food containing ingredients made from GE plants",
"food containing whole-plant-parts like whole sweet corn or whole soybeans" and possible future GMO foods like Arctic apples or GE salmon.

(Sugar, corn syrup and corn oil contain no DNA, but can be made from GMOs. Almost every processed food whatsoever has some sugar, corn syrup ororn oil.)

Or maybe they live in the Star Trek:TNG universe where "we no longer enslave plants and animals for our food".

This message was edited Feb 9, 2015 4:49 PM

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

Rick--Unfortunately, the words I chose were accurate. I wuz running my little own test here...

Anyway to delete these posts and run the test for a while?

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

Rick: A related point. I know people who are quite concerned that their compost might be made with GMO crop residues.

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

Rick: A related point. I know people who are quite concerned that their compost might be made with GMO crop residues. I also heard a woman who is the founder of a nationwide organic supply company--on her own local radio program--profess to worry about her food having "genes" and mispronouncing the active ingredient in RU as "glyphosphate". Even worse, the last issue of Organic Gardening mag featured an article (maybe an ad) that stated that OG was teaming up with Boiron, the homeopathic people. I may be dropping my OG subscription over that--there is zero excuse for a sane person to accept homeopathy.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Quote from WillyFromAZ :
Rick--Unfortunately, the words I chose were accurate. I wuz running my little own test here...

Anyway to delete these posts and run the test for a while?

Good ... I think. I can delete my post.

I couldn't follow your link, but our IT department makes many links unreachable.

P.S. If they advocated "labeling" food that "contains DNA" then maybe I'm the idiot. After all, the proposal boils down to "labeling food". I wish I could post a photo of a big, brown carton with the word "FOOD" stenciled on it. That would satisfy the literal words of the proposal.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Willy, how's that? If it meets your test criteria I'll delete my last few posts also.

However, how many people will see this thread who have not already seen it?

P.S. I think it is very well-established that many people disagree very strongly with other people's opinions about GE foods, and other topics that involve science or depend on trusting results and claims from scientists, industries or government researchers.

Too bad that some inflammatory writers and over-claiming zealots have poisoned trust for entire industries and sciences.

And many people think that anyone who disagrees must be sadly mistaken, dupes, dolts or dummies. That's too bad, especially given the DISproof of that evident in threads in this forum.

I know I have mixed feelings about GMOS: the foods we eat now are 100% safe, I wouldn't touch a GE salmon that was raised in dilute feces, I'll avoid never-browning apples for unclear reasons.

There MAY be some long term ecological hazards in multiplying and broadcasting transgenic DNA including multiple-antibiotic-resistance genes attached to "genome jumping" plasmids.

That's one of those hazards that exist (if they exist) because we can't disprove them, not because there is much clear evidence already.

(Other than the fact that something like 73% of weedy canola growing in ditches somewhere have RU resistance (sorry I don't have that source handy). But it shows how fast pollen drifts and how well genes are conserved if they convey a selective advantage (or, probably, if they are closely connected to a gene that confers an advantage).)

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

We were re-watching the History Channel show The Men Who Built America.
The discussion of the fear over the early electrical systems and the dangers of electricity, reminded me of the GMO issue. And now we live with electrical lines all over the place which can kill people and cause fires, and we accept the risk.
And- those men did some very ruthless things in building their empires.

I'm not saying this proves anything about the gmo issue, just that the whole scenario is not really a new thing.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

Here is an interesting article by a respected food reviewer (a chemist) who acknowledges that he was initially taken in by anti-GMO propaganda, and why the scientific evidence changed his mind.

It reinforces the necessity in being cautious about whom you quote to bolster your arguments.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health, by Vendemois, Roullier, Cellier and Seralini.

Yeah, "Seralini" is a red flag. The paper that I read by her had so many long buzzwords that it was hard to notice she had done NO research.

Sallyg, I agree that a rational society would take small risks for large gains, as we did with AC current. But how rational are we today? It seems that one inflammatory headline on top of an obviously BS-laden article in an "open journal" carries more weight than hundreds of scientists and thousands of studies and trials.

And I would say that there's no evidence that eating currently approved-for-humans foods with ingredients from GMOs does any harm to humans. (And no strong evidence that feeding GMOs to farm animals hurts them much if any.)

I'm not altogether comfortable about the POSSIBLE long-term ecological/genetic consequences of planting thousands of square miles of crops with embedded plasmids containing transgenic DNA - but that's just my "discomfort", not evidence that "something bad might happen".

I AM sure that we don't have any other technology on the near horizon likely to feed several billion more people without creating more fertile land for farming and providing fresh water and fertilizers to it without creating more CO2.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

Every technology has potential negative and unintended consequences along with many positive and intended and unintended good.

With the example of electricity and the potential consequences there we see that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Certainly electricity has saved many lives and with the advents of lights, refrigerators to conserve food, medical devices, xrays, and other machines that need electricity so much good has been done it would be silly to oppose the technology. Focusing on the people who die from electricity certainly isn't looking at the whole without it many more would die. Of course if we can keep the benefits of electricity and minimize the negative side effects who would be opposed to that? So it is alright to focus on the negative if there are ways to make the technology better or safer.

I support GMO's and I believe they are safe. Correct, we do not know the long term effects of consuming GMO's or the long term effects on the environment. But GMO's have been in use for 20 years in the USA and we have not seen any severe or detrimental impact to humans or the environment. In fact they have significantly reduced pesticide exposures by reducing the amount or toxicity of pesticides that were used previously.

Another thought is this. We tend to lump all GMO's as either good or bad. But each trait that is moved could potentially be dangerous or could be safe. Moving a gene from a tomato to a corn plant may be less harmful than moving a gene from a bacteria that contains a toxin to a corn plant that we later consume. How about if a gene is moved from an animal to a plant? Obviously not all genetic transformations are alike and just because one is safe doesn't mean another one isn't. And likewise if one is found to be detrimental it doesn't mean that all are either.

As with any technology I think we need to test them adequately and make sure they are safe which is what is being done. Of course there are going to be many disagreements about how much research is enough and even the results of those tests.

Since nobody has died due to eating a GMO's I would argue that the current level of regulation and tests being done is adequate.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'd agree with that.

And you didn't even stress the high value of GMOs in developed countries for productivity, or the potential high value of the newest GE tools for poorer country's ability to farm with fewer inputs and more marginal soil and rainfall.

I especially agree that transgenic GE is or appears more risky than cisgenic GE . My hope is that CRISPR enables plant geneticists to get the results they want without using transgenic DNA AND without having to back-cross things for multiple generations to recover from a conventional hybridization.

It might become an issue to debate, or just agree to disagree, where the best balance lies for the degree of caution exercised for crops developed using cisgenic GE. The push is already on to reduce the regulatory burden for cisgenic crops produced using GE tools:

I'll state my position up front: I'm not sure how much i would ease testing. If the editing changes with CRISPR really are "clean" and no foreign DNA or "jumping gene plasmids" or "fragile regions" are introduced by CRISPR, it's hard to defend requiring much more care than we have now for a new hybrid produced by conventional breeding (which I assume is negligible).

Presumably, since CRISPR is cheap, fast and easy, it WILL be used and its products deployed very freely in many countries. Where Europe, Japan and the USA will set their regulatory thresholds, I don't know.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks for the warning. Next year or so, I'll have to start watching closely for "Arctic" apples.

I'd rather know if the fruit was bruised, cut or bitten, and I'd rather not eat GMOs until it's a necessity.

"Arctic" apples aren't going to prevent any malnutrition or bring marginal land into production. It just lets packers and shippers throw the apples around harder without causing VISIBLE bruises. A "marketability" improvement.

I guess it would also let you cut an apple open and store it longer without it turning brown as quickly.

But this does sound like a relatively harmless genetic change: said to be ONLY " to suppress the apple’s release of polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bitten, bruised, or cut."

And: "All we’ve done is reduce the expression of a single enzyme; there are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit"

Do you happen to know whether Okanagan Specialty Fruits used the "old" Agrobacterium plasmid techniques or the newer CRISPR? I assume the plasmid tools, because they were said to have been in field trials for ten years.

If they didn't use CRISPR, it has AT LEAST the bacterial DNA from the plasmid, and probably an antibiotic-resistance gene, maybe also bacterial or other transgenic promoter and initiator DNA regions.

Perhaps "there are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit" is true, but that doesn't mean there is no transgenic DNA.

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

Glad to see this thread active again. After about a year of thinking and reading about this, and similar subjects, I've gone from a mild skeptic to "it's fine". I am almost totally convinced that the whole organic "scene" is mostly anti-scientific BS, with The Food Babe as its poster child. Here's an example that is useful to me in thinking about the GMO thing: Take the tomato/salmon cross that never made it to market. Imagine eating that tomato. Now, imagine having tomatoes and salmon for dinner. How is that different in terms of what shows up in your belly? Why is a transgenic chunk of DNA inherently suspect? There may be an answer here--I'm making no claims in that regard. Just asking the question. As I see it, the two "sensible" risks from ANY genetic alteration are 1) the accidental introduction of an allergen (say, crossing corn with a peanut), or 2) intensification of an already present poison (Lenape potato is an example:

I hope to hear thoughts from y'all.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)


You are right. If the DNA comes from another food source then really there is no health concern other than what you mention. Glad you came around on this one.

But what about the case of Bt where a toxin is produced and comes from a bacteria. Any toxin, even natural ones and organically approved ones could potentially cause some harm. Testing is needed as a precaution.

It is interesting how Bt is approved for use in organic production but is bad when the Bt is expressed in a GMO product. Organic is mostly emotional and not scientific at all. There are lots of parts of organic that are not good for health or the environment or even humane! How about organic you cant give your sick cow any if she gets sick you have to let the animal suffer and maybe die. Isn't an antibiotic also natural?

Most consumers don't realize that regular non GMO and organically grown plants each contain hundreds of toxins and compounds that are natural. These compounds help fight off diseases, insects, and even weeds. Plants are a natural powerhouse of pesticides. Some of these compounds can be dangerous to some people but most are safe because we have adapted to them. We also eat billions of bacteria daily which contain all sorts of toxins in most cases doing little harm to us. I think if the public understood these facts there would be much less chemophobia. At least we know quite a bit and test very rigorously the chemicals we add to agricultural systems.

As far as this new apple I cant wait to try it. Like the article says it is probably the safest apple out there because it has been tested so much! Besides when I eat a bag of sliced apples at subway they wont have to treat them with calcium and ascorbic acid and will probably be healthier.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

The level of scientific understanding in the general population, is abysmal, IMHO. But I guess there are lots of things that I know nothing about and those who do think I am foolish too.

Science is also discovering things like which varieties of food crops have higher phytonutrients than others ("Eating on the Wild side" by Jo Robinson). So in general I trust science to move us forward. It's when big $ comes into it that things get wonky.

Sierra Vista, AZ(Zone 8b)

A blog named NeuroLogica has frequent threads on GMOs and other science related topics. It's worth a look. Here's the most recent GMO related thread:

Another interesting blog is Science Based Medicine, which sometimes gets into GMOs and organic quackery in general. It's here:

If you scroll down the SBM listings a bit, you'll find a thread devoted to the Food Babe.

Both blogs are worth a regular stop.

Clarification: I have nothing against organic practices and generally follow them pretty closely in my own garden. It's when the organic tenets become a religion and the "anti-chemical" thing gets extreme that things go off the rails.

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