Way Too Much Angst About GMO Crops

From what I read on various blogs and comment streams, there is way too much angst out there about GMO crops. Too much angst because every significant panel of scientists that has reviewed this technology has concluded that it is as safe as any other domesticated food crop.  Too much angst because the reality is that only a small number of crop species will ever be genetically engineered for commercial use.  There are four main reasons why this is the case:

1.  Brand protectionism

2.  Unfavorable economics

3.  Other ways to achieve the same goals, and

4.  Anti-GMO activism

1.  Brand Protectionism

For most crops, somewhere along the chain of commerce from the farmer to the consumer, there is a step where there is considerable “concentration.” This means that much of the market is in the hands of one or a few players.  A classic case is potatoes.  In the US, McDonalds corporation is such a dominant buyer of frozen fries,  it was able to stop the commercial deployment of biotech potatoes with three phone calls.  Unlike standard potatoes, the GMO potatoes in question are not planted into a supply of insecticide sufficient to be picked up by the roots for 60 days because they make their own, super-safe and specific “pesticide” in their leaves (Bt).  The GMO potatoes also don’t need to be sprayed for aphids close to harvest because they are resistant to the virus those aphids spread.  The potato growers were extremely excited about the technology, but purely for the sake of brand protection, McDonalds was able to deprive the entire industry of this advance.  Potatoes are still a perfectly safe food.  It could just be easier on the growers.

There are other cases of this sort of brand-protection power.  The major frozen food companies and grocery retailers have been able to block most use of “Bt Sweet Corn” which could save farmers 8-10 insecticide sprays/season.  Frito-Lay blocked the use of GMO, Bt white corn for corn chips even though that technology greatly reduces the risk of contamination with the mycotoxin, Fumonisin, which has been linked to neural tube defects in humans.

Brands are very valuable things and are protected fiercely.  Activists like Greenpeace know this well, and they are able to use the threat of protest to turn that business instinct into decisions that are counter-productive for farmers and consumers alike.

2.  Unfavorable Economics

Genetically engineering a crop is not that costly, but doing all the work necessary for the regulators is very expensive.  Unless the crop in question is very large, very valuable or both, it will just never “pencil” to make the R&D investment, particularly if there is any marketing risk.  I was once on a team that helped a major banana company and a biotech company think-through whether they should spend the money to develop a disease resistant banana.  In Central America, it is necessary to spray this crop from the air almost every week to control a disease called Black Sigatoka.  Bananas are a large, global crop so I was certain that the “business case” would be attractive.  To everyone’s surprise, when we did the math, it came out as a poor investment!  The problem is that banana plantations only get re-planted about every 20 years, so even if the new technology was available, only a small area would be planted each year. Saving >50 aerial sprays wasn’t enough to cover registration costs once the time-value-of-money is factored in.

So no minor crop and almost no perennial crop is ever going to become GMO unless the growers band together to make the investment.  A coffee expert explained this to the global Specialty Coffee Association last year and suggested that they contemplate what it means that coffee will never be GMO.  With the issues of climate change and declining labor availability, that entire industry is at risk.

3.  Other Ways to Achieve the Same Goals

There has been a tremendous, public/private, global investment in biotechnology, far beyond that for the few crops that have been modified.  That has led to the development of many new methods to alter the genes of plants etc. that don’t involve the introduction of any “foreign DNA.”  Most of the crops that fit category 2 above will likely be improved using these alternatives (Marker Assisted Selection, Directed Mutagenesis, Induced Polyploidy…).  These improvements will not involve expensive regulatory barriers, and so far, don’t draw the ire of activists. (With the exception of one attack on “Hidden GMO” sunflowers that were generated by mutagenesis.)

4.  Anti-GMO Activism

Plant genetic engineering has been the most carefully thought-through new technology introduction in history.  I remember attending major scientific conferences on the safety and environmental questions at least 10 years before the first commercial seeds were planted.  We talked through everything with ecologists, botanists, sociologists, economists, molecular geneticists, food industry experts. But none of this influences the “environmental” groups who have seized on this issue to raise funds and draw attention.  The activist’s task is made easier because molecular genetics is a fast-moving science that few consumers understand.  The press has also been unwilling to take the time to understand this to the extent that journalistic standards would require and so many have not helped to counteract the fear-mongering.  This is the only way I can explain some activist-driven rejections.

My all-time-most-read blog post was titled, “A Sad Day For Wine. A Sad Day For Science.”  There is a virus called Grapevine Fanleaf Virus that is spread by a nematode (Xiphenema index). If the two ever infest a given vineyard site, good quality wine can never be produced there again because the vines will soon decline and die.  That means that there are many wonderful vineyards around the world that have the an excellent “terrior” (something the French appreciate so much), but that site can no longer produce good wine.  Grapes are grown on “rootstocks” and Cornell University had modified a rootstock to be resistant to the virus.  This was an elegant solution to the Grape Fanleaf Virus problem because the top part of the vine is unchanged and only one kind of rootstock has to be developed.  Last fall an experimental block of this new technology was ripped out of the ground by activists who believed they were saving the French wine industry from “genetic contamination.”  That fear is 100% irrational – it is a rootstock under the ground that never flowers.  Besides, grapes are not grown from seeds anyway.  Different varieties of wine grapes are planted side-by-side all the time with no ill effects!

Is This Good Or Bad-Consider the Case of Wheat

So for a variety of reasons (some economic, some logical, some irrational, some selfish), very few additional crops will ever be GMO. That is not to say GMO is a small contribution to the food supply.  Corn, Soy, Cotton, Canola, Sugarbeets and Alfalfa are GMO and cover hundreds of millions of acres and find their way into many processed foods, meat and milk.  Still,  I will continue to argue that GMO crops can be beneficial.  The world will survive without a bit more excellent wine (very few vineyards in California, Chile, Argentina or Australia are contaminated!), but the other crop where activist-generated-fear has “won” by eliciting Brand Protectionism is – wheat, the second largest food crop on earth.  By 2004, Greenpeace was able to generate enough fear in Europe to get major millers and bakers to threaten not to purchase North American wheat if any became GMO.  The Canadian Wheat Board blinked, and two, nearly commercial wheat traits, were stopped in their tracks.  One kind of GMO wheat would have been easier to farm with no-till methods and easier to keep pure for specialty uses.  The other GMO wheat would have reduced disease-related yield losses as well as mycotoxin contamination.

It is far easier to stir up fear than it is to educate the public.   There was an excellent article by Justin Gillis in the New York Times on 6/4/11 titled, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself.”  Much of the article is about how wheat production is failing to increase sufficiently to meet rising global demand.  GM technology is not the full answer to this challenge by any means, but the fact that we are not including GM in the wheat improvement toolbox is a clear-cut “bad thing” in my book.

This post originally appeared on Sustainablog on 6/8/11.
You are welcome to comment here or to email me at applied.mythology@gmail.com.  My website is Applied Mythology.  Image of Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting,  ”The Scream” from oddsock. French Fry image by Sun Dazed. Alsatian vineyard image near Colmar, France from Andreea.

Steve Savage is an agricultural scientist (plant pathology) with >30 years of experience in agricultural technology. He has worked for Colorado State University, DuPont (fungicide development), Mycogen (biocontrol development), and for the past 13 years as an independent. He also has a little vineyard in his back yard near San Diego. His speaking websiet is :"His blogging website is Applied Mythology. You can follow him on Twitter @grapedoc


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572 comments to Way Too Much Angst About GMO Crops

    • thomas fix

      No birth defects. Round up is very common in gardening but no birth defects have been reported. Gardeners and farmers have no higher levels in birth defects or cancer.
      Patios in Germany are a kind of round up soaked -not mine.

  • “Official” for the crowd of anti-GM activists it seems.

    • thomas fix

      How to starve a planet?
      The silent spring idee did not work we are growing older and healthier Get the idea around that the evil of the conditio humana is CO2 with the following consequences-
      :

      1. Instead food farm energy plants. The ETOC lobby of the Americas and the Biogas lobby in Europe salute David Hanson of NASA.
      2.Regulate farming intensly in favour of preservation. So may be that migratory bird devastete crops or watermanagment for amphibias makes farming a pain.
      3.Apart from preservation get more trees planted which follows the infantile perception the oxygen comes from the terrestial trees that even agglomerate the CO2
      4. Burry fertile farmland under solar panels, wind turbines or hundred feet of water for the purpose of power production.
      5. Before shortage of farmland occurs invest in farmland to get a good bargain. Big Investment Companies but also power companies are investing franticly in farmland. Ask Ted Turner of CNN who bouught land the size of a small state in Europe.

  • Right on! The anti-GMO activism has surely led to a poorer world sans all these healthier alternatives and the missed opportunities.

  • Joanne

    ok. I don’t care what panels of scientists say. They are not us. They are not obliged to protect our lives. They may not live long enough to see the terrible effects showing on their offsprings. Or some people enjoy the stocks of Monsanto. Anyway, I don’t care arguing with you whether GMO are safe or not.

    I want the GMO to be labelled! Why you scientists fear labeling them? Why?!!!!!

    • Everyone is obliged to protect other peoples lives, if the their-own actions can cause harm. Scientists especially take care to ensure lives are saved by positive actions , clarification of facts, and avoidance of unsafe actions.

      There are many examples of harm caused by organisations who lobby against scientific work that does good, or who unintentionally advocate policies that are intended to do good but actually do great harm. One example is vitamin A enriched rice which is delayed years, thanks mainly to Greenpeace. Another is anti-vaccine activism that is causing a recent jump in measles disease that can cause permanent brain damage (SASPE). The Anti-vaccine nonsense is fully explained by a new book by Seth Mnookin called the Panic Virus. Both anti-science groups behave in similar harmful ways but both ani-science movements are convinced they are themselves morally good.

      So when you say Joanne “Oh, I don’t care about what panels of scientists say”, think about the harm your position does and who is affected– mainly poor people. Think carefully about the harm you might yourself do if you knowingly spread the Panic Virus.

      • Joanne

        What harm I do to others? I don’t care. Yes, I have the right to not to care because I don’t trust scientists. This is my personal opinion. I don’t ask people to not to care. I don’t say scientists are right by saying GMOs are safe. I just say I don’t believe scientists. I don’t force people to eat GMOs or not to eat GMOs. I don’t argue GMOs are safe or not. Because I think if they are labelled, I would have the chance to vote by my money.

        We have the right to choose what to eat. Without labelling, now we are forced to eat GMOs! Does that do harm? That harms a lot to people.

    • Scientists are not us, what a strange thing to say. Scientists are just people like anyone else. There isn’t some line drawn between those who do science and everyone else, ‘scientist’ isn’t some innate class of person, they are just those who

      As for labeling, there is no mandaroty labeling for the same reason many things are not labeled. There is no mandatory labeling for kosher or halal food, crops grown from tissue culture, crops who’s chromosomes have been doubled with colchicine, crops developed with the use of mutagens, or any number of things. Looking at blue berries, black berries, and raspberries, you never see the variety name on the little carton. I’d personally like to know what variety I’m eating. Why isn’t that labeled? Well, for the same reason GMOs aren’t labeled. If something presents a potential danger, it should be labeled, for example, the presence of peanuts or hydrogenated oils (speaking of which, anyone else ever wonder why there is so little backlash over the oils that will hurt you but so much over the GMOs that won’t?). If however there is no known danger I don’t see any sort of ethical or legal argument supporting mandatory labeling. And really, that something is GMO, what does that really say? There are different gene insertion methods, different genes, different effects…you could have two GMO plants that have nothing in common besides the fact that they’re considered GMO. How is a GMO Arctic apple in any way like a GMO Bt corn? Even if GMOs were labeled, such a label would not, could not, do anything to inform, it would merely alarm, and I think everyone knows that. Thanks to the blatant lies of Greenpeace, organic groups, flying dance teachers, and other unscientific fearmongers, the only thing labeling would really do is scare people. You can’t say it would inform anyone of what is GMO because that is already easy to learn knowledge: corn, cotton, canola, soybean, papaya from Hawaii, some straight neck summer squash/zucchini, and soon alfalfa & sugarbeet. If it has them in it, it’s a safe bet the food is GM. I never understood the labeling thing; if you already know, what more do you want, unless what you want is for others to see the label and make the assumption that it signifies danger. And that just doesn’t seem right.

      • One way or another, every human is a scientist. Who can possibly spend a day without trying something to see if it works or not? Aside from their formal education, professional scientists simply have different habits of thought. They take more care in forming hypotheses and setting up experiments in such a way that biases are forcefully excluded from the result. The rest of us use imagination ‘on the fly’ and hope for the best.

    • thomas fix

      Put on a OC the labeling: Can cause PE =pulonary embolism but without mentioning the odds.

      The same thing with labling of GMO when the precautionary principle applies and the oddss are in the range of 1: mill-bill.

      Risk aversion is psychology and can lead to overreaction

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    I looked at “Alex’s” article, and at the comments there.

    We’re in trouble. Ignorance, catastrophization and one-upmanship in anti-(Monsanto, capitalism, science, scientists, US government, Vast International Conspiracy) fervor are going unchallenged by rationality and facts; the Dark Ages are returning. I don’t want to see another Hypatia.

    • Joanne

      I agree that, “the Dark Ages are returning”. I just want to cry.

    • OrchidGrowinMan,

      ‘We’re in trouble’ because of how narratives are handled. Greenpeace gets a pass on anything they say or do, and proponents of agro biotech are so frightened of them and other similar groups that they daren’t say anything about the enemy.

      Agro biotech has ceded territory to the activists with nary a skirmish. That bone-headed approach is costing millions in lives and in currency around the world.

      The actual problem is gutless technology providers. Maybe they’re trying to look weak so that they won’t look like they’re ‘trying to control the world food supply’.

      Won’t work, didn’t work, will never work.

      • If someone had a monopoly on a necessity like the food supply, the price of food would rise such that it would take half or more of the GDP.

        If food did cost that much, there are a lot of alternatives that would become viable.

        • Monsanto does not control the world’s food supply because it sells nothing to consumers. (Outside of a recent release of Monsanto onions in select markets.)

          The giant food manufacturing concerns and grocery chains have *all* the power, and if they wanted to, they could put Monsanto out of business in a month. They could buy and sell the entire agro biotech industry with less than they spend on *advertising*.

          Which means Monsanto et. al. are playing a very dangerous game by ignoring their sworn enemies. This will become especially true when the biotechs put ‘healthy’ oils on the market which are derived from GM crops.

          We all saw what happened to GM potatoes. French fry manufacturers (two of them supply nearly all of North America) and their customers (McDonalds et. al.) forced the GM potatoes off the market.

          Don’t be surprised if food manufacturers and grocery stores in North America force GM ‘healthy’ oils off the market. We have a real precedent to judge by, and it’s not encouraging.

          Monsanto et al shareholders seeing years of R&D squandered on items rejected by ‘the market’ will not be happy. We’re talking hundreds of millions down the drain. And mostly because the agro biotech industry will not engage its opponents.

          • thomas fix

            If the the GMO fries are much cheaper than the others the consumers will decide in favour of the cheaper price.

            The price should be the message and not the healthiness of food. The opposite would be that thers is unhealthy food which does not exist. It is eatable or not.
            The toxic dosis of certain herbs and spices can be reached by unsound use. But in these concentrations it wont be a pleasure to eat.
            GMO has the wrong message to the people struggling to follow a 5 minutes speech. Cars were bought initianally not beacause of secondary benefits. They were bought to travel and get around. In rural northern Germany there are a lot of horses and its time consuming to travel by horse -a pure recreational thing.
            The price of GMO is the point and the fear of the farmers that they could be desperately dependent on Monsanto seeds(kind of conspirational theory)

            • If the GM seed price is too high, don’t buy them I say. Only use the seeds that provide a net benefit. Strangely, those farmers given the option use them again the next year, year after year. What does that say about benefits of GM seeds to farmers?

              • thomas fix

                The farmer dont know better. They are convinced that Monsanto made GMO to make them buy the same seed and the suitable pesticides. They fear that the crop is not suitable as seed . It is like buying a laser printer where only one toner fits which is not refillable. By the way no farmer i know plants his own seeds.

                • Ewan R

                  Farmers do know better – I find it rather bizarre that anyone would state otherwise – farmers are well aware of the market for seed, pesticides, etc – people who have no direct connection to agriculture don’t know better, and people ideologically opposed to the idea of GMOs who do know better are quite happy to lie about the system in order to perpetuate this – but claiming that farmers don’t understandhow the system operates is simply not true in the vast majority of cases.

                  • thomas fix

                    My posting was misleading. Ideed know farmers very well how the system works. But the propganda was very successfull in the implication GMO means a endless depedency on big pharma. In germany most farmers think the GMo seed does only work for one year it means you may not be able to get seeds out of the crop.

  • An so another myth is born. Remember the one that started saying that eating GMO potatoes made people susceptible to bird flue? I’m sure there are still people out there who believe that.

    • Joanne

      You cannot force people to believe something or not. If you say GMOs are safe, why not label them? What is the fear? You say it is hard to label. But how does Monsantoes make money by charging patent fees over their seeds? How they can tell which seeds are their GMO seeds? Easy. It is very easy to label them. Please do not find an excuse to cover up the crime against humanity!

  • Joanne,

    You would have to see the grain handling system of the US midwest to understand why it would be completely impractical to track and label the corn, soybeans etc. You would substantially increase the cost of all foods to do that. It is much more practical to identify preserve and label the small amount of grain that is not GMO. All of society need not pay for the fears of a few. As for most crops, they never have been and never will be GMO. Chill!

  • Mike Bendzela

    “I don’t care what panels of scientists say. They are not us.”

    Joanne, that is a completely bigoted and ignorant comment.

    • Joanne

      This is my personal opinion. Nothing wrong about it. Why accuse me? Why I have to care the scientists? LoL. Wait a minute. Maybe you misunderstood me. I don’t mean scientists are always correct. That is exactly why I don’t care them. Unfortunately, a lot of people may be fooled by scientists. Those who count on scientists to say the food are safe or not.

      Sadly, even I don’t want to eat GMOs, I am forced to eat GMOs since they are NOT labelled. If Monsanto knows how to charge patent fees on GMO seeds, they should have a way to label the crops.

      Just that the US government do not label GMOs, they want to force people to eat GMOS. Btw, I do not object you to eat GMOS if you love them or if you hold stocks.

      Just please do NOT force me to eat GMOs by not labelling them!!

  • Joanne

    I am surprised that you guys attack me instead of Monsanto. I, of course, would like those scientists to take care of us. However, they have failed us, at least me. I do NOT believe those scientists. I mean I don’t care. Just mean, I don’t expect them. I don’t mean, that are right. Yes, they would do harm to people who are ignorant of the harm of the GMOs.

    What I want is that they should mark up those GMO. As one of you said, most food are still not GMOs. So GMOs are still a minority. GMOs should be labelled!! So people can vote by money.

    That is what I mean. Please do NOT get me wrong.

  • Joanne

    Friends, note that some or most GMOs have built-in pestcide. Scientists, if you love to eat it, please please eat it yourself, feed your family, relatives….. But please do NOT force others to eat. OKay?

    • Yep, most plants have chemicals that are there to repel pests and herbivores. The allicin in garlic, the tannins in persimmons, the capsaicin in peppers, and plenty of others (anyone have a list of those? That’d be cool). That there is a pesticide in a crop sounds alarming, but that really doesn’t say much. I’m not about to stop eating oranges because they have hesperidin, or stop eating mint because it has menthol, or stop eating black pepper because it has piperine. Just because something has the properties of a pesticide doesn’t mean that it will harm you, and even for those that can hurt you, that it is in sufficient quantity to do so. In the case of GMOs, yes, many do produce their own pesticide, however, this particular protein has been extensively studied, and it is not known to be a danger to humans. You certainty wouldn’t avoid radishes because they contain Allyl isothiocyanate, so unless there is a reason to avoid the specific pesticide (and in the case of the Bt protein produced by GMOs, there is not), it’s kind of a double standard to treat GMOs differently don’t you think?

      And you know, no one is forcing anyone to eat anything. If you don’t want GMO food, that’s your call and you’re free to it. I doubt anyone is making you eat GMO food. If I don’t want, for example, rice with the sd-1 gene (not that I have anything against sd-1 of course), I don’t have to eat that rice, but if that gene were very prevalent in cultivated rice, then the onus is on me to to find non-sd-1 rice, and I would certainty not say I am forced to eat sd-1 rice, much like if you want non-GMO whatever, that is on you, not everyone else, and you are not being forced anything. And like you have the right to eat what you wish, keep in mind that farmers have the right to grow as much or as little GMO crops as they wish.

      • Joanne

        Now GMOs are not labelled, that is how I am forced to eat GMOs. Every time when I go shopping, I have to google a lot to find out whether some food is already GMO. Still I could not tell all food. For example, one of my favorite foods: eggplants could be GMOs. But I am not an expert yet to tell which variety of eggplants is GMO. Even some organic food could be GMOs! such as, there is something called: “organic canola oil”. Really ridiculous name, damaging the organic brand.

        And when I go to cafeterias or restaurants, I have no control. Just have to eat. Where is my right?

        I don’t care “most plants have chemicals”. I believe the mother nature more than some scientists. Because those plants still can give birth to next generations naturally, regardless their chemicals. But GMOs seeds can only be bought from chemical companies like Monsanto. Why? That is the basic difference. That means the built-in pesticide in GMOs are different. If you cannot prove it toxic, you cannot prove it safe. Why assume they are safe? By being forced to eat GMOs, we are at least part of the animal experiments. And actually there are already findings proving they lead to birth defects…..

        I call for true scientists! I don’t want to be part of animal experiments! Stop it! Don’t go evil!

        • Randy

          These “scientists” should keep their bullshit to themselves. There are mountains of evidence that GMOs are evil/an abomination/toxic/out of control…Every new “food” product that comes out has more GMOs and toxic chemicals than the ones before. I wonder how these “geniuses” would rationalize/justify peanut butter that besides the “peanut oil”, contains corn, soy, canola and cottonseed oils! This is insanity at its best!

          • Exactly what evidence is needed to determine whether an inanimate object or process is “evil”? What methods are used? Is this a quantitative measurement? Is a priest or shaman required?

            As far as evidence about toxicity, you can find mountains here at Biofortified here: http://www.biofortified.org/genera/guide/

            What does peanut butter have to do with this at all? Nothing, as far as I can tell, but since you mentioned it, my personal favorite peanut butter is PB2 which has had all peanut oils removed and no other oils added. This significantly reduces the amount of fat while maintaining flavor and protein. However, it has to be mixed with water or milk into a paste, making it a little less convenient to use. As far as I know, peanut butters that have added vegetable oil actually only have very small amounts of that oil, which is added to increase smoothness and to prevent the peanut butter from separating, making it more convenient to use without changing nutritional quality. Perhaps it takes a genius to figure this out, but I don’t think so. Perhaps people who can’t figure this out are just lacking in intelligence.

    • thomas fix

      The same string of DNA is also Yours. Thats biology.

  • Joanne,

    No one is forcing you to eat GMOs. Most of the GMO crops are fed to animals or woven into clothes. We are not attacking you. You are making your life much more miserable than it needs to be. I’m sorry for that. I wish I could help with information because that is what I have to offer.

    Steve

    • Joanne

      I am not miserable. I am noble. I have the courage to speak out. Really proud of myself. :)

      I would be glad if it is true that most of GMOs are not fed to humans yet. Still, that is a lie. I heard that even GMO wheat will be fed to humans soon. Sadly, “GM Crops are More Widespread than you Think, and Linked to Potential Health Hazards” according to this article http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/05/the-dirty-secret-gmo-companies-dont-want-you-to-know.aspx

      At least 8 types GMO foods are already very popular. And we are forced to eat them every day.

      “Soy Sugar from sugar beets
      Corn Hawaiian papaya
      Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils) Some varieties of zucchini
      Canola (canola oil) Crookneck squash”

      For example, my favorite cakes are made by Canola oil! Tears….

      I still can google and learn to find out whether some food is GMOs. But most people who believe in sham scientists may still enjoy GMOs.

      I call for true scientists, not the killers!

      • Self-pride is nice to a point, but please explain to me how dismissing things you don’t understand as evil and insulting people by calling them “sham scientists” and accusing them of being “killers” is noble.

    • maria

      We are “forced” to eat genetically engineered substances because the companies that make the processed foods in the supermarkets do not label them as such. In Europe it is mandatory to label these foods. In the USA the deregulation on the biotech industry has led to no labeling. We want labeling. I read all my labels and know how to avoid “gmos”. Most people don;t because they are not even aware of this, so they are being forced. Label these foods. We can then make a choice and vote on what we want to eat. I avoid them while I can.

    • Randy

      No one is forcing us to eat GMOs? What reality do you live in?! If people aren’t being “forced” to eat them – then label them, so the “not so bright” can make an informed choice!

  • Greg H (who I hope is my old friend from Davis),
    you make many rational points. Well said.

    • Thanks. I’m not who you’re thinking of though.

      Sometimes when I step back from this who thing I am amazed that such a huge issue is being made of this subject. It really is too bad that so few crops will benefit from biotechnology because of this whole mess. Especially, I think, the less commonly cultivated ones. I like the ‘wierd’ things, and I think it would be pretty cool if genetic engineering could help things that haven’t had as much breeding work catch up with everything else so to speak, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon. Hopefully, the Arctic apple will be able to pull it off whenever it comes to market and maybe lead the way for others. I think, in the world of fruit anyway, that a lot of growers are edgy at the thought of being stuck with something for a few years when some protesters could destroy their market with a good fearmongering campaign, and that is not conductive to GM fruits at all. I would like to think that the lack of horticultural GM crops is only temporary, but there still is a long way to go.

      Question about the NewLeaf potato: I’m not sure if this is true, but didn’t it’s discontinuation result in Monsanto now having a market for the spray that replaced the NewLeaf’s traits? It would be a bit ironic if anti-GMO sentiment resulted in a bigger profit for Monsanto through chemical sales.

      • Greg – as far as I’m aware Monsanto don’t produce insecticides (other than those in Bt crops, which admittedly is a rather large market these days…) so wouldn’t benefit from the non-release of a product for controlling insects.

  • chris tam

    Most anti-GMO actually don’t care about the scientific facts, not what the scientists say.

    • Joanne

      Most GMOs activists don’t care about the scientific facts, not what the scientists say. Scientists already said GMOs bring birth defect. But you GMO makers only care about your money and power. You don’t care about human’s life.

      What is most important, you guys dare not label GMOs. You guys force people to eat GMOs. You guys will be the shame of the history.

      • Joanne – why do you trust the scientists who say they bring birth defects (a minority whose studies can be critiqued out of consideration rather easily by anyone with a passing knowledge of statistics in most cases) but not those who say they’re safe (the vast majority, backed by sound studies which show no evidence of differences) – is this a case of confirmation bias – you’ve decided prior to looking that GMOs are bad, therefore all the studies that agree with your viewpoint must be right – regardless of their fundamental flaws.

        What is most important, you guys dare not label GMOs.

        As I state below (how confusing!) at every stage where it is pertinent to label GMOs they are labelled, proudly so (given that the GM aspect is a big part of the sale of the item) – at stages where it is not pertinent it is not labelled.

        You guys force people to eat GMOs.

        No, you choose not to exercise your right to avoid them by educating yourself.

        You guys will be the shame of the history.

        I’m sure that historians will find some way to paint massive reductions in environmental impact from herbicide use, improved farmer lives, less insecticide use and the economic benefits for adopters and non-adopters alike as bad – after all there are those who call themselves historians who are perfectly content claiming that the world is some thousands of years younger than it would need to be to contain all of recorded human history.

        • Randy

          By Monsanto’s own admission, they are spraying more and more toxins, due to the proliferation of “superweeds” and “superbugs”! Explain how this is a good thing for people! I’ve done thousands of hours of research on this topic and those who are pro GMO are either totally brainwashed or completely braindead. Pandora’s box has been opened and you’ve all been warned. You don’t “play God”, without dire consequences. There’s a very good reason the elite built the “Doomsday Vault” in the arctic!

  • Jefrey Peterson

    Joanne is absolutely correct in saying that we (the human race) have a right to choose whether we want to eat food which has been CONTAMINATED with GM products!

    Steve Savage makes a couple points which I would like to address:
    1. “the reality is that only a small number of crop species will ever be genetically engineered for commercial use.”

    You either ignorant of the issue, or you purposely ignore it.
    The products which ARE genetically modified are incorporated into thousands of foods! The contamination is not just in Corn, Soy, and Canola because those contaminated products are scattered all over the food industry. So your point above is completely irrelevant and misleading!

    2. “it would be completely impractical to track and label the corn, soybeans etc.”

    Impractical? – or Co$tly? Two different things when you take the time to critique the situation. The answer, as you admitted to, is that it is co$tly. You proceed to claim that “You would substantially increase the cost of all foods to do that.”, which may be true or not, however the “cost” should be derived from those pushing for the use of the contaminated product, and NOT from the rest of society! Basically Monsanto and Co. should be footing that bill! So it’s a silly excuse and labeling the products is not in fact “impractical” in the least!

    —-

    Greg H. states: “Scientists are not us, what a strange thing to say. Scientists are just people like anyone else. There isn’t some line drawn between those who do science and everyone else…”

    If that is true then why do you (and others) give so much credence to what Scientists have to say? Scientists may be “people” but they are not necessarily “people like everyone else”, and this can be for better or for worse.
    In today’s world it’s a known fact that Scientist clamor for funding as well as recognition. Both of those come in their greatest form from Governments and big, BIG, business. This brings us to something Steve Savage wrote at the opening of the main article: “every significant panel of scientists that has reviewed this technology has concluded that it is as safe as any other domesticated food crop.”. This is as naive as claiming that McDonalds food is healthy because the company’s spokesman said so, or that Iran is not building nuclear weapons because their government spokesman said so (I am not implying that they are). It’s called “motive”, and just like all other “people” in the world, Scientists can be motivated to lie. If you disagree than obviously Scientist ARE NOT “just people like anyone else”.
    We know also for a fact that in order for ANYONE to to ANY testing or research on ANY Monsanto product that they must first sign a document which allows Monsanto to hold anything back from being published that they see fit. I suppose some would argue that this is also due to it being “impractical” to publish the raw findings without motivated individuals editing the data!

    So we have Scientists and researchers who do tests and approve the product etc, and we have Scientists and researchers who do tests and do not approve the products etc. Those who DO approve it we label “significant”, while those who DO NOT approve we dismiss altogether!? – And you call that Science!?

    Another point is in regards to the purposed goal of creating GM products. The goal was to have higher crop yields, however this has never happened in the real world and in fact in some studies (again those dismissed by Steve and friends) the yields have been poorer than no-GM crop varieties. What has happened is that farmers can now grow on more land all the time, not having to let the soil rest as they used to, and this creates a crop which year after year becomes less and less nutritious, as well as leaving behind it a soil which is depleted of all it’s natural health and nutrients – barren and waste!

    But you can count on these type to also dismiss all that as “myth” because it does not come from their “significant panel of scientists”.

    • Mike Bendzela

      “In today’s world it’s a known fact that Scientist clamor for funding as well as recognition. Both of those come in their greatest form from Governments and big, BIG, business. This brings us to something Steve Savage wrote at the opening of the main article: “every significant panel of scientists that has reviewed this technology has concluded that it is as safe as any other domesticated food crop.”. This is as naive as claiming that McDonalds food is healthy because the company’s spokesman said so.”

      My guess is that you are a political liberal. As I’m a gay, atheist farmer, you might expect that I am one, too. But statements such as the one quoted above exemplify why I disdain politics and have since become “independent.” The Left can be as paranoid, anti-scientific, and ignorant as the Right on certain pet issues.

      When it comes to food, farming, and pharmacology, the Left sounds just like the Teabaggers.

    • Jonathan

      So GM (Bt) cotton yields aren’t higher than non-GM then? Funny, last time I looked they were almost double. Its irrelevant anyway. I’m not sure when it will sink in to people like you Jefrey that yield is not the main aim of any GM crop really. It is increased net farm income when pesticide, fertiliser, fuel and manpower costs have been taken into account at the end of the season. Also they can provide an insurance policy that your crop will yield at all should eratic events such as insect/weed/virus infestations or drought effect your crop.

      Jonathan

      • Jefrey Peterson

        I would suppose then that it would depend whom you ask. In India there were 80% increases in GM crop yields, however that did nothing to ease the plight of hungry people in the region. In fact the 80% increase in GM crop yields had the exact opposite effect where thousands of family farms were abandoned by their original owners – many of who committed suicide after realising they had ruined their land and could not keep up with the payments to the big Corps for the product. Higher yields are not, in this case, a good thing.
        Additionally there were many farmers who bought seed from Monsanto with the promise of a) the seed being resistant to pests, and b) it would increase their yield. The reality was the complete polar opposite – the cotton was ravaged by pests and thus the yield was a pathetic fraction of their regular crop. All those farmers lost everything they had as it was invested in a promise from Monsanto, who have a wonderful sales pitch which includes the sickening “we bare no responsibility”.
        I have seen and heard on many occasions the issue of yield being brought up in favour of GMO, so it is definitely something which people who are pro-GMO attempt to boasts of.
        But your assessment is that GMO is really about “net income”. Well as far as I have been made aware the average income per hectare for a GM crop farm of around 2000 hectares is just over $20. In contrast to that, the average income per hectare of a non-GM crop farm of under 10 hectares is around $1900. The point is that, due to the corrupt system setup by big agro and mega corporations, the farmer gets squiddles while the bulk of revenue goes … where!? … so for a farmer growing a GM crop to make a decent living he has to plant on thousands of hectares.
        While there is the “insurance”, there is also much that is not insured. Then there is also the issue of having to go year after year back to the seed sellers to buy more seed, as you cannot store the seed from your crop for next years sowing.
        Then there is also the issue of ground erosion and the destruction of microbiology which is wreaked on nature by the GM crops which have been modified to release toxins which annihilate everything with an alkaline gut and every other plant around them.
        It’s flat out naive to think that big agro and affiliated corporations give a hoot about improving the life of farmers, or the hungry of the world.

    • Well, let me ask you a question. Let’s say there’s a plumber looking at your pipes, and he says that you need to do this that and the other thing or you’ll have problems. You assume he’s lying because he could have a financial incentive to say that. So you ask another plumber. He says you need to do this that and the other thing or you’ll have problems. You call him a liar too. You ask a dozen other plumbers, and they all say the same thing, and you come to the same conclusion. So what do you do? Realize that one lying plumber is possible, two lying plumbers is possible, three is possible, but all of them lying is highly unlikely, or say plumbers aren’t people like everyone else and wait until you’re up to your eyeballs in sewage. Same thing here. One scientist lying, sure. Two lying, could happen. Three, believable. The entire scientific community, worldwide, not a chance. And there are no small number of those who are independent, and I’m sure plenty who are not, as they say, paid enough to lie. And really, all a scientist is is one who has the knowledge of a scientific topic and applies it. I would rather trust someone with that knowledge than someone without it. Who would you rather have making those calls on those panels, some bloke who wouldn’t know a gene from a hole in the ground? Obviously, these things are going to be pretty much exclusively done by experts, because they’re, you know, the people who actually have expertise and know what they’re talking about.

      Furthermore, I would like to know why that logic is never applied to the anti-GMO promoters. No one ever calls them out on how professional activists make their living on this so-called controversy, or cares about how the organic industry has a vested interest in people being afraid of GMOs. Why is it only scientists who are singled out here? It’s another double standard, and one I’ve seen in every other strain of unscientific thought. It’s just like how the anti-vaxxers go on and on about Paul Offit, but conveinently neglect to mention And

      About crop yield, that depends on the place, crop, and trait. GMO is not some monolithic entity. Look at Bt corn in the US. If memory serves, the gain in yield is something like 3-5% (or something like that). However, with that has come more than yield, it has brought a nice decrease in pesticide usage. That same crop, in an area where they weren’t already spraying tons of pesticide, can create a much higher yield, IIRC something like 25%. Now look at the Rainbow papaya. Without it, there would be no Hawaiian papaya industry. That’s preventing a loss of almost 100%. Surely that is significant.

      And I think what is meant by few GM crops will be approved for commercial use was that the crops, not the products containing those crops. Lots of processed produces have corn in them, so lots of processed food has GM ingredients, but when was the last time you saw GMO blueberries, asparagus, onions, or pears? Never. A lot of things have GMOs in them, yes, but only a few species are genetically modified. There’s a big difference there, and it isn’t misleading at all to say that.

      • Jefrey Peterson

        On the analogy of the plumber you fail to bring in a factor – common sense. It’s something which, no matter how “educated” one may claim to be, can be sorely lacking. For instance, I recently saw a filmed debate where two American professors were arguing the case for GMO, and a young Bulgarian man was arguing the case against it. The professors with their laptop and all their scientific data sounded very legit and smooth in comparison to the Bulgarian with poor English and a pen and notepad. However as the debate wore on one thing became very apparent – the professors stood behind their scientific data and peer reviewed materials while largely ignoring the real-life impact that their “science” was having on a range of levels. The Bulgarian was all about the real-life impact that GMO was having on a day-to-day basis, while largely ignoring the scientific data presented by the professors. At one particular point the professors were stumped pretty bad after the Bulgarian had just gone through a long and damning list of real-life consequences of GMO, to which the professors basically could only reply that they simply look at the scientific material (on their laptop screen) and that that is where they stand. To me this is utter nonsense and begs the question if maybe so-called “science” is leaning more and more away from reality and towards hypotheticals and theories where pretty much the imagination is the rule of thumb.

        You further state: “One scientist lying, sure. Two lying, could happen. Three, believable. The entire scientific community, worldwide, not a chance.”

        I guess we are back at defining the “scientific community”. You seem to think that the “entire scientific community” is pro-GMO … !? I highly doubt that to be the case – unless you discount anyone anti-GMO as being not part of your “scientific community”.

        In regards to being sceptical of the anti-GMO side, I should tell you that I am. However, the very fact that they use real-life examples and not lab reports means that they have (imo) a certain edge above those sitting around in front of their laptops looking at models and telling us that mathematically it all adds up while on the ground it’s simply not!

        One very highly touted point raised by the pro-GMO side is that 75%-80% of the world is hungry and with GMO we will be able to solve that – again, due to higher yield. This is pure and plain sudi-science again coming from lab coats in front of computer models etc. The fact on the ground is that, for instance, in Africa only 2 countries (afaik), Egypt and South Africa, have been dabbling in growing GM crops. Why? Because they are the only ones who can (barely) afford to. Lately also Kenya and Burkina Faso also have gotten involved, though Kenya is more involved in projects backed by Monsanto, the World Bank and USAID, and Burkina Faso only grows GM cotton. In regards to easing the hunger in Africa GM crops have done nothing of report in the past 10-15 years. But there is always the promise of “rain” from those raking in the big buck$.

        This brings to mind the infamous “Golden Rice” which holds a higher level of bet-carotene (vit A). In India researchers have demonstrated that instead of pouring copious amounts of money into the R&D for this rice, a fraction of that expense could have been made to assist and encourage the development and propagation of native varieties of rice, legumes, and other food stuffs. There would be no need for a tinkered-with and expensive GM crop – but there was no money to be made in simply helping people grow their native healthy and natural foods, was there! So now they grow 80% more cotton then before!? … Last I checked cotton is not edible! And most of those small-scale family farms that were producing something for their family and communities are now gone. All thanks to the wonders of GMO.

        Maybe there is a way to genetically modify plants that is safe and wholesome – but it’s not today. We, the human race at large, have become the laboratory. We have the right to choose to eat GM products or not to – but how can one choose between what they cannot define!?

  • Larry M.

    Why must it be a political agenda when it comes to what we eat? Taking the scientific perspective I would want to eat the healthiest, most nutritious, cleanest, and toxic free product available. Roundup resistant and sprayed crops can’t deliver on that statement. These crops (corn) comprise the largest part of the western worlds diets than any other single crop. So why do we feel it is acceptable to push these types of products towards the mass population and children especially? Science needs to work hand and hand with the people it is intended to benefit, but complete transparency is the key. It can’t always just be about time saving, easier methods and cost effective to obtain what we want when the side effects are alarming on many levels. So, if you don’t want people to attack you for what you feel is right then give people the ability to make choices. When you just force it down our throats don’t expect us to thank you for it.

  • Stephen Adler

    It seems simple to me Label GMOs or non GMOs and let the public decide.

    • Jefrey Peterson

      Oh your absolutely right. It is indeed simple. At the very least it cannot be harder than producing nutritional information on each and every product on the shelf. No, it’s not about it being “impractical”, it’s that fact that big agro and stock holders know that many people will not buy products containing GM ingredients. It’s all about the profit$ in this respect.

  • Rich W

    Here’s the thing… Monsanto is an evil, evil company not to be trusted, period. History has proven that time and time again over the past 110 years. Agent Orange, PCBs, dioxin, DDT, etc.

    GMO, whether rightly or wrongly, is linked in the consumer’s mind to Monsanto.

    To win a fight for GMO, science would essentially have to neuter or eliminate Monsanto’s influence with the government and enforce a much higher code of ethics amongst themselves.

    Even if GMO was the answer to world hunger, global warming, profitable family farming, etc. etc. (I personally find many GMO claims dubious, but not entirely unfounded), the absurdity of Monsanto’s legal strategies of chasing down seed savers and enforcing RoundUp patents singlehandedly derails much progress that could be made. There is simply no other way to interpret Monsanto’s actions as anything other than them wanting to control food stock.

    It could well be that ADM, Cargill, et.al. are equally culpable. However, the public (rightly) believes that Monsanto would put their profits over public health. They are public enemy #1.

    And that’s the primary reason people want labeling.

    You’re looking at the science when you need to be looking at the PR, understanding and empathizing with the consumers’ viewpoints and (very real) fears. And that’s a battle scientists are unlikely to win as long as Monsanto is on the planet.

    I’d personally like to avoid GMO although that’s difficult, if not impossible to do. It’s a matter of trust. And no matter how many studies scientists publish on the benefits of GMO, a large number of consumers will remain distrustful, primarily because of Monsanto’s continuing history of evil.

    So why don’t all you scientists do something about that?

    • “You’re looking at the science when you need to be looking at the PR” That is precisely the problem. People are interpreting this in terms of how they feel about corporations and corporate PR – not in terms of what we know about the crops.

  • Alex

    HA! I think the gay atheist farmer said it best. Everybody is trying to put spin on every word spoken, when it comes to food. If you think about it, food is the greatest industry in human history because everyone needs it. You could get by without a car, a computer, even clothes if you were really desperate. But everybody NEEDS to eat. What I was attempting to accomplish by posting the link is that, you can find good and bad science on both sides. Responding to each with articulate and reasoned communication is how you really learn.

    The study I linked to to kick this off is obviously incendiary. If you read the actual study itself, it speaks to the inherent issues with Roundup-ready pesticides, and that conversation means bleed-off into a discussion of the GMO crops that are Roundup-resistant. That is the issue here: a business, though very legal and accepted practices, has brought a product to market which many feel is safe, and have seen a gain in market-share as the product is adopted. Everything else, from suing farmers for seed-infringement, to employing scientific logic that even Steve has to admit is dubious, is this company protecting their investment. I personally don’t agree with it, but the United States of America is built on this, and I wouldn’t want to be any where else.

    I choose to only eat organic foods, because I want food that is food, not that is an experiment. That’s my decision, and I would never take away the option for people to eat whatever they want. I don’t want to outlaw GMO crops; it’s a business like anything else. Not to mention, how organic are my organic foods (http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2011/01/11/how-organic-are-your-organics/)? But it’s my choice, and I am glad to have the ability to make it. The only way to be really, TRULY sure of what you are eating is to grow it yourself, with seeds from a reputable organic source. That’s the only rock-solid method to confirm you are eating what you choose to eat. And that is my main point: I want to eat food in it’s most pure form. I don’t want to be a science experiment, and I think Steve can agree that no matter how many studies either of us post, we don’t know enough about GMO crops to land on either side 100%.

    • Full disclosure as there are a number of new names who appear at least moderately displeased with my employer – I’m a Monsanto employee, employed in R&D, and the comments contained herein, or indeed anywhere you see my moniker on the interweb are entirely my own and not those of Monsanto.

      I’m plonking this down at the end as there is a lot to cover and I’m a big fan of the multipage brainmelter which displeases Anastasia so.

      http://redgreenandblue.org/2011/06/08/its-official-monsantos-roundup-herbicide-causes-birth-defects/

      Decades of safe use (on farms, forestry, and at home), decades of studies showing nothing of the sort.

      I don’t care what panels of scientists say. They are not us.

      Because the best way to live your life is to take the advice of people who haven’t got a clue about what they’re talking about – I base all my medical decisions on the opinion of the checkout guy at the local supermarket because I put no credibility in doctors, I get my legal advice from my cousin’s dog because lawyers are a shifty bunch, rather than have architects get near the plans for my new house I think I’ll jsut do it myself – who cares for the opinion of experts if it contradicts your own pre-conceived ideas right?

      What harm I do to others? I don’t care.

      I’ve got mine, F you. How simply awesome.

      Yes, I have the right to not to care because I don’t trust scientists. This is my personal opinion.

      You have the right not to care what harm you do to others because you don’t trust scientists? How does one follow from the other. You’re perfectly at liberty not to trust the scientific consensus (it’s a rather silly approach, but one that anyone has the right to do) but to not care that you may be harming others by promulgating nonsense is pretty despicable.

      Without labelling, now we are forced to eat GMOs! Does that do harm? That harms a lot to people.

      Please illustrate where this has done any harm. Ever.

      But how does Monsantoes make money by charging patent fees over their seeds? How they can tell which seeds are their GMO seeds? Easy. It is very easy to label them.

      Monsanto actually does label all its seeds as GMOs – at every stage in the supply chain where it is important to know which seeds are genetically modified it says so, right there, on the bag – it’s only when it becomes utterly meaningless and nigh on impossible to track that the burden of labelling appears and is rightly ignored (likewise Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Bob’s Seeds etc all label their bags with the hybrid name and other important information like relative maturity, disease resistance etc – none of this information makes it to the final products of the food chain – all of it has precisely the same impact as GMO, funny that)

      If Monsanto knows how to charge patent fees on GMO seeds, they should have a way to label the crops.

      They do. At every stage where it is important to do so (seriously, go to a seed store and check out the bags – anything that is roundup ready states it on the bag)

      Just please do NOT force me to eat GMOs by not labelling them!!

      Buy organic. Nobody forces Jewish people who want to live kosher to eat non-kosher foods by failing to label everything “this product is not kosher”, same with Halal – you want to eat a certain way that’s entirely your right – but the onus is on you to get it done and to bear the cost burden of the segregation of products.

      However, they have failed us, at least me.

      Intruiging – how exactly have scientists failed you?

      Taking the scientific perspective I would want to eat the healthiest, most nutritious, cleanest, and toxic free product available. Roundup resistant and sprayed crops can’t deliver on that statement.

      It depends entirely what you compare them to – compared to the same crop grown in any other system you don’t have a case about health, nutrition, cleanliness or toxin load (indeed compared to other conventionally grown crops you could argue that they’d have a lower toxin load although for all intents and purposes this would be essentially meaningless as the levels of herbicide residues that would be present in either the RR or non-RR foodstuff aren’t close to being meaningful in terms of toxicity)

      So, if you don’t want people to attack you for what you feel is right then give people the ability to make choices. When you just force it down our throats don’t expect us to thank you for it.

      Because you’re handcuffed and forced to buy products that contain GMOs, you are utterly incapable of avoiding soy and corn, you can’t make the decision to purchase certified organic – there is a whole multi-billion dollar industry geared precisely to allowing you the freedom to eat what you want – but as this is an inconvenient fact in your rant against GMOs it apparently can be ignored.

      Here’s the thing… Monsanto is an evil, evil company not to be trusted, period.

      Nobody ever invites me to the fun meetings. It’s all corporate responsibility this, sustainable yield initiative that – frankly I’d have way more ideas to bring to the table if we actually were an evil behemoth (happy days playing Dungeon Keeper trained me well) as things stand I get to tinker with data, play in the lab, and make powerpoint (I have a strong conviction that 95% of corporate life revolves around powerpoint slides – I often wonder if academics suffer the same indignity, although perhaps grant proposals take the place of ye olde powerpoint presentation) presentations.

      Even if GMO was the answer to world hunger, global warming, profitable family farming, etc.

      Nobody claims that it is. Part of the solution, sure, just as a nail gun is part of the solution in installing crown molding, I don’t imagine anyone sensible would suggest you utilize it as your only tool however.

      the absurdity of Monsanto’s legal strategies of chasing down seed savers and enforcing RoundUp patents singlehandedly derails much progress that could be made

      Absurd how? Millions of dollars are invested in producing the technology, hundreds of thousands of farmers pay fair market price for the technology, why should Monsanto not get return on their investment, and why should other farmers have to deal with an unfair system whereby others don’t pay for the technology? Monsanto won’t be enforcing any Roundup patents either given that that particular patent ran out a couple years back (with much calamity financially for Monsanto in the process – but such is the nature of patents, you only have exclusivity for a relatively short period of time – which is kind of the point, and one that vocal opponents of GMOs always ignore)

      There is simply no other way to interpret Monsanto’s actions as anything other than them wanting to control food stock.

      Well, I guess one could suppose that they’re also trying to contaminate our precious bodily fluids. You’d be about as sane.

      • Joanne

        ok. Scientists, in order for me to listen to you, be sure to prove you are right! And first of all, you need to give me transparency of information! Do not hide information! Then, how to prove? You need to do human experiments for hundred and thousand years first to see the long term effect. You need to be open to what other scientists with different findings.

        I said, “you are not us”. I am right. I am responsible for myself. I care about my health. It is my health, not Your health. I don’t expect a scientist is responsible for my health, in this dark age. Scientists could be evil! You just want to use us to do animal experiments! A scientist in this age is hunting for money and power, for funding and recognition (but probably a notorious fame). But they don’t care, they just want funding first. The notorious fame may come after they die. They don’t care.

        I copied the following quote from a facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2209163750&v=info “A Monsanto official told the New York Times that the corporation should not have to take responsibility for the safety of its food products. “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of ‘bio-tech’ food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”

        You guys can verify it.

        I am not arguing whether GMOs are safe. Since scientists don’t really care.

        Scientists, if you really want to do good to me, please at least label GMOs first, do not force me to be part of animal experiments, do not force to eat GMOs.

        OKay?

        • Then, how to prove? You need to do human experiments for hundred and thousand years first to see the long term effect.

          You seriously contend that to assess safety of a product requires testing for 1,000 years?

          Let’s assume that you’re not a native American – do you eat corn? Potatoes? Tomatoes? Not one of these products has undergone over a thousand years of “testing” in any human population other than those native to the Americas.

          Lets assume you eat… hmm, canola oil. Even if it doesn’t come from a GM source (and why this would matter is beyond me given that during processing all that remains is the oil – chemically identical to the oil that comes from a non-GM plant… although given your Mercola citation who knows what whack-a-loonery will be invoked to explain why this matters) Canola oil is a relatively new invention that hasn’t undergone anything like a thousand years testing (I’d guess most of everything in your diet hasn’t undergone anything like this to be honest)

          You need to be open to what other scientists with different findings.

          No – all science should be approached skeptically – only if it has sound methodology and is repeatable should it be taken seriously – the safety of GM products is repeated ad nauseum in the scientific literature to the extent that the vapid claims about toxicity are quite cleary silly.

          I said, “you are not us”. I am right. I am responsible for myself.

          I think then you mean you are not me, rather than not us.

          I care about my health.

          Although not enough apparently to take the rather easy steps of avoiding something you firmly believe to be toxic. I have a colleague who is allergic to soy, corn, wheat (amongst a plethora of other things) – all the fun stuff – he has somehow managed over the last 4 decades to avoid these ubiquitous products – why then can’t you (as avoiding soy and corn would essentially free you from the shackles of GM food)?

          “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of ‘bio-tech’ food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”

          This is funny as it essentially echos one of the main complaints of anti-GMO groups – the company responsible for producing the product shouldn’t be the one verifying its safety (although one would assume the shareholders would want you to verify safety so that you avoid big honking lawsuits down the line – paying out hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t a good way to increase EPS) – odd that when the same thing comes from the mouth of someone working for the company it is suddenly a bad thing.

          I am not arguing whether GMOs are safe. Since scientists don’t really care.

          You’ve simply decided they ain’t. You then justify this by presuming to tell scientists what they do and do not care about. This is rather amusing given the fact that it is blindingly obvious that Steve and David clearly care enough to be concerned that farmers who would be helped by GMOs are denied the technology by luddites who really don’t care. I suppose your arguement would be that we shouldn’t attempt to convince anyone that there is utility to the technology because your mind is made up – you don’t give a damn about anyone other than yourself, if Chinese children have to be sprayed with insecticides then so be it, if a hundred thousand kids go blind due to lack of vitamin A then buggrem right? They ain’t me, and that’s all that matters.

          Oh and finally…

          A scientist in this age is hunting for money and power, for funding and recognition

          This right here shows all the ignorance of modern science one could ever hope for. You don’t make big money doing science (some might, but certainly not in academia, and certainly not when you’re the poor bugger doing the actual science, rather than the poor bugger up to their ears in grant proposals after maybe a decade or so of doing the actual science) – money, power, funding and recognition are all easily up for grabs – ask Gilles Seralini, ask Putzai – these are the names that are remembered, these are the guys doing the international tours and influencing the decision making process of blocs of nations – nobody remembers Joe nobody who makes the rather uncontrovertial discovery that apparently yes, GM soy still doesn’t actually have any effects whatsoever on rats when you do the experiments right.

      • mashed potato

        Hilarious and true (especially the powerpoint part LOL):

        “Here’s the thing… Monsanto is an evil, evil company not to be trusted, period.”

        Nobody ever invites me to the fun meetings. It’s all corporate responsibility this, sustainable yield initiative that – frankly I’d have way more ideas to bring to the table if we actually were an evil behemoth (happy days playing Dungeon Keeper trained me well) as things stand I get to tinker with data, play in the lab, and make powerpoint (I have a strong conviction that 95% of corporate life revolves around powerpoint slides – I often wonder if academics suffer the same indignity, although perhaps grant proposals take the place of ye olde powerpoint presentation) presentations.

      • Joanne

        How some science has failed me? Here it is:

        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/05/the-dirty-secret-gmo-companies-dont-want-you-to-know.aspx

        http://www.examiner.com/finance-examiner-in-national/gmo-created-foods-may-be-used-as-a-biological-weapon

        http://vanessaruns.com/2011/02/08/gmos-and-why-you-should-never-use-canola-oil/

        “It is now believed that rapeseed has a cumulative effect, taking almost 10 years before symptoms begin to manifest. One possible effect of long-term use is the destruction of the protective coating surrounding nerves called the myelin sheath. This is like having raw, open wires in the body. Some symptoms include:

        tremors and shaking
        uncoordination when walking or writing
        slurred speech
        deterioration of memory and thinking processes
        fuzzy or low audio levels
        difficulty urinating/incontinence
        breathing problems/short of breath
        nervous breakdown
        numbness and tingling in extremities
        heart problems/arrhythmia”

      • Sally

        Ewan,
        Thanks for adding to this discussion with an insightful response to the staunch and furious anti-GMO viewpoint. Unfortunately, I think many on the anti- side believe that ‘built-in pesticide’ means that GMOs contain DDT (and other hideous and harmful chemicals).

        I was fortunate to have the opportunity to view Food, Inc. with a group of agricultural producers. A panel discussion followed the movie, and a Monsanto spox was on the discussion panel. She did a great job explaining the misinformation that was rampant in that film. Farmers (read: scientists) in the audience left the event better equipped to answer questions from the misinformed public.

        Monsanto is fortunate to have you…keep up the good work that will likely help solve the hunger problem.

  • Ewan R,
    Thanks for injecting some sanity into this stream. I guess what this discussion has demonstrated is that “there is way too much angst out there about GMO crops” and also that the angst-filled folks are impervious to facts or perspective. Maybe some people like to be afraid of what they eat. I’ve got a new post coming today where I list 12 foods that I am actually afraid to eat starting with bean sprouts! Did anyone notice that the worst E. coli outbreak ever just happened in Europe in spite of their labeling laws, smaller farms and more Organic?

    • Steve – I assume you’re referring to the yearning for corporate evil bit – I do try! (I look forward to the coming post, although I’m going to call you on being too angst-ridden (probably, ornary sod that I am)

    • Jefrey Peterson

      Oh Steve, how very novel of you to label those not willing to bend over and take it just because you say so as being “impervious to facts or perspective”. Sickening to be frank!

      • isaacschumann

        Those supporting the adoption of ge crops are called corporate shills, greedy, corrupt, ignorant, you name it, and you take offense to ‘impervious to facts’? Really?

        You were literally just using sodomy as an analogy to promoting ge crops in the line above, and ‘impervious to facts’ is ‘sickening’?

        In your above comment from jun 10 10:33, you were describing how you find a random bulgarian with a notepad(nothing against bulgarians) to be more convincing on matters genetic than two scientists who specialize in the field. Could it possibly be that because you already agreed with him, he sounded more convincing? That sure looks like imperviousness to facts to me.

  • Eric Baumholder

    It’s often said that people should ignore hotheaded ridiculous claims, and attempt to reach the moderate fence-sitters.

    Allow me to differ. Those with hotheaded ridiculous claims should be confronted directly — so that fence-sitters can see how to spot reprehensible liars, and the lameness of their claims.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    Ewan,

    One suggested change: “sure” => “probably.” Then it’s perfect.

    As for Joanne’s peculiar fixation on “labeling,” let’s say that I don’t want to eat anthing ever touched by a non-believer (in whatever sect), and demand, no DEMAND, that all foods ever touched by someone of another sect be so-labeled. That is actually a real-world situation in some places.

    I also don’t like the cattle industry, so I want everything fertilized with cattle manure labeled. And, in the interest of patriotism, I want labeling if the producer uses foeign labor or farm equipment. And I want the label to contain a soil analysis of the producers’ farm, just to make sure they’re taking care of the soil and there’s no risk of elevated toxic metals. And since transportation wastes so much energy, I want to the label to tell me how far the ingredients have traveled, and by what method, with VINs so I can verify the shipper’s logs.

    And Joanne, look-up Canola. It was developed because science discovered that erucic acid was bad for health. Scientists did not fail you; they may have saved millions by discovering this. But if you do look it up, you will probably find lots of hysterical sites like this (http://www.ithyroid.com/canola_oil.htm) to feed your confirmation bias. I happen to know the history, and let me say that I find this to be accurate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola.

    It sounds like you need to read-up on science, and especially epidemiology (assuming you understand enough statistics first): anecdotes are worth almost nothing. If, as someone I met once asserted, food, even water, cooked in a microwave oven becomes DeadlyPoison(tm), then why don’t we see epidemiological evidence? If this substance “GMO” you go nattering on about is so bloody dangerous, then it should be very easy to detect the population effects.

    Of course, you could be a POE, or maybe there really is a Vast International Conspiracy covering-up all the evidences of brain-control waves, chemtrails, vaccine toxins, JFK, microwave ovens and all the rest. If so, then almost everybody but you is “in” on it, so maybe you should just surrender.

    • Imprecise use of language on my part – conversational usage of the word sure (ie “you want to go get a beer?” “Sure, let’s get a beer”) rather than an attempt to classify the odds of something being useful (although I’d argue that in terms of GMOs the question has been answered for certain useage, so perhaps sure would still work jsut fine with the qualifier that any new issue to be tackled you have to start from probably, or even potentially)

  • Larry M.

    Ewan,

    I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility that Monsanto cares in anyway for the long term health of people as long as the profits continue to stream in. If Monsanto wanted to care for the masses of people it fed it would be far less litigious in its methods of dealing with them for one. As for being able to easily pick and choose which foods are contaminated with GMO or round up that is a pandora’s box at every meal. In respects to food being contaminated I think the evidence continues to flow in that is exactly what has been happening for a long time. If I want to get non-GMO fed meat. How easy is it for me to find it at any local grocery store or restaurant? Many of us don’t want your chemicals sprayed on our foods. Isn’t that clear enough? In regards to sanity and food. It seems someone would be a little insane to say yes please give me the corn with the potential health damaging chemicals on it just so you don’t have to deal with weeds.

    • Jefrey Peterson

      “Many of us don’t want your chemicals sprayed on our foods. Isn’t that clear enough?”

      That is only a portion of the issue – but well said!

  • I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility that Monsanto cares in anyway for the long term health of people as long as the profits continue to stream in.

    Given the tenuous standing of GMOs and the companies reliance on them for profits if one were harmful it would literally kill the company. So even if Monsanto as an entity didn’t care one fig about whether or not people got hurt the bottom line is if people did get hurt Monsanto would be ruined (hence the need for heavy regulation of industry where there is potential for harm – when all that matters is the bottom line then make what really matters severely impact the bottom line)

    If Monsanto wanted to care for the masses of people it fed it would be far less litigious in its methods of dealing with them for one.

    Who is Monsanto litigious with in terms of people it is feeding? A mere handful of farmers who are saving seed? Who else exactly?

    In respects to food being contaminated I think the evidence continues to flow in that is exactly what has been happening for a long time.

    Nice emotive use of the word contaminated in a situation where it is utterly meaningful – it ain’t contamination if it ain’t doing anything bad. (in my opinion at least, I imagine the dictionary nazi’s would have something to say about this however)

    How easy is it for me to find it at any local grocery store or restaurant?

    Your grocery store doesn’t have an organic section? You can’t ask at the resturaunt if the food you’re eating has corn, soy or related produce in it? (I know you can as my aforementioned colleague does precisely that – if the resturaunt can’t answer then don’t eat there (seriously, even outside of this debate – if the chef doesn’t know what’s in her food she sucks))

    Many of us don’t want your chemicals sprayed on our foods. Isn’t that clear enough?

    Buy organic. The option is there. The evidence shows no harm caused by the chemicals sprayed on our food in the amounts they are sprayed (notwithstanding that the evidence suggests that of all the things sprayed on crops roundup is amongst the least toxic (as mentioned before though this doesn’t matter) and that one of the major traits around today is entirely based on reducing sprayed chemicals)

    It seems someone would be a little insane to say yes please give me the corn with the potential health damaging chemicals on it just so you don’t have to deal with weeds.

    What is insane is that in the face of all the evidence to the contrary you still persist with the belief that there is potential to damage your health, or that the alternative to RR corn would be corn grown without any sprays at all – farmers are simply going to switch to another herbicide, likely one that actually has toxicity to humans (although not in the quantities that would ever be present on produce) – because I’m guessing you aren’t likely to want to pay the equivalent of $8 an ear so that the farmer can actually make a living off a field infested with weeds.

  • Mike Bendzela

    Larry M. said: Many of us don’t want your chemicals sprayed on our foods. Isn’t that clear enough?

    Ewan R. responded: Buy organic. The option is there.

    Organic farmers use pesticides. When I worked at an organic farm, I had to undergo training to be certified to spray pyrethrum, neem, copper sulfate, etc. The same Worker Protection Standards and EPA regulations apply to “organic” pesticides as to conventional pesticides.

    This was the straw that broke the camel’s back with me. The cognitive dissonance was a bit much. “I’m working on an organic farm, yet I have to wear PPE and follow REI standards to spray organic pesticides.”

    I was able to conclude that “organic” farming was more marketing than science.

    • Sally

      Mike has seen for himself something that most people will never realize:
      “I was able to conclude that “organic” farming was more marketing than science.”

      I would so love to toss this in the faces of everyone who believes that we’ll all die from pesticides and the world will come to an end if we don’t all ‘go organic’. But that’s counter-productive, so I’ll continue to educate rather than sling (manure). Organic is an option for everyone, so for those who think it’s the best choice, just go that route and let the rest of us eat what we want to grow and eat

  • Mike Bendzela,
    Well said. Yes, Organic farmers use pesticides. The allure of Organic is the story, not the reality.

    • I’m all about the story – or to be more accurate – the details. That’s why I like to buy directly from a farmer or through a coop whenever possible. I want to know that the person growing and handling my food is educated and responsible about the risks and benefits of the methods they use on farm, whether they are organic or conventional, and that the land is being farmed sustainably. I also want to make sure the farmer is getting a fair price and that farm workers were fairly paid. I find it strange that these things are apparently unimportant to anti-GMO folks, or at least not as important to them as not eating GMOs.

      • Jefrey Peterson

        I would probably see myself as being more anti than pro GMO and I care about each and every point you made. I think you summarised the way this whole food thing should work very nicely!

        • If these things are important to you, then why aren’t you calling for labeling of each of these things? Why aren’t any of the people in this thread clamoring for mandatory labeling of GMOs also calling for mandatory labeling of hybrids, various pesticides, crop rotations, riparian buffers, virus load, fair pay, microbial testing, and so on? There are so many things to care about.

          I’d personally like to see a voluntary bar code system that could be used to store all sorts of information. I could scan the bar code at the grocery store with a kiosk or my smart phone, or have a handy list to see which brands do whatever things I care about. That’s true choice for the consumer, farmer, and everyone in-between. And if your pet concern is not yet included in the voluntary labeling by the food brand you like? You’re welcome to send letters to encourage them to start.

    • Larry M.

      I find organic is misleading as well. I am talking about direct sprays of Roundup which are made possible by the GE. The pesticides are just another avenue to make our foods detrimental to our long term health. The problem just doesn’t lay in the hands of Monsanto, but in the commercial farming system as a whole. That is why I am forced to grow my own food to supplement what I eat and try to live seasonally on the local/regional farmers. The problem though is I can’t just buy something that is organic and hope that it really means it is safe. It might be a better option but not necessarily the best practice.

      • “The pesticides are just another avenue to make our foods detrimental to our long term health.”

        So, pesticides aren’t there for pest control? Instead they’re part of some nefarious plan to make food bad for us? Color me surprised! Do tell more.

  • Larry M.

    @ Ewan,

    Given the tenuous standing of GMOs and the companies reliance on them for profits if one were harmful it would literally kill the company. So even if Monsanto as an entity didn’t care one fig about whether or not people got hurt the bottom line is if people did get hurt Monsanto would be ruined (hence the need for heavy regulation of industry where there is potential for harm – when all that matters is the bottom line then make what really matters severely impact the bottom line)

    Surely, all the ex-Monsanto employees that litter government positions would protect Monsanto’s “tenuous standing”. I feel fairly certain that your company won’t topple so easily given your 197 in the fortune 500 in 2010. I agree “heavy regulation” is needed, and I would hope if your company is so willing to that option then transparency via an impartial independent panel can assess these dangers?

    Who is Monsanto litigious with in terms of people it is feeding? A mere handful of farmers who are saving seed? Who else exactly?

    The Government of Germany for blocking Monsanto GMO corn. Maybe they don’t wont to eat your corn like myself, and our making it clear through government regulation.

    resturaunt

    The spelling bee Nazi’s would have a field day with this one. You misspelled it two times not just one.

    Your grocery store doesn’t have an organic section? You can’t ask at the resturaunt if the food you’re eating has corn, soy or related produce in it? (I know you can as my aforementioned colleague does precisely that – if the resturaunt can’t answer then don’t eat there (seriously, even outside of this debate – if the chef doesn’t know what’s in her food she sucks))

    Organic has been found to be unreliable today as well. You cannot be guaranteed what comes down the food distribution chain given all the hands it passes through, and with the fact that GMO crosses over into meats and a variety of other products. People have to depend on the honesty and integrity of the food industry to do the right thing in many cases. Example would be the Baby milk scandal in China. Reputable companies were involved in that to their own demise. In respects to RESTAURANTS many of them are working on a fine line of profit. Staying financially afloat makes people do things they might not do otherwise to save a dime.

    Buy organic. The option is there. The evidence shows no harm caused by the chemicals sprayed on our food in the amounts they are sprayed (notwithstanding that the evidence suggests that of all the things sprayed on crops roundup is amongst the least toxic (as mentioned before though this doesn’t matter) and that one of the major traits around today is entirely based on reducing sprayed chemicals)

    We should not have to hunt for healthy and safe edible food because your company thinks it is doing the right thing. I am sorry. I don’t believe your experts. Refer to Huffington Post Article dated 6/7/11
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/07/roundup-birth-defects-herbicide-regulators_n_872862.html?ref=fb&src=sp

    What is insane is that in the face of all the evidence to the contrary you still persist with the belief that there is potential to damage your health, or that the alternative to RR corn would be corn grown without any sprays at all – farmers are simply going to switch to another herbicide, likely one that actually has toxicity to humans (although not in the quantities that would ever be present on produce) – because I’m guessing you aren’t likely to want to pay the equivalent of $8 an ear so that the farmer can actually make a living off a field infested with weeds.

    Refer to the Huffington Post article above in regards to how healthy Roundup is for us. In respects to farmers switching to another pesticide they need to rethink that mentality as well. Mono cropping is failing on many levels. Farmers that are willing to make the changes today will far ahead of the curve than the ones that refuse to accept the inevitable. Farmers use to grow corn without all these crutches and were able to see a bountiful return. It is time for us all to return to a much more balanced position with nature. Where we aren’t destroying the land, the waterways, wildlife and above all ourselves. That is a real vision of sanity.

    • “Farmers use to grow corn without all these crutches and were able to see a bountiful return.”

      Grammatical error* aside, this sentence is incorrect. Yields have been steadily increasing with the use of modern farming techniques, from fertilizers and pesticides to elite germplasm and even biotechnology. While there are no silver bullets, these methods in combination have made a big difference. See Today’s Organic, Yesterday’s Yields for some nice graphs that show how yields have changed over time. Take away all of these modern methods and you’re left with not much food produced per acre. More land would need to be be plowed or people would go hungry, even if we assume a huge reduction in the amount of meat consumed.

      * I don’t normally pick out poor spelling or grammar, but since you were so concerned with Ewan’s spelling, I was surprised to find that your own writing was less than perfect.

      • Larry M.

        I was only concerned with Ewan’s spelling because he pulled the grammar police card in the first place if you read above. So, I figured I would help a brother out and get him to the restaurant. Otherwise, corn use to be grown successfully with out herbicides and pesticides using sustainable farming techniques vs. mega mono crop method. I understand fully how much corn is grown in this country and worldwide but it still isn’t the best case scenario in the long term.

        • It depends on how you define “successfully”. I think sustainability in the big picture isn’t just what is happening on a single plot of land. If yields are low, more acres need to be used to produce the same amount of food, which isn’t very sustainable at all. Some people solve this by saying human population should be reduced, but few are volunteering to solve that problem.

          I generally agree with you that input-intensive monoculture farming is not sustainable, but I think we do need some modern farming methods to allow us to achieve reasonably high yields while reducing the impact on the environment from each individual farm. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Not too many people are talking about it, but I’m a big fan of integrated farming which takes the best of organic, biodynamic, conventional, and whatever other types of farming you can think of to develop an overall method of farming that works best for a given area. This includes integrated pest management which first considers biological solutions and prevention, then only considers careful use of the least toxic pesticides as needed. This sort of farming could get us the higher yields but have many of the benefits of organic. The problem is that there’s no incentive for farmers to try to follow these sorts of practices. Some combination of subsidies and labeling is needed, I think, to incentivize it. Of course, all of this is complicated, which seems to be far less interesting to people than simple messages like “no GMO” or “no pesticides”.

        • Oh and it’s not just corn that we should be considering here. If you look at the Today’s Organic, Yesterday’s Yields post, you’ll see that organic methods don’t match conventional for many crops at all – grains, fruits, or vegetables. Only sweet potatoes, canola, and hay had higher yields under organic methods.

    • Ewan R

      Surely, all the ex-Monsanto employees that litter government positions would protect Monsanto’s “tenuous standing”.

      I’ll assume for a moment that you’ve had more than one employer in your lifetime, but have likely stayed in the same, or a similar, field of work. Exactly how far would you compromise yourself to defend a former employer?

      I feel fairly certain that your company won’t topple so easily given your 197 in the fortune 500 in 2010.

      Monsanto had to shed jobs like crazy a couple years back due to an approximate billion dollar shortfall in earnings due to failure to predict the glyphosate market – they now make under a billion a year on roundup and the bulk of their money from seeds and traits – if the seed and trait business goes away (as I contend it would if a trait involved was found to actually be harmful), frankly what is left? Let’s keep in mind the current environment in which big business operates – I witnessed first hand the carnage that ensued after Pfizer were hit with a $2Bn judgement against them – government didn’t step in and protect anyone – they had to shed hundreds of jobs and lost their global research HQ – being fortune 500 or having ex-amployees in government is no protection against malfeasiance.

      The Government of Germany for blocking Monsanto GMO corn

      Is it overly litigious to ask that member states of the EU actually abide by the laws of the EU?

      The spelling bee Nazi’s would have a field day with this one. You misspelled it two times not just one.

      I use to spell it correctly but things I use to do changed dramatically when someone pointed out to me that the correct useage was used – notwithstanding that the only person I called the grammer legal system down on was myself for stating contaminated was the wrong word to use due to its overly emotive charge when technically it is not incorrect.

      People have to depend on the honesty and integrity of the food industry to do the right thing in many cases.

      So what you’re saying is you don’t want labelling because what’s the point – we can’t trust the food industry to get it right anyway. Yes?

      Refer to Huffington Post Article dated 6/7/11

      Anyone playing crank bingo? We’ve got Mercola, the Huffington post now joins the fray – I only need a Jeffrey Smith and a Deepak Chopra for a full house (I’m hoping they come up before Dr Oz as I sneaked a look at Karl’s card and it appears that’s all he has left)

      Refer to the Huffington Post article above in regards to how healthy Roundup is for us.

      Sure, right after I have my plumber check my prostate and my mailman help me through some psychiatric issues I have.

      Farmers that are willing to make the changes today will far ahead of the curve than the ones that refuse to accept the inevitable.

      they will far ahead of the curve will they? How will they this? Is it because they no money have will?

      Farmers use to grow corn without all these crutches and were able to see a bountiful return.

      Not according to, oh, any of the historic graphings of yield I’ve seen. Not according to the yield drag that organic practices bring about. You’re pulling this stuff out of the air.

      It is time for us all to return to a much more balanced position with nature.

      Meaningless phrases 101: Balance with nature. Sounds good, means… nothing. Farming is about making nature do what you want – all manner of farming – being in balance with nature (which to mean anything in terms of ag means no longer doing ag) equates to giving up the ghost and telling 2/3 of the world’s population – “so sorry, you get to die now”

  • Eric Baumholder

    Historically, conspiracy theories have been a feature of the opposition to agro biotech. For a decade, though, these theories had been limited to fairly simple scenarios: corporations control food supply, enslave farmers, and so forth.

    This has very recently changed; the conspiracy theories are far more intricate, and involve far more entities. GM crops and conventional farming, according to the new conspiracy theories, now involve everything from health care and Morgellons to population control. The remarkable thing is that so many people believe the new stuff.

    One question is: are the believers actually opponents of biotech, or are they educable instead? Another question: has something changed in the cultural background that makes wild allegations more believable than in times past, or more likely to concoct them in the current environment?

  • @all,
    It is too bad that we can’t harvest a comment stream like this and feed it to poor people. Its too bad that all the human and electrical energy that has been used couldn’t be diverted to fix nitrogen for fertilization. I would like to thank everyone for their contribution(s). I also appreciate the civilized tone in spite of the fact that we obviously represent some radically different world-views

    Steve

  • Susan

    I’m with Joanne, and Joanne, if it makes you feel better I actually have a Master’s Degree in Biology, and studied genetics as part of my undergrad degree. I still think I deserve to know what products contain GMOs, until then I’ll definitely be avoiding foods that are likely to. As a scientist I can’t help noticing my body reacting to foods differently over the past several years; it’s occured to me that it is the food that is changing. How you other scientists can not respect Joanne’s point of view, or be concerned about the potential health impacts for yourselves and your families astounds me and makes me worried for the future. I guess Monsanto must pay really well. Joanne, you should be proud of yourself for speaking your mind, keep up the good work.

    • “As a scientist I can’t help noticing my body reacting to foods differently over the past several years; it’s occured to me that it is the food that is changing.”

      I’ll accept your observation that your “body” has been “reacting to foods differently over the past several years,” but it occurs to me if you were truly scientific in your thinking you would first realize that correlation does not equal causation, and that anecdotes are not data.

      I know this, and my degree is in English!

      • Susan

        Bully for you MikeB you are obviously a “genius”! I never said I’m out to publish my “findings” in an issue of “nature”. I just know that eating “tortilla chips” never used to make my fingers swell up and itch like “crazy”. I know someone else who has developed severe corn allergies and I’m suspicious of GMOs is all. If GMOs were labelled I suppose I could conduct some scientific experiments where I ate GMO and nonGMO tortilla chips while keeping the other variables constant to test my theory, but wait, GMOs aren’t labelled, so I’ll just avoid suspicious foods altogether. in the absence of sound, long term experiments by independant agencies on health effects of GMOs on humans anecodates are all I have to go on and I chose to be cautious. other people are free to consume all the GMOs they want. I found this website because I was looking for more information on GMOs from all points of view and I only posted because I didn’t like reading the posts bullying Joanne for likewise being concerned about health impacts. sorry my wording wasn’t perfect and thank you for reminding me what science is all about, you’re the best.

        • If you were a scientist, or at least if you acted like one, you’d go to the literature and note the abundance of studies demonstrating no adverse effects of GMOs in the diet (many of them… independant), you’d likely then accept that your reactions to corn products (when did they arise by the by?) have absolutely nothing to do with the presence of GMOs.

          It appears however, at least from the previous two posts that you’ve done nothing of the sort.

          How you other scientists can not respect Joanne’s point of view

          Not all points of view deserve respect – I absolutely respect Joanne’s right to a point of view – but that doesn’t mean that if I disagree with it I’m just going to keep my mouth closed (one would wonder, infact, why you don’t respect our point of view? Coming here bullying us with your allegations of unsaf… oh wait, I see, that’s jsut a tactic to get people to shut up when you don’t like what they’re saying! Sneaky!)

          or be concerned about the potential health impacts for yourselves and your families astounds me and makes me worried for the future.

          There are no demonstrable impacts, there is no sound reason to believe there will be, all the evidence points to equivalence with non-GMO varieties – I try not to get overly concerned for the safety of my family from non-issues, given that there are plenty of things to actually be concerned about.

          To follow up on what Karl mentions – sudden reactions to new foods can indeed be indicative of other issues – Shortly after turning 30 my Britishness was violently torn from me by an autoimmune disorder which includes amongst its many interesting pieces a rather unpleasant reaction to tea (at least it appears to – I’m 3 for 3 on trying tea and ending up off work the next day, so I’m happy to eliminate the tea – not exactly conclusive but good enough for me) – do I go and rail about tea? No, because it ain’t the tea – it’s my immune system being a lunatic.

          I guess Monsanto must pay really well.

          As far as I’m aware I’m the only one in the discussion paid by Monsanto, it pays the bills no doubt, but alas the PR folk are yet to acknowledge my excellence with a yearly stipend or a gold plaque somewhere. I’ve made every effort to remediate this but apparently it falls on deaf ears. I’m presuming it is some sort of corporate conspiracy to keep me driving a 2001 Alero with intermittent air conditioning and a penchant for flat tires.

    • Susan, As a scientist, you know that you are unable to separate the variables of changes in food from the variables involved in how the food is prepared, quantities eaten, and changes in your own physiology and lifestyle. So you don’t have any information that can separate these variables. At the very least, you should observe how your body reacts to different foods in a controlled, double-blind manner. Switching between GE and non-GE foods where you don’t know which is which is the only way you can keep from fooling yourself on this. Take a look at my post on this topic called The Inadequacy of Anecdotes. If you are, as you suggest may be the case, reacting to GE foods, it is your duty to investigate this if you think there is serious merit to it – for the safety of others.

      In addition, there are varietal differences between different corn plants, tomatoes, etc, that would make a simple comparison of GE vs non-GE food in the store unable to give you the information you seek. If you are concerned that GE crops are making you feel uncomfortable or harming you, you would need to use varieties that are genetically similar or identical in your analysis. This has been done in test animals with differences far less than the differences caused by feeding different varieties. There is a large body of research on this stuff.

      As you have a master’s degree in biology, you should have the necessary skills to figure this sort of thing out. You could do one of two things, either design an experiment that takes into account all these variables and verify or rule out the role of GE in these potential reactions, or, using your education in the sciences, read the relevant literature linked above and understand how unlikely this scenario is. Both are avenues that educated scientists can take. Right now you only have a hypothesis.

      You are not the only person that I have come across who has suggested that food reactions they are having may be due to GE foods. (Some say they know it is due to GE foods.) But given that the changes being made in these foods are far less than basic varietal differences, it makes alternate explanations far more likely. If you have been indeed reacting to foods more and more in the last few years, you owe it to yourself to figure out what is causing it. There could be an underlying medical condition that is being overlooked. And that could be dangerous.

  • MKlein

    My understanding is that GM food is considered safe because biotech companies have insisted that the toxins that break open insect stomachs are broken down via the human digestive system and therefore will not affect us. A recent study published in Reproductive Toxicology (“Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada”) shows that these toxins in fact are appearing both in our blood stream and in the cord blood of developing babies, showing that they are passing through the placenta.

    Until further studies show that these toxins (which were never supposed to be absorbed into our systems in the first place) have no affect on us, it seems premature to deem Bt crops as “safe.”

    The logic would imply that if it is dangerous to consume pesticides, and these Bt crops are genetically engineered to embody pesticides, and these Bt toxins are finding their way into our blood, it isn’t safe to eat these crops. Is this a case of common sense not being too common?

    Furthermore, there are a number from the scientific community who believe the testing upon which approval for GM crops has been granted is insufficient to label them “safe.” Please see the study “Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements”.

  • My understanding is that GM food is considered safe because biotech companies have insisted that the toxins that break open insect stomachs are broken down via the human digestive system and therefore will not affect us.

    That is part of it, however another part is the well characterized mode of action of the Cry protein which is very specific to the target classes of insects that it affects – pH and target specificity being key – humans don’t have alkaline guts (or blood afaik) and don’t have the target molecule upon which the activated Cry protein acts.

    David Tribe covers the maternal and fetal exposure here (mostly copied from another, but well referenced and researched on top of that)

    Until further studies show that these toxins (which were never supposed to be absorbed into our systems in the first place) have no affect on us, it seems premature to deem Bt crops as “safe.”

    Why do we need further studies when we have prior studies showing exactly that – erroneous studies pointing out that a protein appears in the blood do not negate the prior work which illustrates that consumption of the protein has no effects whatsoever on test subjects (indeed prior utilization of the Cry proteins in agriculture even before the advent of GMOs would indicate that they have no effect)

    The logic would imply that if it is dangerous to consume pesticides, and these Bt crops are genetically engineered to embody pesticides, and these Bt toxins are finding their way into our blood, it isn’t safe to eat these crops.

    That would only be the case if it were dangerous to consume all pesticides. It isn’t. Notwithstanding the dose effect of most pesticides (ie they may be dangerous at some dose, but in tiny quantities have no effect) many pesticides (particularly Bt and Glyphosate) have no effect thus negating the pivotal point of your otherwise logical statement.

    Furthermore, there are a number from the scientific community who believe the testing upon which approval for GM crops has been granted is insufficient to label them “safe.”

    Likewise there are those in the scientific community who believe vaccinations cause autism or that the earth is 6,000 years old. Just because one can label folk with demonstrably crazy beliefs to be scientists doesn’t mean these beliefs need to be taken seriously.

  • MKlein

    Ewan, I’m guessing you didn’t actually read the “Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvement.” It has been peer-reviewed and therefore probably warrants a little credit. If you know of a peer-reviewed study indicating the earth is 6,000 years old, I have some “young earth” friends who would love to see it.

    Note that I’m not saying GMOs are unsafe — I’m just not convinced yet that they are.

    The study points out the genetic modification unintentionally affect other areas of the genome:
    Usually, pesticides are tested over a period of 2 years on a mammal, and this quite often highlights side effects. Additionally, unintended effects of the genetic modification itself cannot be excluded, as direct or indirect consequences of insertional mutagenesis, creating possible unintended metabolic effects. For instance, in the MON810 maize, the insertion of the transgene in the ubiquitine ligase gene caused a complex recombination event, leading to the synthesis of new RNA products encoding unknown proteins [12]. Thus, genetic modifications can induce global changes in the genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, or metabolomic profiles of the host. The frequency of such events in comparison to classical hybridization is by nature unpredictable. In addition, in a plant producing a Cry1Ab-modified toxin, a metabolomic study [13] revealed that the transgene introduced indirectly 50% changes in osmolytes and branched amino acids.

    If studies are available that speak to the concerns raised in the study, I’d be interested in seeing them. From what I’ve seen thus far, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient data to make a solid conclusion one way or the other.

    • I have, it is by Seralini, he’s a nonsense merchant – the peer reviewed literature is unfortunately not immune to allowing utter twaddle in from time to time (Wakefield for instance). In Seralini’s case an established pattern of publishing nonsense is quite evident.

      On to the study mentioned which one can find here

      If I’m doing the stats right not one of the PCA graphs shown demonstrates a difference between the control and the transgenic given that all points invariably fall within the hotelling T^2 confidence limit of 95% – which, if I’m thinking correctly (and PCA is not my strong suit, so I may not be!) is the area in which one cannot rule out the null hypothesis of no difference between groups. (hopefully PDiff can step in and illuminate us here) – furthermore it looks to me like the metabolites looked at extend over 499 different products (or peaks at least) which would mean you’d expect, at a 95% confidence level, to see at least 20 significant differences – seeing a handful (as they appear to) is hardly meaningful other than to add to the noise (which is funny as it is this precise form of statistical dishonesty which got Seralini where he is today)

    • Here’s other stuff about the same topic. Let’s talk about these to to get the whole picture and assess what Seralini does with this evidence. This evidence all basically says there’s a lot of variation in plant composition coming from conventional breeding and seasonal variations that’s much greater than what transgenes cause. Variation as such is not necessarily dangerous– we get a lot of it in our food.

      An up to date review in a good journal described here:
      Fingerprinting of the fine detail in plant composition indicates trangenesis has less impact on crop composition than has conventional breeding and environmental influences

      Other reviews about unexpected changes
      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2008/07/gene-chips-prove-transgenes-are-clean.html

      Relevant papers:
      Barros, E 2010, ‘Molecular Profiling Techniques Detect Unintended Effects in Genetically Engineered Maize’, Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report.

      Carmen, S 2008, ‘Agrifood Metabolomics – A Link Between Analytical Biochemistry and Green Biotechnologies’, Bulletin of University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 410-5.

      Coll, A, Nadal, A, Collado, R, Capellades, G, Messeguer, J, Mele, E, Palaudelmas, M & Pla, M 2009, ‘Gene expression profiles of MON810 and comparable non-GM maize varieties cultured in the field are more similar than are those of conventional lines’, Transgenic Research, vol. 18, pp. 801-8.

      Davies, H 2010, ‘A role for ‘‘omics” technologies in food safety assessment’, Food Control, vol. 21, pp. 1601-10.

      Davies, HV, Shepherd, LVT, Stewart, D, Frank, T, Röhlig, RM & Engel, K-H 2010, ‘Metabolome variability in crop plant species – When, where, how much and so what?’, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, vol. 58, pp. S54-S61.

      EFSA GMO Panel Working Group on Animal Feeding Trials 2008, Safety and nutritional assessment of GM plants and derived food and feed: The role of animal feeding trials, European Food Safety Authority.

      Harrigan, GG, Lundry, D, Drury, S, Berman, K, Riordan, SG, Nemeth, MA, Ridley, WP & Glenn, KC 2010, ‘Natural variation in crop composition and the impact of transgenesis’, Nature Biotechnology, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 402-4.

      Hilder, VA & Boulter, D 1999, ‘Genetic engineering of crop plants for insect resistance – a critical review’, Crop Protection, vol. 18, pp. 177-91.

      Knibb, W 1997, ‘Risk from genetically engineered and modified marine fish’, Transgenic Research, vol. 6, pp. 59-67.

      Mittler, R & Blumwald, E 2010, ‘Genetic Engineering for Modern Agriculture: Challenges and Perspectives’, Annual Review of Plant Biology, vol. 61, pp. 443-62.

      Qaim, M 2009, ‘The Economics of Genetically Modified Crops’, Annual Review of Resource Economics, vol. 1, pp. 665-93.

      Ricroch, A, Berge, JB & Kuntz, M 2010, ‘Is the German suspension of MON810 maize cultivation scientifically justified?’, Transgenic Research, vol. 19, pp. 1-12.

      Ringnér, M 2008, ‘What is principal component analysis?’, Nature Biotechnology, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 303-4.

      Rischer, H & Oksman-Caldentey, K-M 2006, ‘Unintended effects in genetically modified crops: revealed by metabolomics?’, TRENDS in Biotechnology, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 102-4.

  • Adrian

    these pro-GM lackeys remind me so much of climate change deniers.

    You’ll have to explain yourself Adrian. We expect something better than vague insults here. Your use of the lackeys suggest that you are intellectually challenged by the topic.

  • justin

    The largest problem I have with GMOs is that people really don’t have a choice. People on here have said that if you don’t want to eat them you don’t have to. Well buying organic or non gmo costs money. We are in a recession. Unemployment is through the roof. People have to eat what they can afford. What that makes this into is a long term public health experment on the segment of the population that can’t afford the choice.

    The other thing that upsets me is the fact that because of polenation it is becoming more and more difficult to grow or raise corn that is not GM. In 100 years there will be no such thing as non GM corn. The cat is out of the bag. The problem is there is no undo button. If we discover major problems because of GM corn sometime down the road it is too late. A realitivly small group of people decided that this was the way to go and gave the world no long term choice or escape plan. I don’t like any situation where a small group of elite people dictate everyone elses choices because they are so much smarter and have forseen all possible outcomes…

  • Justin,
    If you are eating GMO foods, it is mostly in “manufactured” foods as opposed to whole foods. Get your protein from beans. Get your starch from wheat. Get your fruits and vegetables. None of these involve GMO crops.

    People have been managing corn genetics since the 1920s when hybrid corn first appeared. No farmer has been saving corn seed since then and the farmers who grow the seed crop know how much isolation they need to be able to get the cross they desire with the male and female lines they plant in the seed crop field.

    There are lots of areas where a “small group of elite people” dictate everyone’s choices. Do you get involved in your water supply, your trash management, your road building, your electricity grid? I could go on and on. We specialize and we are all the “elite” about something. It works

  • justin

    I have read a good bit on GM soy causing high rates of sterility in multi generation animal studies. I have also read that sterility is becoming a problem for American livestock farmers. I was hoping someone on here could integently discuss this topic.

    • I have read a good bit on GM soy causing high rates of sterility in multi generation animal studies.

      You’ve read a good bit of nonsense. If you can point us to the studies then I’m sure we can intelligently (although perhaps belligerently aswell, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and beligerence normally arises when ridiculous claims are being recycled for the umpteenth time) tell you precisely what the issues are.

      Well buying organic or non gmo costs money.

      As does buying kosher or buying halal.

      Labelling GMO simply means that it will now cost more to buy things that aren’t GMO and are GMO but aren’t produced as specialty items to be so (as the whole food system will have to bear the cost of splitting the stream of commodity grains and providing evidence that their labelling, or lack thereof, is correct) – as Steve points out above – protein from beans, starch from wheat, fruits and vegetables as normal – just avoid pre-packaged mass produced foods (which I’m sure, if you’re so concerned about health, that you do anyway right?)

      People have to eat what they can afford.

      Arguably a pro-GM comment.

      The other thing that upsets me is the fact that because of polenation it is becoming more and more difficult to grow or raise corn that is not GM.

      Unless you are even half way competent as a farmer or small scale grower.

      The cat is out of the bag.

      I don’t understand this practice of keeping cats in bags – you ever seen a cat in a bag? Damn thing goes beserk. Best place for cats is outside of bags.

      If we discover major problems because of GM corn sometime down the road it is too late.

      Not to pull the GM corn, not even close. Although again you appear to be living in a world where plant breeders and seed manufacturers are dribbling imbeciles who spend so much of the day struggling to tie their shoe laces that very little in the way of work ever gets.

  • justin

    Steve,

    I personaly filter my water. I am protesting a local road that is being built. I don’t take any action about my power grid (although the people in Japan wish they had)

    As far as managing corn goes this is an interesting read.
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_20568.cfm

  • Jen

    My biggest issue with GMOs and companies like Monsanto is that they’re taking away the rights of the farmer. They patent life and when genetically-modified seed naturally gets into a non-GMO field, the farmer gets sued! It doesn’t matter how it got there. So farmers’ rights are being taken away and consumers rights to make knowledgeable decisions regarding what we buy are off the table.

    Not only does this GMO seed destroy the livelihoods of farmers, but the entire idea of industrial agriculture is destroying the biodiversity of the planet. Other countries realize this threat of GMOs and other industrial agriculture practices, so they are standing up and fighting against GMOs and Monsanto when Americans are oblivious or simply don’t care.

    THAT is the problem.

    • Did you check your facts on this? I question the assumptions here. In Australia Monsanto has made it clear they don’t sue for accidental presence. In the famous Schmeisser case, Percy deliberately tried to use GM crop for his own breeding, as shown by court documents.

      As far as biodiversity there are several ways biotech seeds help preserve biodiversity. Do you know Jen what they are? If you don’t, maybe you should start doing wider research?

        • You’re right, so-called “industrial farming” has had a negative impact on biodiversity. This is something we’ve talked about in many posts here at Biofortified. There’s been a narrowing of the number of species of crops that are planted and a narrowing of the number of varieties planted within each species. In addition, some methods used in farming decrease biodiversity on farms by killing not just pests but all insects and non-crop plants. However, this is a problem of farming, not of genetic engineering.

          In fact, genetic engineering can be used to help improve biodiversity on farm. For example, Bt crops reduce the amount of insecticide that needs to be sprayed while still maintaining high yields. This allows non-target insects to thrive and allows more food/fiber/fuel to be produced on a given amount of land. Up and coming genetically engineered traits like disease resistance will also help improve biodiversity.

          The important thing to remember is that genetic engineering is just a tool. You can use a screwdriver to make a hybrid car and you can use a screwdriver to make a gas guzzler car. It’s the use of tool that determines the end result, not the tool itself.

          Also, I think it’s important to note that Monsanto does not equal genetic engineering. I agree that Monsanto, like many other large companies, has some business practices that are questionable if not outright wrong. Happily, genetic engineering is not held by a monopoly. There are other companies as well as government researchers and non-profit organizations working on genetically engineering traits as well. You can find an incomplete list of traits here: http://www.biofortified.org/resources/biotech-traits/ (we really have a lot of work to do in filling in more traits) and an incomplete list of companies here: http://www.biofortified.org/resources/genetic-engineering-companies/.

    • Hi Jen, thanks for stopping by. According to Monsanto, they do not sue for accidental pollination. The high-profile case of Percy Schmeiser getting sued was actually a case where he illegally obtained and saved seed, and testified that he sprayed roundup on the plants to select for them. As a result, more than 95% of the fields were GE canola. He didn’t pay damages, but was found guilty by the Canadian Supreme Court. Other cases are similar. It would make no sense to sue over a few out-of-place GE plants, and so far I haven’t seen a case where they have. This doesn’t come as much of a consolation to those who are worried about such cross-pollination, and there is a group suing over that. But I don’t think they will get very far because they are suing on the basis that the patents aren’t valid, and the Supreme Court of the United States has already ruled that they are valid. Perhaps the best way to solve this issue would be to draft some legislation that all sides can for-the-most-part agree on that defines how to deal with issues of cross-pollination. What makes sense to me is making companies unable to sue over low-level-presence (from accidental pollination or admixture) while at the same time making farmers who have low-level presence unable to sue for “contamination.” I doubt we would get much support from either side for such a measure right now, but I wonder if it would be possible.

  • Tex

    If GMO is just like normal food then why is Monsanto so hungry to have it grow? I hate the biotech industry because of Monsanto.
    The food I put in my body will be Organic and nothing but Organic!
    Monsanto wants 100% control of all seed, I say kill Monsanto and everyone in the biotech distroy. GOD lift us all we need to eat and stay healthy, he will come distroy companies like Monsanto.

    Editor’s Note: For advocating violence on the blog, Tex is banned from further commenting.

    • If GMO is just like normal food then why is Monsanto so hungry to have it grow?

      The question doesn’t follow from the premise. Please explain your thinking (the rest of the post sort of suggests that your capacity to do this may be limited, but I live in hope)

      I hate the biotech industry because of Monsanto.

      A well reasoned arguement, you almost have me swayed.

      Monsanto wants 100% control of all seed

      That explains why they license their traits giving up control… oh wait, no, it does nothing of the sort.

      I say kill Monsanto and everyone in the biotech distroy.

      How very civilized of you.

      GOD lift us all we need to eat and stay healthy, he will come distroy companies like Monsanto.

      I won’t hold my breath.

    • Tex,
      You are free to eat the Organic, its your money. But seriously, I’d try to limit that to the US, Canadian, Mexican Organic and not the Chinese Organic. I could introduce you to some of the great people who work at Monsanto and then you might become less murderous

  • maria

    Bullsh*t. One of my beekeeper buddies has a field of genetically engineered corn right near her hive. She asked this farmer to plant good ol regular corn but this guy does not read. He did not read, did not listen and now the bees are suffering for it. Genetically engineered corn, soy and canola is planted everywhere. Once it is there, well, that’s it folks. We have unleashed into nature what nature has always protected against, the contamination of genes from other species. Nature is an order which arrogant people like the people at monsanto think they can control and alter to the point of causing our extinction. We are not a laboratory experiment! The world depends on all biodiversity to work together and not to be mashed together in some freaky science experiment.I will go with the natural order. Monsanto has caused nothing but death and destruction and has lied and covered up about it. Sustainable? Hardly. Generally Regarded As Safe? GRAS MY *SS. This is unnecessary behavior that we do not need in our world. Don’t need it. Dont want it. Listen to the people. WE DO NOT WANT GENETIC ENGINEERING IN OUR ENVIROMENT>

    • Maria, let me see if I understand your friend’s objection, she is objecting because her bees are flying into her neighbor’s field and stealing pollen off of his plants?

    • One of my beekeeper buddies has a field of genetically engineered corn right near her hive.

      Ok

      She asked this farmer to plant good ol regular corn but this guy does not read

      That or he wants to exercise his right to plant what he chooses on his own land – would your beekeeper buddy have got rid of her bees if the farmer had stated he was scared of bees, because they kill corn?

      Once it is there, well, that’s it folks.

      Is it sad or funny that I can’t help hearing porky the pig stuttering that little phrase?

      We have unleashed into nature what nature has always protected against

      Bees! No wait… erm, I’m sure you had a point… but I’m pretty sure it can’t be about gene transfer between species as this isn’t something nature protects against… (indeed if it were then we wouldn’t be able to do it as all we do is use mechanisms which are perfectly natural (restriction enzymes, taq DNA polymerase, bacterial recombination) to copy what nature does anyway.

      Nature is an order

      What does this even mean?

      which arrogant people like the people at monsanto think they can control and alter to the point of causing our extinction

      I’ll ask around, but as far as I know nobody I work with spends much time thinking about altering nature to cause our extinction… it probably wouldn’t look good on a goals document what with the impact on profitability from a reduced customer base.

      Monsanto has caused nothing but death and destruction

      Sure, nothing but, they haven’t been remotely involved in breeding higher yielding crops, they haven’t done a thing to improve the lives of farmers in the past decade or so, their flagship traits have certainly not reduced the environmental impact of herbicide use on soy and corn, and they certainly haven’t decreased the economic impact of insect pests on the US corn crop (to the extent that nature didn’t publish an analysis of the economics and utterly didn’t conclude massive benefits to adopters and non adopters alike)

      Generally Regarded As Safe

      Recognized, not regarded – if you’re going to go off on an ill informed rant you could at least take the trouble to be accurate in the nomenclature of the subject you’re vastly uninformed about.

      Listen to the people. WE DO NOT WANT GENETIC ENGINEERING IN OUR ENVIROMENT

      The people who it has an effect on are listened to. Farmers. They want it. They use it. They want more, they want better traits. You are perfectly entitled to rant and rave and froth at the mouth about it – but try not to ignore the massive positive benefits the technology has for the people who actually use it – I’d ask you not ignore the reality that there really isn’t a negative impact on end users such as yourself – but I’ll accept that based on the above rant you’re unlikely to be able to take that step.

    • Maria,
      Corn is not pollinated by bees. The bees might forage on the pollen from the corn, but the Bt toxin there has no effect on bees, just caterpillars

    • You might want to look into what GRAS actually means. When referring to genetically engineered crops, the term isn’t GRAS anyway, it’s substantial equivalence. Genetically engineered crops have to be proven to be the same as non-genetically engineered crops, they are not assumed to be the same. See http://www.biofortified.org/2010/10/substantial-equivalence/

  • maria

    1. Potatoes. See “The World According to Monsanto” a documentary by french filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin. http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Arpad-Pusztai-Potato.htm.
    2.NOt costly. Tell that to the indian farmers who were forced to buy this seed, plant it, have it fail, lose their farms then commit suicide. The myth that these crops need less water, less pesticide & herbicide is just that. A myth.
    3.Not interested. Not necessary. Talk to the farmers in Chile who have lost their livelihoods to the big mono crop farming that is going on there. This is about MONEY. Arrogance and how can we screw nature. Nature is perfect the way it is. What we need to do is stop spraying toxic pest/herbicides that kill the soil and pollute our water. Killing native pollinators and creating super weeds that we then spray with other more potent chemicals. Do not kid yourself. This is about creating a system that relies on the destruction of the ecosystem. Neat mono crops, miles of corn, canola and soy. This is not sustainable agriculture. Talk to the organic farmers who this system is trying to destroy. They do all this wby working with the enviroment not against it. We need to concentrate our technologies on this, not bending the genetic code of plants. This could fail horribly, we do not know the effects, one day all crops would bee struck with a bacteria resistant malady and no food for anyone. I do not beleive this is the way. No one should. Many scientists know this. When they try to tell the world they are silenced or discredited by the biotech INDUSTRY. I am putting my money on organics. I do not want to gamble our food supply This is too important.
    4.WE do not KNOW The effects and these people should stop saying this is SAFE. It most definitely is not safe, (scientist studies see Dr. Huber, Dr. Putszai) and also not as effective as organic agriculture. (See UN article)http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34331. I support organic “technology” as we should also do for our energy needs. Only when humankind can start working with our world, not against it, will we have world peace and a better world.

    • 1. Potatoes. See “The World According to Monsanto” a documentary by french filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin.

      See a horribly slanted propaganda piece about a badly done bit of research? (I actually do mean to watch the film sometime, but given that it takes me approximately 6 months to beat a video game these days my priorities have shifted away from meaninglessly wasting my life on fluff)

      2.NOt costly. Tell that to the indian farmers who were forced to buy this seed, plant it, have it fail, lose their farms then commit suicide. The myth that these crops need less water, less pesticide & herbicide is just that. A myth.

      The myth about Indian farmers here is that the GM seed had anything to do with suicide. Suicide rates were relatively unaltered by the introduction of GM crops (infact in one region they appear to decline following the introduction, which makes sense, but I fear is likely just happenstance as it occurs only in a single region) – the issue here is the relative uncertainty of farming combined with the predatory loan systems utilized to finance farming – if you bother to do the math (I’m certain you won’t, nobody ever does and reaches the conclusions you’ve come to) you’d be quick to note that the cost of GM seed amounts to an approximate 3% of the overall cost of production for your average cotton farmer – to assert that this 3% change in end season debt would be the tipping point on the decision to take ones life is not sound – however, and here’s the real kicker for your imaginary scenario – GM cotton has demonstrably improved yields for Indian farmers in the 50-150% increase range, reduced use of the most toxic insecticides, and increased on farm income (and shifted labour from spraying toxins to picking cotton) – how else can one explain the concurrent massive increase in Indian cotton production and massively high rate of adoption of GM crops – if they failed the way you claim then surely as adoption rates reach close to 100% Indian cotton production should tank horribly. It doesn’t. Your conclusions are unsound.

      Nature is perfect the way it is.

      That explains polio. That explains Crohn’s disease. That explains why not one of us has any need whatsoever for any of agriculture – we can all just scavenge berries and hunt wildebeest (or rabbits).

      Talk to the organic farmers who this system is trying to destroy. They do all this wby working with the enviroment not against it.

      Yet another myth – if Organic farmers worked with, rather than against the environment their farms would be overrun with weeds in the first few years of production and covered in trees after a decade or two – farming is working against the environment whether you’re working 50,000 acres with agrichemicals, or half an acre with nothing but sweat, blood and tears.

      WE do not KNOW The effects and these people should stop saying this is SAFE. It most definitely is not safe

      Which is it? We don’t know or we definitely know. Seems you are somewhat confused here. (either way you’re wrong – we know that current commercialized GMOs are safe, in so far as we know that anything is safe).

      Only when humankind can start working with our world, not against it, will we have world peace and a better world.

      The dark ages. A time of organic type agriculture and no chemical inputs. Clearly a better and more peaceful world.

  • maria

    Monsanto bought out 80 percent of the seed companies in the USA. What are they setting up? For those of you who wish to avoid “gmos” here is some good info. For the rest of you, have fun eating those biotech, roundup ready “foods”. You know, the sad thing is, this is really simple. So simple. Why is there so much “ansgt” as mr savage stated at the beginning of the article? Not because we sense something is wrong with this technology. Could it bee that this technology does something to alter the structure of the gene and renders the plant itself somehow, say, unstable? Could it bee that scientists that are much much smarter than me know that we should not be tampering with this and be approaching this by the precautionary principle? What has happened here? The Dark Ages? Hardly. PUtting Monsanto in charge of agriculture is like having Charles Manson babysit my kids.
    http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/how-to-avoid-monsanto/

  • maria

    Rural Online – 16/06/2011: New plant disease linked to GM crops and pesticides
    http://www.abc.net.au
    From a biogeneticist in India. Oh and by the way, Vandana Shiva sends her regards.

  • Monsanto bought out 80 percent of the seed companies in the USA. What are they setting up?

    80% sounds a rather high figure – Monsanto buys seed companies because it makes sense to acquire known brands and established expertise in an area rather than starting from scratch (which explains delta pine, dekalb and other acquisitions) – what is being set up? A profitable seed company which can transfer expertise across crops in a manner that wasn’t possible when the various crops were run by different companies. What exactly are you suggesting is going on? You do rather leave us hanging and expect us to fill in the gap.

    Could it bee that this technology does something to alter the structure of the gene and renders the plant itself somehow, say, unstable?

    What exactly do you mean by this? Which gene? Unstable how?

    Could it bee that scientists that are much much smarter than me know that we should not be tampering with this and be approaching this by the precautionary principle?

    If that’s what they think I assure you you’re doing yourself a grand disservice by assume they’re much smarter than you.

    PUtting Monsanto in charge of agriculture is like having Charles Manson babysit my kids.

    Assuming that Monsanto is “in charge of Agriculture” is rather akin to thinking that the suppliers of tires to GM are in charge of the automobile.

    • maria

      http://livingmaxwell.com/obama-appointment-of-siddiqui-to-agricultural-post-is-an-absolute-disaster-for-organic-food-proponents

      Tom Vilsack as well. Lisa Jackson, the list goes on , I am speaking of the revolving door in political washington where the deregulation is taking place.
      Honestly, have you watched the thoughtful documentary by ms robin?Many thing are explained that I could never in my limited way explain. Please watch it then get back to me! It’s exciting, it’s entertaining it’s simply a must see. Perhaps you can then shed some light on what is wrong with this whole picture. I want to feed the world in a sustainalble way. I want to use less toxins on the crops and in the soil. Are we on the same side? It seems so, but then something gets in the way. It is not my ignorance, I am reading and studying this voraciously, it is a simple miscalculation by science called “what if”? and really the most important, why is this necessary? I am not convinced. Why when organic yeilds are proven to outperform biotech. The myths of biotechnology are being proven, are you reading about it or are you jsut sitting in your chair looking down at the “angst” that is prohibiting the progress of “fortifying” agriculture?The WORLd according to Monsanto”. Yes, there are othere companies out there, but Monsanto is the leader.

      • am speaking of the revolving door in political washington where the deregulation is taking place.

        People who work in agriculture get other jobs in agriculture. Colour me surprised. I’ll assume for a moment you’ve had more than one job, tell me, how dishonest and essentially criminal are you willing to be to benefit your former employer?

        have you watched the thoughtful documentary by ms robin

        As stated, no, I haven’t (I’m guessing some of the writers here may have) – however from hearing about it what is covered is the same tired old nonsense – it isn’t thoughtful, it’s puerile and dishonest.

        I want to use less toxins on the crops and in the soil.

        So you’re pro GM? I’m confused.

        I am reading and studying this voraciously

        Although it appears your pre-filter for material is abysmal. I assume you are simply throwing out anything that disagrees with your pre-conceived world view.

        Why when organic yeilds are proven to outperform biotech

        They aren’t. Steve recently had a piece on organic vs conventional yields – Organic is decades behind and the gap is increasing.

        The myths of biotechnology are being proven

        Which ones?

        are you reading about it or are you jsut sitting in your chair looking down at the “angst” that is prohibiting the progress of “fortifying” agriculture?

        Essentially everyone who participates in the conversation at Biofortified has spent more time reading and thinking about the issue than you I would bet. I personally work in the industry – so not a day goes by when I’m not reading or thinking about some aspect of agriculture (well ok, maybe the odd day here and there spent screaming at sequencing data when stupid TA repeats end up looping off and messing up my sequence…) – I’m sure others can vouch for their time investment.

        Yes, there are othere companies out there, but Monsanto is the leader.

        If I remember my numbers right (I rarely do) Pioneer is the leader in at least a couple of seed markets – Monsanto is the leader in biotech simply because they hands down invest more money in R&D than the competition – and have done so for the longest – to argue that any seed company is the leader of modern Ag is however ignorant of the scale of modern ag – seed companies income pales in comparison with practically anyone downstream of them (other than, unfortunately, the farmer) – as I stated previously, somewhat like accusing a tire manufacturer supplying to GM of being the commanding force in the automobile industry.

    • I think the 80% is how much of the domestic GMO seed market that Monsanto holds. I seem to remember reading that, but I can’t remember where.

      • Monsanto has an approximate 30% (give or take a percent point) of the seed market in most of the major seeds they sell – generally around the same sort of portion as Pioneer has (I don’t remember the most recent numbers – I do wish, for the sake of my annual bonus, that it had jumped to 80% this year) (buying 80% of seed companies wouldn’t necessarily result in getting 80% share – if Monsanto purchased Pioneer they’d buy a single company and get +30% market share, whereas they could buy Bobs Seed in Arkansas and increase their market share by all of a bag of seed.

    • Huber’s claims are thus far unsupported by any evidence (go figure!) and are contained amidst even more outlandish nonsense about the existence of impossible organisms (fungi visible only under the electron microscope and virulent across kingdoms)

      It is however interesting that you acknowledge Huber while ignorning the link in your article which essentially says that Huber is spouting nonsense (although somewhat more politely than that)

  • the bug guy

    The claims of Dr. Huber have been examined in detail elsewhere on this site and found to be seriously lacking.

    • It’s not really that interesting – GM traits would obviously be useless if not in elite germplasm – the benefit of better weed control, or better insect control, is meaningless if you get that control when sacrificing a good chunk of yield (yield drag in the first gen RR soybean show conclusively that there is a level of yield tradeoff that is worth it however)

      The whole piece is a non-arguement, visitive soybeans were made RR because the majority of the soybean market demands RR beans – not to make it look like vistive soy was GMO (indeed that’s what vistive gold is for…) Flood resistant rice was done with GM first – thankfully after regulatory hurdles proved too great a wild variety of rice with a version of the gene that’d do the same thing was found and introgressed into rice – at extra expense of both money and time – yay regularory burdens.

      The piece also makes the erroneous claim that proponents of GM say that only GM tech can do these things – nobody makes any such claim.

      This piece particularly is rather funny:-

      In other words, how much value was added by the GM manipulation?

      Precisely the amount the farmer is willing to pay for it – if you have no other agronomic improvement other than insect protection, or herbicide resistance (which is all Bt and RR claim to offer) then the value is whatever you place on these traits – if insects routinely devour 50% of your crop then the value add is approximately 50% the net value of a crop unmolested by insects, if your weed management program sucks up all your time then it depends entirely how you value your time in terms of value add of the RR trait.

      Obviously these traits provide some form of value – how else can one explain uptake of the more expensive seed in a market where despite claims to the contrary non-GM seed is available (although less today than in previous years purely because the demand is so low… supply and demand… how does that work?)

  • justin

    BTW whoever posted as “Tex” I get really tired of false flag postings in blogs, media and the like to make the people who disagree with you sound like blathering idiots.

  • justin

    If a farmer used roundup on his crops for ten years straight and then decided to go non GMO how long would he have to wait before his land would grow anything that was not roundup ready?

    • Justin,
      The farmer could plant any non-roundup-ready crop within three days of the last roundup spray. Roundup has an extremely short half-life in soil. Some of the soybean herbicides that roundup-ready displaced had rotational limitations, but not roundup.

      There is a positive roll for the more persistent herbicides to manage resistance and because if the crop “sees” weeds growing nearby, it responds by increasing the shoot to root ratio, and that can make it more susceptible to drought

  • Alex

    @Steve, Ewan and Karl,

    Regarding the hysteria regarding GMO and GE foods, do you feel people are being illogical due to their reasons for not wanting to eat GMO/GE food, or is the preference of preferring non-GMO/GE foods the irrational portion?

    • I’d guess it was more about fear of GMO foods because they don’t understand how much they are like the un-modified food. When a positive choice is made for a food, it is generally about the flavor or other positives about the consumption experience. When a negative choice is made it is usually about fear

      • Alex

        That makes sense. So you would agree that the preference to eat foods that are non-GMO is perfectly reasonable; where you take issue is with the justification for the preference. Is that accurate?

        • I’ll step in here, if you don’t mind. I’m a vegetarian, and I hope others support my right to make that choice. I fully recognize that my choice isn’t completely based on science. I don’t think I have a right to make other people pay more for meat or take away other people’s choices. I have a HUGE problem with extremist groups that want to force everyone else to be vegan.

          I find the GMO discussion to be quite similar. Some people have made a choice to avoid something (GM). Fine. They may have non-science based reasons for it. Fine. Destroying research? Demanding increases in food costs for everyone else through mandatory labeling? Preventing farmers from using the technologies that work best for them? Not fine.

    • Alex – I’d say that both the reasons and the preference are illogical (given that I’d have to assume that the preference is based on the reasons – although I guess to some extent that makes the preference logical but only after the massively illogical step of looking at the available data and concluding that reality is wrong)

  • justin

    I know the last question was not directed at me but I am going to answerit anyway. Ik am not a biologist or a farmer, but I am a profesional in my field. I do not understand all of the scientific goings on behind this tech and its aleged saftey (though I do make an effort)

    For thousands of years people have farmed and eaten without this tech. Recently there has been more and more diabetes, obesitey, heart disease etc. While I cannot corelate this to GMOs and it is probably more due to packaged food and fast food, I can look at earlier models of how people raised and ate their food as being healthier.

    There are lots of people who say that nucelar energy is safe and green. They are experts. I am disinclined to believe them.

    What I do believe is that if I take my own diet into my hands I will be healthier. I resent that this is becoming more difficult. And I resent being told by an expert that there is nothing to fear (remember asbestos everyone thought it was safe) and I resent that it has become more difficult to eat grits and cornbread.

    I lastly do not believe that science should do things because they are possible. We are all people and it is not our place to play at gods.

    • I can look at earlier models of how people raised and ate their food as being healthier

      And they died in great number when their harvest failed, and the notion of the crops themselves as healthier is questionable at best.

      What I do believe is that if I take my own diet into my hands I will be healthier.

      Everyone’s diet is in their own hands. Like matters of health, that doesn’t have much to do with GMOs, however I assume that you mean avoiding GMOs, and if so, hey, your call, but just because it is your own health does not imply that actions you take will help it. I’m sure plenty of vegetarians have said the same thing without an understanding of essential amino acids, which is not to say avoiding GMO foods will be physically harmful like that (although it may be needlessly harmful to your wallet), just that that is faulty reasoning.

      And I resent being told by an expert that there is nothing to fear

      I don’t much care for being told by non-experts that there is something to fear, especially when a small mountain of data says otherwise. The thing with expertise is that we remember the individual times when the people who have it are wrong. We don’t remember the countless times those without it are wrong. Given the choice between trusting someone with knowledge & experiences and trusting some random guy, I’m going with the experts.

      I resent that it has become more difficult to eat grits and cornbread.

      If I decide that the genes responsible for big apples with a greater diameter than ancestral apples are to be avoided I’m going to have a hard time eating apples, and it would be silly of me to harbor resentment towards the apple growers for wanting superior varieties. Cornbread is still there, you’ve just applied some self limiting arbitrary restrictions on it.

      We are all people and it is not our place to play at gods.

      Tell that to the folks opposing Golden Rice. Rejecting the benefits that genetic engineering can bring comes a lot closer to ‘playing God’ than moving around a few molecules does.

    • This conversation is rather strange in my opinion. As a scientist I know the main causes of food-borne illnes and ill-health are microbes and microbial toxins.
      I explained this here:
      Food Safety: Focus on Real Risks, Not Fake Ones
      Academics Review Mar 18, 2010

      Disease microbes, nutrient shortages and lack of access are greatest threats, not biotechnology. Contamination of fish and meat with parasites, or grains with mold toxins, are also significant food health hazards.

      There is a lot of heated discussion going on about hypothetical food hazards such as GM and low level pesticide contamination which solid scientific work shows are causing no detectable harm. On the other hand, there is an example of real harm, dangerous E. coli in sprouts in Germany which has killed 38 people and permanently damaged 800+ people with HUS, sickened about 4000.

      This actually happened.Its not supposition, like the GM and trace pesticide fears.

      In the paswt of 2 weeks several GE companies and many scientist have used genetic engineering methods to analyse completely the genes of these organisms causing the German outbreak, and donated their work to the world free. Yes donoted free for all to use.

      https://github.com/ehec-outbreak-crowdsourced/BGI-data-analysis/wiki
      Follow the link to see the list of what has been done.

      But at the comments here we get growls of distrust and sniping at the science, when scientist are using GM technology to try and fix the mess in Germany fast.

      Why this great gap between fear and reality.

      The distrust of GM is fear driven.

      The risks of pathogenic E. coli germs are reality driven. Lets get real, I say.

    • Only going to respond to this piece as Greg H did such a sterling job knocking the rest on its head.

      We are all people and it is not our place to play at gods.

      Argumentum ad populous? For real? Peter Molyneux made a tidy living on precisely the opposite principle.

      As a scientist I know the main causes of food-borne illnes and ill-health are microbes and microbial toxins.

      I had the good fortune to be at a talk by your comrade in arms against lunacy Bruce Chassy yesterday (David and Steve both got mentions!) – interestingly he places simply overeating as the main cause of food related illness (not quite food borne… but kinda! I must admit I hadn’t even considered it that way) then microbes etc – I’d strongly recommend anyone interested in the issues at hand to catch a talk by him – although don’t expect time for questions at the end!

  • justin

    In a nutshell I want to limit what I eat to what I know is good for me because I understand it. Call it fear if you will but it is valid.

    • Eric Baumholder

      Justin,

      How does taking control of your diet improve your food safety? Do you have credentials in the field of nutrition?

      Why is your fear valid? Do you have credentials in epidemiology or something similar?

  • justin

    Eric,

    If you had asked the same question 200 years ago people would have laughed at you… but none (ok very few) of them would have been obese or had food alergys.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    And they also would have had, probably unknowingly, lots of experience with fun wildlife like Listeria, Botulinum, Salmonella… and with rickets, beriberi, pellagra….

    I think the old movie (and TV) trope of short parents/grendparents and tall children springs from the dramatic effect grain enrichment brought about in the early 1900s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enriched_flour

    I don’t thing allergies were recognized until 1906. Exactly what would have happened to someone in Georgia who had a peanut allergy before then?

    You should say “none (ok very few) of them that SURVIVED…”

  • justin

    I am not saying that all knowledge was available 200 years ago. I am not saying we should live like they did. What I am saying is that the idea of having to consult an expert or have credentials to know how to eat a healthy diet is a very modern idea that is frankly a little silly… and while we may not have acknowledged food alergys that long ago, you surely wouldn’t deny they have increased over the last 100 years and esp the last 20

  • justin

    Ahhh wikipedia nothing like some good peer reviewed journalism ;-)

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    I would love to see epidemiological/statistical data on height vs. age broken-down by year, region and occupation/socioeconomic class, and correlated with the introduction of grain enrichment: My theory, I’m embarassed to say, is based on old cartoons, Lil’ Abner, and The Beverly Hilbillies. Wikipedia is a substantial step up from that….

  • justin

    Alex, Steve, Eric

    The justification is reasonable. I am sure each of you has things you do out of fear. I am sure each of you have a distrust for experts in some field or another (perhaps lawyers) I believe what you guys have a problem with is that YOU are the experts that are distrusted in this situation, and that the fear is of something that you have a personal investment in.

    • Alex

      ah, Justin, to be young and impulsive. If you scroll to the top of the comments section, you’ll see I was the first post with a report highly critical of GMOs.

      My diet at present is as organic as I can get it; I’ll be moving soon and growing my own food from the ground up. No pesticides, no modifications. That is my preference, and my prerogative. Some folks are perfectly fine with eating bologna and twinkies. I had those dietary habits for 26 years. I recently got sick and tired of being sick and tired (cliche, I know) and decided to do something about it. Read through my comments for more.

      I disagree with Steve, Ewan et al. regarding the validity of Genetically Engineered crops in a modern world with an exploding population, and from a 40,000 foot perspective, you and I are on the same side of the issue. I’m no expert in ANYTHING except for what my works best for my body, and even I’m still learning that.

  • justin

    Sorry Alex. I came into the conversation late and it is hard to keep up with who is who on a smartphone. I am actualy middle aged and impulsive :). I work in aviation and everything looks beter from 40,000 ft.

  • Lets start with the first misrepresentation about Golden Rice in the link you post. Its typical of every anti-GM group I come in contact with.

    The facts
    Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A. Guangwen Tang, Jian Qin, Gregory G Dolnikowski, Robert M Russell, and Michael A Grusak. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:1–8. American Society for Nutrition

    Golden Rice is a bioengineered crop with yellow-colored endosperm that contains beta-carotene (provitamin A). To produce Golden Rice, 2 enzymes are introduced into the endosperm [phytoene synthase (psy) and phytoene desaturase (crtl)] via an endosperm-specific glutelin (Gtl) promoter (15), to establish a b-carotene biosynthetic pathway in the rice grains. This is the first study on the vitamin A value of Golden Rice in humans, and our analysis showed a very efficient bioconversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A (Table 3). Using a conversion factor in which 3.8 microg Golden Rice beta-carotene provides 1 microg retinol, along with the level of Golden Rice beta-carotene being 20–30 microg/g uncooked rice, we project that 100 g uncooked rice provides 500–800 microg retinol. This represents 80–100% of the estimated average requirement (EAR) for men and women and 55–70% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA, derived from the EAR) for men and women, as set by the US National Academy of Science (24). In the United States, the EAR and RDA for vitamin A were set based on the amount needed to provide 4 mo of vitamin A storage in the body. For children, additional study of Golden Rice b-carotene conversion to retinol is needed. However, we speculate that 50 g uncooked Golden Rice, which is a reasonable serving size for children aged 4–8 y in rice eating regions, who eat 130–200 g rice/d (25), would be able to provide 90% of vitamin A EAR (275 microg retinol/d) or 60% of the RDA (400 microg retinol/d) (24).

    Why don’t the anti-GM groups discuss this paper’s findings?

    It shows the Golden Rice investigators have worked out you need about 50 g of Golden Rice 2 to give an effective supply of vitamin. This is a small child’s serving. Green peace claim 9 kg. A huge error on the part of Greenpeace. Why don’t they make a public correction?

    Why do Greenpeace want people to believe falsehoods about Golden Rice? Why don’t GM Watch mention this work?

  • justin

    David

    The reason that anti GM groups don’t discuss that paper is really quite similar to the reason simple cheap natural alternatives aren’t discussed here. There is nothing that golden rice could accomplish that could not be accomplished more elegantly and for less with carrot seeds and education. But carrot seeds do not allow the biotech community to take the moral high ground. The reason that people don’t mention things that disagree with their world view is that they have a point to prove and they don’t want facts to get in their way. We all do it, let’s not pretend otherwise.

    • Scientists, including most of those involved in biotech, are acutely aware of all the options available that might help those who are suffering. The thing is, the scientists understand that passing out carrot seeds requires fertile ground suitable for carrots that is available to the people who need the Vitamin A. This doesn’t exist for the urban malnourished who have may have pennies a day, if they are lucky, to fill their bellies, and can’t afford carrots.

      I went to a conference last year about biofortification. We talked a lot about improved seed through breeding and biotechnology, but we also talked about a lot more. You can find my write up about the conference here: http://www.biofortified.org/2010/11/goals-for-nutrition/

      The scientists and other NGO workers who are doing all they can to find solutions that work, no matter the method. The people who are “NO GMO” without exception are preventing some of the solutions that could work from even being considered. Who’s got the moral high ground now?

      PS: You shifted the goal posts, in case you didn’t notice. 1st the goal was providing enough Vitamin A, now the goal is to provide Vitamin A with carrots. What’s next?

    • There is nothing that golden rice could accomplish that could not be accomplished more elegantly and for less with carrot seeds and education.

      This is patently false. Let’s compare carrots and rice – using the list here and comparing uncooked long grain brown (chosen arbirtrarily) and raw carrots.

      Rice has significantly more energy per 100g than carrot – 329kcal more per 100g than carrot (rice therefore has 900% the calorific value of carrot)
      rice has more protein (7g more, equating to 850% the protein content)
      rice has more iron (400%), magnesium (1100%), phosphorus(950%), Zinc (840%), Selenium (234000%)

      Rice has more Thiamin (600%), more riboflavin (160%), more niacin (510%), more vitamin b-6 (370%). Rice also has more of all fatty acids, and all amino acids per 100g

      So no, a simple switch wouldn’t work (carrot does blow rice out of the water in terms of carotenes, Vitamin A, Lutein, Vitamin K) but in areas where calories are the most important aspect of the diet (they only become empty once you’ve got enough, prior to that point they are arguably the number one requirement after water in the diet) arguing that folk should switch to vegetables which cannot supply their nutritional needs (hey kids! You won’t go blind! You may not be able to appreciate this what with being dead, but these wholesome carrots helped you out!)

      Of course this isn’t the whole issue – as carrots tend to yield more per hectare than rice (what with the water content) – ~30 T/Ha for carrot in china compared to ~7 T/Ha for rice – but this is still a 50% shortfall in calories (this alters my list above only slightly however) – clearly not an acceptable option for folk who are on the borderline in terms of calorific intake.

      I’m guessing there are probably also storage issues – rice being less than 10% water is easily stored and hard to spoil – carrots… not so much.

      American Academy of Environmental Medicine

      Quacks and charlatains should have no weight in a debate concerning health (see Orac’s Respectful Insolence for coverage of their lunacy)

      understand that for every scientist and study anti-GMO folks reference suggesting GMOs are unsafe, pro-GMO folks can point to other scientists and studies to say they are.

      The ratio is probably in the 1:10 – 1:100 range, and for credible studies and credible scientists you can’t even set up a ratio because 0:X doesn’t work.

    • You’re right. And imagine how wonderful it would be if the whole world had access to carrots, squash, sweet potato, ect. But the fact is, they don’t. It’d be nice if they did, but they don’t. There’s a lot of people who can’t just hop down to the local megamart and grab some fresh produce. Yeah, as it mentions that on the home page of the Golden Rice project’s website, there is nothing, nutritionally, Golden Rice can do that a complete well balanced diet couldn’t do better. But ‘let them eat cake’ is little solace to some kid in the slums of Bangladesh living on pennies going blind. It would be great if every country had the agricultural, political, and economic framework we have in developed countries, and if anyone can provide everyone with an open democratic free market developed stable society with abundant food education infrastructure ect. then that would be amazing. But that’s easier said than done. We can talk about how the system is to blame and how if there were perfect food distribution this wouldn’t be a problem and all that other stuff, and that’s true, but you could say that about a lot of things. In the mean time, biofortified crops are not the complete solution to every problem, but at least people would stop going blind and dying, and that’s something.

      And I think Golden Rice really shows where a lot of people really stand on GMOs. How often do we hear ‘Oh, I’m not against the science I just don’t like Monsanto.’ If that were true, then those Millions Against Monsanto people would support Golden Rice…but they don’t, they attack it just the same as a do Monsanto’s. Or look at Greenpeace. They claim to be an environmental group, so to oppose GMOs in that context would make sense (I mean, it’d be wrong, but I guess within their own warped logic it’d make sense), but they’re bashing Golden Rice on all fronts too.

    • LorenE

      That sword cuts both ways. I think most of us know that a safe, effective remedy to a serious problem like vitamin A deficiency coming from the evil, selfish biotechers is the anti-GM movement’s worst nightmare. And the longer it takes to make it to the people who need it due to the political obstruction of the Greens and others, the worse it looks. So…it must be squashed!!

      How much of the budget of Greenpeace, FOE, Sierra Club and OCA goes to the development and distribution of these ‘simple cheap natural alternatives’ you describe??

  • MKlein

    For those interested, I thought this article on Genetically Modified Foods from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine had some interesting nuggets.

    “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”

    I understand that for every scientist and study anti-GMO folks reference suggesting GMOs are unsafe, pro-GMO folks can point to other scientists and studies to say they are. I don’t know where that leaves Joe Consumer. As long as there is such disagreement within the scientific community (at least as is perceived by the public) distrust toward GMOs will likely remain for a significant portion of the general population.

    • Alex

      Can you hear that? It sounds like the last word.

      • LorenE

        Sorry, dude. Just because you call yourself an Academy doesn’t mean you get the last word. These people are a joke (check the citations), kinda like the Physicians for Responsible Medicine (made up mostly of non physicians!) If there is a last word, it is ‘woo’.

      • Mike Bendzela

        The American Academy of Environmental Medicine is on Quackwatch’s list of “Questionable Organizations.”

        http://quackwatch.com/04ConsumerEducation/nonrecorg.html

        Also:

        “Theron Randolph (1906-1995), M.D., an allergist, seems to be the main person behind the origin of the concept of multiple chemical sensitivity. In 1965, Randolph co-founded the Society for Clinical Ecology (now the American Academy of Environmental Medicine). This organization and the notion of “clinical ecology” are largely ignored in the medical community.”

        http://www.skepdic.com/mcs.html

    • Wow. They cite Jeffery Smith. They must be legit!

    • LorenE

      Wow. ‘Strength of association and consistency’ sounds like the ramblings of a group that can’t state that there is real statistical significance. BTW, what exactly is the causal agent (toxin, allergen, etc.) in GM foods that leads to these adverse effects? GM is a process, not a compound. If it present in all GM foods, even Jeffrey (bring the body bags) Smith should be able to find it.

  • understand that for every scientist and study anti-GMO folks reference suggesting GMOs are unsafe, pro-GMO folks can point to other scientists and studies to say they are.

    The ratio is probably in the 1:10 – 1:100 range, and for credible studies and credible scientists you can’t even set up a ratio because 0:X doesn’t work.

    Kind of sounds like the number of scientists that deny global climate change or the number of scientists that believe in creationism.

    • MKlein

      My point was primarily that Joe Consumer isn’t going to have an easy time assessing which scientists and studies are “legit.” If he reads an article about cattle dying after grazing on Bt cotton or sees a study identifying GM-related toxins entering our blood stream, he’ll likely find that alarming. He most likely doesn’t know that the toxin targets a molecule that is absent in humans (if I understand Ewan correctly — and thanks, Ewan, for that point of clarification).

      I’m still not sold on GM food, but I think if the biotech community wants to eliminate all the “angst,” some effort to educate the public and quell those fears (even if they are unwarranted) would do more good than simply saying, “Trust us, we know what we’re talking about.”

      • Richard R

        Disclosure – Monsanto employee, though no relation to Ewan R. Also – opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer

        From the original article above: “It is far easier to stir up fear than it is to educate the public.”

        I think the biotech community does try to educate the public, but the anti-GMO activism as described in 4 of this article is what gets churned through the internet.

        The posters on this website are trying to educate the public with this open forum, yet no one believes them?!? I took a look at Karl’s recent post in the forum “Confused About Safety” where he addresses one persons concerns. He tries to address those issues and he points to a large body of evidence where people can look for more information.

        I would also direct you to Monsanto’s company website http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-safety.aspx#q3 where food safety issues are addressed. However, that does not address the issue of “trust us, we know what we’re talking about” but it does try and address a lot of the fears people have.

        I’m not asking you to be sold on GM food, but as I said at the beginning, the biotech community is trying to educate the public, however, point 4 of the article addresses why that is so hard. Everything is so easily dismissed by “corporate shill of the biotech company.”

      • Eric Baumholder

        MKlein,

        I would be interested to know what an “effort to educate the public” would look like, and the likelihood that it would be effective.

        • MKlein

          When consumers started being more conscientious about CO2 emissions, eventually auto manufacturers started highlighting their efforts to be green in commercials and print media. Similarly, fast food companies began promoting salads, yogurt parfaits, “apple fries,” etc., in response to consumer concern over the healthfulness of their menu selections.

          You might argue that the difference is that CO2 emissions are harmful and that fatty hamburgers and chicken nuggets are unhealthy. But the similarity is that there is a negative perception.

          One of the messages from the anti-GMO group is that biotech companies are silencing the media — so the fact that these topics aren’t being discussed (to the best of my knowledge, anyway) makes it seem all the more that there is something to hide. By the sound of it, a lot of people don’t realize they’re eating GMOs. (Personally, I didn’t know GM ingredients had permeated our food supply until a few months ago.) If a person has any reservations about GMOs and then discovers he has been ingesting them for years, a likely response will be a sense of personal violation.

          Again, I’m focusing on public perception here. If biotech companies don’t believe public opinion plays a role in the success of their products, then this angst really isn’t a big issue. If public opinion does matter, a PR campaign or news coverage would foster good will … with some.

          I’m not a PR person, so I can’t speak to the effectiveness of such an approach, but bringing the subject to light and allowing for greater conversation around it (beyond the Internet) would at least remove the perceived veil of deception and at most foster good will and educate consumers about the safety of GM foods (or alleged safety … sorry, I can’t help it — I’m not convinced yet).

          • Eric Baumholder

            For now, the notion of educating consumers about GM crops is utterly and completely insuperable.

            GM seeds are engineered with farmers in mind. Fewer inputs, better outputs. So the multinats could go to the consumers, and say, wow, our seeds and integrated farming practices are really good for farmers.

            Who’s going to use that metric to choose one food item over another? Nobody. Consumer concern is cost, at #1 place. They don’t give a rat’s nethermost fundament about the rest unless you count the hippies at the local farmers market.

            We will shortly see oil from GM soybeans hitting the market and boasting of improved nutritional merits. We’ll see how that turns out.

            But in the meantime, GM seed providers have literally nothing to advertise to consumers. Why should they advertise to a market that doesn’t buy their stuff?

          • I appreciate that more information is better. However, do you really think a PR campaign by biotech companies would be well accepted?

            A while back, Monsanto tried to donate locally adapted non-GMO seed to Haiti in the most responsible way possible by selling it at low cost through farmer co-ops being set up by the US and Haitian govts instead of flooding the market and driving prices down. The seeds were given with no intellectual property ties so the farmers could save seeds. Monsanto didn’t make a PR campaign out of it, I don’t even think it was in the news. While I think tooting your own horn when making donations is rather distasteful, this donation could have been part of a larger humanitarian ad campaign. So what happened?

            Activist groups swarmed on Haiti and convinced farmers that the seeds were poisonous and that they should be burnt. Activists in the US decided it would be a great idea to mail seeds from the US that hadn’t been sanitized so were potentially carriers for plant diseases and not only that but the seeds were adapted for the US, not for sub-tropical Haiti so probably wouldn’t do well anyway. Happily no seed was actually burned and the seeds were a success despite the lies told by activists. I don’t know what happened with the potentially diseased maladapted activist mailed seeds.

            Ok, sorry that was long. The whole thing really upset me.

            Anyway, the point is, if this donation that seriously had no profit motive (how could it, Hatian farmers have no money), and still the response was so bad, what would Monsanto have to do to get any better PR? Pioneer, Syngenta, and the other companies are generally ignored and I’d bet they’re happy to stay that way.

            EDIT: After looking back on my post on Haiti and hybrids I saw/remembered that we had quite a discussion about PR in the comments there, if you are interested in checking that out and commenting there.

          • Ewan R

            When consumers started being more conscientious about CO2 emissions, eventually auto manufacturers started highlighting their efforts to be green in commercials and print media.

            Yeah but that was a case of hey look, heavy industry is bad – do something about it – so preconceived ideas happened to mesh with reality (the confirmation bias doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong) – the story with biotech is harder to tell because nobody is primed to believe that a corporation that nets billions of dollars a year is potentially not doing so by harming folk. Also – there’s no story there for the media to tell – GM crops harmless doesn’t sell papers, get folk watching over a commercial break, or shift books off the shelf – the media is no longer about telling the truth, it’s about preying on fears to shift product – to paraphrase Terry Pratchett – a lie can be half way around the world before the truth has its boots on. In such a climate how can anyone too lazy to do any actual legwork be expected to happen upon the right information – it’s boring, it’s long, it lacks sensation – very few people get excited seeing a plant whose only phenotypic difference to all other plants of its kind is that it doesn’t keel over and die when sprayed with herbicide – if I tell you it causes infertility in cattle, spontaneous abortions, and ear cancer however – boom, that got your attention.

            If a person has any reservations about GMOs and then discovers he has been ingesting them for years, a likely response will be a sense of personal violation.

            See, I’d expect a sense of mild embarassment that you thought something was probably terrible but it was so non-exceptional that it didnt effect you. I’m odd like that though.

            • MKlein

              See, I’d expect a sense of mild embarassment that you thought something was probably terrible but it was so non-exceptional that it didnt effect you. I’m odd like that though.

              I’m not sure where you got the impression that it didn’t affect me. To be honest, the anti-GMO claims that really caught my attention were that they cause miscarriage, spontaneous abortion and birth defects in animals. I have personally experienced two miscarriages and lost my second born when he was four weeks old due to an unexplained AV malformation in his brain.

              Now I’m not going around saying my losses are the result of eating GMOs. However, as I said before, there is enough perceived disagreement in the scientific community about the safety of GMOs that I’m not convinced they’re safe and consequently I’m now choosing organic when I can. So it did affect me.

              I’m also not sure where you would expect my embarrassment to lie. I learned about Bt corn initially and didn’t think much about it, understanding (or misunderstanding) that it was for cattle feed. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way at the time was the idea of cross pollination being an issue. Then I heard claims about GM foods having negative effects on animals. Then I learned that not only are we eating this stuff, it’s so prevalent in America that it’s hard to avoid.

              So, representing Joe Consumer who doesn’t know the ins and outs of why gene splicing should be considered safe, but hearing about studies suggesting rats and other mammals have reproductive issues when they eat GM corn, I’m just pointing out that’s the source (or at least one) of the angst this article is addressing.

              Studies refuting those claims don’t seem as easily accessible to the layperson. Or maybe they are accessible, but there are too many anti-GMO articles flooding search results to find them.

              But, as I said in another comment, if the biotech industry doesn’t think public concern over anti-GMO claims will affect GM crop production and isn’t interested in spreading pro-GMO messages where they think misinformation is prevailing, then I’m not sure why anyone is even spending time discussing it here.

              • I can’t speak for the biotech industry, but I can speak as a biologist, geneticist and food safety scientist. I am very worried about misinformation, and the harms that come from paying attention to the wrong things. If you are making food choices based on fear of GE food rather than well established major risks with food, you are doing yourself and children a disservice. Infectious disease is the major food risk. Think about Listeria, Campylobacter,norovirus, Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli. Also think about toxoplasmosis, aflatoxin and fumonisin. Think also about what factors favor these risks. If you don’t know them well, you have been distracted by misinformation.

                • I’d also add that promoting fear of cancer caused by traces of pesticides is similarly distracting. The message that obesity and lack of exercise contribute to cancer risks gets distorted by red-herrings.

                  • David,
                    It would seem that the actual goal of the Environmental Working Group is to increase cancer rates. They frighten people away from eating fruits and vegetables filling with cancer-fighting chemicals. They also scare people away from using sunscreen. They have probably killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda

              • MKlein, I, too, am a lay person. My degree is in English, but I do have a small farm. I can pay attention to what people say and I have some critical thinking skills.

                I worked at an organic farm for four years, so I know the ins and outs of thats.

                I want to comment on this section of your response:

                I have personally experienced two miscarriages and lost my second born when he was four weeks old due to an unexplained AV malformation in his brain.

                Now I’m not going around saying my losses are the result of eating GMOs. However, as I said before, there is enough perceived disagreement in the scientific community about the safety of GMOs that I’m not convinced they’re safe and consequently I’m now choosing organic when I can.

                1. If you didn’t want people to make a connection between the alleged dangers of GE crops and spontaneous abortions, then why did you bring up your own miscarriages?

                2. Not being “convinced” of the safety of GMOs because of “perceived disagreement in the scientific community” is the exact argument used by global warming deniers to cast doubt on anthropogenic climate change.

                3. “Choosing organic” means nothing more than that you are spending too much money for your food. The organic farming movement, as I have found through years of experience and reading, is a marketing ploy based on pseudo-science, fear-mongering, superstition, and absurdity.

              • Ewan R

                I’m not sure where you got the impression that it didn’t affect me.

                GMO crops, as grown, have no effect on you – outside that which the conventional crop would have. This I get from the scientific literature and from the ~15 years of use without a single verifiable recorded instance of harm on human or animal from GMO (insane claims may count as recorded instances, but they are unverifiable because they only ever happened in the imagination of the person inventing the claim.

                I have personally experienced two miscarriages and lost my second born when he was four weeks old due to an unexplained AV malformation in his brain.

                This is horrible, I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure this.

                So it did affect me.

                The misinformation effected you – the GMOs did not. If I lie about Dr Tribe’s prediliction to stealing your socks, and you subsequently hide your socks, this isn’t the fault of Dr Tribe (he is likely to steal your socks though)

                I’m also not sure where you would expect my embarrassment to lie.

                I, personally, would feel embarassment if I was convinced some additive to food was likely to be massively harmful and then later discovered that I, and everyone around me, had been consuming it for years with no signs of ill effect. (not enormously embarassing, but at least a little red of cheek)

                Studies refuting those claims don’t seem as easily accessible to the layperson.

                To be fair studies making the claims aren’t accessible to the layperson either – scholarly articles rarely are – blogs and websites reporting on the studies are a tad easier to find – and I believe I’ve dealt with why you get more of one sort than the other above.

                But, as I said in another comment, if the biotech industry doesn’t think public concern over anti-GMO claims will affect GM crop production and isn’t interested in spreading pro-GMO messages where they think misinformation is prevailing, then I’m not sure why anyone is even spending time discussing it here.

                I don’t understand why the second piece would be dependant on the first – it could be that the biotech industry (in general) doesn’t care too much, or is resourcing things differently (chumming up to farmers – if you live in the American Midwest and watch TV this is abundantly clear (dunno how widespread the Monsanto commercials are outside the corn belt)) – but that doesn’t mean that academics (which is the area most effected, in my opinion, by public perception of GMOs – both in terms of funding and likelihood of successful launch of a trait (without going through a big biotech company), and private individuals (such as myself – despite Monsanto being my employer none of my meanderings here are in the slightest their doing or their opinion (opinions may match at times, but this is just happenstance)

                MikeB – the reason things were brought up is because due to them, and the misinformation about GMOs, MKlein(understandably assuming the misinformation was taken as containing even a remote grain of truth) totally shifted her diet – I’m assuming bringing something like that up is still horrifically painful so I’d request not badgering on that particular point.

      • I’m still not sold on GM food, but I think if the biotech community wants to eliminate all the “angst,” some effort to educate the public and quell those fears (even if they are unwarranted) would do more good than simply saying, “Trust us, we know what we’re talking about.”

        Educating the public and quelling fears is an issue for many science topics, from GMOs to vaccines to climate change. When our news media continues to enforce an equal time doctrine even when the data and information all points in one direction, we will continue to get this confusion. In these days of distrusting expertise, anyone who has said expertise is often discounted as a shill for the bogeyman of the day.

        So, we understand why there is confusion and that is why blogs like this exist. To help educate the public on the science of a complex issue.

  • justin

    Anastasia,

    I did not shift anything. The original assertation I was responding to was by GregH. He said that witholding the benifits of golden rice (vitamin A) is paramount to playing god. I replied that the same benifit could be obtained through other means and that not discussing them is just as reprobate as witholding the magical cure of golden rice.

    Carrots are by the way an oversimplification. There are many other availble things that could be grown besides the golden rice.

    Ewan
    Comparing the value of an uncooked dry grain to a raw vegtable is not an apples to apples comparison. If you cook the grain and eat the carrot raw that would be a fair comparison. Besides nobody said anything about replacing all the rice in a diet with carrots.

    • The distinction is that Golden Rice is here now, it’s real, it works, and those pushing against it are ideologically driven. The framework to provide a well balanced diet is presently just not there, and what is holding it back is many complex global social & economic issues. These two are not equivalent interchangeable items.

    • Comparing the value of an uncooked dry grain to a raw vegtable is not an apples to apples

      You need to assess output from a given unit of land – this was the fastest way to do so – cooked rice takes on water that was never part of the growing process – carrots contain that water as a given – 100g of carrot from the field is 100g of carrots. 100g of rice from the field, once cooked, is likely significantly more than 100g on the plate – as such comparing cooked rice to carrots when considering the nutrition one can draw from a hectare of land will be skewed by cooking information (unless you have such info at hand, but despite the illusion of time I actually don’t have enough to do so)

      Besides nobody said anything about replacing all the rice in a diet with carrots.

      Regardless, every plot that is planted to carrots is a plot that isn’t planted to rice – you lose calories from a diet that can ill afford to lose calories. Your solution doesn’t work.

      There is, after all, a reason that staple crops are staple crops – civilizations are built around high calorie cereals – without the calories the micro-nutrients are meaningless. You simply aren’t going to be able to provide a high beta carotene equivalent to rice that will yield the same calories as rice in the areas we’re discussing (if there was one it’d be grown… contrary to popular belief (at least on one side of the debate…) subsistence farmers aren’t stupid) – unless you provide some other methodology by which farmers can massively increase their productivity such that they supply enough calories for themselves and their family that they can afford to plant an area to crops with vitamins etc it would appear that the best option is to fortify their main crop. As providing these methodologies is proving to be a slow laborious prospect hampered at each turn by armchair farmers one would imagine that having an interim crop even as a patch (and 200,000+ preventable deaths each year seems somewhat more than a patch) should be an absolute non-issue – why, given as GregH points out above that the technology is already here and ready to go, would you not use it other than out of some psychotic delight in knowing that your blocking of the release of the technology will have a death toll that puts your average serial killer to shame (actual real impact in terms of human misery instead of invented impact of what might be because we haven’t tested these technologies to ludicrous levels of certainty (to paraphrase what Bruce Chassy said yesterday – we know with as much certainty as we ever will that crops produced by the transgenics are no more dangerous than crops produced by other breeding methods – further testing is simply ridiculous (he also equated the death toll from not using golden rice over the period of a decade or so to more dead than the holocaust – just to, y’know, put things in perspective)

      • (unless you have such info at hand, but despite the illusion of time I actually don’t have enough to do so)

        Amusingly the info is right in the pages linked… I’m on the ball today, oh yes.

    • My apologies, I thought you brought it up. It’s hard to keep track of threads in a long comment stream like this, especially when people don’t use the reply feature.

      Did you read the link I posted about biofortification and other methods to improve nutrition? I think you’ll see that there are a lot of options, and in many cases biotechnology can complement those other methods. Sadly, there is no silver bullet, but there are many small things that could help people.

    • Yes let’s talk about the alternatives to Golden Rice

      One is distribution of vitamin capsules. It can work but unfortunately is not reaching everyone. And is financially unsustainable — you need to raise aid funds year after year. Not so Golden Rice. Once farmers get given seed, they replant is at no each cost year after year. This is very cost effective

      A wider range of foods would help, but the villagers don’t have access to much choice because of poverty. But they can grow rice.

  • justin

    Could the same results as golden rice be obtained without the regulatory hurdles using marker assisted selection? And if so they why hasnt it been done?

    • In short, no. Maize has been improved for beta carotene levels using marker assisted selection but this is not possible in rice for two reasons. 1st, there was existing genetic diversity with regard to carotenoids that allowed for selection in maize and there is not in rice. 2nd, rice is polished in order to remove the fats that turn rice rancid and what little carotenoids there are exist in the aluerone and embryo not in the endosperm, but maize can be left whole with little rancidity problems.

  • justin

    Anastasia, thank you for you response.
    Ewan,
    I am also pressed for time though it may not appear so.

    My question is not about mass or calories but the neutrent value after heating.

    Check out the “Apeal to Hitler” in this link
    http://www.biofortified.org/2010/09/logical-fallacies/

    Anyway I am the joe consumer in this situation. I am an aerospace expert which has nothing to do with genitics or nutrition, but it seems these days we all have to try to be experts to avoid being fat cows and dying of a heart attack. This whole subject is rather new to me and I am going to do some more research, and try to keep it as fair as possible. I have learned a good bit reading around this site. I will personally and for my family continue to eat nongmo and grow or catch as much of my food as possible. I may reasess my views in 20 years if all my nieghbors don’t turn into zombies ;) I n the meantime I will continue to use my evolutionaty instinct toward fear of the unknown to ensure my survival.

    Thank you all it has been enlightening
    Goodbye

  • Richard R

    Disclosure – Monsanto employee, no relation to Ewan, etc.

    What a fantastic article and some great posts. I have really enjoyed reading all of the comments. I like the diverse opinions presented and addressed. Thanks for the info on golden rice, I had heard the opinions on golden rice requiring a huge amount to make any difference to a diet and it was nice to see the other side of that argument posted.

    I really liked Maria’s post explaining that she is able to avoid GMO in North America by reading the ingredients. This is obviously something that concerns her and it is her right to choose whether or not to eat GMO. It is not something that concerns me, I generally just look at sugar and fat content (though I’ll admit that I look to the country of origin on vegetables as well-not sure if that is rational, but I do it).

    I recently met a person at a cooking class who was very opposed to GMOs in general and my employer specifically. I could only offer her eating organic as an alternative. Thank you Steve for allowing me to direct people more accurately in the future: Beans, wheat, fruits and veggies – except maybe papaya.

    By the way – love this website for all the info it contains – I am a non-scientist working at Monsanto and it really helps me see all sides of the issues in the public.

    One more thing – since Percy Schmeiser was mentioned above and I work in Canada> when I was being interviewed for a job at Monsanto I read the actual court judgements of the Schmeiser cases. I did this because I was concerned about working for Monsanto due to the negative press from this case (and this was 5 years after the case). When I read the facts of the case and the court judgement I had no issues with working here.

    • Eric Baumholder

      Richard,

      Please accept my applause. When I began my current job/career, I was smitten by my conscience — all the claims of ‘GM killing the Universe’ etc. Turned out, the opponents were all clever liars. With ulterior motives. No doubt about it, this is a culture war, and GM crops/foods is a major front.

      With Monsanto playing defense, fortress mentality, ‘wait out’ the enemy. Everyone in the world is afraid of Greenpeace’ unkind attentions, when in point of fact the Amsterdam multinational is completely vulnerable. An intelligent assault on their position would bring them down in three months.

  • justin

    ok I just have to weigh in on the subject of violation vs embarasment.

    I think it is a fair thing to say that most people in america do not like to eat cow bile, even though it is not harmful (that i am aware of)

    Now supose that I owned a resturant and used cow bile in my dishes as a secret ingredient and had done so for years. Then let’s say that a food critic came to my resturant and I told him my secret ingredient, and he put it in the paper that cow bile had been in all my dishes. Do you believe that I would loose coustomers? Do you believe that people would feel embarased for having liked the cow bile soup, or would they feel violated and not trust me and come back to my resturant.

    For most of us this is what happened. Sure I’ve eaten my share of gmos before i Found out how prevelant they were. But even if I am unharmed (hard to say my knee has been bothering me lately) it does not mean that I am not grossed out and violated by someone putting a secret ewwww ingredient in my food.

    • Most people don’t know they are eating hybrids, or products of mutagenesis, or a million other small details. Should they feel “violated” about these unknown characteristics of the foods they eat every day? What is the remedy to the lack of knowledge? How much knowledge is needed to ensure that no one ever feels “violated” or caught unawares? And that’s just the actual content of the food – what about other details? I’d feel pretty bad if I found out I was eating something that contained an ingredient that was produced by severely underpaid workers, for example. Not quite “violated” but I would feel bad. Maybe that information should be on all the food, too. We might need some bigger boxes… for everything.

      I really hope you’re not blaming your hurt knee on GMOs. If you are, do you happen to have any sort of biological explanation for this claim?

    • If I found out cow bile was the secret ingredient of food I liked, I’d get over any prejudices I have about cow bile and ask the owner how to cook with it. I didn’t get very up in arms when I heard about shellac and carmine. Anyway I don’t think that is quite a comparable analogy because you’re talking about a whole different ingredient, not a different variety of the same ingredient. A better one would be finding out your favorite raspberry tart uses the variety Meeker instead of Latham. And it’s hard to call GMOs secret too. Only a handful of crops are GMO, and if they’re in the ingredients, it’s probably GMO. There’s a big difference between not knowing something because it’s being hidden and not knowing something because you didn’t properly research it.

  • justin

    I think the biggest reason for the “Angst” (couldn’t we have chosen a more grown up word talking about angst has the conotation that people who don’t accept GMOs are pimpilly teenagers) is that GMOs are caught in the “uncanny valley” so to speak.

    • I don’t know – angst might not be quite the right word, but it does mean “fear or anxiety” which is completely appropriate here.

      I completely agree that GMOs are in an “uncanny valley” of sorts. I had the chance to talk to Lisa Weasel, author of Food Fray, a while back, and she has a similar idea that I hope I can portray properly here:

      Humans like things that fit into categories. The need to categorize is especially strong when it comes to food. Two of those categories are “natural” and “artificial”. We are ok with things that are natural, and we are ok (mostly) with things that are artificial. Take Diet Coke, for example. It is 100% artificial, except for the water, but many people (including me) happily drink it all the time. The angst comes up when things don’t fit into either category. Genetic engineering takes a plant, which is viewed as natural and wholesome, and applies a technology that is (for the most part) man made, compromising the plant’s “naturalness”, yet not turning it into something wholly artificial.

      I’m going to add on to Dr. Weasel’s idea here:

      Those of us who are very familiar with the technology understand that the “unnaturalness” is really not so great after all, that even though the plant isn’t 100% natural, neither are most plants that we eat due to breeding, mutagenesis, grafting, and other technologies. People who are at least a little familiar with the technology and also trust scientists (or at least don’t think scientists are evil and cartoonish) are also see the technology as natural enough to overcome this categorization problem. I think the same is true with irradiation and some other aspects of food science and agriculture.

      So, what does all this tell us and how does Biofortified fit in? I think it tells us that the fear is based on lack of knowledge. I find it to be ethical to provide information in a fairly unbiased way so people can make decisions based on on fear but on sound information. In fact, I find it to be a moral responsibility that I take the knowledge that I am able to understand and help make it accessible to everyone. I find it to be very unethical to provide poor or incomplete information (which is part of why my posts are so long).

  • justin

    No I’m teasing you guys. I tore my ACL about 5 years ago. Though perhaps GMOs were a contributing factor in my poor judgment the day I did it (just kidding)

    • Whew. I was hoping. I used to be pretty good at telling when someone was joking, even in text, but I gotta tell you, I have interacted with people online who seriously blame everything wrong with them on some pretty odd unrelated things that make zero biological sense. (come to think of it, I think we have one in this thread…)

  • justin

    GregH

    See, I don’t think cow bile is a strong enough comparison. Beef bile has been used in southeast asian cooking since…. basicly forever. It is well tested known to be harmless and has some purported health benifits. It is not a new ingredient.

    GMOs did not exist when I was in high school. They may be well tested and have some purported health benifits. But in the grand scheme of things they are a completely new class of orginism, and a completely new class of foodstuff.

    You guys say there is no more difference between a gmo and the original plant than there is between different breeds of the same plant. As a percent of genetic difference I am sure that is true. However, if there were no more difference between the GMO and the original strain than what occurs through breeding then you guys would be plant breeders.

    Ahhh…. but the difference you will say is that we can’t accomplish the things we are doing with gene splicing by breeding because the genitic traits are not available anywhere in the species. So if you take the whole of the genitic library of all soybeans and can’t find what you need you just add a book to the shelf. The problem is that library contains the species of soybean (too lazy to look up latin name) when you add something to it it’s no longer the same library. If nature, evolution, God, whatever… intended for soybeans to be drenched with herbicide then the genetic code to accomplish that would be found in the library. If you take the view that the library of a species is complete, then when you add something to it you have created a new species. This may be little more than semantics, but since people think in words semantics are important.

    You say there is a diffrence between not knowing because something is hidden and not knowing because of a lack of research. Because this is a whole new class of foodstuff that from at least one point of view consists of whole new species that did not exist a few years ago there would have been no reason for me to expect that every time I see the word corn unless otherwise noted what is meant is GM corn. It would have made as much sense for the average person to be researching if when their food said vegtable protien if it really meant ectoplasm from a ghost. People do not go around researching if their food contains things that do not exist, and are generaly taken off gaurd when they find out that they do. Today the knowledge of what contains GMOs is out there for people who care to find it. There was a point though for those of us that were not involved with bringing GMOs to market where we first learned to our great suprise that they even existed. This point was generaly after we had been eating them for a few years.

    I know people who won’t eat at asian resturants because they are afraid that they are eating cats. These same people would not return to a resturant that they knew put beef bile in their food even if they previously enjoyed the food. These same people would not be expected to return to a resturant that put ghost ectoplasm or any other magicaly conjured ingredient that previously did not exist into their food.

    I know people who judge gays or interacial couples because they say that is not the way that nature, evolution, God etc. intended people to act. These same people should not be expected to accept a soybean that is not acting how it should act.

    Empathy is defined: identification with and understanding of anothers situation feelings or motives

    Aspbergers syndrome is defined as having a lack of empathy. (Amongst other things)

    Theres a higher portion of research scientests, engineers, drs. Etc. With aspbergers than in the general population.

    I think it is telling that the original question is “why so much angst over GMOs” then when people try to tell you some of the reasons behind their angst it is still not understood. I believe if the industry had taken the time to try to put themselves in joe publics shoes then this angst would not be coming as a shock and need an explination.

    A little empathy will go further than all of the positive research in the world.

    • Please address what the outcome would be if we replaced “hybrid” or really any other tool that breeders use instead of GMO in the above comment. Hybrids really are a whole new class of foodstuff circa 1920s or so. The ability to make wide crosses between related species is recent. Mutagenesis is more recent than that, and marker assisted selection has only been around for a few years.

      Also, please address where cisgenics fit into this.

      I have a lot of empathy for people who are afraid of science due to widespread poor science education and fearmongering for profit. That’s why I take the time to write about the science, and why I am so interested in learning what people think about the subject. The people who are really afraid tend to be angry so aren’t very conducive to conversation. Talking with people more in the middle is much more educational for me (and hopefully them too). So, thank you for sticking around for lots of conversation. It means a lot to me.

  • justin

    BTW my last post is not necessarly my viepoint, though it contains portions of it. It was really more of an exercise in finding possible views.

  • justin

    This is not my area of expertise

  • justin

    This is not my area of expertise so you will correct me if I’m wrong.

    Hybryds are crossing of closely related species. So you cross a pear and an apple and come up with a papple or something like that? People have a frame of reference for this. You cross a horse and a donkey and you come up with a mule, or a lion and a tiger and get a liger etc. It is something we could immagine happening on its own.

    Mutagenisis is just rapidly accelerated directed evolution. If the species is able to adapt to whatever outside influnce you subject it to on its own then perhaps in time it would have evolved that way on its own without the outside influnce?

    Marker assisted selection is really just fancy breeding. You have a scientific way of determining what to breed with what because you know what you are looking for and know which plants have those qualities. There is nothing saying that given enough time it could not happen on its own, or that a skilful breeder could not have accomplished the same results with perhaps more work.

    Genitic splicing is taking two unrelated things and crossing them. More akin to wanting a person with better endurance, and acheving that goal by transplanting a horses heart into a person. This is something that we cannot immagine happening on its own or immagine as an end result of some conventional means of plant husbandry.

    • At GMO Pundit blog I have 91 posts that largely related to natural gene movement between species. Check them out via the Natural GMOs tag. They are events that “We cannot imagine happening” if we are not familiar with modern biology. Let’s start by examining what modern biology has discovered, not what the average person can imagine, and we would be nearer to an objective risk assessment rather than a personal fear assessment, the latter being a risky way to make decisions.

  • justin

    I do not believe I have a problem with cisgenics based on my limited understanding. I would not call it a new class of species since you are not adding anything to the library so to speak. I do not see where cigenics could add some trait to the plant that was not there in some member of the species. And I do not see where you could accomplish more with cisgenics than marker assisted selection (asside from perhaps accomplishing it faster and more precisely)

  • justin

    Anastasia
    Thank you for taking the time to formulate reasonable and helpful responses. I have indeed learned a good bit. I still however perfer to grow my own food or buy from people I know, and stick to things that have existed for longer than I have.

  • justin

    If you have never watched the movie Gattica you should.

  • justin

    David,

    My last several posts have nothing to do wit personal fear. They have much more to do with idealogical distaste, which is different. It is easy to brush away a sceptic as fearful even if their problems with the tech are based on philosophy not fear.

    Now I will admit that the two things can go together, but I think that the philosophy is what causes the fear not the other way around.

    But you would have us all trade one fear for another and cower in fear of the ecoli on our spinach and the salmanola on our sprouts….

    How many more times have you washed your hands today than was necessary based on a realistic risk assesment?

  • justin

    david

    That said I will check out your 91 posts later when I have time.

  • justin

    David

    I did some reading on your blog.

    There were some things that stood out to me.

    the entry

    “Opportunity and Means: Horizontal Gene Transfer from the Human Host to a Bacterial Pathogen”

    “Some genes very occasionally jump from humans into the germs that infect them. One remarkable example has been discovered where a bit of human DNA has moved into the germ that causes gonorrhoeae. This germ is well known to readily take up DNA from the environment, so in retrospect this DNA movement is not totally surprising.”

    “The acquisition and incorporation of genetic material between nonmating species, or horizontal gene transfer (HGT), has been frequently described for phylogenetically related organisms, but far less evidence exists for HGT between highly divergent organisms.”

    As i read this there is limited data to support the idea of genitic data jumping between non phyogenicly related species. I also read that it is in a microbe that is known to readily take up dna from its environment.

    All of the other cases of hgt that you described in you blog were between phyogenicly related species

    so what that tells me is that we could perhaps take some tommato genes and splice them with bell pepper genes without oversteping nature. Or perhaps if we had a species of plant that had a propensity to pick up dna from its environment we could place dna that we would like for it to pick up in its environment and see what happened without overstepping nature.

    However, nowhere in your blog did I see an example of something more akin to take a bit of frog DNA and splice it into a completly phyogenicly unrelated maize plant that is not its host or visa versa.
    Perhaps if there was some way of knowing which genitic sequences would be likely to to jump that kind of gap you could work with them and come up twith something that could be concevably natural.

    I see the argument that because it happens in limited scope in nature that we have carte blanche to do what we want as being weak.

  • justin

    David

    In fact while I did not read every last post in your blog I didn’t notice a single case of anything larger than a single cell organism being the reciepent of hgt. I do not see how this supports the idea that artificaly doing this in plants corelates to anything natural.

  • justin

    Speaking of horizontal gene transfer, I would like to hear some takes on this article.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/FSAopenmeeting.php

  • justin

    I can already hear some of you dismissing the article in my last post because of the source. I am capable of doing that without your help. I would prefer if you addressed the content not the source.

    • Yeah, not the most awesome source. ISIS has some, um, creative ways of interpreting biology that are, um, different.

      I have mixed feelings on this subject. I find it to be intellectually dishonest to say “look, nature does HGT so GMOs are ok!” yet, it is true that HGT happens in nature occasionally. My personal favorite example is of fungus genes in aphids. This is one of very few examples of eukaryotic (not single celled) gene transfer that scientists have found. HGT is rare in nature, and scientists who have tried to make HGT happen on purpose have only found it under certain conditions that are very unlikely to happen in nature. I wrote a post titled GMOs could render important antibiotics worthless (hint: no, they can’t) about HGT that addresses most if not all of the concerns in the ISIS article and that describes those unlikely conditions.

      To get back to the actual GMOs that are on the market and that people are researching – while there are a few examples of animal genes being used in plants, the products of genetic engineering on the market do not (my major prof developed one but it’ll never be on the market because it’s presumably too scary). Bt is a gene from bacteria, the glyphosate resistance gene is from bacteria, virus resistance (anyone who knows more about this can correct me) is actually synthetic DNA that matches the sequence of part of a virus. Many of the other traits are using genes from other plants. You can find an incomplete list of traits here along with links to more lists of traits. Why use genes from other plants? Maybe because it’s more likely to be accepted, although I don’t know if most scientists actually think about that. I think it’s probably because it’s easier to source the genes and genes from a plant are more likely to work without the need to “translate” from “animal code” to “plant code” (there are slightly different “languages”, referred to as “codon preference”).

      In the cisgenics post I linked to earlier, I remark at the end that cisgenics are more likely to be safe than transgenics, but I was wrong to say that. We know that the process of genetic engineering is safe, but the products need to be tested individually because the safety of the product depends on what is being expressed. The soybean with the brazil nut protein is an example of a plant-plant GMO but the protein turned out to be an allergen so the research was ended. The rice with a human saliva protein that would help fight life-threatening dehydrating diarrhea is an example of a human-plant GMO that to my knowledge has not been found to have any safety concerns. To reiterate, the key is what the trans or cis gene is expressing, not the process that got it there.

      Of course, public perception is incredibly important, so I’m all for doing cisgenics whenever possible to achieve a result in hopes that they will actually make it to the market. I’d like to share with you an example from my own work.

      I work on making maize contain more bioavailable iron. The problem with iron is that in plants there are a lot of compounds that prevent you from digesting the iron and actually absorbing it from the food you eat. For most Westerners, that’s no problem because even vegetarians have access to enough variety of food and enough fortified food to get enough iron. In the developing world, not so much. What little iron there is in grain is not very bioavailable. Of course, the best solution is making sure that everyone who lives in an area where maize is a dietary staple also has enough money to get meat, leafy greens, and fortified foods, but until we figure out how to grow money on trees it’d be nice if we could find something to help decrease anaemia which is the world’s most prevalent nutritional deficiency.

      Different researchers have tried different things, but long story short breeding for iron probably isn’t going to work in maize. There just aren’t any high iron maize varieties to use as a source of genes for breeding or Marker assisted selection. There has been success in increasing bioavailable iron using genes from bacteria and from soybean but that’s got the whole interspecies “yuck” factor. My work, started by Amy Proulx, is using maize genes in maize to increase iron bioavailability. And, happily, it seems to be working. How can it be that breeding wouldn’t work but genetic engineering does? It’s because the maize DNA has been rearranged in a specific way that could happen given like a billion years, but is very unlikely to happen. In other words, random DNA rearrangements happen, but it’s random. To get the exact arrangement I want, genetic engineering is necessary. I can go into more detail if you’d like but I suspect this comment is already long enough :)

      • OrchidGrowinMan

        This.

        Anastasia, Woulden’t it be reasonably easy to increase maize’s secretion/uptake of siderophores? Wouldn’t that increase the whole-plant iron concentration?

        My interest in siderophores was (re) awakened when I came down with a nosocomial infection of an interesting siderophore-making organism, and I was able to culture it from a drop of my own blood…. But, it wouldn’t have made a good pet: it took a lot of IV mycins to get it out of me…. I was talking about it here with Ewan whilst I was up on my desk with a big bag ‘o genta.

        I still want a copy of http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=1402066236.

  • Justin
    There’s so much to say about this link to the ISIS website we’ll never finish. First check what I wrote and subjected to peer-review) at Academics Review about several of the issues raised. There are other relevant articles you might want to read in addition to those I highlight here.

    2.5—Promoters can insert naturally into DNA
    2.6—Breeders produce genetically stable crops
    2.7—Mobile DNA drives evolution
    5.6—The 35S promoter has been thoroughly researched
    5.4—Transgenes are not incorporated into our bodies
    5.1—DNA fragments in the gut are plentiful, but cause no problems

    The link mentions
    Ho MW. Horizontal Gene Transfer. The Hidden Hazards of Genetic Engineering, TWN Biotechnology Series, Third World Network, 2001

    This book is possibly the worst book on HGT LGT) in existence. It ignores the history of gene transfer before laboratory GE was discovered (covered here http://wp.me/pLZyg-1HE and here http://wp.me/pLZyg-1CV). Why? I don’t know, but most likely lack of knowledge, not deliberate bias surely. ISIS frequently fail to find relevant published papers that contradict their opinions though, that’s a bit of a worry.

    Also go to the peer-reviewed literature cited at Academics Review to see how unkindly some of the ISIS speculations are treated.

    • I think Ho’s problem is a fundamental misunderstanding about biology. If I really correctly, she doesn’t accept evolution and has some odd theories about genetics that aren’t supported by any of the rest of biology. She’s also got a really weird CV that involved lots of jumping around (away from legitimate organizations) and an inflated publication record.

  • justin

    David

    No I didn’t make it that far back in your blog. Between my family and job my “angst” and “fear” over GMOs must sometimes take a backseat. I will be sure to read the ones you linked

    I did however find a paper on the Australian office of the gene technology regulator website

    “a summary of the issues trans species gene transfer”

    Toward the end of page 15 they admit to the ethical delima of unintended hgt from GMOs affecting the environment.

    • Yeah. Sorry about that. We (as in Biofortified-ers) need to get way better at listening and meeting objection with a smile rather than snark and self-superiority.

      I think the “ethical dilemma” is sort of funny. In my antibiotics post (no worries if you don’t read it, we are all busy – I totally shouldn’t be commenting right now lol) I talk about how it’s actually very easy to avoid increasing risk of HGT by carefully choosing gene sequences that aren’t similar to bacterial sequences (because it’s easier for bacteria to pick up DNA that has some similarity to their own DNA). As long as those similar sequences are avoided, the risk of HGT from GMOs is no higher than risk of HGT from everything else out there. Bacteria are no more likely to pick up DNA from a GMO plant than from a non-GMO plant.

  • justin

    Not to change the subject, but it occurs to me as Anistasia was saying it is not the process but the product that is dangerous. However,my understanding is that most governments only regulate the products of transgenisis heavily and let all the other products of genetic manipulations go basicly straight to market.

    It seems to me that if any process can lead to unfavorable and dangerous results then they should all be regulated. Otherwise we are entrusting too much in the goodwill and ethics of individual scientests and corparations.

    One other point. I work in the aerospace/defense industry. having been in this industry for awhile I am aquainted with the kinds of people and thought processes that go on. It would be very niave of you not to think that there is someone right now looking at military applications and ways to weaponise this tech.

    While your goals may be noble and your ethics top notch. It does bother me that not everyone is that way. The trope of the mad scientest is only interesting because it is so possible.

    One final thought/question. Name a major type of technology pioneered in the last 100 years that has not been weaponised/milatirised.

    • It is true that some sort of weaponized GMO could happen. I can think of several things I could do really easily that would be really dangerous. But does that mean we should ban the technology? I’m way more worried about DIY biohackers in garages than I am about government, academic, or corporate scientists, and banning the technology won’t stop DIYers. I’m not really sure what your point is here.

      It is not the process but some of the products which could potentially be dangerous. Please don’t take what I said to mean that all products of biotech are dangerous, because that is not what I am saying at all.

      All products of genetic engineering are regulated, heavily, even things for which the risk is very low like if a commonly consumed protein is overexpressed at levels that are within the normal range for foods that are already consumed. Products of mutagenesis and other non-biotech methods are not regulated, and maybe they should. We can point to things like psoralens being upregulated in celery through plain old breeding and causing skin burns in field workers. Should these all be regulated? I don’t know. Things like the celery are fairly rare and all this regulation would really increase the cost of food and would put plant breeding at a standstill. Talk about unintended effects. The book I just linked to (Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods:
      Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects
      ) is a great source that discusses the risks of not just genetic engineering but other methods as well. If you really are interested in these things, I recommend this book (which can be downloaded as a PDF) as a well-referenced unbiased source on this topic.

    • Oh, neato. I was looking for other biotech related books on the National Academies website and found this: Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences. This will likely have the answers to your concerns. I look forward to reading it (once I’m done with my thesis!). Thanks for getting me to find it!

      The synopsis:

      Biomedical advances have made it possible to identify and manipulate features of living organisms in useful ways—leading to improvements in public health, agriculture, and other areas. The globalization of scientific and technical expertise also means that many scientists and other individuals around the world are generating breakthroughs in the life sciences and related technologies. The risks posed by bioterrorism and the proliferation of biological weapons capabilities have increased concern about how the rapid advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology could enable the production of biological weapons with unique and unpredictable characteristics. Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of Life Sciences examines current trends and future objectives of research in public health, life sciences, and biomedical science that contain applications relevant to developments in biological weapons 5 to 10 years into the future and ways to anticipate, identify, and mitigate these dangers.

      And here’s a book devoted to understanding habitat level effects of GMOs: Genetically Engineered Organisms, Wildlife, and Habitat. It’s a few years old, but likely still full of useful info.

    • Yes, many governments regulate transgenics, but leave conventional breeding largely unregulated, despite the fact that conventional breeding , unlike GMO crops, occasionally serves up in the marketplace hazardous crop varieties (Lenape potato, celery, some other pest-resistant vegetable, understandably because pest-resistance relies on natural toxic plant-made chemicals such as psoralens in celery and alkaloids in potatoes). Only Canada is rational in its crop-risk regulation, requiring risk-assessment of all new varieties, irrespect of the process used to develop them.

      This whole topic is a wonderful illustration of how responding to fear rather than risk lead to worse-than ideal outcomes.

      This reminds me to mention that I have just started reading on my Kindle a fabulous book that covers this topic –the “Perception Gap between Fear and Risk and it’s harmful consequences in really engaging way. Ill blog on it when I’ve finished reading. The book is How Risky is it, Really? by David Ropeik. Don’t worry, its non-GMO centric, but it has many compelling examples of how fear perceptions skews rational risk management. E.g The women who fears obsessively tiny levels of synthetic chemicals causing cancer in her child, but smokes cigarettes and is obese– while fuming angrily in the same manner as anti-GMO people at the unfairness of evil chemical exposures which science says do no detectable harm.

      We see a similar skewing with anti-GM fears. The real risks of deadly microbes and cancer-causing microbe chemicals in plants damaged by pest-attack are obscured by distracting fears. Not to say dangerous raw milk being drunk by people who fume over rec-Bst given to cows. Deadly E. coli risks in sprouts or spinach being fashionably forgotten among people loving the aura of organic veggies. Its a Perception Gap for sure. The aura doesn’t protect against deadly germs though.

    • A new bread of wheat that is resistant to a disease that is wiping out crops in Africa and which threatens the global food system has just been developed.

      http://www.scidev.net/en/news/-super-wheat-resists-devastating-rust.html

      It has numerous new genes in it and hasn’t been widely tested for safety. Scientists created it.

      Are we to hold it up till it is proven to be safe=– which will take years, by which time wheat crops world-wide could be devastated?

      Or do we move forward in a timely fashion to bolster food security?

      This question, in my view, encapsulates all the main issues of the GM debate, and raises the key question: Is the so-called precautionary principle a threat to human sustainability and welfare?

  • justin

    “It is true that some sort of weaponized GMO could happen. I can think of several things I could do really easily that would be really dangerous. But does that mean we should ban the technology? I’m way more worried about DIY biohackers in garages than I am about government, academic, or corporate scientists, and banning the technology won’t stop DIYers. I’m not really sure what your point is here.”

    My point was not saying that we should ban technology. My point was to take a “fishing trip” to see how much if any thought the biofortifieders had put into the possible darker side of this technology.

    I agree that people who may want to use this to do harm would not be stopped by any kind of ban. I would also presume that the kind of people who would want to would be few and far between (but then there are what 6 billion ish people on the planet whatever is statisticaly possible for one of them to do will happen eventualy)

    In my field nobody gave enough thought to the possible downsides of what they were inventing until it was built.

    “the aeroplane has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war,” – Orville Wright

    “I once thought the aeroplane would end wars. I now wonder whether the aeroplane and the atomic bomb can do it.” – Orville Wright after the bombing of Hiroshima.

    I would like to hear some quotes from Palestinens about Isreali F16s.

    In fact I wonder if flight has had enough benifit to offset all the suffering it has caused or made possible.

    another example.

    “As soon as men will find that in one instant whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace.” – Alfred Nobel (inventor of dynamite who later donated his fortune to set up the Nobel prizes out of regret over his invention)

    My point is that when creating a “risk assesment” for a new technology not only the damage that can be caused by it while trying to use it for its intended purpose should be factored in. Perhaps the more important thing that should be factored in is what could concevably be done with it by an evil man. I do not believe the scientific community in any field of science stops to ask this often enough.

    Just food for thought. (I realise this tech already exists but does it ability to help man outweigh its danger to the environment and people if used by the wrong people?)

    I will be sure to read “Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences” as soon as I can

    Thank you

    • Justin, this is a good thing to talk about, indeed. Certainly, someone with evil schemes in mind (or even pseudo-good ones like self defense) could genetically engineer a pathogen of humans, or crops, even, and put many people in the world at risk of harm. But at the same time, it may very well be the same technology that would provide the solution to such a potential calamity. If we were to consider banning genetic engineering in agriculture or in other areas because of this risk of weapon development, it may not do much to slow down the potential development of those weapons. But it would certainly slow down our ability to develop countermeasures based on the same technology. If, for instance, we stopped trying to develop virus resistance in plants via RNAi – we would lose the talent necessary to develop resistance to a viral weapon designed to destroy our crops – should it ever be developed.

      A really great TV series that talks about scientific discoveries and the development of technologies and the connections between disparate events and bits of information, is Connections, with James Burke. If you have Netflix, I really recommend renting the first Connections disks. One of the things that Burke points out is that technologies for peace can be used for war, and war for peace, and it is difficult to predict precisely where certain investigations may lead. Modern inventions like radar, or vitamins, find their origins in the most unlikely places. Another thing to think about is what unforeseen benefits (As well as harms) may be curtailed by halting some investigations. The debate over stem cell research is another area where this concept comes into play.

      On the contrary, having worked with a lot of scientists, I find them much more thoughtful about these kinds of issues than people make them out to be. I found only one working on an advanced genetic engineering technology that was doing it for narrow reasons of discovery and sheer development, and was asking other people – so, um, what can we do with this once it works? He was an anomaly that fit the stereotype you describe. (But he did already have some ideas and it might have been a ruse to make us grad students think out loud during our pizza lunch.)

  • justin

    Again my point is not that the technology should be banned. Since it is here unless one of you owns a time machine there is no way to go back.

    My point could be summed up in the question, everything else being equal, 30 years ago before this technology was developed was the world a safer place?

    • My point could be summed up in the question, everything else being equal, 30 years ago before this technology was developed was the world a safer place?

      Too many variables to answer either way. I don’t think it’s a particularly useful question to ask of any technology – as every technology has the capacity to be used for either great works or evil works.

      When developing a new technology I don’t think one should have to look at all possible uses of the technology – once the technology is around it is up to everyone to make those decisions on a case by case basis – you shouldn’t throw out a technology simply because it could be used for evil (if this was the case you’d never have any technological advancement, because people are, if anything, very good at thinking up nefarious uses for essentially anything)

      One final thought/question. Name a major type of technology pioneered in the last 100 years that has not been weaponised/milatirised.

      Is this an arguement against pioneering technologies? Do we really want to go back to 1910 because people can be evil? I’m assuming the answer is no, therefore I’d posit that this isn’t a useful line of inquiry. (interesting, but not informative in terms of whether or not the tech should be used – I could, I’m sure, posit a number of nefarious uses for GM (I’m thinking it’d be easier to come up with 5 workable evil uses for GM in plants in the next 30 minutes than it would to come up with 5 blockbuster ideas that’d work in ag in the rest of my career to be perfectly honest… getting awesome stuff to work is just hard)

      • Random jumping around responses to justin contained herein – my own fault for taking a long weekend break from the intertube.

        do not believe I have a problem with cisgenics based on my limited understanding. I would not call it a new class of species since you are not adding anything to the library so to speak.

        A transgenic isn’t a new class of species (or a new species – the term class of species doesn’t particularly make sense, although I think I know what you mean) – it’s the species with an added gene – given that members of exactly the same species can have utterly unique genes you simply cannot use genetic identity as a classifier of species. You absolutely can add new things to the library, and frankly with whole genome sequencing (not even whole genome to be fair), enough time, and big enough populations I’m convinced you could do everything transgenics does using only cisgenics (take a piece of junk DNA and simply select for base changes in the region which most closely represent the sequence you want – repeat ad infinitum until you have a functionally expressed gene – it’d cost a boatload of time and money but these, as far as I can see, are the only obstacles to this approach – as such, with sequencing, one can assume that no gene is impossible to breed for (assuming it doesn’t kill the plant, but then that wouldn’t work transgenically either))

        GMOs did not exist when I was in high school. They may be well tested and have some purported health benifits. But in the grand scheme of things they are a completely new class of orginism, and a completely new class of foodstuff.

        The current set of dekalb hybrids didn’t exist when I was in high school. They may well be tested (in terms of safety they ain’t, in terms of yield and whatnot they are). But in the grand scheme of things (assuming your statement about GMOs holds true) they are a completely new class of organism and a completely new class of foodstuff.

        See the problems? They ain’t – you can’t demonstrate that GMOs are a completely new class of foodstuff – they’re essentially indistinguishable by any meaningful measure.

        Hybryds are crossing of closely related species. So you cross a pear and an apple and come up with a papple or something like that?

        This generally isn’t the case when discussing crop genetics – discussing hybrid corn what you’re talking about is a cross between two inbred lines (I guess lines would be roughly equivalent to races, although only very very roughly as race is massively arbitrary and says essentially nothing about the genetic variation of individuals, whereas an inbred is going to essentially be genetically invariable (plus or minus a bit… I talk to a lot of plant breeders but that doesn’t necessarily mean I totally get it…)) To create a hybrid of the two lines which has desired characteristics of one, or both parents, and generally exhibits increased vigor in the field (referred to as heterosis – you may well do better to look this up than rely on my hastily scribbled definition) – unlike interspecific hybrids corn hybrids aren’t infertile – although in terms of utility within agriculture almost may as well be – the progeny of a hybrid crossed to itself will generally be all over the place in terms of phenotype, whereas the hybrid itself is normally pretty predictable, as are both its parents)

        Mutagenisis is just rapidly accelerated directed evolution….
        Marker assisted selection is really just fancy breeding….

        I’d add that genetic engineering is just really fancy mutagenesis crossed with really fancy marker assisted selection – as alluded above anything is technically possible if you were to use marker assisted selection at the level of the base rather than larger sections of code.

        But even if I am unharmed (hard to say my knee has been bothering me lately) it does not mean that I am not grossed out and violated by someone putting a secret ewwww ingredient in my food.

        So the arbitrary ewwww factor should be used to what? Legislate? Enforce labelling? Whose ewww factor should be taken into account? Do we have to label all pork products? (two of the three major abrahamic religions place a pretty high value of ewww on pork) On contents of beasts that crawl on their bellies? (I may be misremembering scripture here… hopefully you get the point)
        David Tribe and others here obviously put a relatively high ewww factor (although this time with demonstrable risk rather than a nebulous invented risk) on crops produced using manure – perhaps any product that comes from manure produced crops, regardless of how far removed, requires labelling on this front?

        They have much more to do with idealogical distaste, which is different.

        Neither are good starting points for making rational science based decisions – if you can admit that an approach is purely ideological I’d suggest you throw it out and try and replace it with something reality based.

        However, nowhere in your blog did I see an example of something more akin to take a bit of frog DNA and splice it into a completly phyogenicly unrelated maize plant that is not its host or visa versa.

        There is no such thing as two organisms which evolved on earth which are completely phylogenetically unrelated. This is one of the marvels of biology. There are degrees of interrelatedness but no delineations where we can say – this thing here and this thing here are completely unrelated. This remains such a powerful idea that I still get all giddy thinking about it.

        It seems to me that if any process can lead to unfavorable and dangerous results then they should all be regulated.

        Then everything should be regulated. You should require governmental clearance to leave your front door, because as far as the evidence goes there is a far higher chance that you’ll set yourself up in a bell tower and start sniping passing strangers than there is that a commercialized GMO will cause any harm whatsoever (given that there are recorded instances of humans doing the former, and no recorded instances of GMOs doing the latter).

        I would prefer if you addressed the content not the source.

        If the source is a cow’s back end it is a fair assumption that the content falls within a certain category. (ironic coming from a Monsanto employee, I know, but hard to resist)

    • Eric Baumholder

      The point of technology is to magnify the effect of human effort.

      A thousand years ago, a well-educated person with access to state-of-the-art technology could probably kill a dozen people or so.

      Today, a somewhat-educated person with access to state-of-the-art technology could depopulate a city.

      Would we rather live now, or back then? It’s not a difficult question. Unless you’re easily frightened, of course.

  • justin

    “I don’t think it is a particulary useful question to ask of any technology”

    That depends on what you are trying to answer with the questioning. Perhaps standing in the way of advances to prevent evil uses is the wrong answer.

    Again not the point I’m getting at.

    The point of this whole line of posts (though it does tend to drift) is to have an open dialogue about the sources of “agnst” in the greater public. In that context it is a useful question.

    (Imagine the angst the japanese must feel over neuclar technology, and how they might answer a similar question)

  • justin

    Actualy I think it is a fair line of questioning that should be engaged in often for those who are in a field that has the potential to either create or enhance WMDs or their delivery systems. Any technology that has the capicity to kill millions in one stroke perhaps should have had more forethought in its early stages.

    • Again you appear to have absolute certainty that use of this technology hasn’t been thought about – the absolute opposite however appears to be the case – there are restrictions across the board in the production of and release of transgenic materials – and I’d ask – how would you use the assessment on various technologies?

      Would you have been for or against the development of air travel for instance.

      What’d you want done with transgenics if you were sitting 30 years ago before the development of the technology – given that we can imagine a world in which it could potentially be used for evil how would you proceed?

      In answer to your militarizable technologies…. I think you already mentioned it – organ transplant – I can’t think of a military use for organ transplants, or a weaponizable form of organ transplant (at least not without venturing far into the realms of computer game mythology (Syndicate springs immediately to mind))

  • justin

    Ewan and David

    I have thoughts about both of your recent posts. Rather than share them with you though, I am going to get some sleep. See you later.

  • justin

    Ewan

    “Neither (fear or idealogy) are good starting points for making rational science based decisions – if you can admit that an approach is purely ideological I’d suggest you throw it out and try and replace it with something reality based.”

    This is an assumption based on scientific rationalism, an ideal. Your assumptions about the nature of truth and what is rational are based on philosophy. When it comes right down to it all the science in the world has no meaning if its philosophical underpinnings are taken away.

    As humans we have the ability to conjucture about what has meaning and value. I feel this ability is what gives us value as humans, and taking it away to be suplanted by “scientific truth” is dehumanising and eventualy leads to Nihilism. I place value on the distinction between natural and artificaly manipulated orginisms, you do not. Neither choice may be proved right or wrong / good or bad if the philosophy behind it can not be proven beyond doubt.

    If you care to argue scientific determinism we will be here a long time.

    more later.

  • Ewan R

    When it comes right down to it all the science in the world has no meaning if its philosophical underpinnings are taken away.

    I’m not sure what this even means. Let’s assume we remove the philosophical underpinnings of science, how does that remove the meaning of the conservation of momentum, or the laws of thermodynamics? It doesn’t. It means nothing. It appears to simply be an act of sophistry designed to validate fuzzy thinking. Science works. Fuzzy thinking not so much. Anyone who steps onto an aeroplane believing that sans philosophical underpinnings science doesn’t mean anything is a hypocrite (to paraphrase Dawkins, as this appears to simply be cultural relativism wearing a somewhat different hat)

    As humans we have the ability to conjucture about what has meaning and value. I feel this ability is what gives us value as humans

    I’m not sure that is what gives us value, that appears to be an utterly different discussion, and it rather discounts those with abnormalities in development who cannot assign value or meaning.

    taking it away to be suplanted by “scientific truth” is dehumanising

    This is plainly a ludicrous statement. Which is more dehumanizing? The bloody ridiculous assertion that women are inferior as they were made second, out of a (or the)mans rib, and subsequently buggered everything up after a talking animal persuaded them to eat a magic apple thus angering an ill tempered giant or the scientific approach which shows us that this whole tale is beyond unlikely and stupid (together with all the scientific evidence which shows that frankly the differences between men and women are not all that – insight impossible without the application of the scientific method to acknowledge the effects of cultural bias on the results of experiment)

    and eventualy leads to Nihilism

    and you can point to instances of this occuring where precisely? You seem to be rather nihilistic in denying science (therefore knowledge) whereas I cannot see that a scientific approach is necessarily nihilistic (although in some aspects perhaps, but as to whether this is a bad thing I have doubts – life is without external meaning, this doesn’t mean that it cannot be given meaning by those that live it).

    I place value on the distinction between natural and artificaly manipulated orginisms, you do not. Neither choice may be proved right or wrong / good or bad if the philosophy behind it can not be proven beyond doubt.

    More sophistry.

    I do not believe that the shape of an aeroplane wing has anything to do with the ability of the aeroplane to fly – you do. Neither of these options can be proven right or wrong / good or bad if the philosophy behind it can not be proven beyond doubt.

    Clearly if I make the above statement (I don’t, just to be clear, it is merely illustrative) I’d rightly be assumed to be an utter raving lunatic (and a hypocrite every time I stepped on a plane) – particularly amongst those employed in aerospace, but due to the relatively good politics free dissemination of information about physics (at least up to but not including nuclear physics) most 8 year olds would rightly mock me and throw rotten fruit – the statement is clearly wrong and no philosophical wrangling can make it less so – arguements in philosophy which appear to make it so are clearly spurious deviations into the realms of the word salad (the geography of which I am clearly well versed in!)

    (there are obviously numerous other aspects of science that could have been used above, too many to list, all of which would probably have worked better)

  • Eric Baumholder

    Philosophy and science have everything to do with each other.

    Even so, it’s best to consult a philosopher on philosophy, especially the philosophy of science.

  • I can’t resist:
    Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. – Richard Feynman
    :)

  • justin

    Ewan,

    I think that you sum up my point quite well when you say

    “I cannot see that a scientific approach is necessarily nihilistic (although in some aspects perhaps, but as to whether this is a bad thing I have doubts – life is without external meaning, this doesn’t mean that it cannot be given meaning by those that live it).”

    Life is without external meaning. It would then follow that death is also without external meaning. If neither life or death have meaning then what meaning can I assign to any moral statement?

    “this doesn’t mean that it cannot be given meaning by those that live it.”

    I would call that

    “cultural relativism wearing a somewhat different hat”

    I will agree that a scientific statement can be either true or false. However, what is the value of that or meaning? Science describes the physical world, it does not assign value or meaning to what it describes.

    Let me give you an example. If I jump out of an airplane with no parachute the law of gravity says that I will fall. I would not argue that. Now if I fall to my death what does that mean? Science may describe the mechanism of gravity that makes me fall (actually nobody knows), or my rate of fall. Science cannot make any statement as to the meaning or value of my death caused by the fall.

    Biofortifieders have a habit of moralizing the millions who may starve if we don’t throw your tech out there for the world. Then in the next breath ask the skeptics to toss out their ideology for sound scientific reasoning.

    If 1 human life = value 0

    1000000 human lives = value 0

    Your morality is based in something other than science (perhaps your cultural upbringing). So is my disdain for GMOs.

    “and you can point to instances of this occurring where precisely?” (science leading to nihilism)

    “The statement “God is dead”, occurring in several of Nietzsche’s works (notably in The Gay Science), has become one of his best-known remarks. On the basis of it, most commentators[52] regard Nietzsche as an atheist; others (such as Kaufmann) suggest that this statement reflects a more subtle understanding of divinity. In Nietzsche’s view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively ‘killed’ the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years.

    Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth.[53] Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name “perspectivism”.

    Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any inherent importance and that life lacks purpose. As Heidegger put the problem, “If God as the suprasensory ground and goal of all reality is dead, if the suprasensory world of the Ideas has suffered the loss of its obligatory and above it its vitalizing and upbuilding power, then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself.”[54] Developing this idea, Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, therein introducing the concept of a value-creating Übermensch. According to Lampert, “the death of God must be followed by a long twilight of piety and nihilism (II. 19; III. 8). […] Zarathustra’s gift of the superman is given to a mankind not aware of the problem to which the superman is the solution.”

    from the wikipedia article on Nietzsche.

    could go on and on but I would be neglecting other things.

  • Charles M. Rader

    Justin, this is way too much deep philosophy about whether you have a right to decide whether to eat or not eat foods developed by a new technology. I don’t think anyone doubts that you have that right. I don’t think anyone doubts that you have a right to make your decision based on other factors than science. Really this shouldn’t be invoking Nietzsche or cultural relativism.

    As I recall, the title of this thread was “Way Too Much Angst About GMO Crops” and I think you are demonstrating that.

    • Eric Baumholder

      You don’t get rights just because you say you have them.

      Having an actual ‘right’ means you can force other people to do what you want.

      There is no right to demand that others supply scientifically useless information.

  • Ewan R

    Life is without external meaning. It would then follow that death is also without external meaning. If neither life or death have meaning then what meaning can I assign to any moral statement?

    One can start with a basic approach to ethics in that to be ethical one should not cause suffering, from that point on ethics can be approached in a scientific manner. I haven’t the ability to espouse the view further than that – I tend to agree with Sam Harris on the issue (despite not necessarily agreeing with some of the routes it takes him down vis a vis torture etc)

    I will agree that a scientific statement can be either true or false. However, what is the value of that or meaning? Science describes the physical world, it does not assign value or meaning to what it describes.

    So if the scientific statement that GM crops are equivalent to non-GM crops in terms of composition is true, and the scientific statement that the equivalent of GM occurs in nature – what rational objection can one have to GM crops? It’s squicky doesn’t cut it – particularly if you’re willing to meander off into the nuances of Nietzche to support other aspects of arguement – one would expect that if you’re going to that level you’d maintain some level of internal intellectual coherency to your thinking.

    Let me give you an example. If I jump out of an airplane with no parachute the law of gravity says that I will fall. I would not argue that. Now if I fall to my death what does that mean? Science may describe the mechanism of gravity that makes me fall (actually nobody knows), or my rate of fall. Science cannot make any statement as to the meaning or value of my death caused by the fall.

    Arguably the scientific method could do just that – I’m no sociologist but could envision a system whereby a network of friends, colleagues, enemies and acquaintances was established and the net suffering and or joy caused by such an incident could be at least estimated on a scale normalized to some sort of brain chemical signature of pleasure/suffering.

    Your morality is based in something other than science (perhaps your cultural upbringing). So is my disdain for GMOs.

    My morality still makes sense in the light of science. Yours doesn’t. The science is at worst silent on my morality – it flatly contradicts your disdain at every turn.

    The statement “God is dead”, occurring in several of Nietzsche’s works

    Given that most religion is as devoid of morality as any nihilist could hope I give no credance to killing of god being a bad thing or leading to anything other than a net increase in global happiness.

    I would note also that you don’t give an example of science leading to nihilism, simply a rehashing of sophistry on the subject – just because a philosopher said it doesn’t make it so.

    • Just a suggestion, perhaps you gentlemen could start a forum post to move this discussion there? It is kinda getting off-topic.

      • Ewan R

        I sir, am no gentleman. (I will desist in the other offtopicness however as you’ve given me this awesome opportunity to go off on a tangent which is actually utterly unrelated rather than simply only vaguely related – for that, as corporate speak would have me phrase it, I thank you)

        (although you don’t get a $50 gift card)

  • justin

    Eric,

    May I suggest that if the biotech community is worried about angst that it should not adopt the slogan “might makes right”.

    Except perhaps behind closed doors ;-)

  • Eric Baumholder

    Justin,

    I am unaware of the adoption of that slogan by the ‘community’, or by any member of the ‘community’. Perhaps you could supply a reference.

  • justin

    Eric.

    Sorry I couldn’t resist saying something tongue and cheek in regards to your previous comment.

  • justin

    Ewan,

    Where to start?

    this seems to be a lovely quote.

    “I would note also that you don’t give an example of science leading to nihilism, simply a rehashing of sophistry on the subject – just because a philosopher said it doesn’t make it so.”

    I will grant that a philosopher is no more to be trusted than anyone else. I am not trying to prove the validity of Nietzsche’s arguments here though. What I am showing is cause between trying to derive worth from science and nihilism.

    (quick aside, I do tend to agree that if you start with the same assumptions Nietzsche did and are logically honest you will reach the same results, since I do not start with his assumptions I do not end in the same place he did)

    I believe it would be fair to say that most nihilists have been influenced by Nietzsche.

    I would also say that Nietzsche was influenced in his ideas by the scientific writings of his day.

    If those two statements are true, then it would also be true to say that Nietzsche’s understanding of science has directly influenced most nihilists.

    It seems amazing to me that you can miss or deny such an obvious connection.

    You however seem to have no issue with making just as far reaching statements. You have implied previously that religion is to be blamed for inequality between men and women. I could ask you for an example of this. I am sure your proof would be no more sound.

    It seems to me that there is a bit of a bias in this denial. The idea that scientific reason could lead to nothingness does not fit into your chosen world view, therefore you require unreasonable proofs. What would you like me to do find a sampling of self proclaimed nihilists and ask them if their understanding of science has influenced their philosophical outlook?

    If I said a statement such as hippies are influenced by eastern world views through bands such as the Beatles I do not believe you would have a problem. This statement has the same level of proof but is not attacking a sacred cow.

    This needing extra proof for things that do not fit your views and requiring less of ideas that you agree with is a conformation bias.

    I have not argued (much) with your assertions of safety in GMO crops. However, the way that you cannot find a simple string of logic connecting nihilists through Nietzsche to science makes me wonder how plain the link between GMOs and some health or environmental problem would have to be before you would find it, since it would not agree with your dogma. It frankly makes me place less trust in statements like these.

    “there is a far higher chance that you’ll set yourself up in a bell tower and start sniping passing strangers than there is that a commercialized GMO will cause any harm whatsoever (given that there are recorded instances of humans doing the former, and no recorded instances of GMOs doing the latter).”

    • Sorry Karl! (I am not a fan of changing medium half way through a conversation, feel free to rap my hands with a ruler or such – and clearly as a Monsanto employee my duplicitousness is only to be expected)

      The idea that scientific reason could lead to nothingness does not fit into your chosen world view

      I don’t deny that it could, I deny that it necessarily does as implied in your statement:- (which I may be misreading, a common flaw of mine)

      I feel this ability is what gives us value as humans, and taking it away to be suplanted by “scientific truth” is dehumanising and eventualy leads to Nihilism.

      And then

      You have implied previously that religion is to be blamed for inequality between men and women.

      I wasn’t implying that it was necessarily to blame, but any denial that it is and has been used as a tool to enforce this inequality is a quite obvious denial of reality and ability to read religious texts while skipping the bits you don’t like (anyone who can read the old testament and miss the grinding level of misogyny therein could, I think, be referred to a proctologist for help in removing their head from where it is stuck). For other examples of this simply look at countries which practice Sharia law, look at afghanistan now or at any point in the last decade, look at Iran, look at the history of Europe – we are swimming in the proof that religion quite predominantly is utilized as a tool for justifying the inequalities between men and women.

      What would you like me to do find a sampling of self proclaimed nihilists and ask them if their understanding of science has influenced their philosophical outlook?

      Perhaps find a sampling of the worlds leading scientific thinkers and assess whether or not they are Nihilists. Assess whether the adoption of the scientific approach appears to have led to a rise in nihilistic behaviours – I’d argue that it hasn’t, nihilism seems abound in groupings of people who are quite averse to rational thought – I don’t know that I’ve met many hardcore nihilists in scientific circles.

      If I said a statement such as hippies are influenced by eastern world views through bands such as the Beatles I do not believe you would have a problem.

      Were this a blog on hippies, or the Beatles I may well have a problem – from my vague understanding of hippiness I think you have your reasoning backwards for a start (just to nudge the tangent off into Adamsian dimensions)

      However, the way that you cannot find a simple string of logic connecting nihilists through Nietzsche to science

      To reiterate I wasn’t stating could not, I was arguing that it is neither inevitable nor likely on a wide scale – it is possible that crossing the road will lead to me being killed – this however isn’t an arguement against roads, or an arguement for being against roads because they’re a bit squicky.

    • Eric Baumholder

      Nietzsche’s works are so full of self-contradictory errors that serious nihilists don’t take him seriously. His approach is best described by Abdul Alhazred, author of the Necronomicon: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” You can’t ride that pony very far.

  • What a comment stream! Many good points, but this was supposed to make people sad that so few additional crops will ever by improved in ways that could help with the feeding of the world and with their health and with their enjoyment of life. Imagine when chocolate and coffee get too expensive to eat. Imagine when we don’t have enough bread and Africa and the Middle East become destabilized

  • thomas fix

    The Neo Malthusians are now in the position of opion supremacy. When the 1st steam train headed from Nuremberg to Fuerth my profession which has embodied scientific methods warned of the speed to the human body. It was the king of bavaria who insisted on the train ride. GMO will be the future but unfortunately thousands humans have to starve until the green ideology will be dead.
    The choice between GMO or not is a question of luxury. After WWII malaria was rampant in Europe and only pesticides and drainage solved the lives of our relatives. It was not the WWW envisioning habitats for species on the brink of extinction.
    As a scientist which i am not in a professional point view one should always keep in mind that the green ideology is utilitarian for its purpose. With 1 USD a day in Egypt there is no question about the origin of the wheat. In the rich countries we cant imagine a situation like in Egypt.

    • thomas fix

      with WW i meant WWF -sorry for my misspelling

    • In an accident of naming, the Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. ‘GMO’ investment management firm
      http://www.gmo.com/America/About/
      is spearheading the neo-Malthusian charge, with the claim, naturally, that everyone is running out of everything, and that’s a permanent state of advancing global poverty until we’re back to the Stone Age.

      Luckily, there’s lots of stones left over from the Stone Age, so we have a rat’s chance.

      • thomas fix

        That si what the gerontocrats of the Cub of Rome are preaching. There is a sying in German: the stonega did not end because of a shortage of stones.
        Make abundand resource like water scarce and you will make a bargain with it. Like a mining compnay that sells everything to its miners working at e remote mine.

  • Thomas,
    I agree with all you said except that the biotech companies don’t engage. They do, but because the are in this for money (as if everyone isn’t) they are dismissed.

    Speaking of money, did you see the thing about Colbert and the FEC? He got an unlimited PAC for viacom to run political adds. They don’t know what they will be about except something electiony. I’m thinking they should monitor twitter to get ideas

    • thomas fix

      Hoechst lost its battle in 1984. The recombinant insuline was a revolutionary invention that changed the diagnosis Diabetes for better. Diabetes had meant a severe disease with low life expectancy before 1984. The patient had had to rely on all sort of animal extracted insuline. At the end all were blind and suffered severe vascular complication. The man who , former terrorist and friend of Arafat is now working for the Albright Corp. Joscka Fischer holds meeting at the west coast of the USA where the “elite” university are his audiences.
      BASF is right now considering to withdraw its GMO division from Germany. No one cares.
      I think a mane mistake of GMO companies was to sell the product with a social or whatever message. It is like the car manufactures who dont want to sell cars but contribitions to the climate change. All this social responsipilty or environmental stuff is totaly contraproductive because it is like the ghost in the bottle one will never get rid off.

      • thomas fix

        Sorrs: the man who prohibited the recombinant insuline porduction was the former secretary for environment , Joscka Ficher.

  • justin

    Ewan,

    You forget the average person has a 100 iq. When was the last time you had a serious conversation with a average person? I think you give too much credit. Unless farmers as a group are of above average inteligence.

    • Ewan R

      It matters not one jot what the farmer’s IQ is in general terms – a farmer who doesn’t understand farming doesn’t stay in farming very long (assuming you’re responding to my criticism of Thomas Fix above) – generally even someone of below average intelligence will at least understand their own little area of expertise better than others in other areas.

  • justin

    I feel the need to change the subject again.

    Food labelling. I have never given my opinion of it here.

    More than one of you has compared the idea of a person wanting to avoid GMOs with kosher practice. In a nutshell you have said that it would be an unfair expense on the whole food industry, that would then be passed on to everyone.

    In Israel the majority of people are Jewish. Jewish people as a whole care about kosher labelling. There are laws in Israel labelling mandatory for all foods. Israel respects the wishes of the majority of its people in its labelling scheme, This only makes sense. I have never heard of an Israeli person complaining of the added expense of this system.

    I don’t know that any country has ever asked the opinion of its people on GMO labelling. I would like to see a ballot item concerning labelling. Let the majority decide how they would like to spend their money.

    Not that GMO labelling needs to even be an extra expense.

    How much cost is passed on by labelling products as follows “This product may contain nuts”? I would venture very little. Nobody is going around testing every candy bar made to find out if they have nuts. No the label goes on the untested candy bars.

    What if we had a label that said “This product may contain genetically modified ingredients” and the only way to have the label removed from a product was by testing it at the manufacturers cost to be sure it didn’t. Would this disrupt our food system? would this make a unfair burden for the people who are not bothered by this tech.

    At any rate my main point is that consumers should be asked a direct question and then have their wishes respected.

    • thomas fix

      Suffocation after an allergic reaction is a dreadfull dead and there is a given chance that a human( consumer) may die after after having eaten nut proteins.
      Hallal and kosher food has nothing in common with consumer protection: It is the political implication of a law religion with an influnce on day life though the latter jewish religion is moderate in this case(no capital punishments for consuming i.e. porc).

  • Well, I just got a message from the Biofortified Brain that I have to leave a comment to keep current my “account”, and since I just gawk rather than get involved in the scintillating tit for tat, I thought I’d try this blogathon to comply with the Brain. So “out of necessity” here is what I saw going from the beginning to this point. Wow, I’ve never seen so many ad hominem attacks. What I thought was going to be a look at some scientific perspectives about GMO angst turned into a philosophy discussion. Just a word of friendly advice about discussing the science of the issue (from whatever perspective you hold). Perhaps instead of relying on the GOOGLE side of the search engine world, turn to the GOOGLE Scholar side. Just use the advanced search option and essentially use English phraseology to inquire about your interests. In that way, you’ll acquire the peer reviewed literature and books. Interestingly, when something “bad” about a technology like agricultural biotechnology breaks through into the published scholarly literature, we’re seeing with increasing speed a rebuttal in other peer reviewed articles and letters. Thus, scientists are engaging in tit for tat from the perspective of discussing information, not character or motives (although there is still some of the latter in the toxicology literature–another story but not for this blog).

    Somehow the Beatles and hippies were mentioned a few posts back, so here’s another phrase from the ’60’s: “Nobody’s right if everyone’s wrong” (Steven Stills through the Buffalo Springfield ~’67). The obverse may be true, “Nobody’s wrong if everyone’s right”. In other words, my perception of all these posts, which I came to because I mistakenly thought information was going to be discussed, is one of “ships passing in the night”.

    But you might say, someone has to be right (and obversely someone has to be wrong; sort of a yin/yang thing–yea, you’re probably catching on that I’m from the countercultural ’60’s). Well, yes, that is a valid perspective and for that reason, science, which is just “a way of knowing”, is best utilized as a methodology for obtaining the preponderance of the evidence (often called in the regulatory world, the weight of the evidence). Okay, so here is the bottom line (from reading a lot of scholarly literature with occasional bewilderment at mistakes about basic biology made on some websites). The preponderance of the literature concludes…there is no such thing as a GMO. There are numerous soybean cultivars containing a glyphosate resistant EPSPS gene in addition to their own EPSPS genes. Numerous corn cultivars are now registered that have inherited as a dominant allele a gene creating one of a myriad of Cry proteins. Etc., etc. Get the point? By talking about GMOs doing this, and pesticides doing that, you’re not talking about information which exists at the reductionist level of approach, which is what you find in the scientific literature. So, if the discussion aimed at specific, and I mean really really specific products and their traits, then maybe the objectivity of the discussion can be re-established.

    On the other hand, you may be getting just as high in these tits for tats as taking a good hit off of non-GMO Panama Red. There, now my login can stay active and I can go back to my observation hole.

  • justin

    I have let enough of these type comments slide by with no comment that I have to say one now:

    “The preponderance of the literature concludes…there is no such thing as a GMO”

    “So if the scientific statement that GM crops are equivalent to non-GM crops in terms of composition is true, and the scientific statement that the equivalent of GM occurs in nature – what rational objection can one have to GM crops?”

    If it were true that there was NO difference between GMOs and non GMOs then there would be no patents issued. If there were no patents issued there would be no money in biotech. If there was no money in biotech you guys would not have jobs.

    I need look no further than the patent office to know that there are significant differences.

    Sorry guys cant have it both ways.

    • Ewan R

      If it were true that there was NO difference between GMOs and non GMOs then there would be no patents issued.

      No meaningful differences in terms of nutritional composition or effect (I feel I was a little imprecise with language, particularly when discussing patentability, as composition means something utterly different in legalese (and can mean different things regardless)

      Unless you suggest that two varieties of corn should be labelled distinclty as such given that you can get patents on them.

      Or that corn bred by a particular technique should be labelled as different to that bred by another due to the technique being patented.

      If there was no money in biotech you guys would not have jobs.

      As far as I am aware I’m one of the few voices in the conversation who is actually directly employed in Biotech (at least the money making side of things) – and the arguement that there’d be no money in it if it wasn’t patentable is a little silly given the number of academic labs striving to produce viable GMOs for release sans patent – the only thing preventing them is the massive regulatory burden – the profitability or not of their end product isn’t hugely important so long as the grant money keeps flowing and papers can be published

  • Hi Justin,

    I think it’s important to draw a distinction between a technological capability (e.g. welding, etching silicon chips, genetic transformation) and a product made with this capability (e.g. new vehicles, computers or plant varieties).

    Whether a given implementation is a boon or a disaster is a result of the engineer’s skill, foresight and intentions. While countless scientific studies have indicated that current GM crops differ in no meaningful way from non-GM crops (outside of their new trait), it would be disingenuous to disregard the fact that genetic engineering REALLY DOES increase the range of changes we can make to crops (which is a large part of why it’s so valued) – and that there’s as much opportunity for miracles as there is abuse of this technology, as all technologies. Whether your technological item is an axe or a spaceship – it can be used for positive or negative purposes, though the more advanced and powerful the technology, the bigger the impact is likely to be.

    That being said I think a big part of the divide in opinions on GM food comes down to our personal view of technology. I believe that the march of technology is usually positive (at least with appropriate oversight and regulation), and that we probably couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to. If you’re reading this on a computer, I expect you probably share this view. I think most people who love their iPhone but hate the idea of GM food are probably making the mistake of somehow seeing agriculture as something romantic and removed from all other aspects of our society – where we can (and should) limit further technological progress. I think this would be a very short sighted decision.

  • justin

    Matt,

    Yes I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to technology. Then, unless I build a log cabin in the mountains and have no running water or power it is hard to be anything but.

    “I believe that the march of technology is usually positive (at least with appropriate oversight and regulation), and that we probably couldn’t stop it even if we wanted to.”

    I think that our planet is overpopulated, polluted, and dangerous. I think that since the industrial revolution the quality of life has gone down for the average person.

    There is better education, wider knowledge, better medicine, etc.

    There are also weaker family and community bonds, co2 emmisions, global warming, threat of WMDs, food shortages (brought on by the longer life expectancy leading to population growth to an unsustainable level) etc.

    It seems that each new layer of technology just further destabilises our ecosystem and adds a new threat for human self destruction.

    I will agree it cant be stopped though.

    • I feel the need to comment here. Before the kinds of technological advancements that we take for granted today, the world was even more dangerous, cities and some waterways were even more polluted, and while the world was not overpopulated, one reason why it was not was because of famines, and food insecurity.
      Today, a bacterial infection is no big deal – you get antibiotics to help your immune system, and pain killers and decongestants to help yourself tolerate the symptoms. Before such technologies, you would suffer for a long time, and sometimes die. If you survived, you may have been crippled, depending on the disease. Things that we scoff at today were dangerous back then. Magellan couldn’t make it around the world on his ship built for that purpose, while today Craig Venter scoops ocean water while sailing around the world looking for DNA.
      Yes, we have created new dangers, but we have also created new safeguards against existing (And future) dangers. We also have the ability to recognize dangers more than we did in the past – we have telescopes looking for asteroids that we didn’t even know were there, and public health organizations predicting evolving epidemics in time to stop them. In the past, WMDs were the common flu, just ask the Native Americans.
      The weaker family and community bonds are in some cases expected when it comes to increasing education. “Strong families” is somewhat synonymous with “repressive social structures”, and the cultures with the ‘strongest’ families are often the most patriarchal.
      I was riding my bike past a power generation facility yesterday, with a tall smokestack, and I couldn’t help but think that if it was just this one power plant, there would be no problem with burning coal day and night in there (or whatever else they burn when they actually turn it on). But since we have so many of such smokestacks, we cannot treat them all as individual disconnected acts, and must consider the effects of them all together. We have to take some things that we have built and seek to build a little more seriously than what has been done in the past. Many of the technologies we have today were developed in a world where such considerations were not made, or we didn’t need to be made. Cars, paper mills, power plants, farms, all came before this time. There is a big difference between a windmill and a coal power plant – yet both are technologies. “Technology” itself does not necessarily lead to good or bad, but technologies can be developed to suit good and bad purposes. We need more good technologies that are appropriate for the world that we live in, and want our children to live in.

      • thomas fix

        As scientist You have the unique chance to change plants for the purpose that “famine” will be unkown word in the future.
        Be aware in case You accept or even adopt the ideas of ending resources You are in the mouse trap of the fear mongers. Personally i doubt very much that the fossile resources from Trias and Carbon will end in the next decades or centuries. Anyway a sustainable devolpment is favourable which it has been all time long. Rememeber tunas wer predicted extinct 30 y ago . Sushi is still very common. By the way the differenc between a wind mill and setam powered turbin ist the time of use: Windmill in Europe 1400h/Year. Steam turbine almost 8600h/Year.

    • I’m always struck by what a funny bubble this GMO argument is.

      Almost all the plant scientists I know who are pro-genetic engineering are cut from the exact same liberal hippie environmentalist cloth as the anti-genetic engineering crowd. I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same demographic, with the only difference being that the plant scientists understand this one particular issue on a deeper level.

      I was against genetic engineering myself until I understood it (until a fellow grad student really pinned me down on what I was worried about).

      How many of you scientists were against it before you for it?

      • Great question, Matt. Back in the late 90’s, I questioned the routine planting of Bt corn for European corn borer control as seeming to violate the principles of Integrated Pest Management. In other words, are you just doing something prophylactically without really knowing what your pest density is and thus potential economic damage? After all, Bt corn is regulated as a pesticide. Then, at a meeting a colleague whispered in my ear…think host plant resistance. Hit by the Japanese Buddhist concept known as “satori”, I realized that Bt corn was a specific trait that provided…”host plant resistance”. And you didn’t have to push around the genome too much to provide the quality trait (as we now know that “conventional” breeding does–see the increasing literature on proteome and metabolome studies comparing the phenotypes from different breeding techniques). Now here is where specifics are important. Before I get pummeled, I realize that herbicide resistant crops are a different beast from a regulatory perspective and are not modern examples of a quick way to breed host plant resistance. But I do know this–the dream of organic farmers is to have host plant resistance built into their phenotypes. Too bad they have to wait so long to get it. Nothing wrong with patience, but pests invade all the time. In the West, we’ve been bombarded with at least three new “exotic” insect pests in just the last two years alone.

      • Very good observation. I’m the first goofball worried about worker safety, environment, equitable food access, conservation of resources, etc. These are all the same issues that the anti-GM folks support. We’re 95% the same as them! This is why it is so important to give them that last 5%!!! Many come around eventually.

  • justin

    “What I thought was going to be a look at some scientific perspectives about GMO angst turned into a philosophy discussion.”

    I think that discussing GMO angst from a scientific point a view without involving philosophy, religion, fear, prejudice, and so forth is to narrow to be of any use to anyone except a scientist.

    • As long as we don’t confuse philosophy discussions with empirical observations that feed into policy, I don’t mind joining in on the fun. I must say, perhaps philosophically, that your post at 10:50 am reminded me of a long litany I’ve heard before, except it was on a college campus in the 60’s. Reminds me of another lyric, “We’ve all been here before”. So here’s the thing, philosophically speaking, that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. As a result of our pre-EARTH DAY rantings in the 60’s about the future not being as bright as necessitating shades (helped by Rachel Carson’s popularization of scientific literature about DDT that dated back to the 40’s–check out the dates on the papers she cites in her bibliography in Silent Spring) a mess of environmental regulations were passed and then mostly put under the EPA following Nixon’s signing of the bill creating the Agency in 1970. Things really did get better, I mean empirically. Perfect no, largely because of that population problem (we’re into exburbs now). However, we know so much more about basic biological processes. Indeed, the more I learn the less concerned I become. But that sense of being less concerned is obviously not shared (and I would not be rational if I thought it should be). I’m trying to understand why, however. The bottom line is that the litany of problems cited in association with our modern world are not new. And that’s why we have the regulations we do. That’s why the regulatory system is dynamic, so that it can respond to new problems, and even perception of problems that may not really be all that problematic. I would be in much greater angst if we didn’t have these regulations. I’m often in angst that some political party would gain “control”, but I’ve seen these changes over so many years and each time I note that we humans tend to find our way back to the “middle way”. I have faith that eventually we do the right thing. But, it’s just a philosophical whim.

  • By pro GM logic, its OK to eat fox glove because its perfectly normal for humans to eat plants. Or could it be that some gene transfer happens in nature and some gene transfer does not? In my opinion, theres not enough angst.

    • @Ophadeus. By pro GM logic, its OK to eat fox glove because its perfectly normal for humans to eat plants.

      **This is an absurd assumption. The argument is that we already face risks in our food (potatoes, celery, maize, cassava), and they can be managed. Yes, cassava can kill you as it has cyanides. But it can be eaten too with the right precautions. We don’t ban it.

      What is certain is that there is massive gene transfer in nature and it is dangerous. The German E. coli outbreak illustrates this. What it also shows is that focussing of fears( GM food), rather than real risks (E.coli in manures getting into foods that are not cooked) has caused harm by diverting attention from the real risks. There is massive EU research on detecting GM in imports, and complete failure to implement effective testing of pathogenic E. coli in imported food.

      Also the vegetables that might contain E. coli are not being labelled. Labels on sprouts and crudities are more important for safety than labels about GMOs. Their absence has killed at least 50 people and maimed 1000. Making a fuss about the wrong things slows down action on the right things.

      • thomas fix

        Yes that is woodoo science approach You may find apart from Biology. Bangladesh would be fine with enough high leevees. Instead of this reasonable approach by bulding higher dikes counsellors are waging the global theme ad nauseam with no usefull help. The Golden Rice inventor hoped to help the people eating rice to prevent the debilitating BerBeri-disease. The anti-GMO activists stopped this possibility.
        Frankly, it is mess -we livenow in an era that is pre-enlighted.

    • thomas fix

      Orphedeus
      The enzymes controlling the DNA/RNA scan as long as an organism is alive for aberrant strings.
      In Case of cancer or virus infections (HPV) the pathologies are already known when repair mechanisms do not work properly. In Your bowl tissue alien DNA is incorporated but in most cases it wont do harm thankd to the repair abilities. No human has been killed by GMO but by other natural toxins(spores,rhizin, atropin, aflatoxins etc) enough.

  • Eric Baumholder

    The environmentalist/anti-GM movement is a perfect haven for angst-addicts. Normal people encountering angst put their worries behind them by understanding the facts. Angst-addicts, on the other hand, revel in their fears, and speculate rampantly to produce even more imaginative fears.

  • justin

    Steve

    There may be a little pleasure with fear. However, I think you would agree that the real rush comes from smug superiority.

    • Eric Baumholder

      Steve, Justin,

      You’re both right. It’s likely that the list of gratuitous pleasures associated with opposing GM crops is very long. Also on that list is making money from frightened consumers.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Since the days of Rachel Carson there have been a lot of changes.

    Alzheimers was then known but not a big problem.

    Parkinsons the same.

    Cancers the same.

    Breast cancer was almost unknown.

    Lung cancer was a problem then and today has got better (no dangerous high nicotine cigarettes)

    Autism was virtually unknown.

    Allergies to peanuts were unknown.

    AIDS was unknown then

    E coli poisoning was unknown then.

    Bleeding disorders after eating normal foods were unknown to most people until 5 or so years ago.

    In my small circle of friends I just discovered yesterday another case of cancer this time brain cancer from someone who used to use his mobile phone much more than most people.

    All of the above illnesses have increased and the only common factor is complete IGNORANCE about any of them.

    Mention for example that brain cancer for this man is due to his use of the mobile phone and you will be laughed at, ridiculed and told your knowledge of science is less than ZERO.

    Ask themwhy he got brain cancer and they will say variably:

    Who wants to know?

    He would have been dead at 6 years of age back in 1950.

    The fox today is completely in charge of the hen house.

    • Since the days of Rachel Carson there have been a lot of changes.

      Alzheimers was then known but not a big problem.

      Parkinsons the same.

      Cancers the same.

      Breast cancer was almost unknown.
      *** I know one person who had a mastectomy in the 50s.

      Lung cancer was a problem then and today has got better (no dangerous high nicotine cigarettes)

      Autism was virtually unknown.

      Allergies to peanuts were unknown.
      ** Do you really think so?

      AIDS was unknown then

      E coli poisoning was unknown then.

      *** This is definitely not true. Stan Falcow for example said in 1975 that starting 1965 there was plenty of evidence that certain E. coli strains cause diarrhea and mentions Orskov and Orskov, 1966. J of Bacteriology. 91. 69 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC315911/
      Also Tennant 1971 Neobnatal Enteric Infections caused by E. coli A book from New York Academy of Sciences.
      Smith HW 1963. J. Pathol Bacteriol. 85, 197

      Bleeding disorders after eating normal foods were unknown to most people until 5 or so years ago.

      In my small circle of friends I just discovered yesterday another case of cancer this time brain cancer from someone who used to use his mobile phone much more than most people.

      All of the above illnesses have increased and the only common factor is complete IGNORANCE about any of them.

      The fox today is completely in charge of the hen house.

      *** But in Germany today, who is the fox?

    • Your list of all the new ailments is meaningless.

      In some cases it’s just wrong – the disease was indeed known when Rachel Carson was writing. Certainly peanut allergies were well known, as was Parkinson’s disease. Rachel Carson herself had breast cancer.

      But many of the diseases you think did not exist in the 1960s were just called by a different name. In a few cases, like AIDS, the disease is indeed newer, but its cause is well known and is totally unrelated to GMO food. Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.

      • Henry Kuska

        One of the “diseases” on John Fryer Chemist’s list was:

        “Autism was virtually unknown.”

        c_Rader stated: “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.”

        David Tribe also stated the “Autism was virtually unknown.”, but then did not address the statement???

        H.Kuska comment to c_Rader. Please provide the literature references which you feel supports your statement regarding Autism and GM food.

        As background I suggest the readers look at the interview with one of the authors of a highly publicised very recent reviewed research publication concerning Autism.

        http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=11-P13-00027&segmentID=2

        Of particular interest are the quotes:

        “HERBERT: I think this paper is fantastic for saying: ‘Lets pull out the stops and look at everything we possibly can – environmentally.”

        AND

        “GELLERMAN: Are there any suspects that perhaps stand out from the crowd?

        HERBERT: There are a number of chemicals that it’s a good idea to watch out for. Bisphenol – plasticizers that make plastics moldable. Flame retardants – flame retardants in baby pajamas and in bedding that were not tested for the baby urinating in the bed, which then makes the chemicals float around in the air that the baby then breathes in. Pesticides – be really careful about spraying your house. Find more natural ways of avoiding pest exposure. Pesticides in food – try to eat organic if possible. Don’t microwave in plastic. Look under your sink and clean out a lot of the products, which have long lists of chemicals that you can’t pronounce. There’s lots of ways of cleaning your house with simple products, with vinegar and water and baking soda, and things that are not going to cause problems, that may show up now or later.”

        H.Kuska comment. Please note that this paper is NOT saying GM food is definitely implicated. It is saying: “‘Lets pull out the stops and look at everything we possibly can – environmentally.”
        —————————————————–
        One recent post (theory) concerning the possibility of autism and GM corn.

        http://somethingcausesautism.blogspot.com/2011/06/another-autism-cause-theory-gm-corn.html

        • Henry – the null hypothesis would clearly be that there isn’t a link – one would only require evidence that there was, sans this evidence the claim that there is no link stands.

          As to the claim that autism was virtually unknown this is clearly a lie, it has been known and diagnosed throughout most of the 1900’s and described accurately (although not categorized as autism) in documentation dating from the 1700’s (wikipedia article)

          • Henry Kuska

            Ewan, ???? This is the c_Rader statement that I challenged:

            “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.”

            H.Kuska comment

            Please notice the use of the word “possibly”. Your attempt to utilize the “null hypothesis” is confusing (to me). The definition of “null hypothesis is given at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_hypothesis.

            I asked the person who made the statement the following: “H.Kuska comment to c_Rader. Please provide the literature references which you feel supports your statement regarding Autism and GM food.”

            Instead of providing any, he replied: “c_rader
            July 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm · Reply………”(please read his complete reply)

            —————————————–
            I will leave it to the individual readers to decide whether the autism comments and replies are consistent with the stated aims of this forum:
            “Biofortified’s volunteer authors are devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about agriculture, especially plant genetics and genetic engineering.”

            • Henry Kuska

              For those not familar with “where” autism and the environment scientific research is at now please read the following full 2010 scientific review:

              http://www.eht-journal.net/index.php/ehtj/article/view/7111/8175

              “For the way forward, it seems clear that additional
              focused research is needed. But more importantly, successful risk reduction strategies for autism will require more extensive and relevant developmental safety testing of drugs and chemicals.”

              • Post by David Tribe,
                There nothing in the reference you cite Henry pointing to Gm food as a possible link to autism.

                Also we should note that a lot of the apparent increase in autism is an artifact:

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19047542

                Autism prevalence trends over time in Denmark: changes in prevalence and age at diagnosis.
                Parner ET, Schendel DE, Thorsen P.

                CONCLUSIONS:
                Shifts in age at diagnosis inflated the observed prevalence of autism in young children in the more recent cohorts compared with the oldest cohort. This study supports the argument that the apparent increase in autism in recent years is at least in part attributable to decreases in the age at diagnosis over time.

                • Henry Kuska

                  GMO Punit stated: “There nothing in the reference you cite Henry pointing to Gm food as a possible link to autism.”

                  H.Kuska comment. Yes, snd I did not state that there was.

                  There seems to be a problem distinguishing between scientists looking for cause(s) of autism and scientists reporting published literature or giving oral papers reporting that they have found a cause or causes. I feel that I have sufficiently documented that there is a problem and scientists feel that research is needed to find the cause(s). To do research on a new problem “tips of the iceberg” are looked for.

                  c_Rader stated: “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.” I elected “autism” to challenge his statement.

                  Please note the key term “possibly”

                  Please refer to my July 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm · post.

                  In the last part of that post, I selected one “possible autism – Bt link” article that I was particulary impressed with.
                  ———————————–
                  “One recent post (theory) concerning the possibility of autism and GM corn.

                  http://somethingcausesautism.blogspot.com/2011/06/another-autism-cause-theory-gm-corn.html

                  ————————————–
                  If one desires more, here is the full Google search using the following search terms (“genetically modified food” autism):

                  http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1R2IRFC_en&q=%22genetically+modified+food%22+autism&aq=f&aqi=g1g-b1&aql=&oq=

                  • Please note that the paper that claimed to find Bt in human blood is much in question. See: If you record noise, you don’t get music – you get nonsense. Even if there is Bt in human blood (which hasn’t been shown) there are more sources than just Bt in transgenic plants: There are a lot of different ways for Bt proteins to get into our food.

                  • So Henry,
                    You seem to believe that because a google search turns up hits, it is evidence something is true.

                    I just googled “Elvis is alive”.

                    I got lots of hits, including a whole website
                    http://www.elvis-is-alive.com/

                    • One wonders why there is no funding to research the veracity of this.

                      I smell a conspiracy.

                    • Henry Kuska

                      David Tribe, please do not connect my name to “you seem to believe” type statements. If you wish to say “some may believe”, I have no objection, but I request that you withdraw the post in its present form.

                    • But Henry – you do seem to believe that – had David suggested you actually do believe this then perhaps you’d have grounds for complaint.

                      It may just be lack of clarity that leads to you seeming to believe certain things – but that you seem to believe this is true.

                  • I find it odd that you (or anyone) would be “impressed” with such a paltry offering.

                    First, it’s a review of a Jeffrey Smith article, which really in the mind of anyone remotely sensible should set off all kinds of alarm bells.

                    No mechanism is discussed – merely stated the well known fact that Bt toxin causes gut perforation in insects (although fails to mention the targeted nature of this) and then goes on to mention that Bt has been found in human blood (with the obvious intention to leave the reader thinking that Bt in the blood must get there by causing gut perforation) – and as Anastasia has pointed out the research around this area is such that even concluding that Bt is getting into human blood is utterly inconclusive.

                    There is some yammering about pesticide and heavy metals as causative agents for autism (which combined with vaccines pretty much form the crank trifecta)

                    The whole thing is unsourced other than the lamentable link to Smith – and it contains nothing original – simply a rehash of Smith’s nonsense with a smattering of Autism crankery.

                    To do research on a new problem “tips of the iceberg” are looked for.

                    Researching willy nilly on whatever random nonsense one can come up with isn’t how real science is done at all – a hypothesis should at least have some sound backing logically or mechanistically – GMOs as a causative agent for autism have neither (as your link quite obviously shows) – your proposed approach to science would bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt as everyone went off chasing down nonsense rather than actually applying some thought to the process first.

                    • Eric Baumholder

                      Ewan,

                      There’s also the situation where publishing troubling findings can result in more funding for research.

                    • Henry Kuska

                      ———————-
                      Evan R. stated:
                      ———————
                      “Researching willy nilly on whatever random nonsense one can come up with isn’t how real science is done at all – a hypothesis should at least have some sound backing logically or mechanistically – GMOs as a causative agent for autism have neither (as your link quite obviously shows) – your proposed approach to science would bring the whole endeavor to a screeching halt as everyone went off chasing down nonsense rather than actually applying some thought to the process first.”
                      ——————————-
                      H.Kuska comment. My proposed approach is not what you have described. I stated (as you cited right above your comment):
                      ———————
                      “To do research on a new problem “tips of the iceberg” are looked for.”
                      ——————-
                      I feel that what I have stated is consistent with what is being used. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
                      ———————————-

                      Your “interpretation”, of what someone else has specifically proposed concerning autism, of course, can be part of the feedback loop that scientists use in deciding whether to go to the next step. Please note that the article does provide the ability for comments. The references that Smith gave are listed below. Fortunately, Google Scientific lists what papers have cited a given paper. This allows the interested reader to quickly check if there is any serious concern about an individual paper.
                      —————————————
                      References:

                      “1.Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol (2011), doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670
                      2.Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, Monastra G, Ambra R, Turrini A and Mengheri E. (2008). Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric Food Chem, 16 November 2008
                      3.Seralini GE, Cellier D, Spiroux de Vendomois J. 2007, “New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity”. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007;52:596-602; and Vendômois, JS, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health” . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726
                      4.Gendel, “The use of amino acid sequence alignments to assess potential allergenicity of proteins used in genetically modified foods,” Advances in Food and Nutrition Research 42 (1998), 45–62. See also: G. A. Kleter and A. A. C. M. Peijnenburg, “Screening of transgenic proteins expressed in transgenic food crops for the presence of short amino acid sequences indentical to potential, IgE-binding linear epitopes of allergens,” BMC Structural Biology 2 (2002): 8–19; H. P. J. M. Noteborn, “Assessment of the Stability to Digestion and Bioavailability of the LYS Mutant Cry9C Protein from Bacillus thuringiensis serovar tolworthi,” Unpublished study submitted to the EPA by AgrEvo, EPA MRID No. 447343-05 (1998); and H. P. J. M. Noteborn et al, “Safety Assessment of the Bacillus thuringiensis Insecticidal Crystal Protein CRYIA(b) Expressed in Transgenic Tomatoes,” in Genetically modified foods: safety issues, American Chemical Society Symposium Series 605, eds. K.H. Engel et al., (Washington, DC, 1995): 134–47.
                      Bt protein failed to break down quickly in a simulated digestive solution. In fact, it left fragments that were typically the size of allergens. The Bt also failed the heat stability test, and had shared 9–12 amino acid sequences of vitellogenin, an egg yolk allergen.
                      5.Vazquez et al, “Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice,” 1897–1912; Vazquez et al, “Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 33 (2000): 147–155; See also L. Moreno-Fierros, N. Garcia, R. Lopez-Revilla, R. I. Vazquez-Padron, “Intranasal, rectal and intraperitoneal immunization with protoxin Cry1Ac from Bacillus thuringiensis induces compartmentalized serum, intestinal, vaginal, and pulmonary immune responses in Balb/c mice,” Microbes and Infection 2 (2000): 885–90.
                      6.Vazquez et al, “Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant,” Scandanavian Journal ofImmunology 49 (1999): 578–584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000).
                      7.I.L. Bernstein et al, “Immune responses in farm workers after exposure to Bacillus thuringiensis pesticides,” Environmental Health Perspectives 107, no. 7(1999): 575–582.
                      8.EPA Scientific Advisory Panel, “Bt Plant-Pesticides Risk and Benefits Assessments,” March 12, 2001: 76.
                      9.Washington State Department of Health, “Report of health surveillance activities: Asian gypsy moth control program,” (Olympia, WA: Washington State Dept. of Health, 1993); and M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852.
                      10.Netherwood, T. (2004) “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract”. Nature Biotechnology, 22, 204-209.
                      11.Noteborn et al, “Safety Assessment of the Bacillus thuringiensis Insecticidal Crystal Protein CRYIA(b) Expressed in Transgenic Tomatoes,” 134–47.
                      12.Vazquez et al, “Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis sp. kurstaki HD73 binds to surface proteins in the mouse small intestine,” 54–58.”
                      ————————————–
                      I have just received a full pre-publication copy of an in-press paper that tested a commercial Bt based product on female rats.
                      —————————
                      The abstract is available at:
                      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511003073

                    • Henry – Smith egragariously misuses references (as David has shown on numerous occasions – either misrepresenting what is said, or heavily relying on junk science which has made it through the peer review process) and as such I have absolutely no compelling reason to chase down each and every reference – I’ll note that the discredited Aris & Leblanc paper heads up the list and that Seralini also appears – that is, to me, enough to dismiss the whole nonsensical post (the fact it refers to Smith at all is enough frankly)

                • by David Tribe

                  We should also recognise there may not be an autism epidemic

                  http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/04/evidence_against_an_autism_epi.php

                  RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE
                  Evidence against an “autism epidemic”
                  Category: Autism
                  Posted on: April 4, 2006 10:07 AM, by Orac

                  One of the key arguments by advocates claiming a link between mercury in childhood vaccines is that there is an “epidemic” of autism. They’ll claim that autism was unknown before the 1930’s, when thimerosal was first introduced into vaccines. (Never mind that there are plenty of descriptions of autism-like conditions dating from as far back as the 18th century.) They’ll then claim that there is an “epidemic” that accelerated in the 1990’s, when additional vaccines were added to the recommended childhood schedule, and that it was the additional mercury from those vaccines that was responsible. It has been argued that a lot of that apparent increase was actually due to a widening of the diagnostic criteria for autism in the early 1990’s.

                  Now there’s more evidence to support that view. Just published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics is a study by Paul Shattuck at the University of Wisconsin, entitled, The Contribution of Diagnostic Substitution to the Growing Administrative Prevalence of Autism in US Special Education. (Hat tip to the “source” who informed me of this article.)

                  In the paper, Shattuck analyzes special education figures that are being used to bolster claims of an autism “epidemic” and finds them wanting. In essence, diagnostic substitution can explain nearly all of the apparent increase of autism as recorded by the number of children receiving special education services. What that means is that children that would have been diagnosed with something else 15-20 years ago are now being diagnosed with autism. Dr. Shattuck starts with an example from a different condition, mental retardation as one of his reasons for suspecting diagnostic substitution as a cause of the perceived “epidemic”:

                  Second, prior research has established a precedent of diagnostic substitution in special education enrollment. From 1976 to 1992 the number of children in the mental retardation (MR) category decreased by 41%, whereas the number in the learning disabilities (LD) category increased 198%. There is considerable evidence that suggests this was because of a growing likelihood that schools would use the LD label for children with mild MR, presumably because a label of LD was increasingly seen as carrying less stigma than MR. Finally, a recent epidemiological study depicted a downward deflection in the incidence trend of other developmental disorders just as the trend for autism made a sharp upturn in the early 1990s, again suggesting the possibility of diagnostic substitution.

            • OK Henry, I apologize for being flippant. Unlike some GMO critics, you are not immune to logic. You don’t deserve to be dismissed like a crank.

              Although this is an apology, let me explain. I’m sure you will not disagree that the list of ills blamed on GMO food is extraordinary and that almost all the entries on that list are nonsense, e.g. morgellons, colony collapse disorder, cause of AIDS, etc. Our recent colleague J.F.C. adds new entries more rapidly and with less restraint than almost anyone else. So my comment that “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.” seemed self evident. Because it seemed self evident, I was arrogant when you demanded a reference to “prove” that autism could not possibly be caused by consuming GMOs. (End of explanation and of apology.)

              You have posted a reason why GMO food, in particular GMO food containing a gene for cry protein, might be worth investigating as a cause of autism. The reason is that some researchers have claimed to find evidence that some cry finds its way past the digestive tract. I don’t think this has been definitively proven, but at least it has been brought to the attention of the scientific community. It has not been connected to autism, except in the sense that connects it equally to every other process in human biology that might have a cause in metabolism. E.g. it could equally cause hair loss or vision problems.

              Now please take seriously my suggestion that there may be a problem of crying wolf once too often.

              • Henry Kuska

                c-Rader stated “Now please take seriously my suggestion that there may be a problem of crying wolf once too often.”

                H.Kuska comment. The above statement has nothing to do with the scientific method. Mankind has a serious problem. Scientists are trained to look at tips of icebergs and see possible correlations. I am impressed with the well thought “insight” exhibited by the author of the autism possible Bt article.

                • Well thought “insight”?

                  Surely the above statement has nothing to do with the scientific method. (a blog, linking to a blog, inaccurately describing a not particularly good scientific article is hardly the sort of evidential standard which you yourself seem to expect from others – one might almost consider this a glaring case of confirmation bias going on)

                • Right, nothing to do with the scientific method. In the fable, the villagers who ignored the young shepherd when there really was a wolf were guilty of the ad-hominem argument, “This fellow was unreliable in the past, so he is unreliable now.”

                  But there’s more to consider than the scientific method, even in science. How do we decide where to look for new knowledge?

                  • Eric Baumholder

                    Ewan,

                    Every time you see the phrase, ‘has been linked with’, there’s likely something fishy going on. It’s the activists’ favorite phrase. Anything you can imagine can be ‘linked with’ GMOs, with very little work.

                    c_rader,

                    Do you mean to suggest that Greenpeace could get something right about GMOs? And will it be by accident?

              • James

                C_Radar said, “You have posted a reason why GMO food, in particular GMO food containing a gene for cry protein, might be worth investigating as a cause of autism. The reason is that some researchers have claimed to find evidence that some cry finds its way past the digestive tract. I don’t think this has been definitively proven, but at least it has been brought to the attention of the scientific community.”

                Are you saying you don’t think the claim that some cry finds its way past the digestive tract has been definitively proven? I thought that was essentially what this research proved. Although if there is suspicion that that’s a false claim, I’d be interested in hearing why.

                I realize the cry protein targets something in insects that isn’t in humans, but I still can’t help but wonder what it’s affects are on humans. It sounds like it was expected to break down via the digestive system, and the fact that it isn’t seems to undermine, to some degree, the credibility of those who claim it’s safe. If they were wrong about whether it breaks down in digestion, what else might they be wrong about?

                I understand that cry proteins have been sprayed on crops since, what, the ’50s? But that breaks down in the sunlight, right? If there’s any left over, how much can be washed off before consumption? And if any remains then, is that kind broken down via digestion … and maybe that’s why experts expected the cry protein that’s genetically engineered into a crop to also break down.

                Are there any nutritionists on here? I’d be curious to know what perspective someone would have from that angle. I know people who are fans of juicing fresh fruits and vegetables often understand that juicing the produce essentially makes it much easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. You can eat an apple, pear, kale, etc., but juicing them together causes them to be digested somewhat differently — by the sounds of it.

                All that to say that even if the cry protein is on some food that we’ve been consuming for decades, that doesn’t mean genetically engineering it into our food will have the same results.

                I haven’t seen any followup studies identifying what, if any, affects the cry protein that’s making its way into our blood is having … but I’m keeping my eyes open for it. And I think that question remaining unanswered as of yet makes a lot of people at least somewhat reserved about GMOs.

                • Actually, the experiment about Bt (cry) proteins getting into the bloodstream used an improper method that was not confirmed by a more reliable method. Here is a post that explains the basics of what was wrong with it:
                  http://www.biofortified.org/2011/04/nonsense/
                  They reported levels of Bt protein in blood that were below the levels that the test they used could possibly detect. The bottom line is, the method they used is not evidence for Bt in blood.
                  Bt is known to break down in the mammalian gut from tests with actual Bt protein in both test tube digestion (in vitro) and real life digestion (in vivo) experiments.
                  There are also other ways for Bt to get in food:
                  http://www.biofortified.org/2011/05/there-are-a-lot-of-different-ways-for-bt-proteins-to-get-into-our-food/

                  • James

                    I’m not sure I’m following this entirely correctly, so bear with me.

                    That article says:
                    “First question: do 93% of pregnant women in Canada actually consume corn almost daily?

                    Second question: are the values in blood reported by Aris and Leblanc consistent with the levels present in Bt corn kernels?

                    The answer is no. Here is why:

                    The authors reported average values of 0.19 nanograms per milliliter (ng / ml) of blood from pregnant women. Knowing that, in corn MON810 for example, levels of Cry1Ab in the grain are between 190 and 390 ng / g fresh weight, assuming that 1% will pass into the blood (which is on the high side taking into account losses during corn storage, cooking, gastric digestion and the intestinal barrier), this would require a woman of 60 kg to consume 120 g of corn (for the mean blood value of 0,19 ng / ml, assuming a plasma volume of 2.5 liters) and about 1.5 kg (for the maximum reported blood values of 2.28 ng / ml), which seems unrealistic … And even more if one takes into account all extracellular fluids (10 liters, which would imply an average consumption of 490 g of corn and 5.8 kg in order to reach the maximum value in blood).”

                    Is this saying that the amount of corn that would need to be consumed to pass the cry protein on at a detectable level is unrealistic — people don’t consume that much corn?

                    If that’s all it’s saying, then my next question is whether the cry protein could be passed on at that level if it is being absorbed into the blood stream of cattle, for example, and thereby being delivered in a more concentrated form to the women eating beef. DDT became more concentrated as it moved up the food chain, right? Could something similar be going on here?

                    Just asking questions. As I’ve said before, I’m not a scientist. I’m just trying to understand the claims on both sides.

                  • Henry Kuska

                    Karl stated: “They reported levels of Bt protein in blood that were below the levels that the test they used could possibly detect.”

                    H. Kuska comment. My interpretations of that paper and methods used are stated in that thread and and are not consistent with Karl’s stated above interpretation. He can send his interpretation to the editor (or to another reviewed scientific journal). Science provides a feedback method that will also be subject to peer review.

            • As you are of a very literal minded bent on most occasions Henry c_raders statement is entirely consistent – there is nothing on that list which would be abated by worrying about GMOs

              As for peer reviewed literature regarding the statement one need only go through… all the peer reviewed literature on Autism and see that there is no link postulated or shown for GMOs to see that c_rader’s statement holds water (indeed looking at your linked paper one needs to really suspend disbelief in order to remotely implicate GMOs over and above anything else – if you’re going to take it as evidence that GMOs may be implicated in any way to be taken remotely seriously then you also must accept that absolutely everything we do ever is also equally implicated and should be out there demanding improved safety screening of actions such as opening doors and using high speed elevators)

              Your return (again) to the forum guidelines as if they are some kind of sacrosanct ruleset rather than guidelines is also quaintly annoying – apparently your go to when you’re overwhelmed by the oddity of your stance – your approach however again seems inconsistent as you appear not to have demanded the recanting or banning of John despite his departure into the realms of conspiratorial fantasy.

              On the null hyopthesis – if you are looking for scientific evidence that GMOs were connected with autism then this would be your hypothesis, the null, which is what one would accept if you fail to provide evidence backing the hypothesis, would therefore be that GMOs are not connected to autism – I am not surprised, based on our history here, that you are confused by this, nevertheless it still stands that c_rader’s comment is correct in this area and such a comment clearly is not where any burden of proof would lie in this matter(perhaps, if PDiff (or anyone else well versed in statistics) is still masochistic enough to be drudging through this particular subject they can come eviscerate my assumptions here)

            • Just a point of clarification, that part of the mission statement refers to authors. This means that the executive editors will choose authors who will provide factual information and further discussion. The standards for commenters (for better or for worse) are much more lax.

            • If anything, it appears that we are doing a good job of providing a place where people can debate whether or not their debating partners are holding themselves to our comment policy well enough…

              C Radar says: “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.”

              Henry Kuska says: “Please note that this paper is NOT saying GM food is definitely implicated.”

              So basically, both C Radar And Henry Kuska are in complete agreement – so what are we debating about here? Oh yeah, whether it is reasonable to “pull out the stops” and investigate Bt as a possible cause for autism. One side says there’s no evidence for this, the other says well there’s no study that demonstrates that it is NOT a cause of autism. It can certainly be difficult to determine how to proceed in these situations, as on one hand you could be ignoring a potential important discovery with grand health implications, and on the other hand, completely wasting grant money on an unfruitful cause while taking money away from more promising research. How to proceed?
              I notice that people tend to go off of their fears when it comes to proposing links like this. Bt is being suggested as something that should be investigated, but how about Beta-carotene? Carrots have been bred to have substantially more beta-carotene then they used to have – to “pharmaceutical levels” as one carrot breeder in my building would say. Could this be a cause of a rise in autism? Show me the paper that demonstrates that beta-carotene is not a factor in autism? How about every other change in our food or daily lives? Hey, you know babies eat a lot of mashed-up carrots, right about the age that autism shows up… so you never know.
              Now I must ask the question, why are people suggesting that Bt should be investigated as a contributing factor for autism, but not beta-carotene? Because of the simple fact that people are worried about GE foods, and are not worried about the orange color in carrots.
              If we are to be truly scientific about what to investigate and what not to – the list of possible causes should not be determined by fears but instead by an analysis of the likelihood of it occurring based on what we understand about the disease and the many things that may have changed, from environmental, to genetic, to interactions between the two. (Why won’t anyone ever suggest GxE as causes for these diseases?)

              • Henry Kuska

                ————————-
                Karl stated:
                “C Radar says: “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.”

                Henry Kuska says: “Please note that this paper is NOT saying GM food is definitely implicated.”

                So basically, both C Radar And Henry Kuska are in complete agreement – so what are we debating about here?”

                ——————————–

                H. Kuska comment. Please note that my statement includes the words “this paper”. I do not understand how that can be interpreted as anything but what it states.
                —————————————-
                Karl later states: “the other says well there’s no study that demonstrates that it is NOT a cause of autism.”

                H. Kuska comment: this simplication is an extreme that I feel is not accurate. What I am saying is that the scientific method is such that if there are tips of the iceberg then exploratory research is the next step (below are quotes of my use of iceberg in this thread):

                “Scientists are trained to look at tips of icebergs and see possible correlations. I am impressed with the well thought “insight” exhibited by the author of the autism possible Bt article.”

                “H.Kuska comment. The above statement has nothing to do with the scientific method. Mankind has a serious problem. Scientists are trained to look at tips of icebergs and see possible correlations. I am impressed with the well thought “insight” exhibited by the author of the autism possible Bt article.”

                “There seems to be a problem distinguishing between scientists looking for cause(s) of autism and scientists reporting published literature or giving oral papers reporting that they have found a cause or causes. I feel that I have sufficiently documented that there is a problem and scientists feel that research is needed to find the cause(s). To do research on a new problem “tips of the iceberg” are looked for.”
                ————————————–
                —————————————
                Karl if you feel that you have “tips of the icebergs” for any of the areas that you mentioned as should be investigated as the cause of autism, please present them. In other words to answer your question as to:
                ——————–
                “Carrots have been bred to have substantially more beta-carotene then they used to have – to “pharmaceutical levels” as one carrot breeder in my building would say. Could this be a cause of a rise in autism?”.
                ———————-
                I would reply follow the scientific method and look for “tips of the iceberg” that suggest such a possibilty.

                Your attempt to then state that “Show me the paper that demonstrates that beta-carotene is not a factor in autism.” is confusing. Are you refering to my statement?

                The statement that I made (put in context) was “c_Rader stated: “Nowhere on your list is there a single problem which can possibly be abated by worrying about GMO food.”
                “H.Kuska comment to c_Rader. Please provide the literature references which you feel supports your statement regarding Autism and GM food.”

                Please notice that I did not say that this was a criteria for doing research. As a scientist I was interested in his basis for making such a strong statement.

                http://idosi.org/abr/5(4)/5.pdf

                • Henry, you are trying to goad me into a debate that I could only lose. Fine, until it is proven that it is impossible for a GMO food to cause autism, it remains a remote possibility and I won’t be comfortably able to demonstrate otherwise. So I had no right to say “…which can possibly be abated …”

                  I need a word slightly less absolute, conveying the idea that it is extremely unlikely, but not completely impossible, that GMO food has caused any of autism, lung cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, AIDS or peanut allergies.

                  But Henry, it is intriguing that you have taken so much effort to combat my side of the debate, while ignoring the wild ideas that J.F.C. has put forth. And many of the claims commonly made about GMO danger are stated as facts, without qualification, even when they are outright false. How many times have you read about tomatoes with fish genes, or the prevalence of terminator technology, or the corn with a scorpion gene?

                  • Henry Kuska

                    c_rader on July 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm · stated: “Henry, you are trying to goad me into a debate that I could only lose.”
                    ——————————-

                    H.Kuska reply. I already had stated: ” As a scientist I was interested in his basis for making such a strong statement.”
                    ——————————-
                    I am sorry that you interpret my answer as that I was attempting to goad you. I appreciate your answers (when sincere) and am sorry that I did not thank you then.
                    ——————————
                    I am putting considerable effort into just one of J.F.C’s cited “diseases” (the question of autism and genetically modified foods (specifically Bt)) and the scientific method. This is a forum run by graduate students. I was happy to find it as being both a scientific researcher and an educator (particularly at the graduate/PhD level I felt that I could give add an additional dimension (experience of someone from an earlier generation) to the discussions. My advanced graduate classes that I taught often included group discussions of assigned topics – I am comfortable with a forum set-up.
                    —————————
                    Concerning your question about my not addressing other claims. This indepth analysis of one point should serve as an example of how one can investigate other claims (Whether pro GMO or con GMO). One can give someone a fish or teach someone how to fish.

                    As background reading the following may be useful:

                    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/06/16/2928357.htm

                    Particularly: “The public feel dismayed and worried that people who lead the technology seem to be uncertain. But we can get around that by trying to explain how science is done and what scientists can do and what they can’t do.”

        • Henry, I would suggest to you that the list of bad consequences attributed to GMO food is so long and so consistently nonsensical that adding a new item to the list has the opposite effect from what you would want.

          Some day, someone will find a real problem with some GMO food, and I, for one, will not believe it because I will associate it with the flood of nonsense.

          There’s a folk tale about a shepherd boy who cried wolf once too often.

        • The post on autism is very sad. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to have a child that is sick and have even the best researchers and doctors known what is causing it. I understand that reaching out to any idea that seems remotely plausible may give a person some sense of peace, being able to blame someone or something else. Unfortunately, that grasping for explanations has led to a whole lot of misinformation.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    You say the origin of AIDS is well known?

    Perhaps you can point me to the true cause then?

    My own idea is that it was from the result of 1972 work by Paul Berg using E Coli and SV40.

    He was actually warned by Professor Pollack that his work woulmd lead to an illness like AIDS.

    After a huge search for such illness in workers or indeed anywhere his (Prof Pollock) ideas were called woolly.

    MY own investigation more than a decade ago elicited such comments from top biologists as

    WE ARE NOT INTERESTED in finding the origin of AIDS.

    One Oxbidge professor who was interested in my ideas died mysteriously so called from malaria COMPLICATIONS.

    Can you point me to modern research paid projects on SV40 as well?

    • I said that the cause of AIDS was well known, not the origin . I was not assuming then that you were a member of the subculture that considers AIDS to have been created in a laboratory. I don’t pretend to have any credentials to even discuss that.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    David

    Thank you for your work but please listen to evidence and do not just ignore or deny it.

    I said clearly that cancers have increased.

    Hardly Rocket Science.

    Yes, cancers do go back in fact to the beginnings of life as nuclear radiation is a 100 per cent cause of such illnesses.

    But today amongst my very very small number of friends there are three with breast cancer. I did not know a single person with breast cancer until 30 or so years ago and the numbers from my own observation are going up. My sister like Rachel Carson did not make 60 years of age.

    When my daughter was born in 1971 I looked round to see what challenges to her health shewould find in England and failed to see anything much.

    Today we have pollution from more and more Nuclear units (Nebraska is current)

    Today we have GMO food directly and indirectly affecting us. Deaths to people in France from E Coli much used in GMO work.

    Today we have increasing pesticide use from GMO and conventional farming. ( a three year drop in use was then followed by now 20 years ofincreased use with land abandoned to weeds with GMO herbicide resistance – pigweed etc etc.)

    Use of monsanto aspartame known to be a source of phenylamine and carbon monoxide and a carcinogen.

    We have an unknown source of infant deaths in England and USA at the age of their vaccines which uses a teratogenic or several teratogenic ingredients ( a law just passed to legally allow this to continue).

    In short and too short to discuss here, I have reservations for the well being of many yet to be born people in todays unsafe world.

    Just discovered in the pacific an island of debris bigger than europe from flotsam and in space similar debris nearly causing a catastrophe this week to space travellers.

    Not a rosy picture admirably described by american indians who drank, swam and fished in their rivers.

    A treat not recommended today to any of the survivors descendants – last of the Mohicans etc.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    In support of ophadeus and foxglove danger.

    A common site in this area and my garden at present.

    The deaths to people in France and Germany are not and never were from E Coli manure.

    Normally E Coli pollution dies off slowly and is used as a measure of such pollution.

    What is KILLING these people is the EATING of SPROUTS without EXTERNAL E Coli contamination.

    Thousands of tests have shown this.

    People are dying from eating sprouts WITHOUT E Coli measurable from normal tests.

    But they are dying from the same sprouts that are FREE of external E Coli.

    CONCLUSION

    The E Coli is INTERNAL and not testable by current lab practices.

    Monsanto themselves have known for years of the LETHAL danger from eating GMO sprouts.

    ERGO

    The cause of the biggest health catastrophe ever will in time be found to be due to GMO foods.

    Politically and forever shouted by John Dalli et al is that

    WE WILL NEVER identify the cause.

    Just so!

    Your 1975 date is out as GMO was already well established and in the hands of BIOLOGICAL warfare developers by 1972 so their work would be expected to be EXTANT by 1975.

    I mean they (USA) designed, developed and flew the moonlander in less than 6 months. Beats the 9 years development time for CONCORDE by a MACH TWO factor.

    • thomas fix

      People have died without having eaten any sprouts at all.
      EHEC in Germany is a puzzle whereas i have a theory about which David Tribe finds doubtfull.
      Right know it i rainy and cold and this for 3 weeks. My prognosis is thta EHEC will come back wehn dry and sunny.

    • In support of ophadeus and foxglove danger.

      Strike one, and in the first line!

      What is KILLING these people is the EATING of SPROUTS without EXTERNAL E Coli contamination.

      Strike two – I assume you’re suggesting mandatory E.coli spraying of sprouts?

      Thousands of tests have shown this.

      No doubt you forgot to link to this evidence, I have no doubt that you’ll fix this.

      The E Coli is INTERNAL and not testable by current lab practices.

      What do you mean by this? Please explain. Diagrams would be useful.

      Monsanto themselves have known for years of the LETHAL danger from eating GMO sprouts.

      One assumes this would be why there are no GMO sprouts on the market. (I’ll call this strike 3, which is a shame as I’m only half way done and thus my baseball analogy falls sadly short)

      The cause of the biggest health catastrophe ever will in time be found to be due to GMO foods.

      Really? Bigger than the quite obvious link between poor public health practices and stuff like the black death which wiped out a good portion of the European population, or the health catastrophe that destroyed a major nascent civilization when Europeans discovered the Americas? That’s a pretty bold statement, although perhaps not so much if you’re as ignorant of history as you are of science.

      On the bizarre AIDS/HIV conspiracy theory – I was under the impression (perhaps mistaken) that there are clear evolutionary relations between HIV and Simian viruses

      Which would be rather odd in a lab created strain.

      I shall return for the next inning once I have a tad more time.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Thomas Fix

    Can you explain carefully what you are saying;

    I take it you mean GMO food will mean we have no shortages?

    You do know yields of GMO foods are 9 per cent less?

    You do know that GMO developments now mean a large proportion of the food crops has now moved to fuel making?

    You cant eat or drink fuel for cars and with less yield the predictable doubling of price of food in thepast five years will do nothing, absolutely nothing for the starving people you claim are all around us.

    • thomas fix

      I meant that GMO is a chance to help feed the world. Yea, i know the cynicial situation of burning/fermenting food for fuel/electricity.
      With C1 plants and lets be genorous 2-3 Watts per square meter it is only a qusetion of heavy subsidies by the taxpayer not a question of sustainabilty. It costs more energy than it produces.

  • thomas fix

    Risk aversion-managemnt and overreaction: A scientific paper from the law experts-no asbestos lawyer:
    http://www.google.de/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=hts&oq=&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADRA_deDE408DE408&q=Overreaction+to+Fearsome+Risks+Cass+R.+Sunstein

    It makes clear the the assesment of risk is a subjective matter. When skiing You may ask someone how high the risk of bone fracture even death is. The answer will be that it may be a risk to ski but manageable one. If You say there ist a chance of 1: 10 Mio that you may get an undesirable reaction to a certain food/drug most will prefer not to take the food or drug.
    With labeling of GMO food the door for the fearmongers and asbestos lawyer is open.

  • Jonathan

    “You do know yields of GMO foods are 9 per cent less?”

    All GM foods?

    Jonathan

    • “You do know yields of GMO foods are 9 per cent less?”

      Is that every year? What about in the years where the trait is severely tested (eg. high weed pressure years for Roundup crops or high infestation years for Bt crops)?

      Jonathan

    • “You do know yields of GMO foods are 9 per cent less?”

      Incorrect. On the farm, GE soy yields no different, and GE corn (if it has Bt) yields about 5% more than the same corn that is non-GE. Cotton yields more (but I don’t know by how much). Ironically, it took the Union of Concerned Scientists to publish a report called “Failure to Yield” for me to realize that GE crops do actually increase yield. (The oddly-named report found an increase in yield)

      • thomas fix

        1 billion dollar buck -Diabrotica virgifera- will be a huge problem in Germany because we have vast corn cultivation for the purpose of biogas production. BT corns has been prohibited and therefore the farmer are using non GMO with the effect of massive petsicides application. In the south they used Clothianidin with the effect that beekeepers lost all stocks in this region 2008. It was quiet the situation as a couple of weeks ago: dusty-dry hot, the pesticides could not be dilutetd. EHEC Had not been present. First the bees then humans- with GMO would not had happened.

      • Jonathan

        Bt cotton yields are consistently higher than non-Bt varieties. Almost double in most cases. Between 10 and 75% higher were presented in data from the Indian region of Maharashtra in 2004-2005.

        See page 24 of the IFPRI report here…

        http://www.ifpri.org/publication/bt-cotton-and-farmer-suicides-india

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Thomas what is your job and link to agrochemical?

    The bee die off is a recognised problem and the clothianidin involvement beyond dispute to you and me.

    Also which country are you in?

    Clothianidin is from Bayer, Germany and is a product of Germany and foisted on the rest of the world by German Agrochem.

    It is used on CANOLA in America and to my knowledge all CANOLA is GMOis it not?

    Damage is not even restricted to bees but in the USA there is huge die of to birds and mammals.

    Your idea that bees and humans would be untouched and unharmed by GMO growing is FALSE, LYING and at bets PROPAGANDA.

    The use of agrochemicals was set so low in the rush to get GMO accepted that increases in pesticide/herbicide/fungicide use have increased from 10 per cent to more than double depending on which ones we are talking of. Eg Dicamba use on GMO has doubled in Argentina from earlier levels.

    Most sane people are moving away from CLOTHIANIDIN very very fast.

  • thomas fix

    Hi John,
    Lets say i am a hobby biologist from Germany and i have nil connections to agrochem.
    But i got plenty of connections to farmers and the agriculture department because i like to go for hunting, fishinga and i am a beekeeper.
    Initially i thought that GMO is a great chance for human kind. The Golden Rice is a solution for nutrinial causes diseasea like Beri Beri. The dveloper of Goledn Rice as far as i know a swiss scientientist gave it for free-no charges.
    The same i supposed for the modern agriculture which is in its indsutrial way devastating for the countryside. I hoped that at least the pesticides could be reduced. That is what i am thinking. The corn monoculture is relay a destroying way of farming, no herbs, no insects no gamebirds.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Thomas

    I can see you are keenly interested in GMO plants and animals.

    You also say you are a bee keeper. So if chemicals kill a bee then you would expect dead bees in the hive. As I understand colony collapse disorder (CCD) the bees just disappear. How does this relate to toxic death then?

    I have to say my interest was many many years ago when I protested in vain of the danger of splicing bacteria, toxins and viruses into anything living.

    You are aware of E Coli for example in GMO since the inception by Paul Berg in 1972?

    And the ramifications of altering of setting going instability in an essential bacteria for man that had stabilised over the millions of years?

    Today E Coli is out of control and killing on a scale never seen before but predictably if my and other ideas are correct in an increasing way.

    Several thousands of permanently ill people in a small area is scary to me and I have to say I had the same scare back years ago which resulted in me having to use very expensive foods to avoid and overcome a mild form of whatever it was.

    In this respect I know again of several people at the same time here in France with bleeding disorders and the other two both had operations.

    In the past people have fallen foul of toxic food usually on the scale of the odd one or two. What happened in your country and mine is new, scary and we do not know the future from eating raw foods.

    I see in America they are already disinfecting food so it has a hospital taste to counter the effects.

    Also there is a marked similarity of bleeding deaths to consumption of GMO food.

    All I say is we need answers to this E Coli problemand increasing our food supply with any and every version of E Coli in every bit of our food is just maniacal.

    How can you separate E coli harm in every country from making novel foods with E Coli in them?

    I am a chemist and not a biologist but do not suffer from fatigue of knowing too much about why E coli is essential for every human, E Coli harm is overwhelmingly post GMO development and finally E Coli deaths where the bacteria is found but cannot be found in the offending foods seems not odd but political manoevering.

    I can think of a very simple convincing way that every person got ill or died using an E Coli GMO contamination of the food chain and exactly the same as the argument Professor Pollack put forward in 1972 when the dangerous practice of GMO was ACCEPTED as dangerous.

    I admit to huge gaps in knowledge but are huge gaps in knowledge acceptable to people who control this GMO advance?

    I am a firm believer in FAIL SAFE and not RISK TAKING.

    Nuclear Power was once argued so safe we would never have a melt down. History shows this is ABSURD and WHO propaganda of two deaths from Chernobyl are about as accurate as information given as to the safety of GMO; SUBSTANTIALLY EQUIVALENT BULLSHIT.

    For me every E Coli death is GMO responsible UNTIL we know different.

    To labour the point, the population of the Ukraine is estimated to be 55 million IF Chernobyl had not happened. The real population is 45 million and so TEN MILLION people have been vaporised off the planet and that is the cost in that country and the bilan of just 25 years out of the millions of years of our planets life.

    As a person retired the effect of catastrophe in the making may not affect me or even many born today but the problem will not ease off by IGNORING or NOT taking RESPONSIBILITY.

    • Jonathan

      Wooooaaaaah! Is this really the level of stupidity we have to deal with. Never before have I read such a random, confused collection of half-understood science and contradictory reasoning backed up by yet further misinterpretation of conspiracy theory.

      I need to lie down in a dark room.

      Jonathan

    • Eric Baumholder

      “As I understand colony collapse disorder (CCD) the bees just disappear.”

      You ever notice that nobody is investigating the link between bee disappearances and insecticides approved for use in organic farming?

      Then maybe it’s not chemicals. Perhaps a bird species has recently evolved a dietary preference for bees. That would explain the bees simply going missing.

      “One review, considering 20 studies of 16 species of bee-eaters, showed that 20 percent to 96 percent of the birds’ diets consisted of ants, bees and wasps, and among those, honeybees were the most common prey.”
      http://www.ehow.com/facts_5647607_kind-birds-eat-bees_.html

    • thomas fix

      Hi John,

      Let me answer with Your latest statements on Tschernobyl. First of all the Tschernoby Syndrome is a terminology from social medicine: it consists of pauperism-neglect-polytoxico dependencies and social benefits.
      The great misery of Tschernobyl was not the china syndrome or meltdown of the core but the measures taken like irrationally deplacing people. Radioactive caesium or Jodid was not the problem at all. The smart ucrains preferred to leave a country that was due its communist past exhausted. Things are now getting better.
      You may missed the fact that the E.Coli outbreak is tracked down to an organic farm in northern Germany

      http://www.gaertnerhof.org

      One of the great scientific methodologist Karl Raimund Popper from Austria had the chance to flee the Nazis to NZ where he wrote the “The Open society and its Enemies”. I would prefer a “Popper” approach to the GMO risk.

      The counterhypothesis “GMO is a thread to human health” has to be falsified.

      With a douple blind test which will cost 1/2 billion Euros and we may falsify or not. Instead the EU puts 9 billion in the fear mongering green NGOs. Historism and Empirism are not good friends of the modern sciences.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    I’m seeing some Crank Magnetism (or is it “Altie-Poe”?) on the thread: who was it that proposed that there is some sort of reward associated with fear? I know lots of people who are continually Taking-Up the Call for the next Big International Conspiracy; it’s a whole subculture where thay get together to cross-discuss and trump-up each other’s theories, and they spend so much time and effort angst-ing and eating weird diets that it makes me sad. If they put half as much effort into learning from credible sources, then a quarter more of the effort would be sufficient for them to make an actual contribution to solving real problems in the world.
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Crank_magnetism

    (BTW, Freddy Kreuger was a GREAT villain, and I enjoyed his appearances greatly: does THAT count as “pleasure from fear”?)

    • Eric Baumholder

      OrchidGrowinMan,

      Enjoying Freddy Krueger doesn’t fall under the same rubric as reactions to GM crops. To really get off on fear, you need to instill it in others as well, so that you can have a sense of identity among your fellow fear-ers.

      And if you’re successful spreading fear, that gives you celebrity status as. Which is a real thrill. Imagine how self-satisfied Jeffry Smith is.

      There’s another aspect. Activist groups hire persons to troll the web all day long, who essentially repeat a prepared narrative for comments on sites. They may have no actual opinions either way — they just get a paycheck.

      • OrchidGrowinMan

        Eric,

        I think everybody should learn rudimentary epidemiology: then maybe DGaP evidence would be less credible: when my friend reported that she had heard from a Drunk Guy at a Party that microwave ovens make any food DeadlyPoison(tm), she was really really worried because she had heated the water for her kombucha that way….

        It seems obvious to me, but I’ll say it anyway: if a microwave is such a source of danger, then wouldn’t we have NOTICED by now?

        And explaining to her that a drunk guy who’s trying to get into her pants is not the most reliable source for food-safety advice gets me nowhere: “that’s what They WANT you to think.”

  • justin

    The pay isn’t all that good. Just beats delivering pizzas.

    Seriously guys your ravings about activists and greenies and the like sound just as cracked and conspiritorial as anything you are likely to hear on the other side of the fence

    Xenophobic….

    • Justin,

      It’s the other way around. Just because someone’s discovered a way to make money doesn’t make it a conspiracy.

      Well, unless it’s Monsanto that hired ‘em in which case it’s a bid to control the world’s food supply, you know. /snark

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Bt Cotton yields consistently higher according to the report you reference.

    That is being picky with the figures.

    Like everything there are conflicting figures which effectively drive you crazy.

    State government reports, on the other hand, are often more critical of the technology (Andhra
    Pradesh 2002; Maharashtra 2002). Both of these surveys show that in the first season, the Bt cotton
    hybrids performed rather poorly, compared with the popular non-Bt hybrids. In Andhra Pradesh,
    especially in Warangal district, the performance of Bt cotton was particularly poor, consistent with the
    conclusions of the economic literature. According to the Bt cotton farmers surveyed there, yields were
    less than the traditional hybrids and the incidence of bollworm was also higher. The quality of the cotton

    Add to this the fact that more than 100 different Bt GMO cotton plants are around and some are certainly not as good as others by logic.

    In the first years the use of GMO was an extermely chancy economic proposition and the title of the paper SUICIDES among farmers does not evoke confidence in this business for the unsuccessful few.

    Even in counting dead bodies we see reoprts of changes from 10 times more to 5 times less and actual hard numbers of deaths varying more than fivefold. Hardly good for epidemiology.

    Sir Richard Doll was a paid for Monsanto epidemiologist so what credibility do we give to this conflicting report.

    Again the FAIL SAFE view is that with 100 different Bt GMO plants there are going to be bad varieties getting into the system for those who are unlucky to have them in their fields.

    Testing for purity or which genes have been altered does not comecheap to farmers who have basic intelligence according to the report which suggest 1 out of 3 can only put a cross by their name.

    Hardly good for the use of plants that need exceptional control to avoid contamination of the environment.

    When Bt toxin was first put in GMO plants scientists themselves were unaware of its action.

    The known action is not good for the insects and may not be good for other living creatures.

  • Allan

    Here we go again, off focusing on ad hominem attacks instead of information that can be discussed. So someone said earlier we should not ignore the evidence. The best way to “not ignore the evidence” is to tackle the litany of angst driving problems in a reductionist manner, i.e., one at a time. So, this post is about the statement concerning reduction in yields of GMO crops to the tune of 9%. Before tackling this a comment is in order. The GMO crop is not specified, and of course the species makes all the difference in the world. But, considering that in the U.S. presently basically only four major crops have been deregulated by the USDA-APHIS, namely, corn, soybean, canola, and cotton, and the first two make up a combined ~160 million acres of land usage, let’s start with those. (Note: Because alfalfa and beets have only been deregulated recently following court lawsuit battles, these are not useful for addressing the issue).

    Okay, so here is the approach. Observation (albeit unsourced): GMO crop yields have declined 9%. Hypothesis: Use of GMO technology to breed crops has resulted in a historical yield decrease. Prediction: Examination of historical crop records should show that yield of corn and soybeans have declined over time following widespread planting of GM cultivars.

    Experiment: Examine historical yield information to determine the trend in crop yields in the U.S. (expressed as bushels per acre). Methodology: Query the publicly available Crop Production Historical Track Records published by the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service. The latest publication is dated April 2011 and the production records run from the mid 1800s for corn and 1924 for soybeans through 2010. To make data analysis simpler, start from 1980, several years before Monsanto figured out how to efficiently express a bacterial gene in a plant. BTW, the URL for the pdf file is

    http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/htrcp/htrcp-04-26-2011.pdf

    If that doesn’t work, use the search string “USDA Historical Track Records” in the GOOGLE search line; the link is about no. 3.

    Simplified Results for Corn: The average yield (bu/acre) of corn in the U.S. from 1980-1995 was 110.7. Since 1996 (Bt corn for corn borer, followed by a slower increased planting of Roundup Ready corn), the average yield is 143.2 bu/acre. Breaking the data down a little further results in an average yield of 133.6 bu/acre from 1996-2003 (Bt corn with Cry 1Ab for borer control) and 154.2 bu/acre during 2004-2010 (advent of Bt corn with Cry 3B for rootworm control). RR corn started coming on much stronger post 2000. Corn farmers still love atrazine, however, but rates are lower than they were before the 90’s. (Sidenote: The precision I’m using on the yields is the same as what the USDA uses.)

    Simplified Results for Soybean: The average yield from 1980-1995 was 32.4 bu/acre. The average yield from 1996-2010 was 39.9 bu/acre. Further analysis within the era of RR soybeans shows an average yield from 1996-2001 of 38.3 bu/acre and from 2001-2010 an average yield of 41 bu/acre.

    Conclusions: Analysis of historical data do not support the prediction of a decline in yields due to specific adoption of GM breeding technology. Thus, the hypothesis of a yield decrease should be rejected.

    Final (snarky) comment. If this analysis is a little too nerdy and much too detailed, then I suggest we’re not going to really have much to talk about and learn from.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Jonathan

    So what is your interest in GMO and are you in the industry?

    My current interest is the deaths and illness in Europe and what causes it.

    However you look at this episode still ongoing it represents a huge change in health to humans here and deserves an answer.

    I believe it is totally responsible for the GMO industry, regulators and governments to look at E Coli spliced into our foods from GMO technology both deliberately and also by accident.

    With India using more than 100 different Bt GMO cotton plants in the few years of its use there must logically be a lot of contaminationand gene crossing going on in the cotton plants and other plants.

    Who is monitoring all this?

    And where are the results?

    The many thousands permanently ill from E Coli have by excellent French science tracked back the contamination to Egypt a hot bed of GMO and therefore E Coli splicing into any and all sorts of plants and foods.

    With Thompson and Morgan stalling over exactly who and where in Egypt this killer food comes from hardly seems to display openess and T&M arethemselves avowed avoiders of GMO seed.

    Dijon mustard is nolonger made at Dijon but before its demise GMO mustard got into the supply. Was this the reason for its demise.

    I am looking for answers and am not an expert on this subject and my worries are from my own logic and science and not those of activists or fear mongers.

    With thousands dead or ill permanently from just a couple of months in a medium size country and one area only is this not genuine cause for FEAR of our food supply?

    Comments comparing dropping atom bombs hardly need anyone to realise the harm but death and the worlds biggest catastrophe from eating ordinary food is SCARY.

    The need to look a

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hit the wrong button.

    E Coli harm in Europe.

    E coli used in foods by GMO manipulation.

    RESPONSIBLE people need to link the two and seek the link or explain why there is no link.

    The fact that after now nearly three months there is absolutely no link mentioned is not conspiracy but certainly an exhibition of crass ignorance of modern food developments and possible outcomes.

    Dying of ignorance again.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Ewan

    We know people are dying after eating sprouts.

    Some at least of these are GMO and will contain E coli spliced into them.

    We know that after extensive testing of the culprit cause of illness and death there is no testable E Coli.

    But people nevertheless are dying.

    Clearly to me there is the POSSIBILITY that adult women in this case (age 32 to 36) are converting E Coli GMO food into lethal E Coli that makes them permanentlyill or dead.

    Is this not a logical HYPOTHESIS for the experts to examine?

    I can explain more fully why this is moe than just theoretical but the hypothesis itself is in URGENT need of people doing something about it.

    One of the drawbacks of GMO is just this.

    We advocate the need for cheap and plentiful food but forget safety checking once elementary is now so complex and expensive that even if we hypothesise the connections there is no capability, no desire and no money to securs our food.

    In France one convicted lifer spent his life in prison because the state could not AFFORD to do one DNA analysis to check his guilt or innocence. He was found innocent not fromDNA testing but from ordinary witness statements CORROBORATED only later by a 200 to 1 000 euros one off DNA test.

    Thousands of simple E Coli tests have shown the killer foods are clean.

    To do the same tests at the molecular level would cost hundreds of millions of euros and years or research.

    Meanwhile how many more health scares will come and go if we decided to match GMO food production with PROPER safety checks?

    • LorenE

      Do you have the slightest idea of how plants are transformed? I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and this is the first I’ve heard of sprouts having E. coli spliced into them!! Are you actually implying that E. coli transforms plants like A. tumefaciens? Or that an entire bacterium that does not contain T-DNA is being spliced into the plant?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi David

    I got your comment on DNA checking of the E Coli.

    As a chemist the analysis does not do too much for me unless people can link it to GMO and E Coli spliced into food. Does it contain antibiotic marker genes etc. I am not at the level to do this myself and just ask those who can and do understand to look at this.

    BUtwhat has not been checked is the DNA analysis of the suspect food.

    We are all falling into the trap of looking for neat E Coli rather than E Coli hidden in sprout plants.

    A world of difference and to date ZERO analyses done.

    • But search for the E.coli and the genes of relevance in the sprouts is what is and has been done by the labs in Germany. that is now standard microbiological analysis. There is a thorough account of the DNA content of the germs too.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Allan

    Yes it was me who found the 9 per cent loss of yield which was for GMO soya over ten years ago.

    The answer is complew and of course confusing.

    To find yields is no easy matter and quite complex depending on soil, technology, numbers of plants seeded etc etc.

    There is a phrase I found called YIELD DRAG which I suspect is from the industry rather than its opponents.

    It basically ACCEPTS the loss of yield and seeks to explain and overcome this loss.

    Any comments please?

  • Allan

    John Fryer, I’ll answer the yield drag issue first. The phrase was a creation of Chuck Benbrook in the paper (from 1999) titled, “Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998″. Benbrook is one of industry’s least favorite people (if you put the title into the GOOGLE search line, you’ll hit the pdf copy for download). Some literature addressed this issue in specific research on beans and in cotton earlier during the 2000s. The issue seems not be of concern for today’s cultivars.

    Here are the cotton stats for the U.S. Without addressing the issue of cultivar differences with other countries, here are the results of my analysis using the USDA database. From 1980-1995, cotton production (pounds/acre) averaged 600, but during 1996-2010 production average 743. Looking within the GM breeding years, average production from 1996-2003 was 668 lbs/acre and during 2004-2010 production was 828 lbs/acre.

    Regarding your E. coli concerns, if you could be more specific about what you are trying to communicate, then perhaps evidence can be brought to bear on a friendly and more pertinently informative response. Perhaps you can cite some literature to support your argument. Until then, I’ll offer what is known. E. coli is used to create cloned plasmids with the correct gene constructs for genetic engineering, but these plasmids are not E. coli once they are extracted. Furthermore, the constructs have all undergone extensive restriction mapping and pathogenic genes do not occur in them. (Antibiotic genes are going out of favor for producing constructs, but of those that were used, they were not functional in the plant and often were not even incorporated into the plant genome.)

    I don’t know about the evolution of the recently rediscovered pathogenic strain of E. coli (O104:H4) associated with sprouts, but the typical pathogenic strain of E. coli (O157:H7) in historical outbreaks has been hypothesized to be evolved from horizontal gene transfer between Shigella and non-pathogenic E. coli. Ironically, Shigella and E. coli are very closely related and Shigella itself may be evolved from E. coli, having acquired at some point a pathogenic potential. Through horizontal gene transfer some strains of E. coli may have acquired this pathogenic characteristic from their ne’er do well cousins. None of this research, however, is linked to commercialization of genetically engineered crops. I recommend using GOOGLE Scholar for a little reading of the primary scientific literature. Okay, here’s one to start for your pathogenic E. coli search, which is free through GOOGLE Scholar: Maurelli et al. 1998, “Black holes” and bacterial pathogenicity: A large genomic deletion that enhances the virulence of Shigella spp. and enteroinvasive Escherichia coli; Microbiology 94:3943-3948. Note the date of this research paper–this is information that was around substantially longer than the commercial introduction of GM technology bred crops. Whether you choose to go the extra mile and extend your reading domain or not, please be assured that a lot more is known about microbial genetics, biochemistry, and evolution then we can imagine.

    And if you’re wondering what my interests in all of this are, well, I’m a biology teacher and my job is to ensure that the next generation knows how to access the scientific literature, analyze it, communicate about it, and above all, maintain a skeptical outlook. Oh, and I like to eat, especially freshly prepared home-made cooking.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,
    Right now, there are more Escherichia coli cells within your body than human ones. That is normal, healthy and unremarkable. You would probably die if they were eliminated. Look-up “Intrinsic Factor.”
    Laboratory strains of E. coli are also nonpathogenic. In fact most could never survive “in the wild.”
    E. coli is not “spliced into” anything. The term is meaningless.
    The genes that have been spliced into commercially-available plants are, to the best of my knowledge, not even originally FROM E. coli: I believe they are all from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, an organism that normally and naturally inserts its own genes into plants the world over, and Bacillus thuringiensis, the same B. t. that is so frequently sprayed on Organic produce “up to the day of harvest” because it can produce and contain toxins against specific pests. Different B. t. varieties produce different toxins, each of which affects only a well-documented, well-circumscribed group of insect pests, and does not affect other organisms. But the origins of the specific genes are not important, so even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t matter.
    Genetically-engineered peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) in the sense you seem to be using are not available, but are being developed, at least partly in an effort to eliminate the ten or so proteins they normally contain that some people have allergies to. There are varieties that have been bred for millennia as crop plants, but I don’t recommend trying to eat the wild ancestral varieties, as they are likely very toxic (I know wild Phaseolus lunatus is). That peanut allergies may be on the rise has nothing to do with genetic engineering, but may be related to human lifestyle or better reporting.
    I seriously doubt that any available “sprouts” are of genetically engineered plants, and certainly not Trigonella; David has pointed-out that minor crops are not, and likely will not be so manipulated, just from the economics.
    “Yield Drag” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It just means that the years spent developinng a genetically-engineered variety is time lost relative to the breeding programmes beside it. It COULD be that some aspect of the genetically engineered variety’s metabolism is a bit messed-up, or that there is a resource cost to it in producing some new protein or changing its rate of production of some existing one, but that happens all the time time in regular plants. If the genetically engineered trait is valuable enough, farmers will still choose to plant that variety, as the maximum possible yield of the other varieties might not be realizable in the presence of the pest (or whatever) the genetically engineered trait addresses. Look it up. Look ALL this up.
    Read Nina V. Federoff’s book “Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Food.” Please.

  • Mr. Fryer, There is no way that the illnesses associated with sprouts in Europe have anything to do with GMOs.

    Imagine that you were in the business of selling sprouts. What seeds would you sprout?

    For many of the plant species one might use as sprouts, there are no GMO seeds available. I haven’t seen any company offering fenugreek seeds.

    If you were sprouting seeds of a variety for which there was a GMO choice, the GMO seeds would be more expensive. You would buy them only if the advertized trait was of value to you. Since weeds are not a problem for sprouts, you certainly wouldn’t pay anything for a herbicide tolerance trait. Likewise, you wouldn’t have a problem with lepidopteran insect pests so you wouldn’t be paying anything for a Bt trait.

    If you were to care nothing about the cost of the seeds, there is still that fact that no variety of seed you would be likely to sprout is legally available in Europe.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi

    My sincere apologies for calling people liars.

    Everybody here does seem very honest and sincere and I do not want to spread misinformation any more than I need to be fed misinformation.

    I have learnt several very important facts or bits of information.

    First the loss of the bees. How can they just disappear. They cant. And someone here suggested a new type of bird ate them.

    This made me link the sudden large scale death to bats and CCD. Any relation here? This is how my brain works.

    We do have problems with bees and it is not sudden as the name collapse indicates but was a problem to Rachel Carson who basically put a lot of blame on organochlorine compounds and the new organophosphates. Today we can add whole new types of killer chemicals to add to all the old varieties.

    Does splicing in Bt Toxin give a whole new concept to insecticides.

    I in my simplicity cannot distinguish between chemicals or novel foods (GMO) designed to kill harmful insects stopping at just those. The monarch butterfly debate was argued by both sides but failure to resolve the issue just leads naturally from monarch butterflies (who cares about them?) to bees where there is huge concern (no pollinators no insect pollinated fruit unless farmers go around each of their plants with a brush).

    The other thing important I learned was creepy and that was the notion that AIDS or those with like conditions may be shedding dangerous E Coli. This has yet to be proven to my satisfaction but the link of E coli and SV40 and the origin of GMO then called hybridisation is too close for comfort if this fact is found true.

    Just tofinish with my sincere apology and the need to provide safe futures as we are effectively guarding a planet already too dangerously polluted, over exploited and in overdue need of recuperation.

    • thomas fix

      Hi John,

      Our planet is not over polluted and so on.
      Look at Europe: wolves are coming back, salmon roam the rivers and fish-stocks are in Norway or Island in a good shape.
      When I was a boy in the 70ies the Club of Rome predicted that we would run out of everything. Nothing happened what was predicted. A modern diesel engine has 1,6 l volume and 200 hp whereas it needs less than 8l/100km or less than 2 Gallons/65 miles.
      For 100km to fly in huge new passenger plane it takes less than 2l cherosine/passenger. AIDS is curable due to genetic engineering not to herb picking in the forests. Yes You may be right in the assumption that the polychemotherapy in AIDS is supporting multiresistencies in bacterias/fungi. Due to AIDS we encounter a small but right now not solvable problem of a resistant-malignant bacterium tuberkulensis. Who suffers of this bug is closed away in prison like sanatories in Bavaria.
      It has to be mentioned that in Germany AIDS is allocated to a special way of life and/or drug addiction. The other AIDS cases are from Africa.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    You missed my point about Dijon mustard being CONTAMINATED with GMO seeds?

    I agree entirely that there is no GMO in Thompson & Morgan seeds of ANY type.

    But contamination is possible and we have European evidence for this contamination.

    How can an investigation be an investigation if you studiously avoid the most evident causes.

    Using my own style logic look at BSE where again GMO growth hormone was a factor put forward alongside organomercury toxicity and organophosphatetoxicity. Eventually the imaginary cause was placed at the door of the PRION a novel style of illness for cattle. The health effects of the obvious candidates was again studiously denied. Take DIAZINON which is not mentioned once in the 16 million word report and following an 18 month OPEN enquiry where they must have heard DIAZINON mentioned more times than the total words in their report. After the flak died down there was a short worldwide ban on DIAZINON but I fear that it is creeping back into use?

    If investigations are restricted they are not investigationsforme but simply a whitewash.

    Meanwhile in todays news they claim the POISONINGS and DEATHS are gaining speed again in Germany?

    Do we have always to die from IGNORANCE?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Orchid Grower man

    Your comment on the number of E coli in our body is not news to me.
    In fact this is the very thing that sent panic through me and that of Professor Pollack back in 1972 when Paul Berg was doing just this to break up and reform DNA sequences.

    He let loose a cascade of new gene variations in an organism that had stabilised over millions of years.

    Described well as the opening of PANDORAS BOX.

    Although AIDS was first brought to our attention in the bath houses of California you can find indications of a new killer illness of the AIDS type in a California woman in 1975. I am still searching to find her type of employment which I predict may be in the microbiological industry but this is hypothesis.

    Just to reiterate E Coli is NOW known to be ESSENTIAL to human life and it is so sad that it has now become an organism to fear as well as need.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      E. coli is, always was, and always will be anything BUT “stable.” That’s the point of the discussions on the German outbreak.

      And if you continue to assert that HIV is somehow artificially created, you must present some evidence that addresses how then the simian viruses are so similar, and why the normal process we see with so many other viruses jumping hosts does not apply as the most parsimonious explanation of its origin.

    • “He let loose a cascade of new gene variations in an organism that had stabilised over millions of years”

      As an experienced and professional expert on E. coli since before The time of Paul Berg’s announcement, I can state categorically this statement is completely factually wrong. It shows complete ignorance of well established highly relevant biology. You mention John, reading about Nina Fedoroff’s book on the subject. Why don’t you get it and read it and think about it. That would help you a lot, rather than shifting to having opinions about her motivations without thinking about the facts of known biology.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    GMO food has not been here for long and my concerns are definitely geared to safety issues but even looking at non safety issues there is evidence that not all has been going well.

    Claims of being able to feed the poor are for me not true (avoiding that word I am now banned from using).

    Looking for information on Nancy Fedoroff’s book I find she is in a powerful position to lobby in either way for or against novel foods.

    But the food riots of 2008 came up and Wiki have done a page about this.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007%E2%80%932008_world_food_price_crisis

    From 2007 the chart shows a new and worrying departure in food prices DESPITE the fact there is NO SHORTAGE.

    Monopolistic Practices again?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi my concern is for proper safetyin GMO.

    Pollution has increased across the board.

    Plastics apart from early forms were non existent when I was a boy. Today we have the Pacific with a floating mass of the stuff twice the size of Europe;

    Cod fish in Iceland are in good shape if thats a quarter of what it was when I was a boy.

    Life has the habit of adapting to harm so at a quarter of the recent past is quite alarming.

    Wolves did not just come back but were put there by mans actions and the sheep that die there have no identifiable creature responsible. Convenient that.

    Plants unknown in England were brought over by the Romans and plague us today none the less because almost any herbal remedy is exposed as quackery or worse.

    My fear amongst many is that GMO plants too will pollute the planet for ever as introductions before have proved unremoveable.

    Pig weed I have mentioned but also other weeds and grasses are taking over and making land impossible to use. Not sure quite why man claims weeds and grasses make farming impossible. This does not seem realistic in todays technological world but thats what the reports say.

    http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/871

    Professor Gylfason is claiming our stocks are not good but dwindling and takes no account of the health as in the North Sea the health is also something to take into account again because of pollution.

  • Eric Baumholder

    “Having an anxiety reaction to genetically modified foods?” Find help for your condition at http://understandingpanicattacks.net/panic-attacks-cured/

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Eric

    I am not having an anxiety attack but as an intelligent person demand proper labelling.

    I gave the example of Fukushima. People in the nuclear business tell us in all their apparent honesty that we can take a Fukushima every day and not worry.

    It might be interesting to know what you think of other specialists narrow view to catastrophe.

    Whatever the cause sudden death or permanent illness to people from eating what a long time ago was actually very healthy for us is no matter to make fun of those like me who dont have PhD’s in biotechnology.

    However if Professor Pollack who is an expert warned of harm in 1972 of an illness unknown until 1981 then we have a problem.

    If we can find the real reason for all these people dying or getting ill the problem is over.

    Dont you get worried when thousands get ill and from day one they put the worlds least qualified person John Dalli who OK’s GMO crops for Europe and he says WE WILL NEVER KNOW THE CAUSE.

    To me its a bit like Fukushima and all those who say what is the problem and it is not the fault of plutonium but of nature.

    We need to take responsibility and in my life time there is always denial Nuclear power is 100 per cent safe or failure even to look at causes however improbable.

    I have a feeling what is at the bottom of this but people keep you at arms length.

    What is happening in Europe today is commonplace in GMO accepting countries.

    Argentina for example has this number of bleeding disorders and it is an accepted problem.

    In Europe I repeat it is relatively new and John Dalli and the GMO acceptors will lead us to a world where it is as normal as in GMO nations.

    As a retired person this problem is of limited problem to me but for those yet to be born they need when old enoughto realise the affects of past GMO pollution.

    GMO pigweed was not made by man but clearly comes from GMO pollution.

    My argument is why not E Coli deaths from newly established GMO pollution in Europe.

    There is an easy answer but first comes RECOGNITION.

    If we obfuscate the recognition then even my idea of the answer will be too late.

    1982 first cases of HUS in USA

    This did not happen in France (GMO refuser) until decades later when GMO began tobe imported by forced USA trade agreements to get GMO in WITHOUT LABELLING.

    I have had a smaller dose of this illness and know a large proportion of my friends who suffered at the same time several years ago.

    If watching your body bleed without control and cured by eating ORGANIC is anxiety then I got it big time and silly write ups are not the cure that I found worked.

  • Eric Baumholder

    John,

    It would be helpful if you stayed on topic. You’ve raised so many unrelated issues that your point is impossible to determine. Unless your point is to show that you have far more unfounded concerns than anyone else.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Loren

    I accept your superior knowledge.

    I also would imagine using the bacteria you mention is a whole lot safer than using E coli but the use of any bacteria, any virus or any antibiotic marker cannot be risk free.

    I reiterate I am no expert on E Coli or other bacterial harm from splicing into foods and other living matter. Splicing may not even be the correct way to describe this.

    The history of GMO is not 15 years old but at least 40 years old and you can imagine that things have happened in this time that many experts would wish to be buried.

    E Coli splicing with SV40 must be one. Professor Pollack had it worked out from his knowledge. The biological warfare centre spent a hectic two years working on the techniques and its potential.

    Now 40 years later Europe is facing a health disaster that needs people who are qualified and knowledgeable to find why dozens have died and thousands will need very expensive medical treatment for life.

    My knowledge is zero on current GMO but I have witnessed problems in the past and the spread into the environment.

    I already said that in 1971 there was no major illness that we needed to worry about.

    Since then many completely new illnesses are claiming lives at unacceptable rates and many mild illnesses have become killer illnesses.

    As a biologist you must realise it is most unusual for illness to get more serious.

    For me killer flu and killer E Coli et al may in fact be novel illnesses that are grouped alongside illnesses that we have had for many many years.

    Is there any reason why we shouldnt put GMO in as part of the complete investigation into deaths in Europe not seen before in our history or must we accept John Dalli and rest ignorant of its true cause?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Loren again

    You have never heard of splicing E coli into living matter?

    Try this reference the first I found from 1978.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC411453/pdf/pnas00015-0236.pdf

    A BERK wrote this three years before AIDS was normally recognised as being a serious killer illness distanced as much as is scientifically acceptable from such experiments.

    Presumably it wasnt the first time as we know Paul Berg got the credit for such experimentations and the tip of a veritable ICEBERG of the contamination now in our world that we have to live with to our cost in Europe at the moment.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Mr Rader

    You say there is absolutely no GMO in our sprouts but many of the plant constituents have been GMO’d eg soya, mustard and alfalfa and even with predictions of bleeding disorders to come from such experiments.

    I have failed miserably to find GMO fenugrec which is very closely linked to harm but get worried that every source claims the stuff is GMO FREE. Why the claim if no one has mucked about with the purity of this plant?

    Can anyone confirm whether this has ever been GMO’d and if so how?

    • John, I absolutely don’t know how to reason with you any more plainly.

      These E. coli incidents are in Europe.

      The fact that many soybeans are genetically modified in North and South America should not have anything to do with Europe, and nobody uses GMO soybeans for sprouts even in America for reasons I thought I explained clearly. GMO alfalfa also exists in North America but is not used in Europe and GMO alfalfa is not used for sprouts anywhere. “Mustard” is a rather vague term that applies to several greens and to the best of my rather limited knowledge the mustard that has been genetically modified in Europe, Sinapis alba, is not used as a mustard green, but as a pungent spice. It is herbicide tolerant and therefore would not be used for sprouting, even notwithstanding it being illegal to use as a food. So-called mustard greens are in the genus brassica.

      You suspect that fenugreek must have been genetically modified because everyone denies it. Is there any way to present information that would get you to reconsider your beliefs.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    It has been explained to you directly why it is irrational at best to claim any link between E. coli pathogenic strains and “GMO.” It has been explained to you why this is so. You have been pointed to articles on this site and to other sources that could explain it to you.

    Whatever this “bleeding disorders” you talk about in anecdotes is, please either stop or provide something besides oblique anecdotes.

    Please define “GMO pollution.”

    Dop you have any sort of reference to the nefarious plot (Bwa-ha-ha-haa) to “GMO began tobe imported by forced USA trade agreements to get GMO in WITHOUT LABELLING” and whatever it is you are saying it caused actually happening, besides hysterical catastrophizing and anecdotes?

    There is no such thing as “GMO Pigweed.” It’s a misleading made-up name. There are a lot of plants that naturally have unusual resistance to glyphosate (Calystegia being one), and some that have acquired increased resistance due to mutation and selection: the same would be true if there never were any genetically engineered plants.

    Please read an introductory book on Botany. Then read Federoff’s book. THEN come back.

    Your implicit claim that somehow the western food system is less healthful and safe now than at some unspecified past point is patently false. Aflatoxin, ergotism, and dicoumarin are much less prevalent than they once were. (For an example of “bleeding disease” please look-up dicoumarin.) Do not confuse better surveilance with increased incidence. What was once called “stomach flu” is now well-known to frequently be caused by food contamination, and so now we know better how to reduce its incidence.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    Please look at this:

    http://xkcd.com/641/

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    Do you have a reference to the ” predictions of bleeding disorders to come from such experiments”?

    It has been explained to you repeatedly why fenugreek (Trigonella) is not now, nor likely ever to be, genetically modified. There is a big article on the topic on this blog.

    There is a pretty complete list available of what plant species are known to have been artificially genetically modified, and which have been approved for agricultural release, and which have actually been deployed. Look it up.

    You’re going on again with the HIV fantasy that it is somehow E. coli, or something? Do you knoe the difference between a bacteria and viruses?

    You’re going on again about the Gereman outbreak somehow being related to “GMOs” of “chemtrails” or something? Please see the big article on this blog.

  • Allan

    As if we all have nothing better to do…but in the interest of science communication, I can’t let Mr. Fryer’s reference to an article putatively about “E. coli splicing” go past my skeptic’s meter. The title of the article in his post at July 7, 9:25 am is, “Spliced early mRNAs of simian virus 40″, which was published by Berk & Sharp during 1978 in the Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. This paper has nothing to do with E. coli whatsoever. Indeed, if one searches within the pdf document for the keyword ‘coli’, you quickly find out that the only relationship is the use of a restriction enzyme and a polymerase from E. coli cells as tools to perform the experiments. This paper is about how the SV40 virus is able to commandeer its host cell to transcribe its genes and produce two types of proteins known at T antigens. The mechanisms are what viruses do naturally as we’ve learned over many years. The word splicing is used specifically to describe a phenomenon the authors call “spliced mRNAs”. So, in summary this article is about how a virus with a comparatively small genome is able to effectively “trick” its host into producing its component proteins. In other words, it’s an investigation of the mechanistic aspects of genome interactions. The piece is pretty good basic detective work and thus the reason why it was published in PNAS.

    Additionally, I’ll second OrchidGrowinMan’s call for specific references about these “mysterious” illnesses that seemingly did not exist until after transgenic techniques were developed and deployed. By providing specific references, we have a basis for discussion and can address issues directly without veering off into a subjective wasteland. Also, thanks for the blog site with the skeptical cartoons. As if I needed one more thing to feed my info ADHD.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Allan

    Try the Berkeley University student lectures

    This explains well the problem but does not mention Professor Pollack but other experts who have theirown worries.

    Slide 1 – Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
     – [ Traduire cette page ]
    mcb.berkeley.edu/courses/mcb140/urnov/08.ppt
    Format de fichier: Microsoft Powerpoint – Version HTML
    21 Sep 2007 – people said – ‘You cannot put SV40 into E. coli! … Spliced Segments at the 5′ Terminus of Adenovirus 2 Late mRNA … 1976: “Biohazards at Harvard: scientists will create new life forms – but how safe will they be?” …

    Hope th elink works – check out slides 12, 13 and 14 for example;

    Explain why some parts are left blank eg slide 35

    So what in that paper is being spliced to what. For me it is clearly SV40 and E Coli spliced together.

    I am happy to know if my reading is wrongbut splicing means to me joining together. Hybridisation ( pinching an old word but with a different meaning and todays GMO are all splicing technologies).

    a

    • Allan

      Okay, I examined the PPT file. This file is from a Genetics course taught at the University of California, Berkeley. FYI, the slide set and accompanying PDF handout to the students, along with the course syllabus, was updated in 2008 and can be found at this URL: http://mcb.berkeley.edu/courses/mcb140/syllabus.html. The particular subject matter is the lecture associated with September 22.

      I’m not sure what you are concerned about. This lecture is in part a history of recombinant DNA research and the controversy at the time. The updated lecture file has more information about GM crops and “golden” rice. Regarding your concern about the splicing issue, all I can say is splicing is all natural. That is why a Nobel Prize was awarded. It was not known until the ~70’s about DNA introns and exons, and that the introns had to be excised and the exons spliced together during synthesis of mRNA. Indeed, in my last post about the PNAS article, I left off the purpose of the article. The term splicing was used because those investigators were trying to figure out out how the viral genome could code for two proteins, yet the genes for those proteins were significantly separated on the viral DNA. Thus, at the level of mRNA (i.e., in the host cells), the “genes” were spliced together. In other words, they investigated what all genomes have to do to make functional mRNA for eventual translation to protein.

      Regarding why those slides in the lecture PPT were blank under the captions, I think the message is there was no evidence of anything bad happening as a result of recombinant DNA research. Regardless, the whole purpose of the instructor wanting his students to know the history would be to also let them know that because of public concern, sets of regulations were institutionalized. Such action illustrates that institutions, whether government, private, or in between are dynamic and do respond to public concerns. As a result, I would hope we don’t take things for granted, but at least sleep easier at night knowing about the existence of layers of regulations aimed to head off problems. When errors occur, the system of regulations does have protocols built in to correct the problems.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    You are in error.

    You say GMO soya is not used in Europe.

    Every week thousands of tons comes into the port of Lorient and is used where?

    It doesn’t come here to be put in a big waste tip.

    It comes here to be clandestinely used against the French people without their knowledge.

    I insist on labelling and if it was labelled and admitted openly there is less chance for disputes.

    People are getting ill in France in ever bigger numbers. Whether this is due to GMO in part or at all is not certain.

    I am not sure of other things that are GMO orwhere they land.

    Politicians and regulators work with the language.

    Even the fact that GMO are banned for growing in France does not mean they are not grown. GMO wine is being grown in the Champagne and Pinot Noir areas. What happens when ordinary Champagne is found to be GMO’d accidentally? What will this effect have on Champagne prices?

    As to importing GMO, then France is tied to buying them by trade agreements of SUBSTANTIALITY.

    Exactly how plants with only 56 per cent similarity (GMO to non GMO) can be considered substantially the same is again abusing the use of our language. Especially when the 44 per cent represents a known TOXIC SUBSTANCE.

    • Eric Baumholder

      John,

      The European Union is the world’s largest exporter of GM soy-based products. The soy is sent to crushing plants, with the oil re-exported, or diverted into biodiesel. The soy meal is also re-exported, though much is retained for animal feed.

      It’s best to know the facts before starting an argument.

    • What I said was that nobody uses GMO soy for sprouts in Europe. And saying that it comes into France clandestinely is ridiculous.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    You say people dont use GMO plants in sprouts.

    You have not replied to my comment on this.

    I completely agree but how about GMO getting into GMO free seeds?

    We already have statements that total contamination of an organic farm does NOT lose the licence for that farm under specified conditions.

    Hardly good for food security, for being 100 per cent sure of no GMO in sprouts nd of course disastrous for the organic farms contaminated without redress.

    I also agree 100 per cent about bo GMO fenugrec. My question was simply why do they insist in every advert that it is GMO free?

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    Please look at this:

    http://xkcd.com/641/

    “used against the French people without their knowledge”
    Can you substantiate this, or is it just scurrilous and libelous raving?

    “56 per cent similarity (GMO to non GMO) can be considered substantially the same is again abusing the use of our language. Especially when the 44 per cent represents a known TOXIC SUBSTANCE.”
    That would be GREAT! If I could make a plant that had, as dry weight (presumably) 44% protein, especially one as harmless and well-studied as the CRY toxin from the Bt used in Organic farming, I would eliminate protein insufficiency all over the world! That’s presuming two things: that the particular CRY toxin tastes acceptable or can be processed to be so, and that its amino-acid (woooo! ACID!) profile is reasonably close to human requirements. Does anybody know its compositional breakdown? I know that in plants modified to express it, it is (up til now) a vanishingly small contributor to the nutritional quality, so maybe nobody bothered to calculate it.

    • Eric Baumholder

      OrchidGrowinMan,

      Just wanted to share with you a blast from the past. About 14 years ago — hard to believe it’s that long ago.

      Anyhow, the whacktivists concocted the theory that since Cry proteins were proteins, they would be a superior source of nutrition for insect pests. Which means the insects would preferentially attack Bt crops.

      Quite a howler. Gotta wonder why they haven’t resurrected that claim recently for a fresh media frenzy.

      Oops, too late! Now that I’ve said that, someone with the whackos will read my comments and run with it. It’s so old, it’s new again! I should not have said this.

  • Sally

    John Fryer Chemist said:

    “I also agree 100 per cent about bo GMO fenugrec. My question was simply why do they insist in every advert that it is GMO free?”

    I don’t know the real answer as it pertains to fenugreek, but my guess is that it’s the same deal as in poultry that are labeled ‘no hormones’ or ‘hormone-free’. Very misleading – makes the consumer think ‘oh, then some poultry must contain hormones’.

    The fact is that NO poultry sold in the U.S. has added hormones.

    (please don’t turn this into a poultry/meat discussion…I was merely using poultry as an example ;-))

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Sally

    Thanks for that and yes it is important to keep on track of the European illness and death which is unprecedented and demands an answer.

    Food security is the catch word of the GMO industry.

    Today in Europe there is no security.

    Looking at two experts in England one Professor Hugh Pennington an expert on both BSE and GMO he claimed that England was not involved although the Thompson & Morgan connection shows he was no expert on this point.

    And this is key. If sincere people like him are flummuxed we cannot afford to leave anything out even if it is likely by experts to be of zero concern.

    In this investigation I count too many wrongs so far and zero rights. Even the Egypt connection is being denied even today.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Baumholder

    Not sure about the Bt Toxins being food for insects, have you a reference to back your INFORMATION.

    My take on Bt was that it was used in organic food growing and therefore should be fine spliced into every bit of food and non food GMO life forms.

    With this zero science and the fact that the workers were not sure how it worked as an insecticide they put it in life forms anyway.

    It never provided nutirition for any creature and there are serious doubts that it is good for any creature especially humans.

    Its action is now well know. It leads to a kind of bleeding disorder and often death.

    Sounds a bit too close to what is happening in Europe.

    Any thoughts.

    Serious ones please.

    And is it responsible for CCD again this is a matter of life and death not some academic or research project on inanimate things.

    • Allan

      John,
      If you have trouble finding the many articles about the biochemical mechanism of the Cry proteins in causing toxicity to susceptible insects using a GOOGLE Search with the string, “Cry protein mechanism of toxicity”, please let me know and I’ll incorporate the citations. A lot of biochemistry research has been done and the information is incorporated into any modern course about crop biotechnology and/or pesticide toxicology.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      John Fryer,

      The toxins produced by Bt varieties have been extensiveley researched. They have been discusses extensively on this blog. They are exquisitely specific in their operation, as are many enzymes. They have been shown to have, at worst, at lab-obtainable concentrations (much much higher than could be achieved outside the lab) no detectable adverse effect on a large array of test organisms, other than the target ones. Their method of action is known, and there is no reaswon to question the results of the experiments.
      Every day, you consume many different UNSTUDIED toxins, enzymes and other proteins produced by organisms; THOSE are rationally of more “danger” than the studied and demonstrated-to-be-harmless ones.
      That a substance is bad for a specific organism not-similar to you, and that it’s method of action on that organism is inapplicable to you, and that it does no harm to organisms similar to you makes it something you can confidently say is on average safer than a random substance that may be present in an unnoticed bit of mold on your peanuts, bacteria in your apple, an errant bit of weed in your salad, some spores in the wind, a fly-speck on your chocolate bar, some sawdust in your workshop, or that slice of tomato on your sandwich.

      ,

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Baumholder,

    Thanks for that information.

    I will check it out as best I can and that is news to me.

    I am not starting any arguments but collecting facts.

    I am surprised though that GMOfood would come in be processed and sent back out.

    Truth is stranger than fiction.

    So Europe without allowing its people to eat GMO is happy to get involved in others eating it.

    Sounds like dirty work to me.

    Animals in Europe are suffering also from mysterious bleeding disorders and I along with many others are on record to government to suggest what happened this year would be the logical follow on.

    From most people here who think GMO is 100 per cent safe it looks as if my prediction is right but gut destroying GMO spliced material that takes out insects is not responsible for humans with gut problems and Iam still hoping for at least one person here to recommend investigation of GMO causation even if onlyto rule it out.

    Just one person interesed in seeking knowledge about the worlds biggest health catsatrophe.

    Are we all happy to have total ignorance on GMO and health?

    As far as I know independent safety checks on GMO are still illegal?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Orchid man

    Dr Baumholder says and I have no facts to disprove him that every gram of the thousands of tons of GMO soya is turned into products to feed and maintain other people that are not European.

    I commented on that.

    The substantiation for giving anyone GMO food without their knowledge comes from a source in the GMO hierarchy that says we (people of the world) have eaten a TRILLION meals without harm.

    Now it is certain that much if not the majority of those meals have been eaten in ignorance or have I got that wrong too?

  • John Fryer Chemist

    orchidman

    I ACCEPT and believe fenugrec has not been GMO’d.

    This is an important fact and thanks for the verification.

    If GMO evidence was found then it would be an exampleof genetic pollution from mans GMO activities?

    This therefore is a hypothesis and not to be confused with facts.

    I am asking for experts to investigate these kind of things.

    The fact that nothing is found when thousands are getting very ill all over Europe and nothing can be found from tests is not normal.

    Surely this means opening up the investigation and not foreclosing on hypotheses that could be right or probably could be wrong.

    As E coli is used in GMO experiments today and in the past it does seem a reasonable line of enquiry.

    And of ccourse if negative would show two things. First that people are not scared of looking but better that it is a FEAR only.

    • John Fryer Chemist,

      There as so many scientific implausibilities and ambiguities, and seeming ignorance with known science in your many statements, it is hard to know where to start.

      But let’s get two on the table.

      1. What exactly do you mean when you repeated say “E. coli spliced into our food”? The use of the word spliced in English provides many opportunities for misunderstanding. The word is used in describing genetic engineering, and in that sense E. coli is definitely not spliced into these crops, but you seem to be implying that.

      2. There is a simple straightforward plausible and realistic explanation for these disease outbreaks. It is contamination of crops with sewage, faeces, or contaminated irrigation water. You are floating complex conspirational theory type explanations. Science, with Occams razor, favours the simple obvious explanation. Why do you favour more complicated models.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Baumholder

    Re GMO Soya

    I read your comment too quickly.

    You seem to actually be in agreement with me.

    You say much GMO residue is used for animal feed.

    This is exactly what I was claiming.

    Thousands of tons of soya comes into Lorient and we eventually eat it.

    I did a calculation which may be way of in either direction that this means every French person eats directly or INDIRECTLY a kilogram every week of the GMO soya.

    And again from memory or lack of information 1982 was the start date of HUS in America while 2003 was the start in France.

    A bit close to the import and UNKNOWN GMO indirect consumption by French people WITHOUT their knowledge.

    Add to this a HUGE largely unknown blleding problem to the animals fed directly with GMO soya and you reamise my fears which I have communicated to government and regulators who care not a t all except to say we have the BEST brains looking for the cause of bleeding calf syndrome and basically telling me to bog off.

    I suspect the same brains working on bleeding calf disorder or more likely the same quality are working on bleeding human disorders?

    • The big problem with your fanciful theories John Freyer Chemist , is that they divert attention from solving the real problems. Here’s a much better and productive focus in terms of food safety: danger that is still in the EU food chain explained beautifully by a food-science writer who really knows her onions! Why not focus your obvious energy and enthusiamsm on real and present dangers like this:

      http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/07/e-coli-3-years/

      The latest news from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU’s CDC, suggests that the massive outbreak of E. coli O104 is declining. The number of new cases being discovered has fallen, and the most recent onset of illness among confirmed cases was June 27. The toll is now 752 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome and an additional 3,016 cases of illness in 13 countries, for a total of 3,768 illnesses including 44 deaths. (The EU adjusted that total to remove 161 cases that were suspected but not lab-confirmed. It also did not include the five confirmed cases, one suspect case and one suspect death in the United States.)

      But a simultaneous report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reveals that, despite the epidemic curve’s trending down, the outbreak can’t be considered over. The ultimate source — the contaminated seeds from which salad sprouts were grown — has been so widely distributed that no one really knows where they have gone or for how long they might remain for sale. One prediction, based on the probable package labeling, is that they could remain on shelves for 3 more years….

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    Could you please give us the definition you are using for “GMO”?

  • James

    I’m not a biologist, chemist or any sort of scientist, but I am trying to sort out what’s what with all the different messages out there related to GMOs.

    With the outbreak of the new strain of E. coli, I actually wondered if it was related to GMOs too — but not in the sense that the food carrying the E. coli had been genetically modified or acquired some GM traits through cross pollination.

    It sounds like feeding grain to cows and other ruminants to fatten them up, since their digestive systems are not designed to process things like corn, makes them E. coli factories. (Yes, I understand that we all have some of the bacteria in our systems, but it sounds like grain-fed livestock account for an increase in cases of E. coli affecting humans.)

    So if cows are eating GMO grain, could the E. coli in their systems have a little gene transfer party and incorporate some of the foreign DNA to create a new strand like the one responsible for this outbreak? I don’t know how anyone would ever verify that’s what happened. I’m just wondering if something like that is possible.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi David

    Thanks for the link to the lady with the latest Sherlock Holmes type investigations of the European health problem.

    I am here simply to help to solve the E coli problem not to air fanciful theories or distractfrom the investigation.

    I am not privy to this information which is liquid gold. One piece of information is the source of the fenugrec which I understand T & M actually are on record of refusing to give to the authorities.

    Your blog is that there is too much anxiety over GMO foods and for me the European problem shows there is not enough anxiety over possible INDIRECT GMO harm.

    The lady is thorough and provides MUCH new information to me and anyone who cares to read her article but it is also downplaying harm.

    She says no cases since … This is incorrect as cases are coming along all the time.

    She later says the problem may be ongoing. This is not closer to the truth but is exactly what I amsaying.

    There is evidence of an exponential rise in cases roughly related to the desire to use GMO type foods.

    Argentina as I said must be sitting on its hands as the HUS there makes the European view look like crying over NOTHING.

    No country in the world has more HUS than Argentina and virtually no one uses or embraces GMO technology and food more.

    The changes in Argentina are enormous to the detriment of most farmers and to the diversity of farming in general.

    Finally nobody unless I missed it thinks that ANY GMO type investigation is necessary for this outbreak.

    Coming from experts and teachers involved in GMO technology this is frightening. For my ideas to be called fanciful and for people to want to sit in a dark room etc etc is fair comment to them but doesnt help solve the European deaths and permanent illnesses.

    This isnt about who is the biggest whatever but about solving the worlds biggest crisis which this lady admits may ONLY be the start.

    I agree.

    There is unequivocal EVIDENCE of indirect GMO involvement and if anyone denies that they are lying.

    The comments of Professor Hugh Pennington the UK spokesmanfor biotechnology is so far off the mark to be scary.

    He claims ABSOLUTELY no UK involvement in this health catastrophe.

    This is clearly not true.

    The UK may be the key to the problem just as Thompson & Morgan have been found to be part of the chain.

    Specifically the UK have been involved in just this sort of splicing found in patients for more than a decade.

    This makes the professor a political person in his statements rather than telling us as it is.

    The plague is part of the makeup of the E coli and as far as I know it is UK research that has spliced the plague to various bacteria. Whether this includes E coli is not clear to me from the little I know of the UK research over the past decade into the plague.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi David

    Thanks for your column.

    Attacking point 2 the simplest theory is the best.

    I agree completely.

    The E Coli is spliced to the plague.

    The UK worked on the plague vaccine more than ten years ago.

    Surely this link is evident and needs EXAMINATION and EXPLANATION in the context of this health disaster?

    As to spliced I accept my lack of expertise on GMO which is not my field of interest or learning but I understand to make the first GMO’s they used a concoction of virus, bacteria and antibiotics. These are in my terminology all spliced together.

    The effects are not known.

    The health problems today and in the past since GMO are the record of what is going wrong.

    A point on that brilliant article is how the numbers are being pared DOWNWARDS to discount cases where no PROOF of E Coli harm has been found or analysed for.

    My own case several years ago and my friends are all part of the DENIAL.

    How big is the real harm of E Coli?

    We see this everywhere back to thalidomide where my friends where denied any harm from thalidomide despite their mothers taking the drug and arriving dead or minus bits of their arms and legs.

    History is repeating itself here.

    What is wrong with globally enlarged numbers rather than insisting on COMPLETE proof before accepting E coli harm?

    I suspect some sort of epidemiological contract will find GMO involvement or whatever is easy to obfuscate away.

    Lets not forget the Richard Doll episode and GMO.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    Couldnt find your link but no GMO transport to France and its use there is known but I only mention it as many uniformed people seem to think Europeans do not face harm or goodness from eating GMO foods and because we do eat SIGNIFICANT amounts and because this type of illness is DISPLACED from the earlier incidents in America it must be part of any complete investigation of the E coli deaths today and tommorrow here in France.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Orchid man

    My definition of GMO.

    Are you being serious?

    The definition has absolutely nothing to do with me but describes the technology practised by MONSANTO, BAYER, BASF et al.

    I do add that GMO in organic food is unacceptable and that conventional hybridising of GMO food does not make the food non GMO again.

    In this way I do differ as clever monsanto people et al are using holes in peoples knowledge toclaim their GMO’s food is no longer GMO and therefore can be described as organic or not GMO;

    This is clearly obfuscating as the pandora box analogy works.

    Once you GMO you cannot unGMO it afterwards.

    All the weeds which are resistant to herbicides and causing farming difficulties are still GMO even though man has never DIRECTLY experimented and performed the GMO transfromations on them.

    If you deny that organic food is being contaminated with GMO or that GMO plants subsequently developed are not GMO or that weeds are not GMO when they take up genes of E Coli, otherbacteria and herbicide resistance then clearly we are at a difference.

    An analogy would be that plutonium harm for the next 250 000 years is not the fault of Chernobyl or Fukushima or any other nuclear plant as it turns up in our food and we didnt get it directly from wherever.

    We play with words when GMO type bacteria are killing Europeans who refuse GMO but have it thrust upon them by the kilogram every week down their throats. WITHOUT DISCLOSURE. And without any sign of an investigation into this aspect of the food chain today in Europe when people are dying on an unprecedented scale.

    • Allan

      Okay, I have to comment, now. John, you claim the evolving problem of increased weed resistance to glyphosate herbicide is due to uptake of GMO genes, and thus indirectly these weeds are GMO. Here is your statement after first suggesting the idea: “If you deny that organic food is being contaminated with GMO or that GMO plants subsequently developed are not GMO or that weeds are not GMO when they take up genes of E Coli, other bacteria and herbicide resistance then clearly we are at a difference.” I’m not going to talk about contamination of organic food because this is a different issue. But I am going to categorically say that you are WRONG!!!!!!!!!!! The reason is steeped in the knowledge of the biochemistry of crops bred for glyphosate resistance and weeds that have evolved resistance due to artificial selection. Crops bred resistant to glyphosate have an extra EPSPS gene with reduced binding potential for glyphosate. You’re a chemist, so think of it as an altered Km (i.e., the Km would be higher for the altered EPSPS than for the normal enzyme). Thus, the shikimate acid metabolic pathway is not inhibited and the crop happily does what it does despite glyphosate exposure.

      On the other hand, the evolution of weed resistance to glyphosate, which has been documented as occurring in a couple of species independent of the use of glyphosate on Roundup Ready crops as well as putatively associated in some cases with Roundup Ready crop use, is due to an entirely different biochemical mechanism. First, the EPSPS gene is not involved in evolution of weed resistance. Second, the mechanism has recently been elucidated with very convincing evidence in the 2010 publication by Yuan et al. titled, “Functional Genomics Analysis of Horseweed (Conyza canadensis) with Special Reference to the Evolution of Non–Target-Site Glyphosate Resistance” (Weed Science, 58(2):109-117. To simplify a longer story, selection for an altered transporter mechanism does not allow glyphosate to accumulate at its target site in the chloroplast (thats where the shikimate acid metabolic pathway lies). Thus, glyphosate applied at normal field rates becomes less effective. This mechanism of selection has nothing whatsoever to do with the manipulated EPSPS enzyme.

      John, I think everyone reading this blog understands that you are trying to communicate an urgency for testing some hypothesis you have for linking “spliced E. coli”, “bleeding illness”, and in one of your recent posts, increasing death rate in Europe. But John, a hypothesis must be plausible. Typically, in formation of a plausible hypothesis you have to lay out the mechanisms that must be operational. So, please, if you would like your hypothesis to be taken seriously, what is the plausible mechanism? Note that you have to stay within the parameters of what is known and consistent with recognized biological principles. For example, we know the identity and sequence of all the genes associated with molecular breeding of crops. Indeed, molecular technique has advanced so much since 1995 that we even now know more specifically where the transgenes are incorporated specifically into the plant genome. Thus, any hypothetical mechanism must incorporate empirical information about the system.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Orchid man

    Your comments on Bt are covering a huge area.

    Taking one point the known harm.

    I must admit that the harm not known when used first has not been rigourously checked by me but taken as read.

    If this is wrong then I am spreading misinformation.

    Can you point to the first time we knew it damaged the gut system of living creatures.

    And the first time I know of damage to human gut systems was in 1982 and predates Bt use in GMO.

    Or were they splicing in Bt at this time.

    Destruction of a gut is a serious health issue as shown in Europe today but is not necessarily with a single cause.

    Your point that what is harmful to one living organism may not be harmful to another is full of examples to support this idea but as a rulme of thumb what harms one creature is not normally likely to be good for others.

    No creature endures 100 degrees centigrade well but yes there are exceptions.

    If Bt destroys guts then my gut does not want to be a guinea pig when normal food without Bt is perfectly plausible in a sane world.

    We do live in a world where food is being developed not from the point of view of good nutrition but to line the pockets of a few very large greedy farmers at the expense of diversification and the consumer who is being fooled, lied too and and now allowed to die without GMO technology being whispered as being the reason the plague is spliced into E Coli today.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Allan

    Thanks for your helpful comments on CRY proteins.

    As a researcher on health issues early knowledge is ABSOLUTELY critical.

    I am interested in the first uses for Bt spliced or whatever the correct termis into GMO plants and animals.

    Also the original or first ideas of why it killed insects and the mechanism.

    As I understand it correctly or not this Bt was spliced BECAUSE IT KILLED not because people KNEW how it killed.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Allan

    Glad you founbd that ppt file which I have to admit I both learned more and was worried that my little bit by Professor Pollack et al was not there.

    It is not clear of the position of the author which is good.

    The blanks did provide me with worries which have not gone away.

    I would like to ask for clarification on this.

    There is clearly evidence of harm of whatever degree of proof.

    The tryptophan incident has removed a valuable product from the market for several decades which before GMO attempts to improve the supply was never a problem before.

    The actual finding of the culprit was a spectacular success for the single individual concerned not only in the discovery but making people take it seriously.

    My own poor attempts meeting mostly total derision or at best reluctant and temporary hickups in the continued development of insecticides, pesticides et al.

    I would be happy for a proper investigation into GMO with respect to the European E Coli deaths and do not think it would be in any way a diversion of time and resources.

    It you look at Doctor Pusztai and what happened to him with his MILD criticism of the GMO potato you can understand fully BLANK holes in a hand out in thepublic domain.

    Or is that getting too close to paranoia?

    Why put this ENIGMA in a set of slides if meaningless?

    JUST say it:

    There is no harm from GMO!

    Not that this would convince me.

    What does convince me is that harm is on many slides but nodetails are then provided for us when we clearly know of tryptophan and many more disputed cases.

  • Yes David, we are loosing the focus on the problem of EHEC. The EHEC cases have been slowing down due to consumer habits. Salad is out and the vegetable sale has been dwindling. The winner of this market situation are the dutch farmers who had /have the image of using chemicals and ultramodern methods. Dutch salads are sold and the organic stuff is shrinking. The green establishment is in panic and is using every slightest hint to divert attention to GMO or Egypt. I wrote the secretary of acriculture in Westphalia to test all organic farms for proper production. If the EHEC came from a conventional farm the hype and countermeasures would have sent tectonic waves even to Australia. The bias of the authorities is unbearable end lethal for Europeans.
    My prognosis is that EHEC will come back when it is hot, dry and the wells on the farm land run low.

  • Meh, I had attempted a reply earlier in the week, alas time spent cutting up GM corn plants in the field and bossing people about (which is less fun than it looks).

    I shall therefore, alas, miss some of the earlier gems from John Fryer Chemist (JFC) and focus on the latter nonsense – most of it seems to have been dealt with anyway, and far more civilly than I would deem necessary.

    AIDS hysteria yadda yadda

    Really John? There is a clear evolutionary relationship between HIV and simian viruses, viruses can jump species from time to time, quite often with catastrophic results (lack of coevolutionary arms races between host and vector for instance) – HIV quite obviously falls into this category – wild claims that it is engineered are quite frankly ridiculous.

    Just to reiterate E Coli is NOW known to be ESSENTIAL to human life and it is so sad that it has now become an organism to fear as well as need.

    Some strains we like, some strains we fear with good reason – inability to differentiate between the two and instead insist on being afraid of boogeymen is hardly a sensible approach.

    Claims of being able to feed the poor are for me not true

    Given that you apparently have such a twisted idea of what is an is not true why should what is or is not true for you have any bearing on anything?

    Hi my concern is for proper safetyin GMO.

    Pollution has increased across the board.

    So you’re happy about GMOs due to the reductions in pollution they have allowed? (reduced insecticide use, switches to less harmful herbicides, adoption of no-till, reduced CO2 output from farms utilizing them?)

    In Europe I repeat it is relatively new and John Dalli and the GMO acceptors will lead us to a world where it is as normal as in GMO nations.

    Europe to enter modern world. Foundations of reality tremble.

    GMO pigweed was not made by man but clearly comes from GMO pollution.

    There is no GMO pigweed. There is pigweed that is resistant to glyphosate due entirely to selection for variants within the natural population for resistance because of widespread useage of glyphosate – an entirely predictable outcome from utilization of a single control agent (although by all accounts a prediction which fell on deaf ears until it actually started playing out)

    My argument is why not E Coli deaths from newly established GMO pollution in Europe.

    Because it makes zero sense, you offer no mechanism, experts in the field can see now way it could occur, and it would be mind blowingly obvious in the E.coli implicated if GMOs were implicated (I assume you’ve missed the entirety of Dr Tribes commentary on the issue which deals specifically with the evolutionary history of the strains involved and the molecular evidence for this)

    1982 first cases of HUS in USA

    This did not happen in France (GMO refuser) until decades later when GMO began tobe imported by forced USA trade agreements to get GMO in WITHOUT LABELLING.

    Your timelines fail. GMOs were released after 1982, for a cause and effect the cause generally has to occur before, rather than after the effect. You fail to even highlight a correlation.

    I have had a smaller dose of this illness and know a large proportion of my friends who suffered at the same time several years ago.

    If having an illness made you an expert on the causes of the illness and the methods for prevention then I’d be making a buttload more money as a gastroenterologist. Oddly I’m not, and don’t expect to be any time soon.

    I reiterate I am no expert on E Coli or other bacterial harm from splicing into foods and other living matter. Splicing may not even be the correct way to describe this.

    It certainly isn’t. So stop doing so.

    My knowledge is zero on current GMO

    This is abundantly clear. It baffles me therefore why you decide to speak with such conviction while spewing out erroneous garbage.

    I already said that in 1971 there was no major illness that we needed to worry about.

    Apparently you are as ignorant of history as you are of science. Congratulations.

    For me killer flu and killer E Coli et al may in fact be novel illnesses that are grouped alongside illnesses that we have had for many many years.

    You’re aware that the Spanish flu in the early 1900’s killed quite a few people – afaik there hasn’t been a similar flu outbreak since – one would expect it will eventually happen again.

    Is there any reason why we shouldnt put GMO in as part of the complete investigation into deaths in Europe

    Every reason – there’s no reason to put it into the investigation, it will detract from the real issues by investigating stupid nonsense – for similar reasons we’re not investigating the decline in literacy, rises in teenage pregnancy, or the baffling continued success of the “Idol” phenomenon as causative factors.

    You have never heard of splicing E coli into living matter?

    Try this reference the first I found from 1978.

    Read the paper. Tell us where E.coli is spliced into anything? The only mentions of Ecoli are an enzyme used to
    cleave DNA for visualization taken from E.coli.

    So what in that paper is being spliced to what. For me it is clearly SV40 and E Coli spliced together.

    This is merely because your understanding of the matter is several tiers lower than one might expect from a mandarin orange.

    Exactly how plants with only 56 per cent similarity (GMO to non GMO) can be considered substantially the same is again abusing the use of our language. Especially when the 44 per cent represents a known TOXIC SUBSTANCE.

    What on earth are you talking about? Where are you getting the 56% similarity figure? What does it refer to? Which toxic substance are you blathering about? (and who in their right mind would believe that any plant or plant product would be considered remotely the same if 44% of it consisted of the transgenic product – it’d be either a sloppy amorphous blob of protein or a giant crystal.

    Its action is now well know. It leads to a kind of bleeding disorder and often death.

    First part correct – the Cry proteins as a family are incredibly well understood – second part, utterly wrong, unless you’re talking about the specific target insects, I presume however that you ain’t.

    I am not starting any arguments but collecting facts.

    And spewing out nonsense, lets not forget that.

    I am surprised though that GMOfood would come in be processed and sent back out.

    Ignorance of international trade can be added to the pile – is it really a surprise that cheap raw materials would be brought in, processed, and then sold on? Do you perchance live under a rock in Cornwall and only come out once every few hundred years to feast on the flesh of grasshoppers or something?

    So Europe without allowing its people to eat GMO is happy to get involved in others eating it.

    Europe allows people to eat GMOs, grow them not so much.

    Animals in Europe are suffering also from mysterious bleeding disorders and I along with many others are on record to government to suggest what happened this year would be the logical follow on.

    citation needed – you keep repeating this “mysterious bleeding disorder” nonsense without backing it up with anything.

    From most people here who think GMO is 100 per cent safe it looks as if my prediction is right but gut destroying GMO spliced material that takes out insects is not responsible for humans with gut problems and Iam still hoping for at least one person here to recommend investigation of GMO causation even if onlyto rule it out.

    The investigations have been done. The mode of action is well understood. You are simply wilfully ignorant on this point and appear to be using this as some sort of moral high ground.

    Just one person interesed in seeking knowledge about the worlds biggest health catsatrophe

    Sure, 15 years of use of GMOs with no cases of harm reported is a bigger health catastrophe than the black death or the wiping out of a whole civilization by European diseases when the Americas were discovered – I guess I was jsut thinking about it wrong.

    Are we all happy to have total ignorance on GMO and health?

    No, jsut you apparently – the rest of us are well aware of the non-ignorance on the subject which is readily available to anyone willing to spend a couple minutes perusing the scientific literature honestly.

    As far as I know independent safety checks on GMO are still illegal?

    This would once again support the hypothesis that what you know isn’t particularly a useful indicator about anything.

    I ACCEPT and believe fenugrec has not been GMO’d.

    This is an important fact and thanks for the verification.

    If GMO evidence was found then it would be an exampleof genetic pollution from mans GMO activities?

    This therefore is a hypothesis and not to be confused with facts.

    I am asking for experts to investigate these kind of things.

    Experts, believe it or not, have better things to do than follow up on crackpot theories with absolutely no sound reasoning behind them – you are free to keep asking, but expect to be ignored.

    As E coli is used in GMO experiments today and in the past it does seem a reasonable line of enquiry.

    Only to someone utterly ignorant of biology.

    I am here simply to help to solve the E coli problem not to air fanciful theories or distractfrom the investigation.

    I believe you can colour us all fooled.

    There is evidence of an exponential rise in cases roughly related to the desire to use GMO type foods.

    So wait, it isn’t the GMO crops but the desire to use them that is causing issues? That is awesome.

    No country in the world has more HUS than Argentina and virtually no one uses or embraces GMO technology and food more.

    Other than Brazil, the US, likely Europe (you’re aware that Argentina exports the vsat majority of its food production I’m sure.)

    Finally nobody unless I missed it thinks that ANY GMO type investigation is necessary for this outbreak.

    Frankly before you brought it up I would have said that even the craziest of the crazies would be hard pressed to make that sort of spurious connection – this appears to be a variation of the whole “Once you think you’ve made something foolproof someone comes along andproduces a better kind of fool” approach to thinking.

    There is unequivocal EVIDENCE of indirect GMO involvement and if anyone denies that they are lying.

    Provide it please. I’m assuming it is the same evidence as the unequivocal evidence if indirect flatscreen TV involvment, or iphone involvement – technologies which simply happen to coincide with things and aren’t remotely causative.

    Specifically the UK have been involved in just this sort of splicing found in patients for more than a decade.

    Please desist from using the word splicing, you have no bloody clue what it means in any of its forms.

    The E Coli is spliced to the plague

    Case in point.

    As to spliced I accept my lack of expertise on GMO which is not my field of interest or learning but I understand to make the first GMO’s they used a concoction of virus, bacteria and antibiotics. These are in my terminology all spliced together.

    Your terminology is so far from useful that as yet undiscovered Amazonian tribes likely have a better grasp of the terminology as it applies to modern biotechnology.

    We see this everywhere back to thalidomide where my friends where denied any harm from thalidomide despite their mothers taking the drug and arriving dead or minus bits of their arms and legs.

    How many of your friends were delivered dead? Just curious.

    I do add that GMO in organic food is unacceptable and that conventional hybridising of GMO food does not make the food non GMO again.

    Sadly I think we need you to not only define what a GMO is to you, but what every remotely technical term you use is because you appear to simply pluck words out of the air and use them regardless of the context or whether or not they even make sense.

    All the weeds which are resistant to herbicides and causing farming difficulties are still GMO even though man has never DIRECTLY experimented and performed the GMO transfromations on them.

    How so?

    We play with words when GMO type bacteria are killing Europeans

    You don’t play with words, you torture them in ways that make my brain hurt – if they had any sort of sentience at all you’d be convicted on cruelty charges.

    The bacteria involved aren’t GMO type, and I’d rather appreciate it if you’d stop flip flopping from “I just want an investigation” to ridiculous claims like this – it undermines your whole “I want the truth” approach – clearly you can’t handle the truth (or answers, or even terminology (a line which was cut as it lacked the dramatic panache of those left in)

    WITHOUT DISCLOSURE. And without any sign of an investigation into this aspect of the food chain today in Europe when people are dying on an unprecedented scale.

    Afaik Europe labels GMOs, so you’re a liar. And on an unprecedented scale? The civil war in England claimed the lives of over 1/4 of the population (if I remember my history right, and I rarely do) the Spanish ‘flu, world wars I and II, malaria in the third world, hunger in the third world, etc etc etc – the people of Europe are dying on an unprecedented scale only in the same respect as I am expanding rapidly at an unprecedented scale (my weight has been stable for about the last 2 years plus or minus a couple pounds)

    Alas that’s it for me, back to the field to attempt to bring even more fear into John’s life.

  • Allan

    I’m unsure whether a reply to an earlier blog appears to everyone reading the end of the thread, so I’m repeating a direct response to John concerning the biochemical mechanistic difference between crop resistance to glyphosate and the evolution of weed resistance. Here it is (and sorry if I misunderstand how direct replies to earlier posts are viewed by others).
    …………………
    Okay, I have to comment, now. John, you claim the evolving problem of increased weed resistance to glyphosate herbicide is due to uptake of GMO genes, and thus indirectly these weeds are GMO. Here is your statement after first suggesting the idea: “If you deny that organic food is being contaminated with GMO or that GMO plants subsequently developed are not GMO or that weeds are not GMO when they take up genes of E Coli, other bacteria and herbicide resistance then clearly we are at a difference.” I’m not going to talk about contamination of organic food because this is a different issue. But I am going to categorically say that you are WRONG!!!!!!!!!!! The reason is steeped in the knowledge of the biochemistry of crops bred for glyphosate resistance and weeds that have evolved resistance due to artificial selection. Crops bred resistant to glyphosate have an extra EPSPS gene with reduced binding potential for glyphosate. You’re a chemist, so think of it as an altered Km (i.e., the Km would be higher for the altered EPSPS than for the normal enzyme). Thus, the shikimate acid metabolic pathway is not inhibited and the crop happily does what it does despite glyphosate exposure.

    On the other hand, the evolution of weed resistance to glyphosate, which has been documented as occurring in a couple of species independent of the use of glyphosate on Roundup Ready crops as well as putatively associated in some cases with Roundup Ready crop use, is due to an entirely different biochemical mechanism. First, the EPSPS gene is not involved in evolution of weed resistance. Second, the mechanism has recently been elucidated with very convincing evidence in the 2010 publication by Yuan et al. titled, “Functional Genomics Analysis of Horseweed (Conyza canadensis) with Special Reference to the Evolution of Non–Target-Site Glyphosate Resistance” (Weed Science, 58(2):109-117. To simplify a longer story, selection for an altered transporter mechanism does not allow glyphosate to accumulate at its target site in the chloroplast (thats where the shikimate acid metabolic pathway lies). Thus, glyphosate applied at normal field rates becomes less effective. This mechanism of selection has nothing whatsoever to do with the manipulated EPSPS enzyme.

    John, I think everyone reading this blog understands that you are trying to communicate an urgency for testing some hypothesis you have for linking “spliced E. coli”, “bleeding illness”, and in one of your recent posts, increasing death rate in Europe. But John, a hypothesis must be plausible. Typically, in formation of a plausible hypothesis you have to lay out the mechanisms that must be operational. So, please, if you would like your hypothesis to be taken seriously, what is the plausible mechanism? Note that you have to stay within the parameters of what is known and consistent with recognized biological principles. For example, we know the identity and sequence of all the genes associated with molecular breeding of crops. Indeed, molecular technique has advanced so much since 1995 that we even now know more specifically where the transgenes are incorporated specifically into the plant genome. Thus, any hypothetical mechanism must incorporate empirical information about the system.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      Allan,

      I suspect that in this case “Chemist” is in the French version of the German “Apotheker” or English “Pharmacist.”

      I also suspect that John Fryer conceives of “GMO” as a sort of substance, like Neodymium or Dioxin, or, in this case, some sort of a mixture of bacteria and viruses that together have been “spliced [sic]” into the (plants/food).

  • But John Fryer Chemists repetition of the tryptophan myth should not go undiagnosed:

    http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/section-1/1-20-gm-microbe-does-not-cause-ems/
    1.20—High Doses of Tryptophan Cause EM
    Tryptophan used as a food supplement causes health problems.
    See Genetic Roulette’s False Claims at Bottom of Page
    Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Research:
    The claim that a GM microbe was at fault was made without any evidence. It is a sort of urban legend created by those who oppose GM crops in order to try to discredit them. No cause and effect between a GM microbe and the EMS disease has ever been established nor is there a need to find such a link, because another cause of the illness has been discovered. EMS is a dreadful and distressing illness which has caused a number of deaths. It is very important for people considering unusual diets or dietary supplements to get accurate information where there are real hazards. For some years now, an explanation for the illness has been known to medical scientists. EMS is triggered by consumption of large amounts of the dietary supplement L-tryptophan. We can prove that Jeff Smith is aware of this discovery and that he refuses to tell the truth about L-tryptophan. This could actually endanger people. The FDA has posted a warning on its webpage that consumption of L-tryptophan is potentially harmful. People need to know about this, but instead Genetic Roulette continues to propagate unfounded myths about GM technology.
    1. It is known that large doses tryptophan itself cause EMS. Since a report by Smith and Garrett in 2005, medical science has known that genetic modification is irrelevant to EMS, and that the supplement itself—that is to say consuming large amounts of L-tryptophan, whether or not it was made using genetic manipulation, causes health problems. This has been suspected for many years. Smith avoids quoting FDA reports that contradict his story.
    2. EMS is not exclusively associated with GM tryptophan. There are at least two reports in the medical literature of EMS disease caused by L-tryptophan in 1986, well before genetic engineered microbes were used in its manufacture. Tryptophan produced by different companies has also caused EMS.
    3. Contaminants in L-tryptophan do not cause EMS. The search for evidence that contaminants in L-tryptophan produced by genetic engineering are toxic has proved fruitless, and there is no actual evidence that these contaminants are harmful.
    4. A mechanism by which L-tryptophan could cause EMS has been identified. Metabolites formed from L-tryptophan itself inside the body are implicated in causing the condition known as EMS.
    5. Smith refuses to tell the whole story. Jeffrey Smith has been made aware of these facts about L-tryptophan not being the cause of EMS since early 2006 but has chosen not to make any correction to misleading commentary about tryptophan in his book.
    References:
    Smith MJ, and Garrett RH (2005). Review. A heretofore undisclosed crux of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome: compromised histamine degradation. Inflammation Research 54: 435–450.
    FDA, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, (February 2001) Information Paper on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-tryp1.html accessed Dec 7 2008.

    • Henry Kuska

      The following link is no longer active:

      FDA, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, (February 2001) Information Paper on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-tryp1.html accessed Dec 7 2008.

      As can be seen it is a 2001 document so I doubt that it would be useful as to where the science is in 2011..

      Let us look at what the recent reviewed scientific literature has to say about whether the EMS – GM L-tryptophan possible connection has been show to be not true as suggested in the above post.

      The following is the title of a 2011 reviewed scientific article: “Post-epidemic eosinophilia myalgia syndrome associated with L-tryptophan”

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.30514/abstract

      In the full paper, the following appeared: “Toxico-epidemiologic studies linked EMS to L-tryptophan (L-TRP) containing dietary
      supplements manufactured using genetically-engineered bacteria.5

      Initial analysis of implicated L-TRP revealed an impurity that was identified as 1’1’-ethylidenebis[tryptophan] (EBT).6″

      ALSO: “The pathobiological basis of EMS remains unknown. Epidemiologic studies tracing implicated L-TRP to a single manufacturer, and quantitative analyses of EBT suffered from methodological limitations. EBT was just one of more than 60 minor impurities detected in implicated L-TRP, six of which were associated with EMS.7″

      The previous Author in this thread made the following statement: “3. Contaminants in L-tryptophan do not cause EMS. The search for evidence that contaminants in L-tryptophan produced by genetic engineering are toxic has proved fruitless, and there is no actual evidence that these contaminants are harmful.”

      H.Kuska comment. No specific scientific reference was given. Pleas provide.

      • References:
        Smith MJ, and Garrett RH (2005). Review. A heretofore undisclosed crux of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome: compromised histamine degradation. Inflammation Research 54: 435–450. This is the key review. If you cannat get it I can email it to you.

        • Henry Kuska

          I have both the review and the 2 followups. Here is one section concerning contaminants:
          “As the proceedings of a symposium devoted to EMS amply
          illustrate (J Rheumatol 1996; 23 (Suppl 46): 1–110), epidemiological data implicating fi nite microimpurities from one manufacturer are controversial and understandably so.”

          Another:

          “According to several analytical surveys, incriminated tryptophan
          met Pharmacopeia criteria (DAB 9) for products
          intended for medicinal purposes in Germany [23]. LTCDS
          incriminated in the U.S. were Pharmacopoeia grade also
          [11]; aside from one internally incongruent outlier about
          inorganic impurities [24], no known data undercut widespread
          evidence that other incriminated case lots had an
          analytical purity of 98.5%5 or higher [5, 7, 25–27]. Analysis
          of other incriminated case lots disclosed purities of 99.6%,
          which meet Japanese Pharmacopoeia specifi cations [28–30].
          Thus, the quantities of adulterants in incriminated LTCDS
          remained exceedingly low – 650 ppm for the most prevalent
          (confi rmed) impurity [31] – according to virtually all ascertainable evidence.”

          —————————————-

          H.Kuska request.

          Please cut and paste what you feel supports your statement: “3. Contaminants in L-tryptophan do not cause EMS. The search for evidence that contaminants in L-tryptophan produced by genetic engineering are toxic has proved fruitless, and there is no actual evidence that these contaminants are harmful.”

          As your statement is not consistent with the 2011 paper.

  • I would like to propose that Mr. John Fryer Chemist be somehow excluded. He is not rude or offensive, but his posts, time after time, are introducing false statements that cannot be corrected as fast as he introduces them.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Dr Rader

    I propose that what you are suggesting is the proof that GMO studies are dangerous and that if people cannot discuss them or take note of past worries then we will slide from the current 4 000 plus permanent illnesses and deaths to a situation where this becomes accepted as normal.

    Can I suggest people look at and take note of not fanciful talk by me but as David says some research that people including myself would do well to emulate.

    http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=edethicsinscience&sei-redir=1#search=%22dieter%20soll%20yale%20GMO%20danger%22

    Discusses the Asilomar Conference and does have the bit about Professor Pollack.

    The deaths and illnesses I repeat are caused by E coli spliced to the plague which cannot be made except by some past action of man and his GMO experiments.

    The dangers of a dangerous technology cannot be made safe just because every university and biotech company is now using these techniques daily or because vast tracks of farmland are being put down to GMO crops.

    A packet of seeds that kills Europeans today costs less than 2 pounds. The cost of a single DNA analysis on one sample costs 100’s of times more and there are thousands of peopleill or dead with not a single published DNA analysis on the seeds to see if GMO pollution has occurred.

    How can you find causes of illness if you dont look or cant afford to look?

  • Eric Baumholder

    John Fryer Chemist

    “How can you find causes of illness if you dont look or cant afford to look?”

    How do you suppose health officials around the world consistently locate the sources of food-borne illness, and have never found a link to biotech foods, ever?

    They *can* look, and quite obviously *can afford* to look.

    I’d like to know what text you’re copying and pasting from. If it’s Jeff Smith or someone like that, do us a favor and post on the Greenpeace website instead.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi GMO pundit

    It seems that in the GMO world everything is safe and all problems in the past can be changed using typical practices.

    I remember studying this problem as it unfolded and the Japanese company involved denied harm and although it was fairly plain that only the GMO types of tryptophan caused harm there was no absolute prood of GMO harm so GMO got off the hook.

    There were 47 impurities or chemicals in the tryptophan from this GMO company. None of them could be pinpointed as being the true cause of illness or death.

    But in the same way GMO could not be proved resonsible to 100 per cent certainty neither could it be denied.

    Proper investigation was halted by judicious losing, burning or steeling of data and information.

    Theoretically GMO harm could neither be proved or disproved. At best the result could be called stalemate but with cause for concern at very high levels it is fail safe to suspect GMO involvement.

    I understand the costs to the company were huge.

    Also in the fall out, not only GMO but all forms of the drug were taken from circulation until the heat dies down which it has recently done and safe tryptophan or non GMO is quietly making a comeback.

    I do know people who took the drug for years without harm.

    This would be the non GMO type in the UK.

    We see the same type of problem in the european deaths and illness on an unprecedented scale.

    Numbers are clipped downwards, every few days we are told the illnesses are no longer occurring and anything not GMO related is getting the rough treatment. We also hear over and over again that we will never find the cause.

    An attitude in science and discovery that makes no sense.

    Before 1960 or some such similar date these kinds of illness did not happen.

    I was looking at Nobel winner Werner Arber who at one time abandoned E Coli research because it would not propagate.

    Arber continued to develop skills in microbial genetics, working with colleagues in the United States for a short time before returning to Geneva at beginning of 1960. There, he continued working on lambda transduction in E. coli, but found that the virus would not efficiently propagate.

    Times seem to have changed with no found E coli somehow multiplying and propagating so efficiently that thousands in France and Germany are becoming ill.

    I also remember in the 1960’s that E coli was hamrless and used as a measure of pollution where the numbers decayed with time as the samples were kept.

    Completely and diametrically opposed to what is happening now where pollution from E Coli is surviving transport for thousands of miles and long term storage while the seeds are stored and then distributed.

    All going agianst classical biology but in harmony with GMO involvement.

    And exactly what was the top of the worry list or angst list back at the Asilomar conference in 1975

    This is not the exact point I was looking for which was a very similar description to 2011 E Coli harm in Europe but gives the flavour of what was known to be a genuine worry that has not gone away with time.

    Yet when some experimenters proposed taking genetic material from viruses and seeing if
    E. coli K12 would pick it up, microbiologists expressed alarm because they feared that genetically
    enhanced K12 might come into contact with the other strain of E. coli that inhabits a small portion of human
    intestines and create a human health hazard.

    If only it was just this old and very stable form of E Coli but today the varieties have multiplied considerably so nearly every new outbreak is a new form of E Coli.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    GMO pundit

    Have you reference to the tryptophan harm in 1986.

    Also can you establish that GMO was used by this time?

    I say this because I remember when the finding by a doctor that everyone with this illness had taken tryptophan that he contacted a researcher who had studied the illness for a lifetime without success and could not believe an amateur could have an answer.

    Likemany illnesses there are often multiple causes making any scientific investigation almost impossible from the start.

    • Ewan R

      Likemany illnesses there are often multiple causes making any scientific investigation almost impossible from the start.

      Which diseases are you claiming are impossible to investigate scientifically? Just out of interest.

      • Eric Baumholder

        Ewan,

        This is part of why the Greens, etc demand ‘long-term feeding studies’. They know that such things involve so many variables that can’t be controlled for, that they will result in scary, mysterious outcomes. The Greens etc. appear to be uninformed etc. but they are actually smarter than most of us when it comes to shaping public opinions. It is good to be wary of an opponent good at PR, who is also heedless of human misery and death.

    • RE 1986 cases of EMS:
      A gave you the key reference,.

      It is pointless to discuss this without going through its text. Here is the reference again
      References:
      Smith MJ, and Garrett RH (2005). Review. A heretofore undisclosed crux of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome: compromised histamine degradation. Inflammation Research 54: 435–450.

      The sad thing is that none of the lobby groups who spread fear about the tryptophan issue seem to have read and understood this comprehensive report.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    John Fryer,

    You are speaking rubbish, and we are all laughing at you.

    You can not be persuasive by galloping-out more and more more and more outlandish unsupported and implausible claims.

    Please, can you tell us why you do not look at the posts here on this blog that discuss these issues (and, incidentally, destroy your scurrilous and silly claims)?

    Please, can you tell us when you are going to read a basic 10th-level book on Botany? You need it badly.

    Please, can you tell us when you are going to read Federoff’s “Mendel in the Kitchen” book or similar? You need it badly.

    May I suggest you look-up some general Biology/Microbiology text and read that too? You need it badly.

    Google-U can give you sufficient knowledge of Epidemiology, Statistics, Risk-Assessment, and the histories of the various (unidentifiable) diseases you are trying to talk about. I suggest you make avail of it. You need it badly.

    Ha ha ha.

  • John Fryer Chemist

    Hi Allan

    Yes there is urgency in finding the cause for the European E Coli harm not least for those yet to become ill.

    And with cause comes prevention possibly.

    I have witnessed in my life time a disastrous rise in pollution of all kinds and yes there are exceptions as technologies improve or change. No more concorde so no more whatever the problem was to the USA government.

    And yes herbicide resistance is often just a simple genetic response to an insult.

    And yes I am wrong to assume that these plants are GMO polluted but as said my knowledge is not always spot on with these things.

    So taking pig weed and other crops as provenly non GMO but developing resistance by repetitions in their structure.

    However there are claims and true ones of contamination and this is where I made my error.

    Rather like rabbits, squirrels, trees and now increasingly GMO is mixing with non GMO and this is where I fear the illness is coming from for the Europeans getting ill.

    Finding the cause as I keep stressing does not come by refusing to look because some person such as me hasn’t a degree in biotechnology.

    Also on the other hand some claims in the GMO history are being changed maliciously to prevent harm or scientific progress.

    I read about Paul Berg NOT splicing SV40 and E Coli together in 1972 or 1973 because of concerns which he admits IRRITATEDhimjust as people here do not want to take responsibility.

    He did take responsibility but is it not WRONG that he refused to do the experiment? My reading is that Professor Pollack actually described to him an AIDS like scenario which from Professor Pollacks account he laughed away at first.

    In respect of AIDS again malicious people were caught out trying to put the first AIDS case in pre GMO days when again GMO scientists concluded the 1950’s case was involving a late 1980’s strain of AIDS or to be blunt someone switched samples for this dead sailor.

    • Eric Baumholder