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Biotech United States Science

Judge Rejects Approval of Engineered Sugar Beets 427

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-be-beet dept.
countertrolling writes "A federal judge has ruled that the government failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of genetically engineered sugar beets before approving the crop for cultivation in the United States. The decision could lead to a ban on the planting of the beets, which have been widely adopted by farmers. Beets supply about half the nation's sugar, with the rest coming from sugar cane. The Agriculture Department did conduct an environmental assessment before approving the genetically engineered beets in 2005 for widespread planting. But the department concluded there would be no significant impact, so a fuller environmental impact statement was not needed. But Judge White said that the pollen from the genetically engineered crops might spread to non-engineered beets. He said that the 'potential elimination of farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer's choice to eat non-genetically engineered food' constituted a significant effect on the environment that necessitated an environmental impact statement. There's still hope, isn't there? That we can at least get this stuff labeled properly?"
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Judge Rejects Approval of Engineered Sugar Beets

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  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:11PM (#29516793) Journal

    It was just modified by farmers over a longer period of time using human (i.e. unnatural selection) to bring out certain traits.

    The only difference is in the people doing the modification and the techniques used.

    Just like dogs have been genetically modified to produce everything from chihuahuas to great danes.

  • Well good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amplt1337 (707922) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:13PM (#29516801) Journal

    Now I'm not all that fussy about not eating bio-engineered food. But I think that biodiversity is a Good Thing, and that it's probably a good idea to preserve some uncontaminated stock (the old adage of "work on a backup" applies doubly when you're dealing with your food supply).
    Add to that the way a lot of the bioengineering agritech firms love to assert copyright over their "intellectual property" (plant genetic material), whether or not the farmer actually wanted it or if it was undesirable cross-pollination, and I say good for Judge White.

  • I mean, who the hell wants better bigger tastier and healthier crops?

    Organic foods - throwing farming back to the 16th century!

    The three pillars of organic farming:

    diseases, cross contamination and starvation.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:20PM (#29516927) Homepage Journal

    This is on par with banning sea salt because they came up with a more efficient evaporation process. With the exception of turbinado (i.e. raw sugarcane extract) and molasses, white cane/beet sugar is 99%+ pure. Who cares if the DNA of the plant is different from the previously "genetically modified" breed of sugar beet? Sugar Beet is right up there with modern corn, strawberries and wheat in terms of plants that have been bred to produce 1000x what the plant produces naturally in the wild. There is no DNA in white sugar, and any that was in the Turbanado or Molasses was destroyed in the boiling process.

  • by COMON$ (806135) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:23PM (#29516949) Journal
    And the results being things that haven't evolved

    Definition of evolution: change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.

    Eg Delta, change, any change good or bad. You people need to get off of the soundbite train and get a grasp on what evolution is.

  • the pollen factor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:27PM (#29517019)
    I think companies like Monsanto should not be allowed to sue farmers just because the pollen from their genetically modified food crops spread to other fields, Monsanto released the product in to the open air world so it is only natural that the pollen from their products are going to spread to other plants, proving the farmer not at fault...
  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:27PM (#29517031)

    What I worry about is Big-Ag owning these GMOs and cornering the market. When that happens and a disease strikes the GMO that's it - the end of food. It is putting too many eggs in the same basket. Then there is the whole thing where farmers only end up "licensing" the seed for the one year requiring them renew their license every year - again, of Big-Ag provided seed. Mono-culture agriculture is too stressful. I'm not particularly "green" but this only makes common sense.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:28PM (#29517033)

    Direct insertion of DNA sequences from other species is different to breeding and selection.

    End of story.

    By all means get pissy about the definition of evolution, you're just trying to play semantics that have nothing at all to do with the argument at hand.

    And I wish you people would stop "you people"'ing me. For god's sake, it's as if you people are incapable of addressing individuals.

  • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:29PM (#29517049)

    This is getting to be less and less true, regardless of how "cheap" you are, and that's the point.

    There was an article in Wired a while back that dealt with genetically engineered beef, going in depth into the whole process by which it's created, interviewing the farmers and other people along every step of the chain. The upshot was that it's basically impossible *not* to buy genetically engineered beef these days, because there are so many people out there who don't follow what few rules there are, there's so little enforcement and such big financial incentives for breaking the rules. (Nobody wants to buy cattle with stringy beef when it's next to a bunch of other cattle that are plumped up artificially.)

    And the thing you have to remember is that once you've contaminated the chain, it's impossible to uncontaminate it. It's like trying to remove paint thinner from a pitcher full of drinking water. Once it's in there, it's almost impossible to separate it again. If you have one genetically modified bull producing offspring with non-modified cattle, all of those offspring will then be genetically modified, and nobody knows about it. They will then have their own offspring, and REALLY quickly you will have an entire system full of contaminated beef.

    All anybody wants is the choice to eat this stuff or not. And that's being taken away with the lack of rules, the lack of oversight and the lack of labeling. Nobody is saying this stuff shouldn't even be on the market, we're just saying it needs to be labeled, and separated from the natural stuff.

  • by locallyunscene (1000523) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:30PM (#29517071)
    That's fine, the problem which the judge is rightly pointing out is when pollen from GE self terminating sugarbeet plants pollinates a "warty disease filled" heirloom crop of sugar beets, thereby destroying that farmers heirloom strain while he's getting sued by Monsanto for having a 95% match rate in his crops DNA with the patented GE crop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:40PM (#29517253)

    I'm generally the anti-environmental activism type but when it comes to GMO food, there are some serious concerns. Genetic engineering isn't the same as naturally selecting crop variations. It's a whole new game. In some cases the natural barriers that would keep out certain genetic material are circumvented to inject things like pesticide projection that could never naturally make it through the cell wall. Essentially, things are being injected into the dna of crops that could not get in there naturally and then any cross-pollinated crops will have this foreign DNA. Eventually, it's conceivable that ALL crops would be genetically modified. What happens when 10 or 20 years down the road we find that these modifications have serious health hazards but now we've lost all our non GMO varieties? There is little un-biased research done on this issue.

    Also check out this documentary [hulu.com], just don't believe everything they say.

  • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:40PM (#29517259) Homepage
    It's still not that unusual. Viruses do that very thing all the time. It'd take a really long time to do it the sexual way, but it's nothing that can't be done with enough patience. GM is just really really fast breeding. Get over it.
  • by toiletsalmon (309546) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:40PM (#29517265) Journal

    "The difference is the methods involved, where people artificially interfere with breeding and natural selection by means of selecting crops themselves or directly cut and paste genes to that effect."

    And that's the whole point. You want to be logical, OK. Let's be logical and scientific about it:

    History has shown me time and again that giant multinational corporations are more concerned with doing things the PROFITABLE way, which is not necessarily, the safest/smartest/cleanest/healthiest way. So WHY should I believe that ADM, etc. won't do something "bad" to my food, cover it up, and lie about it?

    It's not about being a luddite, it's about knowing, from experience, that the CEO of the company in charge of "Engineering the Future of Our Food!" is probably an asshole who doesn't care what impact he has on other people or the environment.

    Additionally, I don't know about you, but I gave up on the notion of the "noble researcher/scientist a long time ago. From his (scientist) perspective, his job with the big food multi-national is probably just as soul-crushing as any other corporate gig.

    "Should I check those test results one more time? Fuck it! It's Tuesday, my boss is an ahole, I've got to fill out my 10 page quarterly review, and I just don't fucking care right now. I'm going to Chotchkie's..."

    Yeah, I want those guys tinkering around with the basic building blocks of my food.

    TLDR: You assume there's no reason to NOT trust them, and I say there's no reason TO trust them.

  • by BenBoy (615230) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:43PM (#29517315)
    ... but not simpler.

    I see a lot of "it's just sugar" or "everything's genetically modified" arguments cropping up here; it's really not that simple. Plants are surprisingly "promiscuous" (follow this thread for a number of, no doubt, terribly ribald comments on *that* one). Traits adopted by one set of plants can make their way over [wikipedia.org] to others of the same or different species. Depending on what traits are being modified, this can be a bad thing; consider that Roundup resistance in weeds is not just a result of selective pressure, but of the movement of genes from Monsanto's Roundup resistant seed stocks to neighboring plants.

    Yes, this sort of "gene flow" happens in the soi disant natural world as well, but, like CO2 production, modern technology allows us to make bigger, more significant differences over a much shorter period of time. Caution is appropriate here.

  • by ajs (35943) <ajs@noSPam.ajs.com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:53PM (#29517511) Homepage Journal

    Do we really have the confidence in our understanding of genetic mechanisms to rule out harmful side-effects?

    Turn that question around: What are the side effects of non-GMO crops?

    Almost all of this debate misses the fundamental point of introducing alien species (and that's what GMO crops are... we've just refined the granularity of introduction to genetic fragments rather than a whole creature). Toads would not have been a problem in Australia or pigs in Hawaii, had they evolved there, naturally. They problem is that it takes centuries for an ecosystem to adapt to even the smallest change in an existing species and millennia or much longer to adapt to major changes.

    In short, it's not the evolution of the crops that's in question, but of the environment around them and how it will respond.

    We're currently at the "what could possibly go wrong" stage, and companies like Mosanto correctly point out that they'll go out of business if they need to wait for 100 years to see what the results of their tinkering might be, but are we protecting a company at the cost of our future health and well being? We literally have no idea.

  • by causality (777677) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:56PM (#29517559)

    OMG, some company wants to make money by making farming more efficient , eco friendly, and create safer foods.

    Run for the hills.

    You do knwo that is the only complaint against them, right. "They make money, therefore there bad" is a weak ass argument.

    More like "they would like to control the food supply, in much the same way that Microsoft now controls the desktop operating system industry". Some of us find that prospect a disturbing one, and a hard look at Monsanto's business tactics and their allergy to full disclosure does not comfort us one bit. Honestly, I don't know where you get this idea from that the only reason why someone would dislike a company is that they are successful at making money. I am sorry but it sounds like a sound bite from a talk radio show host, not a serious attempt at reasoning. How they go about making that money and how their methods might negatively affect others, either directly or by setting undesirable precedents, is the issue here.

    If you want a starting point that you can plug into Google while you disabuse yourself of any concept of this company's benevolence, I have three words for you: bovine growth hormone. This would be very much like telling someone to learn about Microsoft and how they do business by studying their interactions with the ISO concerning OOXML, except in Monsanto's case the controversy was not about a standards body but instead, the major media.

    If you're more subtle you could also ask yourself why a company with "more efficient, eco friendly, and ... safer foods" would not be eager to label them as such and in fact has fought tooth and nail to prevent any sort of product labels that would identify the fruits of their labors. The only conclusion that makes sense is that they know some people don't want GMO foods and the like and believe that their desire for additional sales volume overrides the average person's right to know what they are buying (or to not purchase something they don't want). The problem with that is that once people no longer know what they are buying, all free-market concepts of "what the market wants" go out the window and you can accurately say that at least some of their business is built on deception.If anyone stands up and suggests that maybe this isn't the best way to do things and that maybe we should question the motives of people who do things this way, would you really suggest that the company's profitability is the only possible reason for doing so? Could you do that with a straight face?

  • by Rix (54095) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:56PM (#29517581)

    There is absolutely nothing stopping you from paying for meat certified not to be from modified stock.

    Would you argue that non-Kosher food should have to be labelled as such? If not, why should I have to pay to accommodate your superstitions?

  • by Jodka (520060) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:58PM (#29517611)

    But Judge White said that the pollen from the genetically engineered crops might spread to non-engineered beets.

    The United States court system is protecting us from miscegenated sugar beets?

    Arguments in favor of genetic purity are no more valid when applied to sugar beets than when applied to people.

     

  • by vrai (521708) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:58PM (#29517617)

    I think a fairer system is that Monsanto (or whoever) pay to replace the farmers stock with non-GM modified seed of the farmer's choice and provide remuneration for the lost yield. If the farmer refuses, then the patent holder can break out the lawyers and commence legal action.

    That way the patents are protected and the incentive to develop new GM technology remains; but third parties are not punished for something that isn't their fault. It also provides an incentive for patent holders to be careful about how their product is dispersed: contaminating a large commercial farm could prove very costly.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:01PM (#29517671)

    IBut the solution isn't to ban genetically engineered crops it's to change the law so a farmer can only be sued if he or she can be proved to have known (or had the information to know if they'd cared to think about it) that their seed was actually carrying the trait, and also benefited from the trait (ie it's not like the farmer benefits at all from having beets resistant to a sepecific herbicide if they don't actually spay that herbicide, which would have killed their beets if they didn't contain the trait.)

    Even if the farmer knows after the fact about the contamination, why should he be liable when any "infringement" was directly caused by the failure of the patent holder or their licensee to keep the patented organism's genetic material from being spread in the environment?

    Unless the cross-pollination is the result of a deliberate act by the farmers whose crops were pollinated aimed at securing the patented genes, I don't see why they should be liable at all, even if they do become aware after the event and benefit from it. Allowing patent holders to sue even in the case you present just encourages irresponsible actions by the makers and growers of GMOs.

  • by richardkelleher (1184251) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:09PM (#29517805) Homepage
    Barring complete enclosure of the crops, there is no chance that cross pollination will not take place. Since the modified plant is the interloper it should be incumbent on the farmer planting the modified plants to contain the pollination in such a way that the pollinating insects are not allowed to carry pollen to adjacent fields from the modified plants.
  • by Amouth (879122) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:12PM (#29517851)

    It's pretty unfair to criticize something that started out a safety feature and morphed into something that turned into a way of enforcing a license agreement.

    And then turned into a way of sueing other farmers because their fields where next to someone who had the terminator corn - also causing that person to not have enough for the next year.

  • by EvilBudMan (588716) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:13PM (#29517887) Journal

    --In short, they're patent-wielding litigious bastards.--

    I can't mod you any higher or I would, but this is true.

    --If their position wasn't opposite that of environmentalist, Slashdot readers would be on the anti-Monsanto bandwagon like white on rice.--

    I could have said that better but would have had to curse to do it.

    I'm not really against GM stuff as such. I don't see the big deal except with what you have already stated.

  • by causality (777677) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:14PM (#29517909)

    Right now, though, the greatest danger with this company is that they are pursuing control of world food. They already control the majority of all soybeans and corn in the US.

    Indeed. I'd rather see a hundred major corporations go bankrupt than see one of them control the food supply and there's nothing "anti-capitalist" about saying so.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:16PM (#29517947)

    They're also creating a significant risk of destroying genetic diversity, made worse by the fact that they own patents controlling the genotypes that are hedging out the others. Crop genetic diversity isn't just important in some hippie "plant multiculturalism" sense -- it's important if you plan on your children being able to eat in the future.

    To explain this in simple terms:
    - Today's genetically modified insect repellent high yield crop might be tomorrow's "mana from the gods" for some crop pest or other.

    If one plant in a crop which is composed of plants all sharing the exact same DNA is/becomes susceptible to one kind of crop pest/disease (which is bound to happen sooner or later since said pests/diseases are also exposed to evolutionary pressures), then the whole crop will be susceptible.

    Biodiversity (even amongst the same species of family of plants and animals) makes our crops more resistant to this kind of scenarios.

    Due to the way GM plants are created and the fact that things like terminator genes mean that for many GM plants natural reproduction is not viable, the number of DNA variants for any given GM species is limited and no natural evolution can take place. The result is whole fields covered in what essentially are clones (or a small number of variants) year-in-year-out, while the local pests/viruses/bacterias are evolving/adapting to be able to eat/infect that very small genetic pool of plants.

    If on a wider scale a specific strain of a GM plant (say wheat) becomes a large percentage of the total crop of that kind of plant, then the conditions are set for a full-blown collapse of most of a year's crop of that plant at a global (or at least continental) level - for example having 90% of the wheat crop in both South-America and North-America die because those 90% are all a single kind of GM-wheat for which a highly deadly disease has just evolved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:28PM (#29518153)

    The problem with common sense is it isn't.

  • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [esidarap.cram]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:46PM (#29518489) Homepage Journal

    Another Monsanto gem is their law suits of suing farmers for retaining harvest seeds year over year instead of buying them from Monsanto, claiming patent infringment.

    While often "making profit == evil" is the attitude we come across in slashdot conversations, there's actually some merit here. Monsanto has had a fairly long and unpleasant history of the things they're doing in the name of profit.

  • by Rutefoot (1338385) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:00PM (#29518743)
    For a long time I felt that there was nothing -wrong- with GMOs, only that Monsanto is a corporate bully whose monopoly negatively impacts our system. Then I did more research.

    Rewind back in time: Not too long ago the world was certain that food contained just a couple of nutrients (now thought of as being 'macro'nutrients). Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Food scientists believed that as long as you got enough of the proper balance of those 3 nutrients then you'd be a healthy, happy person. People still got sick. In fact, those who followed this diet religiously got sicker. Fast forward a few years. Food scientists now know that in addition to these macronutrients there were also micronutrients that were essential to human health (vitamins). Fast forward again to the current day. Food scientists now know that there are other things in play. Such as omega fatty acids (which we are only now finding out that its not really the amount of fatty acids that is important, but the ratio of one kind to the other), certain 'helpful' bacteria, etc.

    My point is, we are always absolutely convinced we understand nutrition, but it always turns out that we are missing countless valuable information. White bread exists because we discovered long ago that if you remove those worthless vitamins and minerals then you could improve the shelf life*. Margarine replaced butter in many households because at one point we decided that trans fats were bad for you and trans fats were perfectly fine. Babies that are given infant formula (one of the most complex and ever changing food products that exists) still don't thrive as well as babies that are breast-fed.

    GMOs are a bad idea because we're assuming we know whats good for us (and we've proven time and time again that we know shit all). We're constantly breeding out traits that we view as insignificant in favour of yield and pest resistance and studies have shown that crops grown in 2009 contain significantly fewer nutrients than they did even just 20 years ago. America, relative to the abundance of food that is grown there is one of the most undernourished countries in the world. Genetically modifying food just makes it that much easier to fuck around with things that we don't fully understand.

    *one of the way shelf life is improved is because the little creatures that feed off if it fail to thrive because the nutrients are just not there. If fungal spores refuse to consume it then what the fuck are we doing choosing it as our preferred type of bread? Shouldn't this be a hint?
  • by Rutefoot (1338385) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:01PM (#29518765)
    ...we decided that saturated fats were bad for you and trans fats...
  • by MaizeMan (1076255) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:09PM (#29518895) Homepage
    Forgive me. I've been unclear.

    Farmer A plants seeds with a GURT trait like Terminator (nevermind where he got it since the technology was never commericalized). Some small amount of contamination drifts out of his field and into the edge of farmer B's. Those few seeds obviously won't germinate. Farmer B is either forced to marginally increase his sowing density, or use seed from the center of his field, or the center of his property which has no contamination. Either is that great to farmer B (although most people who're preserving their own breeds of crops already use the center seed as pollen contamination has been an issue for centuries, not with GM but just producing mixed seeds (like mutts) that don't carry all the traits of the purebreed), but hardly constitute a threat to his livelihood. And most to get back to my point above, his own seed isn't contaminated with sterility or any such nonsense.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:14PM (#29518959)

    Direct insertion of DNA sequences from other species is different to breeding and selection.

    Of course it's DIFFERENT, duh.

    Your burden of proof is to show us it's WORSE. So far you haven't done that. You've just laid out a lot of scary language designed by Greenpeace to frighten people who don't know jack about genetics or science-in-general. You'll find the audience here is not the man-on-the-street.

    So, go ahead, prove that using GM to obtain specific traits is worse than breeding for specific traits. Prove it.

  • by plover (150551) * on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:43PM (#29519399) Homepage Journal

    And do you know who [responsibl...nology.org] are you quoting? Here's a subtle hint: their home page has "GMFree" as a part of the URL. Painting "Institute for Responsible Technology" on the side of their building doesn't mean they are actually performing responsible scientific studies.

    Their front page is filled with alarmist rhetoric like "Everything you HAVE TO KNOW about Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods" and "Expert Jeffrey M. Smith, author of the #1 GMO bestseller Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, presents shocking evidence why genetically modified crops may lead to health and environmental catastrophes, and what we can do about it." Does a responsible scientific organization use "Dangerous", "shocking", and "catastrophe" to frame the debate?

    Every single paragraph on their site is devoted to anti-GMO propaganda such as "No GMOs" and "Healthy Eating Begins with Non GMO food!"

    They're every bit as neutral on the subject as Monsanto. You can bet that any study they quote has been cherry picked to support their position, and that no studies that might show contrary evidence are supported.

    These guys ARE the radical greens who hate GMOs because "they're not natural", not because they understand it.

    And just to be clear, I'm not employed in the agri-business, but my wife is. She works for an organic grain wholesaler, so I've learned a bit about the industry, and about the people who work in it. Their entire business model is built upon making sure people freak out when they hear the letters "GMO".

  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:53PM (#29519549)

    Have you eaten wheat? Corn? Beef? Chicken?

    All of these products were genetically modified by people long before we knew what genes were. In its natural state, wheat blows away in the wind, leaving no food to eat. Mutant strains kept the seeds, and we cultivated those. Mutant strains developed by Borlaug in the 1950s saved millions from death and billions from starving.

    Cows are domesticated from aurochs, now extinct. Wild corn is an inch long and hard as a rock.

    Everything we've eaten for millenia has been genetically modified for maximum yield and higher efficiency.

    We just have different tools now. What if they'd used phenotype selection to create a super-sweet beet instead? Would that be a problem? Eventually Mostanto could create a roundup-ready corn using artificial selection, the same way we've been doing it since we dug furrows in Mesopotamia.

    Would that be fine? Is it just the tool that's the problem or is it hysteria at anything that's genetically modified and labelled as a Frankenfood by enivronmentalists?

    For the record, I am a vegetarian.

  • Interesting, but? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mathinker (909784) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:01PM (#29519659) Journal

    The post you replied to didn't claim that direct gene splicing isn't "natural" (whatever that really means), it claimed it wasn't comparable to cross-breeding and selection.

    And you have to admit that the rate of (significant) horizontal gene transfer in nature in food crops, over the period of the recent past, is small compared to the rate of intentional gene transfers of genetic engineering in the same period.

  • by jayme0227 (1558821) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:36PM (#29520263) Journal

    Alright! All you physicists out there, stop! You don't fully understand what you're doing, so experimenting will hurt us all in the long run. Doctors, you too. No more surgeries, no more medications until we know EXACTLY what's going on in the human body.

    Ok, so that doesn't make sense, right? We need doctors to do their jobs, even if they aren't 100% perfect, because being wrong on occasion is better than doing nothing at all. There is often a benefit to continuing experimentation or implementation, even if we don't have all the facts.

    If the vitamins and minerals that humans get are what you're worried about, don't worry so much. Human life expectancy has increased pretty much every year since GM crops were first implemented. Before these GMOs existed, scientists questioned the possibility of feeding the ballooning population in Asia - Now we produce enough food in the world to feed them without a problem, it's just logistics/politics that get in the way. Surely you'd agree that getting food with poor nutritional value is better than getting no food at all.

    The part that I'd be considerably more worried about (and even then, I'm not that worried) is the possibility that they completely screw up the environment with their GM crops. At this point, however, there are already safeguards in place to prevent this very thing from happening. That's the whole reason this article exists, afterall.

  • by winwar (114053) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:57PM (#29520665)

    "Call me a "green" if you wish..."

    No, but I'm afraid the "woo" may be strong in you...

    "...but lab results on some of the genetically modified food have shown stomach cancer in lab rats."

    Do you have a citation, maybe to a good published study?

    "You think this federal judge ruled against the crop without any reason at all?"

    He didn't rule against the crop. He just said that you couldn't claim that there was no significant environmental impact. So an EIS is needed. I would disagree, but I'm not the judge...

    Personally, I think he is probably clueless about science.

  • by pjabardo (977600) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:09PM (#29520883)
    Wait, you come up with a new technology that could cause a lot of harm and we have to prove it is worse? I'm sorry but that is at least extremely irresponsible. There are lots of things we don't understand very well in genetics and one thing we had figured out 20 years ago when GMO became common was that one gene = one protein (or one effect). Except that we now know that this isn't true. What does this mean? Once we insert a foreign gene (or gene sequence) on a cell, new compounds that have never existed in nature can possibly appear. What are its effects? Impossible to know.

    Horizontal gene transfer does occur in nature and is actually common in some circumstances but this is not the same thing. I'm not a biologist but I think it is safe to say that horizontal gene transfer tends to occur between species that somehow live together and evolution has somehow bred out the really nasty possibilities.

    Now, if you force new genes on species, at the very least, the probability of something going very wrong is much higher.

    I guess that the worst problem with these technologies is monoculture. It is a matter of time until some new pest shows up destroys most crops.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:13PM (#29520965)

    I guess that the worst problem with these technologies is monoculture.

    But monoculture has nothing to do with genetics. Nothing at all. For example, most plantations growing bananas are a monoculture, but they aren't genetically modified at all.

    So you're basically saying, "I have absolutely no evidence that GM is worse, but here's a completely unrelated example that has nothing to do with GM." We're not that stupid, buddy, bring facts or go home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:21PM (#29521095)

    The mechanics of your argument are good (no major spelling or grammar problems, sensible flow, et cetera), so I'll go ahead and assume you're an intelligent person.

    Considering that you're probably intelligent, that was one of the least substantial arguments I've read in some time. You provided no citations, no significant historical references, and you demonstrated no serious understanding of the history of nutrition. (To be fair, I also don't know much about nutrition, but neither am I pretending to.) You also ended with a "cop-out" argument, "we don't know everything, therefore we shouldn't do anything." The closest you could come to providing facts was a hand-waving reference to "studies" about crops in 2009, as though either of us are in a position to seriously evaluate scientific literature on the subject.

    My conclusion is that you are an intelligent person, but you've read a lot of garbage, and you believed most of it. Whatever your source of information is, I recommend you to be much, much more skeptical of it in the future. I also recommend you balance out your reading with some cold, hard study of the science itself (even Wikipedia is your friend!).

    Then again, I'm just an anonymous coward to you. Feel free to ignore me. I don't recommend that, though.

  • Re:Stupid Science! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:01PM (#29521845)

    If only we could go back to the blissful carefree days of the caveman....

    which seems to be what a lot of the Earth Firsters really want, as long as they continue to reap the benefits of civilisation...

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @06:28PM (#29523081) Homepage

    I'd say it's not only plausible but that it has already happened. Economies of scale tend to work against diversity. That's not always a bad thing (starvation is a worse problem than a non-diverse food supply) but monocultures do expose us to new risks.

    *ahem* evolution requires a sort-of "minimum efficiency"* from any species in order to have it survive. This minimum efficiency level is constantly being raised by the competition.

    There are multiple phases to any evolutionary process. In the first stage, when the *initial* colonization of a lifeless environment takes place, there is a massive explosion of diversity. But once that initial wave dies out, it only goes down**, as more and more species fail to achieve the minimum efficiency levels. Initially this merely eliminates harmful mutations, but it will start killing entire species and ethnicities within those species soon. Eventually (usually this takes a looooooooooooooooong while though) a "grey goo" type event takes place : some species finds a very efficient process and colonizes the whole planet (since no other species can acquire the energy necessary to stop it).

    * minimum efficiency comprises a lot of factors, not just energy collection and use, but anti-getting eaten strategies, anti-parasite strategy, anti-symbiosis strategy ... it is some number that summarizes everything. A sort of inverse "price" on the species' survival, so to speak. Eventually there is no stopping the species with the lowest price.

    ** in the same way temperature equalizes : there is no single physical law that prohibits that everyone's house just heats itself without energy expenditure. It's just so massively unlikely it's considered absurd. That doesn't mean that all sorts of effects change the required heating level in a house, but on average, the entropy of the solar system can only decrease. Likewise species diversity, once the lifeless environment is colonized, can only decrease.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @07:10PM (#29523547) Journal
    But not everything we eat is patented. If you plant genetically modified crops with a patented genome and the seeds blow into a neighbour's field then they can be sued by the patent owner. That makes a strong argument for not permitting them (or fixing the US patent system, but that's a bit more effort).
  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @07:53PM (#29523861)

    Hybrids aren't generally sterile.

    But first generation hybrids don't generally breed true.

    The second generation will have each individual expressing a random mix of traits from ether of the parents. Often individuals will resemble one grandparent more then the they resemble the first generation hybrid.

    This is how companies like Monsanto stayed in business until genetic engineering came along.

    Finally the low flavor quality of some hybrids is not because they are hybrids. It's because they were selected with shelf life, appearance or size are the primary criteria.

    It's the same reason most flowers don't smell as strongly as they used to. You can't put a picture of smell on the package.

  • by twostix (1277166) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:44AM (#29525461)

    Truly we have two absolutely morally bankrupt individuals here. You and R2 above.

    How did he get hold of the seed then? Did he steal it from someone?

    No, his fields *were* cross contaminated one year, he harvested HIS seed replanted HIS seed next year as is typical of 90% of cropping farmers and found that it had been cross pollinated with a RR crop.

    Apparently according to Monsantos great defenders SEE and R2 he should have burnt his first years crop which WAS contaminated by his neighbours crop and dumped his own families seed - developed over generations to ensure that he wasn't "stealing" from Monsanto when he unknowingly harvested and kept his contaminated seed for next year. Or perhaps he should have gone through a billion seeds one by one in his silos testing each one for the round up ready gene? Whatever he did, he must NOT use his own seed ever again as surely an individual has less rights than a corp.

    Or he should have sued his neighbour and ruined them both, all to protect some multi-nationals fucked up business model of patenting things that shouldn't be patentable. And he had his own seed, that he his family had been breeding for generations ruined thanks to Monsantos seeds contaminated it forever. Why shouldn't he continue using his own seed simply because someone else inserted a patent into their plant then planted next to his?

    The ultimate submarine patents.

    And got caught? Got caught doing what?? Using his own seed on his own property that Monsanto GAVE him by allowing their crop to be planted next to his having the wind blow little mini replicators all over his property and crop?

    Corporate lick-spittles.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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