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Avoiding GM Foods? Monsanto Says You're Overly Fussy 835

Posted by kdawson
from the eats-like-a-bird dept.
blackbeak writes "The BBC today characterized those who avoid GM foods as overly fussy, the very same day that the Wall Street Journal announced that picky eating may be recognized in the 2013 DSM as a psychiatric disorder. The DSM item refers to something completely different, though I'm sure many will confuse the two. Of course, this was not done without subterfuge; the BBC's author, Professor Jonathan Jones, in no way indicates his close ties to Monsanto. Point by point Jones regurgitates the same pro-GM arguments debunked numerous times all over the net for years, while serving up some stale half facts too."
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Avoiding GM Foods? Monsanto Says You're Overly Fussy

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  • GM (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:21AM (#32823284)

    I Want to avoid Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota foods too

    • Re:GM (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blackest_k (761565) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:30AM (#32823332) Homepage Journal
      I just want to avoid Monsanto's products GM food might be 100% harmless but Monsanto isn't.
      • Re:GM (Score:5, Interesting)

        by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:17AM (#32823620) Homepage

        Spot on.

        Although I don't agree with John's 'close ties to Monsanto. If you actually follow up on the links provided, Prof. Jones is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Mendel Biotechnologies, which in turn does business with Monsanto.

        This does not qualify him as a shill.

        And I agree with his point that regulation is creating monstrosities like Monsanto, only not with his answer: regulate less.

        It took us decades to fully realize the danger of radioactive materials, it might take decades to fully understand the implications of GM. Until we have a reasonable comprehension of the dangers and risks, we should use other methods for improving crop yields, which, also as the Prof. tells, are to be easily found in better irrigation and fertilisation for third world countries.

        And let's not forget; famine is mostly an economical problem these days, bringing in the likes of monsanto to 'solve' this will not bring relief to the starving and ill nourished people of the world.

        • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

          by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:56AM (#32823838) Journal

          It reminds me of how the Romans brought in lead piping for their water. They thought it was great - water pumped to your home, the ultimate sign that you'd made it. An entire ruling class slowly poisoning themselves. We don't know what affect GM crops may have. They might prove relatively harmless to us directly (who knows?) but turn out to have a devastating effect on the environment. Remember that a lot of the high yields some like to report, are not because the crop has been engineered to be super-abundant (selective breeding has already done wonders there), but because they are engineered to resist pesticides that kill pretty much everything else. What does that do for run-off into rivers? What does that do to biodiversity and the general eco-system? What happens if these traits get loose into the wild or to the farm workers and local people exposed to the increased use of pesticides. Not to mention that if some of the GM traits do get loose in the wild, it's pretty much irreversible. So they've engineered plants that secrete a poison normally found in caterpillars to make the plant poisonous to pests. Sounds like one Hell of a survival trait to me. So a little way down the line and insect populations take a tumble because of this, and the birds that depend on them. Maybe everything will be fine, but the point is that we don't know and we can't reverse this if it does go wrong.

          But leaving aside the biological issues, the economic ones that we do know for sure are frightful. These crops are patented. The developing world is Monsanto's poster child for GM crops and they'll do anything they can to get everyone using these crops. But first one's always free. If a staple food is monopolised, you're going to trust who that the licence fees stay low? Monsanto? Should there even be licence fees for growing food? And enforcement? Well, the seed they sell you is sterile. Terminator crops will not reproduce so you can't save seed from last year for this year's planting. You have to buy again and again. Sure you can try and go back to planting non-Monsanto crops. If you still have seed stocks that are viable. And if you can guarantee that their inspectors wont find any traces of Monsanto crops on your land. Good luck with that.

          Monsanto tout things like their "Golden Rice" (such a dream name, that one) as helping the poor third world. It's been engineered to have high levels of Vitamin D. But why do some people in the Third World have vitamin D deficiencies? Because their historical balanced diet based on their usual range of crops, has been replaced with bulk rice farming because that's what the international market demands they grow.

          But what's the genetically modified strawman that gets trotted out by Monsanto every year? "You said GM might be bad for people and our scientist has failed to find evidence that it causes disease X, so shut up, because there's nothing to worry about."
          • Re:GM (Score:4, Informative)

            by maxume (22995) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:18AM (#32823992)

            Vitamin A.

            Humans can synthesize vitamin D when they are exposed to sunlight.

          • Golden rice (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Zouden (232738)

            Monsanto has nothing to do with Golden Rice. It was developed by university researchers and is distributed for free. Yes, in an ideal world everyone would have a balanced diet and we wouldn't need vitamin A-enriched rice. But the world is not ideal, and we do.

          • Re:GM (Score:5, Informative)

            by olderchurch (242469) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:58AM (#32824780) Homepage Journal

            I agree with your comment, but you might want use another introduction next time:

            It reminds me of how the Romans brought in lead piping for their water. They thought it was great - water pumped to your home, the ultimate sign that you'd made it. An entire ruling class slowly poisoning themselves.

            The calcium in the water was deposited on the pipes, which prevented the introduction of lead in the water: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/leadpoisoning.html [uchicago.edu]

          • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

            by spinkham (56603) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:26AM (#32825124)

            Here's the rub: We've been genetically engineering food since the dawn of society. Society as we know it came from the ability to improve plants through breeding and mutations.

            Before GM, we've been cross breeding and irradiating plants using X-rays or using mutagenic chemicals to increase mutation rate until we get what we're looking for. This is much more potentially harmful then carefully changing only the genes we need to.

            All food is GM food. What gets that label is the carefully, methodically changed, safer food, while all of our foodstock has been randomly and chaotically modified over thousands of years. New GE plants are tested by the FDA, the NIH, and the EPA. New conventional crops get no testing. There have been toxic chemicals found in food sold that have been "traditionally" engineered, but none that have been "on purpose" engineered in in what has become known as GE.

            GM food is safer then it's counterparts. I'll take the GM food, please..

            BTW, for an excellent reading on the topic, I recommend the Whole Earth Discipline [amazon.com]. Where he talks about his expertise (he's an ecologist/biologist by training) he's spot on. I don't agree with him on all the topics included in the book, but the arguments he makes on the rest (like urbanization and power generation) are also worth reading, if not the final word. But the GE and other ecological/biological topics he touches on are full of good insights.

            • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Temposs (787432) <temposs.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#32826036) Homepage

              First, traditionally developed crop varieties are great in that they are selected for in order to grow the best in hyper-localized regions of the world, and to have the particular nutrients needed for the people of a particular region to balance their diet, and they keep the local ecosystem more healthy by naturally meshing with the soil and critters that are around. This is simply not done with GM crops right now, and the GM industry prefers going with a monoculture, because it's easier to keep track of. Our crop varieties have dwindled so much these days, to where we only use one or two varieties of most crops in the industrial ag system. Crops aren't being adapted to their environment. We're forcing them to work everywhere. This endangers our food supply because if a sickness hits a crop, it can spread like wildfire to all the identical crops around.

              There may be an identified toxin in some traditional varieties, but what if those toxins are naturally counteracted by eating in combination with the other parts of that traditional diet? Nutrition science is sooooo primitive right now, and influenced so much by big industries, so that I would not entirely trust the FDA, USDA, etc to tell me that something is healthy or not, because the science just has not gotten to that point yet. Sure they can tell you the chemical makeup of a food and most of its nutrients, but they have no idea how that will mesh with the rest of your diet. The least healthy people in the world are those under the jurisdiction of the FDA/USDA, while those eating traditional diets under the jurisdiction of no food regulator are *always* more healthy.

              The problem is not that GM food is particularly harmful in itself, but moreso the tactics that companies like Monsanto take in order to make themselves fantastically wealthy at the expense of the average farmer.

              The 'terminator' crops, which can't produce past the first generation, when applied to a staple crop, endangers the food supply, especially in poorer areas. Once the majority of farmers in a country choose to use this kind of GM crop and throw out their old seed, they've become dependent on Monsanto for their food supply, and if they don't pay up, they starve.

              The legal aspect of GM crops is the biggest danger, and until that's settled out so that crops cannot be patented and farmers cannot be sued for simply having a GM seed blow into their field, then we should avoid GM crops as a policy.

        • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:14AM (#32823970) Homepage

          While I appreciate some of the "wait and see" aspects of your view point, I would like to emphasise more your latter commentary that specifies that famine is an economic problem that Monsanto does not solve. In fact, Monsanto makes it worse. All of Monsanto's plants (living organisms) are covered by patents and other intellectual property laws such as trademarks. They have a history of taking advantage of the fact that plants, especially in agricultural/farming scopes, do not "contain" themselves. The fact that the wind blows means that seeds and pollen blow in the wind and travel to neighboring crops and lands contaminating them. And if that weren't enough, they use this as an excuse to sue people for "using their product."

          Many foreign nations seek to avoid the likes of Monsanto even when famine is a problem simply to avoid legal entanglements with the giant.

          So we don't need decades to learn what dangers there are in GM foods -- we already know a great many of them and are of our own making and society. To me, that is reason enough to avoid GM foods. And frankly, if we were somehow to get rid of that problem by making living things unpatentable, I have a feeling that Monsanto would pretty much disappear shortly thereafter... another problem solved.

          • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:56AM (#32824220)

            They also have a nasty habit of breeding strains that can not reproduce on their own.

            DRM isn't that good of an idea for digital entertainment. But DRM on the human food supply? That is jumping off a cliff into cartoonish insane evil mega-corporation territory.

        • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:52AM (#32824724) Homepage Journal

          Prof. Jones is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Mendel Biotechnologies, which in turn does business with Monsanto. This does not qualify him as a shill.

          It does in my book. I'd listen if he had no ties, but his ties to Monsanto makes anything he says about Monsanto suspect.

          And I agree with his point that regulation is creating monstrosities like Monsanto, only not with his answer: regulate less.

          At the risk of a redundant mod, I'm going to link a comment I just made [slashdot.org] that completely refutes your assertions. Were it not for the EPA, you would not be able to breathe driving past a Monsanto plant. You need to stop drinking the koolaid and read up on some of the environmental disasters, disease, and sickness Monsanto and companies like it caused before environmental regulation.

          I completely agree with the rest of your comment.

        • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wcoenen (1274706) <wcoenen@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:31AM (#32825168)

          It took us decades to fully realize the danger of radioactive materials, it might take decades to fully understand the implications of GM. Until we have a reasonable comprehension of the dangers and risks, we should use other methods for improving crop yields

          1) Decades? German physicist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen announced his discovery of X-rays in 1896. Less then a year later Elihu Thomson found that X-rays harm living tissue. 4 years after the discovery of X-rays, it was widely accepted that exposure needed to be limited.

          2) I'm not convinced that it ever makes sense to be afraid of "unknown unknowns" without having a threat model. Don't we have to be afraid of everything in that case?

          For example, it wouldn't make sense to say this: "It might take decades to fully understand the implications of reading slashdot every day. Until we have a reasonable comprehension of the dangers and risks, we should use other methods for getting our tech news."

          It would work better to say something like "Reading slashdot every day is detrimental to productivity, because the time spent reading and posting would otherwise go to useful work." At least then we'd have a minimal model that we can analyze, discuss, test and refine. That way we can also avoid the same problems when we do switch to an alternative. You can't do that if you just cite "unknown risks".

      • Re:GM (Score:5, Informative)

        by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:24AM (#32823668)

        Very true. Monsanto and friends have bought off the political side [guardian.co.uk] and continue to lobby heavily so that clear labels on GM food are not required [google.com] - preventing consumers from making an informed choice in the free market. Now as part of this broader campaign of voter/consumer deception, they just need to convince all the consumers that are not paying attention that their products are all A-Ok for consumption - so they trot out people like this Jonathan Jones so called "professor" to use his credentials to sway public opinion.

        They have to do this campaign to deceive, since consumers tend to avoid GM Food in droves [wikihow.com] - just look at how fast McDonald's had to drop GM potatoes from their fries [organicconsumers.org]. They may be able to buy politicians and hide their GM labels, but consumers are still a force to be reckoned with, and thanks to the internet - more informed than ever.

        • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:36AM (#32823732)

          They may be able to buy politicians and hide their GM labels, but consumers are still a force to be reckoned with, and thanks to the internet - more informed than ever.

          That's kind of like saying that consumers are underinformed because there are no autism warning labels on vaccines. Anti-vaccine people aren't demonstrating that they're more informed than the rest of us - they're just demonstrating that they don't know WTF they're talking about.

          Same applies to the anti-GM-food people who try to get the public into a panic by suggesting that GM food will make them sick or whatever, when the true agenda of the people who started the anti-GM movement is simply a far-left anti-corporate one. The misinformation they spread about GM foods is just as bad, if not worse, than the lack of information about which products are and aren't genetically modified.

          That said, Monsanto is a bunch of assholes because they sue farmers for doing what farmers are supposed to do.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by stonewallred (1465497)
            I agree with both of your conclusions. Throw in a bit about how the environmentalist movement is more concerned with lowering the US and Europe's standards of living to those of a third world country, rather than lifting the third world to ours, and how they oppose nuclear power even though it is the cleanest realistic energy source we have available, and you'd would be spot on. Of course, expect the wave of downmods to come heading your way when it hits lunch time in the land of the Euro.
            • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Spazztastic (814296) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [citsatzzaps]> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:51AM (#32824190)

              and how they oppose nuclear power even though it is the cleanest realistic energy source we have available

              I have a close family member who is a die hard environmentalist. She moved to Central America to get away from the US. I showed her all the information about nuclear power being safe, all the advancements, and it always comes down to "Well I still believe it's unsafe."

              This is the same conclusion you'll come to with anybody who opposes GM crops or thinks 9/11 was a conspiracy perpetrated by the US Government. You can't get through to these people.

              • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

                by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:00AM (#32824242) Journal

                Right. And in other news, Osama Bin Laden speaks for all muslims, Rush Limbaugh speaks for all Americans, the Nation of Islam fairly represents the views of all black people and and all computer programmers are geeks who don't know one end of a football from the other. That there is a group of people who make as much fuss and try to get as much attention for themselves as possible whilst claiming to represent a group, does not mean that they actually are representative of that group. To whit, many people I know who consider themselves environmentalists (including myself) are hugely pro-Nuclear power.
          • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:59AM (#32823866)

            The misinformation they spread about GM foods is just as bad, if not worse, than the lack of information about which products are and aren't genetically modified.

            The evidence is currently against pro GM food blind faith supporters - the fact is that Pro GM food really "don't know WTF they're talking about" [wikimedia.org]. Quote from the link:

            As of January 2009 there has only been one human feeding study conducted on the effects of genetically modified foods

            ONE STUDY. So much for peer review. On the other hand, there have been numerous non human studies, and every single one that has found evidence that indicate that things might not be as rosy as Monsanto and friends claim [wikimedia.org] has been contested by the GM industry - in some cases not attacking the science, but resorting to character assassination and smear campaigns.

            If you claim that GM food skeptical consumers don't know WTF they are talking about - what does that make GM supporters, given the massive void of research into long term effects of GM Food? Personally I would call it blind faith - so I prefer my food to be clearly labeled and my politicians to be unbiased, so I can make an informed choice for me. You can eat whatever you want.

          • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

            by B2382F29 (742174) <slashdot@b2382[ ... o ['f29' in gap]> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:01AM (#32823880)
            I think you did not understand the issue (or are a shill, you decide). The issue is not whether to have a "warning" label. It is whether there is any possibility to identify them at all. It would be enough if they just have a list of ingredients with (GM) after each genetically modified ingredient. (e.g. HFCS (GM)). For all those who love GM food (you?) it might also be great to know which product you need to buy to further the use of GM crops.
          • Re:GM (Score:5, Interesting)

            by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:04AM (#32823902) Journal

            There are a lot [slashdot.org] more reasons to boycott GM food than just a concern about its effects on your immediate health. So it's not like autism warnings on vaccines. By lobbying to prevent people being able to find out whether or not a food contains GMOs, companies like Monsanto are preventing people from making informed choices. And regarding the autism / vaccine analogy, presumably people who think an MMR vaccine will trigger autism think that all combined MMR vaccines are similar in this respect. So it's not the same at all: people who take their children for an MMR know that this is what they're doing. Buy some rice and maybe you know it's GM and maybe you don't. You're likening a redundant labelling system with one that would actually convey information.
            • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

              by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:10AM (#32823938) Journal

              Actually, I should have also said that ultimately, whether you agree with people or not, everyone in a democracy has a right to make informed choices. If you feel that something is not a cause for concern, then the democratic approach is to persuade people of this. Not for a government to trick them into the path they've decided is best for them.
          • Straw man (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The main argument against GM foods is that it is bad for the environment, not that it is bad for your health. To suggest otherwise is just a straw man argument.

          • Re:GM (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:13AM (#32823956) Journal

            There are other reasons people might prefer not to buy GM foods, specifically Monsanto's, than just health reasons. For instance, suppose you wanted to boycott monsanto over their aggressive IP enforcement of cross-polinated neighboring farms, how would you go about doing that?

          • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:20AM (#32824386) Journal

            Actually, it's not like that at all. If you want to find out what's in a vaccine, it's usually right on the label. If you're concerned that the mercury in thiomersal in that vaccine will turn your kid autistic, nobody is hiding from you whether or not there's thiomersal in that vial.

            Besides, since you accuse the anti-GM of having some far-left anti-corporatist agenda, wouldn't it make sense to propose to let the free market solve it?

            But the concept of a free market is based on some key concepts, one of which is: perfectly informed buyers. No, really. It would be fun if all the Austrian school proponents (mostly libertarians) and the other right-wingers actually read what it says instead of just the bulleted propaganda points. That's the key assumption behind the idea that the market will sort out good from bad: the buyers actually know all aspects of it, and make an informed choice which to buy.

            If a product's or company's survival depends on keeping the public uninformed, on people not knowing they got product X instead of the Y they wanted, that's a more gross violation of the very idea of free market than any far-left proponents ever went.

            So you're telling me... what? That unlike those "far-left anti-corporatists", you're just against the free market? Or that it's only good until it gets in the way of the corporations, and then you're better off just bending over and trusting them to lube you first?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MoeDumb (1108389)
          Monsanto: profits before truth.
        • Very true. Monsanto and friends have bought off the political side [guardian.co.uk] and continue to lobby heavily so that clear labels on GM food are not required [google.com] - preventing consumers from making an informed choice in the free market. Now as part of this broader campaign of voter/consumer deception, they just need to convince all the consumers that are not paying attention that their products are all A-Ok for consumption - so they trot out people like this Jonathan Jones so called "professor"

      • Re:GM (Score:5, Informative)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:45AM (#32824652) Homepage Journal

        Indeed. Monsanto is filthy. I grew up in Caholia, IL, two miles south of the Monsanto plant in Sauget, before the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970. They dirtied the air so badly that you literally could not breathe if you drove up highway 3 past the plant with your windows down; what passed for air literally burned your lungs. Since Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, you seldom smell anything driving past.

        Knowing how little Monsanto cares about anyone's health, no way will I knowingly touch any food Monsanto produced until it's heavily regulated, and maybe not even then.

        IIRC while they were filthying up the air their motto was "better living through chemistry", a blatant lie. Why should I listen to anything they say today?

  • ah, Monsanto (Score:5, Informative)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:22AM (#32823290) Journal

    They're the guys overly fussy about protecting their intellectual property in genetic modification, right?

  • 'Viewpoint' (Score:5, Informative)

    by DCBoland (700327) <slashdot@NOSpaM.spooning.co.uk> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:23AM (#32823302)
    I'm sorry but TFA says 'viewpoint' quite clearly. Apparently his points have been 'debunked numerous times' and his facts are 'stale half facts', but where are the links supporting these claims?
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:23AM (#32823306)

    In other news, U.S. Radium says radium paint is safe [wikipedia.org]. News at 11...

  • by krisbrowne42 (549049) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:25AM (#32823318)
    I would personally prefer to stay away from Monsanto based products not because I don't trust their science, but because I dislike their business practices and media tomfoolery. GM crops are a double-edged sword by all neutral study, having definite benefits of their own but creating potentially disastrous consequences (super-bugs and super-weeds, which are nearly immune to conventional herb- or insecticides), but the Intellectual Property abuse that comes of their use is hurting more farmers than those issues for now.
    • by Noam.of.Doom (934040) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:34AM (#32823360)
      Don't forget the fact that they create a monopoly by requiring farmers that plant their seeds to exclusively use certain brands of pesticide and fertilizers.
    • by cbope (130292) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:53AM (#32823460)

      ... and don't forget that Monsanto will come out with an exclusive patented super-weed killer to handle those pesky super-weeds. And since they are the inventor of both the super-weed and the killer to keep it under control, they win. It's a vicious circle that feeds itself.

    • by txoof (553270) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:01AM (#32823876) Homepage

      It's a little terrifying how much power Monsanto has in the US and really, the world. They have farmers all over the world under their thumb through royalty payments and the patents they hold on certain traits. There are plenty of cases where farmers have legitimately planted NON-GMO soy and corn only to find that pollen from their neighbors farms has drifted into their field and GMO'ed their crops. These farmers now have to supply the burden of evidence to show their innocence if Monsanto chooses to chase them into court over patent infringement. Monsanto has single-handedly, in a single generation of farmers, cut out seed saving. This is the single most important advancement that allowed us as a species to move from casual, opportunistic farmers to the agrarian based society we enjoy today.

      I don't begrudge Monsanto for trying something new, but I am concerned with their disregard for the wellbeing of farmers and for their consumers. Over the last twenty years there has been mounting evidence to show that pests are developing resistance to BT Toxin [sciencedaily.com] and that many other crops [crop.cri.nz] are inadvertently horizontally transferring BT genes. But wait! There's more!

      In recent studies [biolsci.org] researchers have found that BT maize (corn) can cause serious health problems in mammals. A diet heavy in GMO corn caused rats to develop liver and kidney problems. Most of the corn raised in the US carries the BT gene, along with a few other, like the RoundUp Ready. I'm sure you're thinking to your self, "gee, I'm glad I don't eat very much corn!" Oh, but you do. Almost everything that isn't a vegetable or a fruit found in American grocery stores has some form of corn in it. From ascorbic acid, citric acid, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, food colorings and ink, and even some waxes applied to fruit are all derived from corn.

      I'm not a biochemist and I certainly don't have any idea how rat models scale (or don't scale) up to humans, but the study cited above suggests that a diet rich in BT corn (which most of us well-fed americans eat) might be bad for us. Perhaps some diversity and choice in our market would be a good thing. At least some public discussion about this subject, and less media schilling on behalf of giant multi-nationals would definitely be welcome.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:27AM (#32823326)

    Kdawson complaining about crappy news reporting...heh.

  • Genetically Modified (Score:5, Informative)

    by mogness (1697042) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:31AM (#32823344) Homepage
    OH! That's what GM stands for. Good thing the summary mentions that. Oh, wait...
  • by MikeFM (12491) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:38AM (#32823374) Homepage Journal

    All this alarmist bullshit that is hurting the availability of GM and and nano products is nothing more than people whining. Sure a small portion of this stuff may be harmful but it'll be overwhelmingly beneficial. The best way to find the problems is to put it into mass use. It's very unlikely that it is worse than the stuff people willingly expose themselves to - drugs, alcohol, sugar, fried foods, etc. Hell even vegetables can be bad for you. As a non-obese diet caffeine free soda drinker in his early thirties that has recently found out he is diabetic I can tell you that damn near everything you could want to eat seems to be cursed.

    It's completely ridiculous that they can't give GM crops to starving people because protestors, that aren't starving, think it's better to let the people starve than give them more viable crops that offer more nutrients than other crops, which aren't even being offered, would.

    I will eat GM food and use GM and nano products. Please make em available. If other people are to scared of the bogey man then great I'll have benefits they don't. Please figure out a way to make carb free bread that doesn't suck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you are in the USA you are already eating a lot of GM food. But as for it being designed for your benefit, pfft, why would they do that? Current ones are for instance designed to leverage a companies monopoly in seed supply to a monopoly in pesticide.

    • by nido (102070) <nido56NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:48AM (#32823430) Homepage

      The best way to find the problems is to put it into mass use.

      Health problems are often subtle, and frequently masquerade as something else.

      As a non-obese diet caffeine free soda drinker in his early thirties that has recently found out he is diabetic ... I will eat GM food and use GM and nano products. Please make em available. If other people are to scared of the bogey man then great I'll have benefits they don't.

      Like diabetes, eh?

      It's completely ridiculous that they can't give GM crops to starving people because protestors,

      It's completely ridiculous that there are starving people, with all the food that goes wasted or goes into ethanol/biodiesel. Mechanization -> unlimited abundance. Poverty is now a political problem more than anything else.

      Please figure out a way to make carb free bread that doesn't suck.

      How about this: your body can't handle bread. Stop eating it. That'd be the smart thing to do.

    • by Anghwyr (1245932) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:51AM (#32823452)

      Why on earth do you need a carb-free bread? Unless you are allergic, just manage your eating habits in a normal way.

      The point of the above sentence being: medicine is not always the best answer. Third world countries are starving because we 1. destroy their local farmers' economy by dumping free food on them (note that when the chinese are dumping textile on european / USA markets, we start adding trade taxes for a reason), and 2. destroy what food-production they still have by making it financial beneficial for individual farmers to grow cheap maize for our cattle, rather than food for their countrymen. (3. Because their governments are far from brilliant, but we're not making it easy for those governments either).

      I can see that one solution is to make the few farmers these countries have be more efficient in producing grain with GM crops, but there's also the solution of 'lets stop to abuse the fcuk out of third world countries', which seems to be the higher moral ground.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dkleinsc (563838)

        Because their governments are far from brilliant, but we're not making it easy for those governments either.

        I'm going to disagree with that point, for a couple of reasons:
        1. The governments of many if not most third world countries are in an impossible position of being in debt well beyond their ability to pay for it. Even worse, that debt is in a foreign currency (usually US dollars), so they can't devalue their currency to pay for it. The usual effect of this is that the International Monetary Fund basically controls any government action that involves the economy.

        2. Governments of third world countries that ta

    • by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:55AM (#32823482)
      Being a scientist, I would ask for the tests that show GM products to have a low risk of causing harm to the human body. In their absence, given the record of the companies involved that used dangerous pesticidal and antibiotics, I don't trust them to provide a correct view. They played with public health in the past and it would be foolish to assume they won't do it again.
    • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:04AM (#32823538)
      You make it sound like choice is good - so why not label GM food clearly? [google.com] . Why does Monsanto and their competitors need to lobby politicians so that they labels are not required? [google.com]
      • by locofungus (179280) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:58AM (#32823850)

        At least in Europe, this is really Monsanto's problem. The fact is that "the people" have spoken and the vast majority have decided that they'd rather pay more than eat GM food. The majority of people don't want it, so the shops won't sell it, so the farmers won't grow it. There isn't a step in that chain that wouldn't jump at GM if they thought it would increase their profits and they could get away with it.

        There isn't a restaurant in the UK that doesn't have a sign "We do not knowingly use GM ingredients". Quite frankly, if they could be sure to not use them accidentally then there would instead be a sign "We do not use GM ingredients".

        It's somewhat refreshing that, for once, "the people" have chosen a path that I want to follow. My concern about GM foods isn't that they couldn't be safer, or even better, than non-GM foods but that the drive to GM is being driven by the search for profit.

        BP was drilling in the Gulf in the quest for profit. It made the choices it made because it felt at the time that they had the best return on investment. It doesn't really matter whether they were criminally negligent, too laissez-faire, or just unlucky, the results are the same. There's no reason to suppose that a similar scale of accident couldn't happen with GM crops.

        Corporations have too much power and too little interest in "doing the right thing". They have as little regard for their host, the human race, as the malaria parasite has for its host.

        Tim.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FriendlyLurker (50431)

          The fact is that "the people" have spoken and the vast majority have decided that they'd rather pay more than eat GM food. The majority of people don't want it, so the shops won't sell it, so the farmers won't grow it.

          Too bad it has not played out that way in Australia. There they have deviously turned the tables: you have to pay to be certified GM Free [wikimedia.org] as apposed to labeling GM food clearly.

          In Australia, multiple surveys have shown that while 45% of the public will accept GM foods, some 93% demand genetically modified foods be labelled as such. Labelling legislation has been introduced and rejected several times since 1996 on the grounds of "restraint of trade" due to the cost of labelling. The controversy erupted again in 2009 when Graincorp, the nations largest grain handler, announced it would mix GM Canola with its unmodified grain. Traditional growers, who largely rely on GM-free markets, have been told they will now need to pay to have their produce certified GM free.

          Woe to be an Aussie wishing to avoid GM food.

    • by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:29AM (#32823698)

      How will a company that makes people rebuy seeds every year, makes a pesticide that kills everything else, and sues the pants off farmers whose fields get pollinized by the monsanto seeds help feed starving people who can't afford that shit anyway?

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:38AM (#32823378) Homepage Journal

    Genetically modified foods are just foods. There's nothing "natural" about selectively bred crops. Unless you're going into the woodlands and picking wild berries for breakfast you're eating unnatural food. Welcome to the modern world.

    • by internic (453511) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:45AM (#32824146)

      Genetically modified foods are just foods. There's nothing "natural" about selectively bred crops.

      I used to take exactly the same view, but having thought about it a bit more I've realized it's a little silly for essentially two reasons. 1) The selective breeding that was used throughout most of human history introduces changes relatively slowly and involves either selecting out a subset of the crops you're already using that have desirable characteristics or cross-breeding with other crops that you're already using for food. So you're talking about a process that will lead to small changes over a series of growing seasons, which larger changes only being accomplished over a much larger timescale. Because the process is slow and usually involves selecting traits for things you can already eat*, there is a fair degree of safety automatically built in. Modern techniques of genetic engineering allow one to make significant changes to the genome of a plant over a comparatively very short timescale, and one can add in genetic material from a totally different sort of organism that may well not be a human food source at all. As such, there is a far greater risk of introducing significant harmful effects.

      To emphasize the point that very different genetic material can be added, it seems that in some cases genetic material is added to produce toxins that act as an insecticide. I believe that Bt-corn [uky.edu] is one such example. I presume that this compound is known to be safe (in reasonable concentrations) to humans, yet my point is that adding in genes from non-food sources for the production of insecticidal compounds it considerably different than, say, selectively breeding corn with bigger sweeter kernels.

      Understand, I share your frustration with anti-science Luddites who assume that "natural" means good and "chemicals" are bad. I also think it's silly that people don't understand the level to which our modern food crops are a human creation (resulting in things like "the atheist's nightmare" video). I believe these things should be examined through a rational discussion based on scientific evidence. I don't think genetically modified organisms are generically a bad thing, but I do think that saying that directly injecting foreign genetic material into the genome is no different than selective breeding is disingenuous, and doesn't help us have a rational fact-based discussion of the merits of GM crops. Personally, I'm far less concerned about the health implications and far more concerned about the ecological impact, which I think is both harder to predict and harder to control.

  • by cbope (130292) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:49AM (#32823440)

    Fuck. You.

    There is probably no more evil company on the planet. It's got nothing to do with so-called GM foods, but rather their business model based on blackmail and coercion. They are destroying what's left of America's agriculture industry and trying to spread their influence into other countries as well. If they are not stopped they will have a complete and utter monopoly over our food supply from the fields to the table.

    I refuse to buy any product known to have come into contact with anything related to Monsanto.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:15AM (#32823606)

      If I had mod points, I'd mod the parent up. The scam here is that Monsanto sells genetically modified seeds which are able to grow in the presence of Roundup, the pesticide that they also produce and sell -- after which nothing else except their seeds will grow in that area of ground anymore. Their required agreement to obtain the seeds includes not keeping/stockpiling any seeds for following seasons, thus mandating that you re-buy THEIR seeds every year, which are EXPENSIVE. This is putting Indian crop producers out of business and causing them to commit suicide, as they are going into debt buying Monsanto seeds and unable to grow anything else afterwards. Then if some of the crop goes airborne and grows in an adjacent field, Monsanto sues that plantation for patent infringement even though they weren't even involved in choosing to grow GMO crops. It's a vicous cycle that shows no end in sight. It's ridiculous.

      • by will_die (586523) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:02AM (#32823884) Homepage
        The only thing ridiculous is your ignorance of science.
        There is nothing in glyphosate that will stick around beyond a very short period or leech itself into the ground and modify it future non-glyphosate protected seeds will no grow.
        Please show some scientic info that even hints at soil being modified by glyphosate protected seeds so they will not grow other seeds.
        You do more damage to the soil for a longer time by using vinegar based herbicides then you do with round-up and glyphosate
    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:09AM (#32823932) Homepage

      There is probably no more evil company on the planet.

      I was recently discussing Monsanto with a friend of mine. It went a little like this:

      Me: They actually sued farmers whose crops got pollinated by Monsanto crops.

      Him: And they modify their corn to not reproduce.

      Me: Well, yeah, but suing farmers for getting pollinated is really evil. It's virtually a protection racket -- buy our corn, pay us. Don't buy our corn, get hauled into court.

      Him: Yes. But making our food not capable of reproducing could end the human race.

      Me: Hmmm, I see your point.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by freedumb2000 (966222)
        You must be referring to terminator seeds. This technology is actually on hold and not being used, which is a bad thing IMHO. This could have effectively prevented cross-pollination with regular plants. They way things are now, it is entirely possibly that all plant life will be GMO contaminated at some point.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:53AM (#32823462)
    I think its a worrying trend when a company attempts to have people who don't like their product as suffering from a psychiatric disorder. The corporate masters of Western society are using the same techniques as the Soviet Government. What's next, compulsory treatment of people who avoid certain foods? I know that all they probably have in mind mow is having their detractors classed as mentally unstable, but if that becomes generally accepted what will the next step be?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597)

      I don't think it's quite that. Even the summary admitted that "the DSM item refers to something completely different".

      I'm not quite sure what the cause of it is, but there is an odd prevalence in mainly white, upper-class, liberal-ish areas of strangely heightened food allergies, with many people being supposedly allergic to two or three things that would otherwise be quite rarely found at all, much less together. Maybe there's a scientific reason that there are so many more food allergies among upper-class

  • by Moabz (1480009) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:53AM (#32823468)
    Eating those crops _might_ not pose a health risk, you might not die from it. This can be and will be proven again and again, but that's not the issue.
    Allowing a company like Monsanto muscle itself into the world food business by IP protected crops, that's the real illness that we must protect ourselves from.
    There is so much evidence that Monsanto is a dirty company, anyone who eats there GM stuff must be a Microsoft fan boy.

    This Mr. Jones is on the scientific advisory board of Mendel Biotech, which states on their own web page: "Mendel's most important customer and collaborator for our technology business is Monsanto".
  • Superweeds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idji (984038) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:08AM (#32823556)
    what about superweeds [nytimes.com] that are now glyphosate resistant and mirid bug plagues [discovermagazine.com] in Northern China because they haven't been using pesticides on their bollworm killing GM-Cotton from Monsanto. Nothing is as simple as Monsanto wants you to believe. We are only now seeing the effects of decades of use of this stuff.
  • debunked? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:09AM (#32823582)
    Point by point Jones regurgitates the same pro-GM arguments debunked numerous times all over the net for years, while serving up some stale half facts too.

    I'm afraid that "debunked numerous times all over the net" isn't a persuasive argument. Any nutcase can claim to "debunk" anything, and many do. You can find many self-proclaimed "debunkers" of climate change, evolution, the Holocaust, Obama's nationality ... anything. Having a bunch of bloggers attacking a topic doesn't have a damn thing to do with how scientifically accurate an idea is. Why didn't this guy actually cite some SCIENTIFIC refutations instead of a scaremongering blog?

    Personally I think that Monsanto has some pretty evil business practices, but as for health effects to consumers, I have no problem. I don't believe Monsanto could cover up evidence of that if they tried. There are already a lot of unpleasant things in food -- pesticides, rat droppings, steroids, antibiotics, radioactives, etc, etc. As much in "organic" foods as anything else. Not to say these are fine, but that there are no perfectly pure and healthy foods if you examine them in microscopic detail. You have to measure and set a limit; but zero is just impossible. The real world is imperfect.

  • Bad Public Policy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:21AM (#32823650) Journal

    These problems can nearly all be traced back to one thing: corn subsidies. We pay farmers to grow corn so intensively that it has become cheaper to chemically process corn into whatever food-like product we want than it is to grow real, healthy food. Our entire food chain is dependent on mass produced, cheap corn - but it doesn't have to be that way. Farms do not have to be operated on the factory model, and we don't have to sacrifice output to do things the right way, the sustainable way if good public policy decisions are made. We WOULD however be sacrificing profitability and efficiency and that's why market forces cannot be trusted to fix the problem, as the market will always tend towards higher profits regardless of the long term problems it causes. We need policy that will encourage small scale farming, and discourage the kinds of practices that we know are harmful to our health and the environment: chemically altered corn-derived ingredients like HFCS, use of hormones, over-use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, feed lots, shipping food hundreds of miles to be sold. I'm thankful I can afford to buy healthy food, millions cannot and this is a tragedy worthy of the greatest of efforts to end.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yyxx (1812612)

      Quite right. Actually, the problem is food subsidies in general. In the US, corn subsidies are the big culprit, in Europe, it's milk and other products. Food subsidies in the US and Europe also keep other nations from developing a reasonable economy; if we stopped subsidizing food production in our countries, dropped import duties, and imported more from South America and Africa, those nations would actually have a chance to get out of poverty and develop decent, functioning economy. Instead, we send th

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:32AM (#32824496) Homepage

      The real kicker about corn subsidies is that while the real economic effect is to dramatically decrease the cost of corn to Archer Daniels Midland Inc and other corn distributors, because it's paid to farmers rather than the companies directly any Senate candidate from any state that depends on corn for a large portion of its economic output would get creamed if they failed to support corn subsidies. Oh, and of course most senators from corn-heavy states get significant donations from ADM.

      Why did I focus on the Senate? Because the Senate is the only place where the representation of 11 states with relatively small population can prevail over the vast majority of the population of the country.

  • Biodiversity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:56AM (#32823836) Homepage

    The greatest risk with GM food is possibly not the food itself, but the lack of biodiversity that using such crops exclusively will lead to.

    As an example, the Cavendish banana is practically all the same clone:
    http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-06/can-fruit-be-saved [popsci.com]

    GM foods are not far off, since the genome needs to be tightly controlled in order to guarantee the presence of the artificially introduced genes.

  • by yyxx (1812612) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:10AM (#32823936)

    Most GM food is biologically perfectly safe to eat. The problem is that it's not economically, ecologically, and socially safe.

  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:17AM (#32823982)

    They are also into putting family farms out of business[0] and monopolizing future food stocks[1]. Overly fussy? screw you monsanto. frickin crooks.

    [0] - http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/26/eveningnews/main4048288.shtml [cbsnews.com]
    [1] - http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7529 [globalresearch.ca]

  • by luckytroll (68214) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:35AM (#32824086) Homepage

    The Monsanto arguments all have a lot of merit, and we should be working to fix that aspect of our agriculture.

    However, blaming them for the DSM categorization of picky eating is a bit beyond. I had a friend who suffered from this picky eating disorder and it was horrifying. It started with vegetarianism, then veganism, then avoidance of an increasingly expanding list of politically incorrect foods. Eventually she became a skeleton who had to be fed through an IV because she was eating little more than a couple very specific kinds of white rice. With treatment, they managed to get her back to a surviveable diet, but it was a close shave. It wasnt anorexia per se - it was something else that Doctors need to be aware of. Making informed choices that make the world a better place and make ones diet more nutritious is one thing - succumbing to a psychological disorder like picky eating is way different.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:35AM (#32824088)

    What did Enron say about their finances? Perfectly fine, perfectly fine, nothing to see here. What did BP say about their drilling practices? Perfectly fine, perfectly fine, nothing to see here. And what will we say in ten years when GM foods are proven to wreck your DNA and give your kids monkey lung and restless genitalia syndrome? "Who could have possibly foreseen this after we suppressed all the data? It's an act of a cruel and uncaring God, not us."

    Rule #1: Never trust the prospectus. And taking a company's word on risk assessment -- a company with a significant interest in the risks being low to non-existent -- because they're going to be lying their fucking asses off.

    Rule #2: Did you forget about rule 1? because I see you taking the salesman's word for it! Go back and read rule #1!

    Rule #3: Oh, there's an auditing firm involved, a disinterested third party that gave a review. It's a bond rating agency telling you the bonds are good or an engineering company telling you the well design is solid or hey, it's Arthur Anderson! Your new rule is to make sure the third party isn't operating under the same moral hazards as the first, otherwise you're just getting yourself bullshat from both directions.

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:19AM (#32824380)

    ...too many people are far too full of their own self-importance these days to "never have the time" for anything - this is one thing you start to realise when you get to middle-age like me.

    As soon as you hand over too much personal responsibility to big, evil corporations like Monsanto, they will exploit you for financial gain - that is the purpose of a corporation.

    The solution is to take your head out of your backside and make time to grow a few things yourself - in plastic tubs, on a small patch of soil, whatever. No, you don't need to be self-sufficient, grow a few things so that you can feed yourself to a degree, then with the money you save use it to buy better produced home-grown foodstuffs.

    Companies like Monsanto exist because there are certain problems that are created when you try to grow foodstuffs in places where it wouldn't normally grow or when it's only economical to grow it there in the first place if there is a certain minimum yield per acre, hectare, etc. We ourselves create those problems because we expect food at a certain price and refuse to eat based on seasonal produce.

    Monsanto is a demon created by our own consumer demand - go back 40 years and foodstuffs were transported less, more of it was homegrown and took up a higher proportion of incomes because local producers had to pay reasonable pay to their workers.

    I'm not one of these green "loonies" either, I'm more scared about the power we willingly give to huge corporations over what we may or may not be doing to the planet.

  • Dangerous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BCW2 (168187) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:28AM (#32824458) Journal
    As long as Monsanto can sue farmers whose crops get "polluted" by pollen from GM crops, we have a serious problem.

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