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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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  • 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.
  • And I say (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dracophile (140936) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:35AM (#32823364)
    And I say that while I have a meaningful choice in what I eat (I've started growing my own food) Monsanto can suck my dick.
  • 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.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:45AM (#32823410)

    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.

  • Re:GET A CLUE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:49AM (#32823434)
    He did not do genetic engineering. Stop clouding the issue. It is complicated enough when discussed rationally.
  • 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.

  • 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 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:'Viewpoint' (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:54AM (#32823478)

    Trying to debunk claims about GM foods is like trying to debunk claims about technology in general. If it doesn't work the first time, if it doesn't do what you want, you make another version that does. If there's some flaw, you remove the flaw.
     
    You simply can't reject an entire field of research and all its practical applications on the basis of "we've never needed it before and some of the previous attempts were no good".
     
    I agree with this guy's idea that we need more people doing GM foods. That way if one company is misusing the tech, you can ignore them and go to another one that isn't.

  • 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.
  • Re:GET A CLUE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:55AM (#32823484)

    A) Mendel did not do engineering, he did experimentations on crossbreeding
    B) He also did not then patent the genome of wheat or peas so that all german farmers would have to buy their seeds from his monastery, their fertilizer from his monastery, and their insecticides from his monastery, while suing people who would accidentally get his seeds through natural pollinization.
    Die, shill

  • by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:01AM (#32823516)

    *citation needed*
    I decry both.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:09AM (#32823568)

    lol good random introduction of the naturalist fallacy. Strawman though; no-one even mentioned "natural". But yeah direct manipulation at the level of the genome is just the same as selective breeding. Not. You may as well say what's the problem with nuclear power we've been burning wood for years.

  • 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.

  • 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 izomiac (815208) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:24AM (#32823666) Homepage
    Exactly. Modern crops have been artificially selected for over 10,000 years and bear little resemblance to their ancestors. Strangely enough, the leading causes of death are related to diet... Eating unaltered food is probably a good idea, but it's not like modern agriculture grows anything like that, GMO or not.

    Heck, most genetic engineering methods (e.g. tranduction) can occur naturally, and probably have given the time-frame, so it's not like this is unprecedented. The primary difference being that a scientist is guiding it, rather than several generations of farmers waiting for it to happen randomly. Plus the farmer only has appearance and taste to go off of.
  • 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 Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:31AM (#32823708)

    Oh, the next step is mandatory vaccinations against all sorts of bullshit, like swineflu/birdflu. Oh, and Tamiflu is an anti-viral drug, not a vaccine just so you know. Be sure to tell them that when they strap you to a chair so they can ram it in you. Rumsfeld has major stakes in the flu business. That alone should make you realize what kind of powers we are dealing with.

    Patient: But doctor I don't tink this injection is really necessary!
    Doctor: Don't worry we have another injection that will cure you of that delusion.

  • by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:31AM (#32823710)

    The world is starving, and Monsanto is a huge contributor to it thanks to having a monopoly on their seeds, while roundup kills pretty much everything else, and of course their "license agreement" doesn't allow stocking seeds for the next year, and has led to farmers getting sued to ruin for having their field pollinized by GM crops. Fuck off shill.

  • 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:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stonewallred (1465497) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:40AM (#32823752)
    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:3, Insightful)

    by MoeDumb (1108389) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:43AM (#32823778)
    Monsanto: profits before truth.
  • 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."
  • 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:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by B2382F29 (742174) 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.
  • Straw man (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:07AM (#32823914)

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:09AM (#32823930)

    Do you understand how stupid you're being?

    You're asking Monsanto to prove a negative.

    This is alike asking you, as a scientist, to prove that God does NOT exists: you can't.

    I'm not a scientist just an average software developer. But you're being as stupid as any fundamentalist Christian. You're rejecting new concepts for the sake of it being different than what you think and you disregard logic in your twisted way of negating reality.

    And to make me sad, you're modded to +5 Insightful :/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Healthy suspicion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonnat (1168035) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:19AM (#32824002)

    You have to be at least a bit suspicious when people ask Monsanto for more studies on the safety of their GM crops and, instead, they get a massive PR campaign.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:23AM (#32824028) Journal

    To be fair, you can't do a full life-span study of *anything* in a time period shorter than a typical life-span, which means you'll forgo the benefits of things with few short-term side-effects for generations before releasing them to the general public if you demand to know all the long-term effects first.

  • Re:GM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:27AM (#32824046)

    It's the business practises of Monsanto and the consequences everybody should be against, like seed debt suicides, life IP, improper applications of GM technologies and so on.

  • 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 listentoreason (1726940) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:40AM (#32824110)

    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.

    Could you clarify how these tests would not be a proof of the null hypothesis [wikipedia.org]? How do you define "low"? I share your distrust of corporations, but asking every product to demonstrate that it's never harmful is obviously impossible. "Low risk" is going to be subjective; more helpful would be, say, the number of people in a study, the time followed, a difference in overall mortality and the statistical significance of that difference. I think most people would agree that GM foods are not dramatically harmful (eg drops of life expectancy by decades), so presumably to have the statistical power to detect "low risks" we're talking about a large (100s? 1000s?), long (years? 10s of years?) controlled (don't get to eat what you want) study. People tend not to sign up for those, so if that is your level of comfort you're probably just asking GM products to be shelved. I recognize that is a request/demand for many people.

    The same issue can be applied to many other technological concerns; cell phone radiation, high voltage power lines, plasticizers, etc. Some of those have been addressed by epidemiology (eg HV lines / transformers [wikipedia.org]), and some have shown statistical risk in animal models (bisphenol A [wikipedia.org]). You have requested human data, though, and as mentioned above I don't think you can get adequately powered controlled groups of people for food consumption like you can for power lines or transformers, where you can at least segregate groups by proximity to EM fields at the place of residence. If you have a specific substance you suspect of causing harm, you can try to correlate presence of the substance to risk (for example, with, bisphenol A). If you could find a distinct chemical marker related to the GM product (ie a substance that remains in the human long enough to be sampled), then I think you could do a nicely powered study for even reasonably low risk. It's not clear what this correlating substance would be, though; I don't think the transgene, in either DNA, RNA or protein form, would be detectable in a human consuming the food.

  • 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.

  • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:47AM (#32824162) Journal

    Or because you worry that turning most of the world's food supplies into a genetic monoculture might possibly be a bad idea. (Another thing that just occurred to me).
  • by lashwhip76 (1850478) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:50AM (#32824182)
    I knew before I ever clicked on my RSS feed that this would be a kdawson article. If Slashdot is going to post unscientific claptrap, shouldn't Taco hire a young earther just to balance it out a little? There is an ecological argument to be made against biodiversity reduction caused by GM crops, and there is an argument to be made that Monsanto as a company is particularly evil, although it took considerable government intervention to get that way. But there is no legitimate argument at all regarding individual safety. If you refuse to eat GM food for non-political reasons you're not overly fussy. You're an ignorant crank.
  • Re:GM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic@NOSPaM.gmail.com> 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: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: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 c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:06AM (#32824276)

    Third world countries are starving because we 1. destroy their local farmers' economy by dumping free food on them

    *sigh*

    This is why the anti-capitalism/anti-west side is always impossible to please. There's another guy a few comments higher up claiming that there should be no starvation because we make so much food. Now here you are claiming that starvation happens because we give them free food. Right. No matter what we do, we're bad, they're innocent, and it's all our fault.

    Just get off the computer and go watch Avatar or something ...

  • by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:12AM (#32824336)
    I am not asking to prove a negative. Probabilities can be bounded from above with some testing. And if there is a totally new effect that no one could imagine, well that is life and science. But if there is something we can discover now then it is our duty to try before we commit ourselves.
  • Re:Damage? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:18AM (#32824366)

    You do more damage to the soil for a longer time by using vinegar based herbicides then you do with round-up and glyphosate

    Please show some scientific info that even hints at that being true.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:22AM (#32824404)

    1. You quote me asking for low risk, then accuse me of asking to prove it is never harmful. Don't misrepresent my words, please.

    2. How much risk? What about a good study with probability estimates and everyone can decide, or ask his/her preferred physician for an opinion?

    3. It seems that you actually suggest to use paying customers as guinea pigs because testing is difficult. I must be misunderstanding, but if this is the case: will they pay sorely, should the product be proven harmful?

  • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delinear (991444) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:28AM (#32824450)
    Unfortunately, just as with the other examples you provided, the vocal minority are the ones who the reasonable people have to shape their world around because they know how to play the media/politics game.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:GM (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:36AM (#32824546)
    The same way we boycott anything else. We'd keep buying their products while whining about them on the internet. Seriously, all the talk about boycotting Sony, or boycotting Apple or boycotting the music labels, or whoever else is public enemy number one that week, and it never makes a dent in the profits of these companies. A lot of people are obviously talking the talk but failing to walk the walk - it's depressing that we let companies get away with their actions and the one way we can make a difference, nobody does.
  • Re:GM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:37AM (#32824560) Journal

    This wouldn't be possible if the Congress simply put a limit on how long a patent lasts. 25 years and then the engineered food falls into the public domain for the benefit of all the People.

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:41AM (#32824596)

    I agree that the current global economic model has it flaws but there are benefits also - money being paid to food producers & workers means they can afford to put in pipes for fresh running water, build schools for education & to get an improved standard of living.

    No, it's not perfect and exploitation of workers and pay is still rampant - but those same people wouldn't work out in fields picking foodstuffs if they didn't get some benefits themselves from it.

    Oh, and Monsanto are still nasty evil fucks also.

  • Golden rice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:42AM (#32824604)

    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.

  • by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:51AM (#32824710)

    Not really; Monsanto didn't force farmers to use more Roundup - they just made it easier for them to do so. That widespread use of Roundup has led to the appearance of Roundup-resistant weeds, in the same way that indiscriminate use of antibiotics led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. You can't sue the antibiotic companies because their products created MRSA, and Monsanto isn't directly responsible for the rise of Roundup-resistant weeds.

    They still deserve the blame, however, since they directly profited from the scenario they created, but it'll come back to bite them soon - when all weeds are Roundup-resistant, they won't be able to sell Roundup, nor Roundup Ready crops.

  • 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.

  • by internic (453511) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:01AM (#32824806)

    the people decrying the lack of long term studies about the safety of GM quietly ignore (or are ignorant of) the fact that thousands of new artificial drugs enter medical and over-the-counter usage every year without long term studies.

    Besides any unknown deleterious side-effects, most drugs have well known undesirable side-effects (well, drugs that actually work anyway, as I've tried to explain to people who trumpet homeopathic remedies for their lack of side-effects). There is still a rational basis for taking a medication, however, when the problem it treats is worse than the side-effects. For many prescription drugs, weighing these factors is a significant part of a doctor's job (whether they do that job correctly is a different issue). It's true that many drugs are approved without study of their long term effects, but this is because with medicine there's always an ethical dilemma: If you approve a drug too soon, you may be exposing patients to unknown side-effects (or giving them a drug that doesn't actually work); however, if you wait too long you may be denying patients medicine that would help them.

    Now, you might argue that some similar ethical dilemma exists for GM crops in cases where you believe their introduction could alleviate malnutrition in developing nations, but in developed nations where food availability is not a big problem there is no such calculation. Where medicine is hopefully only taken by a small proportion of the population who needs it (often under the supervision of a doctor), GM crops could be introduced into the food chain of a large proportion of the population on a relatively short time-scale. If one were to make an analogy to medicine, it would be like telling all patients across the country to start taking a new drug, which treats something that can easily go without treatment, which would be unwise and probably unethical.

    Now, there is in fact a balance to be struck (assuming that GM crops, in fact, offer benefits) between caution in introducing a new technology and it's potential benefits. If you subtract out the people screaming about "chemicals" and "frankenfoods", I think you can find a rational debate about whether this balance is being properly struck, and indeed a similar debate does exist in medicine. It's just that in medicine the factors counter-balancing caution are much more compelling, so the balance must be struck differently. That's why it's sort of comparing apples and oranges.

  • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Svartalf (2997) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:04AM (#32824842) Homepage

    Heh... They only last 28 years right now. The main problem is that Monsanto has taken to suing farmers for infringement/theft (and winning)- who didn't "steal" their seeds when the stupid pollen from Monsanto's GM crops cross-pollenated.

    The courts are, in many of the cases, clueless about crucial details like the aforementioned, or other things in the agricultural space. I've some first-hand knowledge about what the Legal system appears to know and understand about many of these issues- and they're ignorant of a lot of things outside their sphere, namely the law. And, even when the law's explicit, they oftentimes don't have a clue as to how it applies to a given situation.

    And this doesn't get into idiot things Monsanto's done like "terminator" wheat.
    (Excuse me, you're risking the entire friggin' planet's food supply so you can make a buck and enforce doing so? NICE.)

  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:06AM (#32824882)

    Asking that GM food be proven safe is inane. It is exactly equivalent to asking for a formal proof that every computer program existing now and forever be proven. (hint, this is an impossible and absurd task)

    Now asking that every GM food be tested in the same way we test medicines is not absurd (probably excessively cautious, but hey). There is a procedure to get new edible species approved, and I expect it was followed. Is it stringent enough? I don't know.

    As for the "poison" (btw, please don't shout -- don't people know their netiquette anymore ?) remember that water is poisonous. Poison is a question of dose, for one, and poisons can be very specific. What is poisonous to insects might not be to humans and vice-versa.

    Digression: when one produces an new species, it is usually done through forced mutation and selection. Meaning you got to where you think you wanted to go through a random process. The GM way is less random as you put in the characteristic you wanted in one step (conceptually -- cloning is hard, and gene insertion and expression a thoroughly non-trivial affair). Thus there is not particular reason a GM food would be less safe than a non-GM one, quite the contrary.

    Digression 2: there is also this argument that horizontal (inter-species) transfer of genes do not happen in nature. This is wrong: a large part of our own DNA comes from bits from viruses, themselves having jumped between species and bringing genetic material with them. So GM food are not something that could not happen in nature.

  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BVis (267028) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:16AM (#32824990)

    There's something I've never understood coming from critics of the environmentalist movement: Where do you get the idea that people want to drag down the standard of living? Does it come from the fact that you think most of the time making the 'environmentalist' choice (whether it be to recycle glass, or change a light bulb, etc) costs (most of the time, slightly) more money? And do those costs significantly affect people's standards of living? Really? Spending $3 on a light bulb will make me poor?

    What exactly brings down my standard of living when I turn off a light when I leave a room? When I shut down my computer when I'm not using it? When I drive in a more fuel-efficient manner (NOT buying a different car)? All of these are 'environmentalist' choices, yet they cost nothing except the effort required to modify my behavior slightly. If you're so against changing a habit, to the point where you argue it damages your standard of living, I think you have other issues to be concerned about.

  • Re:GM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:26AM (#32825118)

    A nuclear plant well-equipped with the latest technologies provided by advances in science and engineering could be perfectly safe, provided that it is indeed well-equipped rather than poorly furnished and well-run rather than badly mismanaged. The same could easily be said about oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico: the petroleum industry doesn't lack the technical prowess for safety, it lacks the will and common sense on the business end of things.

    The real problem with energy safety, whether nuclear or petrochemical or of any other sort, is NOT the technology; it's the management. Any company that prefers cutting corners to cutting risk is going to be in jeopardy of misapplying safety technology.

    The question isn't whether you'd want a nuclear power plant in your backyard: it's whether you'd want Tony Hayward running a nuclear power plant in your backyard. That's a different matter.

  • 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.

  • by Logic and Reason (952833) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:30AM (#32825162) Homepage

    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.

    Bullshit. What you're talking about is an idealized, "perfect" free market, which economists sometimes talk about in the same way physicists sometimes talk about frictionless surfaces. Real markets do not in any way require perfect information to function well. And what, exactly, is "it" in the phrase "read what it says"? The dictionary? I find nothing about "perfectly informed buyers" in mine.

  • 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:2, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:40AM (#32825284)
    No, the Romans were right. A lot more Roman lives were saved due to the much-improved sanitation provided by that plumbing than were lost to lead poisoning. And I suspect a lot more starving people will be saved by the better yields that GM crops provide than will ever be harmed by any side-effects.
  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:48AM (#32825390)

    Poison and toxic in large enough quantities is, for intents and purposes, the same thing.

    Actually, I cannot imagine something which is "poison" and not toxic at the dose. Conversely, I can imagine something toxic at dose which one would not label poison (water), but implicit in that is that you will only ingest small enough amounts, therefore, the expected dose is low enough.

    But this is sophistry.

  • by Rayonic (462789) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:50AM (#32825414) Homepage Journal

    Wait, so if the corn isn't capable of reproducing, then how would it spread over the globe in some kind of apocalyptic way? And no, not all farmers will adopt it. And yes, genetic backups of original crops are kept by Monsanto and other organizations.

    Also, I would think anti-GM people would be against GM crops cross-pollinating with other crops. Because of random mixing of genes and what not. It is possible to keep crops segregated so they don't cross-pollinate, you know. (Or they could buy the sterile variety.)

  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:00AM (#32825548)

    So hm... "hunting = animal husbandry"
    "firewood = nuclear power plant"
    "extensive agriculture = factory farms"
    "mini = SUV"

  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radtea (464814) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:02AM (#32825580)

    That's kind of like saying that consumers are underinformed because there are no autism warning labels on vaccines.

    Except for the part where it isn't.

    For an analogy that isn't simply wrong, try: "That's a bit like saying consumers are underinformed because there are no contains mercury compounds labels on vaccines." By all means tell people what stuff contains and allow them to make (ill) informed choices about it.

    But don't tell me I don't have a right to know what is in the stuff I put in my body.

    Corporations are a pure product of state intervention the the free market: they were created in their modern form by the various Companies Acts passed in the mid-1800's. They have demonstrated repeatedly that as a creation of state power they need to be regulated by state power, including requiring labelling of the stuff they sell.

    People have many reasons for avoiding GM foods, some of them more plausible than others, and it is not for your or anyone else to decide for them what or why they want to put things (or not) in their body.

    Personally, I avoid GM foods because of what I percieve to be both the economic and ecological effects of synthetic monocultures. We can debate whether that is rational. What is not up for debate is my right to know what I'm eating, and without labelling there is absoluely no way for me to ascertain that in practical contexts.

  • Re:GM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spinkham (56603) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:09AM (#32825686)

    It also seems like we are playing with fire. We assume a gene has a specific function and only a specific function, based on a few observations, and we start messing with the genetic code to plants that produce our food, which we've eaten for thousands of years.

    This is my main problem with the anti-GM movement. There *is* no food which we've eaten for thousands of years. Our history is largely tied to our abiliyt to modify our food, both plant and animal.

    All food is constantly being engineered and modified. All food has been chaotically modified over time, thorough mutation and breeding. "GM" produce is carefully modified, tested, and controlled by many government bodies for heath effects. All other produce is not tested or controlled for health effects.

    Kevin Kelly put it this way:

    Suppose the sequence is reversed. Suppose genetic engineering is what we have done all along. Then some group says, 'No, we’re going to use this new process called breeding. We’ll create all kinds of interesting recombinations, we’ll blast seeds with radiation and chemicals to get lots of mutations, and we’ll grow whatever comes up, pick the ones we like, and hope for the best.' What would people say about the risk of doing it that way?"

    The battle is not GM vs non-GM. The push for profit has given us radical increase in agricultural yield over the past 80 years, and we're not likely to stop looking for more soon. The choices we have are careful GM vs reckless GM, which is what we would call traditional breeding techniques if they were invented today.

  • Re:GM (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sd1000 (1659113) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:17AM (#32825798)
    GM foods are likely the most dangerous foods available. Breeding does not have the same effect as GM foods. The process of creating a GM food results in mutations in the DNA. Some of the issues: " * The novel proteins created by accident in transgenic foods and their occasional documented effects on human health (allergies, toxicity), which we can't monitor properly due to the lack of labeling of GMO foods. * The horizontal transfer of transgenes to other organisms, such as the bacteria in mammals' stomachs, which we were assured couldn't happen. (Might this be behind the rise in Crohn's disease? We'll never know, because as Lotter documents, GMO foods have barely been tested in their food state on mammals, and not over any long-term.) * Ecological side effects, such as the development of herbicide-resistant weeds and growing pest resistance to the plant-impregnated insecticide Bacillus thurengiensis, along with Bt crops' negative effects on soil organisms such as earthworms and on aquatic ecosystems." http://www.ethicurean.com/2009/06/03/lotter-gmopaper/ [ethicurean.com]
  • 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:3, Insightful)

    by spinkham (56603) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:50AM (#32826310)

    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.

    I agree somewhat that the leagal issues are a problem. However, farmers are choosing genetically engineered seeds for the benefits, and Matasano isn't forcing them on them.

    The truth is that most seeds we've used for the past 50 years are single season. You get better crops from buying carefully hybridized seeds whether GM or not then you will get from planting 2nd generation seeds. Pretty much no farmer reuses their seeds for yield reasons. It simply doesn't make economic sense.

    My problem with GM food has nothing to do with GM food. It has to do with patents. The large corps involved are getting tons of patents to lock out independant research, including good humanitarian projects.

    The problems with Matasano and our patent system are real, but that doesn't mean we should be scared of all GM food or techniques. "Green" campaigns against GM technology that is truely patent and licensing free, created by non-profits for the good of poor nations, is causing people to die of starvation and malnutrition. Dr Wambugu, a Kenyan plant pathologist puts it this way: "You people in the developed world are free to debate the merits of genetically modified foods, but can we please eat first?"

    It is a good sign that the people who understand GM techniques are the least scared of GM food. Most arguments against GM seem to largely stem from ignorance and fear.

  • Re:GM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:09AM (#32826614)

    [not having labels state that they contain GM organisms is] 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.

    No, it's not. Stating that something contains GMs isn't claiming anything about the health implications, just what the hell is IN the product. Your example of an autism warning on vaccines is stating a claimed effect of what's in it. A better comparison would be to a vaccine simply stating what is in it, with no mention of autism or whatever.

    It really gets under my skin when people like you argue that foods shouldn't state whether they contain GM ingredients, simply because you believe that GM ingredients are identical in all respects, and that no buyer could ever have a legitimate reason for wanting to know. Clearly, he is a nutcase who believes it will ruin his health. No way he might simply not want to support GM manufacturers, have some weird allergy to particular GM ingredients, or hell, want to only get foods made with GM ingredients.

  • Externalities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpapet (761907) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:28AM (#32826918) Homepage

    What you describe are called Externalities in Economics. Monsanto is waving away the externalities because they don't want to see them or ever have the externalities discovered.

    The classic Free Markets ideology as practiced by Americans is to privatize the profit and socialize the costs and externalities. It's a form of welfare for the ruling class and their wealthy sponsors.

    GM crops are also a poison pill of sorts for farmers who are not Monsanto customers. Monsanto 'discovers' their GM crop on an unlicensed customer's fields next door to their customer then sues the farmer next door for intellectual property violations. GM in this case is being used as a trojan horse for all kinds of other nefarious (albeit legal) economic activity.

  • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:29AM (#32826930) Homepage Journal

    Actually those Evil Bastards [monsanto.com] do produce sterile crop seeds.
    For those crops where they don't they might as well be, they sue you into oblivion if you save your seed for later.

    Did you know those Evil Bastards [monsanto.com] own 95% of the soybean crop? That there is only 5% of the corp left that is not GMO? Just in case someone from that group of Evil Bastards [monsanto.com] is reading this: I plan on planting non GMO soy, just to keep the strain alive. I will send my heirloom seeds to anyone who wants them, free of charge. Sadly I only have a 10 sq foot area to plant, but I'm going to do it anyway, just to make a point.

    Also you Evil Bastards [monsanto.com]: Fuck you.
    -nB

  • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aqualung812 (959532) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:56AM (#32827338)

    However, farmers are choosing genetically engineered seeds for the benefits

    And, those that are not choosing GM seeds are being pollinated by them, then getting sued by Monsanto. Don't get me wrong, I think that GM foods are perfectly safe. I do not buy GM foods, though, because I know that the production of them puts some farmers out of business and destroys the environment though "roundup-ready" farming, which is basically spraying herbicide on everything and killing all non-GM plants in the field and eventually downstream.

  • Re:GM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mini me (132455) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:00PM (#32827390)

    No, it's not sterile. Farmers aren't idiots and they refused to buy sterile crops.

    Well, technically, Monsanto does not allow farmers to buy GM seed at all. Seed is essentially leased and final product must be sold after harvest. Attempts to use the seed outside of the terms of the contract signed with Monsanto will lead to finding yourself in court.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:53PM (#32828828)

    Sorry, I think it's scary as hell, and it's all about trust and reputation. Who's doing the genetic engineering? Monsanto. What's their reputation like? It stinks. We already know that Monsanto is doing all kinds of horrible things, like adding caterpillar poison genes to crops, making terminator crops, promoting monocultures, etc. They can't be trusted.

    Why would you trust someone with a bad reputation to make safe food? Would you trust BP to do deep-drilling safely? Would you trust the designers of Chernobyl to build a safe nuclear plant? I wouldn't.

    At least with drilling and nuclear plants, we have alternatives. There's lots of other oil companies that haven't had any major accidents (yet). There's many nuclear companies, including the one that runs all the plants in France, and has a great safety record. But AFAIK the GM food companies are few, and just like Monsanto. It's not like I can get food genetically modified by some nice small company with a good reputation.

  • by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @02:16PM (#32829118)

    Definitely an informative comment, thank you.

    A governmental survey is pretty much the best solution for introduction of new technologies... (of course a different test must be carried for any mutation!)

    The intent is clear and complete and the list of assessments is definitely reassuring.

    The only thing that rings a bell is that the submitter is only required to provide data. I suspect that the evaluators would be better served with samples. Unfortunately the governments do not have the money to run the tests and have to trust the producers for the results...

    Finally, I do not appreciate being called luddite when I am just concerned about health. We introduced many dangerous technologies in the past without adequate testing... learning from mistakes seems wise to me.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

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