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Biotech Patents Science

Genetically Modified Canola Spreads To Wild Plants 414

Posted by Soulskill
from the agricultural-melting-pot dept.
eldavojohn writes "A research team conducting a survey has found that about 86% of wild canola plants in North Dakota have genetically modified genes in them, and 'two samples contained multiple genes from different species of genetically modified plants.' Canola usually has little competition when cultivated but does not fare well in the wild. The Roundup Ready and Liberty Link strains of genetically modified canola appear to be crossing over to wild plants and helping it survive. The University of Arkansas team claims that the ease in which genetically modified canola has 'escaped' into the wild should be noted by seed makers like Monsanto because this is proof that it will happen." Reader n4djs notes that Monsanto has been known to sue farmers for patent infringement when their crops unintentionally contain genetically modified plants.
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Genetically Modified Canola Spreads To Wild Plants

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:47AM (#33179898) Journal
    For infringement of intellectual property. The judge put a restraining order on the bees to remain at least two hundred yards away from all Mansanto plants and fined them $2,320 for each unlicensed strand of DNA collected from Mansanto plants and distributed to a competing plant.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Patent infringement is a civil cause of action for which damages (not fines) are awarded and injunctions (rather than restraining orders, which are a specific type of injunction unrelated to patent law) may be ordered.

      But yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Monsanto sued the bees. Or the nearest convenient beekeeper, for that matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Znork (31774)

      You may have figured out the cause of colony collapse disorder. It's actually Monsanto enforcing restraining orders on the bees.

      Frankly, I wouldn't put it past Monsanto to actually be behind something like CCD. If they wipe out natural bees, they could launch genetically modified bees that you'd have to buy from Monsanto every year.

      That company needs to be shut down for the good of humankind.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:37AM (#33180522)

        If they wipe out natural bees, they could launch genetically modified bees that you'd have to buy from Monsanto every year.

        Your idea seems on the one hand so utterly ridiculous that I want to laugh at the thought of going into a store and buying this season's latest bee model (packaged in a colorful box - "Monsanto Bees, now with 10% more pollination power!"), but on the other hand far too plausible when considering the lengths some corporations are willing to go to in order to turn a profit.

        I can't even bring myself to make a "Sssh, don't give them any ideas!" joke, because they would believe, to the fullest extent, that this is an excellent idea.

        Geez, what kind of world am I living in?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Nyder (754090)

          Geez, what kind of world am I living in?

          Your living in a capitalistic world that is being overran and controlled by corporations.

          While Capitalism isn't bad, uncontrolled corporations with power to influence policy & law makers is bad, very, very bad.

          Corporations exist to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. That is it. Anything else is secondary.

          And when you don't regulate corporations, don't limit their power, you get corruption, and lots of companies doing what they want to make money and not caring about the long term o

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by psin psycle (118560)
          It's already common for orchards and other large scale food growers to order bees for when their plants are flowering. The bees hives are delivered by truck, left for a few weeks, then moved to the next farm.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:27PM (#33185492)

          Actually, Znork, nearly hit the head of the nail in his answer to CCD (minus the joke about the restraining order).

          Australian research has shown that Bees that collect pollen from genetically modified plants that were modified to contain the genes for Bacillus thuringiensis (aka Bt) often experience an autoimmune response (i.e an allergic reaction). Bt kills certain species of caterpillar, a really pest for food growers. The Bt does not kill the bees, but in some, the Bt pollen engenders an auto-immune response.

          Unfortunately, the auto-immune response disorientes the Bee and it has a difficult time finding its way back to the hive. This is the critical part for if the worker bee cannot get back to the hive within a certain time frame, it dies. One of the symptoms of CCD is that Bees go missing from the Hive.

          More recent research ( http://www.commonground.ca/iss/225/PDFs/earthday6.pdf ) is further highlighting the link to the Bt gene in the modified crops as the cause of the Bee disappearance. So yes Monsanto is harming the Bees in unintended ways.

          Here is the real nightmare scenerio as a result, if the world looses its population of pollinating insects, some experts predict that humans will be on a quick path to extinction as our current global food production systems still rely heavily on this aspect of the Natural World.

          Food for though (pardon the pun!).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Who is going to sue Monsanto for polluting the wild gene population, all the evidence is there that they willfully allowed this to happen by not making generation+1 infertile.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      Why sue bees when you could sue the big cheese? Monsanto v. God.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:48AM (#33179900) Homepage Journal
    im repeating this over and over whenever similar nonsense comes up. there is no evading capitalism come to this point. from property rights, to ownership of ideas, to ownership of genes, and then to ownership of entire species. if you 'let businesses be', this happens.

    this, has to be the point where the sane realizes that this does not work.
    • by DarkKnightRadick (268025) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:54AM (#33179928) Homepage Journal

      Note that there is a difference between capitalism, free market enterprise, and a completely broken patent process that allows plants to be patented. DNA is neither unique or new. Nor is cross-breeding (it's been going on for as long as we've had agriculture).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:10AM (#33180004)

        There's a difference; Unfortunately there's substantial empirical support for the theory that free markets "breed" companies of increasing size which at some point gain enough power to change the rules in their favor, leading to the kind of monopoly support systems we have today (copyright, patents, bureaucratic requirements). Limiting the market power of a single company is seen as communist, anti-market behavior, yet it is the only way a healthy market can survive without creating the negative consequences and ultimately degenerating into a corporate dictatorship.

      • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:35AM (#33180496) Homepage Journal
        you have rinsed and repeated a shitty, old, make-believe self-fooling belief again, and you have been replied exceedingly well by another poster. i will just quote it here :

        There's a difference; Unfortunately there's substantial empirical support for the theory that free markets "breed" companies of increasing size which at some point gain enough power to change the rules in their favor, leading to the kind of monopoly support systems we have today (copyright, patents, bureaucratic requirements). Limiting the market power of a single company is seen as communist, anti-market behavior, yet it is the only way a healthy market can survive without creating the negative consequences and ultimately degenerating into a corporate dictatorship.

        it is as simple as this : it is social dynamics. if society itself does not collectively agree on and establish order and therefore limit the freedoms of each and all so that they wont infringe on others' freedoms, elements within society rise to power and establish order in that fashion. society doesnt like chaos. it ends up in order. whether the order is going to be one that is collectively decided, or, one that will be decided by minorities, is the choice.

    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:06AM (#33179986)

      if you 'let businesses be', this happens.

      If you let business be you don't have a patent system. A patent system is a state-granted monopoly, the exact opposite of what the free market stands for.

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:12AM (#33180014)

        not to mention having lawmakers in the pockets of certain mega-corporations and billionaire elites isn't capitalism either, that's plutocracy and oligarchy.

      • by khallow (566160) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:13AM (#33180022)

        If you let business be you don't have a patent system. A patent system is a state-granted monopoly, the exact opposite of what the free market stands for.

        I think this is absolutely correct. It's astounding how much of government is considered "business" and any fault blamed on capitalism (some more examples are bribery and corruption, state granted monopolies, and businesses, such as oil production, which are dominated by state enterprises). The problem here is that if we attempt to fix the perceived problem using the assumption that "capitalism" is at fault, we are likely to make the problem worse.

        • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:18PM (#33181210)

          The end result of unbridled capitalism is fascism though - "Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy." [Wikipedia]

          Corporations definitely seek to organise the political system according to their values - you just have to look at how much they spend on lobbying. The logical end result is a government by the corporate, for the corporate. Laissez-faire capitalism only works so long as there are controls on how powerful any one corporation is permitted to become, otherwise as corporations merge with others, eventually you end up with the position of corporations that are more powerful than nation states - this is already the case, but the nation states are far enough down the list that the ones at the top remain comfortable.

      • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:50AM (#33180204)

        if you 'let businesses be', this happens.

        If you let business be you don't have a patent system. A patent system is a state-granted monopoly, the exact opposite of what the free market stands for.

        Not really - even some of the most ardent free market advocates I've known acknowledge government has a role in providing a legal structure under which a free market can flourish. As one put it "we're not anarchists."

        You're confusing a free market with looneytarianism.

        • by medcalf (68293) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:56AM (#33180240) Homepage
          Yes, the government has a role in creating a legal environment in which a free market can flourish. For example, enforcing contracts is a key feature of a reasonable government. Yet, it is also true that patents are a government-granted monopoly. (We made the decision in the Constitution to deviate here from free-market principles for a practical purpose.) I would even argue that a sane patent system is a reasonable place for government action, to the extent that it can actually promote more inventions and creative works that can improve the lives and minds of the populace at large. The problem is not that there is a patent system, per se, but that the system we have is patently insane.
        • by oiron (697563) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:52PM (#33181558) Homepage

          And this was marked "troll"?

          You're absolutely right, and let me add to your point. A "free" market is one where every supplier (and consumer) can compete equally. Which means that there has to be some mechanism for stopping one player from becoming more equal than the others, which in turn means a large legal structure to protect the market from being overrun by strong-arm tactics and uncompetitive acts by those players who become (much) larger than the rest.

          If regulation didn't exist, the market would devolve into a few monopolists running things, which would in no way be "free". Get over it: free market requires regulation

      • by KarrdeSW (996917)

        If you let business be you don't have a patent system. A patent system is a state-granted monopoly, the exact opposite of what the free market stands for.

        Yes you do. If you 'let business be' then they eventually grow large enough to influence the outcome of elections and lobby politicians to legislate in their favor. They even get large enough to lobby the government to increase its own power so that said business can redistribute more wealth to itself through monopolies, grants, and bail-outs.

        This is exactly what happens when there aren't tight controls on business from the beginning

        I believe businesses and corporations should only be allowed to lobby th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ultranova (717540)

        If you let business be you don't have a patent system. A patent system is a state-granted monopoly, the exact opposite of what the free market stands for.

        Property law is also a state-granted monopoly. So is contract law. And free market doesn't "stand for" anything, it's simply an economic optimization tool society uses to benefit its members, and couldn't exist without a strong state enforcing rules for its participants.

        You'd think the fall of Soviet Russia had been an excellent lesson on what happens whe

      • by Surt (22457) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:31PM (#33180820) Homepage Journal

        So if you 'let business be' to the maximum, you don't have intellectual property ownership. Or property ownership. Or ... capital?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by medcalf (68293)
      You are conflating capitalism and corruption, and then conflating that mess with free markets to conclude that free markets are corrupt. There are a few problems with these combinations. The first is that corruption is linked not to any particular economic system, but to power. There is corruption at the top levels of any human organization, from governments to corporations to local garden clubs, in precise proportion to the power the people at the top wield. The second error in your philosophy is that capi
      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@infamo[ ]net ['us.' in gap]> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:20AM (#33180408) Homepage

        Capitalism, by contrast, is based on the regulation of individual exchanges to the benefit of the corporations and the governments.

        Capitalism is based on the private ownership of capital, nothing more or less. It has nothing to do with the presence or absence of regulation.

        Because in the end, property rights are nothing more and nothing less than the consequences of saying, "I own myself, and no one else does."

        If all that one "owns" is one's self and one's labor, then no goods can be produced. The creation of goods requires raw materials. Materials are derived from land. Land is only turned into property by an act of government. Ergo, all claims of objects as property rest on government action.

        One's relationship with oneself should never be described as "ownership". It cheapens and distorts the nature of human beings, and suggests that you could be separated from yourself, the way that any of us can be separated from property. If you "own" yourself, this introduces the idea that someone else could "own" you. No. Human beings are not ownable.

        Property is an artificial creation meant to help ensure certain fundamental rights of privacy and self-determination. It is not in itself a basic right; when the misapplication of the concept of property becomes destructive of basic human rights, it is property that must yield.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        Free markets are based on the idea that if you have something and I want it, we can come together to make an exchange without anyone else's permission or punishment.

        Free Markets are based on low barrier to entry markets dealing with informed customers. If you have those two things, everything else will follow.

        Capitalism, by contrast, is based on the regulation of individual exchanges to the benefit of the corporations and the governments.

        Capitalism is where the means to production are held in private
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Free markets are based on the idea that if you have something and I want it, we can come together to make an exchange without anyone else's permission or punishment.

        Free markets cannot exist in a vacuum. If nobody interferes, then when we come together I'll steal your stuff if I am stronger than you, (or you'll steal mine if you are stronger). And I'll punch you in the face, and tell you to bring me more stuff tomorrow or I'll come find you and punch you some more. And everybody else will look the

    • this, has to be the point where the sane realizes that this does not work.

      Your verb tense implies that there is only one "sane". I think *that* is the problem.

      Also, nice Shatner comma after "this".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``im repeating this over and over whenever similar nonsense comes up. there is no evading capitalism come to this point. from property rights, to ownership of ideas, to ownership of genes, and then to ownership of entire species. if you 'let businesses be', this happens.''

      Actually, I don't think any kind of property rights happen, unless there is also enforcement. Whether it's patents, copyright, land ownership, serfdom, slavery, the corn you grow or the pencil you bought, there is nothing that keeps these

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wowsers (1151731)

      At risk to my karma and troll votes... I say the technology to manipulate the genetic make-up of food and enforcing controls such as patents and copyrights, then exporting this food with it's claimed "benefits", is one of the ways that the US companies will try to keep the US economy from totally sinking into oblivion*.

      * You can't carry on borrowing money or printing it, even if you are the world's reserve currency.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      Except that ideas cannot really be owned in the sense that physical property can be owned, they are non-exclusive. The present system of patents and copyrights, which is enforced by the governments of this world, would not exist in a truly "free" market. In fact, patents and copyrights did not exist for thousands of years and yet mankind still advanced technologically, scientifically and culturally. People around here are quick to blame the free market and "capitalism" for the likes of Monsanto. However,
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HangingChad (677530)

      this, has to be the point where the sane realizes that this does not work.

      The Supreme Court handed Monsanto the license to sue small farmers. Clarence Thomas used to work for Monsanto and didn't recuse himself from the case.

      So if you're looking for sanity, you're barking up the wrong tree. Follow the money, you'll have better luck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Doubleplustrue! Doubleplusgood!

      Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc! We should send them all to joycamps until they unknow crimethink!

  • Obvious (Score:2, Informative)

    by bryonak (836632)

    1. Enforce strong patent system
    2. Spread patented genetic material all over domestic agriculture
    3. Sue farmers
    4. Profit!!!

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:57AM (#33179944)
    You might want to see the film Food inc. [foodincmovie.com] which will give some background about Monsato and the rest of the "modern" food industry. The funniest thing is that in their response to the film Monsato even directly admits they require farmers saving seed to provide "samples for testing". That's right; if you have nothing to do with Monsato, you still have a duty to provide them with samples of your seeds so that they can be sure you haven't "infringed their intellectual property rights".
    • Is it bad that the plants have escaped or is it bad the some American corporation is going to make less money next year?

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:06AM (#33180294)

      The funniest thing is that in their response to the film Monsato even directly admits they require farmers saving seed to provide "samples for testing".

      In other words, we aren't an arm of government, we have no legal authority to "require" a private citizen to do anything whatsoever ... but if you don't we'll bankrupt you in court.

      Face it, Monsanto is the BP of their particular sector of the economy. Both need to be taken down a few notches, if not outright disbanded and their assets sold off.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by H0p313ss (811249)

        Face it, Monsanto is the BP of their particular sector of the economy. Both need to be taken down a few notches, if not outright disbanded and their assets sold off.

        Monsanto makes BP look as innocuous as the funny old lady at the health food store that tries to sell you "vitamins".

      • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:21PM (#33183612)
        BP didn't do anything that everyone else operating isn't also doing. When the "right choice" is hard, it often isn't taken. I spoke with the person that pressed a button on a satellite launch. A few hundred million dollars was incinerated because he pressed a button. "What's it feel like to destroy something that's worth more than than 100 times what you'll make in your lifetime?" "It went outside the launch parameters. I pressed the button."

        You have to make the right choice, regardless of the consequences. If he hadn't pressed the button, it could have ended up hurting someone, and they have rules. You follow them even if, as in that one, it wasn't a catastrophic failure (it wouldn't have ended up reaching the orbit necessary so it would have been worthless, but it almost certainly wouldn't have harmed anyone either). But BP (and everyone else in the oil industry) doesn't see the harm. They aren't held responsible for spills around Africa or many places in Southeast Asia. They are only "responsible" in the North Sea (better than the US) and the US. Most rig workers with decision power aren't local. So they may get rotated from Africa to the US and living on a rig, they may not take that into account. This wasn't the largest spill. But it got the most press because it was so preventable and so close to a very retribution-oriented and rich country.

        Yeah, they screwed up and need to be held responsible. But to blame BP for these actions and not the oil industry as a whole indicates some manner of naivety. It could have been any of them, it just happened to be BP first.

        Compare that to Monsanto. They are evil. They should simply have all of their IP revoked by Congress. No need to mess with anything else, and the investors get what they deserve (one of the things I don't like about mutual funds is that I'm probably an investor in Monsanto).
  • Prince Charles must prove his claim that GM crops could cause a global environmental disaster [newstechnica.com], Monsanto has challenged.

    Cylon Number Six of Monsanto Public Relations said it was their "moral responsibility" to investigate whether genetically modified crops, fully owned and patented to the hilt by Monsanto, could help provide a suitably profitable solution to hunger in the developing world. Monsanto famously protect their hard work, having sued and won for patent violation when their seeds have blown onto another farmer's land.

    "We see this as part of our Africa strategy," she said. "It's easy for those of us with plentiful food supplies to ignore the issue, but we have a responsibility to use science to get our hooks into the less well off where we can. We certainly wouldn't drive them off their land, they're too useful to us as labour. It's in their own best interest. I think of it as the 'Corporate Man's Burden.'"

    Nestlé has also urged the European Union to review its opposition to GM. "People are starting to think Monsanto are a bigger bunch of bastards than we are, and we can't have such strikes against our public image go unchallenged."

  • Weeds? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:58AM (#33179950)

    So what's the risk of gene transfer giving us "Roundup Ready" kudzu, poison ivy, etc. in the near future?

    • Re:Weeds? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:27AM (#33180084)

      So what's the risk of gene transfer giving us "Roundup Ready" kudzu, poison ivy, etc. in the near future?

      The most honest answer to that question is "we don't know".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by $pace6host (865145)

        So what's the risk of gene transfer giving us "Roundup Ready" kudzu, poison ivy, etc. in the near future?

        The most honest answer to that question is "we don't know".

        I'm pretty sure the honest answer is "unlikely" (though certainly not impossible [wikipedia.org] - see especially the links about widespread HGT for mitochondrial genes among plants), but as a previous AC poster has mentioned, you don't need to directly modify the genes of kudzu, poison ivy, or any other "undesirable" plant to end up with a "RoundUp Ready" variety - all you need to do is selectively breed such organisms by spraying RoundUp indiscriminately until you create one "naturally". Monsanto may have done a lot of w

    • Re:Weeds? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:43AM (#33180168) Homepage

      For starters: if weedkiller-resistance gives these species only a slight advantage over their natural cousins, it could be just a matter of time until those natural cousins are wiped out - entirely, forever. Regardless of effects I would equate that to ongoing, irreversible environmental pollution on a massive scale (and ideally the business forces behind it should cough up massive damages a la BP oil spill - too bad the mighty $$$ will probably win out). While you may not think much of those natural occurring species, for example they may have a much more varied genetic makeup than the weedkiller-resistant species that are replacing them. Once replaced, that genetic variety could be gone, and that is never a good thing. What's worse: we may never know what was lost, in the same way we won't know what's lost when you clear a large area of rain forest.

      Secondly, what's product on one field, is weed on another. Harder-to-kill weed, which means you'd have to spray more / nastier chemicals, or have reduced yields on such a field. Thus the easier-to-grow canola may equate to harder-to-grow agricultural products elsewhere. That's cold, hard, cash losses (which farmers won't be able to claim back from those responsible).

      Genes that spread from GM-crops to wild canola might spread to other species as well? If so, effects are hard to predict but (given time) likely world-wide. If not: are you sure about that? Can we afford the risk? Should we?

      • Re:Weeds? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:24AM (#33180442)

        If not: are you sure about that? Can we afford the risk? Should we?

        All good points, and I'm not really disputing any. But there is the fact that much of the world is starving, and GM crops could offer them some hope. The issue is not as clear-cut as some people would like to make it.

        Having said that, we really don't know enough to be certain of the long-term effects. Much more research needs to be done, but companies like Monsanto are forging ahead now, and from what I can tell, with little regard for consequence.

        • Re:Weeds? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bcmm (768152) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:36PM (#33181376)

          All good points, and I'm not really disputing any. But there is the fact that much of the world is starving, and GM crops could offer them some hope.

          This is important: there is no global shortage of food. People are hungry due to political and especially economic reasons.

          • Re:Weeds? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:31PM (#33181944)

            Correct. At the moment, we do not need GMO crops. What we need is for every country to have a stable, functioning government that cares about the well being of it's citizens and doesn't consider food a method of control. Guess which one we can give people in third world countries. Or would you like to see an invasion of the DRC to kill Mugabe and try to set up a decent government? You're right, there is no global shortage of food, many of the countries that need more food could easily produce it (the DRC for example has tons of very fertile farmland), and GMOs are not a silver bullet, but you know what, they're a start. You can change plants in a lab it resist bugs, or disease, or drought, or be more nutritious, but there is no way to change human nature. You can insert the gene for beta carotene into rice but you can't insert compassion into an evil regime. So until they do fix their governments, we have to do what we can for the people who are starving now, and that includes GMOs.

  • Evolution in action (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vegge (184413) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:09AM (#33179994)
    The NPR story (first link) was a real whitewash compared to the U. Arkansas press release (second link). The NPO story does not mention the fact that in some places where the roadsides are sprayed the genetically modified canola was the only thing left growing. And it downplays the risk of the genes spreading to other plants.
  • Can't be true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:11AM (#33180012)

    It's a good thing this absolutely positively can NOT happen. It's what we were promised. It's what Monsanto told the FDA and it's what the US is telling every-which nation they're trying to push GM foods to.

    Nothing to see here. It's not possible. LALALALALA

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:12AM (#33180016)

    My problem has always been this. If a pharma company releases a drug that is later proven to be a bad idea then you can do a recall and destroy all known stocks. With GM crops you can't do this as once it is in the wild it is in the wild. The TFA has proved my basic point.

    I also have the feeling that less time has been spent trialing GM crops compared with drugs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918)

      If a pharma company releases a drug that is later proven to be a bad idea then you can do a recall and destroy all known stocks. With GM crops you can't do this as once it is in the wild it is in the wild

      A GM plant is one that has received genes that came from other plants the wild. What Monsanto does is what living beings have been doing ever since sex came about, only in a purposeful way rather than at random.

      Farmers have been selecting the best seeds since agriculture was invented, a corn plant would be

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:09PM (#33181734) Journal

        So we have been breeding plants with fish and insects for thousands of years? Yeah...uhh no. If you would read up on the technique involved they are "shotgunning" DNA from different species of all different sorts into plants and then patenting any that show "good traits" the problem is by using the shotgun method you end up with a LOT of "free-rider" DNA that frankly we don't have a clue in hell what will do because it has never been and wasn't created in plants in the first place.

        What you are gonna end up with is massive ecological disaster when one of these free riders mutates into something really nasty and like in TFA spreads into the wild plant population. I have no doubt if one was to do a serious double blind study on the increases in food allergies and food illnesses you would probably be led straight to GMOs, but of course with companies like Monsanto making congress its bitch we just won't see those kinds of studies funded.

        But already we are seeing the classic corporate malfeasance where farmers get sued because Monsanto shit spreads onto land adjacent to their crops while Monsanto takes NO LIABILITY for said spreading. Basically they get all the rewards, while WE take all the risks. Personally I believe the world would be a better place without Monsanto in it.

    • Well two things (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:47AM (#33180186)

      1) They do a hell of a lot of trials on GM plants. They do a hell of a lot of trials on plants period, but more on GM plants because additional agencies are involved in oversight.

      2) We've always been modifying plants for a long time.

      If you think the foods you get in the store are "natural" as in "The state in which they exist without human involvement," then you are wrong. We've been doing crude genetic engineering for hundreds of years. It started as simply using plants that were more desirable. If a particular plant was more desirable than others, its seeds got more use. It got refined a bit when Gregor Mendel helped everyone understand how genetic traits work. People got better at cross pollinating plants to get desired traits, and doing things like grafting (cutting off a part of a desired plant and fusing it to another).

      As an example, go look up a wild banana. They are not what you find in the supermarket, they are squat, thick, and full of hard seeds. That is how bananas were in the wild. They were engineered by humans, though various means, to be easier to hold and have no seeds. There wasn't any direct genetic manipulation, they were created before that, but it was selective engineering of their genetics going on.

      What is going on now is just a further refinement of that. Now there is more direct control over the desired genes, and there is less chance undesired traits make it in. No, it is not 100% risk free. Nothing in the world is. However it is pretty safe over all. You may notice that people are not dying from this, we haven't had an epidemic of many people becoming ill or dying because a genetically engineered food was introduced that had adverse side effects.

      Caution is needed, of course, as with anything we do. However fear is unwarranted is is basically just Luddism, just fearing things because they are new.

      • Re:Well two things (Score:5, Insightful)

        by itsdapead (734413) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:14AM (#33180370)

        2) We've always been modifying plants for a long time.

        By selective breeding. Not by directly grafting in genes from other species.

        Whether selective breeding is automatically safer "because it is natural" may be dubious but it is inherently slow and incremental.

        Bananas and pigs took many, many years to breed to their current state - now we can splice banana genes into pigs overnight just because we think it should be easier to get the rind off bacon..

        No, it is not 100% risk free.

        ...but unless you're a Monsanto shareholder you get 100% of that risk and 0% of any benefit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by thoughtlover (83833)

        You may notice that people are not dying from this, we haven't had an epidemic of many people becoming ill or dying because a genetically engineered food was introduced...

        Not yet, at least.

        Even though testing could not reveal whether 51 people were legitimately sickened by Starlink corn, the news left a lingering thought it could.

        Even earlier this year when a report found that GM corn may cause organ damage in rats, it only showed 'signs of toxicity' (not proof). http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm#headingA11 [biolsci.org]

        We probably won't know the true effects for decades or maybe longer. Perhaps livestock will develop reactions to GM feed that we won't know about until we hav

  • by luder (923306) * <slashdot @ l b ras.net> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:21AM (#33180050)

    So AOL lost 86% of its customers since 2001 [slashdot.org] and now 86% of wild canola contain genetically modified genes? Something fishy is going on!

  • unintentionally? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cperciva (102828) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:29AM (#33180094) Homepage

    Reader n4djs notes that Monsanto has been known to sue farmers for patent infringement when their crops unintentionally contain genetically modified plants.

    This might have happened, but the Percy Schmeiser case is not such a case. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Schmeiser deliberately harvested and planted his field with seed which he knew had Monsanto's genetic modifications.

    It rather scares me that one of the leading anti-GMO spokesmen is someone who deliberately planted his field with genetically modified seed and then lied about it when he got caught.

    • by $pace6host (865145) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:24AM (#33180440) Journal

      Reader n4djs notes that Monsanto has been known to sue farmers for patent infringement when their crops unintentionally contain genetically modified plants.

      This might have happened, but the Percy Schmeiser case is not such a case. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Schmeiser deliberately harvested and planted his field with seed which he knew had Monsanto's genetic modifications.

      It rather scares me that one of the leading anti-GMO spokesmen is someone who deliberately planted his field with genetically modified seed and then lied about it when he got caught.

      I wasn't familiar with the case, and maybe others not involved in the GMO/anti-GMO fight aren't either. There's a little info on the Percy Schmeiser [wikipedia.org] wikipedia page, which at least serves as a starting point of more info.

      When you say "deliberately harvested and planted his field with seed which he knew had Monsanto's genetic modifications," it sounds like he stole Monsanto seed and planted it in his field. From reading the wiki page, it sounds more like he collected seeds from his own fields that had been pollinated with Monsanto GM naturally. In the former case, I'd say Monsanto should win - stealing their seeds is wrong. But if his fields had been naturally pollinated, why should he be responsible for Monsanto's inability to contain their pollen? In fact, if he was in the business of selling non-GMO, the contamination of his fields could cost him value, customers, or even entire markets. If Monsanto can modify the GM in their plants, couldn't they have made the pollen incompatible with regular crops? And if not, perhaps they shouldn't have planted it if they couldn't control it?

      I'm not one of the "all GMO is evil!!" crowd. I think there is great potential for good in GMO, even though there are risks. I just think it's ridiculous to make a self-propagating piece of "property", and then claim that when it self-propagates, someone else is responsible for that, but you aren't.

    • by sjames (1099) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:03PM (#33181090) Homepage

      Schmeiser did what farmers have done since the discovery of agriculture. He noted a plant with a beneficial quality and propagated it. The Canadian courts defied common sense and determined that canola cross contaminated with Monsanto's genes becomes Monsanto's intellectual property and suddenly the farmer loses the right to do what farmers have always done.

      Somehow, though, I'm guessing Monsanto will prove most unwilling to go around hand weeding "their" IP when it becomes a pest. However, it might be fair enough if the executives at Monsanto are sentenced to spend the rest of their lives doing exactly that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Schmeiser sprayed his crops with RoundUp, and harvested the seed from the resistant plants for replanting. His plantings were found to be 98% RoundUp resistant. He clearly was intentionally violating Monsanto's patents.

        Even worse - he continues to lie about what he did.

        The guy is schmuck.

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:30AM (#33180102)

    Slashdaughters, let us avoid the tendency to take the focused ruling in a specific legal case and spread it over our most elaborate paranoid fantasies. We need to force our enemies to do that. They won't be able to enforce the legal rulings in their favor over more than a few isolated cases. Each new case will make their overall position appear more extreme and convince more undecided people that they are a lost cause. We have successfully used this tactic on the record industry; now the farmers can use it on the bio-engineered seed industry.

    We need these news items to bring attention to the real problems in agriculture. The biggest problem is that it is over-dependent on fossil fuel for the supplementary necessities of large crop yields. Mainly fertilizer, but also for farm machinery use and post-harvest transportation of food (which has a short period between being ready-for-harvest and losing its nutritional value). Any disruption in the oil delivery process would not only disrupt our transportation, it would disrupt our food supply. Our food depends on these clowns in the Middle-East and psychopathic oil companies, not on Monsanto bullying poor farmers.

      We can't feed our population without the oil to make the fertilizer, run the harvesters, and truck the produce. If oil goes to $250 a barrel, then a few months later gas goes to $7 a gallon, and ramen goes to $1 a packet. People, and that includes people like you, will start shoplifting, then start looting, then start shooting. Monsanto employees will be doing the same thing, too. Nobody will have much use for any kind of intellectual-property horseshit when their real property starts going up in flames.

        At the present, keep up with the seed-bank bio-diversity people. Don't get distracted by lawyers and sensationalism-mongering journalists. Keep it real and only use fools for cheap entertainment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ErikZ (55491) *

      Are you kidding? I've got enough fat reserves to last at least a year before I turn to Anarchy.

      You people on those "Eat 5 times a day" diets are screwed though.

  • Monsanto clean up? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by prestwich (123353) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:34AM (#33180128) Homepage

    Sounds like someone should send them a bill for cleaning it up.

  • Why didn't Monsanto or whoever the designer was make the plants unable to breed with wild crops? There are many, many ways they could have accomplished this.
  • Now we know the real story behind honey production being down (or so it seems in stores) http://tinyurl.com/23hmznl [tinyurl.com] ...its probably not good to get a genetic alteration overload via ...honey intake... just leave it to the bees, corporate and crops... to genetically alter us all.

  • Monsanto scares me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @10:58AM (#33180260)
    Really. I am no tin foil haberdasher, but Monsanto steamrolls through farm country like a nasty hay-seed (pun intended) Napoleon. And if you think they don't have numerous rural Congress folks in their pockets, please think again. Your food chain is far scarier than most know. I can't say I have some terrible fear of some horrid mutated crop gone wrong, but I can say I fear the corruption of democracy and our food supply that Monsanto perpetuates.
    • by rotide (1015173) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:16AM (#33180388)
      What scares me is, what happens if/when all of Monsanto's crops spread to nearly _every_ field and there is nothing you can do about it? Say every (insert vegetable here) is now of Monsanto patented variety and some grows in your field/garden. Will Monsanto still be able to sue you into the ground? Will the government ever realize that plants are plants and _especially_ if they are able to reproduce on their own, they can't possibly be considered "property" of anyone that doesn't own the land they happen to grow on? Imagine a grass seed company selling a patented seed that can't be used for commercial reasons without paying them. I'd assume selling your house with a nice lawn would be considered as such. If the grass is spreading all on its own, is it still _legal_ to claim it as property of the grass company? I don't know, this whole, releasing patented crops essentially into the wild and then suing anyone caught "growing" it is absolutely absurd.
  • Puzzling questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rotide (1015173) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:06AM (#33180296)

    Say I'm in my basement (well, I'm always there so that's a given) and I "create" a dandelion that is resistant to all known forms of weed killer and I release it with a giggle into my back yard, obviously in a few months/years every dandelion in the neighborhood is of my variety. Is this illegal?

    How about if I only like to look at grass that is purple (ignoring the fact that purple grass would probably just up and die, but for arguments sake lets say it thrives) and I release that into the wild, maybe by throwing a few seeds along all the borders of my property with the intent that it will cross the property line? How about if I didn't mean for it to do so? Is that illegal?

    Now say I run a company that makes weed killer and I release a variant that is _only_ susceptible to my weed killer? Is this illegal?

    I'm not arguing for or against what Monsanto is doing and merely questioning the legality of releasing modified plants into the wild, of which can reproduce on their own for my personal benefit (monetarily or asthetically). I'm honestly curious here.

  • by Munden (681257) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:21AM (#33180420)

    Here is the story NPR did on this a few days ago - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129010499 [npr.org]

    "Wilkinson says that just because the plants are genetically modified, doesn't mean they'll be more successful than wild plants. In this particular case, herbicide resistance will provide little edge to plants growing in areas that, almost by definition, don't receive many herbicides. "It's very difficult for either of these transgene types to give much of an advantage, if any, in the habitats that they're in," he says, referring to the genetically modified canola."

    I hate Monsanto and GM because of their legal views and actions on DNA patents. I also hate how their products require tons of chemicals to grow and how it gets into the environment. I hate it how it promotes growing "all one type of plant" which turns niche problems and pests into giant clusterfucks because of the lack of biodiversity that would have naturally kept the problem in check. Google "pig weed" which is now ultra resistant to all known herbacides thanks to GM/Monsanto. The list goes on and on.

    • http://deltafarmpress.com/mag/farming_high_incidence_arkansas/index.html [deltafarmpress.com]

      It's glyphosate (Roundup) resistant. That doesn't mean you can't kill it, in fact the article lists several existing herbicides that kill it.

      It just means Roundup doesn't (usually) work on it. So that means farmers in some areas no longer have the option of planting Roundup resistant crops and then hosing down their fields with Roundup. Note that this is no different than the situation before Roundup was invented. So Monsanto hasn't set

  • by caseih (160668) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:52PM (#33180988)

    The roundup-ready gene patent has already expired. We are currently multiplying roundup-ready Canola seed for Pioneer Seeds on a couple hundred acres.

    The real issue isn't the patents at all but the fact that the scientists found was that these genes are now found in most of the volunteer Canola growing. And the volunteers were found in some cases miles from where any Canola has been grown in a farmers field. This tells us that not only is the round-up ready gene travelling to other plants naturally, it's also travelling tremendous distances. So we have to be careful what we do with genetic engineering. Much more careful than we thought we had to be in the past.

    The fact that the specific round-up ready genes are in the wild volunteers doesn't bother me that much. If you have to use a herbicide in another crop, any broad-leef killer will work. The risk of Canola being a super weed is overblown. Canola is already fairly hardy and aggressive; these resistance genes don't really affect that that much. Grass can easily out-compete Canola. In fact I've see Canola deliberately planted in the ditches of newly-constructed roads because it gets going fast and provides ground cover to prevent erosion, etc. Then a year later the grass that was also planted has taken over and the Canola is gone, without any herbicides.

    We're getting out of the GMO seed multiplication business, though. Mainly because it's hard to control volunteers in other crops such as peas, which can contaminate the seed crop; with commercial, we don't typically care that much about the volunteers. We'll still grow the GMO'd varieties, but commercially (for crushing, not seed multiplication).

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