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Biotech Earth Science Politics

Anti-GMO Activist Recants 758

Posted by Soulskill
from the thought-for-food dept.
Freddybear writes "Former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas, who opposed genetically modified food in the 1990s, said recently, at the Oxford Farming Conference: 'I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment. As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely. So I guess you'll be wondering — what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.' To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says. To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs. To insist on 'natural' agriculture and livestock is to doom people to starvation, and there’s no logical reason to prefer the old ways, either. Moreover, the reason why big companies dominate the industry is that anti-GMO activists and policymakers have made it too difficult for small startups to enter the field."
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Anti-GMO Activist Recants

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  • by Art Popp (29075) * on Friday January 04, 2013 @03:53PM (#42479915)

    Kepler figured out he had it all wrong after a career spent trying to prove bad theories (Platonic model of the universe? Really?) ... and arguably launched the age of the scientific enlightenment.

    I'm anxious read Mr. Lynas' coming works.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:08PM (#42480143)

      Kepler figured out he had it all wrong after a career spent trying to prove bad theories (Platonic model of the universe? Really?) ... and arguably launched the age of the scientific enlightenment.

      I'm anxious read Mr. Lynas' coming works.

      I don't have mod points today, so I'm just going to add to your sentiment. I have a great amount of respect for anyone that can look at the evidence they were wrong about a particular belief, and admit to their mistake. And it only gets harder to do so the longer that belief has been held, and the greater the audience you're admitting that mistake to. This guy is to be commended for a true commitment to the truth, not to ideology.

      • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:17PM (#42481175)

        If GMOs are really so safe, why the tremendous resistance to putting a simple label on the food?

        • by dpidcoe (2606549) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:30PM (#42481381)

          If you're referring to the california proposition from last election, I don't think many people objected to the labeling so much as the fact that the law was written by a trial lawyer to be intentionally confusing and open to abuse. It basically paves the way for ADA style shakedown lawsuits against mom and pop food producers

        • by EdZ (755139) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:09PM (#42481999)
          The same reason the 'n' was dropped from 'nMRI': anything with 'nuclear' associated with it is automatically doubleplusungood. Similarly, anything that is 'genetically modified' must be packed full of 'chemicals' and therefore bad for you.
        • by jfengel (409917) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:17PM (#42482149) Homepage Journal

          Because "safe" and "perceived to be safe after this guy spent two decades badmouthing it" are very different things. Consumers will avoid GMO-labeled foods regardless.

          That, and the fact that there are some costs involved keeping the GMO and non-GMO streams completely separate. They've already had some notable failures in that regard.

          Personally, regardless of the benefits of GMOs, and their probable safety, I don't trust Monsanto as far as I can throw them. I don't have any faith that they've done their tests properly, and I believe they're completely willing to take a $5B fine if they can take in $40B in profits before they get called on it.

          • by perceptual.cyclotron (2561509) on Friday January 04, 2013 @08:40PM (#42483965)
            A hundred times this. I distrust GMO, but not because I distrust the technology – I think it's vital, incredible, and we've barely scratched the surface of its potentials. The race and the planet could both benefit tremendously from increased adoption of GMO tech across the board (from food to medicine to materials engineering, etc.). However, companies like Monsanto are demonstrably not trustworthy. And, indeed, the entire capitalist mindset is was makes this kind of technology so profoundly and obviously dangerous. But this has nothing to do with the science, and everything to do with cutting corners, forcing work-arounds through idiotic patenting of naturally-occurring genes, generating cheap monocultures, breeding for superficial (i.e., sellable) phenotypes like size and colour as opposed to breeding for nutritional optimality and ecological fit, etc. etc. And of course, you can take the prescient (and terrifying) perspective that Bacigalupi offers and realize that monopolizing the food market is better than sex - and the best way to do that is to patent resistance to engineered food pathogens. GMO has the potential to be a global panacea. GMO + capitalism has the potential to end us.
        • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday January 04, 2013 @07:07PM (#42482919) Homepage Journal

          I don't have a strong opinion as to whether GMO foods are dangerous or not. In fact, I think the question is wrong - it seems most likely that some modifications could be harmful while others could be harmless. I'm fairly certain that BT sprayed on an apple tree in the spring is not harmful to humans, but I'm not certain that BT-toxin expressed by the apple and present in the eaten food is harmless to humans. For some modifications it might be that both 'conventional' pesticides and GMO-expressed pesticides are both harmful, one may be more harmful than the other, or that organic is the only safe way to go. But not eating vegetables because of the price of organic may be worse. Science should inform this, but it seems to be incomplete at this time.

          The separate issue of labelling has important consequences. In the US, a Natural Rights Republic, the issue of Free Speech is a very important one. It's incredibly dangerous to tread on it for some perceived short-term benefit. For that reason I'm glad the California proposition to mandate labelling failed (whether it really did or not is a separate issue). Compelled speech is one of the worst kinds of free speech infringements.

          But the root of the problem lies not in compelled speech, but restrictions on free speech imposed by the FDA. It forbids companies from putting "GMO Free" on their products, so voluntary labelling can't happen. They told Polaner (All Fruit maker) that they couldn't put "GMO Free" on their strawberry spread because a strawberry is produce, "not an organism". They told Spectrum (oils refiner) that their No-GMO label would imply that there is something wrong with GMO's so they couldn't use it.

          I'd like to have more information on the foods I buy at the store. It's clear that 'the market' wants to provide it. Freedom of speech isn't just a good idea, it's the Supreme Law. It's time the FDA stopped breaking it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I understand Lynas' conversion.

        However, the environment [sic] of GMO crops is what is troubling, Monsanto being the focus of this, primarily.
        As nice as Lynas' worry about all of us having freedom to have access to foods, what about the freedom of farmers to continue to produce said food crops? If the only legal way for farmers to get seed is to buy it from Monsanto, every year, then we're all fucked. The farmers who try to raise crops w/o using Monsanto-infected products risk losing it all if Monsanto deter

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And I'm going to call bullshit on that:

        To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs.

        There is OVERPRODUCTION of food, but the capitalists do not allow for redistribution of goods (they prefer destroying food) so the USA is fat and Africa is dying of starvation. Also the GM crops don't have significantly higher yields for this "argument" to hold water or even grain. The sole purpose of GMO now on the market is to control food production (see India's "success" with GMO) or we would see abundance of drought and frost resistant, nitrogen fixing crops.

        • by bdwebb (985489) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:22PM (#42482203)
          Well since you've blown the lid off of how capitalism is evil and apparently hoarding all of the food to kill Africa and other poor nations (see, I can overgeneralize without any facts, too!), how do you suggest the food destined to be thrown away gets to Africa in a way that doesn't rape the economy of either country - teleport it?

          It's not like farmers or even government officials sit down and say "we have all this extra food material that we aren't selling that starving Africans could sure use....fuck those guys though - burn it!" You are talking about average households not using all of the food they purchase and being forced to discard up to 40% of it [http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf] because it is ALREADY bad and cannot be safely eaten. I'm not saying that a significant amount of perfectly good food product does not end up in the trash because people are retarded, I'm just saying that the window of opportunity to ship that shit out to Africa without an incredible cost expenditure is very very small and has to start immediately after processing. Ultimately the evil capitalist Americans are not the only ones discarding food at a huge rate, either - this is a problem for almost every first world nation to address.

          With regard to your assertion that GM crops don't have significantly higher yields, your claim is absolutely false and has no basis in scientific fact. From Monsanto (I know - somewhat biased but based off of an independent study so I put more merit in this than in what you've said because all you have is words and emotions): [http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/do-gm-crops-increase-yield.aspx]

          The introduction of GM traits through biotechnology has led to increased yields independent of breeding. Take for example statistics cited by PG Economics, which annually tallies the benefits of GM crops, taking data from numerous studies around the world:

          Mexico - yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybean of 9 percent.
          Romania – yield increases with herbicide tolerant soybeans have averaged 31 percent.
          Philippines – average yield increase of 15 percent with herbicide tolerant corn.
          Philippines – average yield increase of 24 percent with insect resistant corn.
          Hawaii – virus resistant papaya has increased yields by an average of 40 percent.
          India – insect resistant cotton has led to yield increases on average more than 50 percent.


          You may be referring to an article in UK's 'The Independent' claiming that a university study proves that yield is lower [http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/exposed-the-great-gm-crops-myth-812179.html]. The author of the study has discredited this sensationalist bullshit piece of pseudo-journalism himself [http://www.ipni.net/ppiweb/FILELIB.NSF/0/3FCACF5C93CFA9A18525743A006C7630/$file/Gordon_Fact_Sheet.pdf] and identified that the purpose of the study was not to study yields and that the article was in fact largely false and corrupted many statements he had made. If you're referring to that study or any of the others that anti-GMO nuts like you typically won't shut up about - I have yet to see a study that has not been disproven or is not extremely out of date. During its infancy, GM production may have been worse - there may have been modifications made that even made things inedible but this is all part of the experimental process to augment the capabilities of the food products we have to better survive and to increase yields. So we're not creating crops that can survive in the arctic tundra and yield 700% more food yet - we should just stop altogether and say "fuck it - not worth it"?

          Now to discuss the India situation - you're right (at least partially) for once. In this instance, GMO has been used to control food production rather than to augment it and help with the problem. This is not an asshole USA problem - this is a problem with the Indian government assisting with exploiting
        • by Pax681 (1002592) on Friday January 04, 2013 @08:50PM (#42484051)

          And I'm going to call bullshit on that:

          To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs.

          There is OVERPRODUCTION of food, but the capitalists do not allow for redistribution of goods (they prefer destroying food) so the USA is fat and Africa is dying of starvation. Also the GM crops don't have significantly higher yields for this "argument" to hold water or even grain. The sole purpose of GMO now on the market is to control food production (see India's "success" with GMO) or we would see abundance of drought and frost resistant, nitrogen fixing crops.

          i see your whining and i raise you one Norman Ernest Borlaug [wikipedia.org] who HAS saved lives with his modified plants... A BILLION OF THEM ... read it and weep my friend

          Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009) was an American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called "the father of the Green Revolution" and "The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives". He is one of six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal and was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor.

          Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

          During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.

          Later in his life, he helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa.

        • by yndrd1984 (730475) on Friday January 04, 2013 @09:06PM (#42484167)

          capitalists do not allow for redistribution of goods (they prefer destroying food) so the USA is fat and Africa is dying of starvation

          Western governments subsidize crops produced in their own countries and African producers can't compete because of those subsidies - that's not capitalism.

          Also the GM crops don't have significantly higher yields for this "argument" to hold water or even grain.

          The first generation of commercial GM crops targeted lowering costs by reducing herbicide/pesticide use, not increasing yields, because that was the simplest, easiest thing to try. Water- and nitrogen-efficient crops are in development now that the technology is more mature, the regulatory environment is stable, and more companies are working on the problem.

          The sole purpose of GMO now on the market is to control food production or we would see abundance of drought and frost resistant, nitrogen fixing crops.

          Right, because reworking large parts of a plant's metabolism is exactly as difficult as adding a gene for a single protein. *eye roll*

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:11PM (#42480197)

      Platonic model of the universe? Really?

      Really. How ridiculous was that. Everyone knows the model of the universe is purely sexual.

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:14PM (#42480231)

      I don't know. The way I read it, he was first an anti-GMO crusader, and now he has become a pro-GMO crusader. Neither one I'm too fond of.

      Genetic manipulation is a tool. It's neither good nor bad. There's all kinds of baggage associated with GMO (hi, Monsanto patents!), and some GM techniques I find highly questionable (plants that produce their own insecticide and which we're supposed to eat?). All are things that can make GMOs bad - but they are things that need to be considered in the context of creating GMOs, not as being a fundamental characteristic of GMOs.

      I really wish that people would stop fighting over whether something is genetically modified, and focus on what the modification is, what its impact is on organisms consuming it, its impact on non-GMOs of the same family, and whether there are any patents on it that can escape into the wild (still waiting for someone to sue Gaia because she is copying stuff that someone has a patent on).

      Unfortunately, I don't see too much discussion around this, and just a lot of yelling around GMO bad! GMO good!

      • by poetmatt (793785) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:30PM (#42480475) Journal

        The problem is, GMO is not something easily identifiable. For people who are not that interested in the science involved it's fairly intangible. You can't really go out and say non organic apples! these must be monsanto! or Organic apples! These cannot be monsanto! Not to mention that governments dont tend to give a shit, outside of Europe.

        Monsanto, patents aside, does horrible shit with GMO. It's not limited to their patents. So does Cargill, who happens to make all sorts of falsely claimed "healthy products". Unethical companies continue to perpetually do unethical things. That doesn't change.

        So where's the answer? I don't see one. I don't even see a path towards meaningful dialogue given that the gov't is too busy allowing things like corn subsidies to give a shit about whether or not organic food has side effects, etc.

        • by mellon (7048) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:12PM (#42481087) Homepage

          The path to win is radical transparency. GMO-producing companies want to prevent their products from being labeled as GMO products, because people won't buy them. This is a legitimate concern, but may be motivated by a legitimate concern as well: the product may have been genetically engineered to be harmful. Instead of making GMO labeling illegal, which it is in many cases now, make it more detailed, so that I can see the difference between GMO that I'm fine with, and GMO that I'm not fine with.

          E.g., I never want to buy a GMO product with built-in insecticides or herbicide resistance (I don't care about the herbicide resistance per se, just the fact that any such product was no doubt heavily sprayed with herbicides). I also never want to buy a GMO product that contains suicide genes. And I never want to buy a GMO product that is patented by any company that is willing to sue a farmer for patent infringement, even if the product is otherwise winning.

          If you have a GMO vegetable that doesn't fall into any of these categories, I have NO PROBLEM buying it. But that's tough, because right now I pretty much have to avoid anything that isn't labeled organic if I want to avoid the types of GMO I object to, and even that isn't a guarantee. So if someone comes out with a GMO product that I would in principle buy, I won't in practice buy it.

      • by robot5x (1035276) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:40PM (#42480647)
        I would love to mod you up.

        this should not be a black and white argument, and - admirable though this guy's public volte-face is - it doesn't really help the debate much at all.

        OK sure - there is a growing population and a possibly impending food crisis. But there is also plenty to suggest that this needn't be the case even without GMO crops, and is a result of lop-sided globalised capitalist economics. Why don't we fix the existing demand and supply imbalances, instead of just saying 'yeah we need more food, GM is OK after all guys'.? I'm surprised this guy doesn't seem worried that, even if GM can solve global food demand, the patents involved mean that food supply will be EVEN MORE concentrated in the hands of a relatively few powerful companies/individuals. That's not to say that GM is inherently bad, but from the admittedly limited amount I know about GM patents, we would be wise to open this market up before GM production really takes off in a big way.
      • There are plenty of already existing plants which grow their own toxins to protect themselves from predators. Kidney beans are one example. So I do not think plants that produce their own insecticide are necessarily problematic. What is problematic is the lack of labeling of GMO products. Many staple foods are toxic but because people know how to prepare the food properly via soaking, cooking, or whatever this is not considered a major problem. The problem is when foods you don't perceive as toxic act diffe
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Actually, by far the most questionable GM that I'm aware of is the terminator gene, in which plants are designed to not produce a viable seed. The sole reason for that is to prevent a farmer from doing what farmers everywhere used to do (and many still do) of saving some of the crop to plant next year, forcing the farmer to buy more seed than they otherwise would.

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:48PM (#42480773) Journal

          Did you RTFA? The guy actually admits that "terminator gene" is one of those common "everybody knows" fallacies about GM crops that he himself believed in, but which aren't true - i.e. that it is not something that is actually used.

      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:47PM (#42480761) Journal

        Genetic manipulation is a tool. It's neither good nor bad.

        His point, so far as I can take away from TFA, is that GM crops are necessary to maintain crop yields required to feed everyone at the future stable population level (which he puts at 9 billion). So he's not saying that GM is good per se, but rather than the goal it helps achieve (no starvation, better caloric yields for everyone) is good.

      • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:00PM (#42480901)

        (plants that produce their own insecticide and which we're supposed to eat?)

        You mean like garlic? Or peppers? Cinnamon?
        Why do you think they tastes like that? It's only when you dilute them that they taste good. They evolved that way, modifying their own genes, to thwart the things that would eat them. They're trying their damned best to be poison, and failing deliciously.

        But yeah, snorting cinnamon or eating nothing but garlic will mess you up. Because when concentrated, they ARE poison. Dosage makes the drug. With all GMO food-stuffs, there's a need to test just what the hell is different about it. Which is... yeah... exactly what you said. But anyway, built-in insect repellant, not that crazy of an idea. There's prior art in nature.

      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:10PM (#42482015) Journal

        I don't know. The way I read it, he was first an anti-GMO crusader, and now he has become a pro-GMO crusader. Neither one I'm too fond of.

        Did you read his speech? Because I did, and I don't agree with you at all.

        Lynas was a knee-jerk environmentalist who was an anti-GMO crusader. Then he got into climate change... and became wise in the ways of science (though, mercifully, he has not yet shared his theory on the prevention of earthquakes using sheep bladders).

        In his speech, he dug into some of the specifics you bring up... and emphasized the importance of the science.

        If you don't see a lot of discussion about the specifics, you're probably not looking very hard.

  • Refreshing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SketchOfNight (1010207) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:00PM (#42479993)

    I find this refreshing. If only everyone would take the time to reevaluate their beliefs from time to time we might be so much better off.

    • this is exactly why I never put anyone on ignore on web forums. (Well... I shouldn't say *never*... it's exceedingly rare, anyway - and only if the person is obviously delusional and belligerent in their communication with me. If they form their arguments well, though, I'm going to read it for comprehension.)

      If you don't agree with me, then persuade me as to why I'm wrong... if you're rational, I'll listen. (read, whatever.)

      • Re:Refreshing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:18PM (#42480281)

        I agree. I rather enjoy listening to a well-formed opposing viewpoint. If someone makes a statement and can answer follow-up questions (particularly, "Why?"), it's usually a statement worth considering. It's unfortunate how many people can't explain why they believe something (especially in politics, but that's wandering off the point), but are still unwilling to listen to other viewpoints.

        • People are all too often told that they are or can never be wrong or believe that if they are somehow wrong they have failed, so they grow up ignoring anything that might prove them "wrong" because they cannot accept the fact that maybe they are to some extent. There is nothing bad about finding out you are incorrect but most people, especially in America, seem to have this notion otherwise...
    • Re:Refreshing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:57PM (#42480861)

      I find this refreshing. If only everyone would take the time to reevaluate their beliefs from time to time we might be so much better off.

      It cuts both ways though. Ever met someone who has recently "found god"?

  • by cpm99352 (939350) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:00PM (#42480003)
    Cross contamination & subsequent loss of organic certification isn't an issue then?
    How about Monsanto dragging innocent farmers into court?
    • by Desler (1608317) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:04PM (#42480079)

      Most likely not. Saying that GMO is not evil is not the same as condoning Monsanto's actions in court. Strawman much?

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:54PM (#42480827) Homepage

        You can't separate the two so yeah. If you're supporting GMO's then you are supporting a framework that allows for the corporate monopolies in farming.

        Patents are part of the landscape. You can't just pretend they're not there.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Saying that GMO is not evil is not the same as condoning Monsanto's actions in court. Strawman much?

        Until/unless the two are seperable, GMO will be evil for as long as it enables corporate control of the food supply.

        I mean, there are entire countries were farmers cannot save last year's seeds to plant next years crops.
        This is nothing more than another form of economic rent, made even worse by the fact that it is rent on something that was previously free.

      • by robotkid (681905) <alanc2052NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:07PM (#42481007)

        Most likely not. Saying that GMO is not evil is not the same as condoning Monsanto's actions in court. Strawman much?

        Agreed the two should not be conflated, although it's hard not to since Monsanto has 90%+ of the market share, so it's their way of the highway. If there were an AMD-like underdog, the first thing they would compete on would be reasonable licensing terms. But instead, we have a company that is acting like MicroSquash in the '90s, and just as with MS they prefer their critics to promote Luddite-ism rather than focusing in on the antitrust aspects of this.

        I do disagree with TFA, however. It's not anti-GMO activism that kills small GMO startups, Monsanto does that very well on their own. If they don't buy out a promising startup outright they just deny it access to the market and it dies a slow death. For all the waving and shouting, anti-GMO activists can't even get labelling laws passed.

    • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:09PM (#42480159)
      Roundup used in commercial agriculture (food crops) only eliminated weeds for a few decades, now there are superweeds that have evolved its own immunity to Roundup.
      what happens in the lab and used in the fields will find its way in to the wild (it is unavoidable)
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:16PM (#42480253) Journal

      Cross contamination & subsequent loss of organic certification isn't an issue then? How about Monsanto dragging innocent farmers into court?

      I would personally advocate slicing GMO issues into separate bins. What you're referring to is the Intellectual Property bin which is a problem with (at least the US) most countries and the ownership (whether an instance of or the general use of) genetic material. Put all those lawsuits and patents and copyright crap in one bin.

      Then you have another bin where we analyze the human element of consumption of GMO foods. What is the process to determine when something has undergone enough testing and is ready to push it forward? How many years of human trials must be held before it can be released? We do this with drugs but strangely, I haven't heard of much about this with GMO crops -- why is that?

      Lastly we have a more open problem like environmental issues both surrounding the plant's effect on its environment and also the adjusted actions of the humans cultivating this crop. For example: with Roundup ready plants from Monsanto, have we really analyzed what the increased usage of chemicals like Roundup has on the immediate vicinity of the fields? Do we know that these genetic constructs that are taken from an insect and inserted into a plant do not adversely affect the pollen and have indirect affects on hay fever or honey bees? Again, how do we test this and how long should it be tested before it's pushed nationwide.

      Lynas raises an interesting point I had not considered -- that my above desires for process and bureaucracy will prevent a small company from venturing into this field. On the other hand, we've been using selective breeding to move past a lot of the hurdles Lynas mentioned that GMO crops are supposed to move us even further past. It's unfortunate but this isn't a black and white issue and I'm against the unfettered proliferation of gene constructs that have been taken from other organisms and inserted into plants without sufficient testing.

      The process of DNA -> Amino Acid -> Protein is still a very difficult puzzle for us as humans and I feel we should not openly experiment with inserting stuff at Point A when we don't know the full effects that yields in points B and C. I feel like there is still a lot to be achieved with selective breeding and until we have a better understanding of protein folding, we should shy away from smashing DNA into strands of plants unless it's absolutely critical to humanity. Go ahead and do that stuff in a lab to better understand it but leave it in a lab until there's a process that ensures it is safe.

      • Plant have evolved to produce a tremendous amount of pesticide and herbicide, fungicide chemicals to compete and survive. They have also evolved to be tolerant of herbicides produced by other plants and viruses. Thus even organic produce has large numbers of completely untested chemicals that are naturally produced by the plants themselves. I think many people somehow form a cognative dissonance if they think about this too much, so they basically do doublethink.

        Some of these natural defensive chemicals i

  • moving forward I see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:02PM (#42480031)

    To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says.

    Sounds like he has already found someone else to vilify.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Desler (1608317)

      Yes, he is going after other anti-science people. Climate change is happening and has been verified even by studies commisioned by groups seeking to disprove it. Anyone still denying it is either an industry shill or someone with an agenda.

  • ringed some bells (Score:4, Insightful)

    by faustoc4 (2766155) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:04PM (#42480053)
    I have not read the article, but a couple of things in this summary ringed some bells: current GMOs use is not to feed the world population, for instance USA corn monopoly is empowered with Monsanto GMO corn to make farmers and countries even more dependent and them. There is a whole vicious circle involving subsidies, monoculture, corn industrial derivatives, corn feedstock, antibiotics that has nothing with "feeding the world population" but with empowering monopolies". Furthermore "'natural' agriculture", is he talking about traditional agriculture? I couldn't agree more that it's doomed. But the UN has studied Agro-ecology and found out that it could double agriculture production http://is.gd/oxtixy [is.gd]
  • Great and all... BUT (Score:5, Informative)

    by mindaktiviti (630001) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:07PM (#42480109)

    This is great and all that he saw the light when it comes to science... but with technology and science comes responsibility as well. Two key issues come to mind:
    (1) Cross pollination of farmers crops, and then demanding royalties from the seed owners,
    (2) and engineering the crops to disable re-planting the same seeds for the purpose of profit.

    One actual example would be allowing a patent to monsanto on basmati rice...
    link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2004/jan/31/gm.food [guardian.co.uk]

    • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:16PM (#42480263)
      The logic of this article seems to be one person has changed their mind about something, therefore everyone else with similar beliefs is also wrong, and valid concerns such as the ones you raise can suddenly be ignored.
    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      You realize that Issue 2 disables issue 1 right? The crops they are making sterile can't cross pollinate because they are sterile.

      This is something I've always thought is ironic about anti-gmo. People will in the same breath condemn cross pollination and the spreading of the genes and at the same time condemn the sterilization gene because it prevents cross pollination and seed reuse.

      As others have said there is two issues, the intellectual property issue and the GMO issue. They are separate and arguing the

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:09PM (#42480161) Homepage

    Seriously, there is plenty of science that shows issues related to GMO crops. If not the crops themselves, the fact that a round up ready corn means several times more round up applied to the ground. This is scienfitically documented.

    So I am of the opinion this guy is probably just some bought out loon.

    Science, and advocate of real science, would concede there is far too much we just do not know at this point. And MANY fears that were pointed to, have been proved valid. Like infection of wild specieis.

    That's SCIENCE...

    • by avandesande (143899) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:51PM (#42480797) Journal
      Do you even know what roundup is? It is a Glycophosphate, a family of compounds with well established half lives. Once corn is a few feet tall it blots everything else out and they stop using it. Many months later when the corn is harvested it is chemically impossible for the corn to be contaminated with residue.
    • by Patch86 (1465427) on Friday January 04, 2013 @05:00PM (#42480907)

      Seriously, there is plenty of science that shows issues related to GMO crops. If not the crops themselves, the fact that a round up ready corn means several times more round up applied to the ground. This is scienfitically documented.

      Can you cite your sources? Peer reviewed papers from respectable sources?

      I don't ask to be dickish; I'm genuinely keen to read it. A cursory Google search found a French study that showed "Roundup ready corn to be toxic", which was then widely panned by the scientific establishment. Anything better?

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:10PM (#42480179)

    The two options aren't unquestioning acceptance and total ban. GMO with strict regulations can be useful. Without it, it's a disaster waiting to happen. He is just a professional activist who can't accept that the world isn't black and white.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:15PM (#42480245) Homepage
    Some of us don't like the idea of corporations eventually holding patents on all our food. Sorry but if we can't sustain ourselves without giving up something so basic then we need fewer people on the planet.
  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:19PM (#42480315)

    Congratulations, that doesn't mean GMO is always good.

    It is a bad thing to breed pesticides into our food supply without absolute certainty of they are safe.

    It is not a bad thing to have to label GMO foods for what they are.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:20PM (#42480319) Journal

    ....population reduction.
    This can be in part accouplished with sterilizing GMO's

    The real reason he changed his mind
    for the science - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umFnrvcS6AQ [youtube.com]
    population reduction is as well in United Nations Agenda 21 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21 [wikipedia.org]

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:22PM (#42480347)

    A few years ago the closest grocery store to where I was living was a Coop. Which was great in the summer because it was stocked with a lot of fresh stuff from local farmers (it was a rural college town).

    Well one of my biggest sources of income is the family farms I've inherited along with my Dad that we lease out. We're semi involved helping the farmer with trying new methods on our farms trying to boost yields (Rice & Soybeans are the primary crop, some years corn). This is mainly my father as he's retired and it gives him something to do, but as he's gotten up into his 70's I've started to take a more involved role in things.

    One time I was at the Coop and commented about rice and lack of a particular brand that we sold our rice to which led to a conversation with one of the patrons who flipped out when I mentioned we had switched to a new hybrid seed. She went on this total anti-GMO rant at which point there were several people looking on and I said, "I said Hybrid. As in Rice A was bred with Rice B to produce the strain we plant. Farmers have been doing this for centuries now. Pretty much everything in your bag has been Genetically Modified using cross breeding."

    Then I left and went on about my business leaving her red in the face not exactly sure how to respond to that.

    And that's what I've never understood. To these people using cross breeding and classical Mendelian genetics to modify plants are fine. But go in scientifically and do the same thing in a sophisticated lab and suddenly it's evil.

    • by StormReaver (59959) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:59PM (#42480887)

      And that's what I've never understood. To these people using cross breeding and classical Mendelian genetics to modify plants are fine. But go in scientifically and do the same thing in a sophisticated lab and suddenly it's evil.

      There is much you're leaving out, but I don't have time to address it all. I'll address the biggest problem with your posting, which I quoted above. If we were to go in and do exactly the same thing that natural crossbreeding does, but just do it faster and more efficiently, I don't think there would be nearly the opposition that we're seeing with GMO crops.

      But that isn't what we're doing. We are genetically modifying crops in ways that would never happen naturally, such as splicing frog genes into our vegetables. Even this, by itself, could possibly pass muster if there were anything even remotely close to enough data over anything even remotely close to an adequate period of time showing that the practice were safe. Unfortunately, what little data we have over the short time period we've been evaluating that data are indicating that it's a dangerous practice. Putting this kind of crap in our food supply at this point in time, with what we know about the results (such as it is), should be a criminal act.

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday January 04, 2013 @06:56PM (#42482765)

        Um Not Correct. People seem to misunderstand the origins of GMO technology. The technology that allows transplanting of genes was developed by copying natural processes that do exactly the same thing.

        Transposons, retrotransposons, proviruses and other mobile genetic elements naturally translocate to new sites in a genome, and over long time scales will move genetic material across species. It happens all the time, in all forms of life. The speed at which it can happen is sometimes frightening - the rapidity at which resistance to antibiotics spread is due directly to natural genetic transfer.

        Plant tissue culture and introduction of foreign germ plasm across species lines is a technology that is hundreds of years old. Almost all of our grain is produced by trans-species crops developed long before modern GMO came into existence.

        The lack of basic understanding of what is going on here after so many years of debates on this topic is shocking.

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:23PM (#42480363)

    Who cares what he has to say?

    Any blanket assertion of GMOs being bad for you is just as idiotic and pointless as a blanket assertion GMOs are not bad for you.

    Every case must be judged on the merits and it must not stop with the question of the qualities of the product. One must also consider the secondary effects playing god has on the environment and fucked up geopolitics of globalization meets Monsanto.

  • I'm all for GMOs... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andrio (2580551) on Friday January 04, 2013 @04:36PM (#42480587)
    When they stop being the patented and wholly owned product of megacorperations simply trying to control the world's food supply.

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