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Biotech Earth Government

Anti-GMO Activists Win Victory On Hawaiian Island 510

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-in-my-bowl dept.
biobricks writes "New York Times reports on how the county council on the Big Island of Hawaii banned GMOs. 'Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence. At stake is how to grow healthful food most efficiently, at a time when a warming world and a growing population make that goal all the more urgent.'"
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Anti-GMO Activists Win Victory On Hawaiian Island

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  • by smoothnorman (1670542) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @02:28PM (#45872319)
    screwdrivers can/will be used to make hideous things (bombs, kill-droids, ...) but since everyone can understand screwdrivers no one would think to ban, or even restrict, them. GMO is complicated, really requiring an advanced to degree to appreciate. GMO can be used like screwdrivers to do evil (typically in the hands of some eeevil profit driven corporation (e.g. Monsanto in concert with Roundup) or it can be used to work towards really noble goals like improving the nutrition and disease resistance of crops in developing countries (e.g. search for "Golden rice").

    in other words, going after GMO-the-technique is anti-progressive. one should instead go for (federal) regulation of GMO products. even indiscriminate labeling campaigns just naively suppress the technique, both good and bad usages.

    ok, (having spoken my peace); on with the pitchforks and burning-brands!

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @02:58PM (#45872535) Homepage Journal

      GMO can be used like screwdrivers to do evil (typically in the hands of some eeevil profit driven corporation (e.g. Monsanto in concert with Roundup) or it can be used to work towards really noble goals like improving the nutrition and disease resistance of crops in developing countries (e.g. search for "Golden rice").

      Do you think it's more likely the GMO foods being sold to Hawaiians is of the "really noble" variety or the "eeevil profit driven corporation" variety?

      Here's a protip for you: If there is transparency in the way GMO is used in food, it's likely in the former. If there's an effort to fight the simple labeling of such foods as being GMOs, then it's almost certainly the latter. People with noble goals don't usually try their best to hide what they're doing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by smoothnorman (1670542)
        Every last thing you eat could be credibly labeled as GMO. even that tomato you grew yourself in your yard has been genetically modified (there was a genetically modified fugal resistant strain produced in the late 1980s which has been cross-pollinated to most others, so most seed stock carries the advantage) Therefore, please, slap a GMO label on everything you eat, before you eat it. but it would be far more informative, for example, to stick an "M" for Monsanto on just their products.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:27PM (#45872771)

          That's horseshit. GMO is a very specific term, despite what some people would have you believe. It stands for Genetically Modified Organism. As in the product of taking genes from one organism and placing them directly into another organism. This is different from hybridization where you have to be able to create viable offspring by mating two organisms together selecting the ones that express what you're interested in.

          Prior to about the '80s, they didn't exist at all. Conflating hybridization that takes many generations and may or may not yield a specific product with one where you can put completely unrelated and unpredictable genes in is completely wrong.

          The problem here is that there's a massive conflict of interest with the scientists don't the research and the people responsible for safe guarding things. They still haven't introduced any way of keeping the genes from jumping species even though they still lack the ability to predict what the consequences of that are long term. I have no particular problem eating GMOs, I have a huge problem with them being permitted to propagate in an unchecked fashion.

          • Initially, it was believed that transgenic processes did not occur in nature and were a purely human, hence 'new' technology. This has now changed: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1900/#b [davesgarden.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          ...That's kind of the point for most people advocating GMO labeling requirements. It's still possible to find non-GMO foods but without labels, it's much harder to find them.

        • by sjames (1099)

          You're pointlessly playing with semantics. GMO is well understood to mean transgenic rather than crossbreeding techniques.

          There are legitimate questions about the probability of GMO producing a harmful crop vs. traditional techniques.

          I would support a scarlet M for Monsanto since they seem to be one of the bigger offenders.

      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:58PM (#45872975) Homepage Journal

        Do you think it's more likely the GMO foods being sold to Hawaiians is of the "really noble" variety or the "eeevil profit driven corporation" variety?

        Yes.

        What, you think the two are incompatible? Here's a thought: maybe companies monetize products that have, or are perceived to have, value. For example, a company might see a market for a strain of cereal that is resistant to a particular herbicide, making it easier to attack weeds on land used to grow that cereal. The business selling the seeds for the cereal can charge lots of money for the cereal - and even the herbicide! - and farmers gratefully buy the seed in question because it'll make their practices more efficient and reduce the amount of food they have to throw away due to weeks.

        But I know, that's probably not the type of GMO application anyone's thinking of.

        Except it is.

        And no, labeling does nothing other than give GM foods a stigma. It's inherently anti-consumer to label GM products that have no likely health or nutritional differences from their non-GM equivalents, because it adds noise to the consumer warning labels, and that makes the labels less easy to interpret. You shouldn't have to look up every warning label on Wikipedia before buying something just to find out whether there's a legitimate issue there, or some anti-corporatists getting power and using it to push an agenda.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      I would have gone with guns because it is a closer analogy I believe. Guns can be used for good an evil yet the same group who are against GMOs generally are also generally against guns
    • by istartedi (132515)

      Going after GMO is like attempting to halt an experiment with no control being run on all of us. There. FTFY.

    • by hazem (472289) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:40PM (#45872861) Journal

      A better analogy comes from the artificial "trans fat" fiasco. Here's this new kind of fat created by "scientific processes" that is touted by many authorities to be superior to the natural fats that people had been consuming for centuries. In the 1960s, it was pushed heavily as a way to prevent heart disease. A few decades later, it was discovered to actually increase the incidence of heart disease and we're in the process of slowly removing it from our food supplies.

      GMO is even less tested than artificial trans fats were (they were around for nearly half a century before being heavily pushed by government and industry). Maybe some of them will turn out to be just fine, and possibly repleat with benefits, but others may be harmful to both the environment as well as the people and animals who consume them. There just hasn't been enough testing to demonstrate that mixing genes from here with genes from over there, as well as creating new sequences out of whole-cloth, has no unintended consequences.

      I don't think it's too much to allow people to have labeling to then be able to make informed choices about whether they want to be a part of this huge un-controlled human trial.

    • Screwdrivers don't reproduce with hammers, permanently altering the property of a hammer.

      An island is in a rather unique position regarding GMOs. Once they're let in, there's no turning back. Where's the harm in keeping a naturally isolated island free from them, at the very least until the long term science is real?

      Unless, of course, you're simply looking for cheaper Kona coffee due to increased yields.
    • I have no problem with people choosing to eat GMO crops. I would personally rather set the seeds in the sun and let UV light cause faster differentiation for my crop selective breeding program than have patented seeds, and thus have far better diversity than the pesticide resistant monoculture of GMO. The strive for absolute maximum yield is as horrid as the strive for absolute maximum security or absolute maximum progress. These moronic absolutist drives marginalize proper cautions and acceptable risk and lead to bad and/or uninformed decisions about the food we'll eat, what protections are actually needed, and the lifestyles we live.

      I would rather eat food that wasn't grown with pesticides or herbicides sprayed on them even if it is more expensive and the ecosystem reclaims a bit of the crop -- I consider it the cost of doing business with nature, renting her land. The "cheaper" poisoned crop is just hiding the cost elsewhere in the environment and my body. No one should get to dictate what my acceptable risk is worth in either extreme -- They do not have my best interest in mind. I need information to make informed decisions. All of my food I get from my local farmers market or grow myself; I have been to the farms whence my food comes. I can make two pizzas with all organic ingredients: yeast from the air, vegetables from my garden, oils from local olives, salt from the sea, cheeses made locally, and flour I ground myself -- all in the same amount of time it takes for you to get pizza delivered. The fresh taste is phenomenal, and better for you (less fats, salts and preservatives).

      I would love to be able to maintain my food preference while shopping at a supermarket, but thanks to the GMO lobby I can't. The GMO lobbyists prevent me from making an informed choice by lobbying against labeling of GMO food -- Or even preventing those that label their products as non-GMO. This is as terrible as the state telling me I don't need to know what the NSA is doing because it's good for me. Fuck that shit. I want choice. GMO companies are actively anti-choice. I'm anti-GMO company, being anti-GMO food is an unfortunate but necessary outgrowth of their anti-informed consumer stance.

      I also don't take any drugs that haven't been on the market for more than 10 years because I've seen that longer term testing is frequently needed. I buy the latest computing technology because I don't put that buggy crap in my body. If it were a medical device going inside me, I'd want the source code, and I'd want years of testing to work out the bugs, some assurances that the shit doesn't have a trivial exploit vector. I fight against all this "it's good for you just trust us" information disparity bullshit in our current culture, not just with GMO crops.

      GMO isn't the only way to do business. If it didn't exist and neither did pesticides, guess what? The economy would adjust the cost and price of food. Hey, here's a thought: Competition is good. GMO companies are anti-competitive. Yes you can pay engineers to invent things and call that progress, but you also miss out on the natural progresses achieved through good old mutation and selection if you seek to exclude the natural methods of crop growing -- Which GMO companies and lobbies do. Anti-competition is bad for crops for the same reason normalizing the methods of production is bad for business: Mono-cultures are "anti-progressive", you idiot. Get this through your fool head: They don't want what's best for us, they want what's best for them at any cost to us; They'll deffer as much of that cost to us and the environment as they can get away with. You shouldn't trust them by default. Where's your scientific skepticism? My standard of proof is higher and you call me anti-progressive? THAT's anti-progressive, moron.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Sunday January 05, 2014 @02:37PM (#45872371)

    Let's make this headline more accurate and honest, okay?

    Anti-GMO Luddites Win Victory On Hawaiian Island

    These has never been a single reputable study by anyone anywhere that has shown GMO anything to be unhealthy. GMO products have been made for decades and have been intensely studies by people with a vested interest in keeping them out. This range of scientific lunacy is in the same camp as wifi causes cancer and vaccination scaremongering.

    Let's get real, this has jack to do with GMO and everything to do with eco naive that get their talking points from greenpeace and protectionism from those countries that haven't started making their own GMO foods yet. Once other countries start making their own versions of GMO foods all of the objections to GMO foods will vanish overnight from everyone that isn't an eco-naive twit.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:10PM (#45872625)

      You could have read the fine article, which nicely mentions "overuse of pesticides". The current reason to use GMO is raised pesticide/herbicide resistance, which naturally means that farmers are encouraged to go overkill with Roundup and co. to kill of everything else in the area. AFAIK it has also been shown that the poisons used accumulate within the plants, sadly the only health study on that point I know of has been unreliable (the lab animals used hat a naturally high chancer rate).

      So while GMOs may not be responsible for the harm done to humans, the pesticides/herbicides sold as part of the package - the only reason GMOs are currently used - are responsible for killing of local plants and insects. It might be overly broad, but it is based on reality and facts.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Remember. The major proponents of GMO crops are not really seed companies. They aren't farmers or agronomists. They are herbicide companies that want to sell more herbicide.

        More likely than not, a GMO crop is just a pretense to put more poison in your food.

      • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:28PM (#45872775)

        You could have read the fine article, which nicely mentions "overuse of pesticides". The current reason to use GMO is raised pesticide/herbicide resistance,

        It is also worth noting that the Hawaiian islands have one of the most unique and fragile ecosystems in the world due to the isolation of being in the center of the pacific ocean. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of species unique to the islands and many of them have gone extinct since man showed up, especially western man.

        We've already lost hundreds of unique bird species due to the misguided introduction of mongooses to hunt rats -- rats are nocturnal, mongooses are diurnal so that didn't work, instead the mongooses raided indigenous birds' nests which had evolved in the absence of such predators so they had no protection.

        Hawaii's got a sad history of this sort of thing and, for one reason or another, the GMO corps have made Hawaii one of their most popular testing grounds. It is no surprise that many of these "hippies" are paranoid.

        • by sl149q (1537343)

          Almost all of the damage to the Hawaiian ecosystems can be traced to two species. Rats and Humans.

      • by caseih (160668)

        Overuse of pesticides is a problem irrespective of GMO, but GMO is designed to reduce the problem. I think it would not hurt to educate yourself a bit to understand why GMO crops are designed to be herbicide resistant. The goal is to reduce overall pesticide use by a) making the crop naturally more resistant to disease and pests and b) to reduce the use of herbicides by making it resistant to one herbicide that, in theory, all other plants are not resistant to. Thus instead of spraying a crop with multip

    • by printman (54032)

      I'm sure there are many who are concerned about the long-term effects of GMO crops on the viability of non-GMO crops (cross-pollination between fields, economic factors, strong-arming by companies that produce GMO seed, etc.), but I am more concerned with the primary usage of GMO, at least in North America - herbicide resistance. With ordinary seed you might still use herbicides to control weeds, but overall you can't use much because you'll kill your crop. Use a GMO seed that is engineered to not be suscep

      • This post brings up a point that I have suspected and seems very very important to me. Do you have any sources to back up this assertion that GMO is largely to improve pesticide/herbicide resistance?? Increased use of herbicide/pesticide seems like an obvious contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder.
    • These has never been a single reputable study by anyone anywhere that has shown GMO anything to be unhealthy.

      Just down that path yesterday. [slashdot.org]

      have been intensely studies by people with a vested interest in keeping them out.

      OK, lets see all these studies. Note in the thread linked to above the one citation of ~2000 such studies turned out to be a dude.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      These has never been a single reputable study by anyone anywhere that has shown GMO anything to be unhealthy.

      I know very little about the topic, but a short search shows that at least someone published anti-GMO results and lost about 36 years worth of a career as a result. See Arpad Pusztai [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)
      That's a slight bit of a strawman argument. Or whatever it is when you pick the dumbest arguments made by the dumbest, loudest people one one side and write off the entire side. GMOs aren't "unhealthy," you're right. But a lot of people who are concerned about GMO are concerned first about the transgenes spreading. Resistance to glyphosphate is spreading to pests [nature.com], and transgenes have contaminated other crops. [reuters.com] Normal pollution can be cleaned up and doesn't multiply. Polluting the gene pool is much mor
    • by jovius (974690) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:33PM (#45872815)

      Yes, GMO's may be totally healthy, but the real issue is who controls the GMO market. It's definitely not healthy if only few companies control the food chain. The companies are even happy to restrict the reuse of the seeds. This is unnatural, but of course natural in terms of making profit. Also the aim to create food for only human use (GMO crops that repel everything else) will have an impact on biodiversity. Diversity is the natural mechanism to cope with the changing conditions, and the lack of diversity will polarize the eco-system, which would as a whole weaken.

      Once it becomes possible to create nutrition in closed production plants the fields can be freed to be at their natural state. Artificially produced food is in the end as natural as GMO.

    • by fermion (181285)
      It is interesting that when science supports what one wants everyone is like'yeah science' but when it doesn't everyone is like 'science bad'.

      For instance w have seen long studies that show, in general. vitamins do no good and should not be allowed to make health claims. Big Business does not like this so the science is bad. We know that raising animals as we do is bad for the environment, atmosphere, lakes, rivers, etc, but Agribusiness does not like this so science is bad. We know that using antibiot

    • These has never been a single reputable study by anyone anywhere that has shown GMO anything to be unhealthy.

      Just curious, who is doing these studies and not funded by Monsanto?

      Studies cost a lot of money, and usually no one but the manufacturer is willing to shell out for them. Which is why we spent decades being told that cigarettes aren't bad for you (nay, they're actually good for you!), and still get medicines that aren't pulled off the market until years after the manufacturer-funded studies show that they are harmful.

    • To constrain the discussion to the direct effect of GMO on human health is myopic. One must also consider the other ecosystems that might be affected. Ever heard of the food chain? When the pests can't eat, the pest-eaters can't eat, and the pest-eater-eaters can't eat, etc. There's also the influence that GMO patents have on small aggro. You can ignore all the human health issues and still find reasons to worry about the impact of GMO.
  • Penalties (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @02:43PM (#45872431) Journal

    Field tests to study new G.M.O. crops would also be prohibited. Penalties would be $1,000 per day.

    What a joke.
    That's a rounding error to a multinational corporation.

  • Women have the RIGHT to choose to eat GMOs if they want and I stand against this right-wing Republican War on Women since they insist on telling women what to do with their bodies!

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:14PM (#45872657)
    It is not so much the science of GMOs that is specifically bad but the companies that are typically behind them. These companies have a long history of being James Bond Villain evil, manipulating governments to their will, hurting people in corrupt countries, and pushing other things that are bad like pesticides, herbicides, hormone/antibiotic meat, and vicious anti consumer anti labeling campaigns.

    The other thing with most GMOs is that they (the main commercial ones) are aimed at things that on the surface I don't care about such as herbicide resistance. I suspect that people would have a whole lot more buy in if the GMOs made the food healthier, tastier, have a longer shelf life (Bananas that don't turn brown in 3 seconds) etc.

    But it seems the main beneficiaries of GMOs are big agribusiness and only big agribusiness. So when people reject GMOs they don't personally feel like they are losing much. One might argue that they are losing if the food costs a bit more but the reality is that the savings at the consumer end is actually quite minimal. (In theory a pest resistant crop might have fewer pesticides/herbicides which is a gain but hard for the average consumer to know as big agribusiness has fought all public disclosures of chemical levels in food.)

    So looking at the science in most people's heads they might be thinking, "Hey this GMO only has one study in 100 that says it is bad. But what benefit do I have even taking that tiny risk? Whereas the agribusiness people won't eat this crap if it is toxic but they stand to make a fortune selling it."
  • Authority (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @03:29PM (#45872783)

    According to this [wikipedia.org] regulating GMO's is a federal responsibility. Will the ban and/or fines even hold up in court?

    United States regulatory policy is governed by the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology This regulatory policy framework that was developed under the Presidency of Ronald Reagan to ensure safety of the public and to ensure the continuing development of the fledgling biotechnology industry without overly burdensome regulation.The policy as it developed had three tenets: "(1) U.S. policy would focus on the product of genetic modification (GM) techniques, not the process itself, (2) only regulation grounded in verifiable scientific risks would be tolerated, and (3) GM products are on a continuum with existing products and, therefore, existing statutes are sufficient to review the products."

    I am pretty sure that a ban with no scientific review or investigation would fail tenet #2.

  • by D1G1T (1136467) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @04:53PM (#45873313)
    When I was studying genetics in the late 80's/early 90's, we were taught that releasing GMOs into the environment was immoral. It had nothing to do with whether or not food products were safe, and everything to do with the impossibility of understanding what effect such new organisms would have on the incredibly complex wild environment. When I heard that Monsanto's GMO crops had become superweeds, causing major problems for farmers not growing Monsanto crops, it seemed that what I was taught was correct. From the article, it seems that most of Hawaii's concern is protecting their ecosystems.

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