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Biotech Science

New Study Confirms Safety of GM Crops 571

New submitter ChromeAeonium writes "Much like vaccines and evolution, there exists a great disparity between the scientific consensus and the public perceptions of the safety of genetically engineered crops. A previous study from France, which was later dismissed by the EFSA, FSANZ, and the French High Council of Biotechnologies, claiming to have found abnormalities in the organs of animals fed GM diets by analyzing three previous studies was discussed on Slashdot. However, a new study, also out of France, claims the opposite is true, that GM crops are unlikely to pose health risks (translation of original in French). Looking at 24 long-term and multi-generational studies on insect resistant and herbicide tolerant plants, the study states, 'The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.' Although it is impossible to prove a negative, and while every GM crop must be individually evaluated as genetic engineering is a process not a product, perhaps this study will help to ease the fears of genetically engineered food and foster a more scientific discussion on the role of agricultural biotechnology."
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New Study Confirms Safety of GM Crops

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  • Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:45AM (#38470962)

    You cannot ease the fears of the crazy. If you could, they wouldn't be crazy.

    But label the damn things so people can choose. Trying to sneak it under the radar - that's the true evil.

    • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HBI ( 604924 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:50AM (#38471002) Journal

      Can't do that. It'll never sell, and the issue isn't the genetic modifications themselves and their positives or negatives. It's the perceived un-naturalness of the GM process. People buy "organic" stuff - paying significant premiums - as if that means anything in practice. The perception is that it's more natural.

      It's a measure of the idiocy of the sheeple. Regardless, it must be considered a fact of life.

      • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Informative)

        by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:39AM (#38471640)

        People buy "organic" stuff - paying significant premiums - as if that means anything in practice. The perception is that it's more natural.

        Except that it does mean something in practice. In the US, use of the word "organic" is regulated; the laws vary somewhat depending on the type of product, but in general they cannot be grown with synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, or (in the case of animals) growth hormones and overused antibiotics. Some people think that using more natural methods makes the food taste better (I can tell the difference with dairy but mostly due to the grass-feeding requirement, which is is a separate issue but part of the USDA Organic standards); others think such food is better for them (if you had the choice between eating pesticide residue or not, I assume you'd pick the latter); but regardless, in most cases it's at least better for the environment, with less risk of groundwater contamination from pesticides and fertilizers. More objectively, some studies have often shown better levels of nutrients in some organically produced food.

        This is not like the word "natural," which is completely unregulated in the US. Anyone can stick that on a label and it doesn't need to mean anything. "Organic" is different (although depending on the wording with multi-ingredient foods, the product may be only partially so, though at least 70% if it appears anywhere besides the ingredients label).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Troyusrex ( 2446430 )
          No, no, no! Organic is NOT better for the environment. The manure used to fertilize the crops makes it take twice as much land to produce than food grown with modern techniques. This doubled land use is a disaster for the environment where every acre we can leave in as natural a state as possible matters. If everyone in the world only ate "organic" then all the rain forest (and all other forests) would have to be razed to provide enough land. Yes, organic farms have less groundwater contamination and less
          • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Informative)

            by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:34PM (#38472310) Journal
            Permaculture anyone? Besides you're just inventing lies. If it was even true that they needed 2 the land, it would be worth it for less contamination of soil, water, and actual produce, better taste, and higher nutritional value.
          • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

            by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:07PM (#38472756)

            This doubled land use is a disaster for the environment where every acre we can leave in as natural a state as possible matters

            A "natural state"? Like contaminated with runoff from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers? Even if your claim of doubled land use is true, cheaper, more abundant food won't matter when we can't eat it because we're all dead. I'm not saying there are easy answers, but "conventional" agriculture (a separate issue from GMOs, by the way, although not with current US law) isn't it.

            • I'm not saying there are easy answers, but "conventional" agriculture (a separate issue from GMOs, by the way, although not with current US law) isn't it.

              You're right in that there are no easy answers. Science based agriculture is what we should aim for. Do what works, reject what doesn't. The problem with organic is that is is dogma based on the appeal to nature fallacy. No matter how safe or sustainable something is, if it is synthetic, or genetically engineered, it can never be organic. No matter what good points it has, it is still quackery. Kind of like naturopathy...while naturopathy says eat lots or produce, avoid fatty and sugary foods, get lot

          • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

            by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:36PM (#38473882)
            I'm not sure if your a very clever troll or simply misinformed, but since you're currently modded to +5 posting what is just wrong I can't resist replying. I would suggest you look into bio-intensive gardening. John Jevins has written several very good books explaining the various techniques like double digging (not tilling), companion planting, cover crops, etc which lead to improving soil conditions and production from year to year, without the use of pesticides or external fertilizers. You can use this technique to produce the necessary nutrient intake for 4 people with a 4'x4' garden plot (this is not full caloric content however, but still impressive). It is a labor intensive process and does not scale to the level of industrial agriculture. I personally think this is a good thing because it supports a more regional and community based small farm agriculture model.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Many people prefer "organic" food because of the issue of pesticide residue. The thing is that several insects that feed on many food plants leave a chemical inside the fruit or vegetable that is significantly more hazardous to human health than the pesticide residue, which is generally on the outside and can be washed off. Additionally, "organic" food is more harmful to the environment because it requires a more acres to produce the same amount of food. The only thing going for organic is taste, however, t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goldspider ( 445116 )

      "But label the damn things so people can choose."

      To what purpose? Making sure people see that GM food is "different" and perpetuating the hysteria?

      • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:53AM (#38471044) Homepage
        I'm not sure I would force the "GM" label on something, but don't slap down companies that choose to say "Not GM" on their label (This happens already)
        • If you don't force it it's unlikely that consumers will have any meaningful ability to avoid GMO products. It's not the apples and the carrots that people ought to be concerned with, those are easy enough to get organic versions of, it's the processed foods where all but the soy might not be GMO and that's not necessarily going to be listed.

        • by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:23AM (#38471398) Homepage Journal

          I'm not sure I would force the "GM" label on something

          But then how will I know which carrots will have their transmission blow after five years?

      • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:03AM (#38471154) Journal

        To what purpose? How about so people can know what they are buying? People have a right to make their own choices however irrational you preceive those choices to be.

        • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:31AM (#38471516) Journal
          Ah, grasshopper, let me educate you in the official party line concerning consumer product safety or product labelling regulations:

          Situation #1: The state proposes regulating certain aspects of the health, safety, purity, and/or, potency of some product. The relevant industry's lobbyists, backed by general purpose heavy guns like the USCoC and AEI, howl in protest "Heavy-handed, job-killing regulation, unsupported by Sound Science(tm), will destroy the industry! Consumer Choice! Let the customer decide what they want!"

          Situation #2: The state calls their bluff: "Ok, fuckers, let's let the consumer decide, everybody label their product according to what it is, and let the most popular player win!" The relevant industry's lobbyists, backed by general purpose heavy guns like the USCoC and AEI, howl in protest "Your burdensome labelling requirements will cost eleventy billion dollars and 4254535452 american jobs to comply with! They will only confuse consumers, who do not understand what they want. We demand that labelling not only be optional, people who label their products with things that make us look bad, like 'contains no recombinant bovine growth hormone' or 'non-GMO' be legally forced to abandon the practice!"

          It makes perfect sense, if you do your absolute best to think in very short bursts...
          • 1: People have fears about GM food.
            2. State proposes regulation based on fears.
            3. Industry proves GM food is safe.
            4. State insists that industry label GM food anyway.
            5. People see label on GM food; fears persist.

            That's some fine circular logic there, Lou.

      • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Interesting)

        by unrtst ( 777550 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:45AM (#38471720)

        People tend to be very good at predicting what others will likely do, but we're crap at understanding the motivation of those actions, and this is a perfect example.

        You're assuming people would be choosing because they're scared of the effects of GM food (and I'm assuming that's your assumption, and you'll probably correct me).

        For me, I don't want to support Monsanto if at all possible. I think it's absolute bullshit that a farmer can have his crop infested with Monsanto "product" from a neighboring farm, and then get sued when he uses it. And yes, I think there needs to be patent reform, copyright reform, trademark reform, etc, but I also won't actively support a company that abuses those systems.

        Requiring a label ain't so bad (we could be pushing to limit it's use or outlaw it the way they've done with smoking, for instance, which I also feel should be ones choice but should be correctly labeled), and it leaves the choice to the individual. If past labeling enforcement is any indicator, it won't change a damn thing in the larger scale of things (think McDonalds - you can now see exactly how awful their fries are and, surprisingly to me, how relatively good their nuggets are... but they're still selling millions).

        I predict that the sheeple hysteria will have little to no effect on the purchasing numbers should producers be required to label GM foods. Ya know why? Cause those people have already moved to the "Organic" trend.

      • Re:Crazy vs. Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ClintJCL ( 264898 ) <clintjcl+slashdot@ g m a i l . com> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:58PM (#38472640) Homepage Journal
        uh.. the purpose of honestly and transparency and having a right to know what you are buying. It's not your decision to make for somebody else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by datavirtue ( 1104259 )

      This is originating in France for a reason. GMO crops have prompted riots in that country. These people are serious about food. America has been a push-over when it comes to GMO and most other food adulteration.

  • That's nice.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:50AM (#38470998)

    That's a nice result and all, but it doesn't address the real concerns with GE crops:

    1. patent wars on farmers
    2. cross-contamination to non-GM crops / organic farms
    3. against license agreements to save seed
    4. crop monoculture

    • Re:That's nice.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcupitt65 ( 68879 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:04AM (#38471170)

      There's also environmental damage. Herbicide-tolerant crops mean the farmer can spray more and push yields higher, but greater use of herbicides damages diversity in the surrounding countryside. I suppose this is related to your point 4.

      • There's also environmental damage. Herbicide-tolerant crops mean the farmer can spray more and push yields higher, but greater use of herbicides damages diversity in the surrounding countryside. I suppose this is related to your point 4.

        Here's an anecdote for you. I'm actually home for the holidays (in farmland country) and was asking my parents what happened to a lot of specific insects I remembered as a kid but don't see these days (I realize it's winter but I've been home in the summer too). Specifically we used to have these massive garden spiders that had a golden abdomen like this one []. When I was a kid, I used to flick grasshoppers and locusts into these massive webs they built between our pine trees. The webs are no longer there. My mom says it's the Roundup. She's worked her garden since 1977 and I mean like an acre of garden that we basically subsisted on. She's convinced that it's the farmers that drench their crops with Roundup now and that this Roundup is killing certain insects (directly or indirectly in the food chain). She also claims that due to Roundup we never see the number of toads and frogs that we used to (literally our backyard would be full of the young) but I can't say if this is true or not as my dad has since laid plastic lining around our pond to protect our lawn.

        Anyway, is there anyone doing these studies? Who applies Roundup to frogs, toads, golden garden spiders or their food and studies the impact? I guess nobody really cares about spiders but there's the obvious recent example of pesticide harming the bee population [] and that could turn into be a very dreadful problem.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:27PM (#38472226)

          I started developing a real sensitivity to wheat in 1997-1998, which stunned me, as I love eating it in all its forms, pretty much. I was living in the UK at the time, and slowly realised that it was the wheat that was the problem. Eventually I discovered that if I ate predominantly wheat products for a good 2-3 weeks straight I would get violently ill at the end of that period within 20 minutes of eating - stomach would hurt like hell, and it would feel as if I hadn't eaten at all.

          I was really vexed by this. I pieced together that I needed to alternate with rice-based dishes, or with grain-less meals (salads, beans etc), and eventually I would feel better. About 3 months later, the GMO controversy erupted in the UK. At that time, I discovered that the UK gets something like 80% of all its wheat products from North America - where Canadian and US wheat producers had quietly introduced GMO wheat into the food supply - and not publicised this at all.

          I returned to Canada in 1999. I then moved to Italy in 2002, and ate wheat constantly for the next two years. Guess what? Not a day of the same symptoms. Why not? Because they don't allow this frankenwheat to be sold.

          Since coming back to Canada in 2005, I've had a couple of bouts of the wheat sensitivity, and for the same reasons - too much wheat in a compressed period.

    • Re:That's nice.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:07AM (#38471192)

      Very good points! and all very true. The nutritional is just one very small part of the equation. The way natural mutations work is successful changes produce a healthy species. A mutation that is too successful ends up getting killed off because it deletes it's food supply. Over the long run we end up with a balanced Eco-system.

      When anti-biotics first came out, they were over-used and now we have super germs. GM crops are already producing super weeds. No mater how toxic you make an environment, if it can support life, life will figure out a way.

      As a last though I think it's funny that one study supporting the corporate view should convince us unwashed doubter, however years of studies are considered flawed if they go against the corporate views (i.e. climate change).

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:53AM (#38471032) Homepage Journal

    Like a previous poster mentioned, the study ''proving'' the safety of GM crops was financed, at least in part, by a consortium of large French companies with an interest (a large interest) in GM crops.

    Make of that what you will, but it reminds me of these studies, sponsored by Microsoft, ''proving'' that Windows was more secure than Linux.

  • You find human beings on every corner of this globe, subsisting for millenia on every possible local bit of biology from arctic seals to desert scorpions, and it turns out this doesn't kill us, either. Well, the food at certain southern restaurants does lead to a lot of heartburn, but other than that, we're good to go.

    • plenty of humans in history have died or been maimed trying poisonous foods. How do we know what plants and animals and preparation processes are poisonous?
  • Why would anyone consider a crop "dangerous" simply because it may have had some gene spliced or DNA sequence slightly altered? After ingesting food doesn't the body break the food down anyway then build its own proteins as it sees fit?
    • by Hartree ( 191324 )

      "After ingesting food doesn't the body break the food down anyway then build its own proteins as it sees fit?"

      Not completely. Some gets into the body more or less intact. Else you couldn't have allergic reactions to proteins in foods you eat.

      It's also one reason why tracking down food allergies with skin tests can be difficult. It may not be the full protein you're so allergic to, but one of the fragments it gets cleaved into in the gut.

      • True, but this can occur with any kind of food. But the application of the words "genetic modification" seem to elicit a response of "OMGOMGWe'reAllGoingToDie,WhatAboutTheFuckingChildren" amongst the uninformed.

        For the most part, nucleic acids and proteins are stripped apart by our cunning biochemical metabolism into simple component parts that are completely harmless, and any kind of reaction is usually hysterical.
    • There are studies which show that DNA and RNA can both survive digestion. [] []

      While that is no big reason to worry over GM food more than to worry over some strange food from the jungle that you don't know, it is still possible that GM foods can be dangerous.

      This is especially true when the GM crops were altered such that lots o

  • by ZmeiGorynych ( 1229722 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:54AM (#38471052)
    The major problem with GM crops is their intellectual property implications, and another one is accidental cross-breeding with wild plants. If people are able and allowed to use the seeds of last year's GM crop to seed this year's crop, without paying a yearly fee to Monsanto or some such, and if there is a way to guarantee that the modified genes won't spill over into the wild plant gene pool (causing who knows what damage as wild plants become poisonous to bugs that feed off them), I wouldn't have a problem with GM - but what are the chances of either? Not very high.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:55AM (#38471064)

    Health issues are not the damn point of this subject. Who really cares what your next carbohidrates source will be? The issues are about poluting the organic crops and then making people pay a seed license. Patents and ownership are yet again the real issues here

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:55AM (#38471066)
    It is with the fact that companies like Monsanto now *own* the genetic code to the crop and can destroy anyone they think is "using" it without paying them a fee.

    That is the real danger and threat to society. Add in the few strains of the crop being produced now and it becomes an even bigger threat to being totally wiped out with a single disease.

    Monsanto and their unholy alliance with the US Government is the danger, people.
    • Here's what I don't understand: why can't some other company make essentially the same organism and just "code around" the patent? In software, there are a hundred different ways to achieve a similar effect and so most patents are easy enough to get around.
      Genetic sequences, with their billions of possible combinations, and thousands of genes that are dormant and do nothing, should be incredibly easy to do this with. So why doesn't someone start selling a cheap knock-off of Monsanto's crop?
  • Wishful Thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TooManyNames ( 711346 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:59AM (#38471122)

    perhaps this study will help to ease the fears of genetically engineered food and foster a more scientific discussion on the role of agricultural biotechnology

    Yeah, because people who reject vaccines and evolution despite overwhelming scientific evidence are going to suddenly embrace reason concerning genetically modified crops. If anything, this study will somehow reinforce their views. Already, I see others on /. -- people who really should know better -- cooking up conspiracy theories.

  • by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:00AM (#38471130)

    I'm sure its sponsored by GM companies. The point is why even mess with it, we have food that we can grow now that isn't GM, in fact if anything we need to diversify our food supply and go the opposite direction, different breeds of corn, wheat, soybeans instead of the same 3 that are grown in every field. The other massive problem with GM is a company can control and patent a seed, once it dominates and is entrenched they slowly squeeze the profits and life out of small farms and into larger companies.

    • by EdZ ( 755139 )

      we have food that we can grow now that isn't GM

      Except for extremely drought-common countries, or areas where pests destroy crops before they can be harvested, etc. Those famine-stricken regions would probably be rather happy to have GM food rather than no food at all.

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:02AM (#38471150) Homepage Journal

    Claiming that GM is safe is about as stupid is claiming that GM is dangerous. Every individual alteration should be examined and go through safety trials.

  • Compare with drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:09AM (#38471222)
    • * The IP of drugs are owned and vehemently defended by their owners - GM crops? check!
    • * Drugs are extensively tested on a variety of subjects from cute fluffy animals, up to controlled trials of volunteers - GM crops? Hmm .. not so sure of that
    • * Drugs can't propogate by themselves - GM crops? Oh yeah baby they can!
    • * Drugs can be recalled if a problem is later discovered (potentially years after their release) - GM Crops? Umm ... hmmm .. ahhh .. no
    • * Drugs can't jump from the pill bottle in your cabinet to a pill bottle in your neighbours cabinet, and infect their drugs - GM crops? (fingers in ears) la la la - I can't hear you!
  • by cthlptlk ( 210435 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:11AM (#38471246)

    I agree that the fear of *eating* GMO foods is science-phobia. But even if GMO foods are safe, GMO agriculture is bad for everybody.

      Everything that you read on /. about intellectual property applies to the IP that Monsanto et al apply to their products and research. In fact, it's worse, because the wind doesn't blow proprietary software from nearby windows and OS X boxes onto your linux systems, causing you to owe the IP owners money and disabling your ability to build your own software.

      GMO seeds are also highly optimized to solve certain problems, and can fail miserably in other climates where local strains have been bred to adapt to local conditions. The farmers in India who are committing suicide en masse because their crops have failed are not just phobic about science. They got fucked in the ass.

      The GMO salmon that are safe to eat are so big because they never stop growing, so they never stop eating. Is that a species that you think would have no ecological impact if accidentally released into the wild?

    • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:30PM (#38474636)

      the wind doesn't blow proprietary software from nearby windows and OS X boxes onto your linux systems, causing you to owe the IP owners money and disabling your ability to build your own software.

      If you're referring to the Schmeiser case, the problem wasn't that his crop was contaminated, it's that he discovered that his crop was contaminated, saved and segregated the seed from the contaminated parts, and then used that seed to plant 1000 acres that he knew would then be herbicide-tolerant. There's a difference between being accidentally contaminated, and actively exploiting a (patented) gene to reduce costs or improve yield. Nobody has owed anyone else money simply because their crops were contaminated, so long as they didn't exploit the properties of that genetic engineering.

      That being said, I generally agree that the patent process around this are really dubious and Monsanto in particular is pretty evil, but I think people misunderstand what actually happened with this particular case.

  • And we just rationalized totally ransacking natural evolution for profit. Evolution, mind that. a process that takes millions of years on average for mid-to higher species, has just been made a lego toy. A careful balance that has materialized after billions of years, is now at the mercy of whatever results the unbridled genetic modification for profit, will bring. Especially since the modified are breeding with the unmodified in fields, totally exterminating the natural species by mutating them. (this is p
    • Re:OOOookay. (Score:4, Informative)

      by thrich81 ( 1357561 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:26AM (#38471440)
      Compare most dog breeds today to their wolf ancestors from only a few thousand or tens of thousands of years ago and you can see that humans have been ransacking natural evolution since before historical times. These deformed creatures would never have arisen from natural evolution. Same argument applies to the (pre-GMO) corn raised as a crop compared to its grassy ancestor.
      • effecting evolution by breeding dogs in between each other cannot be compared to directly poking at the genes of the dogs in an unrestricted fashion. not to mention how stuff like pitbulls worked out, even with breeding.
  • Can't I just stick to buying local produce from my farmers market without having to wonder if good ol' Farmer Joe is using GM seeds?

    I should have a choice to purchase non-GM produce at a price just as people should have the choice to purchase GM produce for another (perhaps the same) price.

    • If you'd like to get extra information about the way the produce was grown that the supervising agencies have not deemed relevant to mandate printing on the label, whether it's the brand of fertilizer used, the kind of music played to encourage growth or the ethnicity of the pickers, I'm sure there will be corporations willing to provide you with it for a nominal fee.

  • Question? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:26AM (#38471452) Homepage

    Did they test these plants before or after they dumped tons of extra pesticides on them?

    That's one of the issues, we'll develop a Round-up resistant corn. Then the farmer will use 3x as much Woody's Round-up.

    The end result is not that the particular GMO crop necessarily poses a health risk, but the greater use of pesticide related to that crop does.

  • False Headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by skywire ( 469351 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:29AM (#38471488)

    The headline is egregiously wrong. But what else is new around here? If the article's abstract of the paper is anywhere close to accurate, this was just a toxicological study of the effects on animals of being fed certain genetically modified plants. It has NO predictive value with respect to the effects of other modifications.

  • It's stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:41AM (#38471646)
    Every single thing you eat has been genetically modified the good old fashioned way anyhow, through selective breeding.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:43AM (#38471682) Homepage

    Government enforced, privately owned and limited food is anti-human and anti-life. Also the AC post directly above mine saying essentially what I wanted to say.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:54AM (#38471830) Journal
    You can do this quite easily, in fact.

    You can readily prove the non-existence of something that satisfies a particular set of properties... for example, finding a real number that satisfies being equivalent to the square root of negative 1. The properties are "real" and "square root of -1". And it is fully provable that absolutely no number exists with both of those properties. While a complex number that is the square root of negative 1 exists, and one might want to argue that the ascribed property of being real was arbitrary and unncessary, one could equally argue the the property of being the square root of negative 1 was arbitrary as well... yet clearly real numbers exist, so what make one property distinctive and the other not?

    It is even possible to prove the nonexistence of something with only a single property... such as the existence of a number that is equivalent to itself plus 1. There is absolutely no number, in any number system defined by mathematics, that satisfies this criteria. People who challenge even this would have to leave the domain of mathematics entirely, making the argument that it might still plausibly exist wholly meaningless... since, after all, outside of mathematics, what would it even mean to "add 1" to something?

    Of course, one might then point out that this could work within a domain of mathematics because it is built on such rigidly defined principles, and those principles are well understood. In the real world, however, we do not necessarily know all the physical principles that govern the universe's operation... we may believe we understand them well enough to have demonstrated predictive power in the past, but that does not mean our understanding is anywhere near complete. Because of this ambiguity, some doubt can always remain about the existence of certain things. The only way you can remove this doubt is by ascribing properties to the thing you are intending to disprove, and then systematically showing that the satisfaction of those properties creates a logical contradiction, thereby disproving the existence of that thing with those properties.

  • by jet_silver ( 27654 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:00PM (#38471890)

    These days, you only have to whore yourself out once to be fixed for life. Reaching the desired conclusion for money has corrupted so many fields that there is a serious credibility problem with anyone getting funded by entities that have oxen and fear their being gored. It has gotten so bad []with the unholy alliance [] between politics and drug companies that many people have begun giving up [] paying attention to it altogether.

    The way these studies are conducted might be unimpeachable and the conclusions with these particular tests (wherein the changes are said to be "insignificant" (on what basis?)) might be statistically supportable. However, this is one conclusion and not a Fact. Similar studies show that coffee|Brussels sprouts|dietary fiber|control of sodium intake is good | bad for you (related summary here []), and reaching opposite conclusions shows either that experiments are not being repeated, or that the effects are not clear.

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:44PM (#38472462)

    I'm not so worried about the ingestion part of GM crops but the troubling part for me is seeing Megacorp take down small time farmers for "copyright infringement"[0][1] due to crops cross-pollinating via the wind, bees, whatever. It's ridiculous. It's basically a legal argument to eradicate any form of alternative food source other than Monsanto's monopoly.

    Thing is, GM crops are the foothold for food copyright. If you need any indication where that could end up have a look at RIAA proceedings for the past 10 years or even Microsoft's (et al) Seed Vault[2].

    [0] - []
    [1] - []
    [2] - []

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:02PM (#38472690)

    But some significant percentage of the world's population has food allegies, and here in the US, we seem to have allergies to foods that people elsewhere in the world don't. For instance, peanut allergies seem to be unusually prevalent to the US, and some scientists suspect that it may have something to do with how we cultivate them, how they've been selectively bred or genetically engineered, or perhaps due to contamination from other sources. It's not clear that this is due to genetic modifications, but it's a suspect. IIRC, it's only like 10% of the US population that have a food sensitivity (that they know about, anyhow), but anecdotally, GM crops are more likely to be allergenic.

    Similar to peanuts, there is corn (maize), which is one of the most genetically modified crops we have. Even before scientists got their hands on it, it was selectively bred for thousands of years, from a barely edible grain to the high-glycemic food we have today. There are some people who have severe reactions to corn, which is basically impossible to avoid in the US, because most additives are derived from it, and the FDA doesn't regulate its use. These include dextrose (used to bind iodine in salt or elsewhere as a sweetener or preservative), citric acid (preservative), xanthan gum (thicker from a bacterium grown on corn), white vinegar (distilled but usually contaminated), microcrystalline cellulose, (high fructose) corn syrup, maltodextrin, any anonymous "starch", and countless other things. The refinement of these extracts is very poor. (Contrast soybean oil which, given that soy is listed as a major allergen, it is much better refined.) Some people with corn allergies even have trouble with milk from cows fed corn. Whether it's the genetic modifications, or whether it's allergies instead to the molds that typically grow on corn, some people with corn allergies report that they can safely eat "organic" corn. Corn allergies are relatively rare, but given that it's almost impossible to avoid, and those with corn allergies seem to have especially severe reactions to trace quantities, my guess is the primary reason the FDA doesn't regulate it is due to political pressure from the corn associations. Corn is huge business in the US.

    It's interesting that the most cultivated foods we have seem to be the most allergenic. Soybeans, wheat, corn, peanuts, and milk (cows are highly domesticated). One hypothesis I have is that we're not cut out to eat certain kinds of foods, but desperate or clever people found ways to cultivate these barely-edible things into foods they could more readily consume. But we didn't evolve to eat them, for millions of years before we developed farming, so many people can't tolerate them. Wheat is an interesting hybrid plant, with a weird genetic structure. It's interesting because most people who can't have wheat aren't allergic -- they have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition. The body develops IgA antibodies to some of the gluten peptides, and those same antibodies attack other parts of the body, typically the gut lining. Those same antibodies can get into the blood and attack the thyroid gland, causing overproduction of thyroid hormone, which is any many celiac sufferers have panic attacks and other psychological symptoms.

    A few concluding points:

    - Genetic modification isn't inherently evil or anything.
    - But there may be unintended consequences if you introduce genes without knowing their effects.
    - And our ability to predict, up front, the effect of a given gene is poor, as is our ability to fully test the effects of the grown organism.
    - Most people seem unaffected by this.
    - But there is a notable portion of the population that MAY be impacted by these modifications.
    - Keep in mind that the primary motivation for making these modifications is increased yield and increased profits, so the scientists and farmers are not especially motivated to scrutinize any unexpected effects. If it grows better, that's all that matters, even if a few m

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