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Transgenes and transactions

By iGrrrl in Culture
Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:30:03 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

There was a recent announcement about pigs expressing spinach genes. Although this prompted the usual green eggs and ham jokes and "I do not like that, Sam I am!" comments, this case of a genetically modified organism (GMO) is a bit different from the usual:

It was not generated for the benefit of agribusiness.


No, the gene will not produce green meat; to do that would involve inserting the genes for the entire chlorophyll biosynthesis cascade. Instead they have inserted a gene for fatty acid desaturase2 (FAD2). Although it is generally studied in pokeweed the gene exists in a number of plants, including spinach. As the name suggests, the gene product changes saturated fatty acids to unsaturated fatty acids. (Look here for a primer on fatty acid chemistry.) Most nutritionists believe that people should cut down on saturated fatty acids for their health. In general, this means a diet directed away from meat, but now a team of Japanese scientists have created an animal with meat that isn't as bad for you.

This is different from most genetic modifications. The modifications that generally concern both the public and many scientists are those intended to increase the efficiency of commodity crops like corn and cotton grown in large monocultures. That kind of farming benefits large agribusiness most of all. The spin from organizations such as the National Center for Biotechnology Education (Britain) give on such crops centers around vague phrases such as "fewer chemicals used" and "lower food prices" as benefits to the public. The cost/benefit ratios are, to say the least, arguable.

One of the arguments centers on the presence of antibiotic resistance genes in most GMOs. The genes are present as a byproduct of some of the laboratory processes that create and stabilize the modifications. There is a fear that the genes may somehow migrate to other organisms. The process that produced the "low fat" pigs is quite different. Only the FAD2 gene was injected into the eggs to produce the transgenic animals, so there are no harmful genes threatening to escape.

The key difference to me, however, is the scientists who produced these animals did not do so at the request of a commercial interest. They did it to see whether they could get functional insertion of a plant gene into a mammal. They also hoped the result would be a healthier meat.

Although the techniques and intent behind these pigs are different from those of the commodity crops like soy beans and canola seed, is there a fundamental difference? I tend to take the view that we humans have been modifying genomes since we started agriculture and animal husbandry. I think genetic technology can bring great good, as well as (in my opinion) great evil. Are low-fat pigs at one of those extremes, or do they represent a gray area high-tech substitute for simply eating less meat? What are the ethics of heart-healthy pork rinds?

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Poll
GMO foods?
o Don't pay attention and don't care. 7%
o Boon for agriculture. 13%
o Avoid them like the plague. 14%
o Some are okay, others not. 28%
o Glow in the dark bunny, please. 36%

Votes: 82
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o pigs expressing spinach genes
o green eggs and ham
o "I do not like that
o pokeweed
o primer on fatty acid chemistry
o concern
o National Center for Biotechnology Education (Britain)
o great good
o great evil
o Also by iGrrrl


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Transgenes and transactions | 95 comments (95 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Science and technology (4.25 / 8) (#1)
by Pac on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:09:51 PM EST

I believe you are wrong in thinking that this advance was not produced "for the benefit of agribusiness". I agree that it may not have been produced for this reason alone. Certainly the scientists involved were concerned about developing new basic techniques, trying new hypothesis, advance basic science a little bit.

But in the end, they came up with a new product that greatly interest the food industry. Since we probably are talking about experienced scientists, well aware of the science funding mechanisms in place, I would really be surprised if the exact implications of these line of research have not been clear for all involved from the start.

Also, if you are not doing pure basic science, if the result of your experiments is a product, a technique or a process (or an advancement in an existing one), some industry will always use your discoveries to its own ends.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


The real question is: (3.00 / 7) (#2)
by i on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:10:01 PM EST

In the process of adding more and more spinach genes to pigs, will we at some point obtain kosher pigs?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

That would be cruelty (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by Pac on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:21:14 PM EST

To produce a kosher pig, I believe, you would have to strip the pig from its very own pigness.

In the end you would have a bunch of walking spinach, and even then it would not be clear if the result would be kosher. Rabis are very keen of heritage.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


[ Parent ]
kosher pigs (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by deadplant on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:51:17 PM EST

isn't it something about the feet that makes some animals kosher and others not? perhaps the pigs could be given dog's feet or something...


[ Parent ]
kosher pigs (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by Ludwig on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:07:31 PM EST

According to Leviticus 11, to be kosher, the beast of the field must have cloven hoof and also chew the cud. Swine divideth the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet cheweth not the cud.

[ Parent ]
Re: kosher pigs (none / 0) (#72)
by zagnut on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:15:39 AM EST

To make a pig kosher, you would need to modify it such that it chews its cud. You could probably do this by inerfering with the development of its stomach.

[ Parent ]
probably wouldn't work (none / 0) (#75)
by Ludwig on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:03:49 AM EST

I doubt that rabbinical authorities would okay genetic tampering. Kosher animals can't even be given hormones.

[ Parent ]
Ethics of heart-healthy pork rinds (3.05 / 17) (#4)
by jabber on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:22:35 PM EST

Wow.. You slay me, really... Hilarious, and thought provoking at the same time.

I think, in the best interest of humanity, that pork rinds should not be made safer but rather instantly lethal. Consider the stereotypical consumer of pork rinds. He's an ignorant, middle-aged, used car selling, wife beating, ten gallon hat wearing, Klan meeting attending redneck. Do we really want to extend the lives of this sort of individual? I say no!

We should make pork rinds that violently explode five minutes after ingestion. We should put pictures of World Wrestling Federation superstars on the bag, along with clean and unambiguous labling: "Killer flavor.. No, we really mean it. These bad boys will F*CK YOU UP! This means YOU, Cracker!!".. They'd sell like the proverbial hotcakes..

Anyone who would look at such packaging as a dare, and not as the fair warning that it is, would deserve their fate - the sudden plattering of their innards all over the insides of their pick-up truck... (I bet those cow-hide seat covers are a bitch to clean too)

Those who would see the label as a warning could eat potato chips instead. I personally recommend Cape Cod brand Russett chips.. Maybe these could be modified to glow in the dark (via jellyfish or firefly genes) to make it easier to get all the chip crumbs off of your bed.. (Don't you hate those crumbs?)

Anyway, thanks for another great article.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Oh-oh (4.70 / 10) (#5)
by John Thompson on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:41:03 PM EST

jabber wrote:

I think, in the best interest of humanity, that pork rinds should not be made safer but rather instantly lethal. Consider the stereotypical consumer of pork rinds. He's an ignorant, middle-aged, used car selling, wife beating, ten gallon hat wearing, Klan meeting attending redneck. Do we really want to extend the lives of this sort of individual? I say no!

Whoa! Watch what you say thair, young feller! One them folk's our president now, hear? Are you some kind of terrorist?



[ Parent ]
This will solve our problems. (2.33 / 6) (#24)
by derek3000 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:22:48 PM EST

Wow.. You slay me, really... Hilarious, and thought provoking at the same time.

I think, in the best interest of humanity, that fried chicken should not be made safer but rather instantly lethal. Consider the stereotypical consumer of fried chicken. He's an ignorant, middle-aged, crack-dealing, ho-pimping, gold-chain wearing, NAACP meeting attending coon. Do we really want to extend the lives of this sort of individual? I say no!

We should make pork rinds that violently explode five minutes after ingestion. We should put pictures of DMX on the bucket, along with clean and unambiguous labling: "Killah flavah.. No, we really mean it. These bad boys will F*CK YOU UP, niggah!".. They'd sell like the proverbial hotcakes..

Anyone who would look at such packaging as a dare, and not as the fair warning that it is, would deserve their fate - the sudden plattering of their innards all over the insides of their crack house... (I bet those primer-painted walls are a bitch to clean too)

Those who would see the label as a warning could eat potato chips instead. I personally recommend KFC extra crispy.. Maybe these could be modified to glow in the dark (via jellyfish or firefly genes) to make it easier to get all the bread crumbs off of your bed.. (Don't you hate those crumbs?)

Anyway, thanks for another great article, and another opportunity to exploit a double standard.


-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Wow (2.00 / 2) (#31)
by jabber on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:05:00 PM EST

And here you so seemed to get the point. Oh well.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

and what point would that be? (4.33 / 3) (#36)
by derek3000 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:32:11 PM EST

I don't know what logical fallacy your post classifies, but you definitely didn't prove anything by it.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Not funny (2.33 / 3) (#49)
by greenrd on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:10:50 PM EST

Consider the stereotypical consumer of fried chicken. He's an ignorant, middle-aged, crack-dealing, ho-pimping, gold-chain wearing, NAACP meeting attending coon.

Really? I wasn't aware of such a stereotype. You learn something new every day.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

i'm only beating you over the head with this... (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by sayke on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:52:16 AM EST

because i love you.

but shit, man - how can i say this? i would like to alert you to the suspected presence of sarcasm in the post you responded to.

there. i did it. i did my best. perhaps i should have done nothing, but regardless, what's done is done. you are now on your own.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

I saw the sarcasm (none / 0) (#68)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:03:04 AM EST

My point was the first joke worked, the second one didn't.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

fucking beautiful (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by sayke on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:56:20 AM EST

that has to be one of the most gleefully pointed and relentlessly scathing little flechettes of commentary that i've had the pleasure of reading... ever. thank you for writing it.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

thank you. (none / 0) (#70)
by derek3000 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:27:08 AM EST

At least someone gets what I'm trying to say.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

There's a much easier way (4.37 / 8) (#6)
by dennis on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:41:10 PM EST

Just feed your ruminants grass like nature intended. Feeding them grain leads to a much less healthy fatty-acid balance. Never mind giving them animal byproducts.

There are ranches that let their cattle graze on grass, and it's reasonably economical. A bonus is that e coli contamination drops near zero, according to a study done last year. The meat does change a bit, and it's harder to keep it consistent, so the fast food industry doesn't like it. More info in Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

Transgenics, on the other hand, suffers from a bad case of hubris. Genes interact in complicated ways, and we don't really know all the effects when we introduce a gene which is totally foreign to the species. We don't even have a good way to test for side effects if they're not obvious (and obvious side effects are not rare). A quick google search has some references.

Nature (4.83 / 6) (#8)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:46:51 PM EST

Nature "intended" human beings to die at an average age of thirty.

Well, no. Nature doesn't "intend" anything. Nature just is. It has no moral "rights" and "wrongs" in Nature. And in the words of the catepiller being eaten alive from the inside out by digger-wasp larva, Nature is often a cruel, heartless bitch.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

The fact remains... (3.33 / 3) (#11)
by dennis on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:12:50 PM EST

...that grass-fed animals have a much healthier balance of fatty acids, with none of the known risks of transgenics. It's not surprising that we're healthiest when we eat what we've evolved to eat over the last few million years. Hunter-gatherers die from childbirth, accident, carnivores, starvation, and infectious disease at a higher rate than we do, but the ones who survive all that have very low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and all the other typical old-age diseases of modern Westerners.

[ Parent ]
Obviously... (4.40 / 5) (#18)
by Rk on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:59:58 PM EST

The reason why hunter-gatherers die less is because they do not live as long - in pre-civilised societies (is that a contradiction?) there are very few people that live to old age. Cancer is a natural product of the body's own imperfection, as well as radiation, potentially virii, errors during reproduction etc. Cells only replicate themselves so many times, if they didn't, we'd be effectively immortal, but cancer would be a much bigger problem it already is. As it is, cancer most often only effects us past normal reproductive age - quite reasonable, from a biological point of view. Cancer has been there forever, but, IMHO, the reason why cancer causes more deaths today than ever before is because people live longer and die less from mundane causes like those you named above, especially infectious diseases. (not to mention that is isn't that long since we actually became able to diagnose cancer - probably 50-100 years or so)

Saying that hunter-gatherers lived longer than we do (that is, maximum age) is practically impossible to back up - these societies typically do not have an accurate calendar system (though some used astronomical observation, in general, calendars were crated by civilisations that actually found a need for them - those that, for example, needed to know when they should plant their crops) and certainly don't keep statistics. Claims of absurdly old people are therefore best taken with a grain of salt, unless they can be backed up with concrete evidence. As it stands, genetically standard humans with only 'natual' nutrition appear to have an absolute maximum lifespan of 120 years, though this would appear to be exceptionally rare. (and slowly becoming more common)

As for the risks of transgenics, it isn't the process itself that is risky - saying that transgenics is risky is akin to saying the architecture is risky because buildings can collapse - but rather poorly produced, under-researched or insufficiently understood products are dangerous. In this case the solution is simple: more research, better production. No doubt, in time, trangenic products will overtake 'natural' products in healthiness (?!), owing to the fact that genetics allows one to add desirable nutrients and remove undesirable materials.

Taking the view that transgenics itself is the problem and we shouldn't interfere with nature goes along typical environmentalist lines of thinking - a line of think which, in my opinion, is fundamentally flawed.

[ Parent ]
Surprises (4.25 / 4) (#25)
by dennis on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:23:10 PM EST

Reread my statement - the ones who survive all that have very low rates of heart disease and so one. It's not that hard to verify, people have done a lot of studies over the last century of modern hunter-gatherers, both before and after they switched to a modern diet. After switching, the "modern diseases" I mentioned tend to skyrocket. I didn't claim they live to extreme ages, just that they have low rates of these diseases, even when they reach old age. This is not exactly a controversial claim, it's well-supported. And the grass-fed health benefits are completely uncontroversial - we know which fatty acids are healthier from numerous studies of modern humans, and by testing a few cows in each group we can see what their fatty acid balances are. Pretty simple.

I'm not saying we should never mess with genetics. I'm saying it's not ready for prime time. It's all poorly understood and under-researched, and my contention is that until we can predict all the side effects of a genetic manipulation, instead of saying "ooh, look what that did," we have no business putting it into production. As long as it keeps surprising us, we can expect that some of the surprises will be unpleasant ones.

[ Parent ]

Back to hubris (4.25 / 4) (#27)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:39:42 PM EST

As for the risks of transgenics, it isn't the process itself that is risky - saying that transgenics is risky is akin to saying the architecture is risky because buildings can collapse...
Yes; however, the risks associated with the collapse of a building are generally less catastrophic (i.e., "A building collapsed downtown today, killing hundreds" vs. "Today, scientists discovered that a disease which was previously only found in pigs has crossed over into humans. Scientists say that this is most likely a result of the lowering of the species barrier to viral agents which occured last year when human genes were implanted in pigs. They added that 80-90% of the human population will likely die in the next few years due to the aggressive adaptation of the virus to its new host.")

Higher risks deserve much higher degrees of caution, to the point where a sufficiently high risk activity has almost no justification unless the benefits are astronomical (not "pigs will be a healthier food source" or "10,000 people a year will have a lower risk of rejecting their pig-organ transplants").

Nuclear weapons & biowarfare agents are two other great examples. Do you feel safer since these great inventions occurred? Will you continue to feel safe as the number of nations and extra-national groups aquire poorly-monitored Russian and US nuclear and biowarfare materials?

[ Parent ]

interspecies antiviral barrier (4.40 / 5) (#30)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:02:57 PM EST

It is not uncommon for viruses to jump species. In particular, variants of the influenza virus have jumped from pigs many times in history. (Those over the age of thirty may recall the "swine flu" scare.) They never, ever have the sorts of death rates you are talking about. Saying that the death of 80% of the human race might die because of a virus jumping from genetically engineered pigs is pure crap. It is scaremongering, especially given that there is no particularly strong evidence that transplanting pig organs does indeed increase the change of such virus transmission.

If you want to be realistic, you'd say something like "caused an unexpected flu epidemic".

It is also worthwhile to note that there is something else that greatly promotes the transmission of swine viruses to humans: keeping pigs in pens near humans. That, in itself, is unnatural, and that, in itself (the practice of farming animals for food), is responsible for many plagues. Human beings "in nature", living as hunter-gatherers, rarely contract disease because the things that promote disease are things like raising animals, living in large groups or living near swamps.

Should we have never farmed animals for food? Should we stop now?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

interspecies antiviral barrier redux (5.00 / 1) (#82)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:47:30 PM EST

It is not uncommon for viruses to jump species. In particular, variants of the influenza virus have jumped from pigs many times in history. (Those over the age of thirty may recall the "swine flu" scare.) They never, ever have the sorts of death rates you are talking about.
Influenza killed from 20 to 40 million people worldwide in 1918, if you'll recall. That's between 1.1 and 2.2 % of the world population of the time. And that was a virus which didn't have the advantage of "pre-adaptation" to any portion of the human genome.
Saying that the death of 80% of the human race might die because of a virus jumping from genetically engineered pigs is pure crap. It is scaremongering...
The figure of 80% is hyperbole, to be sure. Whether it's also "crap" or "scaremongering" depends largely on your point of view and bias I suppose. For example, estimates of the number of pregnant women in some sub-saharan African nations who are infected with HIV are as high as 50%. No serious AIDS researcher now disputes that HIV is a variant of SIVcpz which crossed from Chimps into humans, and as I'm sure you are aware, there is a hypothesis that transfer was facilitated directly (albeit accidentally) by man in the form of OPV vaccine trials in Central Africa in the 50's. Whether or not you accept the evidence so far put forth by the theory (and despite what parties such as Plotkin, Koprowski and Oesterreith -- who all have a very significant vested interest in the form of potential exposure to liability lawsuits -- may claim), it has not been disproven.
Should we have never farmed animals for food? Should we stop now?
Stopping animal husbandry now would greatly harm humanity because of starvation. So no, we shouldn't stop. Should we not have started? I suspect that at the time the known benefits (having something for family/tribe to eat) outweighed the known risks (it seem like some of us who hang around the animals get sick sometimes).

However, that argument holds if the cross-species viral transfer is hard. For natural transfer, that seems to be the case. But we're talking about a situation where we have a species with a known ability to spread it diseases to us (pigs) and we're considering introducing our genes into it, with the possible consequence that the presence of parts of the human genome in the pig will allow the constellation of pig viruses to suddenly have an extra opportunity to adapt to parts of our genome (via the genes' inevitable expression in pigs) and hence make such transfer less hard.

You are of course right that there is no "particularly strong evidence" that there is a risk posed. That's because xenotransplantation is relatively young. You use said lack of evidence as the basis for an assumption that we are safe. But it would be a shame if the "particularly strong evidence" of which you speak comes in the form of new, highly infectious diseases in a human population eagerly implanted w/ organs from a transgenic foreign species. My position is that, when the stakes are as high as they may be here, the wise choice is to wait until there is an overwhelming preponderance of "particularly strong evidence" that we're safe before we allow ourselves to shed our righteous trepidation.

[ Parent ]

Adaption (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:18:09 PM EST

A virus that is better adapted to human hosts is going to cause a lower deathrate, not a higher deathrate.

From the point of view of the virus, the ideal situation is to infect without killing, thereby increasing its own chances to spread. This is why most of the worst plagues involve jumps from other species. Because over time, adaption of both human beings and the viruses lower the death rates.

And yes, scaremongering. Saying "80%-90% of the human race will die" is not even in the same ballpark as saying "infections reach as high as 50% in some regions".

Anyway, the point is that the human race does many, many things that increase the chance of viruses jumping species. Animal husbandry is just one of them.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Not adaptation, but infectiousness (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:08:11 PM EST

From the point of view of the virus, the ideal situation is to infect without killing, thereby increasing its own chances to spread. This is why most of the worst plagues involve jumps from other species. Because over time, adaption of both human beings and the viruses lower the death rates.
Right. Overtime, in the host. What I am talking about is partial adaptation prior to infecting the human host, i.e., adapting enough to make the species jump easier. The death rate could be quite high for a time, and then of course would settle down. If, that is, the species survived.

I do not (nor, I assume, do you), know whether there has ever been a virus whose initial lethality was so high that the host species was wiped out before that "settling in" period had a chance to occur. There are certainly examples, however of fast-killing and slow-killing viruses with very high mortality rates in human infectees (Ebola and HIV, respectively).

BTW, I am not claiming that 80% to 90% of the human race will die from a disease spread in this way. I am using it as a worst-case scenario to illustrate why I believe more caution is warranted than you seem to believe. I'm very pro-science, but my understanding of human nature is such that it leads to a strong desire for scientists to do a better job of risk and cost-benefit analyses than I think they currently do in many cases.

My point is simply that when it's conceivable that the risk is extremely high, the burden of proof should fall more on the side of the people who believe the risks are worth it.

[ Parent ]

what?! (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by rhyax on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 07:08:43 PM EST

They added that 80-90% of the human population will likely die in the next few years...

No one adds that on the end of something else, sorry. That statement alone makes me think you made all that up. It's like saying, "too many peanuts are bad for you, and by the way, we'll all be dead in a couple years!" That's just not how papers are written.

[ Parent ]

Gosh (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 12:58:03 AM EST

You caught me! It wasn't a real news story, just hyperbolic sarcasm designed to emphasize a rhetorical point.

I won't try to slip one by you again!

[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (4.33 / 3) (#13)
by Rk on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:25:33 PM EST

"If man were meant to fly..."

Seriously, humans could not 'naturally' travel at and exceeeding 1000 km/h, live for 80 years, descend several kilometres beneath the surface of the ocean, leave the atmosphere, accelerate protons at 99% of the speed of light, communicate using radio waves, manipulate individual atoms to write the names of major technology corporations at a nanoscopic scale et cetera ad infinitum.

Yet we can do all those things, and nobody tells us that we shouldn't because it isn't "natural". I'd link to think that humanity has gone beyond entrusting our existance merely to "nature", a chaotic system that, contrary to the belief of some political factions *cough*, does not always find the best solutions. In fact, it doesn't find any at all - everything that wasn't either intentionally manufactured by a sentient being (us) was created though what amounts to nothing more than glorified trial-and-error.

[ Parent ]
unnatural (4.40 / 5) (#34)
by deadplant on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:22:50 PM EST

"...contrary to the belief of some political factions *cough*, does not always find the best solutions."

well, don't forget that some of these "political factions" (i think we're talking about the same people here..) don't actually believe the trial-and-error theory at all... they actually think everything winked into existense one week when their god decided to create the world, er, universe... and now they think their god is hanging around watching to make sure we don't change anything too much...

As for this genetic engineering, I'd like to say that I have no problem with controlled manipulation of genetics. HOWEVER, using GMO's in the food industry is irresponsible, and some specific practices employed by these GM companies are IMO criminally negligent. The very idea of creating a GM canola plant for instance, and then planting that Exact Same Plant in every canola field is just plain stupid. If you're going to use a GMO in production, you should have at the very least several dozen different strains to allow for at least SOME diversity. These Mega-corps are putting our food supply in a very precarious position.
Diversity is strength, over specialisation leads to death. The current irresponsible deployment of GMOs in the food industry is creating specialisation of an unprecedented degree in the single most important industry in our lives.
Thankfully there are at least some farmers out there that have a clue (and give a shit) about this and are trying to preserve some of the genetic diversity in our farm animals.



[ Parent ]
More fuel for your fire (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by broken77 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 08:37:25 PM EST

Here and here.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

A couple unrelated questions (4.50 / 6) (#7)
by eyespots on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:44:43 PM EST

Unfortunately there is no published data on their experiment- so I'm curious how they created the pigs. Does any biologists out there know any more details? From the article, I can tell they are making transgenic pigs.

So my question is, how did they control the transcriptional regulation of the gene? A few specific questions come to mind:

1. What promoter did they use (I am assuming that a plant promoter would not work in pigs)?

2. What sort of LCR or Insulator/Enhancers did they use? Are they tissue specific?

I guess my question was whether these transgenes suffer from position effect variegation or whether they inserted some beta-globin insulators and a viral promoter to send expression throught the roof. I didn't know if they went this brute-force method, or whether they used endogenous LCRs and promoters to get an expression pattern that resembles the normal in vivo pattern of fatty acid synthesis. Perhaps this is why only 1% of the pigs survived.

Not sure, but can guess (5.00 / 5) (#12)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:24:07 PM EST

I don't know what promoter they used, but I highly doubt they used a viral sequence. My first instinct would be to use a promoter that is adipocyte-specific. I don't think there are a lot of saturated fatty acids elsewhere in the body other than as circulating triglycerides, so it would be best, imo, to target the source. I'd limit expresstion to fat cells because I'd worry about deranging the normal cell membrane partly unsaturated FAs in other cells, particularly since some of them are so important in signal transduction cascades. Not to mention the assymetry in FA types on the intracellular and extracellular sides of the bilayer.

I think transgenic mouse numbers are low as well, though not as low as 2%. My guess is they took a fairly brute-force approach, but did what they could to tilt the odds in their favor in terms of insulators, enhancers, and artificial splice sites. Also, all transgenes (and transgenic animals) potentially suffer from insertion effects.

But I don't have any more data than you do, just opinions

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

true (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by eyespots on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:48:00 PM EST

I bet you're right about the adipocyte-specific promoter. I didn't know, however, that they had the relevant promoters characterized that well in pigs. Go figure. I'll look forward to reading their papers.

The only reason that I had thought that they had used some sort of viral promoter was because they reported only 1% of the transgenic pigs survived after birth. I figured this was because the FAD2 protein is highly toxic to the pigs at low expression levels, or else it is expressed at way too high levels (hence my hasty theory about the viral promoter). I bet you're right though, and it's just that the FAD2 protein is toxic.

Not all transgenes suffer from PE though- when an LCR is inserted, it typically frees it from PE. When these are inserted into transgenes, it provides tissue-specific, copy-number dependent, high level expression of the transgene. Examples that come to mind are the Beta-globin lcr, TCR lcr, HGH lcr, etc....

I doubt there is a known adipose-specific LCR, though- so they prob. just used an insulator or something like that.

Any idea what journal they are publishing in?

[ Parent ]

one more thing (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by eyespots on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:49:11 PM EST

it's great to see more science-orientated stories posted to K5. Thanks!

[ Parent ]
Yes, and... (none / 0) (#83)
by TON on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:12:36 PM EST

thanks for a more informative treatment of the story. Much appreciated.

"First, I am born. Then, the trouble begins." -- Schizopolis

Ted


[ Parent ]

Heh (3.15 / 13) (#9)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:50:39 PM EST

Well, when you can explain to me how we're going to feed the ten billion people the planet is estimated to reach within our lifetimes without companies like Monsanto, then call them evil. Until then, perhaps you might wish to refer to them as "questionable," or perhaps "normal." You see, to be frank, the amount of arable land on the planet is not sufficient to feed ten billion people without the chemical and genetic methods companies like Monsanto promote. Even if every acre was farmed by experts in alternative methods(hint: there aren't enough such experts, and never will be no matter what we do,) there would still be huge shortages, and mass starvation, and as a result, waves of epidemics. The epidemics would not be limited to the areas of famine, even if they started there. People like you and me would be dying in significant numbers from treatable diseases because our health care system would be overwhelmed.

Sorry, but I just can't see preventing that as "great evil," even if there are both pros and cons to the methods employed, and even if the company itself is in it for the money. Few things in life provide unalloyed benefit or harm, as you should know better than most of us, and these companies and their products are just another example.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

not the general but the specific (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:08:45 PM EST

Clearly I am not opposed to GMOs in general, and I agree with your thesis that they will be necessary for species survival as humans increase and arable land decreases. I object to Monsanto's corporate tactics in specific.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

I advocate controlled thermonuclear war... (3.66 / 6) (#14)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:41:59 PM EST

...so solve this problem. Much like controlled burns help foster a healthy forest, and hunting can keep a deer population in good shape, controlled thermonuclear war would help foster a well fed, healthy, humanity, rather than one that is contstantly threatened by famine and overpopulation.

Face it, even with the best genetic engineering techniques, we will eventually face a Soylent Green-style dystopia unless a method is implemented to get rid of the extra mouths. There's nowhere that we could ship them just yet, the technology for that is prohibitively expensive. Nature has a solution to this problem, starvation, but that is a cruel and painful way to go, a quick death would be much more humane. Thermonuclear war is the answer to this dilemma. It's quick, painless, and cheap, and without organic farming would simply not be feasible,and we would be forced to introduce more distructive chemicals or distructive genes into the environment to even attept to get everyone fed.

I'm sorry to say it, but until it is economically feasable to settle other planets, some proactive measure must be taken to control the population. It's the only way.

No, I couldn't help myself.

[ Parent ]

Emmigration (4.40 / 5) (#17)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:50:33 PM EST

Don't expect interplanetary emmigration to solve anything. One interesting bit of trivia about the opening up of the New World to Europeans is that the waves of people travelling from Europe to the Americas between 1492 and 2000 made hardly a dent in the population increase in Europe during that time.

Given the likely expense of space travel (if and when it ever really comes) it is highly unlikely that enough people will travel to have any effect on the Earth's population.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Space Migration (4.75 / 4) (#46)
by skullY on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 08:06:33 PM EST

Given the likely expense of space travel (if and when it ever really comes) it is highly unlikely that enough people will travel to have any effect on the Earth's population.
Given current and forseable technology, it highly unlikely that enough people will be able to travel off world to have any effect on the Earth's population. It takes a long time to lift even 100 million people when you have to do it in lots of (realistically) 50-200. You aren't going to send 1 billion people to mars anytime soon.

Interplanetary travel will never solve population problems here on earth, but it will give us new places to have population problems. ;)

--
I'm not witty enough for a sig.
[ Parent ]

Not necessary (4.40 / 5) (#22)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:18:01 PM EST

We're not actually expected to much exceed ten billion people. I'm not entirely clear on why, but they say the old scare studies claiming 50 billion people by 2050 or whatever other figures are just wrong, and that population growth is actually slowing, and should level off at some point around ten billion.

I suspect it is because death rates rise with population density, but I don't know for sure.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I'll do your work for you :-) (4.60 / 5) (#40)
by Luyseyal on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:08:10 PM EST

It was a population study published in Nature and popularized by Slashdot.

http://www.nature.com/nature/fow/010802.html

I bookmarked this since I seem to have to refer people to it about twice a month.

-l

[ Parent ]

Yeah and (2.66 / 6) (#53)
by greenrd on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:34:17 PM EST

Killing you and your annoying posts, JCB, would help foster a saner, more rational k5 discussion, but that doesn't mean we should do so.

Hey, I meant killfile. What did you think I meant?

Thermonuclear war is the answer to this dilemma.

Would you like to volunteer to be one of the victims of this war, to demonstrate your support for this principle?

Besides, it's not very libertarian. Surely anyone who doesn't want to live would have killed themselves already? (apart from people in prison, incapacitated, etc.) Therefore just leave the problem to the market^H^H^H^H^H^H suicide. The true libertarian response is to say that if people choose to stay alive rather than commit suicide, then they must like their life - and therefore by implication the system that keeps them in crushing poverty is wonderful! Don't you just love that "logic"! I know I do.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

I agree with you completely, greenrd! (2.50 / 2) (#54)
by Evil JCB on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:23:10 PM EST

You are, like, so totally right, and everything! Beat the crap out of those evil libertarians! They are just so totally wrong! You know what your talking about because you're really smart and read Chomsky! They can't compete! Someday, Chomskians like you and me will rule the world!

"Only intellectuals have ideas, everyone else is too stupid."-- George Shmorwell
[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#67)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:58:23 AM EST

I partially agree with "libertarianism" on this one - in as much as, if people want to struggle to stay alive, we have no right to kill them to "relieve their suffering". But that's just basic common sense morality.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Nuclear war is not the best way... (5.00 / 3) (#56)
by wji on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:00:35 PM EST

...because it tends to kill people instantaneously, without much opportunity to escape and thus no evolutionary benefit. Messy conventional war might be a better idea, or some kind of organized blood sports. Civ3 tournaments to the death? 2,000 word essay "Why the World Eugenics Commission Should Not Kill Me" contest? "CBS Survivor IV: Not just a metaphor this time"?

On second thought, why kill people when you can render them infertile? Of course, then the problem becomes who runs the Eugenics Commission and how do you keep them honest. Perhaps if we turned the problem over to supercomputers or some such?

Then again, we could just eat the rich. Course, if you believe capitalism works, we'll be killing the best of our society. Eat the poor, maybe?

This idea warrants further study.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Why kill them? (none / 0) (#58)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:17:33 PM EST

The reason that we can't just sterilize them is because we'd still have to feed them. Mass sterilization would work eventually, but there still would be famine until the sterilized finally managed to die.

I agree, conventional wars would have an evolutionary benefit. They'd also be much more expensive, but that migh be a reasonable tade off.

Then again, we could just eat the rich.

This wouldn't work, common sense dictates that there would be many more non-rich than rich. There wouldn't be enough food to go around. Anyway, cannibalism would be immoral and wrong. We should give the dead proper burials.

[ Parent ]

I remain an optimist. (5.00 / 2) (#59)
by wji on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:25:38 PM EST

This is what makes us different, you and I. I think with a get-to-it attitude and some perserverance, we can safely sterilize the lesser members of society while avoiding famine.

And eating the rich would work -- less people taking up production in decadent excesses and more for the basics, IE food, eh comrades? Whoops, sorry. Last bit just slipped out. We could just change the threshold of 'rich' to get enough destroyed, now that I think about it. Course, we'd end up having to send all the fat, decadent Europeans and Americans to Africa and Asia, which would be a waste of resources.

As for proper burials, we can just crap in a hole.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Eating as a solution (3.50 / 2) (#73)
by funferal on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:28:26 AM EST

Jonathan Swift had this idea quite some time ago, and wrote about it in "A Modest Proposal".

[ Parent ]
That is insane and barbaric! (none / 0) (#78)
by Anonymous 6522 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 12:05:56 PM EST

As I said before, eating the dead would be immoral and wrong. They are to be given prober burials. And what point would there be in rasing babies to feed a starving populace when you get less nutrition out of a baby than you put in?

[ Parent ]
open your eyes to Monstanto's history (4.25 / 4) (#20)
by alprazolam on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:09:19 PM EST

Regardless of your position on genetic modification, Monsanto is one of the most 'evil' companies to ever exist.

[ Parent ]
I'll give you one more (4.66 / 3) (#44)
by broken77 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 07:42:33 PM EST

This is from the "Top 10 Censored Stories of 2000". And how about infertile crops they sell to farmers? You're telling me this company isn't evil?

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

Censored? (none / 0) (#57)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:07:02 PM EST

I remember reading all kinds of crap about GM crops, that were engineered to be infertile, in the paper. Also, AFAIK, many of these crops are infertile for the same reason that mules are infertile, they're hybrids, not because they were engineered specifically to be infertile.

Also, IIRC, Monsanto backed down from selling at least one type of engineered-to-be-infertile crops because if the backlash against them.

[ Parent ]

why don't you read the links? (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by alprazolam on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:45:19 PM EST

The link didn't have anything to do with infertile crops. That was an entirely seperate comment than what the linked to story was about. Next time don't make assumptions about what people are saying ok?

[ Parent ]
Well, I'll give you a real story (4.00 / 2) (#86)
by broken77 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:29:36 PM EST

My dad lives on a farm in the Middle of Nowhere, MO (actually Mary's Home, MO). He doesn't farm for a living, he just lives there cause he likes the area. His neighbor has been a farmer all his life. Last year, he bought potato buds from the local supply store. He planted them, and they grew potatoes, as they were supposed to. He then harvested the potatoes and tried to replant the buds to grow more potatoes. It didn't work. He wasn't aware that these types of crops existed. He is very poor. Going to have a difficult time affording this year's potato crop now. Yes, I'm telling the truth, my dad just told me about this 2 weeks ago. This has the potential to be a huge problem.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

Evil infertile crops? (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by Tsuraan on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:01:53 AM EST

Are you saying that you would fully support the sale of fertile GMOs? I'd much rather have them infertile, at least for a few decades, just to be sure that they are stable. If they started spreading, and were modified to be pest and spray resistant, that would be a much bigger problem than having to buy new crops every year.

[ Parent ]
I was referring to something else (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by broken77 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:24:54 PM EST

"Terminator Technology".

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

Neo-Malthusian (5.00 / 8) (#32)
by Rand Race on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:07:08 PM EST

Ever since Thomas Robert Malthus published Essay on the Principle of Population this argument has been put forward and inevitably it has been shown to be in error.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that using modern farming methods and efficient, sensible distribution, the earth has the capacity to grow food for some 33 billion people. Current UN estimates project a plateau population of about 12 billion people about midway through the next century.

And no Monsanto is not neccesary for this. Monoculture, petrochemical fertilizers and genetic engineering make it easier to run large-scale, remotely-managed corporate farms, but they are not needed to create high yields of nutritious foods.

Original Malthusian theory stumbled over math, people don't neccesarily procreate geometricly and food supply doesn't neccesarily grow arithmetically. Neo-malthusian theory stumbles over expectations; it assumes a liberal, or even ever rising, standard of comfort that can not be sustained. No, the world can not feed, clothe, house, and amuse 12 billion people with the same standards that western nations now enjoy. It can however, clothe, feed, and house those numbers at a standard significantly less than that of the west yet still significantly better than the vast majority of people on earth now enjoy.

That said, I'm all for genetic engineering and such. While I find the corporate actions of many of the companies involved to be abhorrent, the tech itself could be used to create wonders that would disprove both the neo-malthusians and the "a kurdish yakherder's idea of plenty is good enough for everybody" crowd by creating a future where people the world over live a cleaner, cheaper, less environmentaly destructive version of modern western luxury.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Note (3.57 / 7) (#41)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:15:02 PM EST

They used the term "modern farming methods." I am willing to bet you a considerable sum of money that the UN does not consider organic farming to be "modern." They almost certainly mean farming utilizing chemical and genetic techniques, and they almost certainly have the monoculture farm in mind. Whether this makes them right is irrelevant; the point is, their 33 billion people estimate is based on the extraordinarily high yields produced by the bleeding edge of technology, and not on the at best above average yields produced by "organic" farmers. (The term is misleading anyway, but even more to the point, all but the experts in organic farming typically get very low yields. If we did nothing but train farmers and farm, we'd still starve by their means long before we had enough crops.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
we'll never know (2.00 / 1) (#50)
by alprazolam on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:15:20 PM EST

how effective "organic farming" or other alternatives to GM etc because of monopolies like Monsanto.

[ Parent ]
that 'm' word again. (2.00 / 1) (#69)
by derek3000 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:24:48 AM EST

Here we go throwing 'monopoly' around like so much confetti. Does Monsanto somehow stop you from growing food organically? Do you have to register your garden with the government, and then pay for Monsanto products whether you like it or not? Good, I thought so.


-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Monsanto wasn't the monopoly I was talking about (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by alprazolam on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:47:14 AM EST

why is it that right wingers are always putting words in my mouth?

[ Parent ]
oh, it wasn't? (none / 0) (#77)
by derek3000 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:44:09 AM EST

I suggest you look at the post I responded to. Just to make sure we are in the same reality.

By the way--I resent being called a right-winger. Do you think I like consumerism? Do you think I just love corporations? I guess that is the easy way out, isn't it?

The fact is that I despise consumerism and what it does to people. However, I also recognize that it would be ridiculous to tell someone what they can and cannot sell.

Why is it that 'people like you' (see how you like it) always complain about corporations, completely oblivious to the fact that everything from their clothes to their cars are made by them? You want to dismantly corporate america? Go get a fucking log cabin in the woods and make this your owner's manual.


-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

how I like it? (none / 0) (#79)
by alprazolam on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 12:13:05 PM EST

the 'people like you' was because that's what I felt you were doing: identifying me as an 'anti corporate liberal' or whatever and dismissing whatever it is I was saying without giving any part of what I said consideration.

For the record, not only am I supportive of genetically modified food, I'm supportive of genetically modified people. That said, I don't believe that people should be forced to buy GM food because they don't have any other option (well ok they can grow their own but I don't think that's a fair alternative). I don't believe that just because the biggest companies are selling GM food, that all people only want GM food, and I think it's short sighted to endanger the alternatives because of the known risks of monocultures, etc.

[ Parent ]

here is your mistake: (none / 0) (#81)
by derek3000 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:21:34 PM EST

You can't dictate what the seller's product is. Well, you can, but only by voting with your money. You can't make companies sell you organic food, just like you can't make Microsoft include Netscape with Windows.

Think about this for a second. You are a shoemaker. You hand craft women's shoes. Some women's groups say that your shoes aren't practical, and that they degrade women, or something stupid like that. They want to force you to make shoes that have heels less than 3" high. Is that really fair? They could argue that it is harmful to women.

As strange as this example might make me seem (i am not preoccupied with women's shoes, I've just heard some bitching about this lately), it fits. You can't force someone to sell you something. The seller sets the terms and the product. If they are smart, they will realize that people want 'organic' food. If not, they may go out of business, or at least lose business.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Your example isn't a bad one, but... (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by iGrrrl on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 09:50:33 AM EST

In your example, the producer/consumer relationship is more one on one, with the implication that there are other shoemakers. The objection to the large corporations in agribusiness is that choice becomes quite limited and often hidden. People also want easy and cheap. They don't want to research where the corn in their Doritos comes from.

There's a better analogy, perhaps. Operating systems. Mac users generally pay more than Windows users, but will argue that their product is superior. They're like the people who shop at the organic food stores or buy only the organic produce. *nix users need more skill than the average user and spend more time with their computers. They're like home gardeners. Everybody else goes to the supermarket.

The difference between a Microsoft settlement and an attempt to regulate GM foods is that one affects only the economy, while the other affects both the economy and long-term environmental sustainability. IMO.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Organic farming can feed the world! (4.20 / 5) (#52)
by greenrd on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:23:44 PM EST

At least, someone thinks so. However, the productivity differences between organic farming and non-organic farming of the same are trivial compared to the productivity differences between animal farming and farming of plants. Piping plant food through an animal first is extraordinarily wasteful - we're talking 90% loss here - that's one of the reasons why I don't eat meat.

Of course a vegan world would create problems for organic systems that rely on cow shit for fertiliser. Hence veganic farming.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Yeah, we should all become vegans! (1.44 / 9) (#55)
by Evil JCB on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:48:58 PM EST

Meat is murder, and it's inefficient too! It's obvious to any Chomsky reading communist like myself, that the only way to feed the world, and solve the twin diseases of captialism and constipation, is for everyone to become vegan organic farmers! This could also solve the world's oil addiction. Since it would be totally wrong to kill the cattle just because we aren't going to eat them, we could just their shit for both fertiliser and fuel! We could also ride them for transportation because it's almost certain that it would take some icky, unnatural chemical process to turn that cow shit into something that would be able to run a car. Anyway, cars are evil because they pollute CO2! We should be getting rid of them anyway, even if we didn't have cattle to ride.

"Only intellectuals have ideas, everyone else is too stupid."-- George Shmorwell
[ Parent ]

Yeah... (none / 0) (#80)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 12:16:18 PM EST

Well, there are nutcases who think all kinds of things, but yields are still much, much, lower for organic farming, especially if the farmer doesn't have both years of experience and a whole lot of training. In addition, the amount of extra labor required makes the food a whole lot more expensive. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a plan to "feed the world" to me.

As for meat, you're fighting a losing battle. Most people would rather round up all the ecofreaks and dump them in the ocean than give up their meat, and that shows no sign of changing; whatever plan we come up with needs to accomodate that fact. No, might does not make right, but there are lots of righteous lost causes; for this purpose, a lost cause is not good enough, right or wrong.

Are we also going to quit making cheese? That's animal derived. And hey, so is most every processed food product known to man. So basically, we're all going to be eating fruits and vegetables, and maybe some (unpreserved, highly expensive, short shelf-life) bread, and drinking water and booze. No milk, no appreciable other sources of calcium except tablets(face it, most people are not going to eat the one or two vegetables that provide calcium in anywhere near enough quantity to get what they need,) this is a totally inhuman way to live. We're omnivores by design, whether or not anyone likes it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Veganism (none / 0) (#90)
by greenrd on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:36:04 PM EST

In addition, the amount of extra labor required

....if fairly distributed, creates employment, stimulates the economy (especially the informal economy), and gives more people a connection to nature. (Not that I'd personally want to do it, you understand, but it's a nice idea in theory.)

Most people would rather round up all the ecofreaks and dump them in the ocean than give up their meat, and that shows no sign of changing;

Most people, yes, but the number of people choosing vegetarianism or at least "cutting down on meat" has risen over the last few decades. Veganism has grown from almost zero (at least in the Western world) to millions of vegans today. There are a still a lot of people out there who are brainwashed by the animal industries, and, given the right information and arguments [see '101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian'] could no doubt be persuaded to give up a few trivial pleasures and conveniences for the sake of reducing severe suffering. I'm fairly upbeat about it.

Are we also going to quit making cheese?

Yep.

(face it, most people are not going to eat the one or two vegetables that provide calcium in anywhere near enough quantity to get what they need,)

That's what fast food is for. (I'm no raw food nutter, although one of my friends is.) New veggie foods are being developed all the time. And there are plenty of vegan recipes out there that are both delicious and highly nutritious.

We're omnivores by design

Are you saying this in a religious way or a Darwinian way? If the former, I'm not the one to argue that point. If the latter, we're not designed, period.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Ah (5.00 / 3) (#91)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 12:04:57 PM EST

....if fairly distributed, creates employment, stimulates the economy (especially the informal economy), and gives more people a connection to nature. (Not that I'd personally want to do it, you understand, but it's a nice idea in theory.)
Two things. First, it may create employment, but it won't create wages that can actually afford its own products while maintaining any reasonable lifestyle. We used to have this sort of thing; practically everyone was a farmer, and life sucked. All that "connection to nature" crap is just a smokescreen for "life is gonna suck." Second, you say you personally wouldn't want to do it - well, neither would about 90% of the rest of the population. Short of forcing them, there's just no way. Do YOU want to be Stalin Jr? Do you want to LIVE under Stalin Jr?
Veganism has grown from almost zero (at least in the Western world) to millions of vegans today.
I'd like evidence of this. I've met precisely three, and that's out of several thousand people I've probably met. Either there are lots of vegans hiding out somewhere, or else there aren't millions of them. I've met lots of people who eat less meat for health reasons, but that's not the same. I've met a lot of high school kiddie vegetarians, but that's kind of like being a lipstick lesbian in college; you grow out of it about 90% of the time, so those don't count.
There are a still a lot of people out there who are brainwashed by the animal industries
I'm not brainwashed by anything; I know animals suffer. However, animals happen to be made of very tasty meat, you see, and I like tasty meat. I'm all for reducing the suffering of animals, but I don't see what this has to do with whether I eat them or not; they don't feel pain after they're dead. As for doing away with cheese, that's just plain mean. Cheese and meat are two of the staples of my diet:)
That's what fast food is for. (I'm no raw food nutter, although one of my friends is.) New veggie foods are being developed all the time.
Having tried some vegetarian fast foods, I'll pass thanks. They may be good enough to convince dedicated veggie people, but they're no replacement for a decent cheeseburger.
Are you saying this in a religious way or a Darwinian way? If the former, I'm not the one to argue that point. If the latter, we're not designed, period.
We're not designed, but this does not imply that we do not presently possess a design. We are something, and we are not other things. Clearly, we are well adapted, if you prefer that term, to eating a mixed diet. Our teeth, our digestive systems, our bodies' needs, and so on all suggest that we've pretty much always eaten meat until the point where somebody decided for religious reasons(health reasons would have come MUCH more recently,) a few hundred or thousand years ago that he wasn't going to eat animals. In any reasonable biological sense, we're omnivores, and successful ones at that. It appears to me that veganism is primarily an expression of guilt over that success.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
A Note On Malthusian Dilemas (none / 0) (#85)
by dave256 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:26:26 PM EST

I read Malthus.

His general premise was that as things currently stand (at the time of writing) there will be either famine due to lack of food, or a population-controlling event (pestilence, war, etc.).

Except, the man wasn't stupid enough to realize that things are static. His observation allows for advancements to stave off what he calls the inevitable intersection of the geometric population growth and arithmetic food production. Better farming equipment, people eating less, less waste, etc.

The current running theory is that if there were to be a sudden population boom without an accompaying technological advance to provide enough food for that boom, then we're in trouble. At least, for a little while, until the famine or war or disease settles the population back down to an equilibrium.
-Dave
[ Parent ]

Round-up changed everything (4.42 / 7) (#19)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:06:01 PM EST

I can remember when they would spray diesel oil on the grass along the fence in my elementary and junior high school. Once or twice a month, the whole playground/fields would stink of it. We didn't much worry about it.

Round-up was both the introduction of genetic control of plants, and the birth of the golden goose for Monsanto. Everything about the product was good, or so we thought. Selective (and absolute) destruction of narrow-leaf grasses, with very low exposure risk to farm animals and people. Extremely concentrated (1/128 mixture for most applications) means it felt like the consumer was getting a bargain, even though the price of a gallon of the concentrate was astronomical.

One of the pages you link (The Evil) discusses Monsanto's latest innovation, Round-up Ready Canola. I find it not so surprizing that ways they continue to look for ways to sell Round-up.

Monsanto may or may not suck. But round-up was, and still is, brilliant innovation.

Round-up resistant canola spreading uncontrollably (4.00 / 4) (#33)
by mathematician on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:15:20 PM EST

...is one of the headlines you'll be reading sometime in the near future.

They have produced triple-resistent canola plants (triple resistent because it is resistent to the 3 mainly used herbicides Roundup, Liberty and Pursuit) in Alberta and they are finding that
a) Those plants cross-polinate with related weeds
b) The canola planted by 'volunteer' farmers is spreading out of control and into non-canola farmer's lands.

more info

[ Parent ]

but there's no positive selection of those genes (4.50 / 4) (#35)
by eyespots on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:27:58 PM EST

There are some plants surrounding the fields that contain roundout resistance genes- but to play devil's advocate- so what? Unless you spray all of the wilderness with roundup, these genes will not be selected for, and will be lost after multiple generations.

Humans have been genetically modifying plants for centuries- I am sure we see the effect of that biological revolution in the wilderness around us.

As long as the genes are not toxic to humans or animals, then the impact is minimal. No positive selection of a gene = loss of the gene. If we were talking about genes giving a positive advantage (such as optimization of photosynthesis), then we'd have a problem.

My particular beef with roundup resistant plants is that it merely encourages further extensive pesticide use.

[ Parent ]

Bermuda kicks canolas ass (3.50 / 4) (#38)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:01:46 PM EST

not to mention nutgrass, and other wild grasses, and most any respectable broadleaf weed. Canola. Sheesh. Even the name invokes Loser...

Now, since I've clearly reached my limit with regard to intelligent comment on this thread, I'll shut up. I just dont see, though, how Canola could do much in the wild. Now, were the round-up resistence able to "jump" to a respectable weed, I'd be worried. I'll check out your link.

[ Parent ]

What's in a name? (4.33 / 3) (#48)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 08:52:09 PM EST

Canola. Sheesh. Even the name invokes Loser...
"Canola" is the market-tested renaming of the rapeseed plant.

remove obvious illegal character in email address
[ Parent ]

Solution (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by Weezul on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 07:56:55 PM EST

Create a Round-up ready hemp, spread it all over the country, and watch how fast GMOs get regulated.. or it just makes the DEAs job infinitly more difficult. :)

Ok, this may not be a realistic senerio since there are really people planting Round-Up ready canola and canola may be more agressive then hemp anyway. Still, you could take the more agressive weed out there, make it resistant to many fertalizers, and make it produce THC (even small amounts). Heck, even make Reound-up ready canola that produces THC.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
Now I see! (2.80 / 5) (#21)
by derek3000 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:10:24 PM EST

The key difference to me, however, is the scientists who produced these animals did not do so at the request of a commercial interest. They did it to see whether they could get functional insertion of a plant gene into a mammal. They also hoped the result would be a healthier meat.
Wake up--everything we do is for some kind of reward. These scientists didn't work for free--I'm sure there are a lot of people who will feel less guilty when they pig out on "low-fat" pork--it's a very marketable thing.
This is different from most genetic modifications. The modifications that generally concern both the public and many scientists are those intended to increase the efficiency of commodity crops... That kind of farming benefits large agribusiness most of all. The spin from organizations...give on such crops centers around vague phrases such as "fewer chemicals used" and "lower food prices" as benefits to the public. The cost/benefit ratios are...arguable.
Well, I'll just feed all of those starving children with natural, organic, pesticide-free veggies grown in my garden! Yep, that's me, helping humanity one mouth at a time. Damn efficiency, it's quality over quantity.


-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars

hehe (3.33 / 3) (#23)
by eyespots on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:19:12 PM EST

These scientists didn't work for free

I know some post-docs who might disagree with you- given they have spent anywhere from 4-8 years getting an advanced degree (their PhD), they only make as much as a computer science summer intern per hour (~ 8-9 bucks/hr)! Now that really sucks. Better than unemployment, though, eh?

[ Parent ]

yeah, (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by derek3000 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:23:50 PM EST

it is kinda unfair that they do all that research for that. But hopefully it will land them more prestigious jobs in the future.

-----------
Not too political, nothing too clever!--Liars
[ Parent ]

Wow. Wide of the mark. (4.25 / 4) (#43)
by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 07:41:35 PM EST

Very amused.
Wake up--everything we do is for some kind of reward.
Sure, but the source or definition of reward varies from person to person, and reward != $. For many scientists the rewards are internally genenerated. There is a great big ego/status jolt for a research scientist when she sees her ideas actually work, even if no one else knows about it yet. And yes, there are people working in basic science who prefer cash, thank you. Frankly I know more of the former than the latter -- they're smart people who could earn a hell of a lot more money doing something else. (For example, after earning a Ph.D. (6 years in the US, 3-4 elsewhere), then doing 4 more years of post-doctoral work, a scientist can start a faculty position at a salary roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of what a law school (3 years) graduate earns his first year out.)
Well, I'll just feed all of those starving children with natural, organic, pesticide-free veggies grown in my garden! Yep, that's me, helping humanity one mouth at a time. Damn efficiency, it's quality over quantity.
I said the cost/benefit ratios were arguable, and they are. Monsanto's current business practices are set up to benefit Monsanto's quartarly earnings summary. The company behaves as if it has little to no concern for longer term (even 10 years) effects on agriculture. They only care about agribunisess. I'm all for efficiency and more food (see my response to trhurler's comment), but I think the current long-term environmental and cultural costs of GMOs are worth discussing.

remove obvious illegal character in email address
[ Parent ]

We will be the death of us (1.45 / 11) (#29)
by Mr Fred Smoothie on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:53:12 PM EST

A * n = C where:
  • A = A species which collectively can't resist altering basic, far-reaching factors of their own environment
  • n = the total number of instances of that species, most of whom consistently fail to live up to even the most mundane of their own ideals
  • the condition where the extinction of A is guaranteed
Please excuse my psuedomath and my pessimism. I'm still right.

and make no sense what-so-ever (3.00 / 3) (#66)
by QuantumG on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:11:08 AM EST

exactly what are you trying to say, no-one knows what you are talking about. Try making an argument.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
I would have no problem, but... (3.75 / 4) (#37)
by CyberQuog on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:53:58 PM EST

This idea is fine for those who want reduced fat pork, but what bother's me is the fact that there is no (or not much) legislation or agreement by companies to actually label their meat or food as genetically engineered. The people who want their meat to have this property should be perfectly able to go and buy GE pork, but for those who don't, there should be some way to avoid it and know which is which. This should apply to any foods, maybe just a small symbol or word on the food indicating it's made from genetically altered material. Anyway, just my 2 braincells on the matter.


-...-
or ya know, (3.50 / 2) (#65)
by QuantumG on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:09:54 AM EST

you could exercise some consumer choice and only purchase the food that is labeled as GE free. ie, rather than force every company on earth to bend to your irrational phobias by enacting a law you can use the free market and support suppliers who can taylor their product to your particular needs.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
tailoring their products (none / 0) (#76)
by Ludwig on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:17:02 AM EST

Since non-GE foods are the default, the burden of labeling should fall on those who are actually doing the "tailoring." That's why you have "coffee" and "decaf coffee," not "coffee" and "caf coffee." You'd think that if GE is such a super idea they'd want to advertise.

[ Parent ]
no see (none / 0) (#92)
by QuantumG on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:27:43 PM EST

GE foods have been the default for quite some time now. Most the time GE foods have no expected effect on consumer value. ie. When I genetically modify corn to be resistant to pesticides so I can use more of them and then wash all those pesticides off before I sell it the customers dont really care. It tastes like corn, it looks like corn however it is a fair bit cheaper than non-GE corn because the farmer doesn't have to throw half of it away.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
But what happens to the pig? (3.80 / 5) (#51)
by Bwah on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:21:39 PM EST

OK, here's a question for someone who has more of a clue about biology that I do : How does this change affect the metabolism of the pig?

Not from the PETA point of view, but more clinically. I mean the pig's body was probably producing the fatty variant of the acid for a reason? (Of course that reason may just end up being a random byproduct of evolution ...) Do we end up with a pig that can't properly metabolize it's own body fat or something? I suppose this is probably an active research area?

--
To redesign an infinite ensemble of universes: what terrible responsibility, what arrogance ... It sounds just like the type of thing your average Homo sap would do for a dare. -- Stephen Baxter

uhhh, it dies? (2.33 / 6) (#64)
by QuantumG on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:06:47 AM EST

Ya know, we kill it and eat it. Who cares.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
After how long?? (none / 0) (#89)
by Bwah on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:11:31 PM EST

Duh. :-)

The question is after how long? Does it still grow up to be an investment grade porker or does it croak after a couple of months because it's storing energy in a form it can't use.

--
To redesign an infinite ensemble of universes: what terrible responsibility, what arrogance ... It sounds just like the type of thing your average Homo sap would do for a dare. -- Stephen Baxter
[ Parent ]

Worse yet... (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by Sheetrock on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 04:51:27 PM EST

...if this pig breaks loose and breeds with members of the general pig population, will we be faced with a new population of green killer pigs that pillage towns and taste bad?

[ Parent ]
Variations? (none / 0) (#94)
by HeadSessions on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 09:10:48 PM EST

Chicken with green pepper chromosome? Pork with apple rhizome? Cow and potato dna? Trout and broccolli genes? Goat and Coriander nucleioids? any takers for an ex MeFi-er?

Honour the Head
Transgenes and transactions | 95 comments (95 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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