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[P]
Frankenfood: Burn the Monster?

By circletimessquare in Op-Ed
Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:07:37 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Europeans and Americans are at loggerheads over a very contentious issue. There are street protests. Diplomatic squabbles play out. Emotions run deep.

No, it's not some recent war that will go unnamed. The issue is Frankenfood. So what gives with the Transatlantic contrast?

Like the mob hysteria of the peasants who wanted to burn the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, there is much simple fear of the unknown at work here. But caution is still warranted. I say that the proper approach on GM crops is that where there are errors and arrogance, chastise the corporations, and not the tech.


I think the European position on Frankenfood can be summarized as: "Corporate interests driven only by greed are experimenting with the code of life with unknown consequences. The risks are huge, the benefits are dubious." The American position can be summarized as: "Huh?"

Recently, the US has gone so far as to try to force Europeans to eat Frankenfood.

American arrogance aside, what gives with European reluctance and terror at the concept of genetically modified crops? Or, if you would rather examine the inverse, why are Americans so blase about the issue and seemingly could care less?

On both sides of the aisle, atrocities are visible. Consider Zambia, where hundreds of thousands face starvation, and American GM Crops are rejected on the basis of fanciful European fears about foreign genes and proteins. Additionally, African farmers will not grow GM crops if they cannot be exported to European markets.

Dr Mwananyanda Lewanika is a biochemist at Zambia's National Institute for Science and Technology, holds two degrees from US universities and has specialised in biosafety for five years. He explains that his team rejected the maize largely because of health concerns raised in Europe. His first concern is gene transfer - the idea that the foreign genes could, while in the gut, transfer into the cells of the body or into bacteria in the gut. If the genes become coded for antibiotic resistance, as they sometimes do, bacteria that picked them up could then rampage through human populations.
...
According to the Zambia Daily Mail, a group called Farming and Livestock Concern UK said that the virus used to create most GM varieties "could form a retrovirus that could produce symptoms similar to HIV", a claim that will raise eyebrows among biologists. Another lobby group, Genetic Food Alert, raised the "unknown and unassessed implications of providing large quantities of food containing resistance genes to a large population in Zambia.

Meanwhile, American companies encode pesticide resistance into GM Crops. Why? So more pesticides can be sprayed without harming the crops! Hardly a likeable outcome, and clearly one cynically aimed at lining chemical company's coffers. It only takes a loose grasp on irony to perceive that the real promise of GM crops is to create disease resistance WITHOUT using pesticides.

Additionally, the propensity to try to claim intellectual property rights over genetic code that is only discovered in the wild, perhaps even garnished originally from cultural wisdom of poor rural third world peoples, raises serious eyebrows on many different levels. How can you copyright life? How can you claim corporate hegemony over traditional cultural knowledge? It's called biopiracy, and it's real. Is there prior art on turmeric, for example?

However, I have a serious beef with European concerns over Frankenfood, no pun intended in light of recent Mad Cow Disease concerns. Which is a very relevant example, actually, as Cloaked User points out, the psychology at work over Frankenfood is much the same as that which played out during the BSE scandal:

You mention the BSE crisis - well, I "lived through" it, and I remember the projected number of deaths. Predictions were up in the millions; you could be forgiven for being left with the distinct impression that the country would be more than decimated by it. So far, iirc, the actual number of deaths from nvCJD is around a hundred. I can't help feeling it was blown out of all proportion...
People, generally speaking, tend to fear the unknown, and anything that they don't understand, especially when it's beyond their control, and people are telling them that they should fear it.

Driving cars is far more dangerous to life and limb than flying airplanes. But people are scared to death of flying, and feel quite comfortable driving. Why? Because in a car, you are in control behind the wheel. While in an airplane, you put your life in the hands of others. Simple human psychology at work. The sense of control greatly outweighs the statisics and truth of the matter of the real safety at work. You don't have control over the other drunks and idiots on the road, but the feel of the steering wheel in your hand has a potent psychological effect.

The psychology of the situation is remarkable. But the sensitivity to the soundness of one's food supply is commendable too. Obviously, it can go overboard.

I think much of Europe's concerns over Frankenfood have easy parallels to European peasant's reactions to the original Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: simple, unfounded fear of the unknown. Fanciful tales of retroviruses hijacking GM genes and spreading dangerous reactions in animal and human guts? Good lord. Can we say false alarmism please?

There is nothing wrong with opposing GM crops on scientific grounds. There is everything wrong with opposing GM crops on science fiction grounds.

Take as an example a crop like golden rice. It offers vitamin A in a plant where vitamin A is not traditionally genetically manufactured. And so golden rice makes a vital nutrient available in the staple diet of the rural poor, many in nations where blindness can result because some diets are low in vitamin A.

So what can possibly be the basis for opposing this crop? What is the downside? Governments and NGOs have already said they will provide the crop free of charge. What, will the gene for making vitamin A wreak havoc on the world because... well you've messed with mother nature, and vitamin A belongs in carrots only, so the great goddess of the Earth will enact her revenge on a human populace that doesn't respect her? Where's the science? Where's the possible threat?

There is nothing wrong with respecting limits. There is nothing wrong with mistrusting corporations tinkering with the code of life and letting the consequences play out in the real world with unknown consequences for us all.

But there is everything wrong with opposing great benefit for the poor of the world out of a simple lack of an education in basic genetics. Careful evaluation of the potential outcome before letting a GM crop into the fields? Certainly. But let the emphasis be on careful evaluation, and not uneducated hysteria.

There is benefit to the world from GM Crops. There really is. A lot of the nightmare scenarios opponents of GM Crops cook up are based on natural processes that go on every day around us anyways. These processes neither add to nor subtract from anything GM crops introduce into the environment. And just looking at something like SARS, it is easy to see that the natural biological threats from natural genetic processes are, were, and will always be the real concern.

Some scientists put jellyfish genes in monkeys a few years ago. Disturbing? Yes. Genetic modification can do more than make crops grow better. They can warp us, they can warp the genetic code of humans. That is frightening.

But some scientists put fish genes in strawberries. Why? So the antifreeze gene from the fish would make the strawberries more resistant to frost. Where is the harm in that? Seriously!

Can we keep our healthy fear in line with our sense of reason? What I am asking from those who are wary of genetic engineering in food is this: fear and fight the jellyfish genes in monkeys, but don't fight the fish genes in strawberries. One is a frightening step towards tinkering with our genes for dubious purposes. The other makes strawberry growing easier for Canadians. Big difference. Keep that perspective and don't let the fear overwhelm your reason.

Human beings have been messing with genetics for years. Look at the variety of dogs we have cooked up from a few wolves we befriended some thousands of years ago. Compare the gigantic corn cobs of today to the ancient pre-Mayan wimps, or ancient tiny Andean potatoes to the Idaho monsters today, or tomatoes, etc.

Of course messing directly with the genetic code carries increased risks and necessitates greater oversight. With great power comes great responsiblity. Can we screw it up? Yes. But the benefits are so huge to the world, GM can not be ignored. The genie can not be put back in the bottle. Such is human nature. We will not ignore GM and discard the technology, nor should we.

Think about the GM crops that can be coaxed to grow in desert environments. Or cold environments. Think about the boon all of this represents for the poor of the world, for putting less strain on the natural environment. You say corporations have no interest in these goals? Fine. Then chastise the corporations, not the tech. And then tell me European concerns over GM foods don't reek of hysteria and a lack of real scientific knowledge.

Like opposing globalization, opposing genetically modified crops is like opposing the inevitable. But just as globalization is known as Americanization in some circles, the debate over Frankenfood gets coated with fear and politics, instead of reason, and we all lose for that.

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Related Links
o mob hysteria
o force Europeans to eat Frankenfood
o fanciful European fears about foreign genes and proteins
o encode pesticide resistance into GM Crops
o Is there prior art on turmeric
o Cloaked User
o points out
o golden rice
o jellyfish genes in monkeys
o fish genes in strawberries
o Also by circletimessquare


Display: Sort:
Frankenfood: Burn the Monster? | 443 comments (421 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
Our Army of Reason Cannot Be Defeated (3.83 / 6) (#1)
by BenJackson on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:26:02 AM EST

This sarcastic jab of reason sounds the death knell for the emotionally charged, politicized debate over [your issue here]. By getting the enemy to engage you in a battle of wits and facts you have blunted the power of their pulpits and rendered their vast financial resources moot.

GM crops for Africa (4.76 / 13) (#2)
by Cloaked User on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:34:23 AM EST

I think you'll find that the main objection is not some overblown fear of GMOs (although that is undeniably a factor for some people), but the fact that such crops are also modified to not reproduce naturally.

If a country becomes dependent on GM crops, they are effectively beholden to the corporation that supplies them. That is hardly a desireable position to be in, now is it?
--
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."

well said (5.00 / 3) (#3)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:37:02 AM EST

but as i noted, is not then the culprit the corporation, and not the tech?

so why take your righteous indignation out on the tech?

i am not accusing you of this, but you can see that some people do.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I'm not denying that (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by Cloaked User on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:58:05 AM EST

There is definitely a lot of anti-GM feeling, at least here in the UK. Some foods use a lack of GMO as a selling point.

It's understandable, I think - you may bemoan a lack of basic genetics knowledge, but the average person on the street simply doesn't need that knowledge. They turn to "trusted sources" of information - the media, in other words. The trouble being, of course, that newspapers and (most) TV news shows all have a need to attract readers/viewers, and nothing sells quite like sensationalism...

So when discussing what is essentially a new, untested tech, they're bound to play-up the possible side-effects, no matter how unlikely. Fame-hungry pseudo-scientists, who may genuinely believe what they say, will be wheeled out by news shows for interviews, and give dire warnings of the potential consequences.

You mention the BSE crisis - well, I "lived through" it, and I remember the projected number of deaths. Predictions were up in the millions; you could be forgiven for being left with the distinct impression that the country would be more than decimated by it. So far, iirc, the actual number of deaths from nvCJD is around a hundred. I can't help feeling it was blown out of all proportion...

People, generally speaking, tend to fear the unknown, and anything that they don't understand, especially when it's beyond their control, and people are telling them that they should fear it.

--
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]

yes (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:03:28 AM EST

the psychology of the situation is remarkable.

driving cars is far more dangerous to life and limb than flying airplanes.

but people are scared to death of flying, and feel quite comfortable driving. why?

because in a car, you are in control behind the wheel. while in an airplane, you put your life in the hands of others.

simple human psychology at work. the sense of control greatly outweighs the statisics and truth of the matter of the real safety at work. you don't have control over the other drunks and idiots on the road, but the feel of the steering wheel in your hand has a potent psychological effect.

and that you point to that function at work in gm crops is dead on.

mind if i highjack this thread and post it in the body text above? ;-)


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

déjà vu... (nt) (none / 0) (#39)
by kurodink on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:29:45 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Grr! (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by rdskutter on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:30:04 AM EST

There is definitely a lot of anti-GM feeling, at least here in the UK. Some foods use a lack of GMO as a selling point.

There's also a lot of undeducated fuckwits in the UK who will believe anything the Daily Mail tells them to believe.

I loathe people who form an opinion on something as complex as GM based on what thety read in the paper then (convinced in their badly researched opinion) go on to campaign against GM.

Rant Ends.


Yanks are like ICBMs: Good to have on your side, but dangerous to have nearby. - OzJuggler
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.[ Parent ]

I'm not denying that either (n/t) (none / 0) (#17)
by Cloaked User on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:50:57 AM EST


--
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]
In today's world... (2.50 / 2) (#13)
by ti dave on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:43:13 AM EST

The corporation and the tech are inseparable.
We blame them both, for they are the one and the same.

Rasputin doesn't work for Monsanto. Those days are over.

I'd like to put a bullet in your head, Ti_Dave. ~DominantParadigm
[ Parent ]

because ... (2.33 / 3) (#244)
by gdanjo on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:59:21 PM EST

... attacking the tech is the quickest way to stop it. If your argument was "the tech is FANTASTIC, but we don't want to use it" you'd sound pretty stupid. If the tech is sound, it will stand up to our attack.

Don't tell us to accept the tech; convince us with a GM "killer app." You also need to be willing to accept that it might be just another high-tech bubble.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

I thought the (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by starsky on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:15:11 AM EST

fear was they *would* reproduce, thereby making hybrid crops with unknown effects in the future. Like the man said, 'huh?'.

[ Parent ]
People fear both (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by squigly on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:36:18 AM EST

I don't think the anti-GM lobby speaks with one voice.

Personally, I don't like eating larger quantities of weedkiller. It's not just that it gets into the food, but also anything that eats the food, the rivers, and everything else.  I have no issue with GM in pronciple

The other factor is I dislike giving money to the friendly Monsanto corporation.  

[ Parent ]

bt corn (5.00 / 1) (#239)
by Legato Bluesummers on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:13:02 PM EST

Personally, I don't like eating larger quantities of weedkiller. It's not just that it gets into the food, but also anything that eats the food, the rivers, and everything else.  I have no issue with GM in pronciple.

If you're talking about BT corn, which accounts for a fairly larger percentage of US corn production, it is quite safe for humans. The insecticide chemical comes from a bacterium. It is completely nontoxic to plants and all animals except for insects. Of course, you do have a point that it gets into rivers, anything that eats the food, etc.

But which do you think is better, having plants with pollen that is toxic to monarch butterflies, or spraying poisonous insecticide from crop duster planes? The BT corn may kill a few insects, but it's better than the alternative.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]

Pesticide Resistance (none / 0) (#270)
by rasmoh on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:03:35 AM EST

I think he was referring to crops modified to be resistant to large amounts of weedkiller, which were mentioned in the article.  

This is hardly an improvement over traditonal crops that won't tolerate being drowned in herbicide.  More pesticides used means more pesticides in food, groundwater, fish, etc.  Hence, many people are justifiably opposed to this use of genetics.

'Twas the pride of the peaches.
[ Parent ]

Ah (none / 0) (#338)
by Legato Bluesummers on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:27:40 PM EST

I completely agree with you. Genetics can be good or bad. Just depends how you use it.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't that have to be disclosed? (5.00 / 1) (#137)
by Silent Chris on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:22:55 PM EST

It seems a bit conspiracy-laden to me.  Wouldn't, legally, unreproducable crops have to be explained to the purchaser?  I imagine that in most of these sales, when someone asks "Are their any differences from regular crops?" the company will be obligated to say "They don't reproduce naturally".  Kind of like the Surgeon General's warning "This produce will kill you".  Then, if the purchaser decides to buy the crop, they assume the risks.

[ Parent ]
Bundled traits. (5.00 / 1) (#333)
by BlaisePascal on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:24:36 PM EST

I'm so sorry to hear that your grain harvest last year was destroyed by insects.  It's bad news that the country to your south has managed to get infested with pesticide-resistant insects and that they appear to be spreading north.  It looks like you'll have to deal with this insect blight for the forseeable future, until something can be worked out.

Have I got a deal for you:  I've got a genetically-engineered wheat variant that produces in its stems and leaves a bitter alkaloid that is distasteful to most varieties of insects, including the ones that ate your crops this year.  It is also a powerful teratogenic agent in flying insect populations, preventing the formation of viable eggs.  Our tests have shown that insects won't stay and eat this wheat, but will rather move on to other sources.  Furthermore, it limits the spread of the insects because it prevents their reproduction.

The alkaloid introduced is present in the leaves and stems, but sensitive laboratory analysis has shown that the alkaloid is not detectable in the grain produced, nor in flour made from that grain. These test results are available upon request.

This wheat has also been modified so that the grain produced is non-viable, and cannot be used as seed for next years crop.

No, it isn't available with just the insecticide gene.  If you want it -- and you need it -- you have to buy new seed from us each year.

How many tons do you want to buy?

[ Parent ]

But, again, the risks are assumed (none / 0) (#413)
by Silent Chris on Mon May 26, 2003 at 09:53:13 AM EST

You're talking a harsh salespitch.  That's assumed.  The buyer is the one who makes the decision, however, and it's their loss if they determine a product is good for them when in reality it's not.

[ Parent ]
go the wto (4.25 / 4) (#12)
by 6mute on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:36:32 AM EST

i think the u.s. has a point about this being a de facto trade barrier. they may even convince the wto of the vailidity of this argument. the hard part will be convincing an extremley anti-gm european population that they have been mislead on the risks over the past few years.

if nothing else it may encourage something approaching rational debate here (the u.k.). there has been much of that to date, unless you count prince charles jumping onto whatever populist bandwagon he can find.

the crying shame about this whole gm thing is that it diverts people's attention away from the fact that most of their food chain is filled with muck and controlled by corporate interests with strong connections to government (lord sainsbury anyone?).

Because the tech is owned. (4.50 / 8) (#14)
by morceguinho on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:43:27 AM EST

Fisrt of all, you say America and Europe. Now i know the EU is trying to become more uniform and sorta globalized, but it's not a country: it's many different countries! In size, age, culture, economical development, etc. Don't sum all those differences to 'europe'.

When it comes to 'europe' fearing GMs i can only speak for myself, of course. I have no scientific knowledge whatsoever relating genetics (nor do you, i assume) but i also do share a part of that hysteria. Yes, weather resisting crops and alike have advantages, if well explored they could even end world hunger (or am i dreaming too high?) and it's a great concept. You can grow stuff that'll grow just fine. But you don't think any big corp. ('cos they're the ones with the kind of money it takes to support this) will stop at that naive step, do ya? I don't think 'europeans' fear GM by itself, given that the use of that technology is gradual, professional and of public knowledge. And above all controlled.

So, according to me, can such promissing technology be managed with responsability? In the light that the majority of the cake will be held by the big money-drive companies, i doubt that. If profit is above everything (it's not that uncommon) there'll be room for error, for "minority reports" (forgive the borrowed metaphor but i think it fits like a glove - and i like the movie too!).

Also there's the issue about GM products being used right now. Without any statistic grounds whatsoever to support me i'm inclined to speculate that the US is the country with the highest use of frankenfood, right? Processed cheese and what not - does the consumer know? In theory yes 'cos "it comes in square slices" but how much of the food out there is somehow gm-ed and you don't know about it? And why don't you know about that?

I'm all for it, but i wouldn't jump out of an airplane without a 'shute just because the pilots tell me it's ok.

good stuff (2.33 / 3) (#18)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:52:13 AM EST

i agree with you.

we don't want some sort of gm food chernobyl, but, given the track record of our species, we can pretty much guess such an event will happen.

so hysteria being what hysteria is, there is a grain of truth in it

and we agree that any seed of horror in gm food will be sown by corporations. they are the enemy. their control and their greed will be the trigger over something bad happening. the tech is neutral, and offers much bounty, but it is human shortsightedness in the guise of the pursuit of the almighty buck that will be our downfall in the arena of gm should such a scenario come to pass.

additionally, i agree that talking america vs europe isn't that helpful- in fact, i would say that the debate IS heating up now in america, and europeans are mollifying their position a bit (sorry for the continental generalization again, i realize there are nuances amongst, but considering the rise of the eu, you might want to get used to people talking that way! ;-P )

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Solutions? (4.75 / 4) (#25)
by morceguinho on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:07:23 AM EST


  • Maybe after extensive european (-shrug-, alas...) independent research - by independent i'd mean governments, universities and private corporations. Then one can compare results and take conclusions. I think europeans would slowly start to use the tech but wouldn't take it to unnecessary extremes (i.e. let's make strawberries blue and glow in the dark! - a silly example but my gory side is sleeping right now...).

  • Realization: Even not wanting food that has been changed one way or the other is already everywhere and is the biggest part. Still, one thing is milk that'll last longer in the fridge (there's a word for that, i know) the other is these soups that'll last for a veeeery long time thanks to preservatives. Maybe the step towards the initial aplications of gmt isn't that big and we're not exactly "pure consumers" or the so called "biological products" (i.e., grown the oldfashioned way with nothing but cowshit as fertelizer) wouldn't be booming right now.

  • If the masses are hysterical, the more the US pushes this, the more resistance it'll get. If they weren't then the european polititians could kiss the US's ass as usual (strikes me as a lack of balls, although it's begging to change).

  • Tight, rigid, neutral control.



[ Parent ]
To some extent true (none / 0) (#146)
by epepke on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:07:29 PM EST

Now i know the EU is trying to become more uniform and sorta globalized, but it's not a country: it's many different countries!

To some extent, this is true. However, with the EU's roots in the EEC and then the EC, the EU is much more regulatory with respect to foodstuffs produced by the member nations than the US is with respect to foodstuffs produced by the states. In the EU there's something like a country of origin doctrine. If the US were like the EU, it would be against regulations to have Cajun mixes made anywhere other than Louisiana, matzohs made anywhere other than New York City, kielbasa made anywhere other than Michigan, etc. So, with respect to foodstuffs, it's probably even more appropriate to treat the EU as an entity than it is to treat the US as an entity.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Come again? (none / 0) (#232)
by morceguinho on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:19:37 PM EST

To some extent, this is true.? I hope you mean this metaphoriaclly. And eitherway, even with the EU's roots in the EEC (which are actually the same, just changed some dots and commas to expand and got a new flag) Europe is still a group of countries with their own cultures, lifestyles, economies, governments and background history.

In the EU there's something like a country of origin doctrine.. Yeah, the pricetags in supermarkets tell you where the product comes from, i wouldn't call that a doctrine. Most bananas sold here come from the Açores, most oranges from Spain, etc. This doctrine of yours wouldn't quite fit with the open market model defined by the EU.

[ Parent ]

Not what I'm talking about (none / 0) (#242)
by epepke on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:35:58 PM EST

Yeah, the pricetags in supermarkets tell you where the product comes from, i wouldn't call that a doctrine.

That's not what I'm talking about. An English person once told me that spaghetti, for example, has to come from Italy. You couldn't just set up a spaghetti plant in Germany, say, and produce spaghetti to sell in the rest of the EU. I looked at all the packages of spaghetti I saw and, sure enough, they were all made in Italy.

Now, it is certainly possible that I was misinformed, and that such a doctrine does not exist at all in the EU. If you'd like to correct me, be my guest. But that's the information I was given.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Well at least here... (none / 0) (#248)
by morceguinho on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:16:10 PM EST

...spaghetti comes from many different countries, Italy included. In fact, we have a nacional brand of pastas and alike. Maybe it's a weird British issue, i don't know.

[ Parent ]
Food Doctrine (5.00 / 1) (#292)
by bil on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:58:19 AM EST

I think your talking about the rules that (are supposed to) protect local speacialities.

The theory is that certain foods can only be produce in their home region, so "scotch whisky" can only be produced in Scotland, whisky can be produced anywhere but to call itself "scotch" it has to be made in its traditional home region of Scotland. Its a similar idea to brand names, but instead of the name belonging to a single company it belongs to a region.

Spaghetti can be made Germany because "spaghetti" is a generic term for a food stuff, and is not registered for protection under the EU regulations, but you cant produce Parma Ham unless you do so in the Parma region because it is registered.

Knowing the EU there is probably 10 million pages of descriptions, definitions and small print in the full description but thats the basic idea.

bil

bil
Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

Agreed. (none / 0) (#298)
by morceguinho on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:09:51 AM EST


    In Portugal alone, that i can remember from the top of my head, we have the following:
  • The Serra cheese, which is produced (only) in the Serra da Estrela out of the local sheep herds' milk.

  • Port wine: the british love it and some other countries claim to produce it, but it's made from the crops grown in the delimited region of Douro (i don't know wine terms) and only from those crops.

  • There may be more, of course, but i don't remember any; it's 11am and i'm off to bed.



[ Parent ]
America and Europe -- apples and... apples? (none / 0) (#216)
by RadiantMatrix on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:47:34 PM EST

Fisrt of all, you say America and Europe. Now i know the EU is trying to become more uniform and sorta globalized, but it's not a country: it's many different countries! In size, age, culture, economical development, etc. Don't sum all those differences to 'europe'.
Maybe I fail to see your point, here, but "America" and "Europe" are analogous. America is a part of the world, made up of many different sovereign states. So is Europe.

Even if you take "America" to mean "USA", there is still an analog -- the United States of America is very similar in organization to the European Union. Both are collectives of independent States which cede some authority to a central controlling body. The only real difference is that the EU is much more loosely controlled by that central body than is the US.

So, what, again, is your point?

----------
I don't like spam - Parent ]

My point... (none / 0) (#233)
by morceguinho on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:23:47 PM EST

...is that there's more to it than just political management differences. Are you trying to tell me that there are no more differences (political, cultural, economical...) between two european countries than there are betwwn two US (yes i meant America as in USA) states?

[ Parent ]
Differences (none / 0) (#284)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:54:37 AM EST

The US is very similar to the EU -- it's just had longer to form a cultural/political amalgam than the EU has.

However, though the cultural lines may not be as abrupt between US states as they are with EU nations, they are there. So much so that (for example) one can get culture-shock moving between the South and the Midwest.

What I'm pointing out is this: if you can lump all of the United States together as a unit, then you can also lump Europe together as a unit. Even more to the point, you can lump any populations together based on prevailing opinion.

For instance, a survey was done at one point during the US "War on Iraq" debates regarding support for the War. At the time, something like 70% of the US was against the war. However, in the Southern states, that number dropped below 15%. Still, though, it could be said that the American people were against the war. Likewise, one can say "Europe is economically stable" despite the fact that a few European countries are massively unstable.

Am I making sense to you?

----------
I don't like spam - Parent ]

Yes you are. <nt> (none / 0) (#296)
by morceguinho on Fri May 23, 2003 at 05:58:29 AM EST



[ Parent ]
to voting we go (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:45:02 AM EST

i want to catch the european votes before the americans wake up... i seem to be having a positive british response to my story ;-)

as noted by someone else, it is a bit long-winded, but i honestly don't know what to do about that... i will gamble and hope that the debate the subject matter promises will pull more votes than my hot air detracts! ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

wow, what a dicksucker (1.54 / 11) (#82)
by Hide The Hamster on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:45:03 AM EST




Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
ha! (5.00 / 1) (#229)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:07:33 PM EST

hypocrisy, encapsulated in a user's name and a 1 line post

beautiful


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

get a real sleep schedule (1.00 / 1) (#235)
by Hide The Hamster on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:31:31 PM EST

nitzy.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
your homoeroticism (5.00 / 1) (#258)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:16:20 PM EST

is showing in your name, dear

there are better ways of working out your sexual frustrations than trolling on kuro5hin you know

g'night honeypoo

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Cultural reasons for rejection (4.22 / 9) (#16)
by c4miles on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:46:36 AM EST

No facts and figures to back this up, but...

Many european countries have their own types and varieties of fruit and vegetables, which while less well suited for the purposes of Megafarm(TM) (not as productive, generally speaking) are superior or preferred in other ways (taste, texture, suitability for local cuisine etc). Fresh fruit and veg of the local variety is highly prized and respected, so there is market resistance to the influx of generic vegetable foodstuffs, which combined with the (admittedly conservative) views of many European governments provides a much stronger resistance to new foodstuffs than might otherwise be expected. Also remember that in Europe, the Green parties are much stronger than elsewhere in the world.
--
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

good points (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:56:21 AM EST

i think that a side-stepping into french/ european farming protectionism is warranted as well, but i tried to stick to tech talk rather than politics...

my essay is rambling enough as it is ;-)

but good points, good debate here ;-)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Not Politics (3.33 / 3) (#105)
by greenhide on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:52:38 AM EST

i think that a side-stepping into french/ european farming protectionism is warranted as well, but i tried to stick to tech talk rather than politics...

Yeah, well, I think it's pretty clear that you're pro-GMO. I think that's okay, so long as it's not clouding your ability to look at other points of view, which your post shows.

Was the parent poster really talking about farming protectionism? No. They were commenting on the idea that European vegetables and fruits are superior to the factory-style generic vegetables and fruit that America stamps out.

Having spent a year in Europe, I can tell you -- food in Europe tastes much better. The reason isn't that they're all much better cooks, or that they smother their dishes with herbs and spices. What makes the food taste so great is the high quality and taste of the main ingredients -- the fruits, vegetables, and meat/dairy products being used for the food. Fruits and vegetables just taste better there, and I'm sure it's because of the genetic varieties of plants that they use there.

In America, really the only place to get good-tasting fruits and vegetables is either a local farmers market or an organic produce department. Otherwise, the vegetables and fruits tend to be big but tasteless. In Europe, they might put a little bit of salt, a little bit of pepper, and the dish will be brimming with taste. Here in America, we need to smother our vegetables with "Bold" or "Zesty" sauces or salad dressings to get them to taste like anything.

If I had a choice about it, I'd gladly take European fruits and vegetables over their American counterparts.

It's really a matter of taste, not politics.

[ Parent ]

Misty-Eyed Nonsense! (none / 0) (#381)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:33:24 AM EST

Having spent a year in Europe, I can tell you -- food in Europe tastes much better.

I'm a European, and I lived in America for 8 years, and I can honestly say that nothing of the sort is true. You can get good or bad food on either continent, depending on which establishments you patronisze, and how much you're willing to pay. For goodness sake, according to some authorities, the world's finest dining establishment is currently American!

You're like all too many North Americans who come over here expecting to find more "authenticity" and "sophistication", and leave for home convinced they've found just what they were looking for, when it was their own desire to believe that made things seem as wonderful as they perceived them to be.

[ Parent ]

Dubious Rationale (none / 0) (#380)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:26:23 AM EST

If there is a market for these foods, why should GM crops kill it off? Why would rational customers with money to spare choose supposedly bland, homogenous GM food over the allegedly wonderful local products that were previously on sale?

To hear you say it, the sale of GM crops would be accompanied by legislation mandating a ban on the ordinary variety. Frankly, your argument is the exact parallel of that made by supporters of "cultural quotas" - consumers don't know what's best for them, and must be protected from the ravages of Uncle Sam.

[ Parent ]

A few points (against GMOs) (4.54 / 11) (#20)
by Alias on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:00:40 AM EST

As mentioned before, these technology are owned by large corporations, which don't hesitate to go legal about it. Which is a normal point, except the fact that most GM crops are sterile: you can't use part of the crop to get seeds, you have to buy them every single time to the provider. Doesn't sound like a very good deal to me.

Second point is contamination. If you plant non-GM crops, you have basically no way to be sure that some GM stuff won't "pollute" your field -- unless you plan on starting an hermetically-sealed farm. See above for legal problems.

Third, we have basically next to no idea on the long-term impact of GM crops and the like on the environment. All we have is studies from biogen-funded scientists and massive marketing campaigns that call GM-wary people "enemies of progress" or, worse, killers of starving third-world countries.

On a side note, weedkiller-resistant crops actually encourage farmers to spread more chemicals on their crop. Thanks for such a great idea!

Stéphane "Alias" Gallay -- Damn! My .sig is too lon

we have (4.00 / 4) (#31)
by fhotg on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:25:47 AM EST

we have basically next to no idea on the long-term impact of GM crops and the like on the environment

In some cases, the medium-term impact is already impressive. Take for example Bt-cotton.

[ Parent ]

what about golden rice (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:44:08 AM EST

made by ngos for free?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
What about it? (2.50 / 2) (#100)
by greenhide on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:38:42 AM EST

Most of the research on golden rice says that you'd have to eat something on the order of 6-9kg (around 12-18 lbs) of cooked golden rice in order to get the daily requirement of Vitamin A. Apparently the version of Vitamin A that the rice contains is not easily absorbed by the body.

If the idea is that the rice is grown in America, and then shipped to starving countries, it still makes some sense. Heck, free rice, right? But if it's meant to grow in that country, come on! If the soil is fertile enough, and there's anough water to grow rice, then there's soil that's perfect for growing carrots, which are an excellent way to get both Vitamin A and fiber into your diet.

My main beef with most poverty aid is that the focus is on making these developing countries crop-centric (i.e. making them grow huge quantities of a single type of crop). If I recall correctly, during the famous Ethiopian famine of the 80s/90s, there were actually some years where they had a surplus of grain. However, all of that grain was earmarked for export, not for feeding its people. The programs in developing countries that seem to do best are ones in which the people grow the food that they are going to eat themselves, not when they are creating mass crops for export or sale.

For an excellent book on rural poverty in developing countries, I recommend Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P. Sainath. An amazing book. You probably won't find it in your public library, but you should really own it anywway. I can't say enough about this book; it's amazing and mind-opening.

[ Parent ]

How about traditional farmers - it hurts them too. (none / 0) (#135)
by Dr Caleb on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:18:11 PM EST

Percy Schmeiser is a Canola farmer in Saskatchewan. He's been a farmer all his life. He always used the traditional method of holding back a certain amount of his crop to re-seed next season. So 3 years ago, Montaso sues him, because they find their GM canola growing in his field. He has never purchased their GM canola, which he admits, therefore he is in violation of their IP rights.

"In my case, I never had anything to do with Monsanto, outside of buying chemicals. I never signed a contract. If I would go to St. Louis and contaminate their plots--destroy what they have worked on for 40 years--I think I would be put in jail and the key thrown away,"

Percy Schmeiser, June 19, 2000

He believes that the GM canola fell off a truck into the ditch beside his field, or pollen blew from someone elses field of Montaso Canola. So Montaso takes him to court. And wins. And he is ordered to destroy all his crops and seeds, which destroys 40 years of his own selective breeding of canola, and effectively ends his farming days.

Percy is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Read Percy's site. Very enlightning.


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

No (4.00 / 2) (#154)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:18:19 PM EST

Why are anti-GM people so piss poorly informed?! MOST GM crops are NOT sterile. That's WHY there are so many lawsuits regarding seed saving. It is true that the lawsuits are bullshit, and need to be stopped.

We have a very good idea of the long term effects of genetic modifications, because we've been manipulating the genetic content of species for thousands of years now. Doing it by chemical means instead of breeding doesn't change what's happening nearly as much as the ignorant seem to think.

Finally, unless you're some freak who thinks that washing vegetables is too much to ask, chemical spraying really isn't a big deal. BUT, if you are such a freak, go buy organic vegetables, so that you can not wash off the feces that was used to grow them.

What the hell is wrong with people? I don't get it. How can you live in a world of information and be so terrified and so ignorant?

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

[ Parent ]
Self-Contradictory Arguments (4.00 / 1) (#379)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:08:50 AM EST

On the one hand, you claim there is a conspiracy to exploit farmers by selling them sterile crops; one the other hand, you worry about the threat of GM crops "polluting" non-GM fields.

Make up your mind - which threat is it that bothers you? They sure as hell can't both hold at once. How exactly are we supposed to limit the uncontrolled spread of GM crops without using sterile plants? And if sterile plants are such a bad idea, how can you keep worrying about their "polluting" the crops of other farmers? It's really the very idea of genetic modification that bothers you, isn't it? These "arguments" of yours are no more than plausible-sounding rationalizations of your gut-prejudices.

The disingenious arguments forwarded by anti-GM campaigners would be amusing if they weren't so fraught with negative consequences for the world's poor.

[ Parent ]

that's not true (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:02:19 AM EST

Driving cars is far more dangerous to life and limb than flying airplanes. But people are scared to death of flying, and feel quite comfortable driving. Why? Because in a car, you are in control behind the wheel. While in an airplane, you put your life in the hands of others. Simple human psychology at work. The sense of control greatly outweighs the statisics and truth of the matter of the real safety at work. You don't have control over the other drunks and idiots on the road, but the feel of the steering wheel in your hand has a potent psychological effect.
Flying is only safer than driving if you compare the distance and not the duration of the trip. People are scared of flying because three hours of flying is far more risky than three hours of driving. People are not scared of driving because they don't make long driving trips.

well (none / 0) (#23)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:06:33 AM EST

we both can phrase the statistics one way or another...

but don't you agree that my overall point about the psychological fear of losing control is sound?

even if my example could have been phrased better? ;-)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I don't know (none / 0) (#34)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:36:59 AM EST

Maybe, but I don't think it has a lot to do with flying and driving. Of course we feel safer when we feel we are in control, although we might not really even be in control. I don't think you need an example to point out such an obvious fact.

[ Parent ]
truedat (none / 0) (#38)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:29:21 AM EST

and i was accused of rambling in my post by someone else too ;-P

i'll spare you from the rehashed aesop's fables next time ;-)


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I tend to think (none / 0) (#318)
by Ward57 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:35:41 AM EST

that wanting to be in control of my life is reasonable. The problem with emotional arguments is that they are too crude, too approximate, not that the value judgements they create are not approximate solutions to real world problems.

[ Parent ]
I've never heard this (none / 0) (#98)
by grouse on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:35:16 AM EST

Flying is only safer than driving if you compare the distance and not the duration of the trip. People are scared of flying because three hours of flying is far more risky than three hours of driving.

Could you provide evidence for this assertion? Thanks.

You sad bastard!

"Grouse please don't take this the wrong way... To be quite frank, you are throwing my inner Chi out of its harmonious balance with nature." -- Tex Bigballs
[ Parent ]

no, I can't (none / 0) (#165)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:55:57 PM EST

I remember reading it in a newspaper years ago. I tried to find statistics on the net, but I couldn't find anything.

[ Parent ]
Here's some other statistics (none / 0) (#273)
by pexatus on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:16:00 AM EST

http://www.fearofflying.com/research.shtml

"Ah, people can come up with statistics to prove anything... forfty percent of all people know that"

[ Parent ]

for the record... (none / 0) (#339)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:31:01 PM EST

im scared of driving. :/ thats the #1 reason at 20 i still dont have my liscence...
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Ain't it funny (4.00 / 11) (#26)
by fhotg on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:11:40 AM EST

that of all nations the US-politics is so ignorant about how markets work ?

You have farmers west of the Atlantic producing lots of stuff which the people east of the Atlantic don't like to eat. To make business possible you do

a) Change to producing something people will voluntarily buy, or
b) Force them to buy it using international law.



that's what c4miles said (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:14:39 AM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2003/5/22/51740/5337/16#16

"we americans rule your pathetic little europe now! eat your popcorn!"

lol ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Actually, international law was changed in the EU (4.00 / 9) (#37)
by ColeH on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:26:40 AM EST

to stop GM food being imported there. If the people across the Atlantic don't want to eat GM food why not let the actual markets decide rather than import laws ? What is happening now is simply protectionism, not the markets, at work.

[ Parent ]
Because the Americans won't let us decide (4.00 / 5) (#68)
by finn on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:45:06 AM EST

The American exporters mix un-modified and modified products together, and don't (didn't?) label whether their products are modified or not. This means that the consumer can't make the choice.


----


[ Parent ]
Aren't they labelled "Made in America"?? (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by rujith on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:54:36 AM EST

- Rujith.

[ Parent ]
No (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by OAB on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:06:26 AM EST

The current argument is about raw materials, not finished meals.

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (2.33 / 3) (#81)
by nictamer on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:22:06 AM EST

If you ask the people of the EU if they want GM food, they DO NOT want it, just like they DID NOT want the Iraq invasion. It's demovracy.

There's reasons for concern; the BSE incident has make people very cautious about it, and people won't let this happen again, HOPEFULLY.

Now look at your american fellows, and tell me if those fat bastards don't look too much like the hormon and antibiotic saturated herds in the US? Maybe it's not due to the hormons, but can you prove it's not?

We French will stick to our healthier food, and continue to enjoy our record high longevity (despite record high rates of smoking!) while you guys get fat watching your compatriots killing arabs and getting blown up by suicide bombers in your illiterate country.
--
Religion is for sheep.
[ Parent ]

Well (4.50 / 2) (#168)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:31:12 PM EST

"while you guys get fat watching your compatriots killing arabs and getting blown up by suicide bombers in your illiterate country."

At least we will not be French.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

American Obesity (5.00 / 1) (#213)
by RadiantMatrix on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:40:54 PM EST

Now look at your american fellows, and tell me if those fat bastards don't look too much like the hormon and antibiotic saturated herds in the US? Maybe it's not due to the hormons, but can you prove it's not?
Actually, obesity is such a problem here that much research has been done as to the causes. While there are varying opinions, there are some common threads. Almost all studies agree that American obesity is caused by (1)over-eating in general, (2)eating too many saturated fats [esp. "fast food"], and (3)a generally sedentary lifestyle.

There has been study after study about hormones in foods (i.e. rBGH), with no proof that those hormones affect humans in any adverse manner. However, the market pressure brought on by fear of rBGH has lead to most farmers refusing to introduce hormones into their herds. Thus, your postulation that bovine hormones are affecting the US population is baseless (since there are no hormones in most stock).

We French will stick to our healthier food, and continue to enjoy our record high longevity (despite record high rates of smoking!) while you guys get fat watching your compatriots killing arabs and getting blown up by suicide bombers in your illiterate country.
Actually, according to literacyonline.org, France and the US have the same illiteracy rates.

Also, I find it horribly amusing that while France has tried its hardest throughout history to emulate the US, suddenly they look down their nose at them because it is now popular to do so.

There are many valid reasons to question US policy, culture and the like -- yet so many (like yourself) resort to ignorant, nay, stupid ad hominem attacks. Get a real argument, ok?

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I don't like spam - Parent ]

Food (1.00 / 1) (#241)
by nictamer on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:30:40 PM EST

Is sacred, here. I'll get a real argument when you stop messing with our food!
--
Religion is for sheep.
[ Parent ]
Ugh. (5.00 / 1) (#282)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:47:17 AM EST

It isn't your food the US is messing with. It's food produced here. You can do whatever you want with your food, still.

My point is that you attacked the entire American populace for something that is being done by a few corporations. And even that attack was severely flawed.

Reason tends to be sacred on K5 -- so if you're going to spout the sanctity of food in your culture as a basis to hate all Americans, then I will invoke the sanctity of Reason as a basis to hate you. Fair enough?

----------
I don't like spam - Parent ]

You guys let this happen (1.00 / 1) (#294)
by nictamer on Fri May 23, 2003 at 05:33:39 AM EST

Most americans don't go to the voting booth. Idiots like bush get el... err get to power because of it. You're responsible for that shit, somehow.
--
Religion is for sheep.
[ Parent ]
Bush's "election" (5.00 / 1) (#396)
by RadiantMatrix on Sat May 24, 2003 at 05:00:14 PM EST

G.W. Bush's "election" (perhaps "appointment" would be a better term in this case) is an oddity, but not a result of poor voter turnout, as you suggest.

In the US, we use an electoral system for presidential elections. This means that it is possible for a president to be elected that doesn't win the popular vote. The legal rambling in the last election was a result of a poorly managed election in one state, on which the electoral college ultimately hung.

In any case, Bush being ruled the victor in the 2000 election has nothing at all to do with GMO foods in Europe.

Let me endeavor to make my point again: nothing the US is doing forces anyone in Europe to consume or produce GMO foods. All the US is doing is exporting such food to Europe. If the consumers don't want US-produced GMO foods, then they can still buy, say, French produced non-GMO products. And guess what? Nothing the US can reasonably do will alter that situation.

----------
I don't like spam - Parent ]

Sheesh. (none / 0) (#289)
by o reor on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:25:43 AM EST

Seriously. You must be the guy who was playing the French guard in Monty Python's "Holy Grail". Can't be anybody else.

This is from another French guy.

[ Parent ]

Indeed (none / 0) (#293)
by nictamer on Fri May 23, 2003 at 05:32:16 AM EST

I fart in that direction.
--
Religion is for sheep.
[ Parent ]
Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.... (4.36 / 11) (#33)
by nairobiny on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:36:37 AM EST

I think the reason many British people are sceptical about GM foods is the pathological obsession with lying our successive Governments possess.

"Eggs don't contain salmonella... oh wait, they're stuffed full of it"

"There's absolutely no risk of catching BSE from beef... um, but we'll tighten safety standards six years later when research shows that trans-species infection is possible"

Also the way the present Government handled foot and mouth doesn't exactly instil confidence.

Why then should we trust the Government now, when they say that "Frankenfoods" are safe? You're absolutely right, many of them appear benign, but the Government has squandered all its goodwill in defending its previous lies.

i seem to have struck a nerve (2.33 / 3) (#36)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:02:47 AM EST

amongst the brits here

see many other posts below of a similar vein, including the cloaked user one i actually coopted for the story above ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Don't be so smug (3.75 / 4) (#113)
by nebbish on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:09:29 PM EST

Not sure where you're from, but if it's the U.S, beware. In Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation he describes in length how food safety laws in the U.S. are considerably more lax than in the EU. Food poisoning rates from processed foods for one are at a level that would be completely unacceptable in the UK, where cases of botulism make headline news.

It may just be that our media is keeping us better informed.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Whoops! (none / 0) (#116)
by nebbish on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:13:40 PM EST

I seem to have posted having misread the context you were writing in. Teach me to post before checking usernames!

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Whoops! (none / 0) (#115)
by nebbish on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:12:26 PM EST

I seem to have misread the context you were writing in... Teach me to post before checking usernames!

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

psst... (5.00 / 2) (#200)
by Sir Altoid on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:05:21 PM EST

Eggs *don't* contain salmonella. It's the shells that have them because chickens lay eggs out their shithole. Wash your hands after touching them.

There's no such thing as a stupid question. There *are*, however, stupid people without answers.
[ Parent ]

Politics and Science (3.25 / 8) (#40)
by n8f8 on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:34:05 AM EST

European countries wanted to protect domestic agriculture so they de-educated the public and created an unfounded paranoia about all GM foods.

Meanwhile, they fail to properly regulate their own domestic agricultural practices and wind up with wonderful things like BSE and crop blight.

Twenty years from now we'll probably be talking about the "food gap" between the US and much of the world just like we talk about the "technology gap" today.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

British government (4.50 / 4) (#42)
by minamikuni on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:54:30 AM EST

I can't speak for the continent, but the British government has been fairly consistently (albeit timidly) supporting GM food. It became an issue because of environmental pressure groups, grass-roots campaigning (tapping very heavily into the suspicion left behind by the whole BSE thing) and the media. The Sun newspaper ran a campaign against GM food; I think that was when the word 'Frankenfood' was coined.

Far from trying to de-educate the public about GM food, the government's been pathetically eager to convince everyone there's nothing to worry about. However, nairobiny's post below is pretty typical of most people's response...

[ Parent ]

Quick update (1.33 / 3) (#46)
by SanSeveroPrince on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:00:56 AM EST

The technology gap is now between the Koreans who left the Japanese in the dust and the rest of the world that's still putting its shoes on...

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
Duh (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by Betcour on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:21:58 AM EST

European countries wanted to protect domestic agriculture so they de-educated the public and created an unfounded paranoia about all GM foods.

Next conspiracy theory please ?

Meanwhile, they fail to properly regulate their own domestic agricultural practices and wind up with wonderful things like BSE and crop blight

The BSE happened long before the GM crops appeared. And the BSE is the reason GM food isn't welcomed in Europe : we have seen what "new technology" and greed applied to food end up doing, and we decided not to let that happen again.

wenty years from now we'll probably be talking about the "food gap" between the US and much of the world just like we talk about the "technology gap" today.

The European agriculture is gradually switching from improving quality over quantity. A good bet IMHO.

[ Parent ]
New technology? (none / 0) (#163)
by wumpus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:48:12 PM EST

Feeding food unfit for humans (namely cow carcasses) to cattle is new technology? I suppose its just as new as genetically modified crops (patent #4, Sumer, 5000BCE.).

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

Look closer (none / 0) (#334)
by Betcour on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:24:36 PM EST

Try give a cow carcasse to a cow and see how she likes it. The thing is, to get her to eat "meat" you need to transform the carcasse by heating it up to about 1000°C and control the transformation process. Not something as trivial as you think.

As for GM food there's a difference between crossbreeding species that are naturally compatible (which happens randomly in the wild anyway) and inserting fish genes into plants (which was difficult to do 20 years ago, so let's not talk about 5000BCE).

[ Parent ]
One for Conspiracy Net? (none / 0) (#108)
by nebbish on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:02:07 PM EST

European countries wanted to protect domestic agriculture so they de-educated the public and created an unfounded paranoia about all GM foods.

Proof, please. You can link to a site, or quote an article, anything. Otherwise we'll have to assume you're making it up.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Food gap ? Pleeease.... (none / 0) (#283)
by o reor on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:50:03 AM EST

Take a look at this article about what the food gap is really about in the US, and The seven deadly myths of industrial agriculture, and this last one about The Obesity Gap.

Mr Pot : Oh, hello, Mr Kettle. Pardon me ? Black ? Well, I certainly don't know what you are talking about....

[ Parent ]

Frankenfoods are well-named. (4.22 / 9) (#44)
by reklaw on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:58:56 AM EST

I think much of Europe's concerns over Frankenfood have easy parallels to European peasant's reactions to the original Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: simple, unfounded fear of the unknown.

Absolutely.

Their story corresponds very well to that of the monster in 'Frankenstein' -- the book shows you that although the monster was deformed, he did his best to be good, learning and anonymously helping the cottagers, to the extent that they leave a present for the 'good spirit of the forest'. The only thing that turned the monster evil was his systematic rejection from society. The cottagers beat him, drove him away and sold their house when he revealed himself to them, and then he was shot in the wood for trying to save a drowning child -- all because he looked different. This was what led him to seek revenge on his creator. It is this fear of difference that is affecting the Frankenfoods.
-

Heh (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by dachshund on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:49:43 PM EST

This was what led him to seek revenge on his creator.

So I guess Monsanto had better start watching its back. God knows what fish-gene enhanced soybeans are capable of.

[ Parent ]

several problems (4.00 / 3) (#47)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:07:59 AM EST

Fanciful tales of retroviruses hijacking GM genes and spreading dangerous reactions in animal and human guts? Good lord. Can we say false alarmism please?
By all means, but please consider the precautionary principle as well.
A lot of the nightmare scenarios opponents of GM Crops cook up are based on natural processes that go on every day around us anyways. These processes neither add to nor subtract from anything GM crops introduce into the environment. And just looking at something like SARS, it is easy to see that the natural biological threats from natural genetic processes are, were, and will always be the real concern.
Eh? So you are arguing that
  1. we already have serious problem X and
  2. X is similar to Y so
  3. Y is not a serious problem.
Can you spot the mistake in your reasoning?
Genetic modification can do more than make crops grow better. They can warp us, they can warp the genetic code of humans. That is frightening.
Yeah, exactly what a lot of Europeans are saying about GM food. We are afraid of things we don't understand.
The genie can not be put back in the bottle. Such is human nature.
"Such is human nature"? What do you mean? We can decide what we do. We are not slaves to science. If science is taking us somewhere we don't want to go, we do something to prevent that. (You even admit this yourself!) The precautionary principle is an example of this.

ummm (none / 0) (#51)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:13:50 AM EST

you've successfully outlined the fears and pitfalls

are there no positives? no benefits?

to mention them would balance your comments, no?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

heh (5.00 / 2) (#53)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:18:03 AM EST

Your story is not very balanced either. And you use an unnecessary amount of rhetoric (and perhaps strawmen as well).

[ Parent ]
your comments were all pitfalls and fears (1.00 / 1) (#61)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:31:04 AM EST

and you accuse me of what again?

?!


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

okay (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:40:30 AM EST

You are presenting an opinion. I am criticizing that opinion because it seems to be based on flawed reasoning. That is just normal conversation. If you don't want criticism, don't express opinions. :-)

I admit that your story is not completely without merit, though. People are stupid and they're afraid of all kinds of things. But even stupid people are right once in a while.

[ Parent ]

i don't mind criticicism (none / 0) (#67)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:43:33 AM EST

as long as it is constructive

you accused me of being imbalanced, when i clearly showed positives and negatives to frankenfoods

of course you can still accuse me of being imbalanced, but you posted something that was completely negatives and fears and pitfalls

so how can you accuse me of being imbalanced?!

that is all

i take criticism very well, but not hyocrisy ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Well... (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by TurboThy on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:52:48 AM EST

It's not Timolainen who's trying to get a story across a peer review. He doesn't have to fulfil any journalistic principles in his comments to your tripe, whereas you need to edit your article in order to get it past the bar.

You do realise the difference between editor and auditor, right? What you're asking is like demanding book reviewers to write a better book themselves rather than criticising works of others.
__
'Someone will sig this comment. They will. I know it.' [Egil Skallagrimson]
[ Parent ]
exactly (none / 0) (#74)
by Timo Laine on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:54:48 AM EST

But you got my name wrong. :-)

[ Parent ]
You're mistaken (none / 0) (#76)
by TurboThy on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:01:45 AM EST

All Finns have names ending in "-lainen". That's common knowledge.

;o)
__
'Someone will sig this comment. They will. I know it.' [Egil Skallagrimson]
[ Parent ]
help! (none / 0) (#228)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:05:11 PM EST

i'm being gangbanged by scandinavians! ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Consumer freedom? (4.58 / 12) (#48)
by LQ on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:08:02 AM EST

I want the right not to eat GM food. I want any GMOs in my food shopping to have a label so that I can choose. Of course, I could say "yummy, let's buy lots" but I doubt it. So if the yanks want to sell GMOs in the EU, they should label it as such. But they seem reluctant to do so - I wonder why?

i agree (none / 0) (#52)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:15:16 AM EST

label everything as genetically modified that is so

i think it makes no difference, but if it matters to someone and gives them peace of mind, well then saying it makes no difference still applies- label the suckers ;-)


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Label non-GM foods, not GM foods (2.80 / 5) (#71)
by rujith on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:51:29 AM EST

Labelling food costs money. I don't care whether I eat GM foods or non-GM foods, so why should I bear the cost of the labelling? If you prefer non-GM foods, then you should be prepared to bear the cost of having your food so labelled. But don't pass on the cost of your preferences onto me by requiring that EVERYTHING be labelled.

See Genetically Modified Food in Gigantic Massive Trucks

- Rujith.

[ Parent ]

Err (4.20 / 5) (#80)
by OAB on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:11:22 AM EST

Everything is labeled, there are overly complex rules about it, I hardly see how Printing 'Contains GM foodstuff' on the packet is going to cost anything.

[ Parent ]
Because GM and non-GM foods are mixed (4.00 / 2) (#87)
by rujith on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:08:54 AM EST

Figuring out which foods don't contain any GM ingredients at all is costly. - Rujith.

[ Parent ]
Aaagh (2.00 / 2) (#96)
by OAB on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:32:27 AM EST

Figuring out which foods don't contain any GM ingredients at all is costly.

But only becase the damn yanks insist on mixing them up and then saying 'Well, it might, but I will take you to the WTO to avoid having to do anything about it.'

[ Parent ]
I disagree (3.66 / 3) (#129)
by Arevos on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:50:40 PM EST

If you're going to be putting GM material into foods, something which may be dangerous, there needs to be something to tell consumers. Sure, it may be perfectly safe, but I see a distinct lack of tests performed by the biotech industry in that area. Call me cynical, but I'm not about to trust profit-orientated multinational corporations to put untested ingredients in my food.

[ Parent ]
What about transporting food in trucks? (5.00 / 1) (#182)
by rujith on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:11:17 PM EST

I think GM food has been adequately tested, but I think transporting food in trucks contaminates them. I want all food transported by trucks to be so labelled, no matter the cost. What would you say to that?

See this

[ Parent ]

Tests... (1.00 / 1) (#307)
by Arevos on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:25:20 AM EST

GM foods adequately tested? Certainly if the the Royal Society is dubious, than I'd rathar err on the side of caution. Regarding your link, whilst in the US there may not be much of a market for non-GM food, in Europe there most certainly is. The politicians have banned GM imports because they want to suck up to the general public, which is not exactly too thrilled with the prospect.

But that's not the point; the point is that why should I have potentially dangerous GM products in my food without knowing it? In other words, if a company wants to sell GM food, it's their responsibility to label it and prevent contamination, unless they can show it's as safe as more natural alternatives.

Not that I'm against GM foods in general, but I really do doubt the biotech companies who produce such products are entirely altruistic in their motives.

[ Parent ]

Sources Please! (3.00 / 1) (#385)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 09:05:33 AM EST

Perhaps if you could give links to the original sources, rather than left-wing websites with an agenda to the push (yes, the BBC is blatantly left-wing), I might take your argument more seriously.

For all I know, the Royal Society report might actually have been positive, but in the usual cautious style adopted by scientists, and then anti-GM axe-grinders came along and cherry-picked whatever seemed to support their position.

[ Parent ]

The BBC is left wing? (4.00 / 1) (#387)
by hex11a on Sat May 24, 2003 at 11:28:30 AM EST

Hahahahaha. Anyone want to give this guy a clue?

Hex

[ Parent ]

Sources (5.00 / 1) (#393)
by Arevos on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:07:36 PM EST

To echo Hex; the BBC, left wing?! Even blatently left wing? Pardon? You have an odd idea of the term "left wing".

Anyway, the Royal Society report was a report, which is to say it both points out that there's no evidence to say that GM foods are dangerous, and says that there are inadequate safety measures at the moment. Actually, the Royal Society seems to be very much for GM foods, which is why it's call of safety measures is especially interesting.

Unfortunately I can't seem to get a direct link, as everytime I check the URL it comes to this, but look for "Genetically modified plants for food use and human hea4lth -- an update". Beware, it's long, which was why I linked to the BBC.

In any case, this thread is about labelling, and not safety of GM foods per se. Since there is a call for safety measures from even pro-GM sources, isn't it reasonable to suggest that there is a possibility that GM produce may be dangerous in some long-term way? Or even just introduce a new allergy. Consumers need to know what goes in their food, especially if there is doubt over its safety.

[ Parent ]

So if you were making non-GMO products (4.00 / 8) (#57)
by Anatta on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:23:48 AM EST

Don't you think you'd put a label on there that says "COMPLETELY GMO-FREE FOOD" or something like that, and then charge $.05 extra for it? Most products in the US that have such a label sell for a premium considerably higher than $.05.

It's in the material interest of the producer of non-GMO products to announce that the product is non-GMO, and as long as one side does it, the result is the same.

I just don't see the big deal. The market will work out the issue of announcing which product contains GMO and which does not.


My Music
[ Parent ]

"non-GMO" is a default value here (4.85 / 7) (#62)
by Viliam Bur on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:37:10 AM EST

Exceptions should be labeled, not defaults.

We do not use labels: "This food DOES NOT contain poison."

Why should we use labels: "This food DOES NOT contain GMOs"?

Anyway, speaking of food, you usually have to write what it contains, rather than what it does not contain. At least the bottle I have in my hand says: "Ingredients: water, sugar, fruit flavor,..." It does NOT say: "Non-ingredients: antrax, napalm, alcohol,..."

[ Parent ]

This Post Does Not Contain Sulfites (5.00 / 1) (#249)
by Anatta on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:16:27 PM EST

Your argument is a good one, but to me, it's still flawed. You're trying to turn GMO into an ingredient, while it's more of a process of developing food, more akin to labelling if an egg is "free range", if your swordfish is "fished from sustainable stocks", or if a bottle of wine "Does Not Contain Sulfites."

To me, the wine analogy is a very good one.

My mother often gets headaches if she drinks wine that contains sulfites (preservatives). If I buy her a bottle of wine for Mothers Day or whatever, I try to make sure that the wine does not contain sulfies. For most people, it doesn't matter whether the wine contains sulfites or not, because they don't particularly care, and it doesn't give them headaches. For my mother, the "Does Not Contain Sulfites" label is an important one, and she is willing to pay more for a bottle with that phrase emblazoned on its label. From a brief unscientific look at the wine rack at my place, it appears that most of the wines that DO contain sulfites do not tell you that they contain sulfies, but every one that does not contain sulfies explicitly announces that it does not contain sulfies, because a certain group of people are willing to pay a premium for wine that does not contain sulfies. The market fixes the issue. Now let's see how this relates to GMO.

My mother is willing to pay more for a bottle labelled "No-Sulfites" because the wine in a bottle that doesn't have that label could harm her, just as some people are willing to pay more for a food labelled "Non-GMO" because some people say that the foods that don't have that label could harm them. Most of us don't particularly care if wine contains sulfites, because we don't think it will harm us, so we just get the best bottle for the cheapest price, just as most of us aren't particularly worried about GMO, and get the best food for the cheapest price. To me, a voluntary consortium-based labelling scheme would be the best solution to either of these situations.

The non-GMO producers should create an independent consortium that tests growers to ensure that they don't have any GMO in their products, and if each individual producer passes the test, it gets a label from the consortium saying "GMO-FREE". Sellers can use that label to charge higher prices for their food, as we know that some people are willing to pay more for GMO foods, and it all works out.

The people who don't want GMO can find foods that don't have GMO, and those who don't care about GMO don't have to pay any additional cost of having foods tested for GMO or pay additional cost of labelling or anything like that. Everybody gets what they want, and the lowest cost to consumers is achieved.

I don't see what's wrong with such a setup.


My Music
[ Parent ]

What's wrong? Consequences on info for customers. (none / 0) (#412)
by Viliam Bur on Mon May 26, 2003 at 07:11:17 AM EST

You know, as well as I do, that there would be a lot of producers who would not pay for the "GMO-FREE" label. So in fact this solution would bring two types of food:

A minority labeled "GMO-FREE".
A majority without label... but 95% of that would be GMO free anyway.

Somehow I do not like this... It's just personal - I do not want to buy GMO food, but also I do not want to pay consortium costs etc, just to be able to safely buy the kind of food I can safely buy now. And also additional costs - if there were only one such consortium, it would probably be terribly expensive. If more of them... then we would also need some other organization to control them. Otherwise every GMO producer could create their own "GMO free" certificate... with would include a little different definition of GMO, precisely such as to fit their product. (Just like when they say Cola Cola contains "no sugar" - why then does it taste like that?)

I believe that the best way to inform customer is to say what the food does contain. It is easier than to create consortia and labels for every possible ingredient - and some customers want to be informed about other ingredients than majority. Maybe it is good for producers to make customers not warned about GMO food, but for customer to make good decisions requires to have good information.

[ Parent ]

quote (1.00 / 1) (#246)
by gdanjo on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:06:26 PM EST

Don't you think you'd put a label on there that says "COMPLETELY GMO-FREE FOOD" or something like that, and then charge $.05 extra for it? Most products in the US that have such a label sell for a premium considerably higher than $.05.
Translation: We demand unlimited access to your market.

What you suggest would be an implicit approval of GM foods. What we want is an explicit warning instead. Subtle difference, yes, but one that I'm not willing to concede (just ask your local marketer why).

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

Labelling (none / 0) (#433)
by Naelphin on Fri May 30, 2003 at 08:13:30 AM EST

I want labels of GM foods too, so I can buy it in preference to ordinary products ;)

[ Parent ]
Fear? (3.57 / 7) (#54)
by eyeflare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:19:20 AM EST

I don't think so...

At least my reason is this: I don't want processed crap into my body. I don't want a fish gene in my strawberries and I don't want antibiotic supplements through my beef.

No, I don't eat at McDonald's either.

At 165 dB your hair will catch fire.

Then there is another solution (5.00 / 2) (#59)
by Viliam Bur on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:28:36 AM EST

A big label "THESE STRAWBERRIES ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED" with a little explanation about fish genes. If this would be required by law - on products, in restaurants, etc - then this would be a customer's choice.

Note: I do not want to eat this stuff too. But why not make other volunteers test it?

[ Parent ]

If I saw that label (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by reklaw on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:41:12 AM EST

I'd buy the strawberries out of curiosity, to see what they tasted like.  I reckon a few fish genes are far less likely to be harmful than the chemicals and additives that are already piled into food.

Also, the label could probably do without the explanation -- a thing that says 'contains GM ingredients' near where things like 'suitable for vegetarians, not suitable for those with nut allegies' currently go would suffice if it was going to be made law.  I believe many UK supermarkets already do this labelling on their own products voluntarily.
-
[ Parent ]

that's purist in the extreme (none / 0) (#60)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:29:09 AM EST

i hear you on the antibodies in the beef- we had growth hormones in our milk here in the states- that was scary!

but an antifreeze protein in my strawberries? i don't see the detrimental effects there. not on taste, nothing.

i mean, if the strawberries cost less because they can be in season longer, what's the big deal?

and if i can prove to you that some genetic change puts less strain on the environment, where would you stand?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

That's a hard one (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by eyeflare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:05:50 PM EST

"and if i can prove to you that some genetic change puts less strain on the environment, where would you stand?"

I believe that since Mother Nature, or maybe that's Papa Darwin, has spent X million years figuring this stuff out, maybe she really does know best?

If Earth is a machine running on parameters derived from chaos theory, that is, highly dependent on initial conditions, what are we REALLY changing? Just the strawberries? Or the whole system?

We don't understand this place yet.

I'm for the research. And in the long run, I'm not averse to the implementations either. But just like using Ritalin for noisy kids, I'd much rather deal with the real problems and arrive at some real solutions than jump the gun.

I don't think I'm purist in the extreme at all. And it's not to do with risk aversity either. I just want to do things to make our fucked-up world better instead of making it worse by using a bad fix.

Makes sense? Yes?

At 165 dB your hair will catch fire.
[ Parent ]

Sorry, I just can't buy this (5.00 / 1) (#139)
by Control Group on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:26:52 PM EST

I believe that since Mother Nature, or maybe that's Papa Darwin, has spent X million years figuring this stuff out, maybe she really does know best?

No good. "Mother Nature" and "Papa Darwin" spent an order of magnitude longer "figuring out" that dinosaurs were The Way To Go. They turned out to be entirely non-resistant to climatalogical change, and a non-viable set of species, as a result.

The problem always lies in taking the abstraction as reality. It's fine to talk about Deep Blue "wanting" to win a game of chess, because that's pretty much how it acts. But one mustn't make the mistake of thinking that it actually does "want" to win in any sense of the word we, as humans, associate with "wanting." Same goes for evolution. It's fine to talk about evolution having purpose, and evolving towards success, because that's pretty much how it acts over a long enough time frame. But one mustn'y begin to think that there actually is a "purpose" to evolution; rather, it's a natural result of who manages to reproduce and who doesn't.

The point is that "Mother Nature" and "Papa Darwin" are more than happy to extinguish species if they aren't viable - if you're going to view this as "right" and "wrong," clearly they were either wrong to introduce the species in the first place, or they're wrong to let it die out. Either way, you can't appeal to the infallibility of "Mother Nature" as a serious counterargument.

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

Hitting the nail on the head (none / 0) (#305)
by CaptainZapp on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:00:43 AM EST

i mean, if the strawberries cost less because they can be in season longer, what's the big deal?

That is precisely what I perceive as wrong with the American attitude towards food.

It's seems to be a goal in life to purchase a 72oz Coke for 99cents and two burgers that go with it for 79cents. For 20cents extra you can have the triple fries too.

But frankly: I don't want to gulp down 72oz of Coke, ever! I rather eat home cooked pasta on the cheap if I can't afford meat, but when I eat meat I rather pay double the prize and go for the stuff produced from happy cows, that where not fed hormones or antibiotics just for preventive measures or to push the yield. And if I really want a coke, I'm perfectly willing to spend a buck on a 6oz bottle.

Same goes for egg, cheese or any other perishable item that I chose to eat. Isn't that actually what the American system preaches all the time: choice?

Methinks the unwillingness of (primarily but not only) American biotech companies to label gm foods is interwined with a double dose of badly smelling hypocrisy.

[ Parent ]

I respect your religion (2.33 / 3) (#93)
by jmzero on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:26:52 AM EST

But don't expect the world to bend over backwards to allow for it.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
GM foods (none / 0) (#377)
by Dyolf Knip on Sat May 24, 2003 at 04:41:36 AM EST

Kindly remember that just about every kind of food you can buy anymore is genetically engineered. The only difference is how and when it was done. The fundamental crops are all several thousand years old, true. But strawberries, for instance, were only domesticated within the past 500 years. Pecans only in the last 150 or so. Almonds are great, but the wild variety has such a high cyanide content that a small snack of them would kill you. Wild tesotinte (corn) is utterly useless as a food crop; the cobs are half an inch long and have only a few kernels.

GM foods bad? They made civilization possible. How odd that the EU should claim that only genetic engineering techniques that take decades or centuries to get results should be used. Haven't they got the equivalent of the FDA for testing these sorts of things?

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

Not the same thing (5.00 / 2) (#389)
by Blah Blah on Sat May 24, 2003 at 01:37:41 PM EST

"Selective breeding" and "gene-splicing" are not the same thing, even though they're both forms of GM. So, when you say, "GM foods bad? They made civilization possible." what you meant was, "Gene-splicing bad? Selective breeding made civilization possible." Those two sentences are not related, so they prove nothing. Just because selectively-bred foods are safe doesn't necessarily mean that gene-spliced foods are safe. They might be, but we'll have to wait a while before we know for sure.

Also, I wouldn't put too much faith in the FDA. They've been wrong before. And as for GM foods, they can only test for harmful conditions that are known and obvious within the space of a few years. What if GM foods turn out be harmful in some way that only manifests itself after eating them for 10-20 years, for example, increasing the chance of causing cancer? There's no way the FDA could predict that. And since we're talking about the nation's food supply here, and not hairspray or zit cream, I'd rather err on the side of caution.

[ Parent ]

Vulgarizing information (1.75 / 4) (#55)
by SanSeveroPrince on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:20:21 AM EST

That's the problem with the free diffusion of information: most people think they can discuss these topics.

The EU is being pig-headed and irrational, it's true. However, they are not quite as sightless as you make them to be....

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


agreed (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:23:53 AM EST

but i was accused of being rambling as it is

i can't capture the nuances and the complexities of the situation in such a short story, so i apologize for painting with a broad brush ;-)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Benefits for the poor of the world? (3.50 / 6) (#63)
by Niha on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:38:15 AM EST

   ...I can´t see them. Who would spend money on research to get benefits for the poor? (Not that I would dislike it)

read my golden rice link (4.50 / 2) (#69)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:45:36 AM EST

A special humanitarian board has been established, comprising public and private sector groups, to make golden rice freely available to those in need, officials said.

The board is led by German professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, the inventors of golden rice at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology.

After months of negotiations, the two inventors, along with Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG which held the patent to golden rice, agreed to hand over the first grains to IRRI for further development.

Once the research is completed, golden rice will be distributed free of charge to poor farmers in the developing world, IRRI officials said.

ngos, charities

these things exist

some people really do research to get benefits for the poor

consider the malaria research underway as well that is currently making headway

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

in kenya... (none / 0) (#97)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:34:05 AM EST

there is much love for herbicide resistant ("round-up ready") crops. During crop season, children are pulled out of school to pull weeds from beneath the crops. With round-up ready plants, herbicides can be sprayed that kill the weeds, but leave the crops alone.

This allows children who were previously forced to work the farm to go back to school and continue their studies.

[ Parent ]

And that's a good thing. (5.00 / 2) (#363)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:24:38 PM EST

But the price they have to pay is residual herbicide in the ground, possibly leaking into the water table where people will drink it. And how are Kenyans going to afford to buy GM seed from Monsanto every year and herbicides for all their crops? Even if they manage all that, the end result is that a large chunk of Kenya's wealth is being exported to the US. No, I think Kenya would be better off improving their traditional agricultural methods than indenturing themselves to the West. But my opinion is unimportant. It's the Kenyans' that matters.

[ Parent ]
It's not "Frankenfood" (3.88 / 9) (#77)
by j harper on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:02:58 AM EST

If you are going to write a serious article and be taken seriously, please call it genetically modified food. I can't help but let my eyes glaze over when I see the word "Frankenfood" in place of the proper name for it. Frankenfood is slang, a derogatory term, and even if you oppose the use of genetically modified crops, don't call them Frankenfood. It's the same as calling George W. Bush "Dubya" in an editorial, really--it simply isn't conducive to making your point.

"I have to say, the virgin Mary is pretty fucking hot." - Myriad

It's a reasonable title (3.00 / 2) (#85)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:56:48 AM EST

given that that's how most of Europe thinks of it and the whole point of the article is to discuss that issue...


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
No.. (4.00 / 2) (#111)
by kitten on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:08:16 PM EST

It was a passable title at best, a one-shot gimmick designed to be mildly clever. After that, it's over. Seeing the term used over and over and over, in leiu of more appropriate, less "cute" terms, is obnoxious in the extreme. I just can't take this seriously at all.
<br? I mean, it wasn't all that funny to begin with.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Why the title is dead on (none / 0) (#161)
by wumpus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:41:02 PM EST

Like the mob hysteria of the peasants who wanted to burn the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, there is much simple fear of the unknown at work here. But caution is still warranted. I say that the proper approach on GM crops is that where there are errors and arrogance, chastise the corporations, and not the tech.

The title betrays its own pretense to knowledge. "Everybody" knows about mobs storming Dr. Frankenstien's castle in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Actually, what she actually wrote had no mob, no castle, or no "Dr." Frankenstein.

The only passage where the monster is threatened by anyone other than its creator include those "descended from a good family in France", "ranked with ladies of the highest distinction", the father of Safie was listed as a wealthy and popular political prisoner. These are not "peasants". Furthermore, while the monster was threatened, it was not in danger burning but of "being torn limb from limb, as the lion rends the antelope" (the monster's own words by the way. The monster is more literate than Victor Frankenstein).

The whole point of the Frankenfood scare is the product of myths, propaganda, and half-truths, ignoring the dangers that have existed since genetic modification started in the 50's (mostly the monoculture of staples) and patents allowing the monopolization of food, and replacing the real dangers with bogeymen used for trade wars.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

it wasn't my doing, blame a british newspaper (none / 0) (#225)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:02:38 PM EST

and the pejorative nature of it i would argue is rapidly becoming neutral

it's really harmless, i don't understand the problem

you can't fight language and it's evolution, it's quite a widely used term


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Noooooo!!!! (3.63 / 11) (#83)
by Hide The Hamster on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:46:52 AM EST

.........CORPORATIONS!!!!!
.........GENETICALLY-MODIFIED!!!!!
.........CORPORATOINS!!!!!



Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

edvard munch's famous pic the scream (none / 0) (#222)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:00:26 PM EST

is the caption here lol ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
My goodness he is silly (3.00 / 3) (#88)
by michaelp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:13:05 AM EST

His first concern is gene transfer - the idea that the foreign genes could, while in the gut, transfer into the cells of the body or into bacteria in the gut.

Someone should have pointed out to "Dr." Lewanika that all foods one eats have *shudder* genes in them, and so the only safe diet is one that consists of purified air and water.

Which, if adopted by Mr. Lewanika, would likely be far safer for the people of Zambia than his current, DNA contaminated, one.

Does anyone one know which US degree mills gave him his diplomas, and wether they were actually in anything having to do with biology?



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Key word is foreign. (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by Richard Henry Lee on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:37:22 AM EST

Human beings have adapted to the "natural" food supply over millions of years. Introduction of "foreign" DNA (meaning something we have never eaten before as a species) could have unintended side effects. Prudence would dictate the study of this. Of course that wouldn't help the share price of the biotech companies this quarter, would it?


Let this happy day give birth to an American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and to conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace and of law. - June 7, 1776

[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#251)
by michaelp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:31:38 PM EST

DNA is DNA, the only difference between "foreign" and domestic is the pattern of the nucleotides. You can eat all you want, it is all broken down quite quickly to it's consituent sugars, acids, and bases.

No one has ever or will ever get a disease from eating "foreign" deoxyribonucleic acid, there is simply no such thing, DNA is DNA is DNA. There are certainly things to think about and research regarding GM foods, but folks who think eating "foreign" DNA is possibly one of the potential problems simply haven't begun to learn the first thing about the science involved.

In fact it's rather like folks who think one of the possible dangers of travel is falling off the edge of the Earth.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Where do your degrees come from? (none / 0) (#177)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:51:52 PM EST

Does anyone one know which US degree mills gave him his diplomas, and wether they were actually in anything having to do with biology?

And who gave you yours? How much experience in Bio-safety do you have? The poster below me seems to illustrate how ignorant you are, and foolish that you believe you have more knowledge about this than the Zambian Dr. because you didn't read the quote properly.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Simple chemistry (4.00 / 1) (#247)
by michaelp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:13:49 PM EST

In the US U where I received my biology training, we learned that DNA is broken down in the digestive system (heck it hold together long long in pure water) , no matter what the source. We also learned that all DNA is made of the same four nucleotides, the only difference betwen "GM" DNA and "natural" DNA is the pattern, not the structure.

In fact in the lab, one has to make cell membranes permeable with powerful chemicals and then shock the cells to get them to uptake foreign DNA, something I doubt many folks in Europe or Zambia would survive going on in their stomach. We tried this many times in the lab, by the way, and even under the best lab conditions it is hard to get cells to take up foreign DNA, it takes special equipment, conditions, and techniques that are not part of the digestive process of a living human.

But if you had ever passed a bio class at a US university (heck I hope even a decent High School) you would know this, as would "Dr." Matchbox in Zambia.

PS 'the poster below' says nothing that makes sense from a biological standpoint, DNA is DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, and it gets very quickly broken down in the digestive tract, even if it comes from Monsanto.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
I knew you were going to do that (5.00 / 1) (#253)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:34:25 PM EST

Fair enough! Bit harsh calling him "Dr. Matchbox" though, you can't believe everything you read. Incidentally, you're the only person who's made any sort of informed-sounding comment. So forgive me for my skepticism.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
good point (5.00 / 1) (#204)
by Sir Altoid on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:25:45 PM EST

It's interesting to see just which doctors didn't pay attention in their freshman biology class. Humans have enzymes (nucleases and nucleotidases) to break down DNA and RNA in the lumen of the small intestine. This turns them into little more than nitrogenous bases, sugars, and phosphates, of which a random recombination in the small intestine to form DNA or RNA at all is miniscule. The odds of then reabsorbing these genes somewhere in the intestinal tract are staggering.

Plus, by the time you the DNA and RNA is broken down from the food you ate, it doesn't matter what is in it because the same stuff makes up all nucleic acids: nitrogenous bases, sugars, and phosphates.


Oh, and if you're worried about the enzymes not working or not being produced at all, then you're in bad shape because that means that you have a genetic disorder already. The Honorable Doctor's point is now officially moot. Please don't try to argue with me.

There's no such thing as a stupid question. There *are*, however, stupid people without answers.
[ Parent ]

what about biodiversity? (3.25 / 4) (#89)
by ritz on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:15:24 AM EST

as far as i know, GM foods are mass-produced seeds, with identical genes.

this will go wrong. you need to grow plants the natural way, because they will develop different genes and will be resistent against a more diverse assortment of plagues and/or pests.

also i have heard that those seeds that are being sold (or that the US wants to sell) to Africa and other poor countries, are indeed very cheap, which makes it seem like charity.

but, those seeds produce plants that dont produce seeds, so they'll have to buy the GM seeds every year again and again.. where's the charity in that?

normally they just used the seeds from last year.. but that wouldn't work, even if the GM-plants would produce seeds, because the GM-ness would select out in a few years anyway. [at least, any GM-ing that is not concerned with the survival-rate of the plants, like for example adding vitamin-A to rice]

- ritz

btw, google for banana extinction :-)
~~` wjirmke wjirmke skrapke

On the other hand (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by it certainly is on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:26:38 AM EST

do you want GM seeds that breed and diversify before you know the full extent of what the genetic modification actually does? It's "african killer bees" all over again.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

"african killer bees" all over again (none / 0) (#260)
by lazlo nibble on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:49:35 PM EST

When I think "african killer bees" I think "completely unwarranted over-the-top frenzied media-driven panic" so that might not be the best analogy to use in making your point. The news stories in the 1977 bee flap (the one that sparked all the bee-related disaster movies) were claiming the damn things would be slaughtering every living thing south of Denver before Carter got out of office. Badly scared a lot of people (well, a lot of eleven-year-olds) for absolutely no reason at all.

[ Parent ]
International rice eight. (none / 0) (#321)
by Ward57 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 11:23:13 AM EST

I've been looking for some documentary evidence for this on the net, but haven't had any luck. I suppose it happened a long time ago. Anyway, this event occurred no later than 1980, and no earlier than 1960. The international rice institute set up a program to create an enhanced form of rice, with greater yield and nutritional content. They succeeded (on the eighth version), and the lab tests went surprisingly well. Fortunately, it was tested in a small field trial, in which it's major weakness was discovered. International rice 8 had very little resistance to disease, and the crop was lost. The farmers who were persuaded to test it lost their money, and several went bankrupt. The "new" rice provided a good breeding ground for the disease, which reduced the crop of normal rice that year.
Information source - verbal from someone I trust (namely my father).

[ Parent ]
not really (none / 0) (#94)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:30:35 AM EST

a several year study was done where genetically modified seeds were sown in a wild weed area and then just left alone, so as to see what happens in 'real nature'.

The GM plants quickly were crowded out by the wild weed ones, since those are hardier strains than the consumable types humans use. Consumable foods are very fragile in nature and require lots of loving care to grow.

There's no real risk of GM plants going crazy and crowding out and overrunning ecosystems.

[ Parent ]

Because we all know that.. (none / 0) (#132)
by Kwil on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:00:03 PM EST

..crop fields are all just left alone, and that weeds never crowd out our non-GMO food crops.

It's not what happens in real nature.
It's what happens in our food crops.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Wow! One study over a few years. (5.00 / 1) (#361)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:18:51 PM EST

That's conclusive proof that all GM plants should be safe everytime and everywhere. I'm convinced!

[ Parent ]
The natural way, huh? (2.50 / 2) (#140)
by Silent Chris on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:27:32 PM EST

"this will go wrong. you need to grow plants the natural way, because they will develop different genes and will be resistent against a more diverse assortment of plagues and/or pests."

Sort of like crossbreeding different plants and animals, like we've been doing for centuries?  Genetics is no different.

[ Parent ]

Not actually true (none / 0) (#151)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:14:16 PM EST

First of all, most of the GM stuff out there DOES produce viable seed. Second, organisms can and do carry genes that offer no survival advantage for vast numbers of generations; this isn't as simple as you make it sound. Third, no, they're not all identical clones, and even if they were, they wouldn't be after a few generations of intermingling with other plants. The only real argument here is the IP law one, and I agree with it, but the rest is crap.

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

[ Parent ]
Actually, resistance is more complicated (4.00 / 2) (#92)
by michaelp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:26:45 AM EST

Meanwhile, American companies encode pesticide resistance into GM Crops. Why? So more pesticides can be sprayed without harming the crops! Hardly a likeable outcome, and clearly one cynically aimed at lining chemical company's coffers. It only takes a loose grasp on irony to perceive that the real promise of GM crops is to create disease resistance WITHOUT using pesticides.

Pesticide resistant crops actually allow the use of less pesticides overall, but more highly concentrated at application. This also helps reduce the development of pest resistance, as more of the pests are killed by the more concentrated dose than with the diluted does used on non-resistant plants.

Encoding pest resistance directly into the plants is not always a better idea as the genes may be spread to other, related weed species, leading the disease causing organism to evolve to overcome the modifications.

IMO, making the crops produce more and using traditional (which include intercropping and other 'organic' practices) methods to protect them produces the most benefits.

One of the problems with the whole debate is that disease organisms are constantly evolving to overcome whatever we throw at them, so the best protection stragtegy is the most flexible one, the one able to use either disease resistant plants or pesticide/herbacide resistant ones depending on the situation (which changes year to year and farm to farm).

Of course that flexibility is lost when nations pass laws based on perceptions and opinions rather than science.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Everyone Misses The Point. (4.57 / 14) (#95)
by Richard Henry Lee on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:31:24 AM EST

The whole GM issue has very little to do with improving the food supply and everything to do with improving the bottom line. North American farmers are realizing how they have been hoodwinked by the bio-tech companies and are starting to fight back.

Contamination of seed stock is common. The financial consequences of "pollen and wind-blown seed" are well documented. What third world country in their right mind would want to put their domestic food supply at the top of the corporate profit foodchain?

Even Zimbabwe and Mozambique will only accept it if the product (corn/wheat) is already milled and has no chance of contaminating their domestic food supply with corporate revenue.

Golden Rice has its own litany of problems, not the least of which are the patent entanglements (over 70) and commercial restrictions. Then there is the reality of whether it will do any good. ...calculations show however, that an adult would have to eat at least 3.7 kilos of dry weight rice, i.e. around 9 kilos of cooked rice, to satisfy his/her daily need of vitamin A from "Golden Rice". In other words, a normal daily intake of 300 gram of rice would, at best, provide 8% percent of the vitamin A needed daily. A breast-feeding woman would have to eat at least 6.3 kilos in dry weight, converting to nearly 18 kilos of cooked rice per day. Could you eat 20 pounds of rice a day?

Until the biotechnology industry comes up with a realistic method of recouping their R&D investments, GM foods will remain off the table in most of the world. Of course, here in North America, the almighty corporate dollar rules the government, so expect to see more corporatization of the food supply.


Let this happy day give birth to an American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and to conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace and of law. - June 7, 1776

heh (5.00 / 2) (#102)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:43:24 AM EST

Thats not why zimbabwe and mozambique dont want GM. They export most of their crops (which I find odd, they are STARVING), to Europe which has laws against importing GM foods.

So in that sense, you're right. It is all about the bottom line. Zimbabwe rejects GM foods because it costs them money from their main business partner.

[ Parent ]

Exactly. (1.00 / 1) (#106)
by Richard Henry Lee on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:56:01 AM EST

Thats not why zimbabwe and mozambique dont want GM. They export most of their crops (which I find odd, they are STARVING), to Europe which has laws against importing GM foods.

So if they allowed GM seed into the country for domestic use (like they have the money to pay Monsanto) and through wind and weather the GM seed and pollen contaminates their export (cash) crops, they would truly be screwed.


Let this happy day give birth to an American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and to conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace and of law. - June 7, 1776

[ Parent ]
actually... (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:33:15 PM EST

the GM crops were going to be donated to them through aid organizations. They were not of the type that requires yearly 'renewal' licensing.

[ Parent ]
What "actually"? (1.00 / 1) (#126)
by Kwil on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:48:19 PM EST

Where they get the crops is of no consequence. The consequence is that if it cross-contaminates, they can't sell their grain to Europe, which means no money.

No money means increased reliance on foreign aid -- and you can bet that monetary foreign aid comes with strings attached.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
above poster (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:49:24 PM EST

said they would be in debt to monsanto. This is incorrect.

[ Parent ]
no he didn't (1.00 / 1) (#134)
by Run4YourLives on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:08:56 PM EST

I suggest you re-read his post.

He offered the fact that they would have to pay Monsanto as a side note, it had nothing to do with his point.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Golden rice (5.00 / 1) (#131)
by minamikuni on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:54:45 PM EST

If by 'daily need' you mean RDA, then that's beside the point. If the 8% means the difference between going blind from vitamin A deficiency and not, then it seems pretty worthwhile. It doesn't require people to eat 20 pounds of it a day.

The objections about possible profiteering by the biotech companies seem more to the point. The article you link to (very interesting btw - thanks) claims that the major problem is lack of money and land to grow crops, rather than the type of crops; I find that a much more convincing argument against Golden Rice.

[ Parent ]

8% is 8% ... (5.00 / 1) (#303)
by tilly on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:44:58 AM EST

First, for someone suffering from vitamin-A deficiency, this will help even if it wont go all the way to solving the problem. And remember the first 8% will be a lot more beneficial than the last 8% of the 100%. If you are thirsty, and need a cup of water, the first quarter-cup does a whole lot more in the way of sating your thirst than the last quarter-cup.

Next, hopefully, there are other sources of vitamin A and not all of it has to come from the rice.

Lastly, if you multiply that additional nutrition by the millions of servings consumed by a nation, you are talking real substantial health benefits, cumulatively speaking. Just think of all those people for which that 8% made the difference between disease and no-disease.

[ Parent ]

Good article (4.75 / 4) (#101)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:41:22 AM EST

Interesting that I was reading another excellent article on this just yesterday in Invention & Technology.

Part of the 'problem' in Europe is a strong distrust of government food and drug safety organizations. And with good reason.

Starting with the Thalidomide fiasco in the 60s which resulted in thousands of limbless, deformed european children, to the handling of the Mad Cow Disease scare, and last years Foot and Mouth disease, european food and drug agencies don't have the safety record that the US FDA has, and thus little of the public confidence.

Not to say the FDA is perfect - it is not. But the FDA tends to be much more inquiring and things take far longer to pass through its eyes. GM foods have long gone under the scrutiny of public commentary in the FDA, and so far thats been a good thing. Its forced researchers to research areas of GM foods previously thought not to be a problem.

In most cases, the FDA has been overly cautious.

Well, I don't recommend this for Africa (4.16 / 6) (#103)
by marcos on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:43:31 AM EST

  1. Patented Maize cannot be planted again. It is a one generation crop that has to be bought from the American companies each year
  2. I read somewhere that the somalia famine was caused in large part because of this type of aid wiping out the local stock that could reproduce.
  3. If there is a famine in Africa, then there is no difference between milling it an distrubuting it. A famine occurs because crops cannot be planted, and grain aid is usually intended for direct consumption, and not for planting. So milling is the same thing as sending it raw, but has the advantage of being easier to transport, and will certainly not harm any local stock. And it is not an expensive process to mill it, since all corn goods require it to be milled anyways. For that reason, I am very suspicious of companies that want to give aid, but refuse to mill it. Could there be a hidden agenda?
Genetically modified food is unlikely to harm us, I'd say. But making a country dependent on the whims of a coorperation, which is in the game strictly for the dollar, is a very bad economic idea, and when I take over an economic post, I will certainly not advice any such thing.

Genetically modified foods that do not have an auto-destruct feature are all right, in my opinion.

Source for #1, #2, and #3? (5.00 / 1) (#138)
by Silent Chris on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:24:52 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Here (5.00 / 1) (#150)
by marcos on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:12:28 PM EST

http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,2763,205804,00.html
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-375599,00.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,843103,00.html

Just a short google search, I'm sure you can come up with more.

[ Parent ]

Famine in Somalia (2.00 / 1) (#141)
by Fon2d2 on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:30:06 PM EST

I used to often wonder about all the poverty in Africa. It seems logical that all that poverty would be very strongly linked with slavery and collonialism. I can't imagine that there were thousands of children sitting around in dirty slums dieing of starvation before imperialists ever came to Africa. Your second point made me think about that again, so I just Googled "Somalia famine cause" and came up with this site. Apparently the poverty is caused by forcing countries like Somalia to grow cash crops. First it was because imperialists demanded taxes payed in cash and now it's because external debts are still owed in cash. Somalia must grow cash crops. Of course this degrades the land, reduces biodiversity, and diverts resources from actually growing needed food.

[ Parent ]
Well (5.00 / 1) (#155)
by marcos on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:22:38 PM EST

I don't think you are being ironic, so let me take your point seriously. Now, I'm a hobbyist economist, and if I were in control of a 3rd world country, I certainly would not concentrate on growing food and not growing any crops I could export. You need to be able to export crops to make foreign exchange, and the foreign exchange is neccesary for any investments in industrialisation. So generally, the advice the banks give is ok, but it can of course be implemented poorly.

Colonialism and Slavery are such irrelevant points that I am very reluctant to answer them. The famines do not occur in the countries where slaves were taken from, first of all. And those countries have not had any famine, being in the thick of rain forests and all.

Colonialism was a relatively short period in the lifetime of these countries, and by the time it had ended, these countries were not developed enough for any large scale reformation of the traditional farming systems to have occured. In simpler words, back in the 60s, most african nations had not been changed into gigantic plantations.

So personally, I would never blame famine on slavery or colonialism. Do you think that Greenspan would blame the fall of the dollar on the invasion of Panama? Or on the American civil war? No, the events are far back. It is simplistic, but I appreciate that many people still have this opinion, and that is why I have taken the time to explain my position on this matter.

Look at these links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,2763,205804,00.html
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-375599,00.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,843103,00.html

to see the real problem with gm foods, and why I would never accept them if I were an economic minister.

And some personal advice - do not reduce an entire continent with near to a billion people to a simplified worldview. Appreciate that Africa is different and diverse, and that the image you get is often not very accurate.

Quick test: How many military governments are there in entire Africa right now? Answer: 1.


[ Parent ]

It's not the method... (4.33 / 3) (#104)
by Dr Seltsam on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:49:02 AM EST

it's its current use. I believe genetic engineering of plants has a great potential if used in a sensible way - such as making crops more frost-/draught-/heatresistant, increasing their yield, or making them resistant against pests to reduce the amount of pesticides needed. But this is not done on a large scale. The most prominent example of GM crops is Monsanto's "roundup-ready" line of products. This plants carry a gene making them resistant to a special herbicide which kills of all other plants lacking that gene. This does not really help the farmer or the customer, this is only meant to increase Monsanto's profit - they sell the seeds, the herbicide, and, by a special licensing agreement, force the farmer to buy new seeds every year, as he is not allowed to keep part of his harvest as seed for the next year. This is just a rip-off, and it's things like this that give genetic engineering a bad name.
The fact that I'm paranoid does not mean that they are not after me.
Hooraahhh! (none / 0) (#144)
by Dr Caleb on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:41:23 PM EST

Previous comment


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

C'mon, admit it.. (3.60 / 5) (#107)
by Kwil on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:01:36 PM EST

..you did this whole thing because you just wanted to ask "Is there prior art on tumeric?"

Even if there is, it only means that people can copy him freely. Do you really want that?

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


guilty as charged, wink, wink lol ;-) (nt) (none / 0) (#220)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:57:41 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Labelling!! (4.00 / 6) (#109)
by sudog on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:05:41 PM EST

The ONLY problem with frankenfood at the moment is that the government won't let other companies label their food as *NOT* frankenfood, and doesn't require companies to label their food as frankenfood.

Change this and I'll be a happy camper and the companies can do all they want.

But they won't--because if people knew that the majority of the food they ate was genetically modified or tainted by genetically modified crops, they wouldn't eat it and the industry would die.

But if that's the will of the people, then who are the fucking corporations to say that the majority of the people are wrong?


what is popular is not always right. (none / 0) (#130)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:53:56 PM EST

Sometimes its downright ignorant. As is the case of GM foods.

There is another type of food spoiling preventative measure - radiation bathing. You bathe meat in radiation and it kills parasites. There is no residual radiation or risk to health after it leaves the bathing chamber.

Most people have an irrational fear of anything 'radiation' or radioactive from years of uninformed hysteria and hype. Would you buy meat that had a label saying "RADIOACTIVELY TREATED" or some such? Even if it was perfectly safe, or actually safer than most meat because all the parasites would be dead?

Or, as a famous label, the one on foods containing Olestra at first which warned about the potential of 'anal leakage'. That was a real winner.

[ Parent ]

well, but what's unpopular isn't right either... (5.00 / 1) (#153)
by joto on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:17:15 PM EST

I can't for the hell of me understand what argument you are actually making. Because the argument is only effective if you already are entirely convinced that genetically modified food poses no health risk. Whether it does or not can be debated to hell. However, we do not know it yet, as that is something that will take two generations to confirm beyond any reasonable doubt (one fed on genetically modified food, and then their offspring).

So, the average consumer might not want to buy food that has the "Genetically modified" label on it. Ok, so why should he have to. After all, we pretend to live in a free market. If consumers don't want genetically modified food, don't be the wise-guy shoveling it down their throat. Muslims and jews won't eat pork either, are you going to force them to eat that too? (knowing that pork is definitely harmless, at least no more harmful than any other meat).

Now, regardless of whether genetically modified food poses a health risk or not, that should be acceptable to everyone. Big corporations should not have the right to withhold information from the consumers about what the food is made of, and how it is processed (at least when there is a small chance that it might cause a health risk to someone).

I for one do not care much for the profit of those companies selling genetically modified food. If they don't profit, others will, because consumers need food anyway. And if the genetically modified food has lower price, better quality, or whatever other reasons one can come up with for making it at all, then I'm quite sure people will buy it anyway.

As for the "radioactively treated" label. I'm sure it can be made small and unconspicious enough so that only those that care would find it. On the other hand, we do not positively know that it is harmless either. I would tend to think so, but there is a vague possibility that this will trigger chemical reactions in the food that would not have happened otherwise (or at least much less than with just normal background radiation). I don't believe that is dangerous, but I see no point in me worrying too much about the profits of those making it, if people won't buy it for that reason.

That being said, there is nothing stopping everyone else from coming up with their own "not genetically modified" label, that could be put on non-genetically modified food. It's just not as convenient.

[ Parent ]

That's what I'm talking about... (none / 0) (#212)
by sudog on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:38:20 PM EST

...here in Canada the organic producers are only allowed to describe their foods as "organic" rather than "non-GM" or "non-irradiated."

Hogwash bullshit.


[ Parent ]

Labelling may not work (none / 0) (#274)
by nairobiny on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:35:08 AM EST

You couldn't make this stuff up. This just in, courtesy of The Guardian, claims that for years, meat producers have been injecting chicken with all kinds of substances, including water and beef/pork products, presumably to enhance the end-user's enjoyment of their, er, product.

The article considers the EU's proposed solution - labelling - and decides this won't work, because the industry has a track record of pulling the wool over the Government food agency''s eyes. If it's labelled as "chicken" when it in fact should be labelled as "chicken-based meat product injected with pork" (yum) yet the Government doesn't pick up the error in its testing, labelling will give consumers a false sense of security.



[ Parent ]
The people deserve the right to choose.. (5.00 / 2) (#209)
by sudog on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:36:10 PM EST

..and the right to choose with their wallet is one of the most fundamental rights in capitalism.

And radiation baths may not leave residual radiation, but that's not the worry--the worry is that the radiation bath also might change the physical or chemical make-up of the food it's "cleansing".

You can't make the blanket claim that there is no risk to health after such a sterilisation procedure. We Just Don't Know.

If we would rather go with the less-safe un-treated meats, then that should be a right of every citizen! Period. If the people don't want it, why is it being forced on us unbeknownst?


[ Parent ]

Where is labelling "non-GM" prohibited? (5.00 / 1) (#178)
by rujith on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:57:15 PM EST

the government won't let other companies label their food as *NOT* frankenfood

I hadn't known that. I agree that companies should certainly be allowed to label their non-GM food as such, if they wish. Which governments don't permit non-GM food to be so labelled? - Rujith.

[ Parent ]

In Canada, so far. (5.00 / 1) (#207)
by sudog on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:32:55 PM EST

... unfortunately.

The same applies to milk: Farmers who don't use bovine growth hormone aren't allowed to label their milk as "non-BGH" milk.

Sickening. Just sickening.


[ Parent ]

Similar situtation regarding alcohol (none / 0) (#317)
by rujith on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:21:36 AM EST

Wow, that sucks! I think there's a similar situation regarding alcohol: manufacturers are not permitted to advertise the alcohol content of the wine and beer they produce. Making honest claims about your legal products should never be prohibited. - Rujith.

[ Parent ]
GM food (3.88 / 9) (#112)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:09:02 PM EST

I think everyone now accepts that we've sequenced the Human genome, and that there aren't enough genes to cover everything we know is genetic.

This suggests that some characteristics are created by the interaction of genes, rather than by genes specialized for that characteristic. This will be true of plants, as well as humans.

In turn, we don't have the computing power to predict the probable effect of altering any given gene, because instead of having a linear problem, you now have an exponential one. One gene modified out of a sequence of N will have a potential 27^N possible results. (27 is the number of known proteins - "natural" and artificial.)

That is a VERY large problem space, and unless N is extremely small, all the computing power on Earth wouldn't be enough to determine the interactions and side-effects that may result.

Now, where GM food simply replaces one "known safe" pattern with another "known safe" pattern, then the problem space is much smaller. You now only need to examine those genes that vary between the variant you're extracting from, and the variant you're inserting into. All other interactions are "known safe", even if you don't know specifically what they are.

Of course, in reality, you don't see GM food companies invest in supercomputers of the scale required to perform even these much simpler calculations. The companies grow the food, and see what happens.

In Britain, repeated re-tellings of John Wyndham's classic "Day of the Triffids" has never inspired the population to be confident about this kind of hack-it-and-see approach to genetic material. Hey, sure, they're all for it on most technology, because most technology is unlikely to turn nasty.

BSE is certainly still a major concern in the UK, given that the incubation period is unknown. Up to 40% of Britain's 60 million inhabitants are known to be vulnerable. If the incubation period turns out to be 40+ years - certainly a possibility - then the death toll will remain low for another 20 years, before sky-rocketting.

Even if we assume that the "worst is over", we're talking several hundred totally senseless, totally avoidable deaths, for the sole purpose of making a few people richer. If those same people had gunned those hundred down, they'd be lynched or (worse) forced to watch re-runs of Beadle's About.

In other words, we're prepared to accept a hundred deaths, to enrich a bunch of already stinking rich businessmen, but those same hundred deaths FOR ANY OTHER CAUSE would be unacceptable.

No. If it's unacceptable, then it's unacceptable. We can't move the boundaries around, just to placate a few.

If GM foods demonstrably kill even a single person, where non-GM foods would not have done so, where that death was a direct, linear effect of someone cutting costs below the safe minimum, and where that effect was entirely predictable, then I believe the company would be inescapably guilty of manslaughter, even if they could never be convicted for it.

If it gets anywhere near 100, the company's directors should rot in some forgotten cell for endangering lives needlessly and senselessly.

I know my views won't be too popular on this, as they demand accountability for deliberate inaction that harms, which is counter to the concept of a deregulated free enterprise. Well, too bloody bad. Totally deregulated enterprises are as dangerous and unpredictable as a totally deregulated Government. You've GOT to have some kind of Enterprise-level Constitution. The British have finally recognised this truth, and are working on a prototype. The US needs to do the same. And these mini-Constitutions MUST provide resposibility for criminal negligence in GM'ed products.

Heh (3.00 / 2) (#147)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:07:48 PM EST

If GM foods had demonstrably even made one person sick, I'd be a lot more interested in your blathering. Problem is, these days virtually every single one of 280 million or so Americans eats GM foods DAILY, and that evidence hasn't come up. There are lots of people with lots of reasons to look for it, but it hasn't materialized.

The problem, in essence, is that the supposed dangers are vastly overblown and mostly fictional.

Also, product liability applies to food the same as any other product. You're just wrong about that.

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

[ Parent ]
Consider this... (3.00 / 3) (#149)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:12:26 PM EST

Asthma and many other allegies are on the rise, for no identifiable reason, in countries in which GM foods are prevalant.

That's not proof of a link, or even an assertion that there's a link, but IMHO, it's cause to look and see if there might be.

Until someone looks, I'll maintain that it's "case unproven" (as the Scottish courts would say)

[ Parent ]

Um... (5.00 / 1) (#160)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:40:59 PM EST

Allergies are on the rise everywhere in the developed world, GM prevalence or no. Sorry to break that to you. The most common suspected reason is better living conditions making us more sensitive. Kind of like how Mexicans can drink the water in Mexico, but it'll give you the squirts for a week. :)

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

[ Parent ]
Pollution (3.66 / 3) (#164)
by Kintanon on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:48:47 PM EST

I think that the allergy rise and the asthma rise could more closely be tied to both increased air pollution levels and increased genetic pollution. At one point in time people with things like fatal peanut allergies died pretty quickly. Now we're keeping them alive to breed with the rest of the population, so the allergies spread.
For asthma, most Geneticly engineered crops are consumed in developed countries with a correspondingly higher rate of industrial and vehicular air pollution. I think those factors are more probable causes than the consumption of genetically engineered food.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

I'd agree, but... (5.00 / 1) (#186)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:17:46 PM EST

Those are so mindboggingly obvious that if the CDC is unable to find a cause, they're likely to have checked these already and found them to NOT be linked.

[ Parent ]
Get your facts right! (5.00 / 1) (#384)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:53:01 AM EST

Air quality in the developed world is actually better than it is in most poor countries. What is more, air quality has been constantly improving over the last 30 years, so how exactly can it be to blame for an increase in allergies?

[ Parent ]
Yeah (3.00 / 2) (#169)
by PhillipW on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:33:03 PM EST

GM food hasn't been commercially available for a decade yet. You can't possibly hope to know of the long term effects of eating after this period of time.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
If y'all eat GM food, (3.00 / 2) (#215)
by tetsuwan on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:47:08 PM EST

where´s the control group?

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Responsibility (5.00 / 1) (#378)
by Dyolf Knip on Sat May 24, 2003 at 04:54:20 AM EST

If GM foods demonstrably kill even a single person, where non-GM foods would not have done so

Ahh, but what if a drought or blight wipes out a non-GM crop where GM foods demonstrably would have survived and a famine results and thousands or millions die? Is the government that totally prohibited their use ' inescapably guilty of manslaughter'?

where that death was a direct, linear effect of someone cutting costs below the safe minimum, and where that effect was entirely predictable

Now here we are in agreement. And this same logic is easily applicable to just about every other industry in existence.

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

Pretentious Pseudo Masquerading as Profound. (none / 0) (#383)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:49:54 AM EST

First of all, your notion of "computation" is ill-defined: what exactly is supposed to be "computed", and how is this to be done? You seem to suppose there are easy methods to computationally predict the safety of gene-changes, when in fact we can't yet even confidently predict the shape of a protein given just its' DNA sequence.

The second thing to point out is that there is no guarantee that just because you're interbreeding two "well known" or "familiar" organisms, their offspring will behave in a predictable manner. Taken to the extreme, looking at the lobe-finned fishes 400 million years ago, their descendants could never be hairy, upright creatures that drown when thrown into the sea, but here we are!

I have yet to see a single truly substantive argument by the anti-GM crowd in the course of this particular debate. Are you all so ignorant, or are you straw men in disguise, paid to make the opponents of genetic engineering look stupid?

[ Parent ]

Several counter-arguments. (4.25 / 8) (#114)
by Ward57 on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:11:21 PM EST

I don't think consumers in europe are afraid of genetics (even if they think they are, which is rare). What they are afraid of is modern food producing companies with genetics technology - they're liable to do whatever will maximise their profits, regardless of how dangerous.

Missing word (4.75 / 4) (#117)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:20:48 PM EST

I'm amazed this article didn't use the word "patent" even once.

sorry, it's not a plot ;-P (nt) (none / 0) (#267)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:36:05 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Consumer Protection (4.54 / 11) (#118)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:22:43 PM EST

If you buy a toaster, or a car tire, and on first use it explodes, killing or injuring the user, the company has sold you a defective product. It has not performed as advertised, and has failed to operate in a manner consistant with the purpose for which it was bought. Firestone has learned a lot, in recent years, on the consequences of defective products.

If you buy GM'ed food, and - for some bizarre reason - it, too, explodes, killing someone, the company has no legal responsibility at all. Even if the product is relatively untested.

Consumers are stupid, but they're not THAT stupid! If they have no protection whatsoever, and they know that risks in related industries (the only other field that produces ingestable material is the drug industry) are so high that testing and protections are incredibly extensive, they're going to back off.

GM companies, by demanding their products are safe (while, at the same time, providing zero actual proof of this, no protections against errors, and no labelling to mark what is GM and what isn't), are doing themselves no favours.

If companies want to be trusted, they must first prove that they can be trusted. That means rigorous labelling, consumer protections, and thorough testing.

Oh, and GM companies are suing farmers whose crops are cross-pollinated with GM crops by your average, everyday insect population. For IP infringement! This is even stupider than SCO suing IBM over Linux. If we accept that as being insane, then the GM companies involved in IP lawsuits are even crazier.

You gonna trust a bunch of crazies to get things right?

uh... (4.75 / 4) (#124)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:42:43 PM EST

before any of these products can hit the market, they must pass FDA approval (assuming they're coming from the US).

FDA approval is an extremely time consuming rigorous process. You cannot simply create Bob's Genetically Modified Corn in your garage and sell it.

This is why so much of the noise about GM is for the most part, ignorant and uninformed. All these products have gone through FDA approval and inspection, and public commentary (which ALWAYS results in GM opponents commenting) and to date, not one single person has been sickened as a result from GM foods.

Even the whole Starlink corn deal didn't result in any illnesses. If you recall, Starlink was only approved by the FDA for animal feed because there was believed to be an extremely small chance that certain persons with a rare digestive tract disorder could be allergic to it. Though no cases were ever discovered, but to be on the safe side they only went with animal feed approval. I think it did end up being approval for human consumption after the accidental empirical study (heh) determined that said allergy risk turned out not to exist.

Don't confuse idiot lawyers for scientists. The people doing the research on GM foods are the top of their fields.

So long as the approval process continues to be as rigorous and demanding as it currently is, GM foods are safe.

[ Parent ]

Actually... (3.50 / 2) (#142)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:36:41 PM EST

...it is my understanding that no GM foods have to be FDA approved. That it is a strictly voluntary test.

CBS has the article, third paragraph down.

Thompson Publishing Group covers the FDA's objections to Oregon requiring labelling, and notes that the FDA's policy is to declare GM'ed foods as safe as their natural counterparts.

Errr..... the FDA actually believes that they can make foods safe, by declaring them so??? This isn't Pascal - you can't just declare things and expect the world to recompile itself to comply.

[ Parent ]

You misread it. (4.33 / 3) (#152)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:15:14 PM EST

It says 'companies using GM crops' are voluntary. Note. Using GM crops. Like, if you bake a cake using GM wheat-based flour and then sell it.

Now then there is companies INVENTING GM crops. The companies doing the fundamental research and selling the seeds to farmers (ie, monsanto) are very much so required.

If the FDA declares a food or drug 'safe', it most likely is. Before they declare it safe they require huge amounts of research, and then an extended public comment time where members of the public at large can weigh in on whether something should be allowed on the market. With GM foods, many opponents (some of them quite well informed) usually comment, and force more research. This is a good thing. It's lead to alot of avoidance regarding allergic responses and is probably why GM foods are in fact, so safe to date.

[ Parent ]

Where's the proof? (3.00 / 2) (#254)
by sacrelicious on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:47:22 PM EST

Now then there is companies INVENTING GM crops. The companies doing the fundamental research and selling the seeds to farmers (ie, monsanto) are very much so required.

So you gotta link, like the other guy? I tend to agree more with posts that provide real facts.

[ Parent ]

Link to what? (3.00 / 2) (#257)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:13:47 PM EST

That GM crops require FDA approval? Go pick up a copy of this month's Invention & Technology - their website only has past issues, sorry. You'll have to stop by a newsstand.

It has an excellent article on GM foods and their history. And yes, FDA approval is quite stringent regarding them.

Also, the websites you link to are terrible for scientific facts. I suggest reading real science journals, instead of such clearly biased fly-by-night websites.

[ Parent ]

I don't share your confidence. (5.00 / 1) (#360)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:13:58 PM EST

If the FDA declares a food or drug 'safe', it most likely is.

It most likely is, but what if in this case it isn't? We're talking about the food supply of the nation here, not hairspray or Viagra. We simply can't afford to take chances so carelessly when the stakes are so high. Also, you place too much confidence in the FDA. They've been wrong before, and GM is such a new science that they can't possibly predict all of the long-term consequences. They're humans, not gods, after all.

[ Parent ]

Um... (5.00 / 2) (#148)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:11:43 PM EST

First of all, it is impossible to prove a negative. Proving that "this will never harm anyone" cannot be done.

Second, labelling is confounded by existing distribution mechanisms. In the US, the government has prohibited labelling of certain things, specifically because it has been shown that those doing the labelling cannot possibly know whether they're telling the truth or not!

Third, everyone in the US at this point eats GM food every day. I don't see any real problems. Just occasional hype.

Finally, your claim regarding product liability is simply false. Basic liability law applies to anyone who sells you a physical product. (This even applies to software, sort of - any media and books and so on you purchase are covered, but the software itself is not.)

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

[ Parent ]
Actually, it can. (2.00 / 2) (#156)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:23:11 PM EST

Although each generation of human is genetically different than any prior generation, there are "constants" in the DNA structure. If there weren't, there would be no such thing as "species".

Thus, you can take a strand of DNA, and determine the must-be-present proteins it codes for. Since there are only a finite number of proteins any other element of DNA can code for, you only have to check each possible combination in turn.

Once you have established even a reasonably large set of variants within the range that can be called "human", all you have to do is verify that the proteins and amino acids in the GM food do not conflict.

DNA only codes proteins. That's it. Therefore, all life is built out of those. Each protein is an encoded sequence of amino acids. Those are the ultimate building-block of all known organic life on the planet.

You do not have to check against organs, people, or anything else. If you can prove that there is no conflict at the protein or amino acid level, then EVERYTHING ELSE follows. Once you have established that there is no conflict at the base level, then every higher level that exists will provably also have no conflict.

You cannot test against every possibility, not because it's "impossible", because there are too many to do so in a realistic timeframe. What you can do, though, is test against a representitive sample, over a representitive timeframe, by computer simulation. (The interactions are all very simple. There are just a lot of them.)

Do this, and you can verify a food as "safe" to as great a degree as you like. With a large enough computer, that can be as close to 100% as you want to spend the time achieving.

[ Parent ]

Um... yeah (4.33 / 3) (#157)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:37:58 PM EST

First of all, your "constants" are only constant over a specified range of generations. Wait long enough, and one by one, over many, many millenia, eventually they'll all change at least somewhat.

Second, the computational effort of what you're talking about doing is well beyond us at this point. Even if every computer on earth worked on no other problem, our great great grandchildren would be dead before this produced a result even halfway as reliable as our everyday experience has already managed.

Third, there are lots of necessary "conflicts" at the protein level, and it is very difficult to nail down exactly what works how, and why. We're still barely able to even categorize this stuff, and certainly aren't doing it all correctly yet. The idea of enumerating and examining it all is just absurd at this point.

Fourth, even if you did this, there is enough variation in even one species that what given one set of DNA is harmless can be fatal given another, and both can be "human."

Fifth, even if your method would work(it won't - see above,) inductive methods that approach certainty are not "proof," and we already have really good inductive evidence - people aren't dying!

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

[ Parent ]
Yes? (5.00 / 1) (#359)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:10:00 PM EST

First of all, it is impossible to prove a negative. Proving that "this will never harm anyone" cannot be done.

True, but what you can do is get really close to proving a negative by piling up a large number of examples. Although a single counter-example would invalidate all the positive examples, the likelihood that a counter-example will ever be found decreases as you find more positive examples.

Second, labelling is confounded by existing distribution mechanisms.

Again true, but that doesn't mean that we should throw caution to the wind and forgo labeling GM products when GM is such a young, unproven science.

Third, everyone in the US at this point eats GM food every day. I don't see any real problems.

That's because you've only been watching for a few decades. What if symptoms accumulate over a lifetime and only manifest themselves in old age? Or what if the current batch of GM foods is safe, but some future modification turns out to be harmful. Your statement is like saying, "I'm playing Russian Roulette and I've pulled the trigger twice already and nothing has heppend. I might as well keep on pulling because it seems safe so far."

[ Parent ]

US vs. EU (4.41 / 12) (#119)
by MKalus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:28:09 PM EST

The main difference between the two continents is that it seems that people in the US have unlimited faith in science, in the believe that science can only do good and that even if harm is done it will be fixed.

In Europe in general I think people are a bit more skeptical of the "latest and greatest" and marketing is not always bought the same way it is in the US.

The comparision between Frankenfood and Frankenstein is surely alluring to you but I thin it is also flawed in the sense that you can easily distinguish Frankenstein from other human beings, but how do you know that the Carrott or Strawberry that you are eating right now is GMO free?

A lot of the argument in europe is about the LABELING of GMO food, and that is something that (for one reason or the other) the food industry (mainly driven by american companies) doesn't want.

The question should not be: Why are europeans afraid of Frankenfood, but rather: Why is the industry afraid of labelling their food accordingly.

A short answer: Because they can't control it anymore. GMO is almost everywhere already (Soy) because the attempts to "contain" the crops to their own fields have failed miserably.

Of course messing directly with the genetic code carries increased risks and necessitates greater oversight. With great power comes great responsiblity. Can we screw it up? Yes. But the benefits are so huge to the world, GM can not be ignored. The genie can not be put back in the bottle. Such is human nature. We will not ignore GM and discard the technology, nor should we.

Not discard the technology but definetly not forge ahead along the lines of: "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead."

Exactly because this technology is so powerful, holds so much potential (and doom) we NEED to make certain that it is working in our (and the worlds) benefit. Blindly distributing the stuff will backfire.
-- Michael

*cough* Cloning *cough* (4.33 / 3) (#125)
by Arevos on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:43:19 PM EST

The US isn't 100% for science. Just look at all the cloning laws that are being set up. The EU has less restrictions.

[ Parent ]
Cloning? (none / 0) (#176)
by MKalus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:51:52 PM EST

Yeah, there is a lot of lip service paid right now in the US about that. But at the same time tons of european scientists are ending up in the US because the research they would like to do (stem cells anyone?) is outlawed in Europe.

Don't believe me?

Read here or if you can't read german try the google translation.

Michael
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

Equally... (none / 0) (#306)
by Arevos on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:06:33 AM EST

"While American researchers wait for politicians to issue rules on research involving human embryos, scientists in Britain are working under a less restrictive and more predictable system that allows many forms of research on embryonic stem cells and cloning."

And

Seeking a research environment where there is "public support," one of the nation's leading stem-cell researchers is leaving the United States to work in Britain.

Generally, the EU countries are not united on this front. In Germany, for instance, the extraction of stem cells from an embryo is illegal, although it is legal to import stem cells from abroad. In Britain, stem cell research is subject to a licensing procedure. In other countries it's banned outright, and in some there are no restrictions whatsoever.

In other words, such things are not outlawed in all European countries, as you appear to suggest. Certainly in the UK such research is more relaxed than in the US.

[ Parent ]

RE: US vs. EU (3.50 / 2) (#166)
by clarkcox3 on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:56:19 PM EST

but how do you know that the Carrott or Strawberry that you are eating right now is GMO free?
You don't, because there isn't a strawberry or carrot anywhere in the world that hasn't been genetically modified by humans at some time in the past.

[ Parent ]
Oh for gods sake (1.00 / 2) (#174)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:46:47 PM EST

you're not on about that cross-breeding argument are you? That's so dumb. It's not the same thing there is a huge divide between breeding two plants and splicing genes between one and another. A huge difference. You must be trolling.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Learn Some Genetics. My Friend. (none / 0) (#382)
by Hideyoshi on Sat May 24, 2003 at 08:38:59 AM EST

If you'd ever opened a genetics textbook, you'd know that "species" barriers between plants are by no means as impermeable as they are in the animal kingdom. So yes, cross-breeding is possible, even without the use of recombinant DNA techniques.

[ Parent ]
Look... (none / 0) (#386)
by melia on Sat May 24, 2003 at 11:18:23 AM EST

...I am arguing against this because he is using this "cross-breeding" argument to suggest that GMOs are no different from cross-bred organisms, which simply isn't true. I refer you to this. If you disagree that using "DNA recombinant techniques" is no different to cross breeding, then I suggest you open a genetics textbook, or else go off and find me a natural example of the StrawberryDog. I guarantee you'll be stretched to give me an example of a dog trying to screw a strawberry, let alone the strawberry having puppies. (or maybe, the puppies would grow off the strawberry plant? I digress)
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Evolution vs. GMO (3.00 / 2) (#175)
by MKalus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:47:12 PM EST

You don't, because there isn't a strawberry or carrot anywhere in the world that hasn't been genetically modified by humans at some time in the past.

I think there is a difference between cross breeding two kinds of Strawberries and outright change the way the genes are working in there.

First of all it is a lot slower and second of all you directly see the result.

Fiddeling with the Genes is an entire different thing and we don't know about the consequences. Right now we are meddling in a system we only partly understand and make changes in it.

That's like me trying to re-write part of a program because of the little knowledge I have of programming and then being surprised when something else breaks because of this.
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

difference (3.50 / 2) (#214)
by mpalczew on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:46:44 PM EST

There is little diffrence.  Further more genetically engineered crops have to have fda approval.  Whereas a mutation in a crop which could be just as harmfull or beneficial doesn't have to go through any sort of approval but it can wreak havoc for years without anyone noticing.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
FDA Approval? (5.00 / 1) (#237)
by MKalus on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:38:31 PM EST

Okay,

ever been in a large IT project where you had ton's of people approving ton's of stuff, did even more testing and then on the first day you flipped the switch all hell broke loose?

The more complex a system get's the more likely it is that your tinkering is causing trouble.

The mutating strawberry is most likely not very nice, but the difference is that the mutation most likely won't survive as the plant might not be able to breed.

Even IF it can breed it is only ONE plant to start with and not thousands of acres full of the new gene.
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

bad good (5.00 / 1) (#328)
by mpalczew on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:11:24 PM EST

" ever been in a large IT project where you had ton's of people approving ton's of stuff, did even more testing and then on the first day you flipped the switch all hell broke loose?"

no

" The mutating strawberry is most likely not very nice, but the difference is that the mutation most likely won't survive as the plant might not be able to breed."

Yes, but the mutation may be slightly poinsonous yet  beneficial. For example the strawberry with said mutation may taste better but it may cumulatively poison some people over the course of 10 years.  Since the strawberry tastes good it will be cultivated and bread in other words it wouldn't be just one.  It won't be genetically engineered, it will just be "natural" selection.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

So? (1.00 / 1) (#331)
by MKalus on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:38:22 PM EST


Yes, but the mutation may be slightly poinsonous yet  beneficial. For example the strawberry with said mutation may taste better but it may cumulatively poison some people over the course of 10 years.  Since the strawberry tastes good it will be cultivated and bread in other words it wouldn't be just one.  It won't be genetically engineered, it will just be "natural" selection.

That's a risk you always take. But why do you need to engineer something artifically without knowing the consequences?

It is very interresting that this morning on my way into work I was listening to a show on CBC Radio one and David Suzuki said something that really fit:

The world had become too complicated, people don't understand anymore that for everything they do that there will be consequences and unless we understand it we will do bad things.
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

yeah (none / 0) (#442)
by mpalczew on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 06:48:04 PM EST

>But why do you need to engineer something artifically without knowing the consequences?

As opposed to "naturally" engineering something and not knowing the consequences.  The variety of produce made today is trully minimal, even those bread "naturally" are practically clones of each other.  For all we know these are causing harm to you and we don't understand that.  They are not any safer than artificially produced food since at least artificially produced food goes through some testing.   We have gone beyond nature no matter weather the "natural" technique of only planting the same seeds, or the "artificial" technique of creating them is used.  In fact, according to the law the only distinction between gm and non-gm foods is the year that the breeding technique being used was invented.  If it was invented recently we are obviously fucking with nature too much and meddling with things we don't understand.  As opposed to what we were doing earlier.  

I guess people just feer what they think they don't understand, but really we don't understand the "natural" process either.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

The FDA (5.00 / 1) (#357)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:00:37 PM EST

Unfortunately, the FDA can only test for harms that it knows about. Direct genetic modification is a new science. No one knows what the long-term consequences might be, including the FDA. For examples of regulatory bodies making mistakes, look up DDT and thalidomide.

Personally, I'd rather err on the side of caution, especially with something as important as the food supply. Monsanto's profit margins be damned.

[ Parent ]

Monsanto == Microsoft (3.60 / 5) (#120)
by Cro Magnon on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:30:09 PM EST

Both companies want all the money/power they can get, both companies are ruthless in getting what they want, and both companies are milking the legal system in slimy ways. But where Micros**t screws with our computers, Mons**to screws with our food! Guess which company I think is more dangerous!
Information wants to be beer.
congrats, you completely fucked up the issues (4.20 / 15) (#121)
by turmeric on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:30:42 PM EST

1. i have never heard of a GE crop being 'resistant to pesticide'. perhaps it exists.

but what is actually going on right now in reality is that most soybeans and several other plants are impregnated with agene to resist ----HERBICIDE----.

the ---HERBICIDE--- kills ---WEEDS---. you cant breed 'weed resistance' into crops, because weeds dont directly attack crops. instead they use up nutrients and make shade and provide habitat for viruses/funguses/bugs that damage crops.. and some weeds emit allelopathic chemicals that inihibit growth of crops. ok -maybe- you can make a crop resist allelopathy of a weed. but you cant make a crop that magically resists the shade cast on it by a weed, nor that magically 'unsteals' the nutrients stolen by the weed.

the most famous ---HERBICIDE-- is called 'roundup', and is made by monsanto, a giant chemical company. 'roundup ready' is the name given to plants infected with the gene for resistance to roundup, the --herbicide--. yes, this lines the pocket of monsanto.

now, there are a lot of other genes, that do things like ---PEST-- resistance. note that 'pest resistance' is different from 'pesticide resistance'.

but the problem you are gonna have is that a lot of pro biotech whiners are claiming that pest resistance genes DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF PESTICIDE NEEDED. why is this? because these 'pesticide resistance' genes actually make peesticide INSIDE THE PLANT.

This is in effect moving the pesticide production from a factory somewhere into the fields, the plants themselves do it. Which makes chemical compnies lose business at their factories, maybe, but that is why those chemical companies (monsanto for example) are doing biotech. . . because they dont want to get left behind in the change of technology.

So i hope you can fix this problem with your article. But there is another problem

You do not mention 'terminator technology'. This makes it so that seeds that farmers buy will grow plants that are sterile and wont reproduce seeds next year. This is important, because farmers can no longer save their own seeds. They have to buy all their seeds over again from monsanto, every year. Forever.

This is a bedrock of patented genes in plants. Without terminator you couldnt control the spread of your technology at all. It is like 'copy protection' on game discs. It is not totally perfect. But it kind of works. So basically instead of being self reliant, now all farmers in the world will have to pay monsanto to buy new seed every year because all their crops will be sterile. Aside from economics/power problem, this also destroys genetic diversity... because the unique conditions to every little microclimate in which farmers grow their crops around the world are what drive the process of natural / artificial darwinian selection that are what create new variations of crops in the first place. If you grow a crop in a certain place for 20 generations, youa re going to have a different variety of crop than the seed you started with, and it will be more suited to your environment, the temperature, moisture levels, rain patterns, diseases, bugs, soil conditions, shade levels, etc. Take away the reseeding of crops, and replace it with buying everything from monsanto, and you have a worldwide monoculture.

Now what happens with monoculture? One pest or disease comes up in one year unexpectedly and suddenly you have lost all your crop. This has happened many times. Some people say the irish potato famine was partly due to them all planting one type of potato. But more recently this happened with corn in the US... some huge percentage of the corn crop was all the same variation and some freak pest or something came along and wiped it all out. They had to go back tot he genetic 'libraries' in central america to figure out how to solve this problem: the same genetic libraries that would be wiped out if monsanto has its way and makes everyone plant the same thing everywhere.

So I hope you say something about that too in your article. This obsessive attachement to 'human health' of GE crops is a red herring for much larger issues that are more obviously important and that we know will have effects, because we have seen it happen before. The human health thing is still an unknown.

But you have one last problem in your article, and that is that you do not mention the propertyu theft that this enables Monsanto and others to participate in. The problem is that the genes can 'spread' to non-GE crops... because pollination happens through wind and through insects. That is how plants reproduce. And this pollen can spread for several miles, depending on the wind and the insects. Id imagine int he right storm conditions it could cross dozens of miles, but I dont know. Anyways, the thing is that anyone who happens to grow a crop within an x mile distance of a GE crop, well, if their crop gets 'infected' with GE crops, then monsanto can claim they are violating copyrights and patents, and come seize their property .

Another way this can happen is when gigantic bags of unlabeled seed are shipped elsewhere, and farmers just take it and use it. Or maybe a few sacks are left over or one spills out or something. Farmers just use the seed. They dont know where it came from. They probably cant read the english on the bags even if the bags were labeled, which they wouldnt be in the first place.

This has already happened in Mexico, and the lawyers for the big US corporations went around basically saying 'well if they are getting the benefit of our technology, then we aim to get our money or stop them'. Can you imagine if you have lived in some little village in Mexico for decades farming, and all of a sudden Monsanto sues you for patent violations you didnt even know you were committing? And you are wiped out? all your land is taken? all your crops are taken?

Or perhaps they make a 'deal' with you, that forces ou to continually buy their seed for the rest of your life every year if you want to grow corn?

I wish you would talk about some of these issues in your article, because all the philosophical mumbo jumbo you add in the last half is kind of pointless and stupid when you consider the very real, very obviously evil and wrong things that GE has already done and will continue to do.... and that you are participating in the red herring bullshit that the Monsanto PR flacks are happy to see you participating in. Thank you.

They SHOULD be sterile (4.50 / 2) (#133)
by awgsilyari on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:03:14 PM EST

You do not mention 'terminator technology'. This makes it so that seeds that farmers buy will grow plants that are sterile and wont reproduce seeds next year. This is important, because farmers can no longer save their own seeds. They have to buy all their seeds over again from monsanto, every year. Forever.

Imagine if that was not the case. What if there was some fatal flaw in the modified genome, that only shows up under certain environmental pressures that can't be reproduced in a lab? If the new modified strain were not sterile, it would start to mix these fatally flawed genes with the regular plants. Then, a hundred years down the road when that unanticipated environmental pressure crops up (no pun intended), all these plants simply die.

By that point, the flawed gene has spread too far. It can't be stopped. Imagine if corn went extinct this way.

I think if you're going to build something that might potentially be a monster, you should make damn sure it cannot reproduce, no?

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

yes. too bad terminator is not 100% perfect. (5.00 / 3) (#136)
by turmeric on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:21:37 PM EST

i saw an article on this the other day. terminator technology is not perfect. some mutations happen and perhaps a few plants that you wished to terminate did not actually terminate. something wrong happened in the terminator gene and it failed to work on a few plants.

blammo, cats out of the bag.



[ Parent ]

My world is shattered (5.00 / 1) (#234)
by awgsilyari on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:28:28 PM EST

Turmeric just posted something decidedly non-trollish.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or piss my pants.

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Hey, fool (4.00 / 4) (#145)
by trhurler on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:59:45 PM EST

Monsanto gave up on terminator five or ten years ago. That's why they're in all those lawsuits about seed saving.

Also, European resistance to GM foods really IS inane. They have yet to provide a shred of evidence for any of their claims, and most of the people making the claims have no relevant credentials. A chef lecturing on biochemistry? Hah. Whatever. Stupid French idiot.

And no, "gene transference" is not evidence. It isn't even a decent theory. If it were a serious problem, it should be a problem in unmodified(not "natural," as everything is "natural" by any sane definition,) crops on occasion too - modification does not automatically create some mechanism for genetic propagation across species!

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

[ Parent ]
Sir, (3.66 / 6) (#162)
by levesque on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:43:19 PM EST

Monsanto gave up on terminator five or ten years ago. That's why they're in all those lawsuits about seed saving.

The lawsuits are about: If you buy seeds one year from a GM Seller and plant them then the seeds that crop generates are not considered youre's to plant only to sell. Terminators were outlawed because of there obvious and amazing potential for creating disaster.

Also, European resistance to GM foods really IS inane. They have yet to provide a shred of evidence for any of their claims, and most of the people making the claims have no relevant credentials. A chef lecturing on biochemistry? Hah. Whatever. Stupid French idiot.

I disagree.

And no, "gene transference" is not evidence. It isn't even a decent theory. If it were a serious problem, it should be a problem in unmodified(not "natural," as everything is "natural" by any sane definition,) crops on occasion too - modification does not automatically create some mechanism for genetic propagation across species!

Gene transference does occur in "natural" situations and is not a problem because the genes being transfered are not "way out of their element", it does cause some problems and mutations but nothing like the potential of transfering an "out of place gene" like antibiotic or pesticidic genes that are inserted into a "natural" plant. Biotech is not a problem but in the hands of Profit Machines it must be highly regulated by an outside source so that nothing even approching the stupidity of terminater seeds can see the open air.

[ Parent ]

outlawed where (5.00 / 2) (#230)
by turmeric on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:11:51 PM EST

ok you got me, i had no idea about that. but really, it is really outlawed? because feeding cows their own bones and offal is illegal too. (causes mad cow disease) but its perfectly legal to sell it to other countrys for cattle feed. etc etc. and i said nothing about 'gene transference' nor about europe. so shut up ya stupid tart

[ Parent ]
turmeric (5.00 / 1) (#218)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:54:07 PM EST

as i noted in my article, you have been claimed as intellectual property by a large american corporation

as corporate property, did you check with your local friendly corporate lawyer before posting your views here?

you really should give them a heads up before posting your views, as you are merely a representative of amalgamated incorporated now

;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

natural != ok (5.00 / 2) (#123)
by heng on Thu May 22, 2003 at 12:35:25 PM EST

There is benefit to the world from GM Crops. There really is. A lot of the nightmare scenarios opponents of GM Crops cook up are based on natural processes that go on every day around us anyways. These processes neither add to nor subtract from anything GM crops introduce into the environment. And just looking at something like SARS, it is easy to see that the natural biological threats from natural genetic processes are, were, and will always be the real concern.
Your confusing natural and harmless. There are many natural processes that are very useful, but also very dangerous (for any number of reasons). For that reason, one should think twice about implementing a natural process that may have harmful consequences (even if these consequences occur in nature). The issue is about creating MORE problems.

balance... (none / 0) (#266)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:34:36 PM EST

and solving MORE problems

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Here's what I don't get: (4.16 / 12) (#143)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 01:38:46 PM EST

Why are the same Europeans who're content to suck down cigarette after carcinogenic cigarette so afraid of the health risks supposedly posed by GM food?

There's rock solid evidence that tobacco kills while there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that eating GM food is harmful to one's health. Guess which product continental waiters serve to you; and guess which one isn't allowed in the restaurant door on the grounds that it's unhealthy and ruins the flavor of the meal.

Here's what I don't get (4.00 / 4) (#158)
by hex11a on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:38:06 PM EST

Europeans have been addicted to cigarettes for a long time, since well before we had a clue they were dangerous. Now GM food comes along, and we frankly don't know enough about it, few reliable and independent scientific tests have been done (it takes a long time to see the long term effects) and we're saying "Hang on, we don't need higher yield, there's enough food for everyone (check out the food mountains...) so all you're really trying to do is patent our food supply, and we do not trust you".

We don't need to let GM in at all, cigarettes are already established, and much as we'd like to see them go, it's a little harder, and a ridiculous comparison to make. All Europeans seem to want to do is know if anything they are being given has GM products in it, and be allowed to exercise our capitalist right to choose whether or not to eat it. The US corporations appear to be saying "You can't label it because people won't buy it if they know it has GM in because they don't want to eat it". Well, I want to know exactly what I'm eating thanks and I want the ability to choose not to eat something I don't trust. Cigarette cartons carry warnings, and it says they contain nicotene etc, so if I buy a pack, I know what I'm getting into. The US appears not to want us to even know.

Hex

[ Parent ]

your premises are flawed (2.00 / 4) (#170)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:38:20 PM EST

1. Europeans do not want to see cigarettes go. If labels won't stop a European from smoking things that are proven harmful, why is that they're so effective in preventing the consumption of utterly harmless GM carrots?

2. The only reason many Europeans want to know if a product is GM is so that they can avoid it for being GM per se. It has nothing to do with real health risks. Are there serious calls to display the fat and cholesterol contents of the sauces and cremes consumed in French restaurants? No.

3. If we went organic, you'd get rid of the excess mountains alright, but then there wouldn't even be enough food to feed the West. Malthus would finally have his way. For the sake of humanity, it's better to err on the side of excess when it comes growing food.

US corporations are under no moral obligations to pander to irrational fears. In real life, inserting a few hundred bases into the tomato genome makes the plant heartier without changing the flavor or how the consumed fruit will affect the human body. Why should they report a change that isn't significant and poses no long-term health risks? (fact: every known long-term risk for the general population has harmed a few individuals in the short-term -- we've had GM food for a decade and nobody's died from it.)

There are things far more harmful being done to food than simple genetic tinkering--think about shipping--but labelling food products with those aspects of their history isn't on the European agenda.

[ Parent ]

subjecto (5.00 / 2) (#179)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:02:45 PM EST

2. The only reason many Europeans want to know if a product is GM is so that they can avoid it for being GM per se. It has nothing to do with real health risks. Are there serious calls to display the fat and cholesterol contents of the sauces and cremes consumed in French restaurants? No.

But there are fat and cholesterol figures displayed on the side of packages in supermarkets. Why shouldn't there be GM labels? Even if the fears were unfounded (which I disagree with) you think the best way to combat those fears is by restricting information?

3. If we went organic, you'd get rid of the excess mountains alright, but then there wouldn't even be enough food to feed the West. Malthus would finally have his way. For the sake of humanity, it's better to err on the side of excess when it comes growing food.

Ahh good old Malthus. If you're going to bring him up, at least provide some evidence.

US corporations are under no moral obligations to pander to irrational fears.

Firstly, who are you to tell anybody else their fears are irrational? Where is your convincing evidence, your credentials, your argument. Secondly, any nation has the right to limit a corporations power in any way it sees fit. If my country decides it wants laws on GM labels, that's the way it's going to be.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

it's your right (2.00 / 1) (#201)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:06:54 PM EST

and I can't stop you, but we're going to have to be honest about why those labels are such a priority.

Malthusians need to google "Norman Borlaug".

Project: go over to T. E. Stockwell's market stall and look for explicit labels on gourmet and local products. How many calories in that slice of gruyere the deli man just cut for you? How long did it spend sitting out on the tarmac in Calais?

[ Parent ]

Your premises are flawed (4.00 / 4) (#180)
by hex11a on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:04:05 PM EST

1) We do not know GM carrots are "utterly harmless". For all we know about them they may well not be. Better to err on the side of caution when it comes to food supply eh? The fact is I KNOW what I'm doing when I smoke a cigarette. I do NOT know when I eat some of your carrots.

2) The nutritional values of all food sold in supermarkets in the UK and many other EU states must, by law, be displayed on the container, including how many grams of fat etc are in the product, so yes, we do know thanks.

3) I don't advocate going totally organic, but at this moment in time there is no need to move to GM in terms of supply. None. We have enough food under the current system to feed the whole world. So why bother bringing in something possibly dangerous and certainly only designed to line the pockets of a few biotech companies?

US companies appear to be under no moral obligation to do anything at all. That's why I don't want them anywhere near my food. Fact: You frankly don't know that no-one has died from GM food, and you cannot put the whole stuff in one bucket. Each foodstuff needs testing thorougly. You could say "no-one's died from eating mushrooms, so this new strain with purple spots are fine". But you'd be wrong. You need to test every GM product thoroughly, because it would be quite simple for me to say "No-one has died yet from GM food, so me tinkering with this potato to make it grow an anthrax center is fine". It's not that simple, and I frankly am appalled by what seems to be an attempt by certain companies to patent the food we eat. Hell, I'd better go to the patent clerk and put H20 down with my name on it, before some Monsanto comes along patents my drinking water.

Hex

[ Parent ]

Oh goodness. (3.50 / 2) (#188)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:33:21 PM EST

1) We do not know GM carrots are "utterly harmless". For all we know about them they may well not be. Better to err on the side of caution when it comes to food supply eh? The fact is I KNOW what I'm doing when I smoke a cigarette. I do NOT know when I eat some of your carrots.

GM seeds are put under the same microscope in the US as other drugs. Mind you, the US FDA is considerably more stringent than any european counterpart. It literally takes years to get approval before they are allowed to market. This is so that all reasonable suspicion of food safety can be removed, or at least risk lowered to an extremely small amount. The FDA has turned down seeds that have shown a mild allergic response in miniscule fractions of the population. So, while YOU may not know its safe, consensus among top geneticists and scientists on the other believe it is.

The nutritional values of all food sold in supermarkets in the UK and many other EU states must, by law, be displayed on the container, including how many grams of fat etc are in the product, so yes, we do know thanks.

He said restaurants. Do your restaurants list ingredients and a breakdown of fat and cholestol right on the menu?

Fact: You frankly don't know that no-one has died from GM food, and you cannot put the whole stuff in one bucket

There is no evidence, after almost 20 years, of anyone becoming ill, much less dying, as a result of genetic modifications in food. Research it if you like. At the smallest risk of allergic response (which is the main threat of GM foods), the FDA strikes them down, or at least orders much more testing to be done.

You seem to think that anyone can create GM foods in their garage and then sell them. This is simply not the case.

[ Parent ]

Good cherry picking (3.66 / 3) (#196)
by hex11a on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:58:14 PM EST

Now go and try to take on the real argument - we don't know that this stuff is safe, we don't need the stuff and I don't want to buy it. So why should I not be allowed to know what it's in?

Hex

[ Parent ]

I see the problem now (5.00 / 1) (#197)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:59:15 PM EST

You're assuming that GM foods aren't rigorously tested before they hit the international market. You'd've died of the anthrax/toxin-producing potato if you were correct.

Googling "Norman Borlaug" should address your concerns re the world's food supply.

Agricultural patents are our friends because otherwise we're back to trade secrets or, in parlance that would be better understood here, closed-source. I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for a pepper if anyone willing to pay small royalty could know exactly how it was modified to, say, make it resistant to drought.

[ Parent ]

Agricultural patents are not our friends (3.00 / 2) (#202)
by hex11a on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:10:27 PM EST

Patenting food is NOT a good idea. What's to stop Monsanto, once it controls god knows how much of the world's food supply, deciding "Hmm, law of supply and demand, let's say that we can only give out enough grain for 95% of people, and see how much they are willing to pay us". If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've got farming going nicely and a lot of food. Fix distribution of food by all means, fix distribution of tools, knowledge and materials, but don't say "We'll decide who gets to grow crops and what crops you grow and whether or not you know what you're eating".

Hex

[ Parent ]

What's more... (5.00 / 1) (#205)
by o reor on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:27:19 PM EST

In the case of agricultural patents, I should recommend a close look at this. This is all the rejoicing that using GM patented seeds will lead us to.

Furthermore, more interesting information on the subject is to be found on this site.



[ Parent ]

your argument (5.00 / 1) (#252)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:32:25 PM EST

got some French friends of mine a huge--and I mean huge--grant from their government to get French GM agricultural work up and running.

Anyway, replace Monsanto with Pfizer you're on familiar territory.

If a company patents a tomato, it cannot raise the price beyond the level where a competitor can pay the royalty and still undercut the original patent holder. And I'm afraid that food is already a commodity, if that's where you're going with this.

[ Parent ]

Patents expire (none / 0) (#256)
by koreth on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:05:48 PM EST

After 20 years, the super-corn's genetic code will be free to anyone who wants to grow it.

[ Parent ]
Patents expire? (1.00 / 1) (#315)
by Gallowglass on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:00:33 AM EST

<inserttongueincheek>
Apparently, not in the US. (Just ask Disney?)
</inserttongueincheek>

[ Parent ]
Copyrights vs. Patents... (5.00 / 1) (#340)
by SvnLyrBrto on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:36:45 PM EST

Come back when you know the difference.

cya,
john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

You're talking from both faces (5.00 / 1) (#226)
by mcgrew on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:04:23 PM EST

On the one hand you don't want GM labeled. On the other hand you want it because its open source.

Yeah, you're sure trustworthy.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Degrees of harm (5.00 / 1) (#356)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:50:14 PM EST

You'd've died of the anthrax/toxin-producing potato if you were correct.

I hate to break it to you, but there is a middle ground between "perfectly safe" and "instantly fatal". One or more GM foods just might fall into that category. And a few years of "rigorous testing" is hardly conclusive, especially when we don't even know what to test for, and when non-GM foods have had thousands of years of testing in the world's biggest laboratory: the world itself.

[ Parent ]

in Gaia's lab (5.00 / 1) (#372)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:04:22 AM EST

non-GM food is exceedingly rare. All we're doing differently now is changing the code directly instead of through selective breeding. And chimeras really get the bum rap, imho.

And a few years of "rigorous testing" is hardly conclusive.

I'll never be able to prove a negative, but at some point reasonable doubt needs to be given the weight it deserves.

[ Parent ]

So- (3.66 / 3) (#224)
by mcgrew on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:01:09 PM EST

I live in Illinois, "supermarket to the world." Why can't I walk down the street, let alone into a bar, without smelling cigarette smoke?

From your post one would think that you held the position that all europeans smoke, and no americans smoke. So I have no choice but to believe you are incredibly stupid.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

quit while you can (3.00 / 2) (#250)
by Lode Runner on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:16:49 PM EST

Why can't I walk down the street, let alone into a bar, without smelling cigarette smoke?

Because you smoke?

From your post one would think that you held the position that all europeans smoke, and no americans smoke.

Maybe if you left Illinois you'd observe that in Europe it's much easier to smoke in public places that aren't bars.

[ Parent ]

I don't smoke (none / 0) (#347)
by mcgrew on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:17:12 PM EST

Otherwise I wouldn't notice it, moron. No sense arguing with you, fool.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Europeans are Borg? (none / 0) (#308)
by Arevos on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:42:02 AM EST

1. Europeans do not want to see cigarettes go. If labels won't stop a European from smoking things that are proven harmful, why is that they're so effective in preventing the consumption of utterly harmless GM carrots?

You seem to be assuming that Europeans have some sort of hive mind. Some Europeans smoke. Some Europeans don't. Some Europeans are in favour of GM. Some Europeans aren't.

However, the majority of Europeans don't smoke and the majority of Europeans don't want GM foods, so I fail to see your point.

And "harmless" GM carrots? How do you know they are harmless? Even the Royal Society in the UK expressed doubts about the inadequate tests on GM crops. Life is a fantastically complicated mess of spagetti code, and I really doubt all the side effects of current products are known.

[ Parent ]

wrong (5.00 / 1) (#312)
by Lode Runner on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:52:51 AM EST

The majority of Europeans do smoke; a whopping 33% smoke every single day. And most oppose GM food. Need I draw you a Venn diagram?

I won't hold my breath waiting for you to point out even a single case of GM-induced dread disease.

[ Parent ]

Pardon? (none / 0) (#316)
by Arevos on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:08:09 AM EST

The majority of Europeans do smoke; a whopping 33% smoke every single day. And most oppose GM food. Need I draw you a Venn diagram?

Yup, that figure of 33% seems to be about right, though I'm interested in where you got that exact figure from, as I couldn't find anything similar. Still, I suggest you review basic math first, before going into Venn diagrams; 33% is not a majority. To quote from Wikipedia: A majority is a group that outnumbers its non-members. 33 is less than 67. Don't you understand the concept of percentages?

According to this, 66% of the EU thinks that GM food is a health hazard. So 66% are against GM and using your figure, 67% don't smoke. So doesn't that rather suggest that my original statement that the majority of Europeans don't smoke, and that the majority of Europeans oppose GM, is correct?

Furthermore, I can just imagine the tobacco companies of yesteryear saying "I won't hold my breath waiting for you to point out even a single case of smoking-induced dread disease". It's too early to tell, and any adverse effects of GM products (if there are any) will likely not be discovered for quite a few years yet.

[ Parent ]

that old figure is low (5.00 / 1) (#371)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:47:28 AM EST

thanks to the brave efforts of the Guardian.

As for the 33% majority, I urge you to review elementary English grammar. The key to successfully parsing my sentence is in the semi-colon.

If you'd read Wolfgang Schivebusch's bestselling history of intoxicants you'd know that informed Westerners have been aware of the dangers posed by tobacco since the 17th century. The problem is that baccy is conducive to social interaction and it's chemically addictive.

We've been eating GM food for longer than you think. Thus far no adverse effects have been reported. That's significant because when we observe long-term effects for populations, there are always individuals in whom those effects are manifested years ahead of the mean. There are indeed unfortunates who die of cigarette-induced lung cancer after only a few years of smoking.

But maybe you could make the argument that GM puts people off of cigarettes; I see some kind of correlation there.

[ Parent ]

GM food safety (none / 0) (#391)
by Arevos on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:40:44 PM EST

As for the 33% majority, I urge you to review elementary English grammar. The key to successfully parsing my sentence is in the semi-colon.

True, though that seemed to be the implication. If so, can you give me a figure where over 50% of the EU are considered to be smokers? And can you correlate this at all with the dislike of GM foods? In my experience, people who are against GM foods usually don't smoke, so I'd need some evidence of some kind before I'd believe the contrary.

If you'd read Wolfgang Schivebusch's bestselling history of intoxicants you'd know that informed Westerners have been aware of the dangers posed by tobacco since the 17th century. The problem is that baccy is conducive to social interaction and it's chemically addictive.

You mean Wolfgang Schivelbusch's Taste's of Paradise? Granted there are obvious effects that can be deduced, but there are less obvious dangers. I don't think GM foods can be compared too far with tobacco; the latter has obvious bad effects, the former has nothing obvious wrong (yet). Bear in mind that all GM foods are different, with no knowing of what will come on the market next, and that however long we've been using GM produce, it hasn't been around for long enough to document long term effects over a large sample space. Do I put my trust in a biotech company to make safe GM food?

We've been eating GM food for longer than you think. Thus far no adverse effects have been reported.

Perhaps, but people had been smoking for centuries before adverse effects were scientifically catalogued. Remember that tobacco companies discovered the ill effects of tobacco smoke long before it was made official. If the biotech industry discovered there were adverse effects, do you think we would know about it? And there have not been that many independant GM studies. So far, everything looks good, and I'm not against GM produce as a matter of principle. But, it only takes one unpredicted long-term effect of one genetically modified foodstuff to screw things up. If I have a cigarrette, I know what I'm getting. If any GM product is allowed in my food, I have no idea what I'm consuming.

[ Parent ]

Question (none / 0) (#403)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 25, 2003 at 05:54:07 AM EST

Do you know how many milligrams of rat turd are in that loaf of bread you're eating? In both the USA and tbe EU the legal maximum per loaf is not zero; and there're no laws requiring manufacturers to inform the consumer of possible contamination.

Rat fecal matter, btw, carries carcinogens, mutagens, neurotoxins, and regular nasty ol' bacteria. Do the anti-GM crusaders make a fuss about the lack of "rat turd" labelling? No. Do you have any way protecting yourself from rat droppings? No, unless you're going to start up your own mill.

The sooner you acknowledge that the GM debate is wholly political and therefore has no bearing on the safety of your food, the sooner you can focus on the real threats.

[ Parent ]

Food safety (none / 0) (#404)
by Arevos on Sun May 25, 2003 at 09:56:56 AM EST

First of all, could you provide a source? Second of all, homo sapiens as a species has consumed such distasteful additives for about a million years, so I'd imagine most effects of such material are fairly well known. In addition, the contaminants in our food at the moment are far, far less than those in the past, so I'd imagine that the dangers of such things in such minute amount is negiable, if only due to the vast amount of experience humans have with such foods.

On the other hand DNA is the most complicated, obfuscicated, spagetti code ever recorded in human history. We cannot possibly know what effects genetic modification will have. So far GM produce seems fairly harmless, but with each new product that enters the market the risk increases. Genetic modification is undeniably unpredictable, and it's not in any way an exact science. The effects are mathematically chaotic, and whilst testing can eliminate a lot of dangers, we can't properly test for long term effects.

To a large extent, yes, it's political. But that in no way means that there is no risk, or that there is not a solid grounding for arguments against genetic modification. Given that genetic modification is unpredictable, and long term effects cannot be known when a product is placed on the market, is it any wonder people think this is unsafe?

[ Parent ]

source (none / 0) (#410)
by Lode Runner on Mon May 26, 2003 at 04:13:35 AM EST

FDA Compliance Policy Guide 7104, subsection 3, duplicated here.

You may find it edifying to see what's allowed in other foodstuffs. You can browse the reguations here. Performing a global search for "adulteration" will get you started.

Bear in mind also the FDA imposes the most stringent guidelines in the world.

[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#411)
by Arevos on Mon May 26, 2003 at 07:05:41 AM EST

Thanks for the source, though my original point still stands, I think. People have had far more experience with contamination like this than GM produce. Also, even if our food is unsafe, that's no reason to introduce more wildcards into the mix.

Bear in mind also the FDA imposes the most stringent guidelines in the world.

It certainly has a better track record than the ones here in the EU. Which is probably partially the problem.

[ Parent ]

GM isn't a wildcard (none / 0) (#422)
by Lode Runner on Wed May 28, 2003 at 06:07:53 AM EST

If the effects of a genetic change aren't known, then you can't guarantee certain results, or profits.

Monsanto has a solid reputation for not mucking around with receptor sites, which is where the more insidious gene-related dangers lie. The same can't be said for the multinational pharmaceuticals. If the general public had any idea how the new antibiotics work, they wouldn't touch the stuff even wearing a biohazard suit. . .

Also, note that while operon systems do seem to possess as a degree of "spaghetti logic," they are generally tractable; the real complexity can be found in the compilation process itself: protein folding. Enzymes have a logic that's just too complicated to penetrate; and environmental factors--read: stuff that has nothing to do with genetic modification--seem to affect their behavior much more than genetic factors. This means that you're more likely to make corn carcinogenic by trying to grow it in the desert than you are by changing a few bases around.

[ Parent ]

GM risk not insignificant (none / 0) (#426)
by Arevos on Thu May 29, 2003 at 10:02:42 AM EST

If the effects of a genetic change aren't known, then you can't guarantee certain results, or profits.

You just have to know a change works under the conditions you test it under. It's very much a science where you test and see what happens, so there isn't any real way to guarentee the substance is safe in the long term. Antibiotics are, probably, much more dangerous, but they're used in extreme cases anyway. You wouldn't take some antibiotics unless you were really sick, and the especially dangerous ones are usually reserved for treatment of deadly diseases, so it's really a lesser of the two evils. I don't think anyone would consume antibiotics without a doctor's consultation.

This means that you're more likely to make corn carcinogenic by trying to grow it in the desert than you are by changing a few bases around.

Really? That's 100% proven (or at least as much as science can offer)? In any case, that doesn't make it any safer. What about the high mortality effects on Monarch butterflies by B.t corn? What about cross-species genetic contamination? What about the introduction of a particular trait causing a life-threatening allergy in, say, 1 out of 10'000 children, or something else not picked up in the tests?

I accept that, in the vast majority of cases, GM food is utterly harmless, as long as you ignore any environmental concerns. Humans probably don't have a problem eating artificial foodstuffs. However, there is a risk that a GM crop will carry an unintentional side effect, and we don't know enough about genetics to safely predict results. With each new GM product that is introduced into our foodchain, the risk increases. Natural products may be dangerous too, but at least they've had a few million years of field tests. GM food hasn't. Whilst the track record of GM crops is so far clean, it's a very, very, very short track.

In any case, if Monsanto found out that a GM product it produced had side effects 10 years down the line, say, some kind of allergy, would it tell the public? The chance that a particular GM product will, at some point in the future, prove dangerous is more likely than not. The chance that the company involved will be reluctant to divulge any information about this danger is not without precident. Combine these two factors and you end up with a significant possibility that some GM product will end up endangering lives. Sure, the vast majority of GM would be harmless, maybe even beneficial, but until scientists know what they're doing in regard to genetic manipulation, I'm not inclined to choose GM over more natural produce. Especially when I have no incentive to do so.

[ Parent ]

33% is a majority? (5.00 / 1) (#355)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:40:49 PM EST

Ok, so you probably meant "33% smoke every day, but more than 50% smoke less often". But now your statistic is suspect. What if I smoke once a month, or once a year? Do I count as a smoker? For all we know, the statistic you're quoting could have been obtained by asking, "Have you ever smoked in your life, even once?" to which 80% of Europeans answered yes. It would be incorrect to then say that 80% of Europeans are smokers.

By the way, what's your obsession with Europeans? Do you have some sort of irrational grudge that causes you to paint all Europeans with the same brush? Are you resentful that France spoke out openly against the US's war plans, so you're using this argument in a pathetic attempt to get revenge? It's not helping your credibility, you know.

[ Parent ]

Now that you mention it (none / 0) (#369)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:28:38 AM EST

you could draw a third circle for the objectively pro-Saddam continental mainstream. No photo of an anti-war rally was complete without people puffing away.

Anyway, you would've parsed my sentence with ease if you understood the semicolon. Maybe a dozen people on this whole board do.

The stats come from my semi-annual RJR shareholders' report. They actually boast that the GM phobia won't affect sales. That's seriously messed up. . .

[ Parent ]

Statistics and the EU (none / 0) (#373)
by Arevos on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:06:09 AM EST

you could draw a third circle for the objectively pro-Saddam continental mainstream. No photo of an anti-war rally was complete without people puffing away.

Wow, I'm impressed you managed to get that chestnut in. You sure you're not just trolling for fun here?

Anyway, you would've parsed my sentence with ease if you understood the semicolon. Maybe a dozen people on this whole board do.

I think he was taking up issue with the implication that 33% of people in the EU were smokers. True, the sentence doesn't directly say that, but it certainly seems to imply that's what you mean. According to this, 27% of people in Britain are smokers. According to this , the number of smokers in the EU was 94 million in 1999 with a total population of 375,967,700. Which makes 25% in total. I suppose you could boost this up to 33% if you were cynical, but the fact remains that smokers are a minority.

So what's your point? As far as I can tell it's: the majority of people in the EU don't like GM foods, and a minority of people in the EU smoke - therefore all Europeans are hypocrites for smoking and being against GM foods. Can you see the flaw in your logic?

The stats come from my semi-annual RJR shareholders' report. They actually boast that the GM phobia won't affect sales. That's seriously messed up. . .

No, it makes sense. If you're a smoker you're obviously not too concerned about the health risks. Therefore is it not reasonable to suggest that such a person is more likely to eat GM foods because they don't care as much as others about dangers to their health? In other words, I fail to see your point unless you're suggesting that- actually, I'm not sure what you're suggesting at all. Why is it "seriously messed up"? Doesn't it just imply that the report thinks that the GM food issue and cigarrette sales are unrelated?

[ Parent ]

you need to follow tobacco litigation (none / 0) (#375)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:29:13 AM EST

"smoker" means regular smoker, son. Regular, as in a several faggots a day. The figure goes way, way up if you consider people who only smoke a pack every couple weeks.

And then there's the problem of age. The elderly and very young don't generally smoke, so there goes 40% of the population right away. So even by your definition, we're into Venn country.

Third, you need to consider smoking rates among, say, Guardian readers. Jose Bove smokes.

Lastly, I'm not trying to tar all Europeans. I know plenty of Europeans who don't smoke and who are perfectly comfortable eating GM food; heck, some of these people even design GM products! Be that as it may, I feel it's my duty to point out mass hysteria when I see it.

[ Parent ]

Smoking and GM foods (none / 0) (#390)
by Arevos on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:08:56 PM EST

"smoker" means regular smoker, son. Regular, as in a several faggots a day. The figure goes way, way up if you consider people who only smoke a pack every couple weeks.

Source? Can you come up with a legitamate survey that shows this? I'm at University, and thus at a typical place where there are lots of people protest the war and GM food and smokers are still in the minority. Out of everyone I know, even discounting the elderly and young, there is still a minority of smokers. So unless you can show me a source which contradicts my own experience of Europeans, I'm not inclined to take your word for it.

Third, you need to consider smoking rates among, say, Guardian readers.

No Guardian reader I know smokes, though I admit the sample space is small and prone to error. Now readers of the Sun, that's a different matter...

Jose Bove smokes.

Good for him.

Lastly, I'm not trying to tar all Europeans. I know plenty of Europeans who don't smoke and who are perfectly comfortable eating GM food; heck, some of these people even design GM products! Be that as it may, I feel it's my duty to point out mass hysteria when I see it.

Ok, glad to know you don't mean everyone. But still; mass hysteria? Genetic modification is the most unpredictable science out there. DNA is a spagetti code mess, and discounting quantum computer development, we can't even begin to calculate their effects except very roughly indeed. The Royal Society in the UK is of the opinion that there have been inadequate tests on GM products, and bear in mind that biotech companies aren't designing GM food for altruistic reasons. So I'm inclined to be skeptical.

Besides which, it's not just a case of obvious health risks. There's environmental contamination, unpredictable long term allergies, and when applied to livestock, there's a whole pandora's box of new evolutionary playgrounds for viruses to mutate in.

Furthermore, there's no real reason why people shouldn't smoke and be against GM produce. If a person smokes, they can be fairly sure what they're getting. It's their choice. There isn't enough documentation on the long term effects of GM foods. In any case, smoking, so I'm told, is a lot more enjoyable than eating genetically modified carrots, so there's that to factor in.

[ Parent ]

I have anecdotes too (none / 0) (#392)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:57:34 PM EST

I've attended some of Europe's finest universities and almost all my peers smoked. You couldn't go through the student lounges without choking. In the USA far fewer young people smoke.

[ Parent ]
Universities and smoking (none / 0) (#397)
by Arevos on Sat May 24, 2003 at 06:08:06 PM EST

Which universities were they? I've had experience with only Warwick University in the middle of England, though I've visited Cambridge for interview and I can't recall anyone smoking there, though I admit this isn't very many. Still, Warwick's quite big, and whilst it's not Oxbridge, it does hold similar grade standards. So with a large student population, with a relatively large amount of overseas students, you'd expect that there'd be a lot of smokers, if your proposition was correct. Except smokers seem in the minority.

In any case, it doesn't really matter if our experiences differ, as if you're going to make a statement linking smoking and GM food dislike then you'll have to back it up with sources, especially if it seems a little unlikely. Besides, we're gravitating away from the point.

[ Parent ]

one of them (none / 0) (#402)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 25, 2003 at 05:30:30 AM EST

was in Paris. They had a huge dining hall out in the 14th where the smoking was so prevalent that the only way to prevent your food (and lungs) from becoming saturated with Gauloises was to saturate it first with a flavor of smoke more to your liking.

My point isn't that there's a link between smoking and opposition to GM. Rather, it's that I find it puzzling that so many millions of regular smokers refuse to touch "risky" GM food.

[ Parent ]

Because... (none / 0) (#272)
by joto on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:45:39 AM EST

They are not the same europeans, dummy!

[ Parent ]
meet John Venn (5.00 / 1) (#275)
by Lode Runner on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:49:49 AM EST

75% of European adults refuse to eat GM food and 60% of European adults smoke. Therefore there are millions of people who smoke and won't touch GM.

[ Parent ]
Tonight on Fox: when statistics attack (1.00 / 1) (#349)
by it certainly is on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:58:58 PM EST

Survey: "do you refuse to eat GM food?"
pct. of EU pop. who smoke: 60% (source?)
pct. of EU pop. in survey sample: 0.00000001% (estimate)
pct. of EU pop not in survey sample: 99.99999% (estimate)
pct. of sample who smoke: unknown. could be 0%-100%

If anything, I would expect smokers to be the most cynical critics of GM food. They were lied to by corporations, told that smoking was "safe", "didn't cause cancer" and "wasn't addictive" and they gullibly believed it. Now they're addicted to carcinogenic narcotics, slowly killing themselves. It's the non-smokers who are most at risk of being hoodwinked by corporations with vested interests in claiming GM food is "completely safe".

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. (5.00 / 1) (#353)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:23:23 PM EST

Even if those stats are true and not pulled out of the air, and even if all those smokers do it with intentional disregard for their health, and even if all those GM food avoiders do so because they fear the health risks, your statement still doesn't prove anything. That's because the risks of smoking are well known, whereas the risks of GM foods aren't. How can you walk up to GM-food-avoiding smoker and say, "Since you already accept a behaviour with a known health risk, why not accept a behaviour with an unknown health risk as well?"

[ Parent ]
that would be valid (5.00 / 1) (#370)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 02:33:50 AM EST

if the risks of GM were, in fact, unknown. It's no longer even stylish to make health-related arguments about GM anymore; these days, it's all about ecological diversity and stopping monocultures.

And remember, the poor enjoy performing the unnecessary task of picking potato bugs off of unaltered crops.

[ Parent ]

What about GM tobacco? (none / 0) (#304)
by thogard on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:50:15 AM EST

Most of the tobacco sold anywhere in the world is already GM. Right now the tobacco compaines are upset since there are proposed laws in the US saying they must say what they add to the tobacco. They seem to think that the 10% of the crud they put in is a trade secret.

Tobacco has been crossed with types of fungus for at least 30 years and maybe at least 50 years. Many of the additives are fungus that have very strong addictive properties.

Just look at how much of the early genetics research was paid for by tobacco compaines.

[ Parent ]

early genetics research (none / 0) (#374)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:09:34 AM EST

funded by tobacco companies had more to do with stopping tobacco mosaic virus than anything really sinister. TMV taught us a great deal.

I'll add that it's interesting that there's actually a market for "organic" cigarettes.

[ Parent ]

And how did we arrive at that evidence? (5.00 / 1) (#354)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:30:12 PM EST

There's rock solid evidence that tobacco kills while there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that eating GM food is harmful to one's health.

We only discovered the rock solid evidence that tobacco kills by doing extensive studies within the past few decades. People smoked tobacco for hundreds of years before that, oblivious to the risks. What if we are currently in the same "oblivious period" right now in relation to GM foods? What if, one hundred years in the future, the dangers of GM foods are as obvious as the danger of tobacco is now? That's why people object to genetic modification: the risks are unknown.

The rest of your post reads like childish vitriol, much like renaming "French Fries" to "Freedom Fries". Need I remind you that many North Americans also smoke and are simultaneously opposed to GM?

[ Parent ]

Well. (none / 0) (#400)
by subversion on Sat May 24, 2003 at 06:53:44 PM EST

If we don't ever eat the GM foods, we sure won't have the necessary evidence, because no one will pay to study them.

Are we really this risk-averse?

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Not hundreds (none / 0) (#408)
by kvan on Mon May 26, 2003 at 03:48:40 AM EST

Just a hundred. As early as 1604, King James I wrote his Counterblaste to tobacco, in which he outlined the reasons he thought tobacco use to be harmful. One of the most pertinent passages is this:

Surely Smoke becomes a kitchin far better then a Dining chamber, and yet it makes a kitchin also oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soiling and infecting them, with an unctuous and oily kinde of Soote, as hath bene found in some great Tobacco takers, that after their death were opened.

Note that he specifically refers to medical evidence that the lungs are harmed by inhaling smoke. Smoking has been known to be harmful for 400 years.

"Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, most do." - Bertrand Russell


[ Parent ]
I'm from yurp and resemble your remark (5.00 / 1) (#416)
by thenerd on Tue May 27, 2003 at 07:37:46 AM EST

I'm a yurpeen that smokes and doesn't like GM food.  I'm perfectly content with a situation that appears to you like an inconsistency.

The reason is this:

  1. I like smoking cigarettes, I find it pleasurable.  Yes I am aware that they are unhealthy and that other people dislike the smoke, that's why I always ask permission if I am with people, making it clear that it isn't a problem if permission isn't granted.
  2. I dislike the money and politics of GM food.  They may or may not be harmful to health, or harmful to other crops.  I don't have the data.  In the absence of the data, I'll assume there may be problems.  There's no problems with the quantity of food available in the world.  There are problems with the distribution.  GM crops are irrelevant to food distribution.  If they are being made relevant it is because the people who are producing it are trying to make it relevant.  It isn't needed.
  3. I'm not particularly worried about the health effects of eating GM food myself particularly, but I like to avoid it because I like to avoid it.  For some reason this isn't enough, and I'd like to know why.  Can't I decide not to eat something for political or any other reasons?


[ Parent ]
exactly my point (none / 0) (#421)
by Lode Runner on Wed May 28, 2003 at 05:48:38 AM EST

First, thank you. Lots of people have been trying to avoid answering this question by claiming that the anti-GM smoker doesn't exist. If your post is indeed not a burlesque written by somebody trying to help me out, then may my accusers eat (organic) crow. That being out of the way. . .

The convergence of selfishness and superstitution in your justification for shunning GM certainly grates me, but it's your self-righteous attack on rationality that really puts you over the top. It reminds me of how religious types act when they decide to leave science behind once and for all.

What's more, you can't even appeal to utility to support your position. If you gave a damn about the harm caused by products you purchase, you'd quit smoking long before considering the problem of GM. Your second-hand smoke is tearing years off the life of people who're near you, but that's less of an impetus to act than the surmise that GM is going to be somehow really dangerous?!

Finally, know that nobody can deal with any real dissonance, hence so many European smokers concocting political, economic, and even health-related rationalizations for sabotaging the enterprise of improving crops by editing genes.

[ Parent ]

I think we just have very different mindsets (none / 0) (#423)
by thenerd on Wed May 28, 2003 at 09:42:11 AM EST

At the end of the day, I feel happy with my choices; sorry if this comes across as offensive to you, that's not the intention.  I make my choices, and you make yours.

I concede I may be superstitious to an extent in shunning GM, however I don't believe shunning GM is in any way selfish.  I believe the lack of morality shown by Monsanto et al is reason enough to not support them directly nor indirectly.  I think it is clear that benefits can be obtained from GM food.  The issue is not with benefits, it is with control.  To create a situation where people can be open to litigation for knowingly or unknowingly planting seed is not healthy (see Percy Schmeiser).  I also take issue with Monsanto easing themselves into third world agriculture - they will not be doing this for selfless reasons.  The last thing farmers in the third world need is to be dependent, or owing money to others.

I realise funding tobacco companies doesn't help the world either.  I actually take issue with your assertion about my second hand smoke; you have absolutely no idea about how and where I smoke.

However, GM crops and cigarettes are two very different things - you may see inconsistency or a weak position, I just see someone who smokes with a view about GM crops.  I'd see that to be consistent in terms of your world view, my life could have no internal inconsistencies.  My 'position' on everything would be in accord with everything else.  I'm not trying to provoke you, but I'm also a vegetarian that wears leather shoes.  However I don't eat my shoes.  And Monsanto doesn't make cigarettes, they make GM crops which come with a completely different context, and a completely different possible set of consequences.


[ Parent ]

the issue isn't control per se, (none / 0) (#425)
by Lode Runner on Wed May 28, 2003 at 09:51:28 PM EST

it's corporate American control. Monsanto wishes to create a strain of rice so cheap that they could sell it directly to third-world farmers instead of watching governments and NGOs turn feeding the third-world into a charity case. This will mess up the current balance of power:
  • Such a move would empower third-worlders as customers; Monsanto would to a degree be at mercy of its customers.
  • It will take leverage away from governments, especially those in the EU, that provide Africa (non-GM) food in exchange for unimpeded exploita political influence and resource rights. Mugabe's relationship with France illustrates this well.
  • If the impetus for providing third-worlders is profit instead of pity, they'll be better off. Givers of handouts have been known to be fickle; as long as profit is involved someone will be willing to try.
This prospect of changing an unjust status quo just scares the hell out some people, and not just farmers who would lose their golden government goose.

As for your offense at my second-hand smoke suggestion, I'm sorry that I assumed you weren't one of those rare people who only smokes alone out on the mountaintop.

One can be a vegetarian and wear leather shoes if the reason for becoming a vegetarian is the hatred of plants.

[ Parent ]

Hmm. Numbers. (none / 0) (#432)
by it certainly is on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:51:07 PM EST

If I gave out second-hand smoke, I could kill, what, maybe 100 people? Worse, none of them will pay me ransom money. "Pay me 10 quid or I'll smoke near you." "Fuck off, Mister."

If I had absolute dominance and control over the food supply of huge countries, I could kill billions of people! And just think how much those people would pay to keep their dictator happy and benevolent! We could use the free market! My "customers" would have a choice of, er, me, me and me. And me. And if my "rivals" decided to break our agreements, I'd just tell my "customers" that their wheat was "incompatible" with my rivals' wheat. Sucks to be them.

So, I think the correct answer is to take control of the food supply and make people dependant on me. That's why I'm the chairman of a huge American food megacorp. Today, I think I'll recommend to the board of the huge American tobacco megacorp that I'm also on that we fraudulently advertise cigarettes in third-world companies as symbols of freedom and independence. Yep, freedom fags. How do you like them apples?

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Every food is GM food (4.33 / 9) (#159)
by clarkcox3 on Thu May 22, 2003 at 02:40:27 PM EST

Exactly, Practically everything that humans regularly eat has been genetically modified by people. Whether by modern gene-splicing, etc, or by selective breeding. People have always changed plants and animals to suit their needs.

As was noted in the article, what we think of as corn was also created by humans, before humans genetically modified maze through selective breeding, it was a small grass-like plant that looked more like wheat than modern corn. The same is true of every single fruit and vegetable that we eat today.

Basically, the only way that one could ever avoid eating GM foods would be to go back in time to before humans learned about agriculture, so until someone invents a time machine, get used to GM foods. The people that currently protest GM foods are uninformed, and are only protesting out of ignorance.

We have two choices:
  • Embrace GM foods, as they allow us to make more food with fewer resources, which can help to feed millions of starving people around the world
  • Or, we can superstitiously pretend that GM foods are "evil", and that starving people of the world deserve to die.


The distinction that you miss... (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by lb008d on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:26:34 PM EST

is that if after years of selective breeding a strain of rice could be bred that contains high levels of vitamin A people probably wouldn't have a problem with it simply because the process is slow, controlled and gradual.

[ Parent ]
The distinction that he misses... (4.20 / 5) (#173)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:42:36 PM EST

...is that there's a bit of a difference between breeding a collie and a labrador, and splicing the genes of a labrador and a firefly so that the labrador grows in the dark. One is a natural process, the other is a "oooh... little bit waaaaaay!!!"
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
I don't miss it (5.00 / 1) (#309)
by clarkcox3 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:49:28 AM EST

Neither is a natural process, selective breeding is:
A human changing the genes of an animal to suit him/her

Genesplicing is:
A human changing the genes of an animal to suit him/her

The only difference is the speed



[ Parent ]
That's not true (3.00 / 2) (#311)
by melia on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:52:50 AM EST

Selective breeding of dogs, for example, is something that could happen in nature. Gene splicing is something that couldn't. There is a very deep (and simple) difference between the two. If what you say is true, please explain to me how you could selectively breed a firefly and a labrador? This is a ridiculous troll.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Not quite (5.00 / 1) (#352)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:14:28 PM EST

It should be:

Selective breeding is:
A human encouraging the genes of an animal to change themselves, in order to suit him/her

Genesplicing is:
A human changing the genes of an animal to suit him/her

The only difference is direct manipulation of the genes versus indirect

[ Parent ]

GM is no solution to starvation (4.00 / 2) (#194)
by jorleif on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:57:34 PM EST

Describing the problem in so absolute terms as starvation or GM is not being much less of a sensationalist than the retrovirus nonsense. Starvation is not a simple problem to solve.

Superficially it might seem like there is too little food, therefore more food is the obvious solution.

But there is no reason why the whole world could not produce enough food to feed everyone, how else would it be possible for the population to have grown to the size it is? Starvation is mostly a combination of political problems and some kind of natural disaster. Sure GM can help in suffering countries, but it will hardly solve any political problems.

[ Parent ]
Every food is not GM food (2.00 / 1) (#199)
by lamontg on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:02:13 PM EST

Selective breeding will not get you a form of corn with an enzyme from a fish in it. The tampering with foods from GM is much more dramatic than the tampering with foods that you get with selective breeding.

[ Parent ]
Yes it is (5.00 / 1) (#310)
by clarkcox3 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:52:34 AM EST

Given enough time it could

[ Parent ]
But... (5.00 / 1) (#351)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:11:48 PM EST

since the time involved would be much longer than any of us will be alive, it's a moot point.

[ Parent ]
Most certainly not (5.00 / 1) (#409)
by kvan on Mon May 26, 2003 at 03:52:36 AM EST

Most food crops have been selectively bred for thousands of years, and altered immensely from their original form in that time. It seems rather unlikely that not a single one has come to express a new protein during the process.

"Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, most do." - Bertrand Russell


[ Parent ]
Not the same thing (5.00 / 1) (#350)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:10:23 PM EST

Gene-splicing and selective breeding are not the same thing, even though both can be called genetic modifications. An abacus and a mainframe can both be called computers. Are they the same thing in terms of effects? I will illustrate your error using a sentence from your post:

the only way that one could ever avoid eating GM foods would be to go back in time to before humans learned about agriculture, so until someone invents a time machine, get used to GM foods.

You've used the word "GM" twice, but you meant something different each time, like this:

the only way that one could ever avoid eating selective breeding foods would be to go back in time to before humans learned about agriculture, so until someone invents a time machine, get used to gene-spliced foods.

You're trying to take the safety and comfort associated with selective breeding and associate it with gene-splicing, using the justification that both are called "GM". That's not necessarily false, but there's hundreds of years of evidence that selectively-bred foods are safe, and only a few decades of proof that gene-spliced foods are safe. We'll just have to wait and see.

[ Parent ]

Super weeds and bio-diversity (3.83 / 6) (#172)
by DodgyGeezer on Thu May 22, 2003 at 03:41:14 PM EST

There's more to it than that.  You haven't for example mentioned what happens when a plant that has been genetically altered to be herbicide-resitant is no longer wanted.  Canola farmers in Alberta (Canada) have discovered this.  They have herbicide-resistant canola "super" weeds that have escaped in to neighbouring fields, or continue to grow in a field where the crop has been changed.  This is quite a problem with potential high costs to both farmers and to the environment.  It's a prime example of why GMO food should be outlawed.

On another note, I read something on the BBC's web site a while back.  The problem was with reduction of gene diversity in crops in Mexico due to mass adoption of GMO seeds from the same source.  The lack of diversity can lead to a whole country's crop being vulnerable to a disease.

A lot more, wake up and smell the coffee (3.00 / 5) (#181)
by A Trickster Imp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:10:46 PM EST

Twelve years ago I was working in Europe.  They were banning US fruits and vegetables because of "insecticide" reasons.

One Eurotrash even lamented to me how tasteless US fruits were because of it.

BECAUSE of it?  Huh?

They are tasteless because they are harvested when hard as a rock (too young to ripen properly, in fact) so they can be manhandled by machinery with minimal damage.

Anyhoo, it opened my eyes to the crap your government can pull over your eyes.

Rest assured, the real, "corridors" reason behind the bans aren't insecticide or frankenfoods.  It's protecting the domestic, European farmer.

All this hot air is nothing more than BS to divert the hoi polloi's attention from the smarminess.  Two hundred hoi polloi messages arguing irrelevancies on this board so far, and counting.

[ Parent ]

Ironically (5.00 / 1) (#184)
by A Trickster Imp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:16:48 PM EST

Ironically, one of the first true "frankenfoods" was a tomato with a trout gene in it that kept it firm enough for shipping until much closer to the real ripen date.  It was supposedly a lot better tasting because of that.

Although I think the Bible is made up, there is one good passage to keep in mind here (pardon my mangling): By their fruit shall they (good and evil people) be known.  A withered tree will give no fruit, and a healthy one can't help but give fruit.

How many countless millions does genetic manipulation as the current and next step of farming save, outright, or just give better, healthier lives to.  How many would now be dead, or soon will be, if the anti-frankenfood terrorists have their way?  Isn't it enough to know that the banning of DDT can, at the very least, be blamed for the deaths of tens of millions of people?

But then again, to a politician, a million dead in the bush is worth one dead now in front of the cameras.  Sorry.  Worth less than one dead now in front of the cameras.

Hmmmm...I wonder how many died because of delayed drugs by the FDA vs. how many would have died had rampant, evil capitalism run amok?  I'll give you a hint:  better not go there.

[ Parent ]

Flavr Savr (none / 0) (#189)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:35:02 PM EST

yep. The flavr savr tomato was able to be picked as it ripened, making it much tastier than the others.

Unfortunately, they still didn't solve the firmness problem enough, and they still got mangled in transportation more than the 'gassed green' variety. Monsanto purchased them in '95 or '96.

[ Parent ]

DDT (5.00 / 1) (#221)
by mcgrew on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:59:10 PM EST

Is actually a GOOD reason to stay away from GM. They thought it was harmless for decades- and it persists. Now there are entire species (the California Condor is one) of animals that are extinct or in danger of extinction because of it.

DDT is bad, it SHOULD have been banned.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

And... (none / 0) (#268)
by A Trickster Imp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:04:35 PM EST

And the California condor species is worth 60 million human lives because....?

Especially given the easily-predicted ability fourty years ago (that is a reality now) that such a species could be resurrected once better insecticide chemicals got developed?

There are no easy decisions, but to pick a few species to live (vs. temporary extinction) over the lives of tens of millions of people is murderous on the level of Hitler and Stalin.

Thanks for the help, environmentalists!  Sleep well tonight.

[ Parent ]

Nonsense (5.00 / 1) (#344)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:06:01 PM EST

a species could be resurrected once better insecticide chemicals got developed?

There's no such thing as "resurrecting" an extinct species. At best, you're drastically oversimplyfying the amount of work needed to breed a near-extinct species in captivity and release them into the wild to increase their numbers. At worst, you've watched Jurassic Park a few too many times. Sorry, but once a species is gone, it's gone, and that has cascading effects that hurt all life on Earth, in the long run.

to pick a few species to live (vs. temporary extinction) over the lives of tens of millions of people is murderous on the level of Hitler and Stalin.

You just said that humans should do whatever it takes, including making other species extinct, to preserve lives, and we're murderers if we don't. Taking that logic to the extreme, then you, Trickster Imp, are personally responsible for murdering starving children in third world countries because you don't donate enough money to UNICEF. Sleep well tonight.

[ Parent ]

Lack of GM food OR ddt doesn't kill people. (none / 0) (#346)
by mcgrew on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:15:52 PM EST

Love of money and politics kills people. There is plenty of food, it's just distributed poorly.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

more than that (none / 0) (#185)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:17:17 PM EST

its another attempt at government pandering there to try and present their lackluster food safety agencies in a good light. What after how many miserable failures at containing things like foot and mouth and mad cow? Nobody there trusts the food safety agencies, and for good reason.

The hysterics over GM foods propagated by the euro governments is unwarranted, and borderline on lying and spreading unfactual myths and rumors. I wouldnt trust such incompetant food agencies either.

[ Parent ]

Don't jump to conclusions (2.00 / 2) (#191)
by DodgyGeezer on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:43:42 PM EST

"One Eurotrash [...]  Anyhoo, it opened my eyes to the crap your government can pull over your eyes."

I live in Canada.  My government generally falls in line with what the US government tells them to do.  Feeling stupid?  Engage your brain before opening your mouth for a misplaced rant.

[ Parent ]

Wasn't there also a case where a farmer (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:11:51 PM EST

was sued for using "Round Up Ready" corn seed he hadn't paid for, but the problem was actually that his neighbor's corn had cross-pollinated his field?

IIRC, this was a big deal, because the farmer was trying to raise an organic crop..


--
Fishing for Men, Trolling for Newbies, what's the difference?


[ Parent ]
"Bio Diversity" means lots of different (5.00 / 1) (#255)
by michaelp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:50:02 PM EST

patterns of DNA, which can be made in the lab or gathered from the field. Monoculture and GM foods are different issues, one could have a diverse crop with many different GM strains, or a mono-crop with a single "natural" strain. Over reliance on monoculture is not a good idea, but it is not an argument against GM foods.

It's a prime example of why GMO food should be outlawed.

No, it's a prime example of why that particular practice should be avoided. It is no reason to outlaw golden rice, or GM grains with higher protein content. It doesn't make sense, anyway, herbacide resistent plants are resistent only to a particular type of herbacide, other herbacides should work quite well on them. It's not like anyone is make steel armored canola plants, rather they insert genes that let them break down particular organic molecules harmlessly. Other poisons should work just fine.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Are people dying...? (4.00 / 7) (#187)
by jd on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:30:36 PM EST

The claim that they're not is simply not assertable at this point. People have died from assorted causes thousands of years before those causes were established.

The claim that "people aren't dying" from GM food is therefore a falacy. The best you can claim is that nobody has established a link between deaths and GM food.

Currently, alumin(i)um is believed to be linked to a form of brittle-bone disease, a form of anaemia, and a form of Alzheimer's Disease. Certainly, this link is hotly contested (especially in the US, where a lot of companies using Alumin(i)um products are based), but the evidence of some link is now pretty close to irrefutable.

However, alumin(i)um, brittle bones, anaemia and Alzheimer's Disease have all existed, long before atomic mass spectrometry, desfereoximine or even modern medical terminology.

AIDS certainly pre-dates 1980, and historic medical texts - when examined - do reveal the existance of AIDS-like symptoms as far back as the 1600s. Yet, AIDS as a diagnosis is relatively recent. Deaths from AIDS prior to the ability to detect HIV antibodies will be documented as being caused by something else - likely a secondary infection, as that's usually the "killer".

In short, that we haven't shown that GM foods cause deaths, shows us exactly nothing. Historically and scientifically, we can conclude only that we have no data available, and therefore that we know absolutely nothing definitive.

That is why it is paramount that a totally independent and extremely thorough investigation is carried out, so that risks can be accurately assessed. "Thorough" does NOT mean "whatever the doctor attributes as cause of death", it means carrying out a detailed investigation, at the cellular level and preferably the sub-cellular level. High level statistical studies mean exactly nothing, as you can't define the variables well enough. The noise level is too great to get decent data.

you trend to false alarmism/fear of the unknown(nt (none / 0) (#265)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:30:40 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Fear of the unknown... (5.00 / 1) (#320)
by jd on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:40:40 AM EST

...is healthy, when it causes people to search out that unknown, study it, and know it.

Lack of fear of the unknown is unhealthy, when it causes people to treat it as though it were known and understood.

Anything that furthers understanding and furthers society through understanding is, IMHO, Good. When early sailors ventured into the unknown, unsure of whether they'd ever find land, or even if they'd fall off the edge, they did something good. They recognized those fears and used them as a driving force to push them further than they would ever have gone otherwise.

Exploration, as a war-cry against fear and the unknown, is the greatest step a person can take, but you can't do that if you don't recognise that the fear and the unknown exist to start with.

[ Parent ]

The reason why GM scares people: (3.20 / 10) (#190)
by Kasreyn on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:40:42 PM EST

Ignorance, and fear of the unknown / future. Same as any radical, new, or drastic new technology.

I, for one, have no qualms about eating a Big Mac. Do you seriously think, with the sheer amount of people who eat them daily, that if there were bad for you, it wouldn't have been heard of until now? Yet I haven't heard a peep of any actual dangers, just some illogical what-if rants from some agricultural Luddites.

What do I care if the cow I am eating was fed hormones, or genetically modified? I *don't* care! As long as I get my beef cheaply and safely, and all indications I am aware of say that I am. Without modern advances in food production, millions would starve to death every year. You'll notice it's only well-fed people protesting the "horrors" of hormones in food animals - the rest are too busy trying to avoid thinking of beef, because it makes the hunger pangs worse. You try and quantify the payoffs: the risk of some probably imaginary, as-yet unproven harm from eating hormone-laced meat or GM fruits and veggies, or death from fucking starvation. Tough one, huh?

The only problem with GM and chemically enhanced food that I see is mismanagement of the technology. The "terminator" issue turmeric raises could lead to abuses and monoculture, which is unhealthy in the long run. A GM plant that refuses to go away when no longer wanted could be nasty, but there's an easy solution: build in a weakness to a certain chemical compound as an herbicide, so if neccessary it can be destroyed. As for genetic crossover, I'm seriously doubting it; haven't seen the evidence yet. The main problem I see it corporate irresponsibility; a company could make a crop that is devastating to the environment in many ways, but not care at all. My fix would be some sort of international regulatory body which inspects GM and other "enhanced" food products, and puts a seal or certificate of inspection on those which pass certain requirements.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
terminator (none / 0) (#203)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:20:27 PM EST

In October '99 monsanto announced they had no intentions of commercializing terminator.

It is a dead issue, and has been for years.

[ Parent ]

But other companies, could, and probably will -nt (none / 0) (#208)
by Kasreyn on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:35:55 PM EST

nt means no text
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
heh.. (none / 0) (#223)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:00:43 PM EST

not without licensing it from monsanto they won't.

[ Parent ]
Speculativo (none / 0) (#206)
by melia on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:31:46 PM EST

You'll notice it's only well-fed people protesting the "horrors" of hormones in food animals - the rest are too busy trying to avoid thinking of beef, because it makes the hunger pangs worse.

The Zambian article shows that African countries are considering the risks as well. This statement is purely speculation. As is: The only problem with GM and chemically enhanced food that I see is mismanagement of the technology.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Except... (4.50 / 2) (#227)
by lb008d on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:05:06 PM EST

Do you seriously think, with the sheer amount of people who eat them daily, that if there were bad for you, it wouldn't have been heard of until now?

Except for the fact that Big Mac's are bad for you. Not in the if-I-eat-this-I'll-die-instantaneously way but in the if-I-eat-one-everyday-it-will-shorten-my-life way.

[ Parent ]

Shorten our lives compared to what measurement? (3.00 / 3) (#240)
by Kasreyn on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:29:51 PM EST

Average lifespan of a human being in the wild, with no technology, has been variously estimated between 30 to 35 years.

Are you over 30? If so, then you can't bitch about modern technology, because it's why you're alive. It would be more accurate to say about Big Macs, "they-don't-add-as-much-to-your-already-unnaturally-long-lifespan-as-other-foods -would", which is a whole different story.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.50 / 2) (#276)
by jman11 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:06:17 AM EST

Just because some technology has raised the life expectancy does not make every piece of technology developed a good idea.  The anthrax, sarin, etc developed by USoAian, Russian, European and other scientists is an example.

Also the claim that people live longer as a result of science is dubious, but that is not important here.  As even if it were true then it does not justify your statement.

The risks for GM food are large and unknown.  If this goes pear shaped we might all be fucked.  That's a hell of a good reason to think about it a little before committing everyone full on.  I guess the USoAians are being the world's guinea pigs.  Thank you, but don't force anyone else to use GMOs.  It is their choice not to and your choice to think they are idiots for doing so.  It is not your choice to force them to use them.  This is where everyone gets so upset about it.

[ Parent ]

I'm not talking about force; (2.50 / 2) (#277)
by Kasreyn on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:29:27 AM EST

feel free to spend your money on more expensive non-GM foods if it brings you joy.

I'm just against these idiots clamoring to *ban* GM foods, without IMO one shred of convincing evidence that they are harmful or not fit for human consumption.

Cheers,


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
All about forcing governments (4.50 / 2) (#279)
by jman11 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:49:20 AM EST

The governments are banning them, I did not intend to address individual freedom.  I apologise for that misunderstanding.  The forcing here is the USoA forcing the EU and others, through the WTO, to accept GMOs.

Also please try to be a little more civil: arguing "you can spend more money" isn't really polite.  Discuss the issue don't cast dispersions on what people do and have.

Why must there be evidence of badness?  The EU does not struggle to feed its people and does not need the GMOs.  The benefits are marginal, so while there is precious little evidence against GMOs, there is very little reason to adopt them.  The logic is thus that they are not worth the risk with such a low payoff.  Maybe in Africa the payoff is worth it, but maybe not.

Imagine there are 1000 little pills.  Only one contains a deadly poison, the others are all sugar pills.  You get $0.10 if you eat one.  Do you do it?  Probably not, what if it was $2000, $2,000,000?  That's the debate going on at the moment.  No one knows anything, but some people think the current improvements aren't worth the risk.

Asbestos is fit for human consumption.  Does that mean it should be used for insulating?  Many of the concerns about GMOs are not related to whether it is safe to eat.  The concerns are, mainly, about the genes moving to other organisms and similar issues.

[ Parent ]

Convincing evidence (5.00 / 1) (#342)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:51:44 PM EST

The point is that the risks of eating various non-GM foods are well known, those foods having been eaten and studied for hundreds of years. The same cannot be said for GM foods. Just because no illnesses or deaths have been linked to GM foods yet doesn't mean there never will be. And what if the current batch of GM foods turns out to be ok, but sometime the future, when we have become complacent about GM, one particular modification goes awry?

You have no problem gleefully embracing the latest technology regardless of it being unproven, and that's ok. But some people are a little more cautious, especially when it concerns something as essential as the food supply. I count myself among those people.

[ Parent ]

Re:Convincing Evidence (none / 0) (#414)
by Legato Bluesummers on Mon May 26, 2003 at 10:24:41 PM EST

The point is that the risks of eating various non-GM foods are well known, those foods having been eaten and studied for hundreds of years. The same cannot be said for GM foods.

GM foods have been used for several years now, with no problems. That seems pretty safe to me.

Just because no illnesses or deaths have been linked to GM foods yet doesn't mean there never will be.

Of course not. But I could say the same thing for multitudes of products such as household cleaners, medicines, cereal with rat shit in it, carcinogenic sawdust, whatever. That's no basis for rejecting a technology. GM foods have proven to be very safe. When they splice a gene that codes for an antifreeze protein into a strawberry for example, it will produce the antifreeze. Typically, that's all. It would be very rare for it to produce a carcinogen or toxin through combinations with other genes.

You can't reject a wonderful technology with huge possibilities just because of unproven fears of unlikely problems.
--And many people have ended up looking very stupid, or dead, or both.
[ Parent ]

Compared to... (5.00 / 1) (#341)
by Blah Blah on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:41:27 PM EST

eating a well-balanced diet of all-natural foods, of course.

[ Parent ]
Sorry, (none / 0) (#376)
by Kasreyn on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:40:29 AM EST

but I'd rather live to 45 and enjoy my life than live to 75 and eat wretched miserable rabbit food.

Besides, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Dementia run in my family. I'm not so sure I WANT to live to an advanced age. =P


-Kasreyn,
confirmed carnivore
<br.
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Except... (3.00 / 1) (#287)
by tetrode on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:11:31 AM EST

You'll notice it's only well-fed people protesting the "horrors" of hormones in food animals - the rest are too busy trying to avoid thinking of beef, because it makes the hunger pangs worse.

In Belgium and a lot of other countries, hormones in food animals are forbidden, and nobody is starving there...


________ The world has respect for US for two main reasons: you are patriotic, you invented rock'n'roll (mlapanadras)
[ Parent ]

Thank you for proving my point. ^_^ (none / 0) (#327)
by Kasreyn on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:48:35 PM EST

"Nobody is starving there" seems analogous to my statement, "well-fed people". And lo and behold, they are protesting this food as I predicted.

As they say in Starcraft, gg thx no re~


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Umm... (1.55 / 9) (#192)
by LilDebbie on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:48:32 PM EST

How did this rambling piece of crap get posted? I know it's a little late to discuss, but this is a really poorly written story. The text barely flows at all and CTS seems to have difficulty maintaining his thesis or even adequately explaining his evidence. Christ, it reads like he was drunk while writing it.

Perhaps this is the mob mentality he speaks of at work. "Oo! An article on GM foods. We haven't argued about that in a while. +1FP" You should read the article before you vote it up as you should before voting it down people.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

go fuck yourself ;-) xoxoxoxoxoxox (1.00 / 1) (#217)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:51:16 PM EST

i'm proud of it and i think it is well-written

asshole


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

did you see the discussion my story generated? (1.00 / 1) (#219)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:55:37 PM EST

there, there now

don't let that gift figure into your desire to be a complete asshole

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

God Never Bothered to Patent (2.80 / 5) (#193)
by BankofNigeria ATM on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:53:10 PM EST

Well, at least man can.

My daughter, as one of her primary Lyme symptoms, got chronic diarrhea like WATER sometimes and always at LEAST like pudding. FOR MONTHS & MONTHS- fo

Poor Straw Man (4.40 / 15) (#195)
by lamontg on Thu May 22, 2003 at 04:58:09 PM EST

The arguments presented against GM foods in this article are extremely poor. The people who claim that GM foods could produce a HIV-like retrovirus are clearly ignorant gits that don't deserve any kind of attention. Against those kinds of people anyone could win an argument.

The more honest protrayal of opposition to GM is simply that food is complex and tampering with food can create unknown health problems. I think a good example of this is Margerine. Margerine was once touted as the answer to the high fat content of butter. Margerine was supposed to be perfectly healthy and everyone was supposed to switch to using margerine in order to reduce heart disease and extend life. Then along came the trans-fatty acids caused by hydrogenation of vegetable oils. The lesson given to us by Margerine is that when we introduce artificial elements into our food supply we don't ever fully understand the metabolic and health effects of those artificial elements.

The poster asks where the harm is in making strawberries more resistant to frost. The answer is that we don't know. The chemical which that gene makes could interact poorly with some other chemical in strawberries (a chemical which fish don't produce) and produce trace toxins which negatively affect the health of people who eat them. Those toxins may not even be currently recognized as toxins (lots of toxins weren't recognized for a long time, check out the history on dioxins).

And I doubt that there will be a plauge, but I certainly believe that there will be 10,000s of deaths at a minimum due to GM crops. Just like Margerine we may not fully understand what we've done to our food supply for several decades. "Careful evaluation" of the GM foods will do no better than the careful evaluation which was given to Margerine. We can also expect that some corporations who are doing the "careful evaluation" will manage to hide any negative findings that they produce. History is full of examples of corporations behaving this way (no, I'm not claiming they always behave this way, but in a large enough sample size over time you will certainly find examples).

However, I don't mean to get hysterical over the deaths due to GM. If the alternative is millions of people starving in africa, and GM crops can solve the problem then the risk may be worth it. But making strawberry crops yields higher is of very dubious social value. It benefits the strawberry growers and the companies who GM the strawberries. But its just not on par with saving starving people in Africa.

Furthermore there's massive opposition to doing something as simple as requiring labelling on foods made with GM crops. I find this reprehensible since the food companies are removing our choice over if we eat GM crops or not. Why is it that only someone in a company board room gets to decide if I eat GM crops and I don't? Even if you support GM foods wholeheartedly, aren't you opposed to corporations taking away my choice not to eat them?

There are also the patent issues associate with GM crops, which are a huge problem. Those patent issues may prevent GM crops from solving world hunger due to the requirement that third-world nations tithe the GM food manufacturers. The third-world doesn't need more corporations trying to figure out how to get those nations into more debt.

What I would like to see is a well reasoned article which discussed the actual costs, benefits and risks of GM foods. Some historical research into past experiments with food I think would put the article into perspective -- I don't think anything has fundamentally changed which will prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the past. I seriously doubt that any such balanced article would be able to conclude "damn the torpedoes! full steam ahead!" like this article does.

you obviously don't grow strawberries (3.00 / 2) (#263)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:15:44 PM EST

and forgive me but i think my sampling of the issue at hand has led you to pretty heady blast of "damn the torpedoes" yourself in this little diatribe of yours

how can you ask me for a balanced essay when you are more subjective than i am?

i don't mind the criticism, i mind the hypocrisy

plus, i was accused of being long winded as it is... for a debate-starter on kuro5hin, for something that inspired you to write your emotional blast and fire up things up as i have, i succeeded quite well... as a "well reasoned article which discussed the actual costs, benefits and risks of GM foods. Some historical research into past experiments with food I think would put the article into perspective" i have utterly failed miserably- but who was expecting that? why are you expecting that from a quick little essay on kuro5hin?

i mean come on, this is just a sampler essay, not a book

how can you bite the hand that feeds you? how can you spite me while getting your righteous indignation rocks off on my quick survey at the same time?

throw the dog a bone, please ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

nutrition (2.00 / 2) (#301)
by schrotie on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:45:58 AM EST

What I would like to see is a well reasoned article which discussed the actual costs, benefits and risks of GM foods. Some historical research into past experiments with food I think would put the article into perspective
Problem with this is that very little is actually known about human nutrition - apart from some very basic requirements like vitamines and some detrimental nutrients.
Most studies on nutrition are sponsored by food companies and show whatever benefits the food manufacturers. The main reason for the lag of conclusive studies is the complexity of the matter. I don't even know of conclusive evidence that margarine is detremental and if there is it probably still depends on the brand.

One thing that should be a warning however is the following: The few conclusive results of staid studies mostly defy common sense or common knowledge: high levels of cholesterol intake through eating eggs is not detrimental; artificial sweeteners are more useful more masting (e.g. pigs where they are commonly used) than for loosing weight (very conclusive studies exist); low fat products probably have a like effect as sweeteners (only shown on rats, thus not conclusive).

Given all these uncertainties one cannot expect to see a "well reasoned" article of your liking anytime soon. Before well reasond statements about nutritional aspects of GM food can be made, one would have to know some more about nutrition. But that field is mostly slopped under avalanches of corporate interest studies. The situation does not look much better when horizontal gene transfer or even basic ecological implications of mutant breeds are considered.
So we will yet again ignore all risks to our health, to the environment and all (in this case imho the gravest aspect) ethical implications and go blindly conquering novel terrain. Just as in olden days when sailors sailed wher they thought the seas were boiling, where missionaries destroyed what they did not understand, where US soldiers were sent into fall out areas, where the globalization of neoliberalism wipes out every other concept of society. We want to learn it the hard way. We always did.

Cheers

Thorsten

[ Parent ]

I'm for GE foods but (3.33 / 3) (#198)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:01:29 PM EST

I think they should be labeled as such. The consumer has a right to know. A strawberry with fish genes might set off allergic reactions in someone with a fish allergy.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
probably not (4.50 / 2) (#238)
by Work on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:54:02 PM EST

The proteins that cause allergies are well known. There are proteins in fish which cause allergies - but theres many other proteins which don't. The proteins added to the strawberrys from the fish are not even close in chemical composition to the allergy causing ones.

This month's Invention & Technology (print only, no web) has a good article on it. It states there are 500 or so allergy compounds that they stay away from. Even chemicals that are similar, but not known to create allergies they stay away from.

Sending genes from one organism into another doesn't mean that the entire organism's characteristics are transferred. Only the specialized parts.

[ Parent ]

The food is trivial (4.60 / 5) (#210)
by Bill Melater on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:36:55 PM EST

What's going to happen when we start turning out the Franken-People?

"We can give your upcoming child resistance to disease, but any offspring he has will have to be licensed through us. Sign here please."

"Intellectual Property" as practiced in modern-day industrial societies will go down as one of the great travesties of the age.



GE: We bring good things to lofe (3.62 / 8) (#211)
by mcgrew on Thu May 22, 2003 at 05:38:11 PM EST

I'm going to have to side with the euros here, on several grounds. First, you have food that is patented. So if your neighbor's GM crops cross polinated YOUR crops, guess what? You have to pay Monsanto for your own seeds! This is wrong, this is evil.

Second, grocery store food is bad enough as it is. Ripening tomatos with phosgene takes away most of the tase, and a lot of the vitamins. If you change a plant's genetics, it seems like you're probably going to screw up its taste.

Third is the propensity for the corpoates to genetically engineer this crap into sterility. I want my seeds to grow.

Cross breeding and inbreeding to turn a wolf into a chihuaua is a long way from genetecially engineering it to have three heads.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

Genetic engeneering and patents are two diff issue (1.00 / 1) (#236)
by CompUComp on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:33:44 PM EST

Genetic engeneering and genetic patents are two different issues. Saying gentic foods are bad because of patents is liek saying DVDs are bad because of patents.

---
Howard Dean 2004
[ Parent ]

DVDs are ok, it's macrovision that's evil (none / 0) (#345)
by mcgrew on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:13:46 PM EST

and teh DMCA.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Norman Borlaug (4.75 / 4) (#231)
by Skywise on Thu May 22, 2003 at 06:18:26 PM EST

I don't think any commentary on GE foods should go without this man.

(tip o' the hat to Penn & Teller)

Reason Online Link

Frances Moore Lappé (1.00 / 1) (#299)
by foofrogers on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:16:48 AM EST

ugh, this norman guy ( or at least at the time this interview was given ) is very pro gm foods. . it's like he's a monsanto salesman or something. . lappe has rational solutions http://www.guerrillanews.com/globalization/doc304.html

[ Parent ]
GM - why the drug war is doomed (4.87 / 8) (#243)
by pyramid termite on Thu May 22, 2003 at 07:50:03 PM EST

Wait til they splice THC creating molecules into lawn grass or something that's common, consumable by humans and impossible to eradicate. I imagine the same thing could be done with cocaine and other drugs.

And imagine the fun one could have splicing mescaline producing genes into the common cold virus ...

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (5.00 / 1) (#262)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:06:23 PM EST

william gibson is composing his next book based around your ideas right now ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
ahhh, the sweet bliss of reason! (4.00 / 4) (#245)
by Xenophon on Thu May 22, 2003 at 08:05:41 PM EST

Excellent article; thank you for bringing a voice of moderation and reason to K5. You just made my afternoon!

Not to mention the fact that this is really really humorous:

I think the European position on Frankenfood can be summarized as: "Corporate interests driven only by greed are experimenting with the code of life with unknown consequences. The risks are huge, the benefits are dubious." The American position can be summarized as: "Huh?"

Really, I wonder why so many people fail to see that there is nearly always a measure of merit to both sides of any argument. There are exceptions of course, but you're summed up the GM debate very succinctly.


ms=nv;

thanks, much appreciated ;-) (nt) (none / 0) (#261)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:57:10 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
crop diversity (4.33 / 6) (#259)
by deadplant on Thu May 22, 2003 at 09:39:48 PM EST

In my opinion the significant threat from GMO's in the agriculture industry is not from direct consumption by humans but rather from the very very bad way these crops are being deployed.

In Canada for instance there are less than 6 strains of GM canola that account for the majority of the canola we produce.  I wouldn't even be surprised if those 6 strains all have almost exactly the same genetic stock.

So, am I the only one who thinks that's a really bad idea?  What exactly is going to happen when a virus or microbe or something comes along that wipes out that strain?
I'l tell you what's going to happen.  we're all going to starve.
A half-dozen strains of canola is not a viable genetic stock for the long term.

Maybe Monsanto hasn't heard of evolution and genetic diversity....
... or maybe... maybe they just don't give a shit.


irish potato famine (4.33 / 3) (#264)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 22, 2003 at 10:25:37 PM EST

what i am saying with this example is that yes, you are right, monoculture being more succepible to disease is a problem

but remember when the irish potato famine happened?

that's right, decades before frankenfood... so gm crops neither add to, nor subtract from this threat, so your wariness of monoculture crops is well-placed, but has no bearing on the debate over gm crops per se...

actually, i take that back... some gm proponents might say that gm scientists might be nimbly capable of churning out new resistant monocultures were a blight to break out, something that would not be possible with traditional crossbreeding practices...

this is dubious and fanciful, but at least it colors the monoculture problem from a frankenfood point of view


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Genetic Diversity (5.00 / 1) (#365)
by wij on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:29:27 PM EST

Have you ever though of planting an apple seed so that you could grow your own? Have you ever tried it? If you did, it probably didn't work. There's only something like a one in ten thousand chance that the apple tree grown from seed will produce edible apples. All of the trees that produce apples that you buy at the supermarket were cloned for this reason. They were cloned by grafting a cutting onto a root system that grew from a seed, and this method has been used for hundreds of years.

So, this kind of thing isn't new, and these trees eventually become vulnerable to pests and disease.

There's another fruit, that I know of, that is produced this way: the banana. What makes bananas different from apples is that many people in Africa depend on them as a staple; they depend on them to live. These people could benefit greatly from GM bananas, because they are having pest problems with the bananas that they grow now. Ideological opposition to GM food can only harm these people.

"I am an intellectual of great merit, yet I am not adequately compensated for this by capitalism; this is the reason for my opposition to it."
[ Parent ]

emotional != irrational (4.20 / 15) (#269)
by johnny on Thu May 22, 2003 at 11:51:01 PM EST

This is an excellent article. Thank you.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in a Senegal (west Africa) during a severe drought I lived on famine-relief rations. I saw people die of starvation. I've been hungry myself. (I was discharged from Peace Corps weighing 156lbs. I'm 6'3" tall. )

After leaving the Peace Corps I got a Master's degree in Agricultural Economics. During the course of my studies I went back to the same part of Senegal to do research, and I spent eight months at an experimental farm there. I've spent five years working with subsistence farmers on the edge of starvation. So this whole topic hits very close to home. (Also, Dear Wife has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics.)

I am entirely in sympathy with the Europeans and anti-GM Africans.

It is impossible to separate the issues of food from those of power and control. For it is entirely possible today to feed the world a healthy diet without any new crop technology at all. So why are we arguing over new technology? It's as if there is a thirsty man surrounded by gallons and gallons of tap water and we're arguing about giving him Evian and Perrier. "Evian is more nourishing!""Perrier will give him cable TV and two cars in his garage!" But I ask, why not just give him the damn tap water?

The problem of feeding the hungry are not technological, they are political. Who owns the land? Who owns the patents? Who owns the factories? Who has power and who does not? Who will benefit from a new pesticide regime and whose land will be expropriated in the name of progress? These are the questions at the heart of this struggle.

Don't tell me that with Genetically Modified Organisms the hungry powerless people will win and and the big technology companies will win and nobody will lose. This is the lie that the big technology companies want us to believe so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is a hateful bullshit lie. Can we be honest with each other? Who wins? Who loses? Let's speak the truth.

If power were distributed equitably among humans on earth, virtually everyone would be well housed and well nourished. Keep this in mind when evaluating arguments in favor of this or that disruptive technology that threatens traditional ways of doing things. For "traditional ways of doing things" is the power of the powerless. If you don't understand this concept, please ask Osama to explain.

Resistance to genetically engineered crops is not mere ignorance, and "traditional agriculture" is not mere stupidity. Or rather, if it is stupidity, it is stupidity analogous, say, to USians going home for Thanksgiving. Every year we USians spend tens of millions or dollars, and hundreds of us die in traffic accidents, going to or from "home" for Thanksgiving dinner.

Why do we go home for Thanksgiving--incurring risk, inconvenience, and expense-- when we could get biologically equivalent nourishment by staying wherever we happen to be and eating a can of dog food and some raw vegetables? Is it because we're stupid? Irrational? Or because the Thanksgiving tradition has great value and meaning to us? Because this meaning is what we live for, basically?

As you say, it is true that genetically modified crops are inevitable, just as globalization is inevitable. But that's no reason not to try to influence the form they will take, or even to resist them. After all, suicide bombings are probably inevitable. Does that mean that we should stop trying to prevent them?

It's silly and dangerous not to recognize transglobal corporations and their beneficiaries for what they are. They are entities constituted to make money for their shareholders. That's what they are and that's what they do. That's what corporations are for. They make money for their shareholders. Period, they end. Any world saving collateral improvement that thereby results is incidental.

Moreover, as it turns out, corporations also assume lives of their own and take actions inimicable to the interests of shareholders--and the corporations themselves--in order to optimize some short-term objective function which is obscure to us and them. This is like, for instance, cancer. Cancerous cells grow like crazy and kill the organism in which they live. They do this not because it is an optimal survival strategy, but because it is their nature and that is what they do.

It would be stupid to say that cancer cells operate on some kind of long term plan beneficial to their hosts and to them, and it is equally stupid to say that Monsanto wants to feed the starving children out of the goodness of its transnational heart. Monsanto wants to make money and it wants to continue to exist. Anything else that one might say about Monsanto's intentions is sentimental bullshit and extremely dangerous. The same assertions hold for all multinationals and their avatars--that is, the large nation-states, the USA pre-eminent among them.

To some extent, the argument over GMO's is about technology. But mostly it's about power, freedom, autonomy, and the meaning of human experience. It's not incidental that the arguments of the Bush administration in favor of this technology are indistinguishable from those of its corporate sponsors.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

it is for replies like this (none / 0) (#271)
by circletimessquare on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:09:46 AM EST

that i wrote the frankenfood story in the first place

thank you for your heartfelt perspective ;-)


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

It's not much of a reply (3.00 / 2) (#278)
by John Miles on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:35:31 AM EST

It had plenty of words, and they were spelled and arranged correctly for the most part, but there didn't seem to be much meat on the bones.

He compares the Euro-African resistance to "Frankenfood" (why is it 'Frankenfood' when Monsanto does it, and 'cross-breeding' when Mendel and Burbank did it?) with Americans dying in traffic accidents on the way to visit their relatives at Thanksgiving. Such a comparison hardly stands by itself: what was the point he was trying to make? That subsistence farming, apart from being a necessity for most of the world's indigenous peoples, is some sort of fucking cultural imperative?

One drawback to K5's moderation system is that people tend to hand out 5 ratings to posters merely for demonstrating the ability to compose a coherent sentence or two. Giving kudos to johnny's meandering diatribe is like voting for Dubya because he looked so damned sexy in that flight suit.

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

his words (5.00 / 2) (#280)
by circletimessquare on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:02:09 AM EST

were obviously very much coming from the heart

he said many things i disagree with

but the emotion in his words were real and palpable, and i respect him for that

some people treasure a cold but perfect logical argument

i treasure a heartfelt paean above all

i detest cold empty ivory tower types, who look down on us common folk mired in our emotions

you come close to that description

i would much rather hear a man i disagree with who demonstrates humanity

than listen to a judgmental holier than thou type who has obviously sold their humanity down the river

and about gw bush: i didn't vote for him, i cried when he won the election, and i think he is wrong on so many levels

but i respect him

why?

because he is honest about his beliefs, no matter how stupid they are

i respect gw bush more than i respect you


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Dubious science advancing political agenda (4.50 / 2) (#297)
by johnny on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:09:25 AM EST

I do not mean to say that subsistence farming is a cultural imperative. I meant to say that there are legitimate questions about the science involved, and the people themselves are best qualified to figure out what risks and trade-offs they are willing to make.

If I thought that living in poverty were some kind of fucking cultural imperative, I hardly would have spent five years in the work of agricultural development, ya think?

I don't know if Frankefood is bad in all instances. But I do know that corporations have every incentive to promote its benefits and discount its dangers.

Here's another frinstance. The World Bank was behind a big effort to dam the Senegal river, which of course would have displaced tens of thousands of people living perfectly fine lives along its banks and sent them to the cities basically as refugees. One of the reasons they wanted to build the dam was to provide water for agriculture. The research station at which I lived for 8 months had a big pumping station and a series of locks and sluices that required a big european staff to operate. But some of my colleagues doing research further up river found that yields per hectare were much greater when villages had their own, smaller floating pumps that allowed them to get water with a little more work and a lot less infrastructure.

The African development "experts" with their frequent flier accounts to New York, Paris and Geneva, and the World Bank policy makers, and the Becthel engineers and money men all said that the dam was the way to go to "improve" the lot of the people. They implied that tearing up a perfectly fine way of life for dubious benefit to anybody other than themselves was a fucking cultural imperative. And indeed it is. But I think it's one to be resisted.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

I've got to write an essay on this, for monday (none / 0) (#314)
by melia on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:58:09 AM EST

It's about the effectiveness of aid. Can you provide some links to this excellent, excellent world bank thing that I really need, please please please? Maybe I should email you.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Golly, it was a long time ago (none / 0) (#324)
by johnny on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:01:12 PM EST

I did my Master's thesis (about peasant cooperatives at the Nianga farm, in northern Senegal) in 1978. That's when all the plans were shaping up for the dam at makena-jamena. I don't know what became of them.

The nianga farm itself had been built, if I recall, with World Bank money. It wasn't a bad idea on the face of it. In that part of the world there's water in the river even if it doesn't rain, because the headwaters are in the jungles of Guinea, far south. Once a year the river floods the plain. The Niaga farm built a big dike to enclose 500 hectares & protect it from the annual flood so that it could be farmed 365 days/year.

It was rented out to cooperatives of peasant farmers, who were given instructions in how to do irrigation, modern fertilization, etc. I studied the work, inputs, yields, etc of these co-ops. Since the farm was already built, the question was how to use it most effeciently and fairly. But another question was wheter building such a farm was the best use of the $$. Studies seemed to indicate that helping cooperatives to own their own pumps worked much better. In this case, of course, no dikes were built, so the annual flood was a problem. The solution was to use the pumps when the river was low and move them someplace else when the floods came.

Most of what I heard about the dam was hearsay. I did once meet with some World Bank people who showed me schematics, but really, that was so long ago that I doubt I have anythihg useful to offer.

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Not all or none (none / 0) (#325)
by CENGEL3 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:11:39 PM EST

That's a good arguement for not taking the corporations pitch for GM foods at face value... but looking at them with a critical eye.

Which is something that you should do with ANY major decision... even when it's being pitched to you by some-one you know and trust (let alone a stranger).

It is NOT a good arguement for rejecting that pitch out of hand simply because the motivations of the entity making it happen to be monetary.

Just because some multi-national corp is going to make money of an idea doesn't NECCESARLY mean that the idea is bad. Which, I think, is part of what the author of the article was saying about GM foods.

I definately think that one should look at the introduction of GM food stocks with a very critical eye but rejecting them out of hand IS stupid.

Sometimes (not ALL times) corporations make profits by selling thier customers a product which is truely beneficial for them... and thus making it likely that the customer will want to continue to do bussiness with that entity.

[ Parent ]

You mean like... (nt) (none / 0) (#326)
by Skywise on Fri May 23, 2003 at 12:33:27 PM EST

viagra?  :)

[ Parent ]
The culture of food. (none / 0) (#300)
by MKalus on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:35:26 AM EST

The thing you overlook is that for most societies food is part of the culture, as such the relationship we (most) humans have to what we eat is a very emotional one.

So his comparision stands. The US is very strange in their understanding of food, it doesn't seem to be part of the culture, while at the same time it is a huge part of everybodies life (think McDonalds, BK etc at every other corner).
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

(Shrug) (none / 0) (#322)
by John Miles on Fri May 23, 2003 at 11:33:41 AM EST

The thing you overlook is that for most societies food is part of the culture...

In some parts of Africa, ritual clitoridectomies are part of the culture. Not all cultures are of equal merit. Some cultures never should have survived the Stone Age.

Faced with a choice between personal starvation and cultural tradition, I know which path I'd choose. (But that could just be my Western culture talking, I suppose.)

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

Yeah... (none / 0) (#330)
by MKalus on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:17:03 PM EST

... but the problem is not that the world couldn't feed the people in a traditional way but rather that certain companies try to peddle their wares as the "saving grace" that isn't needed.

That's what the whole thing is about, people in Europe aren't starving, and Africa could feed it's people too, there are other reasons than the unavailablity of seeds.

M.
-- Michael
[ Parent ]

Opposition for all the wrong reasons (4.00 / 1) (#335)
by michaelp on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:57:15 PM EST

is the problem. Many of your reasons are quite right on and deserve to be debated on their own merits.

But when folks oppose GM food for reasons that are scientifically silly (like Lewanika's ridiculous musings about the dangers of eating deoxyribonucleic acid above), it hides the real issues.

Don't lie to the people you are trying to help, telling them that GM foods are dangerous because of "foreign DNA" that might 'transfer' into a person's body, as the irresponsible 'scientists' working for the Zambian govt. did.

Corporate control of food and water resources is dangerous, and does kill people, and should be resisted, as you have pointed out. But the problem is not the science of GM food in general (though of course there are specific issues that need to be debated), the real problem is the control and manipulation for profit by the few of resources necessary for a healthy life of the many.

Until that problem is solved the danger of Frankenstein's little monster running amok is hardly worth worrying about, and really just a distractor from the real issues.



"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Danger of GM (3.75 / 4) (#281)
by tetrode on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:45:11 AM EST

Thank you for a well written article.

My fears in GM foods is that we barely understand the workings and side-effects of genes, and when the introduction of GM food is allowed, it will gradually be allowed to any business to change genes without proper testing.

Imagine some food causing illness or death only after a few months / years of consumption.
________ The world has respect for US for two main reasons: you are patriotic, you invented rock'n'roll (mlapanadras)

Well.. (5.00 / 1) (#285)
by ajduk on Fri May 23, 2003 at 03:58:41 AM EST

Imagine some food causing illness or death only after a few months / years of consumption.

That, technically, could be said of many things we currently use as food. Food companies already add huge amounts of sugar to virtually everything, knowing that it makes people fat, rots their teeth, contributes to diabeties and quite possably cancer. Trans-Fats ('Partially Hydrogenated' - look on any processed food label) are linked strongly to heart disease, several cancers and, again, obesity. Then you could have a look at the colourings and flavourings, pesticide residues, hormones, etc, etc..

Frankly, against this backdrop, GM foods come *way* down the list of worries. IF they reduce usage of pesticides/herbicides or improve the nutritional value of the food, then they are probably safer than their non-GM counterparts.

[ Parent ]

Well, yes and no (none / 0) (#291)
by tetrode on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:45:09 AM EST

I understand your reasoning, but as have been said in other postings here, we barely sequenced the human genome, and we starting to understand it. We haven't sequenced the genomes of the foods we'd like to modify.

There are 27 proteins, so one gene modified out of a sequence of N will have a potential of 27^N results. Thus the problem space will be very big. I think that the majority of these possibilities will do no harm, but you might run into some gene mod that wreaks havoc.
________ The world has respect for US for two main reasons: you are patriotic, you invented rock'n'roll (mlapanadras)
[ Parent ]

Slight question. (5.00 / 1) (#313)
by ajduk on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:53:05 AM EST

There are 27 proteins, so one gene modified out of a sequence of N will have a potential of 27^N results.

Not quite - a plant may have 30,000 or so genes into which we may insert a few. There will be no effect on the human genome. Each gene will code for one to several proteins.

Any *really* drastic effects will show up as either the plant failing to grow at all or growing in a very deformed or misshapen way; these would obviously never get out of the lab. As long as some toxicity testing is done, there is no reason to think that these foods will be any worse for us - indeed, testing for GM foods is far more stringent than for Natural foods, and there are planty of Natural things that will kill you..

[ Parent ]

US strongarming (3.66 / 3) (#286)
by jynx on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:08:34 AM EST

Irrespective of whether GM technology is useful or dangerous, what is the US doing trying to force it onto other countries against their will?  If Europeans don't want to consume GM food, fine.  Even if they are being totally irrational and stupid, they are perfectly within there rights to eat whatever the hell they want, and the US has no business trying to force GM on them against their will.

The same with Zambia.  They don't want GM crops, but the US tries to force it on them when they are starving, even though the US has plenty on non-GM crops which could just as well be donated.  That seems strange, if the US thinks GM is so great why not eat it yourself and give the vanilla stuff out as aid?  I suspect it's because once Zambia wild has been contantiminated my GM orgnanisms it will be "too late" to resist GM, and so it will be accepted.

How would the US respond if other countries tried to force a new technology on the US?  If public opinion was strongly against some food additive, and another country forced US citizens to consume it, without any kind of labelling so the consumers could not even chose?

but (2.00 / 1) (#343)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:52:37 PM EST

monsanto is Planting GM crops in third world nations, such as africa, south america/etc...without permission of govt officials/etc. the crops blossom and excel in their new environment. in 10 years there will be no 100% organic canola in canada, or the same in many other crops in africa. and *then* the patent/blackmailing/legalstuff begins. we are talking about in 10 years the entire world food supply will be controlled by the large corporate conglomerates. crazies like me have been afraid of for years...and its happening. the problem is that you cannot not use these crops...they have been planted in enough places that the wind will continue to spread them until the crops they originated from are extinct. im Not exadurating here.
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Wait, wait... (none / 0) (#358)
by The Alien on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:05:11 PM EST

So there were people in our country STARVING TO DEATH...and you want to know what I'd do if my government accepted emergency food supplies to ensure we'd all be around next year? I'd cheer. You know what I'd do if I was starving to death and the government decided no food was better than questionable food? I'd vote from the rooftops. You could go the other way though: Any food donation in a famine is bad, because it damages the economy by driving DOWN the price of food, thus screwing the farmers, thus damaging long-term food production. So maybe just let people starve? After all, if there were 1% as many people in Starving Country A, their food production would probably suffice. But I would say...feed the people now. Worry about the rest of it later. Abate the suffering.

[ Parent ]
Maybe, but... (none / 0) (#417)
by jynx on Tue May 27, 2003 at 07:53:45 AM EST

Even if the country is wrong to reject the GM aid, it doesn't make the US right to use starving people as an opportunity to promote the interests of biotech countries.

--

[ Parent ]

Declaration (3.66 / 3) (#288)
by CaptainZapp on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:12:41 AM EST

My opposition stems primarily from the fact, that I'm not willing to provide the likes of Monsanto (whom I consider to be one of the most evil companies in operation) with the key to the earth' future nutrition.

Further, if there is no danger whatsover in GM food then why are the likes of Monsantoand, Novartis and other proponents of this "gift to humanity" so hell bent against declaring it? I demand the fucking right to know what I eat. Is that too damn much to ask?

Profit over lives (3.75 / 4) (#290)
by Quila on Fri May 23, 2003 at 04:33:49 AM EST

My only problem with GM foods is business. IIRC, recently we were to ship lots of grain seeds to starving people. Great! I thought. Then I found out that the seeds were infirtile, which means those starving would get that one crop and no more. They couldn't replant the next year without getting more seeds.

The first hit's always free.

That is the nature of some hybrids (5.00 / 2) (#295)
by dzimmerm on Fri May 23, 2003 at 05:43:01 AM EST

You make hybrid Z by crossbreeding type A and type B. Crossbreeding hybrid Z does not give you hybrid Z. It works that way for lots of plants. In some ways that is considered a plus as you only get what you want and not something else.

dzimmerm

[ Parent ]

But in this case (2.50 / 2) (#302)
by brain in a jar on Fri May 23, 2003 at 08:27:02 AM EST

The reason is that the GM maize was fitted with a special "terminator gene" (sounds sinister but don't let the name bother you too much) which was deliberately included by the manufacturer to make sure that the seeds produced by the crop are infertile so that the farmer has to buy fresh seed each year.

If the firm didn't do this it would go to all the effort of making the gene modifications only to find that it only sold the technology once per farmer.

Of course this is all not very good for third world farmers, but the food aid was only supposed to be short term measure to deal with immediate needs.

Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

And why not? (5.00 / 1) (#364)
by Urthpaw on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:27:15 PM EST

If people are starving in a third world country, it's entirely reasonable for a corporation to send them some seeds.  The corporation isn't obligated, however, to provide for them indefinitely; sterile seeds allow the aid recipients a good harvest, without jeopardizing the company's market for the future.

As an economic model, this doesn't look very pretty.  It causes dependency on the part of the farmers, and eliminates their ability to grow crops on their own.  Ultimately, it's their own choice; they can go with a small harvest and low overhead, or a larger harvest with greater yearly overhead.  It's a trade off; there's no such thing as a free lunch.

One of the main arguments against GMOs is their tendency to spread genetic material into non-modified strains.  Sterile GMOs can't do this.  At least in that line of reasoning, Sterile GMOs are beneficial.

[ Parent ]

Interresting timing.... (5.00 / 2) (#319)
by MKalus on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:40:10 AM EST

This article about Bush and his crusade against Europe and for the GM Foods made in USA was posted today in Telepolis.

Here is the Google Translation.
-- Michael

My Real Concern (4.40 / 5) (#323)
by CENGEL3 on Fri May 23, 2003 at 11:44:20 AM EST

My real concerns with GM crops aren't neccesarly with the safety of  consuming the crops themselves but rather with what happens when these crops start proliferating out into the wild and mixing with the native habitat. That's really where unintended consequences are likely to rear thier ugly heads.... and there haven't been nearly enough studies of that aspect of GM food stocks.

This is nothing new, many areas have suffered harm from the introduction of non-native species as a result of human settlement/agriculture. That's been going on for centuries. Nor has the regular process of mutation (going on since the beggining of life) always produced beneficial results.

All these processes can happen perfectly well without GM technology. However, the process of genetic modification DOES rapidly accelerate the process since GM purposefully creates mutant strains which are known to be viable.... something that is a one in a million occurance in nature.

Frost resistant strawberries may be perfectly safe to consume... but do we really know what effects they have on Canadian flora and fauna once they escape thier GM farms and start spreading across the landscape? Do we know that those side effects aren't going to have serious consequences for Canada's human population?

I really have no objection to GM foods per se. I do have an objection to just looking at whether they are going to poison you and calling it sufficient scientific knowledge to ok thier introduction. That's still playing Russian Roulette.

You do have to be really carefull when tinkering around with Mother Nature because she WILL turn around and bite you in the arse over something which seems totaly innocous at first glance.

That's not an arguement for not doing GM at all. It is however an arguement for being alot more prudent about studying the likely effects of these things on the environment as a whole BEFORE introducing them somewhere.

                 

What's wrong with GM? M-E-X-I-C-O. (1.50 / 2) (#332)
by SacredSalt on Fri May 23, 2003 at 02:21:15 PM EST

Already GM genes have found there way into native corn species and are destroying the genetic base of their native crops. All of the "we'll put restrictions on.." None of that works in the real world. If your GM product can't survive in the real world, worst case scenario, with 100% non-compliance with every single safety protocol -- it's simply not ready for the market. The only people who don't conceed this are the makers of GM crops. [Note: Even with 100% compliance, genetic drift is a forseen and established consequence admitted by a few of the companies who produce GM seeds. It's burried in the fine print, but even they admit they can't do anything about it.] That's already happened in Mexico. You think the outcome in South America, or Africa is going to be any better? Then there is the issue of health, and accountability. No testing, no nothing -- GM may or may not be the same as regular crops in terms of health consequence, and the corporations want to bury their heads in the sands about it. Already in the case of "round-up ready" crops, you have 5 to 20 times the amount of pesticide residue in the crops. We know that isn't good. Did the GM cause it? Again, it was a *forseeable consequence*, which is something trial lawyers like to call LIABILITY. ...Who is going to pay to remove the consequences of genetic drift? I don't see Monsanto putting up 100,000,000,000 in an insurance bond for planet earth to wipe out unforseen harmful species that may (forseeable, forseen by the company that made it and already happened) result from their products? In fact, they are not only completely unprepared, uninsured for this, they are *unwilling* to deal with it. Then there is the real world consequence for farmers here in America. You know what that is? The inability to sell your product, the inability even if you refuse to grow GM to get the silos to keep products seperate, the unlawfulness (in many cases) of labelling your product GM free -- a lack of easy test for certification. The lack of a shipping system which can keep the products seperate. The next effect on farmers has been to send bankrupties and forclosures through the roof. Even the farmers who don't use it. It's also contracted the *entire* US economy. Yeah, GM is a monster, but it isn't a monster for the reasons a lot of people think it is. The bare minimum would be to conduct multi-year trials in containable environments to assess drift, consequence, and to perform long term health testing and to make producers put up insurance bonds to cover the liability when problems DO arise.

[ Parent ]
Testing (5.00 / 1) (#362)
by Urthpaw on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:21:35 PM EST

Note: This comment refers to a specific claim by the author of the parent. "Then there is the issue of health, and accountability. No testing, no nothing". There are other claims that may or may not be valid; I'm just addressing the one.

I find it very frustrating that people that oppose GM crops continually trumpet the horrible health effects of Genetic Modification, without any scientific background. None of these effects have been proven. True, it's entirely possible that they exist. It's also possible that exposure to Integrated Circuits will give you cancer, fifty years after the fact. This doesn't mean that exposure to ICs will give you cancer; it's merely in the realm of possibility. Anyone that accuses Intel of manufacturing devices of death needs to prove their allegations.

GM crops have been subjected to a battery of tests; tests that all consumer products have to go through. You might be interested in the UK's Department of Health study into GM foods. Or the World Health Organization's "20 questions" document.

Ultimately, there is little evidence to suggest that GMOs have negative health consequences. Given that GMOs have been found safe by dozens of scientific inquiries, it seems to me that the burden of proof of the danger of GMOs should rest with those who make such allegations.



[ Parent ]
Perfect example... (5.00 / 1) (#368)
by Alhazred on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:43:20 PM EST

...and are destroying the genetic base of their native crops.

How? What do you mean by this? How does a GM crop 'destroy the genetic base' of native crops any more than some existing hybridized 'green revolution' crop?

The only people who don't conceed this are the makers of GM crops.

Well, I don't conceed anything and I sure don't work for Monsanto, in fact I have no particular love of giant corporations at all...

...unforseen harmful species that may (forseeable, forseen by the company that made it and already happened) result from their products?

What 'unforseen harmful species'? If the GM species itself isn't harmful then how can any hybrid between that and whatever is already growing in MEXICO be harmful either?

Finally, you blame the consequences of anti-GM hysteria on the GM crops themselves!!! Thats a really good trick.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Transgenic Escape is the real threat (none / 0) (#419)
by maxdadj on Tue May 27, 2003 at 05:39:32 PM EST

I tend to agree with this 'collateral damage' assessment of GM crops.

As is mentioned elsewhere, there seems to be little difference between GM and 'natural' foods from a human metabolism perspective. Even if there is a health risk, the amount of time and money involved in clinical trials for these products is extremely prohibitive. Besides, even the so called 'CaMV promoter' factor is shaky [1]. As the pundits seem to imply, the rewards for developing countries and hostile climes outweighs the risk.

That said, anybody who's familiar with modern gene manipulation knows how crude the techniques are. Splicing genes between organisms uses approach more akin to a shotgun than a scalpel. As such, the actual underlying mechanism of how this stuff works is poorly understood by the Nobel Laureates themselves, let alone the amoral corporations pushing it.

The result of this psuedo-science is a nasty side effect called Transgenic Escape. This is a fancy way of saying that our 'improved' genetic material has the unfortunate tendency to splice itself into other organisms. Not just genetic relatives but weeds as well. This somehow occurs through pollination, so obviously we're talking a contamination radius of tens of miles.

Transgenic Escape is a very real and well documented threat whose ramifications are frightening. How about some Roundup/Frost/Disease/Pest-resistant Kudzu or other aggressive weed overtaking the entire Southeastern US? The pace of genetic contamination is frightening, dominating a species' gene pool in as few as two generations [2].

The alarms that Europeans and the like are raising are very valid indeed. The idea of a total ban, however, makes about as much sense as the silly 'human clone ban'. These reactionary tactics actually downplay the real risks and polarize a debate that is full of nuance.

Obviously, transgenics are here to stay. It's up to the governments and consumers to resist every step of the way, urging sanity over the ever-zealous and mindless pursuit of corporate profits.

Ban? No. Temperance? Do it or else.

-max

[1]http://www.colostate.edu/programs/lifesciences/TransgenicCrops/risks.html [2]http://whyfiles.org/shorties/crop_weed.html

[ Parent ]
From an european perspective... (4.75 / 4) (#329)
by Endaemon on Fri May 23, 2003 at 01:13:33 PM EST

From my point of view the questions arent as much over health, as with plant adaptability, flavour by genetic variety (wich is threatened when GM cultures cross-polinizate fields) and more concerning, patents. If you want to view a full text over the economical handicaps GM foods brings with them, look no further than what happened to Ethiopia. Here the full article: http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO109B.html Have fun reading.

Trade wars, or why I don't buy Chiquita bananas. (3.80 / 5) (#336)
by it certainly is on Fri May 23, 2003 at 05:34:16 PM EST

When you get down to the root of this issue, you'll find that it has fuck all to do with biology or ethics, and it has a lot to do with politics and money.

For years, the EU had a protected banana market which was great for EU and ACP growers, but not huge US corporations. So the US corporations lobbied the US government, which then decided (without the permission of the WTO) that it should put retaliatory 100% import tariffs on ... cashmere, greetings cards, electric kettles, etc. You know, REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF.

The US government harped on about how "free trade" was everything and it wasn't "fair" for the Latin American banana growers to only be given X% of the protected EU market when they deserve Y%. This is a lot of horse-shit. If the US wanted fair treatment for Latin American growers, it would force Chiquita to pay them properly and not keep them on third world pay and conditions, which coincidentally makes the bananas a lot cheaper on the world market. Instead, the US government reads the script that Chiquita wrote for it on the back of their donation cheque.

So, when I see the frankenfoods "debate", I see a US government dancing to the Monsanto tune. How stupid the Europeans are! They say that they don't know whether increasing Monsanto's profits is safe or not. Why can't they see that science has proven that it's safe and effective to increase Monsanto's profits?

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.

GM food is just one symptom of a bigger problem. (3.25 / 4) (#337)
by The Lord of Chaos on Fri May 23, 2003 at 06:01:54 PM EST

Have you read Good News for a Change by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel. It deals with a lot of these issues and I highly recommend it.

The author's opinion is that it's not specifically genetically engineered foods that are going to cause us problems but our farming practices in general. GM food is just our latest bad idea that will lead to worldwide food shortages. Of course that depends on how it is used. The following is a loosely based retelling of the green revolution:

All these regions that are starving and lack food are often caused by the native people being told there that the way they were growing food prior to the 20th century was all wrong. The new superstrains of rice, grain along with tonnes of fertilizer and pesticides is the best way to grow food.

So the locals were pressured into throwing out their old methods and seeds that had been developed over centuries for the latest idea that was baked up in a laboratory somewhere.

It worked... for the first couple years there was an increase in food production. Then invariably in these regions there would be a drought, flood, or other unforseen circumstance (at least in the lab) that would wipe out the supercrop. So on averare you end up with less production.

And here's the rub, all this food doesn't end up feeding the local population. They can't afford it due to the price of all the chemical inputs used to make it. The country is obliged to sell this food back on the global market so that it can become cattle feed for us wealthy americans, because that's where the money is.

In the end all these starving countries would have been better off if the green revolution never happened. GM food just promises to be more of the same tragic story. So I really object when Monsanto and other companies try to use the underfed populations argument as part of their marketing campaign. I'm also puzzled that people who have no affiliation with these companies repeat that argument.

In the end, for the prices that Monsanto will be charging for the use of their Intectual Property, that food will end being bought in America and Europe, no one else will be able to afford it. It's simple economics.

But the real lesson here concerning GM food is that nature was been developing and testing crops for millions of years in the most demanding environment possible: earth itself. These GM foods are often only tested for a couple of years in a controlled environment in one kind of climate. Who knows how they will react when put out in the real world which is always dreaming up new bugs and diseases, or already has quite a few stashed away that we don't know about. Exchanging our natural biodiversity which has already solved this problem for monocultures of GM crops is always going to be a bad idea.

Actually, the supercrops grew quite well (5.00 / 4) (#348)
by michaelp on Fri May 23, 2003 at 07:37:06 PM EST

mostly, though of course there have been exceptions. But for the most part the supercrops of the green rev. did produce many more calories per hectare than the old crops.

In the end all these starving countries would have been better off if the green revolution never happened.

Depends how you define "better off", if you mean with much lower populations, maybe, but starvation back to the carrying capacity of traditional methods is not going to be a very popular idea. IOW, you can't get there from here.

That is the problem: more calories along with better health care means more people, and eventually so many more people that the supercrops can't produce enough to feed them. Then you get catastrophes, but not catastrophes that can be fixed by 'going back to the old ways', unless you also plan to go back to the old population levels.

So long as we are going to be trying feed more and more people, finding better and better super crops is the only way. Of course, populations are leveling out, so it may well be that the next generations of super crops will be good enough. But unless you live in relatively lightly populated areas, with plenty of arable hectares per capita, going back to the 'old crops' (most products of the last great green revolution: check out the sizes of pre-agriculture corn and tomatoes) will lead to massive starvation as you fall back to the old carrying capacity.

Seems like the real problem is the concentration of control of food production in the hands of the few, and the manipulation of this control to maximize profit at the expense of the health of the many. This should be addressed directly rather than hiding behind neo-luddite pie-in-the-sky romanticism of the good old ways.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

This is the kind of logic... (5.00 / 3) (#367)
by Alhazred on Fri May 23, 2003 at 10:22:30 PM EST

the author was talking about.

It worked... for the first couple years there was an increase in food production. Then invariably in these regions there would be a drought, flood, or other unforseen circumstance (at least in the lab) that would wipe out the supercrop. So on averare you end up with less production.

This logic fails even the most cursory examination. If 'super crops' were a failure, then they would be a failure in the 1st world as well as in the 3rd, nature does not discriminate.

As a matter of fact starvation has little, if anything, to do with food production. Up until at least 10 years ago (I haven't seen more recent figures) no country on the face of the earth failed to grow enough food to feed its population in any year since the end of WWII. Thus 100% of starvation between 1945 and 1990 at least is attributable to failure of the economic system in individual countries to properly distribute, store, or otherwise utilize the available food supplies.

And here's the rub, all this food doesn't end up feeding the local population. They can't afford it due to the price of all the chemical inputs used to make it. The country is obliged to sell this food back on the global market so that it can become cattle feed for us wealthy americans, because that's where the money is.

I cannot say this is uniformly false, but anyone who has had any contact with farmers in 3rd world countries can tell you that in general they cannot sell their food at any price. The fact is that in the good times there is such a vast oversupply of heavily subsidised US and European food on the market that most smaller scale farmers in these countries are put out of business. Its not only 1st world competition either. Part of the problem is the same problem that killed family farms here, they are simply not efficient enough. In that sense the introduction of pesticides etc DID make things worse for them, but the real problem is that there is no other work for rural populations to take up. So they become SO poor that they cannot even afford to grow traditional crops, or get so little for them that they starve any time they have a bad harvest.

But the real lesson here concerning GM food is that nature was been developing and testing crops for millions of years in the most demanding environment possible: earth itself. These GM foods are often only tested for a couple of years in a controlled environment in one kind of climate. Who knows how they will react when put out in the real world which is always dreaming up new bugs and diseases, or already has quite a few stashed away that we don't know about. Exchanging our natural biodiversity which has already solved this problem for monocultures of GM crops is always going to be a bad idea.

This is just exactly the bogeyman story we keep hearing. Nature has not been 'testing crops' for millions of years. Man has been growing crops for 1000's of years, nature does not 'grow crops' at all. Plants evolve in nature to survive, that does not mean they particularly evolve to be a good food supply, and were your logic to be applied consistently mankind would nary dare to cut down a tree in the forest for fear of purturbing the natural order.

Obviously there are limits to what humans should be doing to the environment in general, but is THIS really the big issue? Half the fish in the ocean are gone, 90% of the forests in the northern hemisphere, half the rain forest, some ungodly huge percentage of the wetlands of the entire world, the polar ice caps are melting, the ozone layer is disintegrating, and thats only scratching the surface. I'm sure its possible to create bad ideas with genetic technology, but honestly I think other things have higher priority, and we need to exercise logical thought in prioritizing.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Re: This is the kind of logic... (3.00 / 1) (#401)
by The Lord of Chaos on Sun May 25, 2003 at 12:09:04 AM EST

This logic fails even the most cursory examination. If 'super crops' were a failure, then they would be a failure in the 1st world as well as in the 3rd, nature does not discriminate.

No nature doesn't discriminate. We do have crop failures in the 1st world. And the governments in Canada and the States are always being obliged to pay out assistance to farmers in drought years.

And we don't necessarilly have more food per farmed acre due to the green revolution, we just have more food per person employed to do so, ie more efficient use of labour.

This is just exactly the bogeyman story we keep hearing. Nature has not been 'testing crops' for millions of years. Man has been growing crops for 1000's of years, nature does not 'grow crops' at all. Plants evolve in nature to survive, that does not mean they particularly evolve to be a good food supply, and were your logic to be applied consistently mankind would nary dare to cut down a tree in the forest for fear of purturbing the natural order.

Your right, nature hasn't been testing crops. What it has been evolving is integrated ecosystems which are optimized for each of thousands of local conditions for producing the most food per acre sustainably. The current paradigm is to produce the most of one specific crop using the least amount of labour for about 10-20 years ignoring the floods, droughts etc. that "shouldn't" happen.

What I'm really arguing for is the Integrated Pest Management techniques, and other sustainable methods that try to take a few cues from how local ecosystems work (or used to work) in order to determine the best way to manage farming in that region. There was a lot of trial and error done to get things right through evolutionary processes and its foolish to ignore that knowledge for what Monsanto tells you is the way to do things.

On a side note, how the Europeans are reacting may look silly, but it may work out for them if it keeps Monsanto out of Europe. It can be a real PITA having Monsanto sue you when GM seeds blow on to your field and take root like what happened to Percy Schmeiser.

[ Parent ]

Well, I still have to disagree with you... (none / 0) (#436)
by Alhazred on Fri May 30, 2003 at 08:54:25 PM EST

on many points, though I don't think our viewpoints are entirely opposite by any means.

Still...

No nature doesn't discriminate. We do have crop failures in the 1st world. And the governments in Canada and the States are always being obliged to pay out assistance to farmers in drought years.

And we don't necessarilly have more food per farmed acre due to the green revolution, we just have more food per person employed to do so, ie more efficient use of labour.

Really? Which crop failures are we talking about? Certainly if there is a drought then if its bad enough crops will fail, but US agricultural output has been very consistent for the last 50 years. I'd love to see documentation on droughts that were made worse because the crops grown were 'improved' in some way.

As for your 2nd assertion, it is patently ridiculous. Per-acre crop yields are MUCH higher than they were in preindustrial times, as much as 5 or even 10 times higher in areas which are intensively cultivated, and MUCH more land is useable, land which in the past was marginal or waste.

[nature] has been evolving integrated ecosystems which are optimized for each of thousands of local conditions for producing the most food per acre sustainably.

I can think of no evidence which exists to support this claim. Evolution does not 'persue goals'. Individual species tend to evolve in ways which cause them to survive more effectively, at least over certain spans of time. There is no real reason to believe that ecosystems do the same, and in fact characteristics necessary to evolution as we know it are not present in ecosystems as a whole, thus they cannot undergo Darwinian evolution. As to whether or not any given ecosystem produces the 'most food per acre sustainably' or not, I highly suspect no competent ecologist would support that claim. There are numerous examples of ecosystems which are not sustainable.

I'm all for things like IPM, no-till cultivation, organic farming techiniques etc. I suspect that in general a wise approach to conservation says that we try to wreck ecosystems as little as possible, because they DO tend to be more stable and productive than what we replace them with. I just happen to believe that GM organisms can be a worthwhile part of that approach. Certainly its better to have a disease-resistant crop than to spray chemicals all over the place, isn't it?

The putative misbehaviour of one corporation is not a good argument for outlawing the use of highly utilitarian technology. Nor IMHO is Monsanto really a significant part of the argument for or against GM foods/crops. It is as the original author of this post said, a 'Frankenstein Complex' at work.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Related Link (4.20 / 5) (#366)
by wij on Fri May 23, 2003 at 09:56:44 PM EST

Here is an editorial in the Observer (which seems to have some relationship with the Guardian) that I linked to in my diary:
GM Jeremiahs:The West's mistrust of genetically modified crops means it is the Third World which is suffering
Some choice quotes:
It's too early to be certain, but GM food has been around for about a decade in America and there's an embarrassing shortage of diners dropping dead and genetically modified superweeds rampaging across the prairies. Last week, the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science, told the Government's review of GM crops that there was no evidence that they created allergic reactions or damaged health or reduced the nutritional quality of food.
....
But GM also upset the interests of the setters of style and taste. Marie Antoinette and her courtiers dressed up as peasants and shepherds. They invented a phoney authenticity and pretended to live the simple life while the real French peasantry was close to starvation. Their heirs have a fad for 'natural' child birth, although genuinely natural child birth for most women in the Third World is about the most dangerous experience of their lives. Discriminating modern Europeans also want the organic food the peasantry once produced, although, again, natural farming for the majority of peasant farmers is back-breaking drudgery, most of which is undertaken by the women who have survived the pains of natural child birth.
It also compares the anti-GM doomsday predictions to the doomsday predictions that surrounded the millennium bug (remember that?). It's quite an excellent editorial, if I do say so myself.

"I am an intellectual of great merit, yet I am not adequately compensated for this by capitalism; this is the reason for my opposition to it."
Ironic (3.40 / 5) (#388)
by termfin on Sat May 24, 2003 at 01:03:10 PM EST

I think its ironic when Americans berate European scientific irrationality even as many American schools are being forced to place the theory of creationism on an equal footing with the theory of evolution.

Funny. (none / 0) (#399)
by subversion on Sat May 24, 2003 at 06:42:29 PM EST

Given that the ones who learn creationism are the most likely to fear GM foods, while the ones who learn evolution (which is still most of the country) generally have no problem with it.

So, do Europeans like being lumped in with creationists?

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

What I don't like is the dishonesty. (3.60 / 5) (#394)
by Anonymous Hiro on Sat May 24, 2003 at 03:55:00 PM EST

Bush tries to give the impression[1] that opposition to GM is the reason why there's starving people in Africa.

There's PLENTY of food already (OK the overfishing has to stop).

The reason why the African people are starving is because they are ruled by corrupt people. Also that certain international organizations do very dubious stuff.

http://online.northumbria.ac.uk/geography_research/radix/malawi.htm

"Like many food emergencies, Malawi's crisis is also heavily influenced by international politics. NGOs and the government accuse the International Monetary Fund and donor countries of forcing it to sell its food reserves last year, both for ideological and economic reasons.

Malawi is under pressure to meet IMF targets and reduce spending. It had been costing the government more than £3m a year to store almost 200,000 tonnes of food, much of which was said to be deteriorating. The donors, backed by the IMF, said only 60,000 tonnes was needed as a strategic reserve, but the government then sold all but 4,000 tonnes without refilling its silos.

But the subtext of the donor pressure to sell was to enforce liberalisation of the grain market on Malawi. When the country later asked donor countries for help to replenish reserves, they refused on the grounds that Malawi would not show them exactly where the money raised from the food sales had gone. "

---
[1] BTW Bush seems to do this sort of stuff rather often - e.g. mentioning 9/11 or Al Qaeda and Iraq in one breath. When he said that WMD being the reason for war with Iraq, it wasn't very believable to me - didn't sound like the real reason. And now it sure doesn't look like it was the real reason does it?

So when Bush says Europe/everyone else should allow GM stuff because of some unproven reason, I doubt people should believe him.

You didnt address the real issue with GM crops (2.50 / 2) (#395)
by Zara2 on Sat May 24, 2003 at 04:31:50 PM EST

Most GM crops are one season only. They are modified not to produce fertalized seeds. This is so monsanto can have a steady revenue stream. This is not going to be good if a significant portion of our food supply becomes GM. At the best a for profit organization will have us by the short and curlies. At worse a disaster will occur stopping next seasons set of GM crops. Then what do you do when your own crops cant re-produce themselves for next year's harvest?

This may have benefits, too. (5.00 / 1) (#398)
by scanman on Sat May 24, 2003 at 06:41:51 PM EST

It's conceivable that a hardened, GM crop might become too successful, spread to other climates, and crowd out other plant life.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

apparently not so (5.00 / 1) (#405)
by squidinkcalligraphy on Sun May 25, 2003 at 11:18:28 PM EST

This is called `terminator' technology, and due to immense public outcry, development of it has been discontinued (at least that's what the PR companies say)
An identity card is better that no identity at all
[ Parent ]
That's not an issue, Hybrids! (none / 0) (#441)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 11:03:23 AM EST

Most GM crops are one season only. They are modified not to produce fertalized seeds.

Umm... so are most non-GM seed crops. They're what are known as hybrids, crops which produce only sterile (but quite edible) seeds. They've been around for hundreds of years, and virtually 100% of the corn planted in the US is of this variety.



"Seems to me the whole world has lost a basic virute, that of patients." - travlight
[ Parent ]
remember Thalidomide? (4.00 / 3) (#406)
by squidinkcalligraphy on Sun May 25, 2003 at 11:26:37 PM EST

A product of Western scientific advancment released on the population without thorough and proper testing. It is the speed at which GE is being pushed onto the market (as a result of lobbyists) which is scary, and makes you wonder how much long term testing they have done, in a range of different situations and environments. Some scientists tell us there is no proof that GE crops are harmful. I want conclusive evidence that GE crops are _not_ harmful (well, as much as is possible within the frameworks of the scientific method). I won't be eating GE in a hurry. Besides, fresh organic produce tastes so much better - try it some time.
An identity card is better that no identity at all
You've probably been eating it since 1992 (none / 0) (#440)
by RyoCokey on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 10:56:22 AM EST

GM crops have been on the commercial market since 1992 and were field tested before then. In particular, if you use a product with Canola oil in it, you're eating GM food as almost all Canola oil is from GM rape seed.

There has been conclusive proof that GM crops are not harmful for years. Europe has tested the crops for years, come to the conclusion there was no risk at all, then ordered more tests! The US's action is to cut through precisely this kind of nonsense.



"Seems to me the whole world has lost a basic virute, that of patients." - travlight
[ Parent ]
Answer... (4.66 / 3) (#407)
by gnovos on Mon May 26, 2003 at 03:12:43 AM EST

Or, if you would rather examine the inverse, why are Americans so blase about the issue and seemingly could care less?

One word:

Tomacco.


A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

Force? (3.00 / 1) (#415)
by nicklott on Tue May 27, 2003 at 12:59:08 AM EST

Recently, the US has gone so far as to try to force Europeans to eat Frankenfood.
Actually they're not trying to force Europeans to eat GM food, just trying to get the EU's ban on it lifted.
Of course practically it doesn't make any difference, for once the beauracrats or in tune with the population and no one's gonna buy the stuff. As someone else said higher up, for a country that is so proud of its free market *snigger* economy, the US is not acting very rationally here: why grow the stuff if no-one wants it?

Not just ban lift (none / 0) (#418)
by Chep on Tue May 27, 2003 at 08:16:57 AM EST

Actually, what the US administration wants is not just that the EU lifted the ban (which it will do at the end of 2003 anyways), but that it also lifted the labeling obligation.

Ironically, the US administration does not want to let the market (ie, us consumers) choose whether it wants frankenfood or not.

It's not the first administration I see which does stupid and damaging things because it is tied at the balls by its agricultural-redneck lobby, sadly.

--

Our Constitution ... is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the greatest number.
Thucydide II, 37


[ Parent ]

Frankenfood claims == Unscientific claims. (2.00 / 3) (#420)
by Wulfius on Tue May 27, 2003 at 11:47:56 PM EST


The major problem in all the pro-geneered foods claims is a basic scientifc hole.

In order to claim "That there are no negative effects on the population from eating GM food"
one needs to have a baseline.

NO. I repeat. NO STUDIES have been done to
establish that baseline. There is a statistically
notable increase in cancers, deseases, birth defects, obesity and mental illnesses.
This roughly corresponds to the time of introduction of GM foods.

But we can not assign causality to the GM foods
since no studies were done to establish the baseline (ie: Prior to mass marketing of GM foods).

This goes against a basic principle of the scientific theory and allows the GM bought scientists to claim
with a straight face "No negative effects were observed".

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!

your observation (3.00 / 1) (#430)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 29, 2003 at 03:19:21 PM EST

neither adds nor subtracts from using gm food

anti-gm food claims suffer the same consequences of your observation

are you saying there is no promise in gm food?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Unreasonable, (4.00 / 3) (#424)
by kingk0ng on Wed May 28, 2003 at 11:59:03 AM EST

Even if we accept the argument that genetically engineering could be used to mess around with the nutritional makeup of food rather than just to make more money, have you not noticed that dietary and nutritional advice changes month on month? This month, vitamin supplements (such as vitamin A mentioned in the article) are the source of nutritional concern:

The Guardian says "Long term use of six substances, vitamin B6, betacarotene, nicotinic acid (niacin), zinc, manganese and phosphorus, might also cause irreversible health damage ... Pregnant women are already advised to avoid vitamin A supplements and liver because of potential dangers to the foetus."

And we want to suddenly, invisibly change the nutritional composition of the diets of people in the Third World who will have little say in this (and little chance for informed consent)?

At least 37 people died and 1500 were permanently disabled in an epidemic of the disease EMS in 1989 in the US, linked to first food supplement to be produced by genetic engineering (L-Trytophan, made by Showa Denko, Google for it) This is not conclusive: "The specific contaminant has never been identified.".

But you don't need toxic contaminants to kill. Peanuts are safe to eat - for some people. Cornell: "A novel genetically engineered (GE) food may have the potential to cause new allergic reactions if it contains proteins that the conventional food doesn't have. ... Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended (but not required) the developers of genetically engineered foods to assess their potential allergenicity ... it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict the allergenicity of proteins in any new food (including new conventional foods) using current technologies.".

Heard of horizontal gene transfer"? Growing GM crops is not a straightforward "individual choice" argument - even if I choose not to eat them (assuming I somehow have the resources needed to locate and identify certifiably non-GM food!), genetic material in one organism can spread others - so what choice do I have then?

Basically, it's all very well to say "we have to take risks to progress". But who takes the risks, and who gets the progress? For me the GM food case in the real world is pretty cut and dried. Large (REALLY large) companies get to progress their pursuit of profit and control of virtually the entire human food chain, and all of us get to take the risks, whether we want to or not. Those risks are absolutely not trivial - show me a good reason and then I'll consider taking them!

Or am I basing my decision on emotion, rather than science?



every single example you cite (3.00 / 1) (#427)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 29, 2003 at 10:52:33 AM EST

are problems that exist already in the real natural world, regardless of gm food.

gm food neither adds to, nor subtracts from, all of these phenonmena that are already going on.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Every single example? (5.00 / 1) (#438)
by kingk0ng on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 10:08:18 AM EST

Sorry, cts, that's simply untrue.

  • How in the natural world is the nutritional makeup of food suddenly, dramatically and invisibly altered?
  • How in the natural world do fish genes get into strawberries? "Where is the harm in that"? What if I'm a allergic to fish proteins, or what if I just don't want to eat fish?
  • Horizontal gene transfer exists in the natural world, but the genes that get into maize naturally are unlikely to be from jellyfish.

Besides, the "natural"/"unnatural" distinction is a fairly meaningless one. Farming's unnatural if it comes to it, and that's not what I'm complaining about. My problem is with a small group of people exerting massive control over the minutest details of what everyone else eats, for their own interests, with a minimum of consent, and in the face of significant unknowns.

Those unknowns matter. Remember the old saw about how we're more likely to be killed by an asteroid strike than a plane crash because although asteroid impacts are less frequent, they potentially kill a lot more people? Same deal here - even if those risks are small, the potential for harm is so vast it would be a crazy insurer who neglected them.



[ Parent ]
You make some very good points, but... (5.00 / 1) (#428)
by skintigh on Thu May 29, 2003 at 03:07:13 PM EST

you gloss over all the real, scientific concerns. I agree there is a lot of hype, fud, and even elitism in the anti-GM crowd. But there is truth, too. GM food can create new proteins that the human gut can't digest quickly, and so get absorbed into the blood. Some proteins in nature are like this, for instance in peanuts. Some people are deathly allergic to peanuts because of this. Remember the GM corn that was recalled when it got in Taco Bell tacos? That was the fear, because nobody knows if people will be deathly allergic to it. How about the GM corn which had pollen that killed butterflies? That proves what many have said all along: there is no way to know all the possible consequences of GM food, possibly until after it's too late and the genes have escaped into the wild. Shunning all GM food is not the answer, but neither is shoving it down people's throats. Prove the Golden Rice will not harm local plants and animals and be done with it, don't deny there is any risk and then spend money on PR.

these risks (3.00 / 1) (#429)
by circletimessquare on Thu May 29, 2003 at 03:17:43 PM EST

exist with or without gm

gm neither detracts nor adds from these perils


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Indeed. (none / 0) (#431)
by it certainly is on Thu May 29, 2003 at 07:34:59 PM EST

Companies are very willing to put "warning: may contain nuts" on food where there's a risk of cross-contamination -- a chocolate bar being made in the same machine as a peanut-and-chocolate bar, for example.

Chocolate bar makers don't want their nut-allergy suffering customers to accidentally die eating a treat they honestly didn't try to put peanuts in. So they comply with the law and they add a warning label.

Why won't American companies label their GM or GM-contaminated food properly?

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

What are you smoking? (none / 0) (#434)
by skintigh on Fri May 30, 2003 at 05:54:58 PM EST

Please give me one example for each of the following: a non GM crop
1) suddenly creating a new allergen
2) suddeny killing off butterflies
3) having the potential to create anti-biotic resistance diseases
4) create pesticide-resistant insects.

[ Parent ]
Chastise the people who deserve it (2.00 / 1) (#435)
by elined on Fri May 30, 2003 at 06:01:42 PM EST

I say that the proper approach on GM crops is that where there are errors and arrogance, chastise the corporations, and not the tech.

I'm sick and tired of people absolving the techs out there. Sure the corporations are the ones who are spending the billions to develop such technology (and yes they should be checked on such endevours) but it's the techs who develop this stuff.

It seems to me that techies consistently deny responsibility for things they create. That's like a hitman saying that he didn't technically kill anyone because he was paid to do so

so what doers the idea of... (4.00 / 1) (#439)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 02, 2003 at 10:01:38 PM EST

personal acountability mean to you?

if you erode that, aren't you doing far worse than any "blame this or that" kind of scenario you are trying to sell?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

The Death of Small Farming (none / 0) (#437)
by kaibutsu on Sat May 31, 2003 at 05:55:46 AM EST

Another reason that GM foods are bad is that they continue the long-running trend in our agri-business-loving culture that has been destroying small farming and replacing it with an extremely unstable substitute.  GM foods increase the reliance of the farmer on big business, for seed, special fertilizers, and other high-tech needs of the new foods.  This reduces the farmer's self reliance, and therefore reduces the stability of our national food supply: no longer are we only vulnerable to national disaster, but also to economic disaster.  Additionally, it should be noted that the massive farming ventures of the last fifty years have been steadily depleting the top soil of those countries that engage in them.  Where traditional farming techniques allow one to farm essentially forever, agribusiness techniques are known to leave desert-like wastes where once there wasa  farm.

For more information, check out the books and essays of Wendell Berry.
-kaibutsu

Updates to this issue (none / 0) (#443)
by humble on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 03:32:09 PM EST

The debate around GMO food (and LMOs) has recently shifted with the formal ratification of the Biosafety Protocol. So, in spite of multinational agribusiness' attempt to shove this crap down our throats, they've suddenly got bigger problems.

For an introduction to this issue watch Gene Wars or check out the new IMC Biotech site.
Indymedia - Civil society's not-so-secret servicetm

Frankenfood: Burn the Monster? | 443 comments (421 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
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