Stupidity and Intelligence: Science, GMOs and Our Food

"The rhetoric for taking over food systems and seed supply is always based on 'Improved Seed.' But what is not mentioned is that industrial seeds are only 'improved' in the context of higher dependence on chemicals, and more control by corporations."

"Genetic Engineering is used to redefine seed as a corporate "invention" to claim patents and collect royalties. Farmers suicides in the cotton belt of India are directly related to the extraction of super-profits from farmers as royalty. And this is illegal since Monsanto never had a patent on Bt cotton.

"It is claimed the GMOs will increase food production but the technology does not increase yields.

"It is claimed that genetic engineering is a precise technology. This is false for four primary reasons.

"First, genetic engineering is based on the false assumption that one gene gives rise to one trait.

"Second, it is so imprecise that antibiotic resistance marker genes have to be added to even know if the gene was actually introduced in the cell of the plant and genes from virulent viruses have to be added to promote the trait being introduced.

"Third, because the genes come from unrelated organisms, and include bacterial and viral genes, there are unknown impacts on the organism and the ecosystem in which it is introduced. This is why there are multidisciplinary sciences involved in Biosafety, and an international UN law to regulate GMOs for their Biosafety impact called the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on the Conservation of Biodiversity.

"It is precisely on the denial of intelligence of humans and other species that the edifice of mechanistic reductionism is based."

"Fourth, the anti-scientific claim that GMOs are accurate and selection and conventional breeding are inaccurate ignores the intelligence of plants and of farmers which is at play in evolution. In fact, the emergence of antibiotic resistance indicates the intelligence of bacteria to evolve under the pressure  of antibiotics. Bacteria, as intelligent beings, are remaking themselves in response to antibiotics. The emergence of superpests resistant to Bt toxin in plants, and superweeds resistant to Roundup with the spread of Roundup Ready GMOs indicates the intelligence of insects and plants to remake themselves under the pressure of toxins associated with GMOs which are designed to kill them. But it is precisely on the denial of intelligence of humans and other species that the edifice of mechanistic reductionism is based."

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Replies to This Discussion

Evolution is not guided by any "intelligence" of bacteria, insects, or plants. Life forms have heritable variations; some may make survival and reproduction more or less likely under various selective pressures. In addition to the natural selection occurring throughout the history of life, we humans have introduced "new" selective pressures such as breeding of plants and animals, as well as antibiotics, herbicides, and insecticides that favor variations that create "superbugs", "superweeds", and "superpests".

That said, it's indeed a disturbing ethical concern that, as you quoted, genetic engineering is used to redefine seed as a corporate "invention" to claim patents and collect royalties -- even when the corporations sue farmers whose crops were contaminated by pollen spread from engineered plants!

And a disturbing health and safety issue when plants engineered to produce their own weedkillers are part of the food supply!

If bacteria change in response to changes in seeds, or insects change in response to changes in nature, or plants change in response to changes in the environment, does the word "intelligence" not fit changes? The fact that these things and other living organisms change as conditions change reflects the occurrence of options. If intelligence isn't involved in responsive changes, does the term "selective pressures" apply in a more meaningful way? 

I agree with your concern about the "corporate inventions" of engineered plants and the unknown health consequences of the engineering. 

I think we can use the word "Intelligence" in a way to indicate non-sentient, non-cognitive responses to environmental challenges.  That doesn't mean plants or bacteria think, only that they have in their DNA, mechanisms that foster responses.  I can't think of a better word than "intelligence".  As long as we know what we are talking about.

Someone asked me yesterday what I thought about GMOs.  They were probably sorry they asked.  My response was very convoluted.  In some situations, GMO might be the best way to go.  However, corporate sociopathy can and often does corrupt almost anything, and GMO is no exception.   Driving seed-saving farmers out of business is heinous.  Enslaving farmers in a form of debt slavery, is evil.    Strip-mining of natural genetic mechanisms - B. thurigensis toxin - making it widespread and driving insect evolution to resist it, is narcissistic. 

On the other hand, I'm happy we gave genetically enginerred influenza vaccines, vaccines for shingles and pneumonia and other infections.  Genetically engineered insulin. 

I don't knowingly grow any GMO plants in my yard.  I make use of natural and human made communities of plants, bacteria, and fungi.  I try to choose what will do well in this climate and ecosystem.  I make use of genetic diversity by raising more plants from seeds, and making use of scion and other starts from diverse sources.  We have the world of evolution at our hands, from all temperate continents and islands, selecting and hybridizing for semingly infinite capabilities.  If something dies or does not grow because of unsuitability, I play the Darwinian evolution god and eliminate it, without replacement.  Backyard evolution.

> corporate sociopathy can and often does corrupt almost anything,

This could be the motto of the 20th century (and the swan song of humans in the 21st).

Bertold, I like your term, "corporate sociopathy".

How to Spot a Sociopath

Whether an individual, a family, a religious group, a social group, a corporation or a nation, sociopathic attitudes and behaviors can occur.  Manipulation and exploitation can happen without shame or guilt. 

What percentage of grocery store foods is thought to contain GMOs--70%? Astounding. As "dangerous" as they are claimed to be, there are positive stories that are the result of eating GMO foods--rice, for example.

Do we now make a distinction between natural evolution and artificial evolution? Just wondering.

My concern is the accidental pollination of heirloom varieties. Losing our old seed stock would do no one any service. Finding farmers guilty of having GMO grains that they had no part in initiating into their seed line tells me the courts make judgments without understanding pollen and who is accountable for pollen drift. Furthermore, if farmers have entire crops cross-pollinated, the farmers lose their next year's seed stock. 

The Monsanto story is a tragic one of genetically modifying seeds, selling the patented seeds that are sterile. The corporation uses monopolistic laws impacting farmers' livelihoods. Farmers have to purchase seed stock each year. There is a question as to whether the high suicide rate of farmers in India correlates with this practice. In the meantime, Indian farmers continue to have high suicide rates. 

Farmers and gardeners did not realize the long-term consequences of using Roundup. If carefully conducted double-blind studies reveal the pros and cons of using the product a consumer can make informed judgments. Without information, we make decisions based on faith. You and I know how authentic is faith. 

Using patented seeds

Polluting historic varieties is a form of vandalism, and should be regarded as criminal.

It does make me wonder. Before GMOs, if a farmer grew an heirloom variety, and their neighbor grew a modern variety, that polluted the heirloom too. Just not with GMO.

I think if you ate an organic farmer, and your grain is found to contain GMO DNA, your organic certification is at ridk or taken away.

In WA state, there was a ballot measure to label foods as gmo if they were gmo. The people voted to keep their heads in the sand. Sad.

Even for the home gardener, now some seeds are patented. I slso already checked 2016 Burpee seed catalog - the prices fir some of the seeds are astronomical. They must be counting on hype and desire for novelty to sell their products.

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