Genetically modified organisms: GMOs, too dangerous to use, or too much benefit, not to use? Whose nonsense?

Concluding comments.

I have a hypothesis that any thread that reaches above 100 comments will deteriorate into off-topic arguments and unrelated stream-of-consciousness comments. I sometimes do the stream of consciousness myself.

I also think that the original poster has an obligation to monitor their own post and subsequent threads, to keep it on topic or let it drift as they see fit. Whether the original poster intervenes with nudges back to topic, efforts to make people step back and have a beer, or closes the thread, is entirely up to the original poster. If the original poster does not intend to follow their topic, then it's time to close it.

This thread, while not intended as a test of my hypothesis, turned out to be an example of same. Interest in the actual original topic waned early on, with divergent evolution of the topic into something else that I didn't care to follow. That process then repeated itself. At 145 comments, and divergence again, I have personally lost interest in following it. If someone else wants to start a "next generation" thread on this topic, please feel free.

With that, this topic is now closed.


This discussion begins as branch of the "Natural" discussion tree, that's now ready for grafting onto its own rootstock and see what grows. Some initial words here. I agreed to present this topc for Sacha, not because I know more about it, but I'm too easily convinced to get myself into these things.

Of course, there is a lot of controversy about genetically engineered crops, that then become "GMOs" (genetically modified organisms) or "Frankenfoods", depending on your nonsense orientation. One could also spin them as "Miracle foods" or "Designer foods" but "GMOs" takes fewer key strokes. For a guy with a case of carpal tunnel going, fewer key strokes is good.

The controversies depend on your biases, what information you collect, and how you weigh it.

Wikipedia article

The controversy:
1. "It's not natural" - well, it isn't. So? I would argue that the "we've always bred plants and animals" argument stretches it - in fact, this is new, we've never put fish genes into potatoes before, or human genes into plants, or whatever weird sounding combination. We've never before bred plants to have toxic pollen, and there is some evidence that insect populations may be effected. But as in the discussion before, the word "natural" is almost meaningless, and does not designate risk or benefit.

2. "It will lead to monopolization of staple food crops by a few compaines, mainly Monsanto" - maybe so. The "Roundup Ready" crops may well create a monopoly for Monsanto. Ultimately, this is a political / social issue, not a biological issue.

3. "Who knows what diseases it will cause" - The argument has been made for allergies. I agree, supervision is needed. An allergen from peanuts could wind upm in corn, and who knows, you might go into anaphylaxis while eating a taco. Other proteins may be allergens. So far.... doesn't seem to be an issue.

4. "It will cause gene pollution" - good point. Genes from GMOs have been found in surrounding plants. This then causes the neighboring farmer to be subjected to patent violation, even though there was no intent to do so, and even if they didn't want those genes in their crops. This principle has been upheld in the US and Canada. In the wrong places, such as the parts of Mexico where corn originates, the genetic pool of corn varieties may become polluted with these new genes. No one knows what effect that will have. Again, this is an issue of regulation, where these crops are grown.

5. "It's not needed" - depends on how you define "needed". A gene to prevent vitamin A deficiency in rice-dependent peoples could prevent 250,000 to 500,000 cases of blindness annually. The key word is "could". "Golden rice"

The dangers of monoculture (Thanks Felch). Past experience with monoculture indicates increased liklihood of disease and disaster. Monocuilture corn cave us corn blight, monoculture bananas resulted in destruction of banana-based economies once and threatens to again. Although, genetic engineering might steer us out of the banana disaster. In forests, tree diversity reduces herbivory by insects (as described in the article titled, "tree diversity reduces herbivory by insects") google search, forest monoculture.

Arguments FOR GMO crops here. Most of these benefits are "potential" although "Roundup ready" is reality.

1. Better resistance to stress: Better pest resistance. Better resistance to severe weather, such as frost, extreme heat or drought.
2. More productive farm animals: Genes might be inserted into cattle to raise their milk yield, for example.
3. More food from less land.
4. Reduce the environmental and human impact of food production and industrial processes.
5. Recovery of damaged or less-fertile land for crops and forests, through creation of salt- and pollutant- tolerant varieties.
6. Bioremediation: Rehabilitation of damaged(polluted) land.
7. Longer shelf lives.easier transport. Reduce spoilage waste, improve dietary diversity.
8. Plant or animal manufacture of vaccines and medicines. Think, insulin.
9. Potential removal of allergenic genes - improve food safety. think, peanuts.

I have mixed feelings about GMO technology and its application. There is potential for nonsense from both sides. My own conclusion is that it's not the technology, it's the application, the regulation, and the weighing of pros/cons in each situation, that matter most. In some cases, the pros seem significant and worth some risk. In other cases, we need to keep out thinking caps on and ask ourselfs if the balance is in the other direction.

Feel free to disagree!

(Note: I removed images that I initially included in this post. Even though I tried to attirbute them to their originalm source, on reading this source, I became concerned that leaving those images in the post could violate fair use. So now they are gone.)

(12/25, title edited to better reflect content of post)

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Replies to This Discussion

OK, comment away! :-)
I had also heard that the crude-oil eating bacteria were discovered, not created. Have they been used yet, or are they still a prototype?
Simple + logical = brilliant
There are some brilliant students out there.
These have been around for quite a while now:

bags will decompose at a similar rate as an apple:
Can somebody say something with a grain of salt? I want to do that with this post. So, here's the grain; with this take it, too.

If we can make stuff like this:

then we can surely arrange a retrovirus to put in the coding for certain traits we want in things that we want different genetic traits in. As such, the technique of coating balls of metal with D.N.A. and shooting them into cells where the acid will be incorporated into the cell's native supply, with its risk of knocking out crucial, other stuff, is not the only way. Using a manufactured retrovirus (devoid of code that makes the cell replicate the virus, naturally) to introduce code is at least physically viable, so genetic modification can be done without the boogeyman risks that detractors are going on about.

The only real risks are, with such a setup, only the extremely non-random kind, such as that corn blight. With monoculture dangers, the danger is due to the lack of diversity in disease vulnerabilities and invulnerabilities, which, as it applies to this topic, has more to do with human laziness in operating with genetically modified crops than with the crops themselves or with genetic modification itself. The science of, er, plant-medicine, as it were might not be as far advanced as it needs to be to do what would need to be done, but what would need to be done to avoid mass susceptibility to infections and infestations is simply to create a sufficiently frustrating (in the sense of having no true single goal state) environment for infectious agents that their combined maximum impact is satisfactorily small. A little more specifically, that is that we need to leave gaps in the internal defenses of certain subgroups within each group: Within Genetic Group A, leave subtype A1 vulnerable to this kind of mold, and A2 vulnerable to this other kind of mold, A3 will be mostly at risk from this bug, and so on.

With proper management and physical distribution of the subtypes of crop, certain big, gaping holes in the safety of using GM crops can be closed. Of course it's not simply possible to just magically make crops immune to everything but one thing. I meant to speak of some approximation of this, in which the most prominent vulnerability of some subtype is one particular thing to which it is vulnerable to such an extent that that one thing would be the main thing you'd try to protect it from if it were the only subtype you were growing.

People's ambition is the only limitation. Take milk for example, if we could (and it would take a lot of research, I realize) make a cow-thing that just produced detachable mammary glands that we then put into milking stalls much smaller than the ones currently used for cows, we could just have a great big factory full of tits. I wrote that just so I could smile. I'm imagining that the factory basically just supplies blood to them with the necessary various things--glucose, electrolytes, and other jargon. The mammaries produce the milk. If the milk is all we need, why keep the rest of the cow? The meat is great, but depending on what the priority is, this, combined with killing the detachable-tit-growing cow at the end of its lifespan and eating it could very well be the appropriate balance. I'm not saying it necessarily will be, I just have no clue what the milk-to-meat ratio will have to be for society (Capitalism, anyone?).
Extracting milk or pseudo-milk from the environment in which it was produced when it was produced by bacteria wouldn't be nearly as feasible as the simple squeeze-and-pipe of the tit factory.
The mammaries produce the milk. If the milk is all we need, why keep the rest of the cow?

If we could actually do this, why keep the cow at all and not do the full switch to human milk?
yes I have tried worms.

How do they taste? Do tell!
I was waiting to hear "like chicken."
So, apparently worms are delicious. Well, people already do eat crustaceans (shrimp, crayfish, etc), and they are what? cousins of insects?
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me.....




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