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

Of course big companies engage in propaganda for nefarious purposes. And I wasn't really accusing you of automatically rejecting, Bill. My comment was more in response to TNT666. Skepticism is great, but it's always at risk of verging into paranoia. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Bill gates IS building (in collaboration with corps) a seedbank. Do you believe he's doing it for charitable purposes?

Of course not, the man's a brilliant financier and competitor and visionary, he knows exactly where is next buck comes from! He's brilliant!
Oh, Gates is a highly intelligent guy, no question. But you're buying too much into his press if you think he wasn't also in the right place at the right time on a few key occasions. A fierce competitor, to be sure, but hardly infallible in the marketplace. He's been pushing tablet PCs and handwriting and speech recognition for years without many takers. He wasn't all that clever about the antitrust issues Microsoft ran into. Windows Mobile hasn't taken over the cell phone market. Even with all that money and market share, Microsoft has a hard time getting into new lines of business.

Anyhow, yes, I do believe he's building the seedbank for charitable purposes. Is this the program you're talking about, or were you referring to something else?

Microsoft once accidentally patented a kind of apple tree. Well, actually, they were accidentally granted a patent on a kind of apple tree. The patent was filed by a farmer in eastern Washington, and apparently it got swept up in the whirlwind of patents that Microsoft files all the time. It was all sorted out to the farmer's satisfaction, though. I believe he found it more amusing than anything.
I don't have your good will towards him.
The seedbank I'm referring to is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

We can agree to disagree on his motives :)
You believe in his charitable motives, I don't.
I believe all his «nice» gestures are «pacifiers» with the goal of deflecting attention away from his more serious actions.

Genetic patents are no accidents to me. I remember when Canada allowed the patenting of life in 1989. I thought it was wrong then, as I do now...

The beauty of Gates is that he's so rich he can afford to only fight the battles he needs and let the others slip away (not fretting the small stuff) allowing him to show his «nice» side.

I also agree that the ex Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was a brilliant politician even tho I disagreed with a majority of his political opinions...

It all depends on how you formulate your own ideal world. My ideal world is one where we have « free and available » genetic diversity and don't need to buy our seeds from Bill.

We should have our answer within a half century. Let's make a date then, I'll be 93, which is how long the other ladies of my family lived over the past couple of generations. :)
That facility was built by the government of Norway, and operational funding comes from many sources, not just the Gates Foundation. In any case, it doesn't appear that Gates will have an ownership stake, or any say over distribution of the seeds, or that the seeds are even patented varieties. I'm sorry, but your paranoia is getting the best of you here, TNT.

Ask yourself this: Why would a guy with as much money as Gates need to control this? He has everything he needs. If he wants more power, there are plenty of above-board ways for him to increase that. He owns a bunch of for-profit concerns, as well as a great deal of MSFT stock, which company he still chairs, though he's retired from the day-to-day operations. Basically, the flaw in your thinking is the same as Dr. Evil's in the first Austin Powers movie where he discovers that Virtucon makes far more money in legitimate business concerns than he would with his evil scheme of global extortion.
The vault is not for GMOs or patented varieties, we have plenty of those on hand, the vault is for all the disappearing seeds. Bill Gates, is 17.3% of the GLOBAL CROP DIVERSITY TRUST, the single most important funder, not controlling interest, but not nothing. If I put myself in Bill's shoes, I have short term, mid term, and long term investments. The seed vault would be long term and could potentially be a huge benefit to him.

Why does any rich person want control, it is their very essence :)
After years working part-time on private yachts for the richest people in the world (altho not Bill himself), I think I developed a feel for their essence, I know we're not talking facts here, but our personal evaluation of peoples' motives in life.

Not knowing you personally, I don't know the source of your insight into the rich and famous. But until then I'm not ready to discount my experience of them... Paranoid, no, just extremely sceptical of any unprofitable charity on his part
Can you please link to some information? You say "vast numbers of scientists". The problem we are encountering is that we see almost all spin, either from Monsanto (and others who have corporate financial interest) or the "Frankenfood" brigade, who do not seem to have the facts straight at all, and sound a bit too much like conspiracy theorists. I don't know where we have said that we believe anyone. I'm quite skeptical of both sides.
You're correct, 95% of the internet science is spin. I feel for you, as a since birth atheist skeptic, I know no other reality.

So forgive for refusing to play the "who can post the most links" game on the internet. Various internet sites hold no weight for me. If that means some will skip my posts in the future, fine. Mostly when I read other people's posts, I'm assessing their cognitive abilities, not their quote finding ability, any idiot can find quotes. I rely strictly on my university toxicology-ecology-zoology years and scientific publications. The internet info I do read, is only upon verifying the publication name and editorial policy, if non satisfactory, I DO NOT READ it. I also don't read self proclaimed «compilation» pages. If I do take info from Wikipedia, I also verify the source itself. If it's unsourced and doubt inducing, I do not incorporate it.

I pose the question, WHO IS POSTING, who can afford to post endless questionable studies with sample sizes of one and no proper control groups, people with time and money. This pretty much excludes busy scholarly scientists.

I also do not make reference cards of all my readings (as a friend of mine does in Sherbrooke Québec). I have laboratory experience to rely upon, of Monsanto, I know firsthand how they cherry pick their results simply to sell their round-up ready products. Also on firsthand information working for pharmaceutical testing laboratory, how the VPs can simply «remove» numbers and modify raw data that does not «fit» their corporate agenda, because the FDA only reads the published reports and never goes into the corporation to check on the correspondence between the raw data and the published report. They have complete free range, and then when people die or get sick, they retract their products. I've seen firsthand the genetic anomalies due to pesticides in nature, I really don't care how corporate science says pesticides on golf courses are safe, I have lab-experienced that they're not OK.

This is not hearsay and rumourmill, it is personal professional experience. People such as myself have written about this in articles and books, but others shout «conspiracists». That's corporate naysaying. I'm not about conspiracy theories, altho sometimes they are sexily appealing. I rely on experience. The sad fact is the ratio of corporate science to academic science is increasing, and this means studies are more and more biased.

I realize it puts non scientists in a tough place, what information to rely on, why is corporate science less reliable, how to distinguish between quality and BS, does the number of studies matter or is it the quality of the studies that counts.

Do I come off as defensive, hell yeah, I've seen this for long enough. A lot of my USA friends interestingly are republicans and completely science free, but they know how to have a good time and that counts too! In Canada, no one my age parties at all, so I pick my friends from many walks of life.

I realize we are never going to all agree and Jason disagrees with me on this, but my only suggestion for KNOWING unbiased science from agenda science is to get off the internet, head to your local university library, and spend a few weeks/months going through actual biological journals (or other discipline).

Sorry for the rant, some days it gets to me. I don't ask that you believe me, I only offer leads for your already sceptical minds.

TNT666: why are you willing to believe the words of corporate greed?

Dunno. Why are you willing to believe leftist anti-everything luddite cookie cutter sound bytes ?

vast numbers of scientists sounding alarms.

Is that like the vast number of scientists calling global warming fraud or the vast number of scientists calling flu vaccination a mass genocide program ? You need to be more specific. Appeal to authority requires substance.

Why do you assume we are unaware of what you're saying ? Mighty presuptuous.

You are gibbering like Alex Jones to be quite honest. This isn't really the place for it.
I am not a lefty, nor a righty... anarchist scientific libertarian would be more like it, cant imagine you've missed that :)

From my academic perspective corporate paid «scientists» are not scientists. When I speak of scientists without specifying, I'm strictly counting non corporate funded university research. Most university research is on the global warming side, most university research is ok with vaccines. I don't see your problem...

Have I ever criticized your posts personally? I'm talking about a general impression of naiveté regarding corporate agendas. All science is not equal.
No, I'm sorry, but you are talking tin-foil hat gibberish in this last batch of responses.

a) Bill Gates is beyond worrying about making a profit. He's just a convenient punching bag for anti-corporate sermonising. Easy and cheap target. Fail.

b) The seed bank is managed by the Norwegian government and Global Crop Diversity Trust. Gates has absolute zero managerial control, outside of your imagination. All he's done is provide funding. Just the same as anyone of us would if we had a couple of hundred billion dollars lying around. In which case you would be accusing us. With just as much concrete evidence.

c) None of us are friends of Monsanto or any of the other cabal members that are beaming mind control radiation at us from commandeered Pentagon satellites. Nor are we that stupid that we are unaware of concerns over monoculture food crops or patents on biological life. If you would have read the original post you would have noticed.

d) You still sound like Alex Jones.

e) The name of this group is "No Nonsense". Not "The Zeitgeist Illuminati Resistance Front". You may want to catch up with them. I believe their next meeting will be in Clarence Dember's taxi on March 13th. If you're lucky, Just'n Earthling will be there.
Felch, how do you know about ZIRF? Oops, I've said too much.



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