TED Conversations

Mike Colera


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Why are "genetically modified foods" getting all kinds of push back from many sides including the EU?

Genetically modified foods are becoming more and more available. Most of the modern foods are modified provide more and better product such as rice, corn, wheat and now even salmon have been modified to achieve market size faster that before. The published complaints seem to suggest that these foods are somehow tainted and there is no knowledge of future problems. Besides, the modifiers are large multinational corporations that have evil intent.
But hasn't mankind always been modifying something. We took a wary wolf some 10000 years ago and now we have toy poodles. Wheat, corn, rice are not like today from what it was just a few hundred years ago.
In the past, breeders/botanists would make multiple generations to get the desired results. Today, technology can make changes is one or two replications.
Could these GMF cause hair to fall out or some serious medical crisis and how do we know that? Or is it just the fear of change?.

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    Apr 29 2013: i support GM, but i do not support any patents / legal barriers in their use. i also don't support any attempts to sell GM food to people that do not want to buy it. in my law, buyers would be entitled to a full refund if any GM content is not written clearly on the package. even after consumption. after full freedom achieved, people can decide themselves if they want to eat GM food, and if so, what kinds. it would even be up to them to define what they mean by GM. some might consider selective breeding GM. other's might consider the oil of GM seeds not to be GM. there are no strict definitions.
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    Apr 29 2013: My take on modified foods is that mankind has been modifying foods since the beginning of agriculture. By breeding and cross breeding we have modified genetic traits in plants and animals. Now we have the ability to make these modifications relatively quickly and more focused for the desired traits. Can these changes go bad? It is possible. Should we stop trying? I believe that with the growth of population, the need for more and better foods has risen faster then the old ways of breeding and cross breeding. Only time will tell.
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    Apr 3 2013: Two things,
    Most GMOs make crops provide higher yields, resistant to drought and some do give the plant a bitter taste to insect feeders. No food stuff I could find is being modified to actually be a pesticide. so, if you can provide any reference, I would be most interested.
    The other point of what could be called crony capitalism, where corporations and government swap employees back and forth. I'd like that to be stopped too. But, legally there is nothing wrong with it.
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    Apr 2 2013: Genetic modification in general can yield good or bad results I'm sure. What concerns me are the reasons many of the crops are modified - to be resistant to pesticides or to produce them internally. Also, many of these products come from Monsanto, a company notorious for manipulating government regulation for its own ends. Many GMO crops, artificial hormones and pesticides produced by Monsanto are banned in the EU but go unregulated by the FDA in the US. The FDA is headed by Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor and others from the company.
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    Apr 1 2013: Why are "huge" food corporations considered mindless entities that only have a fast buck profit in mind? If I was in charge of a large food corporation, would I put out a product that will kill all my customers? Not if I wanted to keep my job and make an obscene salary, I would do all I could to keep my customer base healthy, hoping wealthy enough to keep buying my product and wise.
  • Mar 31 2013: I am no Luddite, but I fear the scale of change in the world, today and in the future.

    The new technologies that are being introduced are powerful on a scale that make past technologies appear puny. Genetic modification may be the most powerful of these new technologies.

    The old paradigm was to let any individual or any corporation introduce any new technology, with no advance regulation or limitation. In the past, that paradigm served us fairly well. Today, it is not serving us nearly as well as in the past. For example, chemical companies are introducing new chemicals at a rate that is amazing, and the vast majority of these chemicals are not being tested for possible negative effects on people or on the environment. Sure enough, some of these chemicals have caused problems. Another sad example is tobacco.

    Part of the old paradigm was the assumption that the people who profited from a product would be held liable for any damages. That assumption does not hold up when the scale is increased. While the potential for profits becomes humongous, modern corporations can shield themselves from the humongous liabilities that these new technologies could cause. So corporations have a huge incentive to introduce extremely risky technologies.

    Consider one fairly simple scenario: A GM crop is adopted all over the world, feeding billions of people. A parasite adapts to take advantage of the genetic modification and wipes out the crop. Millions, perhaps billions starve. Yes, this could happen to any crop at any time. But GM makes crops more valuable and more widely spread. The PURPOSE of GM is to sell a particular strain as widely as possible. Corporations are purposely putting the world population at greater risk to produce greater profits.

    The fear of GM and other powerful technologies is completely rational. The risks are real.
  • Mar 31 2013: Why? Should I be? If I wanted to sound extreme I can call seedless fruit trees an abomination but I won't let that keep seeds in the way of my culinary pleasures.
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    Mar 31 2013: It does not really matter if the the staff, leadership, and investors (and the families) of the Corporations who monopolize the food market are themselves eating it. I don't want to eat that food and they are stealing my freedom to reject them and eat organic by regulating the natural seeds and its free distribution and de-regulating the GM foods such that on the shelf you cannot tell which is GM and which is not.
    No wonder that EU and many countries are pushing the GM food back. Unless there is global mass insanity, there will always be countries and people who refuse to be sold to these corporations.
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    Mar 31 2013: Here is one perspective on the question, though the talk is not entirely about genetically modified foodstuffs: http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_specter_the_danger_of_science_denial.html
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    Mar 30 2013: I think this video will be informative for this question.
  • Mar 30 2013: I'm not really afraid of genetically altered foods. Seedless grapes are genetically altered. I guess going old school would be the best way to go if any bodies really worried about it.
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      Mar 30 2013: Do you think grapes evolved only for human consumption? Also, do you think seeds in grapes are just stupid natural freaks to hinder your culinary pleasure?
      • Mar 30 2013: What?! Are you serious? If any thing were to be freakish, it's the seedless grape. The whole idea of a seedless fruit is some what crazy. When humans are gone soon after so will Thompson seedless and any other genetically altered seedless fruit. I don't know why grapes evolved the way they did but they sure do taste good.
  • Mar 30 2013: With something as significant to life as food, we need to do much more rigorous scientific investigation before providing modified organisms for public consumption. Unfortunately and frighteningly, the corporations pushing these foods, naturally, have no concern for the well-being of humans.
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      Mar 30 2013: Unless I'm mistaken, the staff, leadership, and investors (and the families) are made up entirely of humans.
      • Mar 30 2013: So the only other question is are they consuming the same modified foods they're pushing?
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          Mar 30 2013: They're releasing them into the same biosphere, and since they have no way of telling, for instance, whether there GM corn shows up in the products they buy of the store shelves, then yes, they're consuming the same products.
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        Mar 30 2013: And they are making a lot of money out of it which the consumers are not.
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          Mar 30 2013: And they are feeding a lot of people and you are not. Please leave your misplaced class envy at the door.
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        Mar 30 2013: Of course they are. They are also feeding people with lies, deception, monopoly apart from destroying the ecological balance and not nutritious food. I an not doing those either. Please get informed.
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    Mar 30 2013: .
    It is because the instincts of optimal point and ultra-high accuracy make us survive.
    Hence, we have to be very careful.
    (For details, see the 1st article, points 10-11 at
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    Mar 30 2013: It's just Luddite fear of change, Mike. It's the same people that insist that refrigeration is causing global warming, and that we all should return to an agrarian society as long as they still get their iMacs and Prius'.