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Public Response to GMOs

In today's world when people prefer organic vegetables and ayurvedic medicines as compared to vegetables grown using pesticides and synthetically produced medicines , what response will the public have for Genetically Modified Organisms? Will they carry forward the trend of having customized organisms or will be a hindrance to evolution and prefer the same old stuff?

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    Nov 18 2013: Discussing GMO food seems almost elitist when there are so many in the world that have very little food, but I''m sure I just opened the door for a load of comments from people that want to educate me on the subject.

    "Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries (FAO 2012).

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      Nov 19 2013: I definitely agree with your view that discussing GMOs can appear to be "elitist," especially when taking into account the atrocious fact that there are millions who are undernourished in much of the developing world. What frightens me is that the public outcry against GMOs appears to spread like wildfire, leading many developing nations to take a strong stance against GM crops, even at the cost of potentially increasing malnourishment and starvation.

      Granted, the individuals who are protesting GM crops in these developing nations make excellent arguments, and cite biodiversity, gene patenting, and corporate monopolization of these crops as very real concerns. Yet with how land is currently being allocated and subsequently mismanaged, I honestly don't think that it is likely that we could feed the world without the utilization of GM crops.

      (Source: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/217-hunger/52440-african-civil-society-groups-protest-gmo-agriculture.html)
      • Nov 19 2013: Oddly enough, biodiversity, gene patenting, and corporate monopolization of crops is not a GMO issue. They are all business practice issues. Yes, in this case, biodiversity is a business practice issue--the problem of the agricultural monoculture was being discussed for decades before GMO crops existed. The same is true of corporate monopolization. Indeed, that has been seen as a potential or real problem since the 1960s. While "gene" patenting wasn't an issue until recently, "line" or "hybrid" patenting could cause similar problems. None of the problems you cite are new, nor are they unique to GMO crops. They are all business practice problems that will not go away with a ban of GMO. They will just return to the traditional hybrids.
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          Nov 19 2013: I've selected a series of quotes that outlines the problem from this news article:
          http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/15/us-genetically-modified-rice-idUSBRE87E0RO20120815

          "We know vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem," said Keith P. West, a professor of infant and child nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
          "As many as 250 million children worldwide are vitamin A deficient, according to the World Health Organization."
          "Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness and, because it dampens immune system function, leaves children more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from infections."
          "If all children in deprived areas were given enough vitamin A, up to 2.7 million deaths could be prevented each year, according to Tang's team."

          Those that read the article will see that it clearly states that "Golden Rice" is NOT A ‘PANACEA'.

          GMO's are controversial for new reasons, and I am not taking the position that they're all good. But "biofortified" foods cannot be easily dismissed without suggesting alternatives.
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          Nov 20 2013: Agreed. None of these business practice problems really are new, but the GMO debate is a relatively recent one, and the monopolization of GM agriculture (and subsequent boycotts) definitely can have a significant negative impact on the economy, with the cost being our ability to end world hunger.

          The over-arching problem being that ending world hunger generally appears to require GMOs, which are currently being demonized by many of the individuals in the developing nations that need food the most.

          What I don't understand is why individuals would choose worldwide starvation/malnourishment over the potential application of GM crops. Based on most of the academic reports that I've read (such as this: http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/land_deg/land_deg.html), it appears that we cannot feed the world due in part to the shortage of arable land and land degradation. In this sense, activists who protest against GMOs appear to be doing more harm than good, as there really doesn't appear to be any viable alternative to alleviating world hunger.
    • Nov 21 2013: Why choose worldwide starvation over GMO? Superstition. It all boils down to superstition. There has been a superstitious cult dominating the Left and intelligentsia for decades. Some of the dogmas of this cult are: 1) "Natural" = "Good". 2) "Human origin" = "not natural". 3) Reduce population, no matter the cost. 4) Individual human life has no value in the face of the collective.
  • Oct 29 2013: I see no problem with GMOs so long as they're subject to testing and scrutiny to make sure they're safe for consumption, just like any other food. Seeing as they're already undergoing the process just fine without public intervention, I wouldn't worry.

    By the way, if we tried growing all our food organically, we physically wouldn't be able to feed the world population. Its higher than can be propped up without artificial fertilizer for quite a few decades now, and is only rising. GMOs may well help us prop it up higher; either that, or the population keeps growing until we can't feed them all, which is something of an issue.

    Unfortunately, people have this odd tenancy to think that "natural" equates "good". Cyanide is also natural, but you don't see me stuffing any in my mouth. GMOs were genetically modified for a reason, after all, as an improvement, not a liability.
    • MR T

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      Oct 29 2013: Spot on
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    Nov 18 2013: Re: In today's world when people prefer organic vegetables and ayurvedic medicines...

    Do they?
    This statement sounds a little misleading, and might read, when "some" people prefer...

    This article is written by a a chemist interested in the history and philosophy of science and he makes several point that are worth considering in this Scientific American blog essay.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/2013/08/28/ok-so-you-hate-gmos-because-they-are-untested-what-about-feelbetteramine-from-the-health-store/

    “I actually find the anti-GMO folks’ argument about not trusting GMOs simply because they have “not been tested enough” to be disingenuous, selective and cherry-picked at the very minimum. Let’s say that tomorrow Whole Foods introduces a new brand of spirulinadetoxwhatever health supplement containing feelbetteramine from a wholly natural plant found in the foothills of Bolivia. Do we think for a second that the anti-GMO folks won’t be lining up at their nearest Whole Foods, no matter that this novel substance is as much or even more untested than a GMO?”
  • Nov 12 2013: What adds more value to society. It is simply more economical to produce GMOs rather than organic food. Yes, we very well could make the argument that organic food increases overall happiness by improving the standard of living but the majority of people would disagree... hints why organic food is a niche market, although trending rather rapidly.

    Scary to think about our foods being modified in a lab? Yes, but not really. Humans have interfered with agricultural evolution for thousands of years through natural selection, this is simply a process of speeding up the selection. Watermelons and grapes used to have seeds. Apples were the size of a cherry.

    Changing the genetic structure of an organism more than likely does not produce a toxin, the actual goal is to increase quantity, nutritional value, and production efficiency. This is real value.
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    Nov 11 2013: Let's see, I have two choices....
    I can go every Thursday afternoon to the local Walmart and buy groceries for the week. Some chicken parts, a package of ground beef, a package of steaks, potatoes, lettuce, onions, package of broccoli, etc... . there are about 50 items on my shopping list, including paper products and drinks... Some of the fresh vegetables are marked organic, most are not. Then spend the rest of my days doing a wide variety of other things, including spending maybe way too much time addressing issues on TEDs.

    Or,
    I could be more conscience about what I eat and grow my own food, carefully and cautiously insuring the purest and most natural foodstuffs. I will need about 5 acres to provide land to grow food and sustain some protein source such as chicken and rabbit. Beef would be too land expensive, but I'll have a grove of fruit trees native to this area.... there go bananas, but I will have the best of vegetables, again what is native to this clime..,. I may be able to build a small greenhouse to extend my growing season and plant some additional produce. I will get up early each morning and spend my day to tend to the animals and the growth of the garden items. Once there is a harvest, there will be time to store and can foodstuffs. The rest of my time will be tending to and butchering the animals. There may be some quiet moments in the evening that I will be able to look at the TED site and do all the other things I do like to do....
    but sustainment farming is a 7/24 job and little time for social and intellectual pursuits. Maybe excepting the Sunday socials after services..
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    Nov 11 2013: An issue with GMO is that people do not understand either its potential uses or misuses. Genetically modified organisms are in frequent use today in the production of life saving medicines such as insulin. Many diabetics would be out of luck without GMO. This is an example of a proper use of the technology. A misuse would be a procedure like injecting genes into plants that produce pesticides that they wouldn't normally produce, since this can have a major impact on the ecosystem and the toxicity of those plants. So, really with proper education on how genetic modification works, and why it has so much potential, I think people will come around to the idea of GMO, as long as it is used properly.
  • Gord G 50+

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    Nov 8 2013: My two heads can't come to a consensus. Though they both agree my tail has been quite useful in fending off the giant cockroaches. ;-)
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    Nov 7 2013: Yes you're right. To me GMO equals Monsanto. I think I'm not alone (hence the title of this discussion 'Public response to GMO's'. I think whenever the word GMO comes by, uneducated people (like myself ;)) immediately think about the mal practices of Monsanto and other 'too big too fail' companies. Thanks for the insight and nuance. I think everyone should be educated this way. And inspired by growing our own crops like you do. I live in Barcelona and have a 50x150cm balcony so I wish I could have a 1500m2 garden!.. Well, just a month ago harvested my first chillis... :D But, hey we all have to start somewhere ;)

    salut!
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      Nov 7 2013: No, you are not alone and that's why I say that facts are communicated poorly.
      Barcelona has a nice climate for growing stuff. Not too cold and not to hot.
      50 x 150 cm isn't a lot, but you still can grow herbs or perhaps even tomatoes. Not much, but better than nothing. Beside, if you have a vertical wall available you can use this space too.
      Something like that:
      http://www.countryliving.com/outdoor/how-to-plant-a-vertical-garden#slide-1
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        Nov 7 2013: Yes was thinking about adding the tomatoes next spring. Great idea the verical garden!
        cheers
        • Nov 10 2013: Vertical garden is very good for growing orchids. They probably could fetch you some profits too, :
    • Nov 7 2013: Well there's a lot of countries doing public research for gmo's even Cuba is doing research... the golden rice in China is a good example or the berenjena bt in Bangladesh... is funny how people doesn't know Monsanto also produces non-GMO seeds, but thats not something the "organics" cares... BTW Organic food have killed a lot of people because of the ecchericha colli while GMO's have not kil anybody. Sorry for my bad english anyway
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        Nov 8 2013: Research is being done, but what I said is that information is poorly communicated to the public.
        As to E. Coli, this is independent of a crop being GMO or organic, but has something to do with fecal pollution.
        • Nov 8 2013: Yes, but the poor communication to the public is an issue in all sciences; my point is you can't take an active position against something if you don't know what it is about. I have not read all the conversation in this thread before posting, my mistake.
          Exactly the E. Coli was because of fecal pollution, so why people brings herbicides, pesticides, patents or Monsanto when talking about transgenics (Not your fault, but a very common opinion).
      • Nov 8 2013: You are aware that there is a lot of opposition against golden rice among those who fancy themselves to be "Greens", including Greenpeace, are you not?
        • Nov 8 2013: So what? Greenpeace would be the last organization I would seek to learn about how healthy or unhealthy GMOs are. They are far from being objective and fair to anything they consider "unnatural."
  • Nov 5 2013: It's been my experience that most people do not prefer organic vegetables and aryuvedic medicine. Most people I know don't care if a vegetable is organic and look upon aryuveda as some kind of bizarre foreign superstition. Since my most common scientific collaborator is from India, I know better. But most people think of "organic" as "cute idea, but far too expensive". Most people I know don't care a whit about GMOs.
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      Nov 6 2013: Well, just because people don't care about something doesn't mean it should be ignored.
      A lot of people give a damn about the environment either but that doesn't make the problems go away.
      That said, this whole issue about GMOs is a discussion born out of ignorance. Most people take a stance, at one or the other side of the spectrum without even knowing what they are talking about. Probably most people don't even know that most of the stuff we eat is a GMO and that's so for thousands of years.
      The only thing that changed is the method we use to genetically modify organism.
      • Nov 6 2013: That wasn't my point. I was debunking the claim that "most people" are so up in arms over an issue. Most people are not up in arms over GMO, thus, beginning an argument with the claim that most people are up in arms over it only weakens ones point from the start.
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          Nov 6 2013: I suppose that's true for most issues. It's always a minority that's excited about something, but the vast majority just is doing business as usual.
          But my point is that just because it's a minority that's screaming, one shouldn't ignore the issue. At least there should be an open discussion.
  • MR T

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    Oct 31 2013: >>>>>Can anyone link me to scientific proof that GMO's are harmful to the environment & humans?
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      Oct 31 2013: Doesn't exist for the simple reason that GMO is a generic term such as "chemical".
      Saying GMOs cause damage would be equivalent to saying chemicals cause damage.
      Obviously a statement that wouldn't make much sense.
      • MR T

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        Nov 3 2013: It would be equivalent to asking, has anyone got any proof that man made chemicals have damaged the environment?

        A fair question, the answer could be yes...here is some

        I'm looking for any study done on any genetically modified plant or animal that has had negative effects on the environment and or human health in any way.

        Everyone is saying this and that is bad about GMO's but where is the evidence to back it up...
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    Oct 29 2013: It is probably a safe bet to say that GMO foodstuffs have increased the available foods in the world. Best info available shows that to be true.... increasing food supplies matching growth in population....
    Some have criticized GMO foods as being "dangerous" or or or. Not a lot of support for that opinion. Most food safety testing does not bear it out. There can be some allergic reactions by some people to some products, but that's not clearly defined.

    But, here is my belabored question...
    I am a product manufacturer... be it GMO foods or widgets... I want customers beating down my doors to buy my product, I want 100 % market share, I want to make a terrific profit... I want to buy a yacht the size of an aircraft carrier, I want to buy the Hope Diamond for a key chain bobble...
    Why would I put out a product that would hurt my customers, make them sick or, heaven forbid, kill them.
    That's not good for business, that's not good for repeat customers... I'd never make a profit doing that....
    it would make no business sense....
    And say what you want about my product, be it GMO foods or widgets, don't think I am stupid about making profits.... I wouldn't be in business in the first place.
    • Oct 29 2013: Mike,
      You would sell products that hurt your customers because you value short-term profits or your stock price over your long-term reputation. There is no shortage of examples of companies that do exactly that.
      • Oct 29 2013: Granted, you could say that about anything. Its not much of an argument for or against GMOs, though it might have some relevance for a discussion about the free market.
        • Oct 30 2013: I'm not arguing against GMOs at this point.
          I was responding to Mike's "belabored question", which I interpreted as "If I were a manufacturer, why would I make a product that hurts my customers?"
          My answer is: "short-sighted greed".

          Examples:
          - Auto manufacturers would not install seatbelts until they were required to by law.
          - Chinese toy manufacturers used hazardous chemicals (phthalates, lead, etc.) in toys.
          - Meat packers used "downer cows" in meat products meant for human consumption.

          My argument is for, at a minimum, labeling GMO foods.
          Labeling of GMO foods is currently on the ballot in Washington state.
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        Oct 30 2013: Kevin,
        I have no idea where you are coming from... but it is not from an entrepreneurial prospective.

        Willie Sutton robbed banks because as he said that is where the money is. It was all about quick profits. There may not be a shortage of those companies that used that "business model"... question... how many of them are still in business? Willie Sutton is not in business anymore.

        I am sure you can go to Twitter and UTube and maybe even the TED site and find comments or talks by people who discuss the criminality of companies in treatment of their customers and explain the continuation of these businesses by bribery and other illicit means.

        I am a firm believer in the law. Willie Sutton went to jail. Anyone who violates the law should be in jail... Yesterday. Any politician who prevents any criminal from facing justice should be put "under the jail." So... I have an open mind. If someone can show proof of criminal activity let them come forward.
        But, too many, way too many make accusations without proof... using innuendoes, rumor and suppositions. That is my sad understanding of the GMO situation and many others.
      • Oct 30 2013: Honestly, GMOs have grown so prevalent, that it might be easier to label the natural stuff instead, at least when it comes to plant products (animals not so much, but its only a matter of time).
        Which everyone who's selling "organic" is pretty much already doing.

        Granted, most of the "organic" stuff sold today isn't actually organic (it'd take a lab test to tell the difference, so its pretty easy to get away with; I'm not ever sure its illegal given that 'organic' may not even be defined by law), but what makes you think labels will change that?
  • Oct 29 2013: I agree with Harald that it is really too complicated matter to control of sorting out the so called GMOs. Furthermore, the genetic modification,is really all around us, and include us as well. We have all eat vegetable or fruits which are genetically modified by mixing (transplant) different plants together such as the pluots, red grapefruits, etc. And all the animals, including human being, are constantly genetically altered (mutation) by the cosmic radiation. The occurrence could also happen by unhealthy marriage or incest.
    As long as our Food and Drug Administration oversees the GMO products, we have to rely on them just as they are the gate keeper against toxic or harmful drugs. We must also realize that eating GMO grains does not change our genes into the modified genes in the grain. Because if so, then most of us will look like, or feel as, a cow or a pig already. It is really interesting that many of us are ignorant to the warning by the Center for Disease Control on the unhealthy effect of overexposure to the direct sunlight which causes skin cancer; melanoma, which is quite fatal, or the bad effect of obesity by overeating which causes many more morbidity and mortality, yet we are so scared of the GMOs.
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    Oct 29 2013: Regardless of ones opinion about GMOs, the problem I see is that the public has little to say about it because information is pretty scarce.
    Very rarely do we know what foods contain GMOs. There is a pretty good chance that we are already consuming significant amounts of GMOs without being aware of it.
    • Oct 29 2013: Actually, the information is there if you look for it hard enough. I remember checking a couple of years back and realizing that about half the plant matter I ate was genetically engineered in some manner; its probably only gone up since.
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        Oct 29 2013: You can for example buy catchup and you will have no clue whether or not GMO tomatoes are used in.
        Then you also have the indirect exposure. Do you know whether or not your fried chicken was fed with GMO corn ?
        • Oct 29 2013: Harald Jezek 50+

          You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.

          Harald, you laid waste to all the arguments, both sides.
          I would honor you with 2 awards, but I broke my mirror
          and now face 7 more years of bad luck.
        • Oct 30 2013: Actually, you can be almost sure that the plant derived processed products you eat contain at least some GMOs.
          They're more economical to grow, and seeing as its processed, the "organic" crowd won't buy it anyway. Makes no financial sense to sell natural processed products.
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        Oct 29 2013: hahahaha Frank, don't worry......time passes so fast .....your 7 years will pass in a fly.
        btw, I used a sledgehammer so it's easy to hit the nail on the head.
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        Oct 30 2013: Nadav, I have no doubt about that.
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      Oct 30 2013: Especially when you consider that mutagenic GMOs have been around since the 50s.
  • Nov 25 2013: To me GMO foods is pretty sketchy, why not label GMO foods? I mean the FDA says they are safe, why not label them. so it tells you it is something these people are not telling us.
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    Nov 13 2013: GMO's are vegetables' CEO's.
  • Nov 12 2013: The public reaction towards GMOs is this: Half the people don't care because they trust the FDA and the the government regulators unjustly, and the other half of people have an irrational fear of them which isn't grounded in reality. Public panic in GMOs is like public panic in Vaccines, ignorance is the breeding ground for paranoia and fringe/ conspiracy type thinking. Both vaccines and GMO's have gone through rigorous scientific scrutiny and similar to claims about Extra-Terrestrial air-craft, although seductive and compelling to a nondiscriminatory or biased mind, has no real weight when measured with real science. I'm saying GMOS and vaccines might end up being bad and UFOs may be real, but there is no Hard evidence despite all the extensive research.
    • Nov 13 2013: Hard evidence of the unintended harmful consequences does exist and it is not hard to find with a search. While the plant/food itself may not be harmful, such things as the impact of genetically modified plants on the diversity of plant species is - the leakage of GMO DNA into otherwise untouched varieties is well documented. This diminishment of diversity reduces the ability to withstand heretofore unknown threats.

      Such modifications as the ability to grow in an environment rich in RoundUp (like a lot of corn grown in the US thanks to Monsanto) has resulted in those feed crops absorbing more of the active killing ingredient in RoundUp and thus causing cancer in the organisms including humans that eat it.

      Then there is the perhaps more insidious impact of companies such as Monsanto becoming sole source for seeds; the legal and financial stranglehold this corporation is placing on farmers threatens our food supply just as much as the genetic modification.

      We humans have long genetically modified plants and animals - that's how we get cocker spaniel from wolf. Modern techniques are just much more controlled and effective. We humans do not, however, know how to control the spread of those new genes into the larger environment and therein lies the greatest threat.
      • Nov 13 2013: Your right, certain GMOs can be potentially harmful species so all u got to do is safely control their use like we do with electricity.. doesnt require magic. People in the future will see GMO resistors the same as we today view those who opposed electricity. Face it people are scared of what they are not familiar with and once people are familiar it will seem silly to be so scared. There is no evidence GMOs are harming people or other plants because as of today Monsanto and the wider scientific community understands the potential of harm so they take the necessary steps to prevent it. Is it that hard to believe in an age with space exploration, sattelites, and nuclear power plants that men can be responsible??
  • Nov 12 2013: I think that there will always be a market for organic produce and other organic foods. However, "the same old stuff" is now prohibitively expensive for many many low-income workers and their families, the elderly and the disabled. So, GMO foods will be sold to people who need to eat and cannot afford to be picky. I would like to see more community gardens so that people can grow their own organic produce, if they wish. Buying GMO foods should be an informed choice that is made because consumers truly want to eat these Genetically Modified Organisms.
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    Nov 11 2013: I think the biggest issue is with gene patenting, which essentially is monopolizing our food supply. This also eliminates competition from an agribusiness standpoint, and reduces bio-diversity (which has a significant impact on our ecosystem).

    As for the ethical implications of GMOs, please Google "Norman Borlaug" and the "Green Revolution." The fact of the matter is that we have been "genetically modifying" various crops for 10,000+ years, and with breakthroughs in science and technology, we have been able to advance this process. Norman Borlaug and his colleagues have been credited to have saved over a billion lives from starvation, and this is due in part to genetically modified crops.

    Don't get me wrong, I strongly support local farmers and organic products, especially given that these organic choices counter-balance the monopolization of our food supply and promote bio-diversity. Yet there are individuals who cannot afford to choose organic over genetically modified products. That being said, organic farming is ideal, however, we cannot feed the world on ideals alone.
  • Nov 10 2013: In response to "organics" when every body else is eating plastic fruit then you can call your produce organically grown, until then, it's all organic.
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      Nov 11 2013: Organic generally ends up translating as "sustainable". We're not talking about the chemical definition of organic, if we were, plastic fruit would also be considered organic. The problem with the term organic however, is that it has been corrupted by the mega farming industry. At this point it costs so much to label your food organic that most of the "certified organic" foods are actually from highly unsustainable mega farms.
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        Nov 11 2013: the least sustainable way of producing food is small farms or growing your own food in your flat. it is (or might be) a good assurance that it is clean and actually contains nutrients, but it is the most resource intensive way of farming.
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          Nov 11 2013: Small scale farming can be quite sustainable. What is not sustainable is the mega farm industry that we have now, which produces cheap, but toxic foods. Economy of scale only extends so far. A properly designed permaculture system should use very little excess energy. In other words, you would be using only the resources that you would be using anyway. This contrasts current agriculture, where dedicated resources are used for the production of food.

          In either case, as to which forms of agriculture truly are the most sustainable, it is hard to argue that our current farm industry, run by Monsanto et al, is in any way sustainable. The larger the farm, the more difficult it is to stop the spread of disease, and so we pump our animals full of antibiotics. Most of our meat comes from multiple sources, which means an even higher chance of spreading disease. The list of reasons why our current farming paradigm is unsustainable simply goes on and on.
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        Nov 11 2013: please observe that you just claimed the opposite without putting arguments forward.

        there is no fundamental difference between "homegrown" and industrial. there are circumstantial differences, but i'm not talking about that now. in each case, you need to deliver the water, the nutrients, and you need to do some maintenance work. you can, of course, declare these resources negligible, but it is only negligible because it is small compared to your every day's use. this is a false view though, because industrial resource use is also negligible if you divide by the number of people served. and viewing from the other side, homegrown resources use is very high if you multiply by the number of participants.

        it is known on the other hand that industrial techniques are cheaper. like fertilizers and insecticides/fungicides. the result is a cheaper and less resource intensive farming, but usually a lower quality.

        from a sustainability standpoint, none are sustainable, both can be changed to be sustainable, and industrial is actually closer to sustainability.

        as of now, organic/bio/homegrown are only marketed as eco friendly. in fact they are resource intensive, high quality, luxury products. which is not a problem at all, but it is good to see clearly.
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          Nov 11 2013: I most certainly put arguments forward. Regarding economy of scale. I mentioned difficulties in managing larger and larger farms, including the point that industrial farms have far more difficulty managing diseases and that industrial food supply systems also have the same problem. It's why our food is pumped full of antibiotics and pesticides. However, there is also the issue with distribution. For mega farms that produce for people all around the country, if not for multiple countries, a large amount of the energy is used for transportation. In addition, we have had to modify our food stuffs to be able to handle such transportation as well as, in many cases, long term storage.

          I also pointed out that one can grow a certain amount of food really without utilizing any more resources than that person would normally use on a day to day basis. This is not true for all households, but for many. Consider how many people have enough land for the following: house a few chickens, and in addition have a small garden on the property. The chickens keep pests away from the garden. Scraps from the garden feed the chickens. In return, you can get quite a bit of food for very little energy inputted into the system.

          Now, it's true that this wouldn't be able to feed the entire country, but I am saying that economy is scale isn't a perfect ideal. There are reasons why home food production is sustainable, and there are reasons why industrial mega farms are most certainly not sustainable. I also cannot see how an industrial farm could be sustainable. How would you prevent diseases?

          Oh, I should also point out that industrially produced food is not nearly as cheap as it appears because part of that is offset by literally billions upon billions of dollars of government subsidies each year.
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        Nov 11 2013: scaling up can have either zero or positive outcome, but never negative. it is pure logic. if scaling up does not help, you can always just not scale up. instead, build a lot of smaller units. the very fact that people establish large farms indicate that the benefits outweigh the loss. either that, or the industry is made up of total morons that don't understand their own interest. this includes diseases and transportation. farm food is cheaper (all costs included), therefore we can say that solving those problems cost less than the additional value created.

        government subsidy must go. but intensive farming started way before subsidies, and it goes on everywhere, despite the differences. in fact, subsidies are not the cause of centralization, but the effect. large corporations are in a good position to bargain special benefits for themselves. but they have to grow big on their own first.
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          Nov 11 2013: Scaling up often as a negative outcome. Scaling up in business can eventually lead to an inability to actually provide the necessary services for a customer base. Scaling up can end up in the issues I have mentioned above in the farm system. Scaling up can reduce innovative ability. You're right that farming has been around long before subsidies, but think about when the switch over to large scale industrial farming started. Was it around the same time that the industry started receiving subsidies? Government subsidization destroys basic market principals and allows a business to grow far beyond where it "should" and far beyond where it is most efficient.

          How can you assert that subsidization is an effect and not a cause when the subsidization predates the centralization of the industry? I haven't done a full study on the idea, but I like to think of the market in terms of natural evolving systems. When we look at it this way, we see the same kind of limits on growth as we do in the natural world. And, at least to some extent, I have observed caps in growth potential of businesses. Right now it's anecdotal, I'll admit, but I also have provided many reasons why there are limits to economy of scale.
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        Nov 11 2013: i provided a logical (and rather straightforward) argument that scaling up can't have negative *outcome*. that is, can not have *more* negative effects *than* positive effects. it will not be changed by listing negative effects all day long.

        governments have no intent to alienate their voters. in a country of many small farms, governments are happy to subsidy small farms, as it often happens all around the globe. with the existence of large farms, the government is happy to subsidize them too (at the same time) because they employ people, because helping them looks good on television, and because they pay fat pieces of bribe. government interventions go in both directions, they don't care. the government does not what to create anything. they just want to rule the things that exist.
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          Nov 11 2013: "i provided a logical (and rather straightforward) argument that scaling up can't have negative *outcome*. that is, can not have *more* negative effects *than* positive effects. it will not be changed by listing negative effects all day long."

          Well, now you're moving the goalposts. Your original assertion was that scaling up cannot have negative outcomes, now you're saying that it can't have outcomes that are more negative than positive. This is far more complicated to even discuss because we then have to come up with a way to measure negative and positive and compare the measure of both positive and negative outcomes.

          In any case, we're moving far away from the topic of GMOs, so perhaps we should get back to that? Or we can start a new thread. Feel free to post a new discussion on the topic of economy of scale and I'll comment there.
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        Nov 11 2013: listen. outcome is the sum of all effects. can we move on finally?
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          Nov 11 2013: Sure, care to move back to GMOs? Like I said, continuing this thread here doesn't seem appropriate since it's too far off the topic of the "idea".
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        Nov 11 2013: well, it is the same topic actually. GM reduces the costs per unit of output, and therefore more sustainable and more "green" if you will. this, unless of course we let externalities not to be counted. this is the only issue, and actually the same is true for all industries. i see this pattern in a great many cases. some people fear new technologies, but they don't say that, they claim they care for nature. the same argument is used against nuclear power plants. in fact, nuclear power plants are very good for the biosphere. they are dangerous for us only. so if we follow logic and facts, greens should fight for all nuclear solutions, and embrace the possibility of nuclear contamination of cities. the same thing is happening with GM. GM poses a risk mostly to people. it actually helps the biosphere. helps by reducing chemical use, reducing farm area, reducing water use and so on. and people not caring about nature, but fearing negative health effects should oppose GM.
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          Nov 11 2013: There is a fundamental difference between sustainability and cost. I don't see how we can continue on with the discussion as long as you equate the two. You also seem to be ignoring long term "costs" associated with short term gains.
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        Nov 11 2013: in my analysis, i equated sustainability with counting all externalities. if there would be no externalities, sustainability would be guaranteed by the price system.

        this is how it works: suppose there is a finite pool of some resource. if there are no externalities, that resource is owned by some people. if the resource is not essential, it is not a problem if they use it up all. if the resource is essential, the price of the resource goes up as it becomes fewer and fewer. as the owners anticipate the price going up, they will defer their use of the resource, anticipating a greater income in the future. also as the resource starts do deplete (long before it happens), because the price went up, people start to look for ways to either replace that resource, or replenish it. that is how the free market handles scarce resources, if externalities are not allowed.

        now as a contrast, let's examine the situation in which there is a free and unowned resource, like fish in the ocean. in that case, users of the resource are better exploit the resource as soon as they can, or else someone else will. they will not be able to defer the use of the resource, since they don't own it, they can't stop other people using it. there is a race condition to consume as much of it as possible, as soon as possible. and no amount of legislation will be enough. people longing for wealth will always outsmart governments.

        there are only two ways to achieve sustainability. one is internalizing all externalities. the other is totalitarian dictatorship. and i'm not sure about the latter.
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          Nov 11 2013: So you say, but you don't seem to take into account long run effects, and that's really inappropriate. Is the use of fossil fuels more sustainable? It's temporarily more cost effective, but not only will fossil fuels run out, but their use produces a large amount of pollution, which in the future will have to be cleaned up, probably at a high cost.

          Likewise it may cost less to produce food in mass quantities in a factory farm, but at what point does the massive spread of disease end up costing more than the amount that you save by economy of scale? Think of how many outbreaks of E. Coli we've had lately.
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        Nov 11 2013: we digress again, but here you go. you are talking about two resources here: fossil fuels and atmospheric heat radiation balance. the first is easy, we need owners for reservoirs, and they use it in any rate they see fit. we do want to use it all up, why would we want it to be there, unused? and as i explained, as the remaining reservoirs shrink, price goes up, alternative solutions come about. that is all cool.

        the atmosphere is a harder nut to crack. we need to establish rules so everyone using the atmosphere (that is, everyone indeed) owns the atmosphere. nobody should be able to emit anything that affects the composition or state of it without everyone's consent. so either convince us that it is harmless, pay us money, reverse the effects, or stop polluting. that is my proposed solution. but we need laws that trust the people with this decision. we don't need administrations and offices. we need contracts. imagine for example if BP should have signed contracts with each and every fisherman and land owner in the mexican gulf in order to get a drilling licence. i can assure you that they would do a damn good job making sure nothing goes wrong, or else they could say goodbye to any future drilling.

        one might say, but then we will have no drilling. well, okay for me. if something can't be done convincingly safely, don't do that. but in fact it can, and a good insurance solves the problems. compensation for any damages guaranteed, as well as consent of everyone involved.

        once again you think that every entrepreneur is a silly-wally. they understand very well the risks of infections. that is why they have separated areas, that is why they have like "turns" or what on animal farms, with sterilization in between. that is why they use chemicals. and that is why they have insurances. big farms are fine, thanks for asking.

        and to be on topic, that is why they use GM.
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          Nov 12 2013: Why shouldn't we use up all of the fossil fuels? Well, have you been keeping on eye on the amount of pollution they cause? What about acid rain? There's a problem with just burning up all the fossil fuels. Fossil fuel burning can also increase the amount of respiratory conditions that a population face.

          Massive farms are not fine. Beyond the issue with treatment of the livestock, they are pumping tons of toxic chemicals into the environment and into our food system. They are also decreasing the nutritional content of food. And as I mentioned before, we have outbreak after outbreak of E Coli and other diseases and require nation wide recalls thanks to the mass production system. Big farms are not doing fine. As I mentioned, the only reason that they can manage is because of the high rate of subsidization.
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        Nov 12 2013: there are two possibilities. either you are superficially reading my comments, or you deliberately try to derail the conversation. which one is it?

        i explicitly discussed the problem if finiteness and the problem of pollution as two separate issues. in the first paragraph, i explained that finiteness is not an argument against using it all. in the second paragraph, i have explained my position on pollution. in your reply, you simply ignore the second part, and pretend that i don't know about it. what the heck?

        the same is true about farming. i refuted your previous points, they are now ignored, and came up with other stuff. who were talking about moving goalposts?

        environmental issues are discussed in my analysis that you have ignored. i have nothing to add.

        e-coli is less likely to be an issue with large scale farming. manure spreads coli. artificial fertilizers don't. grazing spreads coli. artificial fodders or what is the name do not. no surprise, a few years ago there was an especially aggressive coli outbreak in germany. the government was very active finding the source, then suddenly abandoned the issue. the source is almost certainly was a bio (organic for americans) farm, which are very popular in germany. oops.
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          Nov 12 2013: Quite honestly, I didn't see how your discussion regarding pollution actually did anything to address how sustainable it is, nor does it in any way help your argument regarding the conflation of immediate cost and long term sustainability measure.

          You say you have refuted my previous points regarding farming, but how can you say that when almost 200,000 pounds of food has just been recalled due to a multi-state E. coli outbreak? http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2013/11/bagged-salads-suspected-multistate-e-coli-outbreak. That amounts to literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted food and who knows how much in medical bills.
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        Nov 12 2013: let me reiterate then. pollution is an externality. there are two ways of getting rid of it: internalizing and forbidding. we need a combination of the two. sustainability is automatically granted by these, except if people are totally idiots. nobody will pollute his own property if it makes it lose value. and nobody will allow anybody to pollute his property. uncontrolled pollution happens only when there is a possibility for the tragedy of commons. it is a wrong approach to ban certain activities. we should only ban the unwanted results. let inventors come up with ways to do things without unwanted results.

        how many percent of the total output was that 200000 pounds? hundreds of thousands sounds like a drop in the ocean. we should not look at occasional events, but averages. also bear in mind that big farms still use a lot of "organic" methods, for example they feed hay and things like that to animals. let technology continue, and cattle will never see anything natural ever. they will never even see a single coli bacterium. another fifty years later there will be no cattle, just factory grown artificial meat. and that will be safer than any food we have ever had. and also it will be more sustainable. and a lot cheaper.

        that is the way we are walking for some tens of thousands of years now. won't stop to please you.
      • Nov 19 2013: Do YOU volunteer to spend all your time growing food? Barring that, who do you nominate to be slaughtered in order to reduce population to levels that can actually be sustained by this "organic" and "sustainable" fad?
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          Nov 19 2013: Your argument is full of logical fallacies. Getting rid of the unsustainable mega farms, or more precisely, allowing them to fall under their own weight by removing their subsidies, would not mean that I would have to produce my own food, although I do produce some, and plan on producing a lot more in the future. Neither would it reduce the food supply. Far more food is produced than can be consumed right now. Big farms are actually paid to throw out food. The problem, in most of the world, is distribution.
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    Nov 10 2013: GMO's maybe the catalyst that perpetuates a world wide revolution against the 1%. It may be just a matter of time now.
    It's truly unfortunate we aren't smart enough to connect the dots and adopt the 'precautionary principal' that has been the unspoken rudder of all civilizations that lasted.

    So what will our epithet read? We/They were smart in dumb ways.....
    • Nov 10 2013: Cute fantasy. Wasn't that supposed to be a thousand other "causes" that did the trick? After all, golden rice is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO evil!
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    Nov 8 2013: Here's a question. Would the people who are concerned about putting DNA from one organism into another be as concerned if we just re-arranged some of the DNA in an organism so that it was identical to DNA from elsewhere? For example you could rearrange the bases in a section of junk DNA in a tomato so that it performed the function of the scorpion DNA without actually changing the content of the tomato, just the order of the bases.
    • Nov 10 2013: Would u effect the ripened tomatoes or would u have to grow anew with the altered DNA.
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        Nov 10 2013: It would have to be done at a cellular level and complete plants grown from the single cell.
        • Nov 11 2013: What bothers me more is the way the US law and courts have conspired to make it a crime to grow tomatoes that might happen to be accidentally pollinated by GMO tomatos from another farmer's field without paying the corporation that owns the particular GMO tomato's patent.
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    Nov 7 2013: Thanks also for this insight Francisco! I hope the wider public will get more nuanced information like this!
    salut!
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    Nov 7 2013: I don't think GMO's are part of evolution in the traditional understanding of evolution. Evolution is about nature taking her time for the good of all living things in and on our planet. Scientists working in a lab for a transnational corporations which are focused on making profits at the expense of people and the environment is not evolutionary.

    If nature had intended for scorpion DNA to be present in tomatoes so that they look ultra-red, I am sure nature would have figured this out over the past 65-million years. To my mind scorpion DNA doesn't belong in tomatoes, same goes of other weird DNA splicing, whether is be the anti-freeze properties of Arctic fish blood, to make plants frost resistant or bits of DNA from germs, bacteria or viruses to make crops pest or drought resistant.

    Apart from the crop yield, ethical and bio-diversity issues, I don't think anywhere near enough long-term studies have been done to prove whether GMO's are safe for humans or not.
    As a footnote - BSE: which plagued the beef industry in the UK, 20 odd years ago, came about because some "bright spark" thought it would be OK to feed cattle who are vegetarians with cow cake, made from sheep offal which was contaminated with "scrapie" which has been common disease in sheep for hundreds of years, then jumped the species barrier, to the cattle, and from the cattle to humans and to a lesser extent cats and dogs. During the first 5-years or so of the BSE crisis in the UK were were told that beef was safe for human consumption, when it later transpired it was not.
    Finally and if you can cope with my quirky turn of mind - GMO's in our food and drinks may at some future point lead to bizarre human mutation. Unfortunately the gene is out of the bottle GMO's have been unleashed onto the natural world, so I think all we can do a wait and see what happens - for myself I don't buy or consume GMO products, for anyone who is interested in the non-exhaustive list of companies that use GMO's email me.
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      Nov 7 2013: Hi Anna, in a technical sense GMOs are what they are regardless of the process they are made with. They can be a product of mutation and natural selection over a long period of time, but man, in the lab could produce the same change in very little time.
      As to scorpion DNA in tomato: how do you know that nature didn't do similar thing ?
      Just to give you an idea, all living organisms have DNA in common. A chimpanzee, with all its differences has 98 % of genes in common with humans. Even a tiny fruit fly still shares 36 % with us and a bacterium 7 %.
      In other words, even we share a certain percentage of genes with both, scorpions and tomatoes.
      I said it already many times and repeat it once more, genetic modification by humans is a technology as many others. What we do with this technology only depends on us. We can use it for the better or the worse, but condemning the technology as such is misguided.
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        Nov 7 2013: Hi Harald,
        Fair one - I am not a geneticist however I do have a rudimentary understanding of the technology involved and the way they go about selecting strands of DNA from one organism to mix/splice with another.
        Re: Scorpion DNA in tomatoes: if nature already put it there, traces of scorpion DNA would have shown up in pre-GM tests and the geneticists wouldn't have had to add it about 7-years ago.
        Yes all living things on this planet share some % of DNA, but just because we do, doesn't mean it is safe, ethical or appropriate to mix DNA across species. We wouldn't at this point breed humans with chimp to come up with some new hybrid being on ethical grounds (or maybe in some laboratories they are doing this??? Who knows???
        Yes, genetic modification is a technology one of many technologies at our disposal at this point in time, however technology is not "evolution" and we have a responsibilities and choice to make as to whether we use GM technology for good or ill.
        I wouldn't say that I condemn the technology, which enables genetic engineering, as I fully support research into genetic engineering when is comes to human medical sciences in the search for the cure to disease.
        I just don't trust corporations who develop GMO food and drink products and I don't trust our government's to be honest with us as most are sponsored by transnationals and dependent on them to fund their election campaigns and more. Lets face it in spite of global demands by consumers to label GMO food products government's worldwide are resisting, why???
        I accept that humans have been tampering and tinkering with nature since the first cave people - however the tinkering and tampering back in the day happened slowly and our biology was able to keep pace with change - In the GM Food scenario the changes to our food is happening fast, will our bio-systems be able to cope with these changes???
        I still maintain that no enough research or long-term study has gone into the human health impacts.
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          Nov 7 2013: Anna, here we are looking at a number of different issues,
          1) the technology itself, which you admit isn't inherently evil
          2) different kinds of genetic modification: yes, agree, I'm not a proponent either to slice genes with the simple purpose of producing a cat that glows green in the dark. However I'm a proponent of biotechnology such as GM bacteria producing a certain chemical that would be much more complicated, costly and environmental unfriendly to produce with conventional synthesis.
          3) Genes are simply pieces from the DNA strand. It doesn't really matter where it comes from, but in the public eyes it sounds more interesting (or scary, depends whom you ask) if you can say that a scorpion gene was implanted into a tomato. Humans might actually have this very same gene in the DNA strand but it's not activated.
          4) I agree about the ethical side. Theoretically we might be able to custom design a human, which obviously brings some ethical problems with it.
          5) yes again, it's our choice to decide what we do with the technologies at hand. Guns are produced for hunting purpose but some people also use them to kill other people. Same technology, different use. Same is true for GMOs and any other technology.
          6) A healthy distrust (different from paranoia) in governments and corporations is certainly something that makes sense. Sometimes it's just difficult, especially for the man on the road, to separate truth from lie.
          7) I'm not sure whether or not govts. actively resist labeling of GMO based foods. Probably don't do but just don't make it a priority.
          In any case, most people would be shocked anyway because I really think that today it's more likely to find foodstuff that's directly or indirectly (animals fed with GMOs) based on GMOs. Hence, little room to escape from this reality unless you plant your own veggies.
          8) Not enough research. Probably true, or at least it's poorly communicated, but then it also depends of the nature of the particular modification.
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    • Nov 8 2013: Carolyn,

      I am far from pretending for you to stop commenting. I hope I don't give you that impression (it's hard to know who you're talking to though).

      A gene is a piece of DNA. Explaining how the place for insertion is chosen in the host organism's DNA would take forever. I don't think it is so much about choosing as it is about selecting the "transformed" organism that expresses the gene properly. Unless methods have improved a lot since I last took a deep look into the techniques.
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      Nov 7 2013: Carolyn, not sure what you mean with "industrial" concentration.
      Btw, did you know that even drinking too much water can be deadly ? I could imagine that if you inhale an industrial sized quantity of any bacteria you might experience respiratory problems and/or irritation.
      If you inhale or are exposed to to high concentrations of mushroom spores in the air you might experience the same symptoms. Does that make mushrooms toxic and bad for your health ?
      No, science does not apply an agent in any possible way. Nobody will test what happens if you inject a concentrated chlorine bleach into your brain. Why ?, because it would be nonsense because it's not the intended use for chlorine bleach.
      I don't know what you mean with "crystal" form of BT. It seems that is just another thing you confused. What BT does is it PRODUCES protein crystals which are the endotoxin and the active part that attacks the bugs.

      University of California:
      "Humans exposed orally to 1000 mg/day for 3-5 days of Bt have showed no ill effects. Many tests have been conducted on test animals using different types of exposures. The results of the tests showed that the use of Bt causes few if any negative effects. Bt does not persist in the digestive systems of mammals.

      Bt is found to be an eye irritant on test rabbits. There is very slight irritation from inhalation in test animals which may be caused by the physical rather than the biological properties of the Bt formulation tested.

      Bt has not been shown to have any chronic toxicity or any carcinogenic effects. There are also no indication that Bt causes reproductive effects or birth defects in mammals.
      "
      http://www.bt.ucsd.edu/bt_safety.html

      I'm a biochemist and I tell you that your view of science has absolutely nothing to do with what science is. You simply read bits of stuff and recompile them the way you like.
      • Nov 8 2013: "I'm a biochemist and I tell you that your view of science has absolutely nothing to do with what science is. You simply read bits of stuff and recompile them the way you like."

        Not necessarily Harald. Have you read the "articles" in "organic" and "herbal" promoting web sites? They do just that, confuse, mistake, and demonize things. One of their techniques is by mistaking and mismatching the information. These "articles" give me headaches. Almost every sentence is wrong and misleading. Since people tend to like the idea that "nature is good artificial is bad," they believe the propaganda that these web sites promote. Hey, I used to think that nature was all good and that the harder the pronunciation the stronger the carcinogenic potential. It took me a lot of education and self-awareness to be relieved from those nonsensical stances.
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          Nov 8 2013: You are right and apparently there are enough people willing to buy snake oil...lol
          It's also funny, as you say, how people believe everything natural is cool, probably not knowing that the most toxic chemicals actually come from nature.
          Anthrax, Ricin are just 2 examples.
          Part of the problem is that people fall for those marketing claims because their ads promise instant solutions such as looking better, losing weight, living longer etc.
          Another reason is that many people lack critical thinking and just believe about everything they read on the internet or on glossy paper, especially if endorsed by some famous character.