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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).

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT

    http://www.ted.com/talks/dean_ornish_on_healing.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/tristram_stuart_the_global_food_waste_scandal.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/ann_cooper_talks_school_lunches.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_attia_what_if_we_re_wrong_about_diabetes.html
    http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGyOwnqpCKk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwzq-swl4cI&feature=player_embedded
    http://www.ted.com/talks/tyrone_hayes_penelope_jagessar_chaffer_the_toxic_baby.html
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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.
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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
      • 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.
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      Nov 7 2013: Carolyn, I'm not sure about what you are talking about. It's important to use scientific terms properly and in the right context.
      If you say GMO it's a generic term and means as much as saying all machines are harmful.
      My impression is you are getting mixed up with a lot of different things.
      Are you talking about Bacillus thuringiensis ?
      If so, that's a bacillus toxic to certain insect ONLY because of it's way it works in the insect's gut. As I mentioned in another post, insects have a different metabolism from mammals hence you can't deduct what is bad for bugs is bad for humans as well.
      I don't get your point of injecting it into the brain. Why would you want to do that ? That has nothing to do with it's application.
      Btw, BT is extremely sensitive and dies off very quickly in light. Hence, there is not even much of a chance to you ever get it into your food.
      Once again Carolyn, it's not enough to just copy and paste some material but you also have to understand it otherwise you can't correctly interpret the data.
    • Nov 8 2013: But this is wrong Carolyn. B. thuringiensis is not a GMO, it is a naturally-occurring bacterium. GMOs are not discovered, they are made in a lab. GMO means "genetically modified organism," where "modified" means "in the lab" in the popular lingo. As per the purified delta-endotoxin. of course, if injected in huge amounts into a brain or gut, it cannot but be harmful. That's true for too many things we are exposed to in a dally basis, natural or not. But who would, in their right mind, inject themselves anything in the brain or gut, let alone in huge amounts?

      Then, what Harald said helps a lot, doesn't it?
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    Nov 6 2013: Thanks, and I understand the fact that we use this technique for a long time. And I now also see by doing this it even helped the diversity (we now have so much sorts of tomatoes or corn) The thing that worries me, or just don't feel right is the scale of it (so maybe to rephrase my question "Isn't the scale of GMO we're seeing today, like in Monsanto's case, affecting biodiversity?")

    Of what I understand Monsanto's crops are very strong and able to resist pesticides, and it tends to overgrow local or indigenous crops, because they are simply less strong. To me it sounds logic that by spreading these stronger crops, on an even intercontinental scale, the danger is not adding diversity but rather making those crops homogeneous. I read that in Mexico a lot of indigenous species of corn are being overgrown by Monsanto's version(not even with bad intention or on purpose, but because of wind, birds eating seeds and pooping them out while flying south)? And then again maybe it is something necessery, and the price we have to pay to be able to feed the ever growing world population..

    Again, i'm just talking from gut-feeling, and still... mmm doesn't feel right, so I stick with the local produce as much as possible for now.

    Salut!
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      Nov 7 2013: Mike, you can't generalize.
      When you talk about GMOs you actually seem to mean the issues around Monsanto's herbicide RoundUP and Roundup resistant crops.
      This is one very specific case out of many others.
      I have an issue with something different. I question the wisdom of the way we practice agriculture.
      Huge plantations of a single crop lead to a high susceptibility for pest attacks, requiring heavy pesticide use.
      These mono cultures also use soil nutrients in an unbalanced way, leading to the need for synthetic fertilizers.
      Use of fertilizers and pesticides kill off natural enemies of potential pests hence even more pesticides are needed. In addition heavy chemical use damages the soil life which is important to a plant's health. Since weeds are usually the first plants that sprout on disturbed soils, herbicides are needed to kill them off adding even more chemicals to the soil.
      All that is done with the excuse of efficiency.
      As I said I question this wisdom because I think working with nature, in the long term will bring better results than working against it.
      I have a 1500 m2 garden that I started about 5 years ago. I planted a large variety of plants, use no chemicals of any sort and in these 5 years everything does just great and I never had problems of any sort with pest infestations while my neighbors keep throwing around pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
      Are my bananas as beautiful as the ones in the supermarket ? No, probably not, but they are at least as tasty if not tastier.
      I believe we should experiment with other kinds of agriculture and not depend on mono cultures which I think are not sustainable in the long run.
      There is much more to say about this topic, but the idea is to focus on where the real problem is.
      The real problem are not GMOs but the way we practice agriculture.

      As to local produce, that is a good way to go. Unfortunately not everybody has access to it.
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    Nov 6 2013: Isn't it true that GMO affects biodiversity? Isn't this biodiversity essential to keep our fragile bio-system(s) in balance. And if we take away this diversity it will cause complications like inbreeding? Isn't this why, for example, we humans (in general) don't make children with our relatives, and if we do it doesn't particularly benefit the strength/health/evolution of our genes? There is no prove that GMO's are harmfull to people (?), but it sure is to all those not so pesticide resistence crops that want to live on the same field? And there is no prove it's NOT harmfull on the longterm either.
    I don't believe in GMO or any mass production. My gut-feeling says diversity is good, it says local produce are the way to go. 'Give the man a fish and he will live for a day, teach him man to fish and he will live forever'

    Today Monsanto received a full 'go' to sell their GM mais in Europe. How does this work? A bag of GM seeds with every barrel of pesticides? Doesn't feel right. There must be alternatives.

    I'm not a scientist, so these assumptions/questions are purely from a gut-feeling. So please correct me if I'm wrong here.
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      Nov 6 2013: You are mixing facts and fiction.
      1) virtually all crops we use are GMOs and we use those GMOs already for thousands of years.
      What is different today is that, instead modifying an organism through breeding and selecting the one that matches our expectations we can do the same in a much simpler manner without having to wait hundreds or thousands of years for a result.
      2) GMO is a generic term that can mean a lot of things. You can modify a tomato to be larger than the wild form but you also can modify the genes of a cat in such a way that is shines green in the dark. While the first modification makes sense, the second is a misuse (at least from my point of view) of this technology.
      3) As with any technology genetic modification can be used to improve our lives but it also can be used to our detriment.
      Problem is that there is little objective, easily understandable information available to the public. Most information comes from the industry which is received with little trust, often for good reasons. Until this changes, people will be split into 2 camps. The ones for and the ones against GMOs without actually having a scientific basis for either position.
  • Nov 6 2013: The most people I know don't care about GMO. Sadly, they think that's just another lame thing to care about. Trying to make them eat healthy food is like trying to make them stop smoking.
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    • Nov 6 2013: Europe's attitude includes a great deal of simple superstition. DNA is digested. There are many types of DNAse, after all, and humans have a lot of DNAse, as does every other organism. Superstition drives the majority of opposition, nothing better. If there is a serious threat from the DNA of B thurengis to humans, then we would already be dead, since B thurengis is a common bacterium that can be found anywhere there is soil or insects might walk. YOU ARE ALREADY EATING THE STUFF AND HAVE BEEN YOUR WHOLE LIFE--and none of it was GMO origin.
      • Nov 7 2013: Bryan, I agree with your comment. I also want to expand what you call the European attitude as simple superstition. Actually this attitude is not merely superstition, it also contain some attitude toward everything foreign. You probably haven't heard about the "opinion" of the Chinese or Indian. There were all kind of rumors that GMOs cause infertility to vast number of people who consume them. Of course there were never a creditable proof.
        The British also wanted to impose "carbon tax" on all the foreign jet planes which fly over England. Now regardless how much CO2 are emitted from these planes, it is simply unfair to tax them, if other countries don't tax CO2 when planes fly over their territory. (I believe that this tax was abandoned after everybody else protested.) The whole idea was just nonsense since we really have no alternatives to stop these jet planes for our transportation needs, so what was the purpose of imposing the tax just for a little financial gain for the governments.
        • Nov 7 2013: The only Chinese or Indian opinions I hear are from colleagues, and molecular biologists tend to be favorable to GMO.
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        Nov 25 2013: For "simple superstition", read "the desire for broad scientific enquiry unencumbered by political dogma"
    • Nov 7 2013: Sorry Carolyn, but calling me condescending is inconsequential to what I'm saying. Also, how do you think you sound when you say things like "babies might be affected by lactose" with such tone of authority? Well, if I were to use those glasses, I would say that you sound condescending. I truly don't understand why, if I understand something for being quite familiar with the science for professional reasons I should pretend not to know just so that others don't feel "condescended." We all should grow up and stop worrying about how something sounds, and more on the content.

      Back to our issues, well, since you used the babies/lactose sentence to condemn GMOs, and since that didn't make sense, what makes you think that the rest of those things you bring are any better than that? Shouldn't you start suspecting something fishy about your current sources? I would.

      I have colleagues who work with B thuringiensis in a non-for-profit institution. They have done so for many years with no ill effects. Anyway, now you are mixing and matching the genes for Bt-toxin and the bacterium. They are not the same. GMOs do not have the bacteria, they have a single gene from it. The bacterium, as someone else said, is eaten all the time in rather smallish amounts. If people use the bacterium as bioinsecticide, that's not GMO, that's bioinsecticide. Same if they spread the toxin, it's a bioinsecticide, not a GMO. Both would be biodegradable. Compare that to other pesticides. What's better Carolyn? As per toxic in rat lungs, I checked the studies and they use ridiculously high doses of toxin to get those effects.

      Again, we should be critical of "documentaries" and think carefully. Especially if we find those mix/matches that only confuse the issues. Sure, again, be skeptical of scientists too, but at least do so with proper knowledge and thinking.
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    Nov 5 2013: Have to agree, if you don't believe in the scientific method (well a lot of people don't I guess), then you probably believe that microwaves turn our food in cancer...
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    Nov 4 2013: Here is another thought...
    A small group of people seek their 15 minutes of fame. They will use subjects of little understanding or societal concern to voice a loud objections to the status quo.... Holiday decorations in front of the city hall,
    icons held by some as religious in nature; personal and private relationships between people; the right to commit genocide on a massive scale; Extortion by threat of tort; changes in global conditions.... the list is seemingly endless including the use of gmo science in the foodstuffs.
    I am not saying that there may not be a modicum truth in these objections, a truth that may or may not be confirmed. Non-confirmable truths almost seem to be desirable as not to be disputable...
    but it allows the 15 minutes of fame.

    I call it: ATTEMPTED TYRANNY BY THE MINORITY!!!

    I know, I am way off base. No one would ever be so innocuous to even try such a thing. Every objection is based on true beliefs and pure unselfish intentions.
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        Nov 7 2013: Geez, You think I could get a job there?

        On the other hand, there have been legitimate whistle blowers who have come forward with legitimate information on problems effecting life, limb and property.

        However, I specifically referenced attacks by misanthropes questioning religious expression, gender bias, abortion, threats of frivolous lawsuits, climate change, and gmo foodstuffs, etc. I can't begin to list the conflicting research I have already quoted time after time these questions and conversations have been addressed.... the 2000 character limit.

        Further, In my last sentence, I did say I could be wrong or words to that effect.
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        Nov 7 2013: No, you are not really wrong(ish).
        I went broad because of my multiple engagements with this issue of GMOs. The first time I took it serious and quota several sources showing the issue from my perspective in that GMOs in general have meant more food for more people, there has been no substantiated serious problems, just innuendoes. My position was that lets use them but keep an eye out... just in case. There seems to be a series of GMO conversations that show up almost on a weekly basis along with the other repetitious conversations :

        The 2nd amendment, which I support....

        Abortion which maybe necessary in so few cases, but over the years has destroyed 50 million ... more then half where blacks, another third were latinos and some caucasian Americans since 1955.....

        Extortion by Tort, usually a few "non religious" individuals threaten to sue a town because some church group put up a Christmas manager in the town square....

        Then there is climate change, which has been changing since there was a earth that had a climate... The story now is that if we only controlled carbon dioxide, which is like number 9 on a list of factors that could effect climate... we could bring all this climate under control and all will be happy again. I have two problems with this one... Too many scientists see CO2 not conforming to criteria of projections by the UN Climate bunch and worse I don't think that mankind such a minimalist creature on earth can effect climate... He can barely effect himself....

        Then there are GMOs. which if we eat will cause people to get fat and loose their hair.... there may be a little truth to that one as I look in a mirror.

        Lastly, I take very little of these conversations too seriously, and me the least of all.
  • Nov 1 2013: ps i don't work for big agriculture but i am a lover of truth by scientific method
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      Nov 6 2013: "...truth by scientific method"

      Does that mean your 'truth' by scientific method is better than these 'truths' by scientific method?...

      Séralini G. E., Clair E., Mesnage R., Gress S., Defarge N., Malatesta M., Hennequin D., de Vendômois J.S. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize; Food and Chemical Toxicology Vol. 50 ( 11), 2012, 4221–4231.

      and this scientific method:

      Chavarro J.E., Toth T.L., Sadio S.M. i wsp., Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic. Hum Reprod.,2008, 23(11), 2584-90.

      ...and many other "truths by scientific method", seemingly at odds with each other!

      If "truth by scientific method" is so hopelessly variable, can it therefore still be called 'truth'?

      If not truth, then what else is going on? What is it that drives such a breadth of variability in what is deemed as 'certain' and what is not?

      I'm not pointing a finger at you specifically, Scott - it is more a general point that I am striving to understand.

      Can "truth by scientific method" be cherry-picked to bolster ideologies and even help to confirm stances of denialism?

      Can you help to clarify?
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        Nov 6 2013: You are right, but that means that just referring to one study doesn't cut it. One has to analyze studies, what are the methods used, who commissioned them, etc
        In other words, to get a clearer picture you have to do a meta study on studies about a specific subject and then keep digging deeper.
        That's when you read a scientific book you'll find pages over pages of references to other material.
  • Nov 1 2013: the science so far actually shows no adverse affects from eating gmo. it is no different from cultivation. there is no food that we eat today that wasn't 'engineered' by humans from tomatoes to chicken. broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts didn't exist in nature. they were bread like dogs, to have the characteristics we desired. gmo is also the answer to global starvation and the increasing cost of food due to peak food. it is also the key to colonizing other worlds. i am pro gmo, anti organic (because it is more carbon intensive and produces less per acre) but i am pro using pesticides in a sane manner and pro not overusing antibiotics in animals we consume.
    • Nov 5 2013: I have some serious concerns about GMOs in the food supply, but they are not what you might think. First, I dislike how the process is being used primarily to produce plants that are resistant to chemical pesticides. Like it or not, that is the major direction. It has been determined that producing pest-resistant plants is trickier than just making the plants more tolerant to chemical pesticides. That way, higher doses and more concentrated pesticides can be used. Even if these pesticides have no direct human toxicity, there is this little thing called "runoff". Those pesticides have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is not going to be chock-full-o artificially resistant plants or beneficial insects. Second, the way that the techniques allow short-cutting plant breeding means that we run a risk of imposing an even more homogeneous monoculture in agriculture. Not necessarily bad in the short run, but commercial developers of GMO products consider preservation of ancestral diversity to be a sideshow, and it's that ancestral diversity that could spell the difference between feast and famine in a future time. Third, GMO use means that the most messed up portion of law, intellectual property law, gets to stick its stinky fingers into a fundamental necessity of human life--food, and the GMO patent owners also seem to own the courts, since they have been able to force farmers who merely have fields downwind of GMO crops to destroy food and pay fines for the "violation" of being accidentally pollinated by wind.
      Yes, I have significant problems with GMO, but none of them are the problems that the fearmongers want to wave around. I think the problems I worry about will end up doing far more damage.
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      Oct 31 2013: Vegan is not the most healthy of lifestyles.
      Certain nutrients are difficult to obtain form plants.
      For example essential amino acids that our body cannot build on its own are already available in the right proportion in animal derived proteins. However, this is not the case for plant proteins. While it is not impossible to cover your essential amino acids with plant proteins, you will need a deep understanding of what amino acids are available where and in which concentration.
      Another example is Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Although Vitamin D can be synthesized by the body you might not be able to cover demand if you spend most of your life inside (away from sunlight).
      Processing food, actually might benefit your body because certain nutrients might be easier absorbed by the body when processed.
      Generally speaking, a balanced diet is the best thing you can do for your health.
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          Nov 1 2013: Hi Carolyn, living a healthy life as vegan is certainly possible as long as you are willing to invest time in making sure your body gets all it needs. You still might need to complemeent with a few supplements though.
          Btw, any particular reason why you decided to become a vegan ?
  • Oct 31 2013: It is very simple. If people refuse to buy GMOs then they will stop selling them.
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      Oct 31 2013: For that you have to know when you are exposed to GMOs, which mostly is not the case.
      • Oct 31 2013: I think it is pretty safe to say that anything you buy that is not clearly labeled as organic or non-GMO is probably GMO. That is part of the reason that I grow most of my own veggies in my backyard. In 300 square feet I'm able to grow about 75% of our vegetables. (2 people)
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          Oct 31 2013: I agree. but GMOs go much further than just your veggies. You will, inevitably find them also in animal based food because they are fed with GMOs.
          I think, most if not all of us consume GMOs directly or indirectly without even knowing it.
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      Oct 31 2013: Don't forget that general physiology of a potato beetle is not the same as the one of a human. Something toxic to a beetle can be completely harmless to a human.
      That btw is the reason that animal testing is conducted on animals that show similar physiology to ours and not on some bugs.
      Being suspicious is OK, but you have to understand the topic you are talking about.
      As to bad "stuff". We are living in a society where we enjoy certain amenities but there are also downsides to it.
      For example, most of us probably own a car. It's a great tool to get us from point A to B. However, this comes at the price of pollution ? Are you willing to give up on your car ? Or maybe you don't own a car and use public transportation. Still, public transportation uses energy as well that, at least to a large part, also contributes to pollution.
      You also use many common items of common life, Do you know the processes how thing are manufactured and what impact they might have on the environment and ultimately on our health ?
    • Nov 6 2013: Babies are sensitive to lactose? What sugar do you think that is present in mother's milk Carolyn? Lactose! You want to avoid it? Sure?

      The insect-killing proteins from B thuringiensis does break down by our digestive systems. For one, the protein is harmful to certain groups of insects (ton all) because insects have a different digestive system. Example: they have an alkaline pH, while our stomach is acidic (very acidic). Scientists do understand how and why this protein works against insects rather than against humans.

      I find it quite problematic to condemn GMOs on the basis of misinformation. The worst part of this is that people who have no idea spread the misinformation as if it was all true. My advice to readers: learn a bit of science and skeptical thinking. Sure, doubt the scientists too if you will. But do so with knowledge, not with ignorance and misinformation.
  • Oct 31 2013: GMO's aren't "evolution." They are an unnatural manipulation of genetic information in ways that could never happen in an evolutionary process. Unless pigs learn how to mate with tomatoes.
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      Oct 31 2013: You are kind of right... but Mankind has been GMOing since.... well, from the beginning of agriculture about 10, 000 ago. It was referred to as cross breeding, cross pollination, cross this and that. The thing that modern technology gives us is not having to go through 100 generations to get where we want to be.
      I got to thinking about your pig/tomato reference.... Down here in Texas, if I could get a pig already with BBQ sauce, I could do well.... yes, sir, really well.
      • Oct 31 2013: I know. But with cross breeding there is technically at least the remote possibility of natural occurrence, And as the term GMO is used in the public domain, especially in discussions of ecological issues, health issues, public policy, and so forth, it is usually used to refer to genetic modifications that aren't possible in nature.

        I like your example, but even then neither the pig nor the tomato entered into the relationship willingly . . . :-)
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          Oct 31 2013: There is always a question on new technology. 500 years ago, there was no way to sail west to arrive east. And the same questions of public policy, health issues, and dangers where expressed. I am not saying that in 500 years mankind will find GMO a.... dumb idea, anything is possible. I am not just ready to get excited over GMOs because of a few fanatics shrieking gloom and doom.


          Well, OK, but tomatoes have no face... and when I put the pig's head into the pot for making headcheese, I always give him a salute. I respect and appreciate all good dishes...
          It is good to be at the top of the food chain.
      • Oct 31 2013: I am more concerned that in 500 years or less, people will find that GMOs were an ecological and even evolutionary disaster.

        I an not anti-technology, but we are charging ahead with technologies we don't really understand. There have already been instances of GMO-created problems that threaten the environment. All genetic modification might not be bad, depending on its uses, as is true of all technology; but the truth is that we can't really see what the potential side effects are. We don't know nearly as much as we think we know or need to know not to exercise extreme caution when we start fooling around with genetic codes.
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        Oct 31 2013: I happened yesterday to hear a news program, Mike, in which scientists at the University of California were interviewed about genetically modified foods. One did say that ingesting the genes of fish and tomato in a modified product is equivalent in the body to eating tomato sauce with your fish.

        So your BBQ example may not be at all off the mark.
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      Oct 31 2013: It depends. genetic modification exists since there is life on earth. Hint: mutations are genetic modifications. Without them life wouldn't have made it very far on earth.
      A different story is to create cats that exhibit green luminescence. That' probably is something nature would never have come up with. But pest resistant crops, if given enough time of mutations and natural selection are quite possible. As a matter of fact, many plants have mechanisms built in to defend themselves against pests.
      So, genetic modification,if done responsibly is accelerating natural processes that could take thousands or even millions of years.
      • Oct 31 2013: Given the number of possibilities for genetic modification that could occur given enough time and natural selection, the idea that corn, for example might eventually develop a Round-Up like pesticide represents a truly enormous "if." And the idea that we can step into that process and accelerate it in a direction of our own choosing without the risk of extraordinary future genetic consequences through that same process of enough time and natural selection is at least short-sighted and at worst dangerously arrogant.
        We have already seen damage to non-GMO crops through unintended cross-pollination and damage to insect populations through unintended effects of the GMO pesticides. Since we don't stop evolution by interfering in it, what are the possible outcomes of these kinds of side-effects projected out into an unknowable future.
        Sorry, but under this rationale, GMOs aren't accelerating natural processes they are diverting them, interfering with them, perverting them, and substituting our own limited and flawed vision of what they ought to do.
        Our current small understanding of DNA and the workings of genetic information may have valuable applications in area such as medicine, but we should proceed very cautiously.
        Giving a tomato longer shelf life or putting pesticides into the genetic make-up of an ear of corn is simply not worth the risk.
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          Oct 31 2013: Again, GMOs is a generic term. It's like saying that technical appliances kill people while you actually mean that an atomic bomb kills people.
          The roundup resistance gene s a kind of genetic modification I don't support for a number of reasons (although if given enough time it might occur naturally as well).
          Cross pollination is another potential danger and we know that it already happened.
          Still, even with these negative cases, you can't make a case against genetic modification in general.
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      Nov 4 2013: Could a pig be GMO'd with an airplane?

      Now that would be interesting, and probably appropriate, if it is ever thought that a manipulated version of nature is somehow better than the real thing.
      • Nov 5 2013: Of course, the "manipulated genetic modification" is better than the "real thing", otherwise why we make the GMOs in the first place.
        Here is another example, many cancer therapies, such as radiological or chemotherapy are nothing other than manipulation of the genes. And most recently there are even directly modification of the genes of the patient and put it back into the body of the patient. Is this kind of "manipulation" somehow better than leave the cancer patient alone to just eating natural food?
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      Oct 30 2013: Carolyn, you had me starting with GMO, but then you went to baby formula. You noted that some ingredients in baby formula come from GMO plants that have been modified to resist insects and those substances could remain active in babies.... I don't know.... It would mean the modified gene went through processing from cereal to a milk like fluid and further process into baby formula.... it's a long way to go for a gene to stay together. I don't know about baby formula. I remember reading about a genetic look at a medium hamburger vs. raw ground beef. Not a lot of continuation in that situation. But, no one has done the homework as far as I know....
      But, I have a bigger problem... Women as I remember... it's been awhile.... were constructed to
      provide "baby formula" no GMOs included. Now, I understand that there may be a situation in which that may become difficult or impossible, but I see baby formula in my local grocery by the aisles full. Like cigarettes. Use of smokes or canned baby formula may be choices and to say that they are bad is giving to the individual that responsibility.. . I know I am a curmudgeon. An old one at that.
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          Oct 31 2013: Carolyn, just because a plant's genes might be modified to resists insects, doesn't mean that this modification has any impact on humans at all.
          Proteins, during the process of digestion are broken down into amino acids which is equally true for genes which are broken down into their constituents.
        • Oct 31 2013: The problem is that baby formula usually contains milk with lactose which is allergenic to many babies. They may also be mixed or contaminated with gluten from wheat, barley or oats which are usually used in many baby food. It's quite difficult to pin down all those allergens in the food products even from the well managed manufacturers.
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          Oct 31 2013: Honestly, Carolyn....

          I have been accused of being an immature adolescent... and that was just last week.

          It's important at any age... to question, to think critically, to challenge the current "norm".
          I am always surprised when I read comments and opinions, even in TED conversations, where the writer simply parrots other people and are angered when challenged. On the other hand....
          I have totally agreed with a comment and could not add any relevance to it, so I click the thumbs up and go on.

          Yes, rivers get polluted with toxins, and foodstuffs can get changed... but, there are so many pathogens.... bacteria, viruses, then the chemicals, that get into food.... well established contaminants... and so little on the effects of GMOs.
          But, I am more worried about chemicals added to foods like... stabilizers, colors, preservatives, etc., etc. I have this thing about eating anything I can't pronounce and that is saying a lot since I had courses in chemistry.....
        • Nov 6 2013: Sorry bart, but what sugar do you think that human milk has? Yes, the milk that the mother would give to her baby. Which sugar is that?
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    Oct 29 2013: The good 'same old stuff' is so beautiful, delicious and comes with a 100% risk free guarantee!
    • Oct 29 2013: Besides not producing enough for people to eat
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        Lejan .

        • +1
        Oct 29 2013: That my dear friend, is nothing but a myth.

        If the world food supply was truly our concern, we would already begin to free its total dependency on limited fossil fuels on which it is exclusively running.

        There are many non GMO alternatives at hand which face and solve this problem as well, yet get not promoted, because there is no market control to gain by big corporations.

        Lobby work at its best.
        • Oct 29 2013: .
          Afraid not buddy!

          Your using the fact that we haven't done anything about something, to justify that something as not being a problem.

          In other words you have blind faith in the current system on one hand, and on the other want to go against the industrial GMO trend.

          IIf problems are only problems when we have already done something about them, lets just solve all problems before there are any symptoms! It will be much easier (sarcasm).

          If you can find real alternatives to pesticides & GMO that produce similar yields then great, were all happy. A lot of people including myself (and the UN) don't believe they exist.

          Organic crops have bigger losses and need more space to produce the same amount. Therefore requiring more land and more rainforest to be cut down etc. GMO's could eliminate the need for pesticides in conventional crops and use less land. Win Win.

          There is of course the 'lets give half of our food to the poor argument' but that is a whole other debate.
        • Oct 29 2013: Lejan is right.... long live Lejan!
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          Oct 29 2013: T Thompson:
          well, I'm not per se against GMOs, because genetic modification is a technology as many others. There is nothing inherently bad in the technology. What matters is for what purpose it is used.
          That said, I'm not so sure that pesticides and GMOs are the only way to feed our global population.
          The problem in current agriculture is that we ignore how nature works and try to do it our way against nature.
          We plant huge mono cultures which suck nutrients in an unbalanced way, exhausting the soil quickly requiring constant fertilizing which in return kills the soil micro organisms that live in synergy with the plants. Then we spray herbicides to kill off undesired plants, damaging the soil even further. And to make it worse we need the insecticides to kill off insects that under normal conditions would be controlled by nature, because there are no natural enemies left for them in a mono culture with a soil virtually dead.
          This is just a very superficial summary, but I think you can see that what we do is not a winning strategy.
          The idea is to work with nature, because nature had billions of years to establish functioning systems that are all interconnected.
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        Lejan .

        • +2
        Oct 29 2013: As I said, lobby work at its best and therefore whatever I say won't change your believes anyway.

        Yet just in case you get interested in alternatives to make up your own mind besides pre-fabricated 'mainstream propaganda', do some research on the term 'terra preta' and/or take a look at this BBC documentary:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixx1c3RSw_8


        I wasn't justifying anything ... just busting the 'we need GMO's to feed the world' mantra.

        But I doubt that any additional information will work on you anyway.
        • Oct 29 2013: Interesting, like a politician, you brush my points aside without replying to any of them.

          As a last resort, you now argue that I'm wrong because I just don't get it, I am too narrow minded... I am wrong because I think what a whole bunch of other people think.

          I don't mean to offend, but it's irrational arguments like this that set back the environmental movement of which I'd class myself a supporter.

          Of course you were making a justification, you used evidence (I use the term loosely) 'we would free dependency on fossil feuls' to back up a statement 'world food supply isn't our concern' - this is what a justification is.

          terra preta is compost, how does this solve anything? Sounds like mainstream prefabrication does compost.
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        Lejan .

        • +1
        Oct 29 2013: What is 'your' point? All I get to hear is the usual lobby talk, so what could I possibly do to make you realize that?

        The video alone goes about 48 minutes so you didn't even watch it in between your comments.

        And when 'terra preta' is compost to you, it indicates, that you didn't spent much time to research it either. But you talk about yield increase and that it can only be done by GMO's.

        So who's the politician here?
        • Oct 29 2013: Perhaps by putting forward logical, reasoned points... I apologise for not watching the video, I read the blurb instead, 48 minutes is a long time to make a point, that you could probably make in a few sentences.

          My point is that GMO's are the best available solution to feeding the world's increasing population, because they can offer higher yields, pest resistance, can be grown closer together, grown faster and can be engineered to produce vitamins, medicine etc... Organic cannot compete

          I'm not sure whether your problem with GMO's is with actual GMO as a science or, the use of GMO in business. But I'd bet on the latter.

          Terra preta is compost, formed over a long time with some charcoal thrown in. Rather than pointing out how uneducated and lazy I am, how about explaining how that actually rivals GMO for crop production?
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        Lejan .

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        Oct 29 2013: Again, lobby work at its best!

        You have chosen your believes already, so why should I spend any more time to make up your mind in any other way? Regardless what I would say, you would not take it in. Just as 'terra preta' which remains a compost to you...

        GMO is not part of the solution to feed the worlds growing population, it is part of its problem and not even clever to be used as 'bridging' technology to the paradigm shift necessary.
        • Oct 29 2013: That's a real shame and only stands to highlight what I said earlier, about people that are obviously meaning well, concerned about the environment yet alienating people that have different opinions on those issues rather than debating with them.

          A minority movement with that attitude will have no success at all. What your saying to me is personal, and based on assumption, not objective reasoning.

          GMO saved the papaya industry in Hawaii. Look that up.
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        Lejan .

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        Oct 29 2013: Take the whole picture. Think if the current farming technology inclusive GMO's is scalable and sustainable on the LONG run. In my view it isn't and we could go for weeks to argue about that here.

        I don't think GMO's are save. I am aware about the unpredictability in highly complex systems, such as nature is. There are no long term studies on GMO's whatsoever. This technology is just to young to be tinkered with, especially if the main interest is profit.

        I just don't trust any industry who praises itself to 'feed the world', yet at the same time is working on genetic use restriction technologies (GURT), aka suicide seeds.

        The world food production got to be redesigned, got to be local, got to be free of any 'intellectual property rights' and patents, got to be highly bio-diverse, got to be free of the use of artificial and fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides. Mono-culture farming can not be sustained on the long run. Cross pollination of GMO's can not be avoided and thereby endangers the biological and natural haritage we once owned. We did the same with pollution and our climate. If it is about profits, the end always justified the means and it has also always been covered and justified by some 'higher moral goals'.

        As I said before, if it was about fighting hunger, we would not have a single individual on this planet today who does not have enough to eat. And as hunger is real and GMO's already in wide use, the 'feed the world' mantra seems to be not working, right?

        Therefore and instead of prolonging a not working system, we should not allow GMO's at this stage in progress and instead start the transitional process for a sustainable world food production, which has to be adjusted to the given natural and local environments and based on 'close circles'.

        Anything else will sooner or later fail, but for this to see, it takes more than to listen to Monsanto & Co.

        But this, I can not make you understand without you wanting it.
        • Oct 29 2013: From what you are saying you appear more concerned with the business ethics of GMO use, which I agree has been poorly employed by companies like Monsanto, and tarnished what I think is a very promising science.

          I think there is no reason why GMO cannot be bio-diverse, free of fertilisers and pesticides when employed in the correct way, in fact GMO crops have been engineered to go without pesticides, as it is now the majority of fertiliser and pesticides are not used on GMO crops.

          I have heard the argument before of cross pollination with wild species, but in reality I haven't heard of a single negative case. Our crop plants have co-evolved with us and have been selected by us for the traits we desire. Those traits as it happens, do not fare well in wild ecosystems, and as a result have not survived outside mono-cultures where evolutionary competition applies. Many crop plants are so different (like corn) that they can't physically interbreed with their wild relatives, their GM versions are very much the same.

          I'd also agree that monocultures are obviously detrimental to biodiversity, but I would also mention that monoculture system is not a GMO trait, but a trait of 99% of farming systems including organic. The reality is that they exist, but I'd hope through increased yeild through GMO or whatever system, that they need not expand into natural landscapes and cause further damage.

          I could also argue as you have with GMO, that organic food has been around a hell of a lot longer than GMO and yet there are still starving people! That argument works both ways, and in my favour. Nevertheless, it is not a productive or logically correct one.

          I totally agree that we need a sustainable world system but with ten billion people coming. I find it hard to believe that without scientific enhancement it is possible to cater for so many without destroying all the beautiful natural spaces we have left to plant more crops.
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        Lejan .

        • +2
        Oct 29 2013: 'I have heard the argument before of cross pollination with wild species, but in reality I haven't heard of a single negative case.'

        Look at Mexico, where GMO corn has wildly cross pollinated local corn grades.

        http://ecowatch.com/2013/10/16/mexico-bans-gmo-corn-effective-immediately/

        '... organic food has been around a hell of a lot longer than GMO and yet there are still starving people! '
        Exactly, but it was you who gave the argument that GMO is going to change that - and it didn't, because hunger is not a yield problem, it is a distribution problem.

        The upcoming population explosion is no matter of food production either, and has to be dealt with on a complete different level. This growth is exponential and if you know the mathematics behind, you may understand, that even GMO's often mentioned yield increase can't solve any of it at all.

        '.. but I would also mention that monoculture system is not a GMO trait,'

        No, but so far it is based on exactly this concept. This is what I meant before, that it only prolongs a false system, yet doesn't correct it.

        Farming methods without monoculture does not need GMO's, as it uses other principles for yield increase and natural pesticides found in diversity. This combined with clever and local food management, does more than all of us need.

        Nobody can foresee the risks in GMO's and it doesn't matter how many studies we produce, as long we have clear data out of long term studies in 100% isolated environments. But this is already to late ...
        • Oct 29 2013: Regarding your first point, I mentioned 'WILD species', Local Mexican corn grades are not WILD species, they have been cultivated by humans, for humans. Therefore, you are arguing against the use of GMO in business, not as a science in principle, for which I am an advocator.

          Yes, I gave the argument that GMO is a solution to food security problems, but you also proposed that 'alternative' methods were also a solution. As neither strategies have managed to curb starvation. I remain fixed that this kind of argument is not a productive one as I said before.

          The distribution problem, I have to agree is a big one. The cause has little to do with GMO & food production and more to do with banks, government policy and the WTO. The manipulation of the value of currencies is the killer here.

          I get the impression that you hope to revolutionise the current farming system overnight. Of course monocultures are not ideal. But the reality is they will be sticking around for a while. The consumer and the supplier dictates that (don't tell me everything you eat is from a polyculture because that is true for very, very few people).

          As for natural pesticides found in diversity, I have travelled extensively in Africa, South America & Europe, I have yet to see a small organic farmer that has not been severely affected by a pest.

          GMO's are almost 100% the same as the original plants, with one or a few genes changed. These kind of changes occur in nature every day through viral infection and evolution. GMO speeds up the process in our favour.
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        Oct 29 2013: WILD species? So we are going into semantics now? What If a consumer can't decide anymore to have neither those 'wild species' nor the 'cultivated species', because GMO's does not differentiate in between them? Come one, this is ridiculous. Do you really believe that 'wild species' are immune against GMO's cross pollination? If so, what makes you certain about this indirect claim?

        So you maintain your argument that GMO's is a solution to food security yet you also agree, that hunger is a distribution problem and not a lack of food? Maybe you explain this again, because I don't get it. I proposed alternative' methods to cope with the stats quo, I didn't say, that it could cope with the upcoming population explosion, because it can't, due to its exponential character. At the given moment there is no need for GMO's at all to provide enough and save food for the world.

        What gives you the impression, that I rush for an 'overnight' solution when I talk about to finally '...start the transitional process for a sustainable world food production'? And if you wait for 'the consumer and supplier' to face any other realities but short term gain, you'll wait forever until it is finally to late.

        This is the same with climate change and the reason why nothing really fundamental happens is the blind believe in the invisible hand of markets, which will do just fine for all of us.

        But the scope of a sustainable world food supply is more than just some numbers on a balance sheet, as it will decide about life and death in the future. In fact, I am quite pessimistic about its outcome, yet nevertheless, I do what I can do as a consumer to make a change. In this, the labeling of GMO food becomes a necessity and I leave it to your imagination, why this is no legal requirement in many countries and in whoms interest this may be ... any ideas?

        How many garden forests did you visit in Africa, South America & Europe? There is no farming without pests, only reduction to controllable levels
        • Oct 29 2013: Yes semantics are important, you were saying that wild and cultivated species were essentially the same. If you take a look at pictures of wild and cultivated maize for instance, they most certainly are nothing alike. People can't eat wild maize. I am certain because there are hundreds of peer reviewed articles featured on sciencedirect, on the subject.

          As for your second point, the future is important! I did not say the lack of food is entirely down to distribution, you are making that part up. I said distribution is a big problem.

          As for your third point, what actions can you take as a generic individual if not buying or supplying? They are both important.

          GMO food has to be labelled in democracies, because of consumer pressure. That doesn't mean by necessity that they are right or wrong. You have stated several times, that minorities are correct over 'mainstream' beliefs.

          As for how many farms I have visited, hundreds. And GMO can offer increased mitigation of yeild reduction from pests when compared with other methods.
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        Oct 29 2013: Almost 100% is exactly not 100% and especially in genetic engineering we ought know, that little changes do a lot of changes.

        By what you said, that 'these kind of changes occur in nature every day through viral infection and evolution ', people get pay for this within the industry. Especially lobbyists, as it is their job to make things appear to be 'just' and purely natural.

        Genetic engineering is exactly NOT a natural process!

        Where engineers can't 'convince' a natural virus to smuggle their manipulated DNA into an existing organism, it uses a 'shotgun' method with gold particles coated with manipulated DNA fragments to penetrate the cell structure of the host in hope it will get incorporated somehow.

        This way it is easy to overcome natural species barriers to create a fully synthetic and artificial cell- and life-form. Neither evolution nor natural cross-breeding and pollination can do that and we don't know, if there is a good reason for that.

        Plying things down, isn't helpful to realize the risks companies are willing to take on us for their products and profits.

        The potential of genetics is highly promising, yet not at a level where we are still toddlers in this technology and field, and this will stay this way for many more decades to come.
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        Oct 30 2013: 'as for how many farms I have visited, hundreds'

        I asked how many garden forests did you visit, not farms in its conventional meaning.

        But I think I understand now, you are part of the GMO business, are you?
        • Oct 30 2013: Have just read your latter comment, no I am not in the GMO business, you couldn't be more far from the truth, I am a biologist & wildlife film maker and I work studying endangered species & conservation in tropical forests. I've visited a handful of garden forests, but on principle the harvest is not economical. Machines do a good job of monocultures but not forests, despite them often being more productive.

          The shotgun method is one, the most common is implanting soil agrobacterium with DNA and introducing this to the plant through a cut. Which occurs naturally, all the time. A plant gets damaged by the wind or herbivore and agrobacterium enters and manipulates the host DNA. The two methods achieve the same ends.

          You seem to think that natural is good and unnatural is bad, human actions are unnatural and other actions are natural. If this is the case, all human actions are unnatural and therefore bad. I do not agree.
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        Oct 30 2013: I think it is unarguable that the human species, unlike any other, is known to have a destructive impact on the biosphere. We pollute our air, our soil and our water and this not because we don't know how to do better, but because it is more economical to do so.

        The current mechanics of our economy is the dominating benchmark and anything else is totally subordinate to this ruling principle, including the base of our very existence, our ecosphere.

        As a biologist you should know, that our knowledge, our understanding about the complexity and interwovenness within nature still is way beyond our grasp and that we don't even understand the mechanics and dependencies withing one cubic meter of rich and healthy soil.

        Human actions which constantly damage the dynamic equilibrium within nature out of which we came into existence and upon which we are dependent for our survival HAVE to be considered as BAD actions, as it endangers our very existence at its very core. And here it makes no difference if the damage caused is done by our unawareness or against better knowledge, as the result is the same.

        Driven by economic efficiency, we denatured the process in which we grow our food and this worldwide and on industrial scale and on industrial consequences.

        Nature creates abundance by biodiversity and closed recycling loops, whereas we do the opposite in mono-culture farming based on continuous feeding of artificial fertilizers, insecticides and GMO's.

        Energy wise, the latter does not sustain itself naturally as it constantly spirals out of closed and selfcontained circles, yet instead of re-naturalizing this process, we instead choose to manipulate genes so that we can maintain this sort of overexploitation. And if nature herself did not come up with the plants we need for this, we just make them ourself while no one has any idea about the impact it has today, in mid term and on the long run. Nobody knows this!
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        Oct 30 2013: The problem is, once GMO's are released into nature, you can't get them out again, never!

        It is highly likely, that in 2000 years from now nobody remembers neither Monsanto nor their herbicide product Roundup, yet it is highly likely, that their GMO's out of todays convenience bundle kit will still be around, either as it is today or as it mutated and cross pollinated. Either way, it will be part of the gene-pool upcoming generations have to deal with in their ecosphere.

        Do we want our biological heritage spoiled forever by this sort of short term gain thinking?

        Today, we 'just' get rid of our old smart-phones we got 3 years ago and replace them with the newest hype. But this 'old' technology fades and just a view phones may 'survive' in retro style collections. Yet those 'old phones' does not cross-pollinate uncontrolled with emerging and new technologies. They just turn history.

        GMO's don't do that once they are in the 'wild', they stay, they alter the original biosphere of which they become an inseparable part and building block for further natural mutation.

        Genetics and gene engineering to me is the most powerful technology humankind has ever invented and by this it is intrinsically potential do to a lot of damage and this regardless if we are aware about it or not.

        It does not naturally occur that nature produces transgenic organisms by a 'cut' in a plant. Nature does not cross certain species barriers on its own, as 'her' mechanics does not allow for this to happen.

        How many wild boars have scratched their backs on a tree ever since? And how many trees would we find with wild boar genes implemented in their DNA? None! Why? Because of the species barrier!

        But genetics can cross these natural lines and it does and this is the moment where no one knows - NO ONE! - what will come out of it once it is released into the wild. And this is where it becomes highly dangerous, because we are just guessing, hoping and ignoring ...
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        Oct 30 2013: I am not against genetics per se, on the contrary, but as long this powerful technology is not completely understood in itself and also in relation to a still unknown complex environment we call nature, it got to stay in high security labs until we know what we are doing.

        I am no nature romantic who thinks that bees are happy and flowers pretty and therefore good.

        Nature to me is a highly dangerous and merciless place just by herself and her driving force we call evolution. Toxins, bacteria, viruses, fungi - you name it, nature got it or may have it soon. This alone is a challenge and race we are constantly facing and I even understand, that this new technology is so tempting to us to finally gain 'control' over all of this one day.

        But even though in our hope to do good we have to be aware about what we are playing with here.

        Yet once we reach this famous insight that those 'Spirits that I've summoned My commands ignore' it will be to late to get them back again where we made them from ...

        We have our hands at the very core of life, like a child who has just unbolted the lid of a computer and that marvels about all those colorful elements inside it. And just like a child, we have no clue about life at all.

        At this point in time, we take some 'code' we don't fully understand and put it in even more complex code we don't fully understand and then we watch what happens. In short, we are in a childish trial and error phase to gain the knowledge we don't have. Yet the danger is, that we take the 'survival' of our experiments as justification and validation and this without any understanding of the whole. Neither in detail nor in complex environments - and therefore we as this child may just ruin the whole program and finally break the whole hardware of the computer as well, because we touched the untouchable.

        Maybe there is no risk at all, I can picture that, yet this we got to find out first on a backup system within total sealed conditions. Like a sand box.
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        Oct 30 2013: Yet instead we already got it out for a brand-name weed-killer and tomatoes with extended shelf-life? Is that it?

        Are we only thinking with our wallets? This is about life, people, not just some exchangeable commodities!

        Yet as I said several times before - Lobby work at its best! The mantra of the prayer wheel. And this wheel comes with a complete different set of morals than the morals needed within this field of powerful science we are talking about!

        Sorry folks, this planet is closed, because we screwed it up for a margin ...
        • Oct 30 2013: I get your frustration,

          However, you are wrong. Cross species gene transfer is actually very common in nature.

          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070308220454.htm

          The agrobacterium that enter plants all the time in nature implant their DNA into the host's. What GM does is implant different DNA into the bacterium which then goes into the host. The difference is, we choose the traits, not some random other organism.

          The risk of environmental damage and damage to human health for GM over other crop types has been found to be the same by hundreds of independent researchers.

          None of your comments about the science of GMO are actually substantiated by any scientific research. What you are arguing against is the entire economic system, but some how GMO science is to blame.

          A knife is tool for one person but in other hands it can be a weapon. What you are saying about GMO is equivalent to saying that knifes are always weapons.

          You say that scientists can't act until they know every possible outcome!, that is a totally unrealistic expectation. No-one can ever for see every outcome of an action. Yes lab tests should and are being done before field trials, but fanatics keep ruining the lab trials, even government funded operations!

          For example the naive, misinformed idiots that destroyed the government funded trial plots for rice that scientists were modifying to contain vitamin A, to prevent blindness in millions of children in developing countries.

          The farming system does need to change. But I can see no reason why GM cant add something to that. If you engineer pest resistance for example, then no more pesticides....
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        Oct 30 2013: 'cross species gene transfer is actually very common'

        Exactly, thats why wild boars grow on trees these days ...

        Genetics manipulates eukaryote which are not or just little effected by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and if you read your linked article, you will find, that it describes it for 'especially more primitive organisms'.

        HGT is one way for bacterial antibiotic resistance yet it stays within one group of species.

        'The risk of environmental damage and damage to human health for GM over other crop types has been found to be the same by hundreds of independent researchers.'

        OK, how long was the testing? Shorter than 100 years? 1000 years?

        As I said, it doesn't matter what I tell you, you ignore whatever comes in handy.

        No scientist did any long term trial in any realistic proportion to evolutionary time-frames. All they did was a quick shot. No scientist did a holistic environment studies in isolated biospheres which are big enough to simulate the complexity of nature herself. Some small green houses just don't do the same job. Therefore I understand those people who destroy test fields of GMO's because they do what it takes to save their environment.

        Any new knife we invented so far we use to kill people and therefore I would not be surprised, if genetics is one of the major research fields for biological weaponry. Wouldn't it be great if we had such weapons who only get triggered if a certain genetic marker was present in the host? A perfect weapon for genocide if the marker is just local enough.

        So no, the knife arguments fails as usual, as the history of science and wars tells us.

        'You say that scientists can't act until they know every possible outcome!, that is a totally unrealistic expectation.'

        Why? What is unrealistic there? Maybe for a market prospective, yet not for science.

        If physicist at CERN would calculate a high possibility for a test to turn disastrous, do you think they would still try it out? Just to see?
        • Oct 31 2013: "Exactly, thats why wild boars grow on trees these days ...

          "if you read your linked article, you will find, that it describes it for 'especially more primitive organisms"

          Yes so species gene transfer is possible which you now agree to, a minute ago you said it wasn't at all!. What about a mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse... should we isolate mules in bullet proof chambers and test them for 1000 years in case they take over the world because they don't breed in nature! Humans manipulate the DNA of plants and animals constantly!! they have created thousands of breeds of dogs and thousands of hybrid plants and crop plants without GMO that don't occur naturally. GMO is a method to speed up the process of selection for desired traits via human actions.

          "OK, how long was the testing? Shorter than 100 years? 1000 years?"

          "As I said, it doesn't matter what I tell you, you ignore whatever comes in handy"

          As have you, except I have ignored speculation and you have ignored fact. Obviously testing something for 1000 years is totally unrealistic. There is no reason why putting a collection of vitamin A promoting genes into rice would give rice any competetive advantage in nature over its organic version, especially considering that the variety in question doesn't survive in the wild without human care.

          "No scientist did a holistic environment studies in isolated biospheres which are big enough to simulate the complexity of nature herself."

          Okay lets just find another planet earth and do it there then!

          "If physicist at CERN would calculate a high possibility for a test to turn disastrous, do you think they would still try it out? Just to see?"

          That's my point, unlike the physicist in your metaphor, no scientist has actually calculated a high possibility of GMO to cause problems. The only people that have is people like you that make speculative remarks without evidence
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        Oct 31 2013: Eukaryotes? Anything about those? Or is it just natural too?

        'What about a mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse... should we isolate mules in bullet proof chambers and test them for 1000 years ...'

        Why?

        'As have you, except I have ignored speculation and you have ignored fact.'

        Eukaryotes? Anything about those?

        'Obviously testing something for 1000 years is totally unrealistic.'

        Why? Or are you just rushing on the market as well?

        'Okay lets just find another planet earth and do it there then!'

        Why? Only because a high secured, high encapsulated and isolated but fully working ecosphere is expensive and difficult to build? Or are you just rushing on the market as well?

        'No scientist has actually calculated a high possibility of GMO to cause problems'

        For this scientists need to fully understand what they are doing. In genetics, as I said before, we are doing trial and error, which is no base for any meaningful forecast. Or are you just rushing on the market as well and trying to calm critical customers?

        I choose CERN for a reason - maybe you find it.

        'GMO is a method to speed up the process of selection for desired traits via human actions. '

        This is false and only mentioned to cover the fact that GMO's are not natural. Exactly what corporations need to rush on the markets and to misinform their customers.

        Lobby work at its very best.
        • Oct 31 2013: Yes yes horizontal gene transfer is less common in eukaryotes, first you disagreed that HGT existed, then you said it does in prokaryotes but not eukaryotes, then you said it did in eukaryotes but only a little! we are running out of taxa fast! but you seem to be coming around to the idea that HGT is common.

          I have already described how plants (eukaryotes) are subject to HGT in nature via agrobacterium ALL THE TIME.

          Your main point about GMO is that animals/plants that don't occur naturally are wrong. You say that such organisms should be tested in biospheres somewhere for 1000 years for them to be safe. A mule does not occur naturally so why do you have no problem with it? Unnatural is not always bad. like GMO the mule is an artificial genetic manipulation by humans. The human population will be ten billion in a decade. We dont have 1000 years to test solutions for food security.

          'GMO is a method to speed up the process of selection for desired traits via human actions. '"This is false and only mentioned to cover the fact that GMO's are not natural. Exactly what corporations need to rush on the markets and to misinform their customers".

          Its obviously not false, GMO is a method to select for desired traits in organisms. Thats just what it is!! If not, then what the hell are we talking about?

          Just because corporations have misused GMO does not mean GMO is intrinsically a bad thing! I don't stand to make any financial gain for supporting GMO, and yet I have found it to be a promising science.

          Quit regurgitating opinion from Michael Moore documentaries and make the distinction between GMO and the use of GMO in business.
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        Oct 31 2013: 'Just because corporations have misused GMO does not mean GMO is intrinsically a bad thing!'

        Following your GMO's are all natural mantra how could any corporation misuse it? They didn't do anything which would not have come alive sooner or later anyway, so what is the misusing element here? Or do we have another knife example here? But still, this knife would form itself anyway, so why bother?

        Mules are hybrids and would naturally occur if horses and donkeys would have sex which each other, which they usually don't have, probably for species reasons. They are not capable of reproduction and this probably for a reason.

        Breeding and cultivation is of course based on the interaction of genes, but both work within their natural restrictions, they don't break those rules. And this is different in genetic engineering.

        It comes for a reason why bacteria and viruses are used in genetic engineering to smuggle foreign DNA pass this natural barrier, because bacteria and viruses are masters to break or bypass immune systems as part of their survival strategy. Thats their specialization. Yet also here it makes a difference what comes with their payload because what we inject into them bypasses this natural barrier as well.

        In fact we are using this their sneak in ability to exactly bypass these natural hurdles and we justify and misuse their success to describe genetic manipulation as a 'natural' process. On the other side, we are fighting bacteria and viruses as if there was no tomorrow to ensure our health and survival, and this because they have this very dangerous ability to severely harm us. And this because they are natural gene manipulators, which makes them so dangerous to us and also other species.

        And yes, we use them too within our organisms. In fact we are symbiotic with them. But this symbiosis is the result of a very long evolution process to gain this stable joint venture and it is most likely, that many individuals on both sides died over this.
        • Oct 31 2013: I totally agree, GMO's are not natural, I have never said they were, I only argue that similar processes to GM like (HGT) happen naturally. Therefore GM is not quite as new and revolutionary as some might think.

          Natural things are not all good... you eat the wrong plant and you die!, any person or corporation or whatever can misuse that. Another prime knife example haha. Imagine that the arbitrary concepts of un-natural and natural did not exist, what would be your argument? I am interested to know.

          Some corporations like Monsanto have misused GMO by creating expensive infertile plants, pesticide resistance, suing farmers for the spread of patented genetics into their organic crops etc.. as you know. Its a shame that these actions have set people like you against GMO because it can be used for great things, like curing blindness in developing countries by supplying free, fertile vitamin A enhanced rice.

          Although its not GMO per se, check out a guy called Norman Baulag. He is credited with saving a BILLION lives through manipulating plant genetics to create dwarf wheat that does not get damaged in storms. The potential is enormous!

          "It comes for a reason why bacteria and viruses are used in genetic engineering to smuggle foreign DNA pass this natural barrier, because bacteria and viruses are masters to break or bypass immune systems as part of their survival strategy"

          Yes a proportion of them do this, but what exactly does this mean in regards to GMO?
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        Oct 31 2013: 'GMO is a method to select for desired traits in organisms. Thats just what it is!! If not, then what the hell are we talking about?'

        We are talking about the fact, that GMO's are no classical form of breeding or cultivation and that their technique is bypassing natural restrictions which would not allow those organisms to be breded or cultivated within those natural barriers. We are talking about the fact, that genetic engineering is not 'just' a speed up version of natural evolution, because it is capable to introduce whole DNA segments into organisms which would not occur by random mutation. We are talking about the fact, that the survival of an manipulated organism is not an indicator for its harmlessness. We are talking about the fact, that our knowledge is way to little to foresee any long term behavior of artificially manipulated DNA. We are talking about the risks corporation take for short term profits over long term knowledge and over responsible handling of this powerful technology.

        I didn't see any Michael Moore documentaries about this topic, yet I worked within research and know how little we know and how impatient corporate science and R&D processes are. I know about the meaning of 'limited' or 'Ltd' in this context. And I know that short term profit is boosting the hype in genetic engineering.

        I don't know how many times I have to repeat that this science is highly potential to be of good use to us, yet I do not rush in a field which is as well of high potential to harm the fundamental building blocks of life itself.

        Yes, I would love to grow organs, blood and medicine just as we need them. I would love to grow meat for food in test tubes so that we don't need to kill any more animal. Yet I would also hate to die by my implants, my artificial blood of by my medicine. I would hate to die by my artificial meat. And I would hate to die for some other peoples short term profits.

        Evolution is million of years old, yet we do it in decades? Arrogance!
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        Oct 31 2013: 'I totally agree, GMO's are not natural, I have never said they were, I only argue that similar processes to GM like (HGT) happen naturally. '

        This is what I call throwing smoke grenades. This naturalness is as meaningful as to say that 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' were only loaded with the natural element of Uranium.

        'Natural things are not all good...'

        I don't know why you keep circling about this argument, as I answered this already, so let me copy/past this again for you:

        I am no nature romantic who thinks that bees are happy and flowers pretty and therefore good.

        Nature to me is a highly dangerous and merciless place just by herself and her driving force we call evolution. Toxins, bacteria, viruses, fungi - you name it, nature got it or may have it soon.

        'Imagine that the arbitrary concepts of un-natural and natural did not exist, what would be your argument?'

        My argument is that not everything that can be done should be done.

        I would not give a fife year old a loaded gun to play with. I could do it and then leave the room, but why would I do that? Why would I provoke the process of natural selection? I think my reasons are based on my morals and knowledge and also on my ability to foresee certain risks in this situation. But other than this I can not give you any better justification or reason, which you could rightly name arbitrary.
        Yet how would any other arbitrariness help the child not to shoot or hurt itself?

        There is no 'cosmic law' for me not to give the gun to this child. So what is your point? Would you give this gun to this child? Nothing will keep you from doing so. What is your choice? And why?

        'misused GMO by creating expensive infertile plants, pesticide resistance, suing farmers for the spread of patented genetics into their organic crops etc.'

        Actually, no. Monsanto did exactly the right thing according to the given mechanics in our economy. They followed only what 'we' agreed on in our markets. So why do you think of misuse?
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        Oct 31 2013: Because tis 'market mechanics' is arbitrary as well? What is your 'moral code' against which you decide what is considered 'misuse' of this technology and what would be 'good use'?

        At what exact point spreads this distinction? As you have no 'natural' and 'un-natural' vocabulary, how are you drawing your line? What enables your 'judgment' your 'concerns'? Laws? Well, that would just be another arbitrary thing. Morals? Also highly exchangeable. So what makes you think of misuse at all?

        The problem in science to me is, that it does not come with any morals. That is what makes it so dangerous at times, because it only takes one scientist to do what can be done, to get it done.

        This is what brings us the given and growing variety in biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. This is what brings us land-mines, booby-traps, uranium depleted ammunition, drones, cluster bombs, napalm, orange agent, etc. ...

        This is what will bring us nano swarm killing bots, autonomous killing machines and intelligent biological killer organisms. As they will be done because they can be done.

        Due to the current and mostly worldwide financial crisis, fundamental research gets more and more mangled towards short term marketable results, as otherwise they they get no more funding out of austerity budget cuts. But this 'rushing' environment is exactly what kills fundamental research in its core. This is the environment in which loaded guns get handed over to fife year olds, as there is no more time left for any reflected foresight or any morals. And as long as we don't take our time to really understand what we are doing, genetic engineering remains a highly potential threat to me and Monsanto's researcher are just the tip of an growing iceberg.

        On this the 'I told you so' phrase is not going to come with its usual inner triumph, as it is no fun to clean the room and to remove the corpses of little ones.
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        Oct 31 2013: 'Its a shame that these actions have set people like you against GMO because it can be used for great things, like curing blindness in developing countries by supplying free, fertile vitamin A enhanced rice.'

        What is this for an argument?

        Why don't we just give free carrots, corn salad, fennel, mangos, spinach, red pepper, eggs, tuna, soft cheese and pork? All of this is naturally rich in vitamin A and already available on this planet without any use of genetic engineering. And we already know that variety in diets is the most healthy thing we can provide against malnutrition.

        And just because we don't give this for free you are accepting blindness in developing countries?

        Even our supermarkets are full with vitamin enriched nutritional supplements, they come in all shapes, colors and sizes and although many of those are questionably in their use, it would still be better than doing nothing to give them for free if the other things are to complicated or whatever to get there.

        Maybe it would also be a good idea to enable developing countries to grow the variety of food they need to properly feed their people.

        Or are you just seeking for guinea pigs for our latest GMO's as a live experiment?

        Its a shame that people like you promote 'quick fix' solutions without any need to fake the necessity for GMO's. You throw smoke grenades again to cover the given reality, that malnutrition in developing countries is already tolerated by first world countries, as we already have everything what it takes to fight it and this by purely biological food with no need for any artificial gene manipulation.

        You mix politics and market mechanics with science, which is not to be confused at all, as it does not justify any risks related to this research.

        It is the same that propaganda does to bring nations to war. We are shown pictures of killed woman and children, as killed man or even soldiers won't do much to convince us...

        You would certainly make a good lobbyist!
        • Oct 31 2013: 'Its a shame that these actions have set people like you against GMO because it can be used for great things, like curing blindness in developing countries by supplying free, fertile vitamin A enhanced rice.'

          What is this for an argument?

          Why don't we just give free carrots, corn salad, fennel, mangos, spinach, red pepper, eggs, tuna, soft cheese and pork? All of this is naturally rich in vitamin A and already available on this planet without any use of genetic engineering. And we already know that variety in diets is the most healthy thing we can provide against malnutrition.

          And just because we don't give this for free you are accepting blindness in developing countries?""""

          WELL OBVIOUSLY GIVING OUT A BUNCH OF SEEDS THAT PEOPLE CAN USE TO GROW AND TAKE MORE SEEDS FROM IS A ONE OFF EVENT, ITS CHEAP AND ALLOWS THEM TO MEET THE PROBLEM THEMSELVES.

          GIVE A MAN A FISH AND HE EATS FOR A DAY, TEACH A MAN TO FISH AND HES SORTED FOR LIFE!!!

          WILL REPLY TO THE REST LATER
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        Oct 31 2013: Are you screaming or unknowingly caps-locked?

        '... its cheap and allows them to meet the problems themselves.'

        So 'cheap' is the key here, aka market mechanics? We have been there before and I told you, that given the power of this science, market mechanics should not be allowed to drive it.

        It is a 'cheap' and quick fix solution to remain ignorant about our general behavior and what we do to our fellow humans and our planet. Its done on a balance sheet, running a view numbers. How much does it take to manipulate this rice and to give it for free compared to reflect on our first-world waste of food, which we throw away each day in large quantities. No, thinking this way is just uncomfortable, so lets manipulate some genes for gods sake and let 'them' grow it so that they stop getting on our conscience by turning blind ... Thats the typical logic of a self-righteous first world attitude. Behavior seems to be more difficult to change than genes, right?

        '... Teach a man to fish and hes sorted for life'

        Exactly, so let us help them to grow vitamin A rich biological food without the use of GMO's and they'll do just as fine and even better, because their diet grows in variety as well.
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        Nov 4 2013: Mr T - forgive me, but the only way I can credibly reconcile your extremely vigorous stance in favour of GMO's, together with your self-proclaimed role as a biologist, is that you work for that industry...?

        If you are a biologist and given that there is much that we do not know about the impact of GMO's in the wider scheme, then I fear that your ethical responsibilities towards natural biological systems and ecology appear somewhat compromised by this frankly ridiculous anthropocentric stance you are taking.

        'Feeding the world' with GMO's might well be successful initially - until the myriad of natural systems which have evolved over millions of years get breached and contaminated by chemically-induced genetics. As a biologist, I'd like to ask what do you seriously think would happen then?
        • Nov 5 2013: I do not work for that industry, I work studying endangered species in tropical forests.

          "until the myriad of natural systems which have evolved over millions of years get breached and contaminated by chemically-induced genetics"

          Before you state that this can and will happen, please explain how and why it will happen!!.

          My stance towards GMO is substantiated with evidence, what I am tired of is hearing prophecies of apocalyptic scenarios, much like the one you just gave which are based on nothing but speculation. Yes GMO requires careful consideration and research as to the effects, yet leehan is expecting ridiculous and impossible tests based on speculation alone.

          Why is it that everyone expects that I have some invested corporate interest in GMO?. (Which I don't). I support the science because it has great potential to curb many environmental and human problems. I ask that you take a step back and really think & research about exactly how and why GMO could bring about such negative consequences as you proclaim. If you do this and come back with the same views then I would love to know what it is you have discovered.
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        Nov 5 2013: Let me get this straight - you have one hand busily working on studying endangered species in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, untouched by human hand, while the other hand is busy vigorously supporting genetically modified organisms?

        Do you hope to combine the two in some sort of grotesque synthesis of what you and your minority think nature should be? Or perhaps some other motive?

        I have thought about it thanks, and I am coming back with the same views. Not least because in an Independent Science Panel Report, released June 2003 in which the case against GMO is irrefutable:

        http://www.i-sis.org.uk/ispr-summary.php

        Speculation? let's dissect that a bit. I would suggest firstly that the pro GMO stance is more speculative than those who stand against it. Is it 'speculation' that in order for a plant to be resistant to the herbicide Glyphosate, there is measurable suppression of enzymes and amino acids? What are the implications of that on modern diseases of the gut? Is it 'speculation' that Glyphosate-resistance in crops has been proven to cause mutation in weeds, which go on to become Glyphosate-resistant "Superweeds"? Not only would the crop gene pool be contaminated by GMO, but by implication, so would the weeds. Back to square one again, only this time with contaminated genes in the entire arable landscape.

        http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

        Also:

        Séralini G. E., Clair E., Mesnage R., Gress S., Defarge N., Malatesta M., Hennequin D., de Vendômois J.S. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize; Food and Chemical Toxicology Vol. 50 ( 11), 2012, 4221–4231.

        Need more evidence?
        • Nov 5 2013: Yes precisely.

          I have stated in previous comments that most of the arguments against the use of GM revolve around a particular use of GM, the one you have put forward.. engineering herbicide tolerance, I totally agree is bad.

          What I am trying to say is that I can see many ways in which GM can be used for very good purposes. We currently spray our plants with terrible insecticides for instance, engineering resistance to pests in some of our crop plants could therefore decrease the use of pesticides and improve species richness.

          I don't think that GM is the be all and end all solution to everything. But used well it can certainly play a major role in the transition to a sustainable world.

          Many of the other problems that you and that report cite are to do with GM crops spreading into nature. This is something that is generally highly unlikely, of course depending upon the type of modification and the type of plant. This is a an issue that I think can be resolved and I have given some reasons as to why it is unlikely in previous comments.
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        Nov 5 2013: Thanks for your response. I'm glad you are not an advocate of the worst excesses of GM!

        Using GM well in order to play a major role in the transition to a sustainable world would depend also on what the market economy is doing at the time. It's quite possible that the profit motive might override the ethical element of that transition. One only needs to look at Monsanto's track record in that department to see where that could lead.

        Can I ask what role you think pollinators would have in your vision of GM assisted species richness? How would that affect GM spreading into nature? Would it matter if an organic farmer had crops in close proximity to a GM crop? Could his produce still legitimately be referred to as "organic"?
        • Nov 5 2013: Your first point is why I believe such technologies should be government regulated.

          As for your second points, lets take wheat for an example. If we take a look around, in a wild place we just don't see our crop varieties of wheat growing around everywhere, wheat normally self fertilises, and any pollen that does escape and get wind bourne will only remain viable for a couple of hours at best. Animals do not pollinate wheat. Since cases of interbreeding (not under lab conditions) between crop wheat and wild wheat is anecdotal then it is reasonable to assume that crop wheat does not pose a danger of spreading into nature and ruining everything. I mean, it hasn't done so far and its been around for a very long time...

          Now lets genetically modify that same wheat, lets say with some gene from another plant to produce stronger stems to prevent storm damage, and heavier seeds, to increase yield. Neither of these attributes affect pollen dispersal significantly over the normal variety so it should not stand to cause any more problems than does conventional wheat, if there are any.

          Moving on to GM spreading into organic crops, its a difficult issue and it does already happen. It really depends on your definition of organic, if that is free from GM then no GM crops can be organic. Although personally I would happily buy GM crops branded as organic, if it meant that no fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides etc were used or the yield was higher so less land had to be used for crops. Our crop plants are constructed by us for us, I think for many people the word organic is synonymous with the word 'natural', which under my definition, no crop plant is. It could be possible to engineer plants that will not breed without human intervention.

          Despite the opposition to them, I would be surprised if GM foods were not the norm in 50, 100 years.
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      Oct 30 2013: lejan I would not say natural or organic food is 100% safe in some cases it is worse! the all natural fertilizers and sprays used in this practice can contain some pretty nasty natural compounds. eg arsenic in high levels but it natural so it has to be safe. You all so have to factor in animal welfare on organic farms if you do not have a second control farm to move sick animals to for treatment.
      all so we do need to intensify farming if the sea level are rising a lot of prime farming land is going to be lost in the future so we need to work on a intensive but sustainable farming future this will come by thinking out side the square in farming technology's and monitoring of nutrient budgets which are all ready in practice in my farming systems in my country put in place by big corporations that want to still have clients in the future.
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        Oct 30 2013: If the conditions are safe for organic food to grow, it will be 100% risk free - besides individual allergies, of course.
    • Oct 30 2013: Off track a little, but still worthy of noting, are cleaning agents.........soap is wonderful......so is vinegar and baking soda......but all the big companies promote chemical cleaners like they're going out of style.

      Many housewives have developed allergies due to these toxic cleaners that fill rooms with toxic fumes.

      You do not see many commercials for using good old salt or vinegar or baking soda.......

      I think when it comes to our health and nutrition, common sense and an educated consumer should not be underestimated.

      My 2 cents worth. :)
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        Oct 30 2013: Your 2 cents worth is highly appreciated!

        I recently rediscovered concentrated vinegar as a toilet cleaner and it works just perfect. All the other specialized products I used before didn't do even half the job. They were all fancy, colorful and even viscous, so that they stayed longer on sloped surfaces. Yet all the buzz didn't help much. And now just 2 spoons of vinegar concentrate and within minutes everything is clean as new.

        Salt I use to capture liquid red wine on textiles before I do any further rubbing and it works perfect as well. I haven't tried baking soda yet, what is it good for?
        • Oct 31 2013: Baking soda is great as a disinfectant.

          I use it in combination with hydrogen peroxide to scrub surfaces that I need to clean.....kitchen and bathroom tiles, sinks, bathtub.

          I also put baking soda down the drain to eliminate odors.

          It absorbs odors really well, so sprinkling it on kitchen sponges, and putting a box of it in the refrigerator is wonderful too.

          I have used salt to disinfect my cutting board, especially after I've handled raw meat on it......I run hot water on the board, then sprinkle salt and rub the palm of my hands on the board.......I get a spa treatment on my hands, and clean the board too.....it feels so good to run your hands on the salt crystals which are on the wet board........you need to try it.....it's like a massage for your tired hands.

          I don't know if we have concentrated vinegar in our markets.......

          When I lived overseas I also used to be able to get pure vitamin C in powder form......here they don't sell it. Some things just don't make it into the US market.
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        Oct 31 2013: Kitchen and bathroom tiles have to be cleaned? Oh ... ;o)

        But thank you for your explanation, I will try this out and also the salt peeling and spa treatment. Would my cat like this too? I will try this out today and if she gets scared we just blame Halloween ... :o)

        Concentrated vinegar is my word creation, which, once I looked it up, now changed to 'vinegar essence'. Maybe this is available in your stores?

        Vitamin C powder is available in Germany and I am very surprised that this is not common in the US, especially because you have way less regulations on certain nutritional supplements than we have. Interesting... but fruits are more fun anyway!

        Happy Halloween!