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Do you think Genetically Modified food (GM) is morally justifiable? How about the "Industrialisation" of food production?

We covered artificial selection today in Biology, and it got me thinking about the ethics of production. Animals like the Belgian blue cow are bred solely for their consumption as beef.

Expanding the topic, is it right to manufacture animals for food as we do in, say, battery farms?

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    Mar 1 2012: Western diet is one of the main reasons we have heart disease, diabetes, obesity, to name a few. These are lifestyle diseases, and our foods are loaded with calories, and lack high nutritional value.

    It was not until agriculture and modifying flour (taking out the nutrients found in wheat seeds for longer shelf life) and the addition of sugar that we began seeing tooth decay,

    Anyone who thinks factory farming is okay, as long as the animals are treated humanely does not know how factory farming works. Not only are the animals produced solely for food, but they are pumped up with antibiotics, hormones to speed growth, and fed corn that is high calorie, low nutrient food, and not food cattle have historically eaten.

    It is because of the food they are fed that they are given antibiotics, because the corn literally rots their stomachs as it bulks them up at an unnatural rate, and within 9 months or less, they are taken to slaughter.

    There have been studies conducted on age of onset of menstruation, and females are on average reaching puberty 1-2 years earlier than in the past. Why? It has been theorized the hormones given to cattle is having an effect on our youth. Not to mention the antibiotic resistance seen in humans which has been said to be in part due to us receiving them through eating beef.

    Morality aside, is it a healthy choice? Time will tell. Our society is sick, and I believe many of the processed foods and the homogenous foods are part to blame. I know I was fortunate to have fresh fruits and vegetables grown in my grand parents garden. I really miss the delicious foods of my youth, because it is a rare occurrence to find the same quality in grocery stores.
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      Mar 1 2012: I totally agree with you, especially about the humanity of factory farming. In my view, the problem occurs out of the division between production and consumption. We do not follow the tracks anyway where and how our food is "produced" and therefore lose sight of the morality of food anymore.

      Furthermore, to add another moral aspect of the production of food, adding to your comment is, how does it affect the expenditure of health care on certain diseases. One of my teachers told us although there are more people dying from AIDS, Malaria and TB instead of heart diseases, diabetes and cancer globally, most of the funding in research goes to "Western" diseases which occur mainly in developed country due to the cheap availability of certain products.
      I just checked and while the expenditure on diabetes is estimated to be between 376 and 672 billion USD in 2010, funds for HIV are estimated to be 8.3 billion USD in 2011. One might argue, diabetes is more expensive to treat (I don't know to be honest, just a guess here), it only clarifies the injustice of the treatments as it would be cheaper then to supply people with prevention and treating means.
      I am not saying, diabetes should not be treated (I have got cases of it in my family as well) but just wanted to raise another issue here.
    • Mar 1 2012: Agreed. And I avoid gluten and dairy for example.
      However, we should not forget that wheat reduced famines, if not eradicated it in many regions.
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    Mar 3 2012: GMO's are the Pandora's Box being offered to the fearful people by profit engineers. This is when, we as the fearful, will learn that Hope, who was the last to emerge from the box is as, or most evil of the whole content of the box. In my opinion, GMO is not only immoral, it is criminal. We only need to google 'monsanto and 2,4,5,D, or T to understand where this is leading us. The organism's "natural" response to our un-natural manipulations is the proverbial slippery slope and before it is finished with our fooling around with genetics, all we will have left is Hope, and that is the worst of all places to find yourself.
    I was born and raised on a hard-scratch farm in Iowa, when the term husbandry still applied. A short time ago I was afforded the opportunity to return and work on a large scale factory farm where I witnessed, first hand, life on the "slope". Let me say in my humble opinion, we are in serious trouble with little, if no, way back. Our corporations are writing laws for our legislators and writing text books for our students, none of which are committed to truth. With a little effort you can find the truth. I hope for all the children on this earth you will all devote a small portion of your time to search for the answers to the question you ask today.
    Thank you, for bringing your inquiry to these pages. I, also, have many questions concerning our world and it's direction, but I lack the tactfulness to pose the questions without sounding as if I am condemning our society, and I wish never to insult or accuse anyone with my questions or answers, but I do sense an urgency to proclaim the truth.
    • Mar 3 2012: I don't think that the best way to form an opinion is by listening to sensationalist press. In any event, Monsanto might be pure evil, other companies using GMOs might be pure evil. That still would not make GMOs themselves immoral or criminal. It would be their misuse that would be immoral and/or criminal.

      Companies cannot impose their products onto farmers. I know of a lot of self0initiated people having their own farms, and they can start a movement towards engineered systems using whatever they want other than GMOs. Fine by me. I don't oppose GMOs, but I think we might not need them. So, if you think the same, and you are in the business of your own farm. Well, you have a place to start demonstrating that there are ways to have sustainable agriculture without GMOs and without the loads of pesticides. But do that well informed. Not because you think GMOs are evil (or even if so) because you are misinformed, but because you understand their limitations (they have limitations as they are today, but might improve later), and because you rather not use them, and because you prefer farmers to be self sustainable rather than dependent on big companies (which I applaud as a goal).

      The very near future will have a huge need for developed local economies. I doubt that GMOs would be the first thing to use there. Smallish companies, in agreement with and with the help of farmers, breeding varieties for this and that might suffice. But we will see.

      Textbooks don't say "GMOs are good, GMOs are good!" I teach at a University, and we don't declare that GMOs are the solution to the future. I prefer students to discuss stuff well informed, but don't give them pre-digested solutions, because those solutions don't exist. I don't think there is a perfect answer. But, again, I am inclined to think that we don't need GMOs. But I am very far from buying into the demonization of these products.
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        Mar 3 2012: Before we go any longer with this conversation, are you implying that I listen to sensationalistic press? Are you making assumptions about me from one answer to your post? Tell me, please, Gabo Moreno!
        The truth, I believe, is that I struck a nerve with my comments about corporate profiteers editing your school books.
        I am from Iowa, I work the farms, I know the condition of the animals, I know the people who are most familiar with the crops and if they see their children put a single seed into their mouth, they would rather slap it out then to risk the affects of GMO food in the digestive tract of someone they love.
        I know the bills that are now going through congress so that the seed manufacturers can apply half of the AGENT ORANGE formula on the corn because the GMO crops are building resistance to their paired herbicides and insecticides.
        You have insulted me with your presumptive nature, which I will assume is part of your learning practice at your university. Do you think I have bought into a demonization of our good people at DOW and MONSANTO?
        I will be happy to forward you actual bills in the senate and house where legislators bought and paid for by the chemical manufacturers and seed distributors are asking for permission to exploit the people by increasing the toxicity of herbicides and pesticides.
        Do you understand that with GMO's the seed line itself becomes a patented property of the hybrid manufacturers? And that farmers are being prosecuted for owning seeds with a patented trait. With cross-pollenation many crops will carry traits owned by another seed distributor and people will be playing heck in courts trying to defend themselves and being sued for no fault of their own.
        I will offer this, though, should you be interested in the facts I am talking about here I will be glad to tell you how I know the truth I speak of. e-mail me through the TED mail system. If not, that's okay, too. but please refrain thinking you know me.
        • Mar 4 2012: Tim,

          While I recognize that I might be very wrong about your sources, your answer still indicates alarmism, rather than knowledge. the thing about India I have heard it coming from famous sensationalist "news" portrayed by those kinds of groups who oppose anything they perceive as "unnatural." Extremists who don't care about accuracy in what they say, as long as it produces their desired effect. Everything you explain about farmers around you rather slapping seeds out of their kid's hands is emotional to the point of looking like an effect of misinformation. So how else should I perceive your sources but as sensationalism? I might be very wrong. It could be that you are a well trained scientist and have discovered that there is something to actually fear about splicing genes from one organism into another. Maybe you have actual statistics from your own community of livestock dying from eating GMO corn, maybe you really have a direct source to the dangers of GMOs. But it does not sound so. Also, I insist, misuse of technology does not mean that the technology itself is criminal. Your not differentiating between misuse and the technology makes me feel, again, that your sources are misinformation.

          As for bills. I completely trust you on that. I see it for many other things, thus why not misused technologies? I did not say you demonize monsanto and dow, I said I don't buy into demonizing GMOs, the technology. Farmers can easily demonstrate when their seeds have been contaminated by GMOs rather than having used illegal GMOs. This I know for a fact. I don't think that because a farmer is demanded by a big company the farmer has to be innocent. That has to be decided by the evidence, not by who we like better.

          Do companies push their stuff in even when it is crap? Yes. Does that mean that GMOs are evil? Nope.

          I could clarify a thing or two about your comments, but ran out of space, and I prefer one comment at a time.

          Best and my apologies if I got you all wrong.
      • Mar 5 2012: Companies do impose their products when pollen or spilled seed from GM plants arrive at your property and make themselves at home. Our laws protect the property rights of Monsanto and such but not the trespassed land owner.

        A law can protect you if there is a law but I do not believe law is keeping up with the issues. If you are a large corporation with money you can hire lawyers and influence law makers and those that administer the law. The corporation can make sure that laws that protect it and its property are in place. A recent suit bought by farmers trying to protect themselves preemptively from Monsanto suing them for having patented genes in their seed was dismissed. If pollen or wayward seed contaminates your seed crop then you are SOL and have to dump your crop. How is that just? If anything I have said is untrue or incomplete please correct me with verifiable fact.
        • Mar 5 2012: Well, I would think that companies don't want their precious and patented products to go astray. Most importantly if the correct use of their product depends on the genes not going anywhere else. This reminds me of a common complain against GMOs, that the seeds can be programmed to be infertile, which in turn would make contamination very hard. Yet, anti-GMO people will complain against this as well.

          Laws can protect anybody if you are able to make your case. Just see how many have put lawsuits against coffee companies because the coffee was hot (which is ridiculous). If that is possible, what would stop you from complaining that your plants got contaminated by undesirable genes? Of course, you would have to demonstrate that this happened, which is easy enough.
      • Mar 6 2012: Gosh, you would think but do you know? Why would Monsanto care where their genes go if they can sue anyone who has unauthorized possession of their genes regardless of how they were obtained. They are able to force farmers to give up saving their own seed which is great if you are a seed company. I agree that correct use depends on the genes not going off to uncharted territory but in the real world that is exactly what happens and one of the major arguments against GMO in plants and animals. I don't think anyone is upset that a GM seed would be infertile, the issue is the contamination of other seed stock with that genetic material. Then of course the concern is with all GM food that there are unintended consequences waiting to bite us and we need to proceed with great caution. Another problem is that the modification is made often to promote use of other toxic products which has a remarkable way of coming back to bite us as well.

        As to the law protection, I added to my original comment before it dawned on me how to reply to you here. Please read that. And I will add to what I said there to point out again that Monsanto has deep pockets and lots of lawyers. What is to stop you from suing? The cost of legal representation, the years of being tied up in a court battle, lack of effective law to support your suit, the likely loss of your land and livelihood are some things that might stop you. That is why people call Monsanto a bully.
        • Mar 6 2012: Keren,

          Of course a company would not want their patented genes to go anywhere. This is why they pay good money for genetic engineers developing technologies to prevent such things. It is not to their best interests to sue farmers because their genes contaminated the farmer's seeds. If they sue, they have to make sure that they can demonstrate that the genes ware stolen. It is too easy for a farmer to show photos and genetic results (which are easy, and become very cheap) showing the differences between her/his crops and the GMOs. Not only that, a sued farmer has to pay lawyers anyway, so why not contra-demand for the contamination, all expenses, aggravation, et cetera? The only way a farmer would lose such a battle is if the farmer actually stole the seeds. Companies know this.

          You say farmers united for a preemptive sue. I guess that is why it did not go far. Preemptive? That is so nebulous that it would be a hard case to present. But suing for actual damages to their seeds as in contaminated by the GMO company's genes? Sure thing. Easy to present and demonstrate. If lawyers like stupid ideas like suing a coffee company for the coffee being hot, why not a GMO company for contaminating our farmer's genetic heritage? Do you think that the coffee company has less money for lawyers than a GMO?

          So, if farmers can unite for a weird lawsuit, why not for a proper lawsuit?
      • Mar 6 2012: Let's take this one piece at a time. First let's talk about containment of modified genes. Are you saying that there has not been contamination. That there has been no pollen drift? That there have been no spilled seeds? That GM genes have not been spread through the use of common harvesters, transporters, processors, storage facilities? If you agree that there has been contamination do see this as a problem or no problem?
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          Mar 6 2012: Gabo said,"Of course a company would not want their patented genes to go anywhere. This is why they pay good money for genetic engineers developing technologies to prevent such things. It is not to their best interests to sue farmers because their genes contaminated the farmer's seeds. If they sue, they have to make sure that they can demonstrate that the genes ware stolen. It is too easy for a farmer to show photos and genetic results (which are easy, and become very cheap) "

          Gabo, with all due respect, please do the required research before repeating these assumptions. I know to you they seem to be logically applied to morally responsible people and corporations.....however, and therefore, clear your mind of all previously sworn doctrine and with a very receptive ear and heart try to weigh the sensible, yet sinister, perspective I am about to introduce to you. DOW and MONSANTO, primarily with many other criminals included, do want the cross pollenation, in fat, they deliberately flooded the mexican seed corn market with their gmo products. Until this had happened Mexico owned the worlds most diverse number of native corn in the worldd, which has been producing fine with out all the herbicides and pesticides, some of the seed had been passed down through thousands of years by the generations before them. You see, these native people consider these seeds to be family, and like the native americans they refer to the seeds of squash, corn and beans as the three sisters. Planted in the same mound they protected each other from improper pH balance in the soil, insects that repelled by one stayed away from them all. Now this unique arrangement had life for them and all previous generations and it did not go unnoticed among them. They literally understand these plants are their parents, their cousins, grandparents, and children, no more and no less than the human counterparts of their very own families. They had no use for DOW or any one else, but ...continued below
        • Mar 8 2012: Hi Karen,

          Of course there must have been contamination. Of course I don't love the idea of contamination. But, there has always been cross-pollination among any farmed varieties and naturally-occurring ones. Only now we can detect the contamination with certainty because of the foreign genes. Do I think that the foreign genes are worse than contamination otherwise? Nope. They are just as bad. In any of those cases there is a risk of reducing genetic diversity in nature because farmed varieties would contribute most of the gene-stock, thus risking the loss of gene richness in the environment. That these are GMOs makes no difference. It is farming practices that is the problem. I would venture that, while undesirable, that these genes escaped allow us to calculate the rates of dispersion in ways that we could not do before, thus allowing us to calculate the actual rick posed by farming on natural varieties.
      • Mar 9 2012: Gabo, You've given me something to think about with your reply. it doesn't address the legal, political, economic, and health issues or even fully address contamination but it does make me think more specifically about the effects of gene contamination. As a seed producer one has to avoid contamination from not just GM, but all potential cross breeders within a certain range. If you are growing beet seed and your neighbor is letting different beets or chard flower across the fence you have a problem. But your neighbor is not going to sue you for the free contamination they provided so at least you don't have that worry. And they probably aren't growing pharmaceuticals spliced into the chard,....... or are they? Well, you are right, there are plenty of other issues of concern. Thank you for your responses , I hope we can converse about this on some other related topic in the future.
    • Mar 3 2012: Stating that a farm always has the choice in the modern world to avoid genetically modified food I think is inaccurate. The profit margin, and turnaround of genetically modified products is a driving part of there appeal and when you are faced with your livelihood being coupled with a product you do not appreciate or desire to produce, emotions increase. Do you ask your steak how long it was a cow before eating it? Or how many harvest of wheat do you want to make a year? A lot of the farmers I know grow two different crops, because most people don't ask the same questions as they ask.
      In the process of modern farming we can change a lot of aspects of the food we eat in a variety of ways at certain alternative cost.
      Having animals that produce more animal growth hormone might speed up our genetic clock too.
      Having factory like production might change some gene representation and affect the quality.
      Having pigs with less genetic diversity has made disease a bigger perceived threat.
      Changing the structures of wheat or soy might affect some of our ability to digest the products.
      On the flip side with climate less regular in the past couple years, having a crop that can withstand higher heat in the mid-west and requires less moisture would have greatly affected your ability to stay in business.
      Most avocados in the United States come from a single genetic change from one mother tree.
      We genetically make selections based of phenotypes for our pets, some of which I think are highly unethical creating a pet that has trouble breathing it's whole life, but in general I don't think the process of trying to solve food problems is unethical, just some of the practices legitimately place different premiums on different values. The food value pillars I see are sustainability, quantity, nutritional values, cost, sale price. Corporations and people see these in different light often.
      • Mar 4 2012: Hi Grant,

        I don't think that it is inaccurate to say that farmers have options, but I agree with most of what you said. Farmers look at these problems differently than I do. But I know farmers who want to produce "organic" stuff. All fine by me. It must have been very hard in the beginning. Organic food was very expensive, and very low quality, getting all mouldy within a few days. I used to say, I rather eat the one with pesticides than the one with all-natural aflatoxins. Now things are different, and farmers have found ways to protect their "organic" produce and improve quality and shelf-life. Though I think there is much better room for local economies than for economies of scale. Anyway. People are inclined to buy into sensationalism, thus a farmer who can say I use no GMOs (with proper regulations on what you can call such), could have less product, but sell for a slight higher price.

        Anyway. I think there is a need for a lot of education. My problem with GMOs is exactly the same problem with no GMOs produced for economies of scale. Too much genetic uniformity and the risks associated. A farmer might make lots more money using a genetically uniform thing because he can harvest with a machine and such, but might lose everything is some plague kills his whole product.

        Can we do something about it? I think so, but I don't think there is a definitive answer for these questions. My position though is that research in every direction should not stop. GMOs, engineered ecosystems using only "natural" stuff, whatever.

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        Mar 6 2012: but, DOW and other criminals had use for them. The seed banks were flooded with gmo hybrids which went unnoticed until later on in the growing year when the crops were not performing as hardy as usual. After looking for answers the farmers realized their native seeds had been deliberately MOLESTED and now were containing modified genes that required herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers that they have never needed before, but now their crops will not survive without them. Oh yes, it can even get worse than this! Throughout time and several seasons, as their corn and weeds and insects grow tolerance, and resistance for one another they will have to continually up the dosage of very expensive chemicals to put on the ground to protect their corn that use to do well on its own. They are witnessing the murder of their family members, the three sisters. And who must they turn to now in order to protect this mutant monster growing in their fields? The SAME criminals that illicitly raped their sisters and bore mutant seed with their gmo products are the same criminals that own the patents on the chemicals they now have to depend on to have a crop. I really don't have the time , knowledge or patience to completely bring you up to date. They did the same to the rice farmers in Cambodia, Loas, and Vietnam. It has been going on for along time, in many countries. You don't hear about it here because people here are all about profit and not love, respect and truth. I realise you maybe experiencing something very tramatic to the established paradigms of all you think and believe about this country, I know, I suffered many years ago. It is similar to the stages of terminal disease, denial, anger, acceptance and depression. Not necessarily in that order, but will necessarily occur if you connect with this truth. In my life, I refer to it as "shattered illusions", I am not the happy boy growing up on a self subsistent, hard scratch farm in Iowa. Terminally sad..
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      Mar 6 2012: Hi Tim, long time no see.

      I want to thank you also for your insight.

      It seems to me, and I'm no farmer, but I am a reader.....that those with the money, and power, and the connections pretty much always get their way.....I see the danger in what is happening.

      Many of my friends who came from living on self-sustaining family farms are at a loss here in the city.

      We have some families who have turned their back yards into mini fields and grow everything from tomatoes and peppers, to plantains, and pigeon peas. There are even a few chickens running around...although that is against city codes....but many of us wonder about what we are eating.

      It seems harder and harder to know what is IN our foods.

      I have always dreamed of living on a farm. My husband grew up on one.
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        Mar 7 2012: Hello Mary, it is good to be back. I really fell into a quagmire of anxt (sp) and anger with society in general and I was determined not to taint this community of the TED family. Spending time with you all is a pleasure that I never want to take for granted. It is true, you don't necessarily have to walk in another's shoes to know how life is. We can read or submerse ourselves in thought and contemplation with a receptive heart and allow the truth of the matter to recognize us as one who honors truth and we see lucidly what seemed cloudy before.
        Many people on the farms see in the future that Monsanto will eventually take control of all the agriculture. Once everyone is dependant on the seed and chemicals of these pioneering GMO solicitors and their patented remedies for the health of the crops then they will tell the landowners that now you will sign a contract with us and all the seed and chemicals is ours, as will be the crop production and you will farm how and what we decide or you will not have seed..Honestly, my collective intellect agrees this is a real possibility.
        As I mentioned above, the Hopi and Tibetan elders are advising us to the protection of our children. Their advice due to the late stages of this opposition we are facing is brief and to the point. I have been told to teach my children to tend their gardens and to learn how to purify water. This is a conscience rocking thought, but nevertheless, one that may make all the difference in the world for the generations yet to arrive.
        It is nice to hear from you, I hope we speak again, soon. Tim
    • Mar 8 2012: Tim,

      About GMOs and Mexico, well, I am Mexican, and I know a few research centres in Mexico working with corn, and reality if very far from what you are saying. Several research centres have seeds from many "natural" (I don't think we can call any corn natural because it does not look at all like the wild type corn relatives) varieties, we have blue corn, and other corns.

      Regardless, corn production has not been good enough in Mexico since a long time ago. Mostly because it depends on rain seasons coming on time, and other such factors. Technology is not very affordable for farmers. Poverty is the main problem. Poverty, ignorance, and lack of proper support. GMOs have nothing to do with problems of production. It is more about it being a hard life with too little in return.

      So, Mexico has imported lots of corn for many years. Many more than the commercialization of GMOs. Sad but true. With farmers in the USA now selling corn for fuel, Mexico is in big trouble. Corn is much more expensive.

      So, seems like it is now a combination of poverty, energy crisis, and lots of politics. But not GMOs.

      Don't worry about having being aggressive with me. I often am much more aggressive. So no problem.

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        Mar 8 2012: TED community does not appreciate alot of links in the conversations because of the cost of bandwidth. I have alot of respect for these people and I feel I am taking advantage of their kindness by posting these. As I stated earlier, I leave my home before six each morning to work and sometimes, like tonight, I returned at 9 pm. I don't mean to imply I have no time for our conversation but I also have a life, too. I am slightly embarrassed for you because you insist on trying to attain the bragging rights in this discussion, yet you have done little research to strengthen your position. Now you tell me you are a son of Mexico and you know little of what has been happening to them. Being a teacher or professor, as you are, I think you should have plenty of time to look this up on your own. I make time because I love the people and I am uncomfortable without trying my best to know how they are doing.
        Here is what you said, "So, seems like it is now a combination of poverty, energy crisis, and lots of politics. But not GMOs."
        Please google, GMO corn and Mexico. Read a few of the 3,400,000 articles. Some of them are even from Reuters and US NEWS, schools love those news agencies, don't they? I apologise to TED for links. no more - SimilarYou +1'd this publicly. UndoIn Mexico researchers have detected widespread contamination of traditional varieties of corn, caused by surreptitious imports of genetically engineered corn ... +1'd this publicly. UndoDec 11, 2008 – GMO Contamination in Mexico's Cradle of Corn Researchers who conducted a study confirming the presence of transgenes in Mexico's ... +1'd this publicly. UndoYes, It's True: GMOs Contaminate Mexican Corn. —By Josh Harkinson. | Tue Feb . 24, 2009 10:16 AM PST. Tweet. Ignacio Chapela In April 2002, I sat in the ...
        • Mar 8 2012: Tim,

          As I said, I am from there, I still go there, and I know the people there. I did not say there is no contamination. Apparently, a low proportion of samples have been found to have GMO-originated genes. I have no reason to doubt that this can happen. I doubt though that these genes cause low production. My issue is that GMOs have nothing to do with the situation in Mexico. I know because all of my life I have seen how farmers live in my country. Extreme poverty comes to mind. All of my life I have known that the problems for farmers producing corn are many, besides poverty, they can't sell the corn too high (listed as basic food thus controlled price, which also seems necessary, otherwise people would not have money to buy their basic food, vicious circle there). A good harvest depends on the weather being friendly, rain coming right on time, not stopping too soon, nor too late, hopefully no pests. There is no technology, or not a lot, because that costs, and there is little help. So, again, poverty and politics. GMOs have nothing to do with it.

          I also happen to know researchers there. Again, not too much money, but they protect germplasm, they collect germplasm, they work and analyze corn seeds, long et cetera. Farmers and research centres have seeds, and lots of varieties.

          I know these things myself. Not through news, not through any third sources. Directly. GMOs might be the devil if you want to think so. Their genes might be designed to destroy other varieties if you want to think so. Still, that does not mean that GMOs are the reason for production problems in Mexico. They are not.

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    Feb 29 2012: As the population of the world increases and we face increasing threats from climate change, I can definitely see the benefits of genetically modifying food to our benefit. Crops are modified for advantageous agronomic features, like hardier corn with the ability to resist droughts, weeds and pests, thus reducing chemicals and resources needed to grow them. Others are altered to produce nutrients, such as golden rice. IMO, these are huge benefits that must not be underestimated, particularly as we enter a new era of unprecedented consumption.

    That being said, genetic modification has been plagued by a plethora of controversy. Firstly, there is the threat it poses on biodiversity. A worry with the GM agricultural industry is that the modified crops and animals will impinge on flora and fauna, competing (and probably winning) for the resources required for growth.
    There is also the health issue. While a range of GM foods have been approved for consumption, it must be noted that we have not been monitoring their effects on human physiology following long-term consumption. So while current studies have shown limited or no adverse effects, we can't definitely sy that these will not appear in the future. This arises from the fact that we simply do not know enough about DNA to be able to fiddle around with it and expect that the effects of our experimentations are isolated. As pointed out by B.E. Rollins in The Frankenstein Effect (yes, I do know how biased that title sounds, so I have read the text with the proverbial grain of salt) modifications may result in artificially elevated levels of certain hormones that may be found to have carcinogenic effects.
    And who's to say that these imbalances will not effect the organism either? Particularly for sentient animals.
    Of course, GM also leads to reduced variation, which really spells the end for any species.

    Just some I thought about. Time to get back to homework.
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    Mar 4 2012: Genetic manipulation is the process by food is made insect resistant, in order to increase products and lower costs. The problem is the insect resistors are damaging humans. With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.

    Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die!

    It's genetic roulette. You can learn more about it by going to
  • Mar 6 2012: The problem IS with the industrialization of the food supply but the real issue is the political corruption and influence which is distorting the real cost of the factory food system. Through mono-culture annual food production we are losing top soil at an alarming rate - remember the Fertile Crescent? Lebanon once had huge Cypress tress - not just on their flag. Government supported big farm subsidies and artificially low energy costs are distorting the true cost of "cheap food". In the long run the industrial system is NOT sustainable. Poly-cultural perennial farming is the only long term sustainable solution.

    Is it immoral? I'm not sure if it is a question of morality more than reality. Is it immoral to rape natural resources that aren't renewable? It surely is short sighted.

    IfGMOs are not wrong, why are we so unwilling to label them even though we label for everything else (and most other countries do)? Transgenic modification is NOT the same thing as selective breeding. Understand that GMOs are based on using genes from one species in another. Like using the E-Coli virus as a carrier for genetic changes for Round Up ready crops. We don't know the long term effect but I am not willing to be a guinea pig. Remember when folks with our interest at heart pushed natural fats (like tallow) out of fast food chains in exchange for trans fats?

    Frankly, I don't buy anything that I don't know the contents of. We source most of our food locally and personally know our farmers and food. We vote with our feet and refuse to support factory farming.. I encourage everyone to become better educated on this issue - it is a matter of life and death.
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    Mar 6 2012: I think it is morally unjustifiable in the ways I've seen its results in southern Sudan. The cultivation there after all the bombing was in great danger since the rehabilitation food towards the end of assistance became more and more genetically modified. This meant that farmers could eat the grains and cereals provided but could not use the seeds from them for a future crop. So for the Sudanese there the genetically modifified food guaranteed them that for just that eating period, they could not plan for any kind of crop growth in the future. This is why the middle-aged women began to go out into the "deserted" to rediscover the original food seeds because they wanted food crops that would grow from their food consumption year after year. Later the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization realised that this was a crtical factor for sustainable development.

    The problem is, however, is that we in the developed world think our technological food seeds that resist insects, and other environmental damages comes with the consequence of non-reproduction. This forces whole populations to remain in captive need of the engineered seeds since they cannot grow these crops themselves.
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      Mar 6 2012: Ms. Johnson, thank you for this insight and education on this issue.

      It saddens me that "man's wisdom" with this issue keeps some dependent on others. Self-sufficiency is so very important.

      I will share it with my father. We have many conversations on this topic,
      as he enjoys growing his own fruits and vegetables.

      Thank you again.
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    Mar 6 2012: Tara,
    I agree that if we knew where our food came from, it would change the way we eat. I stopped eating beef and pork 9 years ago. Considering I was a self proclaimed carnivore, and a large part of my diet consisted of pork and beef, I thought the change would be difficult. However, I had recently read about factory farming, and what that entailed, along with what ground beef could consist of and it changed my constitution for eating or wanting to eat meat. So now, almost a decade later I eat only free range poultry and fish (of the small variety). I can't tell you the amount of push back I received from people for the longest time. I live in Texas! I dont usually mention my dietary change because I'm not trying to advocate or make my choice an imposition to my mammal eating family and friends, but since the topic is about GM foods, and
    Factory farming is a system that is far from a natural life course for the animals it seems lie an appropriate place to share here.
    On Western diseases and money awarded to comes down to putting a value on the population being treated and the profitability from certain procedures, drug development, etc. Is it morally justifiable? I think not, for the many people left without treatment and the approach to disease in the first place. We have a political system driven by interest groups that prefer to continue to treat disease that can be quelled more effectively by changing how our foods are produced, and making real foods available to everyone in all grocery stores nationwide. Instead, we skip the source and look for ways to treat the effects, and that is our most costly challenge for the health of western societies and the costs that are not sustainable in the healthcare arena.
    Why didn't my grandparents didn't take an arsenal of pharmaceuticals? I suspect diet played a role.
  • Mar 4 2012: GMOs are not inherently harmful. EVERYTHING is a GMO. Life creates GMOs. The misuse of them is wrong, however; RoundUp resistant crops that are drowned in pesticides are wrong. Creating crops that can not reproduce is wrong. Creating an unnecessary, false dependence on a product is wrong. GMOs are not, however, inherently wrong.
  • Mar 4 2012: GM foods and the seeding programs in place are there worst things that could ever happen.

    Lets just take the seeing programs, the GM (you know who) companies are buying up 'ordinary' seed companies to make the farms have no alternative. They have 'illegally?' dump seeds into market places, literally just dump them, and or given them away for nothing. All to get into the subscription business. They have sued and harassed farmers who cant fight back legally, due to costs. They have sued farmers who have 'illegally' grown GM plants due to wind pollination of the farmers ordinary stock. That have railed against farmers who have little or no money to pay. Many have committed suicide or gone into bankruptcy, only to have their farm to be purchased by the very company who forced the bankruptcy.

    If you have ever lived in the United states, you'll notice that cheese, milk etc dont go 'off' the longevity of these products compared to natural is well completely unnatural. I'm afraid that many citizens of the United States are literally guinea pigs for this type of business and have no choice, nor no recourse.

    Further if we consider our health we have to remember that we eat every day, those products are in us, they are (in a natural circumstance) there to give us energy. We have little or no understanding what effect, there have been no long terms studies on the effect of these foodstuffs. Maybe we dont need them, its clear and apparent to all who (pardon the pun Charles) do their homework that residents of the US of A are are among the largest group of peoples needing prescription drugs out there.

    And since your from Cambridge, I suggest to you that you should look back not to far in the UK's own history, to where there were funeral pyres stacked hundreds high of cows that were burned, as it was felt that was the best solution.

    Those same people who said it was ok, then recanted and realized that the ashes were contaminated too.

    Those are just SOME of issues.
  • Mar 4 2012: What every one is overlooking or ignoring is the fact that everything on the shelves in our grocery stores has been genetically modified. Everything. Do a Google search if you don't think so.
    Without GM we would starved half of the worlds people by now.
    Without it we will not be able to feed 9 M people that are going to be born in the next few years.
    Do any of you want any of your children to starve?
    The debate is a fools tempest in a tea pot.
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      Mar 4 2012: Maybe it's true that in the US everything on the shelves of the grocery stores is genetically modified because there isn't any sufficient regulation from the government. In Europe this is completely different. Unfortunately US citizens could be the guinea pigs in this.
      It is a case of common sense that if Monsanto modify plants to be insensitive to the herbicide Roundup they produce that the plants are taken this poison up. Bees that pollinate those plants die off because of it and would you think this to be harmless to human beings.
      There’s much more to be said but this should be enough to be alarmed. Ignorance is dangerous.
      • Mar 4 2012: Hi Frans,

        I think Joe's point was not about gene-splicing genetic modifications, but about breeding. Everything we eat has been selected, crossed, recrossed, reselected. ALl so much that we don't find corn as we eat in nature, nor wheat, nor most stuff. Thus everything is genetically modified to produce more and better (depending on our definition of better, I guess).
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          Mar 5 2012: Could be Gabo. I don't know how you formulate selective breeding in English but didn't think this to be the subject. To manipulate (modify) a gene is something different than to select on special features to reproduce.

          A fools tempest in a tea pot is a misleading statement for one of the biggest threats to our future.
    • Mar 5 2012: I shop at a different store. Not everything there has even been domesticated. I have two children who know how to grow food, I hope they do not starve but I suppose that is a possibility in a world with limited resources. I also hope they are not poisoned by environmental toxins. Humans are remarkably resourceful and inventive. Gene splicing holds both promise and danger. One problem is the financial incentive to ignore danger. How many doctors recommend your brand of cigarettes? Oops! That was a mistake. Rather than rushing to introduce more untested foods into our bellies I would prefer to educate women and provide family planning services to stem the growing number of eaters and polluters and resource users that arrive on the planet every year. Babies are so cute, aren't they. I think we should leave room for the other non-human and mostly not- modified- by- man life forms to live well also.
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      Mar 7 2012: this is to Joe Redburn

      I would like to know who told you this earth cannot support natural foods for nine billion people, please.

      I am guessing that if we quit wasting billions of acres planting rotting corpses in our cemeteries, which are also polluting our ground water, Maybe we could grow enough food to feed twenty billion people if we put gardens in place of the golf courses, sports arena or the seventy per cent of this nation the federal government has taken back from private ownership by calling them wetlands, or state parks. Please think about it, there is no way on earth or in this universe that not having enough food is a legitimate concern. The people selling you those foods are the ones creating the fear mongering. This world and country in particular really need to start answering for themselves all these conflicting truths presented by our "higher?" learning institutes.
      Another thing, what is up with all these americans watering their lawns and then mowing their grass? What good is a green lawn doing for your children, or their children? Why are we allowing power companies to dam the rivers for hydro-electric power we could have substituted with solar and wind over a hundred years ago. Those same people filling your mind with these unsubstantiated fears are the ones who are selling us their antiquated energy sources while they rape this earth and take home the profits.
      This planet will grow enough food for anyone and everyone, without gmo's, or irrigated fields and dammed, I am not fearful of my children starving, frankly, I think there are much more sinister and crippling concerns facing the world than starvation. Number one being, stop hauling ten billion pounds of food waste to our landfills every day and shut down the fast food nation by not cooperating with them.
      ....The Hopi and the Tibetan elders tell us to teach our children to tend their gardens and to purify water. This is sound advice.
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        Mar 7 2012: I want you to know Tim, that I am not an alarmist......but I see the writing on the wall.

        Our family eats as close to natural as possible. We stay on the perimeter of our supermarket and do not venture into the aisles filled with processed foods unless it is for pasta or rice and beans.

        We have stopped frequenting fast food places.

        Your view and insight sounds very sensible to me as it has the ring of truth.

        Just who will solve what ails mankind??? This is serious stuff. People in general are oblivious to what is going on. How very sad.

        Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and ideas with us.
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      Mar 7 2012: Big seed companies ignored evidence showing it is possible to solve the world's food crisis without the use of GM crops or fertilisers

      Learn more:
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      Mar 7 2012: GMO's have surprisingly mediocre effects on food production. The insect repelling varieties have turned out to be vulnerable to other ailments. The famous round up ready crops are being taken over by weeds that have grown resistant to round up. As for crops resistance to drought or frost, the selectively bred crops do perform quite well. Furthermore, there are alternative crops that suit those climates. (for instance, a local farmer in my area has culantro plants, which are a hardy drought tolerant plant that tastes like cilantro.)

      Side Note: I do not consider selectively bred crops to be genetically modified. The claim that GM is no different than selective breeding is biotech PR dribble.

      Furthermore, I would like to point out that starvation is not a problem of production, it is a problem of distribution. We already make far more than enough food to feed everybody. It is mostly fed to animals. In fact, if you look back at the green revolution when traditional farming was transformed into modern agribusiness, technology did not reduce hunger. Fertilisers, Pesticides and industrial farm equipment greatly increased food production, but during that time hunger increased, despite increases in food production.

      Increasing production will not cause poor people to be a market that can be profited from. Higher production means cheaper food, which only made it more viable to feed that food to live stock so more money could be made of wealthier populations. Hunger is caused by a complicated mess of centralised agribusiness, IMF imposed policies forcing cash crops for foreign markets, and the practice of dumping subsidised food on world markets. (Not to mention wars and global warming)

      How is adding another level of centralised control over the food system through GMO licensing supposed to alleviate this problem?

      In short, if you believe GMO's are going to save us from world hunger, then I have a bridge to sell you.
    • Mar 7 2012: @ Redburn,

      GMO crops were not introduced until 1997. Since then there has been a nominal increase in the trend-line yield, not anything significant relative to the yield increases since the 1950's. There were approx. 6 billion people living in the late 1990's. To suggest "half the population would be starving" without GMO is complete fiction.

      Aside, the United States commits over 40% of the nation's corn crop, over 5 billion bushels and ~50 million acres of the world's finest farmland, to ethanol production to be blended into the gasoline supply.

      If there was any genuine concern for food shortage, burning half the country's largest crop every year would be unthinkable.

      Lastly and most importantly, Monsanto's flagship variants were the Roundup Ready glysophate-tolerant product line. After less than 15 years, nature is already adapting around it, as numerous areas are now reporting mutated 'weeds' that have achieved their own glysophate tolerance, forcing Monsanto to move to a new line with new herbicides. This will continue, the broad spectrum ecological costs over the long term are unknown. but that is of secondary concern to me in regards to the long term physiological affects on human consumption. It is without question that we are collectively the guinea pigs for potentially horrible side effects.

      We can and will do just fine without GMO. And we should!

      (edit- a thought experiment for you. Let's suppose you were right, or partially right. Let's suppose 7 billion is the threshold for human population without the contribution of GMO food. Every soul from 7 billion forward will be dependent upon GMO for their survival. Fast forward 30 years to a 9 billion population. We now have 2 billion people who are dependent on Monsanto for their existence. Some poor decision makers take over the board, gamble off the revenues on derivatives, or steal it, whatever. Now 2 billion people die if they fail to deliver seed? Is that not near infinite power in corporate hands?
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        Mar 7 2012: The first GM crops were actually introduced in the late 1940s but at that time there was no legal requirement to tell us. The wheat in your bread is all GM. Back then they did it by exposing embryos to radiation to alter their genes and then growing them out to see what happened. Some of them grew with increased yield so they became commercial strains. If you really want to eat non GM wheat you will have to get some pre-WW2 seed stock out of a long term storage facility. If there is one? It's all on the record Gabo. You don't need to know how something wroks to know that it works.
        • Mar 8 2012: I believe there are still heirloom seeds somewhere, but yes, modern wheat has very little resemblance to natural wheat. And your point raises the broader question of what is genetic modification in strict definition. My concern (although I have completely eliminated all wheat from my own diet) is of the more recent foray into actual gene splicing to introduce foreign substances into the life cycle of the plant. The Bt varieties generate their own pesticide inside the plant, and at least one small study has shown the gene can cross into the human digestive system, and continue to replicate- producing pesticide in your body for the rest of your life.

          The assumption that this wouldn't cause health problems for anyone is predicated on one premise- it would cost a great deal of money and take a lot of time to research it thoroughly and objectively. There is no incentive to do so. That is the mindset of GMO producers and their regulators- get it to market and we will see what happens.

          I do not support this approach when dealing with something as pervasive and essential as the world's food supply. Rigorous, exhaustive, objective research must occur first.
        • Mar 8 2012: That's just impossible there was no technology to produce GMOs back in the 1940s. The technologies are much newer than that. Come on, the structure of DNA was not solved but until 1953.
  • Mar 3 2012: I am not very well educated on a lot of issues, but everyone has an opinion right? I feel that it very much depends on how you wish to define morally, Could it be dependent on the Morality of the chooser? If so, Morality at its core, is about survival, at least to my understanding, so If that were the case then would our survival depend on Genetically modified food? I don't believe so, but Then again it would also depend on what kind of GM foods, how they were modified and the things of that sort, Could they be dangerous? will the have the possibility of having long term effects that are unforseen like in plastic. I feel that If humanity went back to a bit more veggie rich diet, we couldnt need to modify animals to meet our intensive demand for meat, meaning we would need less grain to feed then, giving us more and more land to grow good food with, so I feel that if we looked more into the efficiency of food production without the need for artificial enhancements we could probably just restructure how we grow our foods and not really need to play god with them for now, but thats just my opinion.
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    Mar 2 2012: Genetically modified food is not morally justifiable as it causes may health problems. Industrialization of food production is OK up to the point it becomes genetically modified.
    • Mar 3 2012: Why? What's wrong with genetic manipulation?
  • Mar 2 2012: Genetically modifying everything in is on our horizons. And I think there are several problems that will come forth that this is our only solution too. Understanding how things react and getting data so we maintain our strengths.

    That being said we certainly don't want the damage to affect those that aren't willing to participate. For options like space flight modifying the creatures we have to produce food would greatly extend our range and the necessary manipulation.

    Making sure we take care of all the important aspects of food is also of crucial importance, from taste to nutrition to calories to impact on the world when we release them from a laboratory setting. I do not believe modifying the genetics in and of itself is immoral, as nature does it(as has man for centuries with domestic animals), but we do have to be careful to study and control some of the unintended consequence of our actions.

    We are new to the game and nature has billions of years head start, lets study the master and proceed with care.

    One last note the quality of GM foods today is not necessarily what we will see in the future just like the poor quality electronics we saw made in the early 80s is nothing compared to the electronics we see today. As our knowledge and the problems become evident I think we will solve them, but not as quick as we would like to.
    • Mar 4 2012: Not only does nature have a "head start" but nature knows a lot more than we do. We don't know what we don't know and studying nature with our learned biases may not help.
  • Mar 2 2012: We have been modifying food sources from the time we started intermittent agriculture and animal domestication, often for a specific purpose that we have decided upon. The addition of G to the M is another attempt to do the same. Unfortunately, we currently possess imperfect knowledge on the effects of these modifications. Nature has had millions of years in which to 'weed' out the versions that are not viable, yet we are trying to produce the same effects in an extremely limited time.

    The assumption that being able to print out a plant's or animal's genome confers absolute knowledge of that genome is premature, at best, and dangerous at worst. Genes express themselves in many ways, with many connections that are still unknown to us. Current medical information indicates that the expression can also be time sensitive.

    Morally justifiable is a very subjective statement. If GM crops are offered to alleviate obvious shortfalls, then that can be justifiable. If they are patented so no one can use them without permission and payment, is that justifiable?

    Many GM crops that I have heard of are modified more to accepting of higher levels of ambient fertilizer use and/or herbicide resistance, rather than nutritive value and/or direct predator resistance. To me, that is the morally unjustifiable aspect of GM foods. Especially if the patentor is also the manufacturer of fertilizer or herbicide.

    'Natural' crops have arrived where they are through a 100 million year long 'war' with the creatures that prey upon them, much as we have developed resistances to disease and parasites. Perhaps our inablility to wait, and seeing only the profit motivation is the morally unjustifiable action.
  • Mar 1 2012: My middle school students tackled this question last year in a Socratic Seminar. After much reading and discussion, their concensus was no. They felt there is enough "natural" food being produced in the world today to feed everyone. Work needs to be put into ensuring food production systems are efficient and effective. I tend to agree with them. GM is not morally justifiable because it is unnecessary.
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    Feb 26 2012: Whatever we feel in regard to eating animals now, The future will be determined by the need for maximizing our resources. Animals used for food are much less productive in terms nutrition value relative to energy input. See (Future Shock" by Alvin Tofler).
    Eventually, I suspect we will all eat raw food produced in factories from all kinds of vegetation without cooking. It will be delicious as the combinations of flavors would be limitless,
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    Feb 26 2012: You might start by asking are we morally justified to eat animals regardless of whether they are specially bred or GM.

    All domestic animals have been specially bred over thousands of years. GM is just the next stage.

    If we can afford non animal substitutes and our nutrition needs can be met, is it ethical to eat meat?
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    Feb 25 2012: IMHO, GM is not morally justifiable and we do not have the right to manufacture animals for food or any other reason (like fur). Our bodies do not physically require animal meat to survive. Also, we do not yet know the long term health effects of eating GM foods.
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    Feb 25 2012: This question came along before.
    Maybe you look in to it.

    Google on "Monsanto" to see why their policies are one of the major threats for a sustainable future.
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    Feb 24 2012: Anything is morally justifiable, which should tell you not to trust morality.
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    Mar 8 2012: I read not so long ago that the food being shipped to third world countries as part of relief efforts was not meeting basic nutritional standards, and the children were fed but was a letter written to Hillary Clinton by a government official asking that food aid be that with appropriate nutritional ingredients for the sake of providing what it was meant for. I wish I remembered where I read it.
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    Mar 8 2012:

    An example of how antibiotics affect humans, when bacterial infection jumps from human to animal and back to human, leaving an evolved superbug resistant to many antibiotics due to repeated exposure.
  • Mar 7 2012: Education to consumers, long-terms studies of effects, and ongoing conversations will go a long way in adding clarity to this issue.
  • Mar 7 2012: Ok you want alarmist, this is it. The end game of GM companies is to control the very land and have the "farmers" work for them.

    Look at ADM/Monsanto and how they now own vast tracts of land. Look at how in the US it's either becoming or become illegal, yes federal prison, if you take a photo of a cattle farm. The same is true for chicken farms too. They dont want you knowing whats going on in there. Its not only GM is the complete food production cycle.

    The reality is that to own the production of food is power, its control, on a global scale. And if you nor the government obey, by definition with GM seeds you're always one harvest away from forced starvation.

    Do you think they care about you?

    look for the documentary "The world according to monsanto" it says it all.
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    Mar 7 2012: ( cable reveals U.S. conspired to retaliate against European nations if they resisted GMOs Learn more:
    There is nothing more I can say on this issue. The information is available to people who want the truth. I know many people secretly, maybe even subconsciously, do not want the truth. Shattered illusions are a traumatic experience and afterwards you will be forced to change your life in order to protect the generations to come. Life may become lonely and frustrating as people you know, along with strangers will label you as an alarmist, a conspiracy theoristic nut, and someone who only wishes to demonize corporations that only wish to provide food for us...because U.S. corporations really care. I mean, after all, they gave blankets to the native americans, didn't they? And the invading european terrorist that gave the blankets had a U.S. city and college named in his memory. What a fine gentleman that Amhearst (sp) guy was. The truth is not always pretty, easy or safe (just ask Assange and Ofc. Bradley Manning) and whether any of you want to admit it or not, truth is the only way to build a strong spirit, a spirit that will help you transcend all of your fears of personal preservation, with a love of the future generation'a children. All of our problems today are the direct result of past generations un-willingness to confront truth and to love their children more than they loved their own life, (or wasting their days watching sports on TV). Put your money where your heart is...

    It is 5:45 am and I have alot of work to do today. I hope the right decision becomes easier for all of us as we contemplate our choices.
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    Mar 7 2012: Frans, I think Joe was referring to the extensive random iradiation experiments done buy the Nazis in the 1930s. Since this time all grain crops grown world wide (especially in Europe) have been GM.
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    Mar 6 2012: I also posted below in "out of order" places. I wanted to reply but I could not shut up in two thousand characters! I am shameful.....please! somebody stop me, hehe
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    Mar 6 2012: I just recieved this letter today. My heart is heavy with concern for our children. It is this way that I am in emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually that required my latest sabbatical from TED these past several weeks. When I am struggling with the truth of the 'state of affairs' I sometimes become short with people, when this is the last thing Tim, the being, would ever consciously allow. I would rather lose my mind and have my tongue cut out of my mouth than to ever offend any of you in our conversations. How can I visit these warm fires surrounded by such compassionate and intelligent people if I cannot trust myself to treat you all in the same care that I wish to be warmed by? I am a stable individual, more so than the average, perhaps. I am completely aware of my levels of anxiety that sometimes peak when I am deluged by the lies and murder being committed by the newest "people" members of our society, the corporations. I may sound like an alarmist. I am also sure, that if, those who recieve me as an alarmist knew that their bed was on fire and their children's lives were at risk, they would be sounding the alarm, too.

    and Gabo,please accept my sincere apology for speaking short a couple of times in my posts. It is never about being right and I forget this sometimes when my mind, in its anger, is allowing my mouth to go out on walks without the good counsel and companionship of my heart.

    March 6, 2012

    Dear Tim,

    Is your food going to be sprayed with Agent Orange?

    It sounds like a supervillain's plot, but sadly, it's not. A new genetically engineered variety of corn from Dow is designed to be resistant to a component of Agent Orange. Tell the USDA not to approve this crop!

    Right now, Dow's Agent Orange corn is being rubberstamped through the approval process at USDA. It has not been adequately tested for our health or safety, and it should not be approved. We have until February 27 to tell the USDA to reject Agent Orange corn.
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    Mar 6 2012: No.....and no.......and finally no.
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    Mar 6 2012: HOT OFF THE DEMONIZING SENSATIONALISTIC PRESS!!>Branstad Defends So-Called "Ag Gag" Law Gov. Terry Branstad is defending his decision to sign into law a measure making Iowa the first state where it's a crime to lie in order to gain access to a livestock operation to record animal abuse.
    >Wal-Mart is expected to begin selling genetically modified sweetcorn, this month, without labels identifying it as such. Most countries in Europe do not allow GM crops and foods without truth in labelling because they have tested it. We in the USA don't know whether it is good or bad because the FDA does not require testing it before feeding it to our children, congress decided that gmo's are natural foods and "there's no need to test something natural".
    >Europe has put our soy bean farmers in a pinch because they are refusing to accept our genetically modified soy meal and this is causing an abundance of soy meal in the USA and the prices are going to drop for the soy bean because fewer and fewer countries are allowing their food manufacturers to purchase genetically modified soy beans, because THEY have tested them! We still don't. And guess what? It is not their children they are worried about, because they would never allow their children to eat gm products. No, it's their live stock and pets that consume soy meal, and they refuse to let their pets or livestock eat what we are putting on the shelves of Wal-Mart for our children to eat.
    >All the educated americans know more about the life history of some college quarter back better than they know the history of the food they feed their children. I am not directing any of this to you, Gabo
    iI guess being a college professor you are aware of Obama's appointment to direct the FDA, right? Yeah, the ex-CEO of our good neighbor, MONSANTO! How convenient. Do you also know who the CEO of MONSANTO was at the time congress was bribed into allowing ASPARTAME to be labelled as a food additive? Donald Rumsfeld, another good neighbor.
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      Mar 6 2012: This is incredible.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Just yesterday at the grocery store some elderly people asked me if I knew what was in a box they were holding in their hands. "Fake sugar" I replied......I personally don't touch the stuff.

      Then I proceeded to share with them what I had learned from the conversation on TED on Aspartame.

      How timely!! Thank you Tim.
  • Mar 3 2012: Hi Charles,

    We've been genetically modifying species for thousands of years. How many of the common farm plants and animals do you think existed 10,000 years ago?

    Best wishes,
    • Mar 3 2012: I do not think we have been genetically modifying species for thousands of years, We have been using artificial selection to guide genetics but that is not modification that's more of genetic "steering". And If evolution is right well none of todays plants or animals existed 10,000 years ago, that happens by a natural process, There is a very distinct line between modification/manipulation and motivation/steering. In my opinion. I am not saying that we did not guide species because we did, but animals from 10,000 years ago would naturally be vastly different just as you are vastly different than you were 5 years ago and 5 years before that and so on.
    • Mar 4 2012: I think Harvey's right here, there is a difference between genetic modification, splicing genes from different spectrums on the animal kingdom: for example the infamous insertion of human insulin producing genes into bacteria for production, and artificial selection which involves picking out favourable characteristics within a species. However I do agree that human intervention at this scale is also questionable. The phrase "playing God" is often used to describe manipulation at this level, but personally I see it as an accelerated form of natural selection, as characteristics which humans favour are often advantageous for the species itself and would come into being in the long run anyway.
      • Mar 4 2012: What would be wrong if we produced insulin in Bacteria? (It failed because Bacteria don't do some important modifications to insulin, but I don't see why if Bacteria were able to produce it correctly we should not do so. Today several human proteins are produced in insect cells cultivated in kind of fermentation reactors. So, is that wrong?)

        (I am asking for clarification.)
    • Mar 4 2012: Doug
      The genetic modification that is happening now is far different than in the past, as mentioned above. In addition they are now attaching manmade substances like Roundup to seeds, the end products of which have not been proven safe for human consumption over the long haul. And of course there is the issue of labeling. None of this addresses whether GMOs are "evil" in and of themselves, I realize. But can a thing be ethical or unethical, or is its use the correct object of discussion?
  • Feb 26 2012: To answer your 1st point... I do not know exactly to what extend GM is morally justifiable. It is sad that some poor farmers are not allowed to reuse the GM seeds and get dependent to the people selling the seeds. Should GM be patentable? It is sad that we are selling GM food without really knowing the impact it has on our body on the long term. now of course, Pesticides are not a good alternative to GM. I can see some good points in The idea of GM food. Are they enough good points to allow it to grow in a uncontrolled way without further researches in a crucial point. Can we avoid the industrial food production? How? Or could we produce a mass of food ethically? Because if we can find alternative solutions, then we should work to apply them. So, i think we could try and grow our own food as much as possible. We could apply ecological solutions on farms.

    2nd point, I think occidentals often eat too much meat. Also, For me it is clear that too often the production of meat on a large scale is too often unmoral. I do eat regularly meat but I try to limit my quantities and avoid industrial production... But that has a price in occidental countries. In Asia people eat more variety of food, including insects for example. Sounds disgusting to many but it is very nourishing and more ecological too.
    Ideally, I personally like the idea of eating food that is close to what we would have eaten before the invention of agriculture. Adding to that diet, rice and potatoes that are very ancient food, consumed before wheat, to make it more affordable. That is also because my body does not tolerate wheat, yeast, dairies, saturated fat in the quantities we often consume them daily.

    Once I told my daughter (6) "you know it is very expensive to eat non GM, non treated food" and she said:" well some people could have more plants at home and eat from them. It could be not so expensive. But often people don't take the time to do so. Why?" +she loves eating cooked larvae, I don't ;)
  • Feb 25 2012: All farm animals have been bred for food production I find nothing wrong with that. How we treat animals is very important. We must respect the animals from birth right through to slaughter. Transporting animals over hundreds of miles is totally unethical in my view, as is confining sows for the whole of their lives in crates so small they cannot turn around. Fortunately in this country sow stalls have been eliminated, but there are still many producers in Europe who still use them. As an aside, Belgian Blue is not very good beef because the rump is so over developed that the muscle fibres are far too coarse.
    The butcher that we get our meat from buys from local farmers and slaughters animals locally. All the meat comes from a named farm.

    Regarding GM I would rather eat crops that have had one gene changed to protect the plant from disease, rather than spraying them with herbicides. In anything there are advantages and disadvantages and this is true of food. The things that we eat are foods whose benefits far outweigh their disadvantages, but all foods have an adverse effect on our bodies. I do not believe in super foods.
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    Feb 25 2012: As long as the animals are treated well while they are alive , i think its alright.
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    Feb 24 2012: GM is not inherently bad. The problem is in the way intellectual property determines the direction of research, and the general lack research into the effects of GMOs in the ecosystem and the body. Research is needed, but the IP laws need to be changed to allow public institutions to do that research without the interference of the biotech industry. Because all the research is done in the private sector the emphasis is on researching how to create a profitable product, and not on the consequences.

    As it stands now the biotech industry has managed to dupe many politicians into thinking that GMOs are inherently safe with the ludicrous statement "genetic engineering is no different than selective breeding", so they think there is no need for testing. (at least in north america).

    As for the industrialisation of food production, it is necessary to fit in with the economics of our time. For instance, the organic food movement was supposed to get us away from industrialised food. However, as the demand for organic food grew companies figured out how to grow within the confines of organic certification in an industrialised system. When an enormous grocery chain wants fresh organic spinach in every store across the country, it takes industrialisation to meet that order of hundreds of tonnes of spinach. Eating local breaks the cycle of industrialised food production, but there are a lot of people to feed like that, and I'm not sure its possible for everybody to do.
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    Feb 24 2012: I have no problem with GM.
    Just depends on the quality and taste and ecological impact whether I'll consume it or not.

    As for ways of production: what if we can make food through GM bacteria or yeasts, or get meat-flavored veg? Wouldn't that improve ethics, as it might make unethical farming obsolete.
    (though I still think farming for meat as such is not unethical, especially if the general well-being of the animal is ok)
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      Feb 24 2012: Excellent! We need more people like you willing to allow us to study the long-term effects of GM foods on the human body. Thank you! =)
    • Feb 26 2012: Meat-flavored veg sounds like decaffeinated coffee. Mere falsehood. If I were to become a vegetarian, I would become a vegetarian. I detest the lack of commitment of such ideas as false meat, false coffee, false anything. Let's have more character and do what we say we do, instead of looking for consolation prizes.


      Anyway, let's go back to topic. Unfortunately it seemed to be about GM food, but it centres around GM animals for food. Overall, I donut see anything wrong with GM organisms. Not anything morally wrong with GM organisms either. If the term "morally" is here because this is about animals, well, then anything with them would be in focus rather than just whether we make them GM, right? So, the topic becomes quite confusing. Anyway, since I see nothing morally wrong about eating meat, I immediately have no problem with GM animals whatsoever. If the question was something like "is GM food justifiable?" I would say, I lean towards a "no." I think there are many things we could do better before attempting GM organisms. I might be wrong, but GM immediately reminds me of common problems with genetically-uniform crops, and such, which means that for GM to work well we might need to do a lot of work to ensure non-uniformity, which for GMOs should be quite tricky. Then we have the problem of overuse of pesticides, which GM crops might help solve, but, again, what happens with the genetic uniformity? But maybe there are other ways for dealing with pests that don't involve pesticides ... we have to learn a heck of a lot, and I might be wrong, and it looks quite complicated, but I, again, lean to thinking that we don't need GM food. But I am far from demonizing it. Demonizing it is just ignorant.
      • Mar 7 2012: "Demonizing it is just ignorant.".

        Trusting that GM is safe until proven otherwise is just ignorant.

        It is profitable for the producers, the farmers, the food processors, and thus the end user. There is no incentive to challenge its safety, and a tremendous disincentive to do so.

        In 1998 (coincident with the widespread introduction of GMO) I went from extremely healthy to extremely sick. For the following ten years, something ate holes in my digestive tract. After dozens of surgeries and countless months in hospitals, and years of constant pain, I removed all GMO and secondary GMO (grain-fed dairy and livestock) from my diet. A couple months later my health returned.

        Yes, this could be coincidence. How do I know though? There's no test for GMO sensitivity because it's assumed by "science" that there is no such thing. I don't show up in any statistical table for research on the subject, nor does anyone else, because there is none. If there's 100,000 like me, dying from GMO (perhaps), would that register as anomalous? No. A million? Maybe, but probably not. Spikes in autism, diabetes, chronic digestive problems, who is doing the research? A handful of, as you put it, "sensationalist" fringe groups. Who else? Nobody.

        So please, spare me the "nothing wrong with GMO, we're certain, because we've never looked" mangling of logic. When you create a plant to manufacture its own pesticide (i.e. Bt Corn, etc) and provide it for mass consumption, you better have a hell of a lot of research behind it before hand. And we don't. And the history of herbicide use proves time and again (agent orange, DDT's, dozens more) that the testing happens after the long wait for the obvious-in-hindsight connections, and massive class action lawsuits finally bring the "scientists" up to speed with what the sick and dying have to figure out first. The hard way.
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          Mar 7 2012: Unfortunately you can't test for GM. There is no uniform difference to test for. The processes used also occur spontaneously in nature. That's where the idea came from. It is quite common for micro-organisms to splice DNA into other cells.
    • Mar 4 2012: Christopher, "Just depends on quality and taste and ecological impact"? Didn't you forget harmfulness to human health? You do know that long term studies on how GMOs, promoted by Monsanto and other chemcial houses, affect your health are nonexistent.