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Links With Your Coffee - Saturday

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  • Ethical and Practical Issues of GMOs (the must read link of the day)

    I'm surprised how many opponents of GMOs fail to make arguments based on reliable evidence but instead resort to a noun and a verb and Monsanto.

  • punisher_skull.jpgThe Moral Life of Babies (The Punisher)
    Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head.
  • Just Call it a Tussle
  • Close encounters of the weird kind: Quick guide to the Neandertal genome
  • Nine Questions, Nine Answers
    This is not an easy blog to write. Doctors Novella and Gorski want the entries to be formal, academic, referenced, with a minimum of snark. For the most part I comply. But sometimes. Sometimes. It is hard, so hard, not to spiral into sarcastic diatribes over the writings that pass for information on the interwebs. How should one respond to profound ignorance and misinformation? I wish, sometimes, that I could be an irascible computer as well. What brings on this particular bit of angst is a bit of whimsy on the Internet called “9 Questions That Stump Every Pro-Vaccine Advocate and Their Claims.” by David Mihalovic, ND. Mr. Mihalovic identifies himself as “a naturopathic medical doctor who specializes in vaccine research.” However, just where the research is published is uncertain as his name yields no publications on Pubmed. BTW. I specialize in beer research. Same credentials.

 

Comments

I wonder if anyone considered Jethro Tull unethical. Rumor has it, he died a very rich man.

Re: Moral Life of Babies

Fun story, cute kids. It struck me as odd that the person offering the babies the choice of puppets or stuffed animals at the end of each experimental trial knew which was the "good" puppet or the "good" bunny. Seems like an obvious flaw in the experimental design to me - an obvious opportunity for the experimenters to unconciously offer cues to the babies.

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Re: moral life of babies

I helped run these studies and the experimenter who offered the infants a choice of which toy they wanted to play with was in fact blind. There just wasn't space/time in such a short pop-press article to describe the many controls controls that were run alongside the main finding.

I must say this ongoing GMO argument thing is beginning to remind me of that Errol Morris movie Mr Death. If you haven't seen it, you should. Not because it's really relevant, but just because it's a great movie.

This debate is reminding me of it in the sense that I feel like one side is being sucked into a world where they are welcomed with open arms, become believers in something, and leave their skepticism at the door. They wouldn't normally so easily (because they're smart people), but they find new friends coming out of the woodwork and new sources of information that reiterate their view at every turn (how did they miss all this evidence before, hiding in plain site!?).

Maybe Mr. Death is less what it feels like than, say, the 9/11 "truthers" or people in the anti-vaccine movement. Like they do some googling, and suddenly they find all these people they never knew about who agree with them and make ever-more convincing arguments, they find a whole host of books that backup and give evidence of their view, and now they've found a new in-group. They are now true-believers themselves and there's no turning back, to do so seems unthinkable knowing what they know now. Everyone who disagrees with them or points to counter evidence is immediately wrong and probably trying to cover up their own ignorance by pointing fingers and calling names rather than looking at the REAL evidence!

So at this point, depending on which side you're on, you think I'm describing the other side. But personally, I'm describing the pro-GMO camp. Yeah, that's right, I'm saying the self-proclaimed "pro-science" camp is increasingly reminding me of the anti-science crowds of other movements. I think they have made the less convincing argument. I've read all the comments and when BigDaddy posts links about how Monsanto is using PR muscle to publish studies that backup their PR claims (ones which Norm had pointed to as evidence) and then Norm rebuts with a snarky comment saying "there, I made Monsanto bold for you"... wtf is that? As if saying "you're resorting to 'noun and verb with Monsanto'" as a rebuttal is actually a rebuttal. Sorry, you're not being very convincing. And the fact is that Monsanto is the main player in this exciting new world of what could someday maybe possibly be awesome if we could just get all these people who want starving kids to die out of the way. Um, if they (Monsanto) are evil liars, it's kinda like, ya know, relevant, seeing as they are the primary player here. If they are the Exxon, creating front groups to produce science that discredits Global Warming science with their own special science, then that's again, relevant. It'd be like if every time someone mentioned Bush while criticizing his policies they were immediately slapped down with a simple "there you go, bringing up Bush again! you're out!" huh? It's an essential part of the equation here.

Meanwhile, I frequently see all of the pro-posts acknowledging the myriad of problems with going down the rabbit hole of GMO, then immediately discounting them as if it's a forgone conclusion by anyone rational that those problems must be left off the table because of the potential benefits. Well, to many people, it's not a foregone conclusion. We look at the evidence and go "ok, there are some clear benefits that could be great. there are also a shit-ton of problems which have not been addressed. the possible benefits do not outweigh the actual problems, much less the possible problems."

Every time Norm says things like "you shouldn't watch Food, Inc." (even if he wishy washily backtracks later) he loses credibility to me. And seems more like Mr. Death, who unwittingly became an evil's biggest defender.

I frequently see all of the pro-posts acknowledging the myriad of problems with going down the rabbit hole of GMO, then immediately discounting them as if it's a forgone conclusion by anyone rational that those problems must be left off the table because of the potential benefits

And we shouldn't have gone down the rabbit hole of pharmaceuticals, or of transportation, or any number of technological solutions to problems because corporations take advantage, because they play a part in the process, that they make profits, that they use their size and to abuse the system. No sir, we should forgo any scientific advance in any field where a corporation makes money. Well, I wouldn't want to burst your bubble but the corporations are making a killing off of the organic food movement, and you go to the store with friends of the earth cap on and buy the products. The problem is corporatism not GMOs. No one is saying, certainly not me that the problems should be left off the table, they most certainly need to be addressed, but addressing them doesn't mean not pursuing a promising technology. Genetically modifying an organism is not a product but a process. It is a process that can be used by corporations, of course. But it is also a process that can be used by others for the public good. The problems in industrial agriculture existed long before GMOs came on the scene, and would currently exist GMOs or not. The fact that similar problems exists in every other area where corporations are dominant.

You're right though the conspiracy theorists are out in force they have their boogeyman, Monsanto controls everything, all the scientists, all the studies. Pam Ronald who wrote tomorrows table doesn't really teach a UC Davis she's secretly controlled by Monsanto, and Nina Federoff, who received in 2006 the National Medal of Science in the field of Biological Sciences, the highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research in the United States, is a dup for Monsanto.

Your right though the confirmation bias is problem for all of us, and the sense of belonging to a group can color one's views. So ask yourself what is more likely that someone who has been a lifetime fan of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, etc. learns that they may be wrong about something changing their mind or looking for information to confirm their bias. I donate my money to such groups because I believe they are right about most things, but when the facts lead me to a different point of view I go with the facts.

So, If I were to ask you what evidence you would need to see to convince yourself that pursuing GMOs is a good, what would you say?

If Monsanto and other large corporations didn't exist would you still be opposed to GMOs?

It is a process that can be used by corporations, of course. But it is also a process that can be used by others for the public good

and who might these "others" be?.

hey! fucking with my (harmless innocent) post! i object! i'm sure it was an accident, please fix. slippery slope, etc. etc.

so (assuming that was norm sticking his nose in my post there) does this mean you do not define the controllers of the hawaiian papaya growing INDUSTRY to be corporate?

I'm confused. Did someone add things to your first post?

everything that involved caps, doofus. :)

you don't use caps? I never noticed that that was your thing.

sorry about the "doofus". i've never seen that happen before, here or anywhere else. i don't even know how it was done. i'd like it undone, and i don't want to have to start thinking about doctored posts being a problem worth, uh, thinking about.

no offence taken at the doofus comment because you followed it with a smile. :) Maybe your post got put into MS Word or something with an auto correct? Seems weird.

It was me. I'm sometimes technologically challenged. I can add my comments from within the program interface, and I inadvertently modified JBs post rather than post it as a reply. I've fixed it now.

as homer simpson: "mmmm, program interface..."

or that they are concerned about the "public good"? i'd like to see all the starving africans munching on non-corporate gm papayas, myself.

What I'm saying is that corporations don't make money on the genetic modification that saved the papaya industry like they do with something like roundup ready crops, or Btcorn seeds. Im not checking my facts here but my recollection is that the patent on these crops is limited to 12 years, and that the patent on Bt corn is due to expire soon. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

i've been trying to follow all this gmo stuff and i don't think i'm totally stupid but i have no idea what you're talking about so far be it from me to correct you.

what about my mutilated post above?

actually, now that i think about it, back in my early days at 1gm i used to get in these heated arguments with...this guy... and norm used to edit our posts sometimes. but not without warning, and he wouldnt just add stuff of his own.

http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/grocery_shopping/fruit_vegetables/14.genetically_modified_papayas_virus_resistance.html

and Monsanto et al don't make a dime on Hawaiian papaya.

Now isn't it interesting Europe still bans this crop for no good reason I can see other than a nearly blind view that all GMOs. are bad. It is this anti-GMO stance of Europe that has slowed down the process of helping Africa. The EU countries tell the africans that if they produce GM Crops they can't sell any of them in Europe.

AHHHHHH.... this doofus gets what part was Norms now.

thanks for the fix. now the whole thread above won't make any sense to anybody. just like i like it.

So... I was straight up anti-GMO about a month ago. But only because since my involvement 10 years ago in college, I haven't visited the issue. Norm got me to look at it again, and so did BigDaddyM. Like many of you, I don't have time to read every link people add to their posts. But here is my summary for what it's worth.

Pro-GMO viewpoint: GMO tech is a tool that we will have to use to increase food yields to address population growth. It's not that radically different than what Humans have done with food for generations. The problems of corporate influence aside, the reported problems with GMO food and the speculated future problems are overblown. The solution rests in government regulation and research to balance corporate influence.

Anti-GMO viewpoint: GMO tech is a tool that we don't have to use and we can address population growth in other ways. It's radically different than what Humans have done with food for generations. The problems of corporate influence exacerbate the reported problems with GMO food and speculated future benefits are overblown. The solution rests in government banning of GMO foods and/or boycott of corporate produced GMO foods.

Seems to me like a good spirited debate. Daniel, seem like you are projecting onto the debate rather than getting involved in it. Why don't you let us know your point of view, or what info your looking for to form a point of view? If the debate is sounding a way that you don't like, add your voice.

"I'm surprised how many opponents of GMOs fail to make arguments based on reliable evidence but instead resort to a noun and a verb and Monsanto."

I'm surprised by the degree to which you are oversimplifying the opposition to GMOs, and also by your blindness to the political campaign being waged by Monsanto, et al.

Remember how candidate Obama campaigned for a healthcare reform package that included a public option and no mandates? What did we end up with? A healthcare reform package that included mandates but no public option. In other words, the exact opposite of what President Obama campaigned on. This wasn't an accident; it was classic bait-and-switch. The GMO industry is doing the same thing. Their advance PR is all about feeding the poor, but their objective is opening new markets for their products, and, worse, using tax free charitable foundations to do so. If a few poor people happen to be fed in the process, it is only because of the intense scrutiny being inspired by the "opponents of GMOs," as you simplistically call us.

The Gates Foundation's business model is full of this kind of chicanery. [Part two of the interview here.]

"They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

--Bill Gates

While it's true that organic farming and GMO usage are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it's crucial that we acknowledge the manner with which the technology is most likely to be used. GMOs have been around for 20 years now, and the global hunger issue has gotten worse in that time, not better. If GMOs represent such an important role in reducing global hunger, what are we waiting for? Clearly, reducing world hunger is not the goal, or it would've been addressed already.

As Adam notes in the quaint novella you linked to, "we don’t live in some ideal world where we can wave a magic wand and make food land on the tables of people in Africa." We also don’t live in some ideal world where we can wave a magic wand and make multinational corporations and the regulating apparatus they have usurped behave responsibly.

If GMOs represent such an important role in reducing global hunger, what are we waiting for? Clearly, reducing world hunger is not the goal, or it would've been addressed already.

The process would be further along if in their desire to stick it to the man, they hadn't thrown out the baby with the bath water.

I'm astonished, frankly, by how dishonest your arguments have been in this debate. Who is "they," and what baby have "they" thrown out with what bathwater?

Famine in Africa and Asia is a consequence of colonialization, not lack of food. Most of the people going hungry can get the food they need simply by going to the local market, but they can't afford it. African famines have grown in frequency and severity ever since colonial interests forced Africans to shift from subsistance farming to growing cash crops like coffee, tobacco and cotton. Even if these crops do well, the farmers are subject to the momentary whims of the common market. As long as this system is in place, all the GMOs in the world won't feed the poor.

As I have noted repeatedly, genetic engineering is but one tool in the chest that can, at times, be used to address this or that dilemma without necessarily conflicting with organic farming or engangering heritage crops. But this is only true if genetic engineering is used responsibly, which it currently is not.

To employ your disingenuous car analogy, if people in the teens and 20s had known that auto manufacturers would con the taxpayers into building superhighways while simultaneously dismantling inexpensive and efficient public transit systems and staunchly opposing safety features like seatbelts, they would have opposed the automobile the same way Europe is now opposing GMOs.

Over the years, I have enjoyed and agreed with probably 98% of the posts on this blog, which is why I comment here so infrequently. I'm sorry that I cannot go along with your take on GMOs, and I'm sorry that that decision offends you so much.

Famine in Africa and Asia is a consequence of colonialization, not lack of food.

you say you've been reading 1gm all these years. don't you see it's not colonialization or lack of food, but the RELIGIONS of these people?

sorry, bigdaddy, just trying to break this up a bit, nothing against your points.

As I have noted repeatedly, genetic engineering is but one tool in the chest that can, at times, be used to address this or that dilemma without necessarily conflicting with organic farming or engangering heritage crops.

Give me examples, that you think are appropriate use of GMOs.

It seems to me that you have a basic misunderstanding which I frankly find astonishing since you have told me you have read Pam Ronald's book.

http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20100412_nfoped_Ten-good-reasons-why-genetic-engineering-is-not-compatible-with-organic-agriculture

Here is a typical objection to GMO crops, but isn't it true that this objection applies to equally to traditional plant breeding, in fact aren't most of the objections to GMOs also true of traditional plant breeding.

  1. Basic science. Humans have a complex digestive system, populated with flora, fauna, and enzymes that have evolved over millennia to recognize and break down foods found in nature to make nutrients available to feed the human body. GMO crops and foods are comprised of novel genetic constructs which have never before been part of the human diet and may not be recognized by the intestinal system as digestible food, leading to the possible relationship between genetic engineering and a dramatic increase in food allergies, obesity, diabetes, and other food-related diseases, which have all dramatically increased correlated to the introduction of GMO crops and foods.

Most of the people going hungry can get the food they need simply by going to the local market, but they can't afford it.

I certainly don't disagree with you that corporations and colonialism and politics in general aren't a problem, but what you seemingly want to do remove some tools from the table because you don't like corporations. I believe that's shortsighted. And so one of the solutions is we need to help them increase the production on their LOCAL plots, and GMOs can play an important role.

If we design a plant that is resistant to certain pests using traditional breeding methods should we not use it either, because we're messing with mother nature. How is it any different to use GMO techniques to do the same thing?

[snark] I know lets just send them a gift card to Whole Foods Market.[/snark]

Now you're not even reading my comments before replying.

What I wrote was that genetic engineering can be used in ways that don't necessarily conflict with organic farming.

Give me examples, that you think are appropriate use of GMOs.

I have already mentioned (more than once, I think) that the papaya ringspot virus resistance was a good use of genetic engineering. Same with the viruses affecting stone fruits and Sicilian tomatoes. However, I also added the caveat that it's likely that these viruses' sudden emergence is probably the result of some other human activity, and that we'd be better off adressing that than resorting to genetic engineering.

So... both you and Norm advocate the use of GMO, but you just differ on when and how?

My position is that the feeding-the-hungry angle is just a PR tool designed to weaken resistance to Monsanto's (& Bayer's & Syngenta's, etc.) borg-like assimilation of the global farming industry, but that the science itself, when conducted by responsible parties with no ulterior motives, can, under certain circumstances, be useful.

I also added the caveat that it's likely that these viruses' sudden emergence is probably the result of some other human activity, and that we'd be better off adressing that than resorting to genetic engineering.

Do you have any evidence at all the it is caused by human activity? You say probably without providing any evidence at all, and since you don't have the evidence you state it as if it's a fact now that's what I call disingenuous. And what do you mean sudden emergence? How long have we been able to identify viruses in plants other than to say the plant had a disease. You understand that evolution is an ongoing process, and plants and yes viruses continue to evolve in order to survive. And if it is human activity, what human activity is it that is causing the problem, and how do suggest changing that.

What I wrote was that genetic engineering can be used in ways that don't necessarily conflict with organic farming.

And how is it that GM payaya doesn't conflict with organic farming. You mean you can grow it on an organic farm and it sell it as organic. So what is your position it can conflict a little. The position you are taking is self-contradictory. All GMOs conflict with organic farming. I'm sorry but you can't have it both ways.

As I pointed out in a previous comment even traditional breeding conflicts with tenets of organic farming they just fail to acknowledge it.

The evidence, as I noted in a previous thread, is that plums, tomatoes and papayas have been with us for centuries but it is only recently that they have been affected by viruses. It is therefore reasonable to speculate that the viruses' sudden emergence is a consequence of, say, monoculture farming or global warming or excessive pesticide usage or some other human influence. It could just be a co-winky-dink, I guess, that these plants are being affected by viruses now after hundreds of years of cultivation, but aren't you curious to find out? It seems like a logical point of inquiry to me.

why couldn't it just be the result of what we used to call in the old days "overbreeding", like what happens with animals when they get too stupid or simply physically incapable of producing viable offspring or, as in this case, unable to fend off natural "predators" of one sort or another? oh, sorry, i guess that would be technically "monoculture". so what does that have to do with physically screwing around with actual dna? after all, in breeding processes the non viable will prove themselves non viable long before some corporation creates an entire artificial ecosystem to sustain them. (i used to work in mangoes. they needed so much babying in order to survive in the jordan valley i didn't know which to feel more sorry for, the mangoes or the valley, which should have been pushing up dates and whatnot. and let's not get into what they were doing to the dates to increase yields...) am i making any sense at all?

i didn't think so.

any of you ever read the chronicles of thomas covenant the unbeliever? just wondering. i was a child once, you know. things just grow, and fucking with them is what we do, and by fucking with them we discover the limits of our omnipotence. or something like that.

btw, both mangoes and dates grown in the jordan valley nowadays are totally awesome. the dates were always awesome (from time immemorial) but the mangoes...the chemicals and other technologies necessary to produce them are not, imo, worth the effort and damage to the local ecosystem. mangoes from the jordan valley are very nice but i for one could live without them. i'd rather see the effort put into...new antireligious youtube videos! or better chocolate. or something.

have i convinced you yet how bored i am with this whole thing? the earth will eventually swallow monsanto. finished.

Don't stop there is a definite need for comic relief in these discussions. You're doing what you've always done well, keep us from getting too serious.

hey, bigdaddy said "co-winky-dink", give him some credit too.

mmmm. "co-winky-dink".

The evidence, as I noted in a previous thread, is that plums, tomatoes and papayas have been with us for centuries but it is only recently that they have been affected by viruses.

How do you know that they haven't been affected by viruses, for centuries. We haven't had the tools to determine if a plant disease was viral or not, so we don't know if it's something new or not.

Of course I'd like to know if human interference is a cause, but It seems more plausible to me that it's just a continuing process of evolution. Do you have any specific evidence that it's human interference.

"I'm surprised how many opponents of GMOs fail to make arguments based on reliable evidence but instead resort to a noun and a verb and Monsanto."

Perhaps it's because it's not science denialism you're dealing with, but an ethical opposition to corporate greed. Your pretending otherwise (in particular saying 'fail to' when the reality is 'choose not to') is a dishonest position I think.

The question is not 'can genetic modification lead to benefits?' it is 'who does it benefit, and who does it harm?'.

Oh right, they have an ethical opposition to corporate greed. Don't we all, but we continue to buy automobiles from the three or four companies, that make them, and we buy pharmaceuticals, from the three or four companies that make them and we buy computers from the handful of companies that make those. And yes we get our food from the three or four companies that sell it. We buy 90% of what we buy from the three or four companies that make it. Oligarchies are a way of life, the system is broken. The focus shouldn't be on no GMOs but in changing the structure. We should encourage public universities to put there work in the public domain, in fact we should insist upon it. We need to educate the population to the fact that private enterprise isn't the solution to every problem. We need to solve the problem of money in politics and we need to enforce anti-trust laws. We need to make a host of structural changes. The criteria isn't just is a company too big to fail, but also is it too big to control, until we modify the underlying structure nothing real is going to happen, we'll just muddle along. The monsantos are no worse than any other big corporation. They all try to corner the market, they are all greedy fucks. So why don't those with an ethical opposition to Monsanto also apply that same opposition to all the rest of the corporate greed, instead they misplace it by addressing it to a technology. Saying no to GMOs doesn't address the problem. I don't hear anyone screaming no cars, or no to vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, or no television because that too is controlled by a few greedy fucks. If it's not science denialism we're dealing with its a denial of the current reality of our political and economic system. Genetic modification has already led to benefits, as have a host of other technological advances and in every case where corporations are involved they do some harm. So the question is why just GMOs. Where's your moral outrage for every other technology that is subject to corporate greed, where is your ethical opposition to corporate greed in those cases. Every technology is subject to corporate greed, every last one of them. The opposition to technology is a misguided attempt by those who are frustrated by their impotence to do something about corporatism. Until that opposition is transferred to where it belongs nothing will change. The question of who does it benefit, and who does it harm is not an either or question, as much as you'd like to keep your heros and boogeymen clearly defined, that's not the real world. We don't live in some DC comic book world.

Cars, pharmaceuticals and computers have proven useful, despite the greed of the fuckers who run those industries. GMOs have not. In the 20 or so years that GMOs have been in use, they have benefitted only the companies that make them, and not the consumers at large. I know, I know, Monsanto hasn't made a dime off the ringspot-resistant Papaya. But that is the only documented instance in which GMOs have provided a tangible benefit to consumers.

Look at it this way: What if pharmaceutical technology were only 20 years old, and so far, all it had given us was Vioxx and Viagara? That's essentially what you have with GMOs. There's a 10-year history of companies suing farmers, one instance of practical benefit, and a bunch of pie-in-the-sky PR about all the things GMOs might do for us someday.

The monsantos are no worse than any other big corporation. They all try to corner the market, they are all greedy fucks.

That's right. And this is probably the first opportunity ordinary consumers have had to stop one of the greedy fucks before it's too late. In reality, it's already too late. This debate is purely academic. Monsanto, et al. are getting what they want; it's just taking longer and requiring them to usurp charitible organizations in addition to the regulatory organizations they have already usurped.

Furthermore, I think you understand all this, but you don't want to go against your pals at the ScienceBlogs or something. But I think you and Pam Ronald and Michael Specter, etc. would help your own cause mightily if you would stop regarding anti-GMO as anti-science and instead direct your ire towards the corporations that have provided so much fodder for the anti-GMO crowd. Of course, many of them cannot do that without endangering hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants, and, as in the case of Ignacio Chapela, even endangering their tenure.

To many people, pro-GMO = pro-suing farmers and pro-bribing governments and pro-meddling with news organs. Until Monsanto & Syngenta & Bayer actually feed a few hundred thousand starving people, I'm afraid we're stuck with that perception, and with good reason.

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Thanks Norm. I agree, almost entirely. The only exception is where you say; "The focus shouldn't be on no GMOs but in changing the structure." I'd change it to "The focus shouldn't be only on GMOs". I see people arguing against big oil and in favour of renewable energy, for environmentally friendly transport, for stronger market and bank regulation. It's just on the GMO fora that GMO aspects are concentrated on. (One of the reasons I love this blog is that you do link to lots of different subjects.)

I also see on each of the different aspects, that some people are arguing genuinely anti-science or anti-reality positions. I don't think they are the representative ones and try to point out strongly that they are not and that attempts to claim them as such are wrong.

I also sometimes suspect that they are sock-puppets of the opposition but have no strong evidence for this.

"A pest insect known as bollworm is the first to evolve resistance in the field to plants modified to produce an insecticide called Bt, according to a new research report."

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207140803.htm

The organic crowd should not be dismissed with the waive of a hand. They predicted this, and it is coming to pass.

Anyone with an elementary knowledge of evolution could have predicted it. The best you can hope for is to make it more difficult for the pests to adapt. The battle between pests and plants will always exist. It is problem for conventional farming and it's a problem for organic farm. Do you believe that pests don't adapt to organic farming methods?

They predicted this. and it is coming to pass.

I'm unimpressed. Did they predict it would take this long, did they predict it would only be one of many pests. I guess we would have to know exactly what their prediction was to determine if it was in any way remarkable. I think you'll find that it's not. Did you even read past the headline of the article you cited?

From the article:

The researchers write in their report that Bt cotton and Bt corn have been grown on more than 162 million hectares (400 million acres) worldwide since 1996, "generating one of the largest selections for insect resistance ever known." Even so, the researchers found that most caterpillar pests of cotton and corn remained susceptible to Bt crops.

"The resistance occurred in one particular pest in one part of the U.S.," Tabashnik said. "The other major pests attacking Bt crops have not evolved resistance. And even most bollworm populations have not evolved resistance."

The field outcomes refute some experts' worst-case scenarios that predicted pests would become resistant to Bt crops in as few as three years, he said.

"The only other case of field-evolved resistance to Bt toxins involves resistance to Bt sprays," Tabashnik said.

I think Ug Mo is not explaining a bit of the percieved danger to this sort of rapid change by essentially using gmo to arifically select a crop pest to change quickly.

  1. While we can genetically alter the crops and get back out in front, the same little bugs are set apon the natural plant populations with newfound immunity to one plant defense.

  2. The net effect of the genetic engineering is just a very short term benifit, while organic techniques, like using predatory insects evolve naturally alonside the pests and don't require expensive alterations to maintain a small advantage.

It isn't necessarily short-term. This discovery certainly doesn't mean that Btcrops won't continue to be useful for many years. Here is an interesting article on Bt corn that describes some of what is done to extend it's usefulness.

http://www.learner.org/courses/biology/units/gmo/experts/corzine.html

When compared to the use of lady bugs or some such practice, even dacades are short term.

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"Anyone with an elementary knowledge of evolution could have predicted it."

A prediction is no less True for being simple to make.

"Did you even read past the headline of the article you cited?"

Yes, of course, but I don't expect natural selection to hurry on my account.

The monsantos are no worse than any other big corporation. They all try to corner the market, they are all greedy fucks.

Yeah, but they deal in food.

Health insurance companies are just another group of greedy bastards.

The free market fails pretty big when they are selling:

  1. Basic Necessities
  2. Addictive substances
  3. Life giving Medicine

When they have you over a barrel they will clean you out and when they can't profit from you, they will let you die.

Not such a big deal when it comes to cable tv or ipods or other luxury items. Bad scene when survival is at stake.

all such industries need strong regulation. My assumption on the science is that the risks are small and the monsantos of the world will likley push for zero regulation and longer and longer patent protections. As to the social benifits, I think GMO's will save our asses time and again by avoiding man made catastrophes when viruses ravage monocultures. on the other hand, I don't think they will feed many more people and I don't think they will ever give more than a few extra cents to small farmers.

Do some people oppose the tech because they think it is "playing God" Where some people think god is "nature" and some think, "jesus"? Yep. Is that silly? Sorta. Does it mean there isn't logitimate opposition? No.

You're right Monsanto deals in food and the pharmaceuticals deal in life saving medicines.

The solution in both cases is regulation. I assume you aren't suggesting that we get rid of pharmaceuticals, unless we replace the research in and product development in some public way. I think that would be great, you know I agree that healthcare and for that matter enough food to eat should be fundamental rights, but we are where we are and the benefits of pharmaceuticals and GMOs in the current political climate require that we address any problems through regulation.

In my opinion the same logic applies to GMOs as Vaccines and Drugs we shouldn't give up the benefits because our system isn't perfect. I know many here think the current and anticipated benefits of GMOs don't justify GMO's I think they are mistaken, and that the future will confirm that. I've heard that Michael Pollan is going to revisit the GMO issue when some of the new products reach market. That should be interesting. A genetically modified soybean plant will add omega-3 to the plant will reach the market soon. I believe the evidence supports the idea that bio-fortified foods will be of significant benefit to consumers. I also think that Golden Rice will prove to be a boon to the impoverished of the world recent studies confirm that the beta-carotene will be used in a way that provides significant useable vitamin A. http://goldenrice.org/PDFs/USDA_GR2_2010.pdf and http://goldenrice.org/PDFs/BCMonGR.pdf It's true that it's a cart horse kind of a thing. The anti-GMO crowd is fighting mightily to prevent even research on the topic and places roadblocks in the path of trials making the process of bringing a product to market a difficult one. It's ironic, they say look how long they've been at it, why haven't we seen all these great benefits and yet do everything they can to stop or slow the process. My personal opinion is that we already have ample evidence of benefits of GMOs and that the promise of future GMOs is real. Now if the fear-mongering would stop we'd get there more quickly.

BigDaddy has rightly pointed out that it's an academic discussion that the corporations will get their way, the only question is what battle we fight, the right one in my opinion where we work to put reasonable regulations in place. or the fear-mongering approach currently being waged. I think the approach the anti-GMO crowd is wrong both on the science and on the tactical approach they've chosen.

In my opinion the same logic applies to GMOs as Vaccines and Drugs we shouldn't give up the benefits because our system isn't perfect.

Without giving you a full read, I would just point out one difference between Food and medicine. Medicine can be unequally distributed and helps the individual regardless.

Unequally distributed GE food has no real advangage to individuals, and if it keeps a corporate food system at a high level of profitability despite unsustaible and environmentally damaging practices, well then it has the potential to do long term harm.

The argument you're making (environmentally damaging practices) is one against industrial farming not GMOs per se. GMOs could be used in an "organic" setting as easily as in an industrial setting. Golden Rice would certainly provide advantages to individuals even if distributed unequally, but it will be available to any farmer that wants it, and the benefit will remain as long as he uses the strain. A few children that avoided blindness would seem worth it.

There are even some who say that even if all the benefits claimed for Golden Rice were true they'd still be opposed to it, I find that quite shocking.

Yeah, but that isn't really the question is it?

THe question at hand for many people is, Do we allow corporations to develop and profit by engineered organisms?

THis is a right they have assumed and many aren't comfortable granting. If the answer is, yes, then how much do we regulate to ensure they are using them responsably and they aren't reclessly creating vulnerable monocultures and failing to test all the chemicals produced within their next GMO?

I don't think the discussion is helped by those that react to the technology with fear and predjudice, are all that helpful to the debate, while I also don't think it makes sense to simply dissmiss them and declare GMO use "safe" and "bennificial". Because those labels are completely dependent on the application of the product.

GMOs are more regulated than traditional food sources. The FDA, EPA and USDA all have regulatory roles in GMOs. You can say they're not doing their job properly and perhaps there are cases where they are not. But that is true of every field the government regulates, from pharmaceuticals to automobile safety. No one has died from eating GMOs but people have died from pharmaceuticals, and people have died in automobiles that didn't meet safety standards. GMOs gets far more attention than for example than a new a new plant bred using radiation mutagenesis which may change hundreds of genes in a plant, changes that aren't usually even identified other than to note changes in the plants appearance. And this plant meets the criteria of being organic. Contrast that with a GMO where they know exactly what gene was added.

Do we allow corporations to profit by engineered organisms? If our regulatory agencies find them safe what justification do we have to refuse to allow them to profit than any other product. But for many the big corporation and profit is a red herring, even if all the benefits of Golden Rice were beyond any doubt, there are those who would be opposed simply on the grounds that corporations are involved, and even though there is humanitarian licensing for free for the poor. It should also be noted that like all patents they are for a limited time so that these products will eventually be in the public domain. If you're interested you can read the details at .

I dunno if you have already posted this article, but it is well worth reading, "The origins of religion" in the revue Trends in Cognitive Science.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?ob=ArticleURL&udi=B6VH9-4YBTG8C-1&user=10&coverDate=03%2F31%2F2010&rdoc=1&fmt=high&orig=search&sort=d&docanchor=&view=c&acct=C000050221&version=1&urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b39ed553f3b6937d91ade79bea409b67

for the record, i don't own a car and haven't for about 10 years. i ride my bike and occasionally take the subway in inclimate weather. and i would say i actually do advocate against cars, particularly large ones. when i moved to nyc from sprawling dallas escaping car culture was a huge factor for me.

but to your points in your reply to me, i actually don't shop at whole foods. occasionally i eat there, in the prepared foods area. and i've bought some of their special items you can't get elsewhere (like frozen gluten free pie crusts for my celiac girlfriend or whatever) but i'm not a big whole foods shopper is my point. frankly, i'm not one who cooks a lot. i eat out most meals. i live in an area of brooklyn with tons of amazing restaurants and they all are tripping over themselves to be more eco-friendly than the next. several own their own farms, others just get their produce from regional farms they have arrangements with. but most do largely use local, organic ingredients. not the shit imported from "organic" farms in land that used to be peruvian rain forest but now farms vast monocultures of shit to ship to whole foods. i eat some fish, it's probably the lest responsible thing i consume as it's flown in, but typically from what i'm assured are wholesome sources. otherwise i don't eat meat. i don't buy food from fast food companies, other than sometimes subway. i'm not claiming to be perfect, but i'm certainly trying where possible to live in a way that is sustainable and as unharmful as possible. i'm sure i eat a lot of GMO foods, as i don't explicitly go out of my way to avoid them, and nothing is labeled to let me know if i am or not anyway. but even if i do, i'm not really concerned about it for my own health, as i'm sure they're probably fine to eat. but i don't think only about my own health, or only about what tastes good when i make my choices. if i did, obviously i'd eat bacon. man that shit smells good. but anyway, other charges: i don't give to friends of the earth, but i do greenpeace, and others. i'm not knee-jerk against GMO, and i've become even less opposed to it in the weeks since you started devoting endless attention to it. but i am not fully on board, and of the arguments presented, by and large I think BigDaddy has made the best case(s). and i've felt like norm's responses have leaned towards the unfair or at least incomplete, which has led me to post replies occasionally along the way. something i seldom do, largely because i've never been able to create an account (weird errors) and generally find the commenting system employed by this blog software to be miserable and hard to use when it even works.

Norm's endless attention does not seem to extend to Vandana Shiva. Here is one of her talks on the BBC, a series called the Reith Lectures.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2000/lecture5.shtml

I just read the lecture, it begins:

Recently, I was visiting Bhatinda in Punjab because of an epidemic of farmers suicides. Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural region in India. Today every farmer is in debt and despair. Vast stretches of land have become water-logged desert. And as an old farmer pointed out, even the trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides have killed the pollinators - the bees and butterflies.

GMOs are not pesticides

It goes on to say that farmers were lured into using GM seeds and that native seeds have been displaced by modified seeds. What does that mean? Why can't they simply stop planting modified seeds and plant there traditional seeds.

There are some points I would agree with, but they have nothing to do with GMOs

I think one of the points Vandana Shiva was trying to make is that the corporations that lied to the Punjabi farmers and drove them to suicidal destitution are the same ones who control the GMO industry, and this is but one of many examples of their diabolical nature.

You keep trying to look at the question purely as a science vs anti-science debate, but, for the eleventy gazillionth time, you need to look at the science in terms of its most likely application.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, rocketry is a cool, interesting science. But V2s and Tomahawks and ICBMs and spy satellites are bad. In hindsight, would it not have been wise for us to say "no rocketry" until there were mechanisms in place to insure that they wouldn't be used for destructive purposes?

Step one for David Tribe, Bruce Chassey, Pam Ronald, Anastasia Whats-her-face, Michael Specter, etc. etc. is to lead the charge against this corporate takeover of the global farming industry and against globalism in general. This would go a long way towards gaining the trust of the anti-GMO crowd, or at least the portion thereof that is on the fence. Instead, they are (whether intentionally or not) carrying water for just about the most evil fucks on the planet.

I think one of the points Vandana Shiva was trying to make is that the corporations that lied to the Punjabi farmers and drove them to suicidal destitution are the same ones who control the GMO industry, and this is but one of many examples of their diabolical nature.

So your point is no GMOs until people stop lying.

You keep trying to look at the question purely as a science vs anti-science debate, but, for the eleventy gazillionth time, you need to look at the science in terms of its most likely application.

And for the eleventy gazillionth time, its not an either or question. You view it's likely application as an attempt to by Monsanto to take over the world's food production and distribution, and for the eleventy gazillionth time I point out that preventing comes from laws and regulations. Anti-trust laws etc.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, rocketry is a cool, interesting science. But V2s and Tomahawks and ICBMs and spy satellites are bad. In hindsight, would it not have been wise for us to say "no rocketry" until there were mechanisms in place to insure that they wouldn't be used for destructive purposes?

And if we'd waited until there were mechanisms in place we would still be waiting and we'd be the only ones without a space program or weather satellites.

Step one for David Tribe, Bruce Chassey, Pam Ronald, Anastasia Whats-her-face, Michael Specter, etc. etc. is to lead the charge against this corporate takeover of the global farming industry and against globalism in general. This would go a long way towards gaining the trust of the anti-GMO crowd, or at least the portion thereof that is on the fence. Instead, they are (whether intentionally or not) carrying water for just about the most evil fucks on the planet.

For all you know the aforementioned see the same problems you do vis a vis corporate abuse of power. I've heard them all acknowledge the important role of testing to make sure these products don't cause harm. Why should they be more responsible for addressing corporate abuse than anyone else. And after step one you'll have your step two and after step two, step three and so forth. Like your analogy to rocketry, following your suggested course of action, would have effectively stopped advances in space forever because we didn't meet your step one.

First of all, by "we," I meant we humans, not we Americans. I thought that by including the V2 in my list, that would be apparent. I keep forgetting how ingrained the nationalistic mindset is for some. It was this very mindset that led Dan Quayle's Council on Comptetiveness to streamline biotech regulations, because he saw it as an emerging industry that American companies could dominate.

Second of all, Tribe, Specter, et al., if they mention corporations at all, it's in this dismissive, "yeah, the corporations are bad, but..." tone. That is the lynchpin to the whole debate and they are gliding over it as if it's a minor point. It would be like saying, "yeah, intercontinental ballistic missiles are bad and everything, but hey, ain't rockets neato?"

And third of all, as I keep mentioning, the benefits of GMOs remain hypothetical, whereas the evil intentions of the companies who control them are tangible, unlike with, say, cars or pharmaceuticals where the benefits at least equal and probably (at least in the case of pharma) greatly outweigh the deficits.

I will add this video from youtube with Shiva.http://youtube.com/watch?v=vi1FTCzDSck

Re: "I'm surprised how many opponents of GMOs ... resort to a noun and a verb and Monsanto."

Here's why.

In the beginning, when asked the question: "but what is wrong with GMO?" we respond with: "Let me count the ways", and then proceed to do so.

After a while, no doubt like those who passed before us, we tire of listing Six * of the Seven Deadly Sins, and resort to short hand -

"It's Monsanto." We might, like our forefathers, add "...leading us down the garden path to rack and ruin!"

  • note: Monsanto can not be charged with sloth.

It is a time consuming business getting to the bottom of, for example, that poor excuse for science represented by both the original Leeds study of biodiversity, and by the hyperbolic stretch of 'conclusions' drawn by the good Dr. about it.

If all you've got is a noun a verb and monsanto, you are saying you've looked at the evidence and decided we'd be better off without GMOs, and further that the topic is no longer worthy of discussion.

No one is required to participate in the discussion, but if they choose to, they should be willing to provide more than the shortcut Monsanto.

I'd like some GM lady beetles - ones that don't fly away. Some GM rabbits might be nice if they can make them only eat the weeds. GM gardner snakes would be awesome - ones that don't scare my wife ;)

I thought I had already mentioned the connection between GMO's and pesticides, but I guess not. One of the main purposes of Monsanto in selling its patented seeds is that farmers then have to use its patented pesticide, Round Up.

Year in, year out the farmers have to buy both and the price always goes up.

One scientific paper which is worth reading, though it is rather dry, is one by Ian Pryme.

http://www.saynotogmos.org/ud2004/docs/GENutrition.pdf

I believe the patent on the active ingredient (glyphosate) in Round Up has expired, and there are a number of alternatives on the market using that ingredient. Furthermore plants genetically modified as Roundup Ready are not the only plants Monsanto sells, there are also the Bt modified crops that reduce the need to spray pesticides. Also the patent on Roundup Ready soybeans is due to expire in 2014. Finally no one is forced to buy Roundup Ready seeds, so if as a farmer you're concerned about the price you don't have to buy it. You really need to get your facts straight.

A number of the lawsuits that Monsanto has initiated were against farmers who DIDN'T buy Roundup Ready seeds, but whose conventional crops were found to contain Roundup Ready genes after they cross-pollinated, and after Monsanto attorneys trespassed on said farmers' fields in order to gather evidence against them. So if you're a farmer concerned about the price, it appears you have no choice.

Documentation please.

As to the anti-vaccine nuts, it would serve them right if they didn't get their tetanus booster each 10 years and got the disease while working in their garden or fixing things in their garage.

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