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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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  • Terminator 2: My Mission is to Protect You (I'd love to hear your thoughts on the many issues raised by this article)
    In discussions about GE crops, one of the contentious topics that often comes up is the use of what has been effectively dubbed “Terminator” technology. These are crops that are engineered to produce sterile seeds that cannot be regrown. The use of this technology to force farmers to repurchase their seeds every year is often what causes the greatest objection from opponents of genetic engineering. But what is interesting is that like the films where this technology gets its nickname, it can also be used to protect seed-saving farmers.
  • Vishy wins, retains World Championship title
    Viswanathan Anand, playing black in the final game, avoided a decision by rapid and blitz tiebreak. In a balanced Queen's Gambit Declined, the World Champion took a shot at weakening his Bulgarian challenger's king. Veselin Topalov panicked, as in a flash his chances were dashed and the Bulgarian could wrap up his defence. A fantastic final game by Anand who retains his crown.
  • The More You Know
  • Dan Barker Pwns Fox News
  • Is Greenpeace Secretly Working for Monsanto

    The information in the beginning of the post is a bit dated, but there is anti-trust news about Monsanto currently in progress, but it was the last paragraph of the post that caught my attention. Your thoughts?


 

Comments

Terminator 2: My Mission is to Protect You (I'd love to hear your thoughts on the many issues raised by this article)

Sorry, that guy is an arrogant dick.

Why do we need to see seedless water melons as immorral? Because those he disagrees with must blindly follow stupid generalizations? We can't see that there is a practical product improvement in a seedless watermelon or banana?

Seed saving is a common practice amoungst farmers and once they have gone a few years on terminator products they no longer have the option to go back to their more traditional seeds.

My earliest memories of these invlolved the companies not even telling the farmers their product produced no seed.

Certainly there are many that did not collect seed because they used hybrid and other infertile plants, but this is hardly all farmers.

Seed saving is a common practice amoungst farmers and once they have gone a few years on terminator products they no longer have the option to go back to their more traditional seeds.

Why exactly is that they can no longer go back to their more traditional seeds?

Once you change over a community of farmers, there is less of the old seed around, and as illustrated by the Food inc movie, the apparatus by which seed is processed is dismantled.

Also the farmers to some extent end up indebted to the seed companies so they can't get the loans to buy seed corn from another source.

Apparently Monsanto no longer markets suicide seeds so on that point the discussion is mute, but you act like

Also the farmers to some extent end up indebted to the seed companies so they can't get the loans to buy seed corn from another source.

That sounds like bad management of resources on the part of farmers. Why would farmers dismantle their apparatus before they were sure the new seed was something they would stick with. I understand if you're talking about the past and Monsanto didn't tell them that the seeds were sterile.

But that is no longer the case. If they buy seeds GMO seeds or others where they have to buy new seeds each year they just shouldn't buy them if they want to save seeds. That option is available to them. I don't believe they're stupid. They are responsible for their choices when they have the facts up front. The fact that so many choose to use GMO seeds must be a rational decision based on the fact that their yields will be higher and or that their overall costs will lower.

The GURT seed argument has it's pluses you buy a seed that you know you'll have to buy each year. You know that it won't contaminate your neighbors field or one of your own growing a different strain. I'm surprised that the organic movement doesn't champion such seeds for those who use them, since it removes the major objection the have to GM seeds.

I understand why you thought the Watermelon analogy was snarky, but it did make a good point if the engineered plant provides obvious benefits nobody has a problem with it. Likewise if the benefit of a GM seed results in higher yields that more than compensates for the lack of seeds or the requirement to buy more what is the problem. On the one hand you have a watermelon with seeds a benefit and on the other a seed that provides higher yields. I think it's a reasonable analogy.

That sounds like bad management of resources on the part of farmers.

come on

In places like India and africa, and probably many other parts of the world you are talking about many people that probably have minimal education. In the US you are talking about people with a HS education in places where they "teach the Controversey".

Really, you think if these people get screwed by a multi-national corporation that its just their own damned fault? fuck that.

I was talking about American farmers, I don't know enough about third world farmers to make an informed judgment, but tend to agree with you. I think you underestimate the education of the average American farmer. I too have relatives who have farmed all their lives. They have university educations, and for that matter I know many high school graduates that are a hell of lot smarter than some college grads I know. They have a practical intelligence that a college education just doesn't provide.

I don't place ALL the blame with farmers. Ill even place most the blame with the corporations. I thought my point was clear when I said if they aren't lied to and still choose to make the investment that they also have a responsibility.

The idea that small businessmen are saints is a lie, I've dealt with a number of them that would put large corporations to shame when it comes to their mendacity. I've on occasion overpaid a business and can tell you it's my experience that I'm more likely to be informed of my overpayment by a large corporation than a small businessman.

The woman he is mocking in this article is not an advocate for american farmers.

And that has nothing to do with the point I was making.

How were you making a point unrelated to mine in a reply to me?

I was talking about GURTs in general as it applied to farmers everywhere. This thread is getting thin I'll continue below.

The GURT seed argument has it's pluses you buy a seed that you know you'll have to buy each year. You know that it won't contaminate your neighbors field or one of your own growing a different strain. I'm surprised that the organic movement doesn't champion such seeds for those who use them, since it removes the major objection the have to GM seeds.

Tradition with seed savers as I understand it is that farmers like to save the best quality seeds (heirloom) from their harvest - a kind of genetic selection they themselves control. Their seeds are selected for quality produce and disease resistance, plus the seeds reproduce. After reading this in the article

So you can easily see that GE crops with GURTs in them can instead be used to protect non-GE crops from cross-pollination. Indeed, as many opponents of GE crops argue that farmers are afraid of getting sued for cross-pollination, this fear would be all but eliminated if they were using GURTs. Percy Schmeiser would have remained an obscure canola farmer in Canada. He wouldn’t have been able to spray his fields and collect herbicide-tolerant canola seeds for replanting, and he couldn’t have gotten sued.

OK, yes, if you want someone else's seeds. Part of the problem - initially at least - was that agri-businesses were suing farmers for violations of seed patents if the corporations found their patented seeds in another farmer's yields. This caused financial hardship for the "offending" farmers as well as seed savers.

So if you aren't interested in someone else's seeds, can you at least be safe from a lawsuit now, since the contaminants won't reproduce? The farmers who wish to control their output have to be that much more picky in seed selection each season so that they get exactly the qualities (including reproduction) that they desire. There will be some that buy GURTs and some that just won't want to go that way; that's their right. They shouldn't have the extra burden of patent infringement, in my opinion.

in another farmer's yields.

I'm not sure if this would be better worded as "in another farmer's crops" or "in another farmer's fields."

And, sorry if my tone there was not what you were looking to hear when you posted. My emotion was aimed at that author not the general tone of the discussion here.

I actually have some family history in the farm movement around the world so the arogant dismissing of the types of people that I know and respect is somewhat offensive.

norm really is making farmers sound like idiots, which i also for some bizarre reason find offensive. I don't know what the "farm movement around the world' might mean but i assume its' a legit karass.

i don't know- maybe they ARE idiots. :)

but more likely- greedy enough to suck monsantos dick. how dare they think it's ok to just live on a gigantic piece of land and make their living by landscaping it with edibles? i bet they have hdtv's. and jacuzzis and stuff.

farm movement around the world

When I was a kid, one of my father's mentors was a man by the name of William Hinton.

His work throughout his life was closely tied to modernizing farming techniques, first in post revolutionary China, but later working with organizations around the globe to help third world agrarian communities use modern farming technology. He worked and lived in Mongolia for some time as his wife was working for UNICEF there. He worked with farmers to use a No-till system that would protect the very fragile soil on the mongolian plains. So, he and the people I ended up meeting and hearing through him were very active in working with these very farmers that Shiva is working with in India. He shared stories of visiting Indonesia, India, and other places.

These people were very much not afraid of technology and sciece. They were very big on education and modern technique. Their goal was to take subsistance farmers and teach them the skills so they could reap some additional profits from their land and achieve some financial independence.

The same people were also very critical of the corporations that came in and sold infertile (probably hybrid at the time) seed to the farmers. They saw these companies as essentially taking the finincail independence from these farmers and using their designer seed to accomplish it.

The arguement that none of that is true and that some yeild study is evidence to the contraty, and is all proven by the fact that we all don't find watermelons immoral and advocates are guilty of hyperbole is pure and total bullshit.

In fact its the same denial of reality that global warming deniers use.

Al gore used a worst case senario on sea level rise in his move so its all fake, and Shiva uses a 5 micrograms rather than the agreed upon 35 micrograms so her obeservations on the real economic effects on Indian farmers must also be false.

mmm. "yield study". tastes like antichrist.

-signed, drugs

sorry, i mean you seem to feel very strongly about this. not ready to see farmers go the way of the dodo, i suppose. an anti evolutonist.

and: seedless watermelons are, of course, totally immoral. is there some question about this?

I hate the taste of watermelon, my world would be just fine without it, seeds or san seeds.

Don't people like spitting watermelon seeds?? What is wrong with people today? This is a time honored past time, folks!

I just eat the seeds. They're good for you.

The More You Know: an expert may be described as someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows eveything there is to know about nothing at all. I used to introduce myself to my Year One students as "An expert" - a term originating in the two words "Ex - a has-been" and "Spurt - a lively drip"

"everything" - damn keyboard!

•Dan Barker Pwns Fox News

BTW this is really good if anyone hasn't watched it.

The woman he is mocking in this article is not an advocate for american farmers.

Yes I know she's not talking about American farmers, she's an anti-GMO darling, who often gets her facts wrong

Karl takes her to task for two things: the claim she makes that BtCorn and BtCotton produce sterile seeds which is factually inaccurate and that there is a danger to other plants are likely to get the "sterile gene" he points out the absurdity of that if it got that gene that specific plant wouldn't reproduce and so couldn't spread, and as I pointed out to you on the forum, her conclusions about BtCorn and Butterflies was distorted. I think there is a clear pattern of distortion of facts in much of what she says, if she wants to be credible she needs to do much better. I think she feels like the ends justify the means. The best one can say for her is her heart is in the right place, her misstatements of facts and her drawing conclusions that don't follow is unacceptable. I don't view her as a very good source to quote. I understand how emotional the issue is for you, but lets stick to facts.

http://ipsnews.net/columns.asp?idnews=32438

Shiva writes that these seeds kill biodiversity, farmers, and people's freedom - for example, Monsanto's Bt cotton, which has already pushed thousands of Indian farmers into debt, despair, and death. Bt cotton is based on what has been dubbed ''Terminator Technology'', which makes genetically engineered plants produce sterile seeds.

Neither BtCorn nor Bt Cotton produce sterile seeds.

But take a look at what Vandana Shiva said on pages 82-83 of her book, Stolen Harvest:

Molecular biologists are currently examining the risk of the terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated and moving into surrounding open-pollinated crops or wild, related plants in nearby fields. Given nature’s incredible adaptability and the fact that the technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment is a serious one. The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet.

It is ironic that Shiva often argues that genetic engineering and the “Terminator” violate evolution, when it is evolution that proves that her claims are unfounded.

The best one can say for her is her heart is in the right place, her misstatements of facts and her drawing conclusions that don't follow is unacceptable. I don't view her as a very good source to quote. I understand how emotional the issue is for you, but lets stick to facts.

My experience with her as an advocate is pretty much limited to her discussion within these threads. But as I said earlier I think the use of her hyperbole as an argument that terminator tech isn't harmful begs the question.

The argument that these products, despite technical advantages are damaging to small farmers seems unanswered.

I do see some problems with the criticism.

is a danger to other plants are likely to get the "sterile gene" he points out the absurdity of that if it got that gene that specific plant wouldn't reproduce and so couldn't spread,

Well, I'm not a geneticist but I know enough about heredity to know that is wrong.

If cross pollinated, it could render some percent of a neighbors crops seed infertile. If the gene can be carried as a recessive gene than it could render some percentage of future generations infertile. It obvious isn't a permanent damage but clearly a potential loss to neighboring farmers raising an unmodified seed.

her conclusions about BtCorn and Butterflies was distorted

Well, I read the conclusions of the study that said BT corn shouldn't have a big impact on butterfly populations. Their conclusions were based on amongst other things that the level they were exposed to did not raise to level of fatal, and that not all the monarch population fed near corn fields. Not exactly zero effect. Potentially better than spraying BT as a pesticide I suppose.

In regards to her clain that BT is a terminator seed, she clearly is wrong. Current laws prohibit terminator genes so it seems impossible that that is the issue.

Intellectual property rights do most likely have some impact on farmers using their own seed, but I didn't see the information as to how.

It seems we have come to a consensus on the facts. You raise a good point.

The argument that these products, despite technical advantages are damaging to small farmers seems unanswered.

This is a question I'm still investigating. I think there is little doubt that standard business practices often damage consumers of their products be it farmers here or in India. It is a problem for those who do business with corporations whether they are in the agri-business or other areas. The source of the problem is a structural one, the lack of effective controls on corporate power. The slow cumbersome process of bringing anti-trust laws to bear.

I do think the stories about the corporate abuses are sometimes exaggerated, and even entirely wrong, though usually it is somewhere in between. Take the case of Percy Schmeiser, he's featured prominently in several documentaries on the subject of Monsanto's bullying, but the facts contradict much of what I saw in the documentary. Percy you'll recall was sued by Monsanto first back in the late nineties or perhaps it was early 2000. He was accused of illegallly using a Roundup Ready Canolla seed. He claimed that the seed got on his property through genetic drift, and seeds blowing on to his property etc. The case went through three levels of court ending in the Canandian Supreme Court and finding in favor of Monsanto. There were a couple of things that I found persuasive in the decision. It was determined that 95-98% of his crop had the Monsanto trait, and that couldn't be explained in any way other than he had used the seeds. Secondly that he sprayed his field with Roundup before planting, planted his seeds and than after the crop was growing sprayed again with Roundup, something you wouldn't want to do unless you knew your plants were Roundup Ready. His explanation was he was testing to see if there his fields were contaminated, but then after determining that Roundup seeds were used he harvested the seeds anyway. To complicate the story, excuse me if my dates are off here, he launched a suit against Monsanto for contaminating his fields with their seeds from a nearby farm. The issue of contamination is sometimes a problem but my understanding is that if would only affect the plants adjacent to the other property and that it would be quite minor. Let me diverge for a moment here. I seem to recall in one of the documentaries that they said that the courts had decided that any contamination even if they didn't cause it didn't matter they were still responsible for it. If the result of Percy's second case is correct that statement was flat out false. The second case didn't go to trial Monsanto agreed to compensate him and cleanup up the errant seeds. They paid him I believe $660.00 so it would seem that Monsanto doesn't sue for minor contamination do to drift or spilled seeds or whatever, but when the evidence is overwhelming that the farmer is purposely using its seeds. Monsanto offered the settlement soon after Percy's claim back in 2005, but wanted a gag order on the settlement. Percy rightly, in my opinion refused and Monsanto eventually consummated the settlement in 2008 without a gag order. The two cases in my reading addressed two different things the first looks like Mr. Percy was wrong and that he lied about what was going on in short he was guilty as hell. In the second he was right and established a precedent that will keep Monsanto from trying to sue anyone for minor contamination of there crops by others if they ever have actually done that. I have seen claims that they have but haven't seen any evidence that they have, or that if they have they won the case.

I can tell you that when I first watched these documentaries I bought Percy's story as being 100% accurate. It now seems he tried to pull a fast one and got caught. He's become the poster child for those attacking Monsanto, but the cases don't seem as clear cut as the the movies portrayed them.

So what is the case in India and other places is it just more hype by those opposed to GMOs who seem ready to distort facts, and arrive at conclusions not supported by the evidence. The anecdotal stories of the harm caused by corporations may be true or may be false. Like most things the truth probably lies somewhere in between what the PR for the opposing sides tells us. Will we find that the stories of farmers in India committing suicide are like the story Percy Schmeiser told. I'm not willing to accept either point of view at face value.

Maybe some of my statements about the Percy Schmeiser story are inaccurate, though I found most of them in the transcripts of the court case he lost. The conclusions of the court that is. If anyone has something to add dive in but's lets keep it as fact based as possible.

Yeah, the Dan Barker clip is great. I'd been holding off on watching all these "atheist" videos cause it's always the same tripe from the "other side" especially if it's Fox News, but the guy gets totally owned. To his credit, he doesn't interrupt Baker when he's making his excellent points though.

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