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Links With Your Coffee - Weekend Edition

Coffee Cup I often add links during the weekend, be sure and check back.

Colourful and visually stunning - but also important in our understanding of scientific advances - the winners of this year's Wellcome Image Awards range from a close up look at a bloody sticking-plaster, to the striking shades of a ruby-tailed wasp viewed through a microscope.

If you're into ants--and who isn't?--you can't do better than follow biologist Alex Wild's excellent blog Myremcos (the study of ants is called "myrmecology"). It's one of the best taxon-specific blogs around.

Alex doesn't like to deal with creationists, but made an exception when Intelligent Design (ID) advocate William Dembski started making pronouncements on ants. Noting that ants tend to take the shortest path between colony entrances (they also do this when travelling between a colony entrance and a food source), Dembski, writing on February 18 at the ID site Uncommon Descent, pronounced this feat inexplicable by natural selection (ergo Jesus):



re: NY Times Warning Labels

How entertaining that you post this, for the very article I recently noted with high approval on NYTIMES was this:

"Why Aren’t G.M.O. Foods Labeled?" By Mark Bittman.

Wherein the author reminds us of recent troublesome initiatives by our Dept of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.To wit,

"In the last three weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last."

Bittman's article was evidence free and as this article points out was flawed in more ways than one can count. I know you don't like GMO anything, problematic don't you think to be opposed to GMO on principle, but if you'd like to provide evidence of the harm compared to conventional non-GMO farming go for it.

Wait you say I'm suggesting that we adopt organic, but since that's not going to happen we need to compare GMO to what would most likely be used in its place, in that discussion GMO is clearly better.

eh, If you actually look at the increased yeilds in soy farming for instance, there is not a spike in US yields when the soy adopted roundup ready seed.

In fact the gradual increases in yields have remained largely the same for something like 50 years.

The reason? Maybe its that the GMO market seems to provide a lack of diversity, where there used to be many seed producers producing seeds specific to temperature and rainfall. Now 98% of soy seed comes from one strain of soy.

But I think the worst part of this is the idea that public ignorance is best managed via keeping the GMO switch a secret. If you asked people what the odds are that they have eaten a genetically engineered food, I can only imagine how low they would guess, meanwhile even most people eating organic probably eat some GMO food regularly.

The food, compared to conventionally grown food that is not GM is the same. If there is any significant difference we should know about it, but if a plant is modified using modern techniques that are more efficient and result in specific modification rather that a shotgun approach I would think you'd be more concerned about traditional breeding rather than that using modern approaches.

Lack of diversity is not a GM specific issue.

If you asked peopleif they knew there is DNA in their food they would also be surprised, Ignorance is rampant. Those like Bittman use fear and ignorance to promote their agenda. Are you not embarrassed by his article. I'm embarrassed when Bill Maher who although I agree with him on many things, is ignorant and proud of it. Bittman who perhaps you agree with is just as bad. Let's look at the evidence it's all that matters.

Are you not embarrassed by his article.

I think I would have to say yes, But mostly because he missed the actual arguements that lead to the same conclusions.

As much as I think people are restating fears about GMO's without weighting them with the evidence we have, I also think the benifits in terms of yield and chemical use have been overstated. Yield increase has been in line with growth without GE and my understanding is that farmers now are seeing native plants evolving resistance to RR crops.

But there are some clear effects which can't deny.

Turning food production into a prescription drug like govt research leads to enormous private profit model.

All the while if you object to that, you can't let your money do the talking, there is no way to buy based on the use of the new technology. If you want a soy product there essentually is not other choice. As alfalfa rolls out, there will likely be no choice in the world of dairy and grass fed steak.

farmers now are seeing native plants evolving resistance to RR crops

Native plants have always evolved resistance to whatever slows their growth, whether that be roundup ready, some other herbicide, pesticide or what have you. Organic methods of control are also subject to evolution.

The point is that organic has less than 1% of the market and that doesn't seem to be changing. Paying two or three times the price for a product that doesn't offer any benefits in the way of nutrition doesn't speak well for its future.

Farmers choose GM seeds because that production on average is better that what they get from traditional seeds, that is simply a fact. You're claim that GE seeds don't offer increased production is not accurate. Show me the evidence. Here's some from me. and why would a farmer use a genetically modified seed if they could simply use one that was not modified. Farmer's are not stupid. They understand that even with the increased cost of GE modified seeds they are going to make more money. That comes from increased production, less use of pesticides and herbicides.

Hey look on the bright side maybe the meat eaters opposed to GE will stop eating meat and according to some dreamers that will solve all the world's problems.

Your link is about organic, I am just talking about an alternative to GMO, which could be conventional farming using non GE seed.

Well, I can't find the link to the story i was reading last week. But here is some data.

See the spike when GMO's became the majority of the market?

For the life of me I can only find data up to 2001 on pesticide use in the us. here is what I did find

Wiki article says a 2006 DoA study showed reduced pesticide, but increased herbicide use on soy.

Another intersting data point is that your link last weekend put organic soy production at 1979 levels. Which was also were the charts began.

if you compare that to the data in my link, you see that many types of crop production leveled off around 1980.

Is it your contention that conventional agriculture, standard issue herbicides and pesticides is better for than the GE alternative? Production aside the environmental costs conventional agriculture are much worse than GE crops, for that reason alone we should embrace them.

The Monsanto is evil and so we shouldn't embrace modern technologies is self defeating. Corporatism is the bane of modern society, and needs to be addressed in a way that doesn't begin with turning back the clock on the agricultural advances of the last 20 years.

see below

Methinks that even if what the non-nutty anti-GM people say is true, at the most it's true for some stuff, but not GM as a method.

I'm wondering what could possibly be bad about a salmon that doesn't stop growing. Hmmm, salmon.

I'm wondering what could possibly be bad about a salmon that doesn't stop growing. Hmmm, salmon.

Indeed, maybe someone will explain it to us.

Actually I understand why they don't wanna label it, but I want it labeled so I can buy it!

Norm: re: "Bittman's article was evidence free and as this article points out was flawed in more ways than one can count."

The article reported current status on GE sugar beets, GE ethanol corn and GE salmon. I do not demand that each report on melting glaciers, re-adjudicate again whether or not Climate Change is occurring, or even the extent to which human activities are speeding it's pace. Nor, for that matter, do I demand that a post on rationality, must provide proof against belief in God.

And, I found the critique at least as flawed as the original.

Shows to go ya.

With respect to your "why not GE Salmon" question, it's a really tricky issue. Aqua-farming is a quite problematic situation. It's not clear to me that top predator fish (like Salmon) ought ever be farmed. We're running out of the krill and tiny fish to feed them (3:1 ratio feed to gain).

I commend to your attention the following:

I found this "Aquaculture Impacts on the Environment (Released December 1999 ) by Craig Emerson" though dated, still quite an informative and thoughtful explanation of aqua farming issues and benefits. It doesn't speak to the new GE Salmon, and doesn't answer your question, but I learned a lot reading it.

There are a lot of things I don't like about the GE Salmon/Eel critter, Mostly I'm raging about the absence of a label.

Here's your chance to comment on the latest Aquaculture proposals.

Maybe Salmon like Beef is not the most efficient method to produce our food, but given your fondness for the one isn't there just a little inconsistency in your position.

My Contention is two things

(1) That GMO's and associated intellectual property laws are destructive to the food economy and that non GE conventional and organic are both flawed but better alternatives. As evidence by the Monsanto Monopoly on soy and corn seed, the high price of that seed, the likely higher price of roundup ready2, and the tactics they have used against farmers to enforce their hold on the market.

(2) That the main difference between organic corn in soy production vs GE corn and soy, is actually the same difference between conventional wheat production vs soy and corn. That difference being money. In that cash crops backed by corporate dollars have migrated to better farmland and given higher levels of irrigation over the last 30 years and that is why they have outpaced other crops, not because of corn and soy specific technologies. Meanwhile the small farms, on smaller acreage have become organic to survive in a market designed to crush them.

That meaning that if all the organic farms went GE conventional tomorrow their yield wouldn't match the mega farms because of the land they are on and the level of irrigation they have.

However, the percentage of total irrigation withdrawals from ground water has continued to increase, from 23 percent in 1950 to 42 percent in 2000. Irrigated acreage more than doubled between 1950 and 1980, then remained constant before increasing nearly 7 percent between 1995 and 2000. The number of acres irrigated with sprinkler and microirrigation systems has continued to increase and now comprises more than one-half the total irrigated acreage.

So as the video so aptly points out the solution in enforcing anti-trust laws, and abuses of intellectual property.

GE crops are about more than greater production they are also about reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides. Roundup is far less harmful to the environment than alternative conventional methods of weed control.

I don't claim that all GE crops are about greater production, but that is certainly true of some of them. I don't think irrigation systems account for all of the benefits. Remember GE is just a more efficient way to add favorable traits to plants than conventional methods, and the fact that farmers choose the GE seeds is strong evidence that they agree. Monsanto is evil and trying to make a profit doesn't explain the rush to GE seeds. And of course Monsanto isn't the only game in town there are other corporate players and there are non-profits also making contributions.

So as the video so aptly points out the solution in enforcing anti-trust laws, and abuses of intellectual property.

like the prescription drug and the record industry?

I don't claim that all GE crops are about greater production, but that is certainly true of some of them.

well, it doesn't seem to be the case with RR which is the one most widely used.

and the fact that farmers choose the GE seeds is strong evidence that they agree.

So when regular people believe bad things its about ignorance, but when farmers believe good things it must be about them knowing. Not marketing?

And of course Monsanto isn't the only game in town there are other corporate players and there are non-profits also making contributions.

They are the only game in town on RR, which is 98% of soy and 80% of all corn seed sold.

re: Norm "Maybe Salmon like Beef is not the most efficient method to produce our food, but given your fondness for the one isn't there just a little inconsistency in your position."

Nope. No inconsistency. None.

Raising 1 carcass of beef requires about 2 1/2 years - 9 month gestation, another 20 months growth to market weight. Raising one salmon to market weight takes about 2 1/2 years. That makes both really special foods that ought be savored and appreciated as such, not just used to fill our bellies. We have all the grass-fed Organic, humanely raised beef we want, but we don't eat it every day, nor do we consume 12 oz at a meal. We are next door to one of the great US salmon fisheries. But we don't eat salmon every day either. I am persuaded that in general, Americans eat more protein than we actually need.

Neither Beef nor Salmon ought be raised in feedlots. for that destroys much of the goodness of the meat/fish, affecting flavor, and the healthiness of the product. Aside from the serious problem of excessive use of Antibiotics, such an approach concentrates poop to the point of making soil and water contamination a serious problem.

"Efficiency" is a peril-fraught word when it comes to either production or consumption of food. It is more "efficient" (e.g., faster), to take a shot of 5 hour energy drink than to bite into and chew up a fresh apple. That doesn't make it better. It's more "efficient" (e.g., faster), to fill the kid's tummy with McNuggets that to prepare a fresh salad with the kid helping & learning to prepare it. Faster isn't always better.

If "efficiency" only means speed, and "meat" is considered a generic product with no distinctions between source species, it's faster to grow one of those Cornish/Rock cross chickens that can dress out 4 lbs of chicken in 5 weeks than it is to grow a steer to market weight. But then, meat isn't generic, chicken meat is different from beef steak or fish fillets.

The cattle maintain grasslands and open space, - critical habitat for all manner of wildlife. They convert grass into beef. They utilize acreage inappropriate to cropping, require little labor, and produce a high value special product. Pastured beeves waste products are delivered to the soil in quantities that benefit the grassland instead of destroying the watershed. And, the pastured beef is healthier for those who eat it.That's pretty efficient it seems to me.

Here's a link that might incline you to look for something other than farmed salmon.

"Farmed salmon are fed contaminated fish meal. Farmed salmon are fed from a global supply of fish meal and fish oil manufactured from small open sea fish, which studies show are the source of poly chlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in most farmed salmon. In three independent studies scientists tested 37 fish meal samples from six countries, and found PCB contamination in nearly every sample (Jacobs 2002, Easton 2002, and CFIA 1999)."

"The salmon farming industry intentionally fattens its fish to maximize market weight (Jacobs 2002), a process similar to fattening cows or hogs in a feed lot. As a result, an ounce of farmed salmon contains 52 percent more fat than an ounce of wild salmon, PCBs collect in fat, as opposed to muscle or other organs. Farmed salmon, because they are intentionally fattened, are efficient collectors of PCBs. Leaner, wild Alaskan salmon are less likely to accumulate high levels of PCBs.according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA 2002)."

"An analysis of data from studies on dioxin-like PCBs in commercial seafood, beef, pork, milk, and poultry shows that farmed salmon may be more contaminated than any other protein source in the U.S. (NAS 2003, EPA 2002, Fiedler et al 2000). On average, farmed salmon from EWG’s supermarket study contained 40 times more PCBs than milk, 4 times the PCB levels of beef, and at least 3.4 times the PCB levels of other commercial seafood."

"The fat in farmed salmon contains less healthy omega-3 fatty acids than the fat in wild salmon. Salmon fat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients important to fetal brain development and linked to reductions in the occurrence or symptoms of autoimmune disease, headaches, cramps, arthritis, other inflammatory diseases, hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer's disease, and heart attacks. But USDA testing data show that the fat of farmed salmon contains an average of 35 percent less omega-3 fatty acids (USDA 2002)."

Finally, thanks for the invitation to comment on Aquaculture standards, but I'm already behind in commenting on the latest BS from the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board).

There are several layers of irony in that Forbes article. For starters, it's funny how the New York Times needs a warning label now, but they didn't back when Judith Miller was citing that obvious fraud "Curveball" to drum up support for the Iraq War.

Second, Henry Miller is a senior fellow at the libertarian "think tank" Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose stated purpose it to "fight big government." So naturally, he is going to oppose the labeling of GMOs. He is also the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, which is funded by, among others, Archer Daniels Midland and Procter & Gamble, both beneficiaries of genetic engineering.

What's worse is that Miller was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. That's like putting Ron Paul in charge of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy.

Some things never change. Don't address the criticisms he made, just attack his integrity.

Others in this thread have already made valid points about the article. I was just making an additional observation.

The points I made if valid would make the research you link to a fraud. You didn't address those.

food.mmmmm, food...

re: the ontological argument/jesus 'n mo:

do ideas exist?

re:JB: "Do ideas exist?" Sure. But certainly not because existence is a property of perfection. For as this recent discussion displays, all manner of imperfect ideas lurk about in the dark recesses of Hoover Tower, that famous retirement home for lazy academics.

all manner of imperfect ideas lurk about in the dark recesses of Hoover Tower, that famous retirement home for lazy academics.

do you have an address? sounds like heaven! :)

Glenn Beck is "losing it", eh? Whatever "it" was that Glenn Beck ever "had", it was pretty much what Murdoch and Ailes wanted him to have and not much different than what Coulter, Limbaugh, Breitbart, and Hannity "have". So how come these bright lights are now concerned "it" is bad for conservatism?

because Beck cries and the others don't?

JB:re: "lazy academics".

Ferget about the Antediluvians at Hoover Tower. Head out for Maples Pavilion instead. The Stanford Woman's Basketball team just clinched the Pac Ten title yesterday with a 99-60 win over Oregon.

Did you know that the FIRST EVER (ANYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD) Intercollegiate girls Basketball game was played between Stanford and Cal in April 1896. Stanford won 2:1. Their fans raised the cheer: "Who made the basket? Why do you ask it? Sure it was Stanford, without half a try. Berkeley cannot win, Without our permission. She'll make a goal In the sweet By-and-By." Yea, of course they ignored the stupid half-court "girls rules".

March 3 is last Stanford/Cal game (CSNBA) of the season.

sorry for the thread-jack norm, now back to your regularly scheduled programming.


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