Results tagged “GM crops” from onegoodmove

Links with your Coffee - Friday

Coffee Cup

Cause I'm not posting music til next week, and my responses aren't getting published below; let's try this:

Weekly Ezine for Democrats

Hawk Goes Postal in Calgary

Stephen Hawking says universe not created by God (tip to everyone)

The Grand Design, an extract of which appears in the Times today, sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have created out of chaos. >"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," he writes. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. >"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

Norfolk GM potatoes trial beats killer blight

Bill Gates on GMOs

At a talk in front of students at University of California at Berkeley, the Microsoft chairman and philanthropist is quizzed about his views on genetically modified food. Gates recommended the book "Tomorrow's Table" by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak, and believes that improving resistance to drought with new seeds is important to feeding people in developing countries.

Bill also mentions the great potential of RNA interference here is a video explaining what it is.

More on GMOs

I know some of you are already growing tired of my preoccupation with genetic engineering, a subject that until recently I knew very little about. There is still much I don't know, but I consider it an important topic, and will continue to educate myself. I'll probably be posting less about it in the future but for now I still have a few things to say.

Red, in the comments to a previous post raised some good questions about GM crops, concerns he has, dangers he feels need addressing. . I'm certainly no expert, but I've never let that stop me before so I'm going to try and address some of his concerns. He doesn't say whether he thinks existing GM crops need to be withdrawn, nor does he weigh in on specific GM crops that are under development like Golden Rice, he says he's basically in favor of biotech but still has concerns.

1. It's effect on biodiversity and its vulnerability to to potenital crushing effects on our food supply if disease strikes homogeneous plant or animal populations.

It seems to me that this isn't just a problem of GM crops, but is something that has been happening for a long time. Long before there were any GM crops the varieties of crops like apple, corn, etc were decreasing. When a farmer finds something that works well they tend to stick with it whether it's a GM crop or not. Biodiversity is important and I think that GM can play a positive role in increasing diversity in crops in significant ways, not just variety for varieties sake but for variety that meets the specific needs of farmers. I recently read a post at Biofortified that addresses this very issue.

2. Its economic effects. I think you like this technology because of its potential to feed more people. But the last 20 years have seen a giant spread of industrial food production and increased hunger. Economics are more complicated than cheaper food = more people eating. Many poor people have both their primary income and primary expense in the realm of food production. Nevada republicans think that you can still trade a chicken for medical service. What is a chicken worth in a market flooded with corn fed factory birds? $8? Not exactly going to cover a deductible. Corporate mass production has devalued one of the primary small business opportunities for the poor. Not to mention the small business around seed and family farms. You end up with the same argument that Wal-Mart uses to say that they are good for the economy.

As Red points out this problem not unique to GMO it is a problem that is inherent in our system. The solution is not to clamp down on GMO, but to support laws that regulate corporations in general.

3.Nutrition has been hurt by the cheapness of mass produced corn that is stuck into everything we eat. when they get done designing super corn, will I be able to get brown rice for an affordable price? We are plowing under fields of more nutritious foods to produce the highest profit product.

Once again this is not a problem unique to GM crops, but a problem with a system that promotes big. It is a problem of education, if consumers aren't educated then they will demand the products the big corporations. I recently watched the program Food Inc. One of the points it made was that even big corporations respond to consumer pressure. In the program they pointed out how Wal-Mart was now buying large quantities of organic foods. So again to blame GM crops is missing the point.

4. The need to protect the vulnerabilities in my number 1 (biodiversity) with chemicals on plants and drugs in animals. The first does us some potential minor harm and the second has the potential to create super bugs and kill lots of people. Not to mention that any farmer can tell you that corn is one of the most destructive crops when it comes to soil and requires much more fertilizers. also pretty bad for the environment.

Planting the same crop year after year is not good farming practice, but that really doesn't have anything to do with GM crops per se. I don't know what superbugs Red's referring too perhaps he could clarify in the comments.

5.The unintentional potential consequences of GM foods. There a number of foods that we eat, like peanuts that have trace amounts of known carcinogens and we don't really know how many proteins we are changing when we alter genetics. We could be increasing plants content of things that could have long term health effects. How do round-up ready crops resist the poison?

For the most part the unintentional potential consequences of GM foods are not greater than foods that grown from seeds subject to mutagenesis both chemical and radioactive. Even other so called standard plant breeding techniques have their risks. What they don't have is the same level of scrutiny that GM crops have. Actually modern genetic engineering of plants has a better idea of what the changes will do than other methods.

So there you go, I think there is way too much knee-jerk criticism of GM crops. It reminds me of the kind of arguments you hear from some of those that criticize big pharma and promote the so-called alternative medicines. GM crops have great potential, we should be cautious but not paranoid. We should be thoughtful and look at the evidence not the name-calling, the guilt by association. We should carefully look at the evidence and follow it where it leads. We need to be careful that we're not just confirming our biases and are evaluating the evidence fairly.

Your comments are an important part of the discussion so don't be shy, speak your mind.

Here are a couple of books I've found helpful in understanding the issues underlying GMOs