Results tagged “gmo” from onegoodmove

A Link With Your Coffee

Golden Rice a Touchstone

"Bill Maher: Anti-Science Knuckle Dragger?"

[Correction: it's not the Daily Kos staff, but a "member", which I think means anyone with an account who can blog. Took DK out from the title.]

This is nice. I was watching Maher's show tonight after a while to see what he's up to these days. I'd thought even though he'd never recanted publicly all his anti-med and that sort of rhetoric, that brushing up with scientists like Dawkins and Krauss (who was there just a few weeks ago), at least he'd learned that maybe, just maybe, the fact that the science blogosphere considered him a sort of clown almost on a par with Jenny McCarthy, would be deterrent enough to make him think twice before doing another self-mouth foot-putting.

In last night's episode he compares California voters, who rightly rejected a proposition that would have forced companies to label GM products, to people who don't want to know if there is horse meat in their food.

It's very nice to see a very prominent lefty site take him to task. I wonder if even the anti-GM people here would agree with that comparison. His exact words:

New Rule, if you're one of the millions of Californians who voted against labelling genetically modified foods, you can't complain when it turns out there's horse meat in your hamburger, and your sushi is made out of lost cats and condoms.

Also, I'm mad cause I think he just called me stupid. Really, watch that New Rule (video embedded in the DK article), it's unbelievable how many fallacies are in there (game: name them!).

The Green Revolution

Green Revolution's diet of big carbon savings

The Green Revolution of the 1960s raised crop yields and cut hunger - and also saved decades worth of greenhouse gas emissions, a study concludes.

US researchers found cumulative global emissions since 1850 would have been one third as much again without the Green Revolution's higher yields.

Although modern farming uses more energy and chemicals, much less land needs to be cleared.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. . . .

Modern intensive agriculture is often criticised over its relatively heavy use of chemicals, which can impact insects, larger animals and plant life in the vicinity of the farm.

In addition, the run-off of excess fertiliser into rivers and lakes can generate blooms of algae and "dead zones" of water where nothing can survive.

However, strictly from the point of view of greenhouse gas emissions, intensive farming appears to be significantly the better option.

"Our results dispel the notion that industrial agricultural with its petrochemicals is inherently worse for the climate than a more 'old-fashioned' way of doing things," said Dr Davis.

He and his team suggest that policymakers keen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should look towards further increases in crop yields, which they say might be more economical than other innovations.

Existing research shows that curbing production of meat - which is an inefficient user of land and water - would by itself have some impact on emissions, though by precisely how much is debated.

Links With Your Coffee


How can people who claim to be followers of Jesus be political conservatives?

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are tapping into the biochemistry of one of the world's most damaging insect pests to develop a biocontrol agent that may keep the pest away from gardens and farms.

How about this possible solution to the Aphids problem, would it pass muster with the organic crowd?

tip to Nick

A fairly balanced article from the mainstream press.

John Innes Centre scientists are working on a way to screen crop plants for a toxic accumulation. The genetic screen will be particularly useful for crops grown in tropical and sub-Saharan Africa.

Thirty years ago I was living at my Dad's in Yakima, going to college. That Sunday was a beautiful day, and Dad was outside in the garden as I was getting ready to go to work. I worked for a photographer, who had a studio in the Yakima Mall. I liked working Sundays. Sundays were always quiet, especially when the weather was nice.

I heard a loud boom, but didn't think much of it. Yakima was right next to a military training center, and it's wasn't too unusual to have a hot dog pilot break the sound barrier. Some minutes later, my Dad yelled for me to come outside. I ran out, and we saw this ugly dark brown/black cloud rolling towards the town. We knew that Mount St. Helen's had erupted.

The underlying crisis derives primarily from persistent rural poverty in Africa and South Asia. Ironically, most of the world's hungry people are farmers who produce food for a living. More than 60 percent of all Africans, for example, work in the countryside, growing crops and herding animals, and earning less than $1 a day. These farmers' crop yields are only about 20 percent as high as in Europe and the United States because they lack access to all the basic necessities for productive farming: improved seeds, fertilizer, water, electrical power, education, and rural roads to connect them to markets. Most of these farmers are women, two thirds are illiterate, and one third are malnourished. When food prices fall, these farmers can actually be hurt because agricultural products are what they have to sell.

The United States' favorite response to global hunger in recent years has been to give away its excess food. In response to the 2008 price spike, the U.S government spent an additional $1.4 billion to ship domestically produced food abroad as aid. This move was generous, but it offered no solution to the problem of low farm productivity. What's more, free food arriving from Iowa or Kansas can actually hurt farmers in Kenya or Ethiopia by reducing demand for their own market sales.

Links With Your Coffee - Monday


From the evil scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory we get some new research that will among other things help:

"To fuel and feed the planet for the future, we need new approaches," said Brookhaven scientist Safiyh Taghavi, the study's lead author. "Biofuels derived from plants are an attractive alternative energy source, but many biofuel feedstock crops are in direct competition with food crops for agricultural resources such as land, water, and fertilizers. Our research is looking for ways to improve the growth of biofuel feedstock plants on land that cannot be economically used for food production. What we learn might also be put to use to increase the productivity of food crops," she added.

Remember genetic engineering is a method not a product and no one is making the claim that genetically engineered plants will end world hunger. What they are claiming is that they can play an important role in working toward that end.

Machakos, Kenya - Fog shrouds the terraced hills, and a stream is swollen from the rain that fell overnight, but the damage of a drought that left 10 million Kenyans dependent on food aid is still evident. On many of the small farms, the ground is bare at a time when corn crops should be several feet tall.

"We had no maize because we planted and there was no rain," said Victor Mutua, who feeds an extended family of 15 from his 20-acre plot.

Poor small-scale farmers like Mutua are at the center of a battle over the future of global agriculture and biotechnology. Scientists are preparing to test in Kenya a genetically modified variety of corn that would be resistant to drought. The seeds are the product of a $47 million project funded largely by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' foundation and using technology and breeding expertise donated by U.S. seed giant Monsanto Co.

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday


I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f* up everything.

If you’ve been reading the evolution websites, you’ll know about the very nice paper in this week’s Nature by Douglas Theobald. (You may remember Theobald as the author of one of the greatest creationism-refuting websites of all: 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent. If you haven’t seen it, you should). In the new paper, Theobald makes a few conservative assumptions to show that the probability that all living species descend from a universal common ancestor is infinitely higher than any other hypothesis, including those of multiple origins of the kingdoms (Bacteria, Eukarya, and Archaea) or of rampant horizontal gene transfer betweeen species that would, by mixing genomes, make life look as though it had a single origin when it didn’t.

A REPORT by the National Research Council last monthgave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the "long and impressive list of benefits" that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.

It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they've argued over the findings.

Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world -- areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council's report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.

  • Genetically Engineered Purple Tomatos Could Fight Cancer

    Using a gene from a snapdragon flower, researchers have created a purple tomato rich in antioxidants, and a new study has shown that cancer-prone mice that were fed the altered tomatoes had significantly longer lifespans than those that dined on regular tomatoes. The tomatoes’ purple hue was a side effect of the type of antioxidants produced, called anthocyanins

Industry Friendly

The term "industry friendly," or "pro-industry," is often used as an insult, a term of derision, it is commonly heard these days in response to appeals to authority, and sometimes it's justified. It is reasonable to consider that those with a financial interest, or some other personal interest may be biased, and because of that bias, dishonest.

T Edward Damer author of Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments adds a caveat:

In determining whether an authority is biased, you should be careful not to disqualify a source too quickly by claiming that he or she is prejudiced. Unfortunately, it is all too common a practice to find or fabricate some reason why the judgment of almost any authority might be biased. Such a charge should be registered against an authority who is otherwise qualified only when the possibility of bias is clear and might impede the discovery of the truth. If you suspect that an authority may have a conflict of interest, you might point out the presence of that possible conflict, without in any way accusing the authority of either bias or dishonesty. That will at least get the issue out on the table so that it can be directly addressed. p. 104 Attacking Faulty Reasoning- Damer

Merrilee Salmon in the book Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking says:

It is reasonable to take the word of an authority if

(i) the authority is an expert on the matter under consideration, and

(ii) there is agreement among experts in the area of knowledge under consideration.

It is also worth remembering that even though an argument is made by an authority, an expert in a field, the argument may very well stand entirely on its own. If the form is correct and the evidence provided is verifiable and supports the conclusion, then it's not an appeal to authority. The fact that the argument is made by an authority is irrelevant, and so to is any possible bias.

There are entire PR organizations with their troop of advisors who contribute daily to the flood of misinformation, distortion, and half-truths. It happens on both sides of almost any question, but simply making the charge "industry friendly," or "tree-hugger," is not enough, one still needs to consider the argument.

There are some who think that any connection, however remote, however insignificant, and with no evidence that the claimed bias results in any dishonesty, is grounds for leveling the "industry friendly" charge as if that should be the end of the conversation. I'm not sure they'd even be satisfied with six degrees of separation.

I recently received an email from a reader charging Pam Ronald, with being "industry friendly," as a term of derision, he wrote:

Pam Ronald, who, according to the about-the-author blurb on the back of Tomorrow's Table, works for something called the Joint Bioenergy Institute, which is a research division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which, in turn, receives research grants from the DOE, which, in turn, has a history of carrying water for big oil, nuclear and coal companies.

The implication seems clear, she too carries water for big oil, nuclear and coal companies. He provides no evidence of such complicity, he doesn't demonstrate her bias by citing anything she's written, nor does he provide evidence that anything she'd said demonstrated the bias, for him it was enough that she had any connection to industry however remote. Contrast that with Orac who accused the ACSH of having a distinct pro-industry bias. He spelled it out and he gave examples of the bias in action.

I asked Pam Ronald for a response to my readers charge, she wrote:

Well, if we exclude non-profit government agencies (NSF, NIH, USDA and DOE) from funding scientific research in non-profit institutions then who will fund basic research in the US?

If we exclude these agencies (that have made US science the best and most envied in the world) then the only groups left to fund scientific research are for-profit corporations (eg big Oil and monsanto) and non-profits like Bill Gates.

Here is a recent piece that appeared in the New York Times by Pam Ronald and James E. McWilliams, does it sound like they're carrying water for industry? It doesn't to me, It sounds like a well-balanced article on an important topic.

Remember all arguments need to be evaluated independently of their source, since even a biased source may be correct.

Why GE Shouldn't be Excluded From Organic Farming

Ten bad reasons why GE is incompatible with Organic

One can understand an issue on an intellectual level but still not be able to share that understanding. It is particularly difficult on questions of science. You can be an expert in one field, even a related field, and be ignorant of the fine points of another. My background in science is limited and so I try to be more careful than I am on other topics I'm more familar with. I'm lucky that there are so many bright individuals who visit the blog, since they keep me on my toes.

They say you really know a subject when you can explain it to others. I've fallen down on that front, in part because my understanding has come recently, and also because I haven't been successfull in making the distinction between GE as a method and its use by big agri-business. But I view the topic as an important one and worthy of discussion so I've tried to educate myself and give it a try. I've argued that we don't need to throw the baby (GE) out with the bathwater (Corporatism). But that GE can and should thrive outside of the Monsanto world. In fact it does, but the Monsanto connection gets the ink while the other is ignored.

Back in the sixties when I attended the University of Utah the John Birch Society was strong and there was a book going around that the young conservatives on campus were promoting called 'None Dare Call it Treason' If you ran across one of the conservatives, they would say all you need to do is read this book and you'll understand.

Since that day whenever someone says just read this book, or just read this article and you'll understand I recall that time, and remind myself of the need to be skeptical. I've recently recommended a couple of books
Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food and Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food both of which I believe to be well written by people qualified to write on the subject, but it behooves one to be skeptical, because until you read something and verify that it is both logically sound and that the evidence is good, you need to remain skeptical. The article I've linked to is one I believe to be both logically sound and fact based. I encourage you to read it. I especially ask you to read the final section on transgenics because it is there where I think the true difference of opinion exists. The article may not change your mind, but you will understand better the sorts of arguments that have lead me to my current position on GMO's

If you decide to read the article perhaps you'd be kind enough to post a comment listing the points you agree with and those you dont and give your reasons. Ask yourself, are you challenging just the facts, or do you find the argument logically flawed.

I'll continue to post interesting links on the subject but my obession in posting about it on the blog, you'll be happy to hear is waning, at least I think it is.

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

  • 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?

Commentary and Links on Norms Latest Obsession

On Mother's Day we ate organically, at least the salad and steak were organic. I'm not sure about the lovely garlic bread we also consumed. I grew up during a time when grass fed beef was commonly available and the corn fed was the new kid on the block, but my sons had never had grass fed beef. Corn fed beef has more fat which probably makes grass fed beef a better choice. The cost of the grass fed beef however is double that of the corn fed, and it may be healthier for you (because of the fat content) but, didn't measure up in the taste department. It is considerably tougher, their is no melt in your mouth component here. I know it's a result of the difference in fat content, but that explains why corn fed beef dominates the market.

Most people go for the taste over more healthy choice every time. The nutrional content is similar, but if you're concerned about lowering your fat intake the grass fed is the better choice. It's the better choice if you have the means to pay double for your food that is. A similar choice is evident when you buy eggs, I choose the organic free range eggs, mainly because I'm appalled by how chickens are treated, I don't think there any significant nutritional difference, but I pay three times as much for them as I would for the alternative. It's easy to take the moral high ground if you have money, but for those watching their pennies it's not even a choice. I know that part of the problem is subsidizing crops. It would be better if industrial farming wasn't directly subsidized, but economies of scale would still result in significant price differences.

I often hear the argument, that GM crops are being forced on the farmers that they have no choice, but certainly they have a choice of whether they plant GM crops or not.
I know the arguments, one I believe is exaggerated. It is one that receives a one-sided presentation in most of the current documentaries such as The Future of Food and Food Inc. etc, but lets say the Monsanto et al unfairly bully the farmer. If Monsanto claims someone is using their seed and the farmer claims they're not, or that the plants are there do to genetic drift the farmer has recourse to the courts. I understand the argument here too, the farmers don't have the resources to defend themselves, but why can't they band together pick a critical case or two and share the costs, and why don't they get Friends of the Earth, and other organizations to help them with the legal costs. That's where opponents of GM Crops should put their resources in my opinion. Finally if the court rules against them and they think it unjust they need to contact their representatives to change the law. That is another thing that the numerous organizations could put their resources behind, but instead we get a noun and a verb and Monsanto

Finally, please when you make your arguments distinguish between arguments directed at industrial farming and GMOs I share most of your objections to industrial farming, including crop subsidies, use of corn for ethanol etc, but conflating that with GMO's is not helpful.

And remember Organic Non-Organic is not an either or question.

  • Updates on Golden Rice and vitamin A here and here
  • Biofortified Lettuce not a bitter pill.
  • King Corn

    A worthwhile documentary, you can currently get it streaming from netflix if you have an account.

  • News flash: Organic food can still make you fat
  • Monsanto Wins FDA Soy Omega 3 Approval When this reaches market will you continue to take your omega three capsules or will you purchase a soy product made using Monsanto's technology, or . . .
  • E.U. Signals Big Shift on Genetically Modified Crops
  • Thinking Beyond Organic
    In other words, we need the best biology to achieve a truly sustainable agriculture. This includes not only conventional tools for seed improvement such as pollination, tissue culture, mutagenesis, and grafting (mixing two species to create a new variety) but also, modern molecular tools such as marker assisted breeding and genetic engineering.

    This is one of the points that Karl Haro Von Mogel, a geneticists, beekeeper and blogger, makes in his recent blog post. Because both genetic engineering and more conventional approaches to plant breeding lead to the creation of seed that carry new combinations of traits, it does not make sense to reject either one based on the reasoning that the processes are "unnatural".

    Every time a breeder makes a cross between two plants he or she is creating an organism that has never before existed. And every time a breeder crosses two plants, the genetic combination represented by the offspring has never before existed. And that's how nature, how evolution works - by creating new combinations.

    The question is not whether GE crops can be used in organic agriculture (they cannot as they are currently banned by the National Organic Program Standards), but rather -can GE crops be used to help shift our current agricultural systems towards enhanced sustainability?

  • As you know we have several individuals beside myself posting on the blog. We agree on most of the topics we post on, but sometimes we dont'. The subject of GMOs is one of those, Red has different views and so as not to confuse the ocassional visitor to the blog who assumes all the views are mine Red has started a discussion on the Forum The Argument Against GMOs You can make your views known there as well.

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday


Links With Your Coffee - Saturday

  • 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.

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.

The Real News: The Age Of Science And Discovery

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

Confirmation Bias and Guilt by Association

We all have a problem with confirmation bias. We look at the sources that support our point of view and ignore those that don't and sometimes we attack sources rather than the arguments they make. We employ guilt by association and it's a mistake. I try to find good sources of information, but even information from sources with a vested interest shouldn't be discarded without addressing the arguments they make. I recently posted an article by Janet Carpenter who has links to industry sources and rather than those commenting addressing her arguments they attacked her associations. Dr. David Tribe wasn't quoted in the article, but since I've cited him in the past one commentor decided to play the guilt by association card and said:

Among the scientists who have promoted GM crops from IPA platforms are CS Prakash, Klaus Ammann and Steve Hughes. Amongst its published materials are items by CS Prakash and David Tribe
and linked to Lobby Watch

He even put Dr. Tribe's name in bold print, I suppose that was to emphasize that he couldn't be trusted. He was guilty by association.

The connection seemed tenuous to me and even if there was some connection the statement was nothing more than one of guilt by association so I decided to contact Dr. Tribe and ask him what if any connection there was, and he responded.

I have not "promoted GM crops from IPA platforms". I have voluntarily corrected errors of fact and given scientific comments on public issues about technology choices and policies, which they have quoted. In America this is called Freedom of Speech. Please ask Lobby Watch why that is a problem. I know Prakash and Klaus personally, and think they are wonderful people, and I am glad to know the IPA quote them too-- they are very knowledgeable.

Lobby Watch have never contacted me to check any details of the statements they have made about me.

Since Lobby Watch use claims of guilt by association, they should also show they get no income from EU government channels, or from EU funded organisations such as Friends of the Earth, as they are indirectly favouring EU trade barriers.

I am employed by a public University full time, I am not employed by the IPA nor do I have any relevant corporate income. I have deliberately avoided having conflicts of interest that are relevant as I have correctly anticipated that they would be used to avoid accountability by activists who routinely use this device to avoid dealing with real issues.

I have spoken and been involved with a wide range of organisations, such as the Governments of Vietnam, UNESCO, The Greens Political Party, Rotary International , IPA, High Schools, B'nai B'rith, The Anglican Church, VFF and you. That does not mean I am paid by any of them, nor does it mean that they or you influence my statements.

What factual issue or process of logic sourced to me these readers criticise. If there are none, then why cite Lobby Watch about me. Isn't that dodging the point?

My main driving force in speaking is deep disgust at the widespread use of misinformation and ignorance to delay benefits of better technology to farmers and poor people in the developing world. The deliberate avoidance by activists of the major issues such as the cancers caused by mycotoxins and the benefits of golden rice, while at the same time fabricating conspiracy theories such as Monsanto-IPA-funded websites is a moral disgrace. Some activists even using threats of legal action to stifle debate. That's the real PR-fraud they should address."

Dr. Tribe is in my opinion an excellent source of information on GMO you can read his fine blog here

More on GMO and the Place of Technology Generally

Q&A with Chef Dan Barber: Can organic farming feed the world? (He thinks it can)