This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Open letter and video re threat to GM Research

Open letter and video re threat to GM Research - Comments

78rpm's Avatar Comment 1 by 78rpm

I am not in the protestors' camp, but GM worries me as to unintended consequences, and in my gut feeling that somehow it just ain't right. I suppose if this were 110 years ago I would have been one of those people who would have wanted to stop airplane flight, shouting, "Evil! Man wasn't meant to fly! If God had intended us to fly, he would have given us wings! (etc, etc.)," and of course I would have been dead wrong.

I know this is a forum for Reason, and I have no concrete reason to be against GM, but it just bothers me. Born worrier, I guess.

Wed, 02 May 2012 13:25:49 UTC | #939005

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 2 by Red Dog

Comment Removed by Author

Wed, 02 May 2012 13:36:23 UTC | #939008

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons

Why are the "unintended consequences" of GM liable to be any greater a threat than the unintended consequences of the ordinary artificial selection that agriculture has used throughout recorded history? At least with GM you know which genes you end up with, which gives you a good idea what phenotypes will result. So far, literally the only bad thing that's happened with GM is that an allergy to Brazil nuts has proven applicable also to the meat of some animals with the relevant nut genes inserted. It hardly seems, for example, a just reason for some poor nations to deny tens of thousands of tonnes of food donations.

Wed, 02 May 2012 13:44:50 UTC | #939009

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 4 by Red Dog

Comment 1 by 78rpm :

I am not in the protestors' camp, but GM worries me as to unintended consequences, and in my gut feeling that somehow it just ain't right. I suppose if this were 110 years ago I would have been one of those people who would have wanted to stop airplane flight, shouting, "Evil! Man wasn't meant to fly! If God had intended us to fly, he would have given us wings! (etc, etc.)," and of course I would have been dead wrong.

I know this is a forum for Reason, and I have no concrete reason to be against GM, but it just bothers me. Born worrier, I guess.

I'm no Luddite and I think it is very rational to be concerned about GM foods. My concerns are:

1) Unintended side effects. By artificially changing the genetic make up of food there might be unintended consequences on the environment either the people who eat it or the soil, crops, etc.

2) Difficult to reverse harmful effects. Once a new seed, microbe, or animal is in the environment it may be very difficult to keep control of it.

3) The profit influence. Most of the GM research is funded by corporations like Monsanto. They talk about feeding the world but what they really care about is making more money. Which is fine, I like Capitalism, but we need to keep that in mind. Some of the GM modifications -- such as making plants sterile so farmer always have to buy seeds or making crops more resistant to pesticides that Monsanto sells -- have little to do with helping anyone but the corporations that sponsor them.

To me the risks don't mean we shouldn't make GM foods at all but they do mean we should be very careful as we do it.

I don't know about this specific group or action. I don't think anything good can be accomplished by interfering with researchers. But I think its wrong to label every concern about GM foods to be irrational or anti-science.

Wed, 02 May 2012 13:46:36 UTC | #939010

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 5 by AtheistEgbert

Concern or fear is not rational by default, although you might be perfectly justified to be fearful.

Since I'm uninformed on this subject, and since the research scientists claim their work won't be patented, I can't help being sympathetic to the scientists, but then I'm also sympathetic to the concerns of the environmental activists.

And so, as a sceptic, I'm not persuaded either way as yet and reserve judgement until better arguments and evidence is given, either way.

Wed, 02 May 2012 14:08:53 UTC | #939014

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 6 by Neodarwinian

" nor would we wish to see force used against you. "

That is why such power is in the hands of the state. These people, anti-GM types, are worse than creationists and their behavior demands that rational discourse oppose their nonsense. ( more opposition by the state if needed )

@ Red Dog Number three reason can be agreed with by all but Jos Gibbons seems to have covered your other concerns.

Wed, 02 May 2012 14:12:35 UTC | #939015

henscastle's Avatar Comment 7 by henscastle

Remember – all plants in all types of agriculture are genetically modified to serve humanity’s needs.

Misleading nugget there - intended to confuse conventional breeding techniques and genetic modification. Typical for the pro-GM lobby, but less than acceptable on a site with the motto 'For Reason and Science.'

Wed, 02 May 2012 14:41:15 UTC | #939021

C.Wood's Avatar Comment 8 by C.Wood

Comment 4 by Red Dog :

3) The profit influence. Most of the GM research is funded by corporations like Monsanto. They talk about feeding the world but what they really care about is making more money. Which is fine, I like Capitalism, but we need to keep that in mind. Some of the GM modifications -- such as making plants sterile so farmer always have to buy seeds or making crops more resistant to pesticides that Monsanto sells -- have little to do with helping anyone but the corporations that sponsor them.

Actually, this is what the authors have to say on that point:

Our work is publically funded, we have pledged that our results will not be patented and will not be owned by any private company - if our wheat proves to be beneficial we want it to be available to farmers around the world at minimum cost. If you destroy publicly funded research, you leave us in a situation where only the big corporations can afford the drastic security precautions needed to continue biotechnology research - and you therefore further promote a situation you say you are trying to avoid.

The point is, the potential dangers are not enough to discourage R&D and proper testing. I have my share of concerns for GM products, but FFS, it also has the potential of solving many of the world's food problems!

Wed, 02 May 2012 14:41:41 UTC | #939022

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 9 by Neodarwinian

@ henscastle

Donkeys and horses do not breed in the wild. Just one example of agricultural GM before today's GM . Taking the gene from an organism that expresses it in the wild and " inserting " it into an organism that does not process said gene. Donkeys and horses, or wheat and mint. Better technology is all the difference.

Wed, 02 May 2012 14:49:57 UTC | #939025

rationalmind's Avatar Comment 10 by rationalmind

Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons :

Why are the "unintended consequences" of GM liable to be any greater a threat than the unintended consequences of the ordinary artificial selection that agriculture has used throughout recorded history? At least with GM you know which genes you end up with, which gives you a good idea what phenotypes will result. So far, literally the only bad thing that's happened with GM is that an allergy to Brazil nuts has proven applicable also to the meat of some animals with the relevant nut genes inserted. It hardly seems, for example, a just reason for some poor nations to deny tens of thousands of tonnes of food donations.

That is simply not true. What about the link from a GM produced tryptophan source and Eosiniophilia Myalgia Syndrome? Then there are the biodiversity problems. For example the migration of the North American Monarch butterfly is being affected because the milkweed plants that the caterpillars eat are being exterminated by the glyphosate being sprayed on the GM crops. Or the enormous effect that GM is having in South America where grasslands and rainforest areas are being gobbled up by enormous soy plantations which are grown by the no-till direct seeding method. This method would normally not be possible because of the weed problem, but GM crops allow the spraying of glyphosate.

I'd bet that if you questioned the scientists developing GM crops they would have a very poor knowledge of the technical aspects of ecology. It is not sensible, for our own sakes, for us to treat the earth as if it only exists for our benefit. This is the biblical notion of having "dominion " over the world, and it is the usual claptrap that you get from religion.

We already know that we are diminising the biodiversity at a rate which is not sustainable. This creates environmental damage that will ultimately cause humans to suffer. Climate change is not the only problem caused by the overuse of resources. The biodiversity on the planet is responsible for what is known as "Ecosystem services". This is basically the variety of living organisms and the fundamental life-support services provided by natural ecosystems, without which human civilization would cease to thrive. Ignoring what the science of ecology tells us, and particularly some of the recent work on ecosystem resiliance and its relation to diversity.

Contrary to what is constantly said we are not actually short of food in the world. There are problems caused by global inequality of course, but famines are usually the result of other factors such as war.

All that South American soy is just going to feed cattle to make more "Muck burgers" and generate more obesity which isn't good for people anyway.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:03:22 UTC | #939030

mr_DNA's Avatar Comment 11 by mr_DNA

As has been said the history of crops is the history of mankind. Civilisation only became possible once man learned to selectively breed wild wheat into the nutrious variety we have today.

In the fifties scientists were bombarding wheat with Xrays and gamma rays to produce mutant strains which had beneficial adaptations for the grain (mutogenesis ) We have had gm foods for nearly 20 years and there has never been a report of a harmful outcome; anywhere. My question is what do you think these 'unintended consequences' are? This a study into plant pheromones in controlled settings. What is your worry? Killer triffids?

Mutations happen all the time naturally. Do you worry about what strange plant might appear as a result?

There is a serious side to this. Mankind is fast outstripping his capacity to manage the environment because of headlong population growth. Any way to improve yields in the third world has to be researched to prevent millions dying from famine.

Of course religion is the main culprit for stopping contraception and that should be tackled but science has a duty to help minimise the damage caused by over population.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:09:53 UTC | #939031

henscastle's Avatar Comment 12 by henscastle

Donkeys and horses do not breed in the wild. Just one example of agricultural GM before today's GM . Taking the gene from an organism that expresses it in the wild and " inserting " it into an organism that does not process said gene. Donkeys and horses, or wheat and mint. Better technology is all the difference.

I believe you're talking about inter-species hybrids that do not breed because they are sterile. Nothing to do with genetic insertion.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:11:36 UTC | #939032

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 13 by SaganTheCat

unintended consequences are going to happen with or without GM

no one intended the midwest dustbowl, but it happened becasue of agriculture no one intended the destruction of most of our rainforests but it happened no one intended any of the spread of all viral pathogens that have emerged i the last 200 years no one intended climate change

I could go on but you get the picture. the human race is expanding. our demands on the planet are increasing and our planet stubbornly refuses to magic up resources on demand.

it's fine to be concerned about what might happen but to take the decision to not be the one who's responsible is the most irrisponsible position you can take. it's like praying, you can boast if it goes well or shirk the blame if not.

the consequences of GM crops right now carry a risk but probably a much smaller risk than not modifying crops. the consequences of carrying out trials to assess these risks however, are miniscule in terms of the lifespan of our species. sabotaging experiments has all the logic of throwing virgins into volcanoes.

genetic modification has been going on unchecked since the turn of the 20th century with selective breeding and intensive farming methods. the consequences are upon us now.

meanwhile, poison is put into the water tables of every country to control pests. people starve because they've ruined their land thru intensive farming or single crop farming.

the potential for crops that survive in areas we can't currently grow in or able to be irrigated by salt water or just to be able to stop using chemicals that have a known long term effect on humans is too important to overlook.

the argument "but we don't know what will happen in the future" is beyond contempt. of course we don't know! but we can study and learn.

it may be possible that the benefits wil mitigate the effects of all the problems i mentioned above. GM crops exist in the world already, sabotaging a research project is unforgivable

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:12:06 UTC | #939033

Nontheist Central's Avatar Comment 14 by Nontheist Central

If these people were the ones starving, they wouldn't be protesting. They'd be thankful that science has helped us figure out a way to feed hungry people. Why do people insist on keeping themselves ignorant and then bitch and moan that GM is destroying the world? It's ridiculous! The Frankenfood people did the same a while ago and convinced the African government to refuse tons of food meant to feed the emaciated people of Africa. If you asked the starving Africans, they'd probably say, pass the GMF, please! I have a problem when people protest against something that could be an absolute good for the world, especially when they're not the ones suffering. I hope they have some way of defending their crops and keep those fools away!

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:16:55 UTC | #939034

Roy72's Avatar Comment 15 by Roy72

There are some legitimate concerns but most of the arguments and protestors seem unscientific and even antiscientific.

This particular GM crop is engineered to resist aphids so should reduce the environmental impact of putting pesticides on wheatfields.

And as for contamination with "foreign" DNA many of the protestors will be growing plants in their gardens that come from Asia, Australia and the New World whose DNA is 100% foreign to these isles but no-one complains about that.

I do take particular umbridge that they hijack the title a great tune from Rage Against the Machine as a weak pun to name their group.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:18:15 UTC | #939035

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 16 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Comment 1 by 78rpm

I am not in the protestors' camp, but GM worries me as to unintended consequences, and in my gut feeling that somehow it just ain't right. I suppose if this were 110 years ago I would have been one of those people who would have wanted to stop airplane flight, shouting, "Evil! Man wasn't meant to fly! If God had intended us to fly, he would have given us wings! (etc, etc.)," and of course I would have been dead wrong.

I know this is a forum for Reason, and I have no concrete reason to be against GM, but it just bothers me. Born worrier, I guess.

It's natural to be concerned about something you don't understand, but I hope you recognise it is irrational to assume that something you don't understand must be harmful - or is more likely to be harmful than helpful.

The protestors, in their ignorance, have no reason to assume that their actions will be helpful rather than harmful.

Once you recognise that ALL domestic crops (and animals) are genetically modified, as mentioned in the letter, meaning virtually everything you have ever eaten is genetically modified, it shouldn't be such a worry for you.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:24:09 UTC | #939037

henscastle's Avatar Comment 17 by henscastle

Once you recognise that ALL domestic crops (and animals) are genetically modified, as mentioned in the letter, meaning virtually everything you have ever eaten is genetically modified, it shouldn't be such a worry for you.

Both deceptive and condescending. As I pointed out before, this is a common trick used by GM lobbists such as Sense About Science to make GM appear more accepted than it is by confusing it with legitimate and proving breeding techniques. I've seen little in this comment section but the usual PR spin about GM, and how its opponants are 'anti-scientific'. The usual fear-mongering cant about famines and over-population. Not something you expect from a site that supposedly prides itself on reason.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:32:59 UTC | #939041

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 18 by Jos Gibbons

Misleading nugget there - intended to confuse conventional breeding techniques and genetic modification. Typical for the pro-GM lobby, but less than acceptable on a site with the motto 'For Reason and Science.' ...

You only get to declare a comparison misleading if there's a significant difference presence. I repeat my challenge to anti-GM$ people: of the two methods we have for making organisms with genes their ancestors lacked, (a) artificial selection and (b) genetic engineering, why is (b), whose genetics we know better than that of (a), liable to nonetheless be any more dangerous? While we're at it, since literally billions more people can be fed now because of the GM work of Norman Borlaug, just when are the anti-GM people going to be proven even mildly right in a worrying finding?

$ If anyone comes here saying they're a fence-sitter, this applies to them too. I've seen that trick in the climate debate. Either you agree with scientific consensus or you don't.

What about the link from a GM produced tryptophan source and Eosiniophilia Myalgia Syndrome?

OK, there was another one. My source may be outdated now. But just how worrying is this example? It is easy to avoid food containing tryptophan if you need to, GM or otherwise; in the GM case, it’s hardly unpredictable where it will occur, given its biosynthesis mechanism. Actually, I have an even better question to ask you: what exactly do you think should change in our GM practices, and why? There’s only so much rug-pulling your example justifies – none, I’d say in fact.

the migration of the North American Monarch butterfly is being affected because the milkweed plants that the caterpillars eat are being exterminated by the glyphosate being sprayed on the GM crops. Grasslands and rainforest areas are being gobbled up by enormous soy plantations which are grown by the no-till direct seeding method. This method would normally not be possible because of the weed problem, but GM crops allow the spraying of glyphosate.

It’s a shame people don’t make “crops” of “weeds”; the plant-“weed” distinction is a matter of human preference. There are certainly cases where species don’t deserve to be killed with our chemicals. But the pesticides debate isn’t the same thing as the GM debate. If only we also introduced a GM version of milkweed that has glyphosate resistance, the problem would be gone. Perhaps you’ll say “oh no, they have to evolve it on their own”. Well perhaps they will.

It is not sensible, for our own sakes, for us to treat the earth as if it only exists for our benefit. This is the biblical notion of having "dominion " over the world, and it is the usual claptrap that you get from religion.

(1) Genetic fallacy.
(2) Again, there are many ways we shift the balance of power in our favour; why act as if it’s specifically GM you have the problem with?

we are diminising the biodiversity at a rate which is not sustainable.

For example, through global warming. You know, introducing heat resistance into certain species could fix that.

This creates environmental damage that will ultimately cause humans to suffer.

When you have evidence GM can accidentally harm humans to an extent worthy of pulling out the rug under GM, let us know.

The biodiversity on the planet is responsible for what is known as "Ecosystem services".

I’m well aware we need organisms in many niches for the chemical cycles & food webs to work out in a way that keeps us going. Do you really contend GM could cause niches to no longer be occupied?

we are not actually short of food in the world.

No, we’re not, because Norman Borlaug used GM to get us plenty more.

All that South American soy is just going to feed cattle to make more "Muck burgers" and generate more obesity which isn't good for people anyway.

You know what would be better for us than eating all that beef? Let’s eat the soy. What’s wrong with the soy, tell me?

I believe you're talking about inter-species hybrids that do not breed because they are sterile. Nothing to do with genetic insertion.

But what if mules were fertile? What if genetic insertion were in this case happening between intraspecific demes rather than species? How much panic would then be justified?

The usual fear-mongering cant about famines and over-population.

How should we fix those problems, then, if not through enhancing plants' efficiency of growth?

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:37:07 UTC | #939043

rationalmind's Avatar Comment 19 by rationalmind

There is one argument in that video that sounds more typical of the sort of thing you would have heard from Cardinal Pell, during his debate with Richard Dawkins. "We believe that you are in the minority." Well so what? This is really really irrational argument and it really does undermine my credibility in the whole organisation that they let such poor thinking be put out in a public statment like this.

This is a well known logical fallacy called "argument from numbers". It is really annoying to hear scientists making an argument like this. There is a very very simple refutation and if someone doesn't realise this, it undermines my confidence in their ability to think rationally. It seems to me that it is symptomatic of a lack of a degree of critical thinking skills, especially when you would hope the statement as a whole would have been checked.

The simple refutation is this. You cannot argue that something is right or wrong because of the number of people who believe it. It is the evidence that needs to be considered not the number who believe. At one time everyone thought the earth was flat. They were all wrong. If you want another example the consider this one. Atheists are in the minority in America. Does this mean they are wrong?

This is really a very basic error.

(Incidentally, I am aware that even in medieval times people did know the world was round. There were however,times before knowledge and literacy was widespread when the notion of the earth being flat would have seemed correct to most people. The Bible for example contains numerous examples where ideas are expressed from a flat earth perspective.)

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:44:59 UTC | #939047

GreatWhiteShark's Avatar Comment 20 by GreatWhiteShark

Comment 7 by henscastle :

Remember – all plants in all types of agriculture are genetically modified to serve humanity’s needs.

Misleading nugget there - intended to confuse conventional breeding techniques and genetic modification. Typical for the pro-GM lobby, but less than acceptable on a site with the motto 'For Reason and Science.'

I disagree, since the agricultural revolution we have been shaping the genepools of crops to be more productive. Previous to that we were doing it for livestock. GM is not a new thing, but more the next step in artificial selection, and though i agree its misuse is to be avoided to fear it and destroy its research is ignoring the reason why it exists. 7 billion people on planet earth, and all of them need feeding.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:45:11 UTC | #939048

Anvil's Avatar Comment 21 by Anvil

Comment 17 by henscastle

(...) deceptive and condescending. (...) The usual fear-mongering cant about famines and over-population. Not something you expect from a site that supposedly prides itself on reason.

I imagine it does pride itself on reason. And it certainly doesn't belong to any individual poster, as your own prescence demonstrates.

The letter is in full above. The floor is yours, henscastle.

By the way all, if you haven't been, Take Back the Flour's website is here.

The page explaining the demonstration is copied (and linked) below:

Why a decontamination?

This open air trial poses a real, serious and imminent contamination threat to the local environment and the UK wheat industry. We’re calling on the Government and Rothamsted to remove the GM plants themselves, but if they fail to do so then May 27th is the last weekend action can safely be taken before pollination.

We’d rather not have to clean it up, but there simply aren’t any other avenues open to us. Despite expert representations urging caution the government has never refused any request for GM trials in the UK. Given that the current head of the responsible department (DEFRA) is a former biotech industry lobbyist this is hardly surprising.

The coalition have no mandate for forcing GM into our countryside, they’re acting against the express outcome of the democratic process by doing so. The government conducted the largest public consultation in recent history on Genetically Modified crops in 2003 (GM Nation) which found that the majority of the British public were “cautious, suspicious or outright hostile” towards GM crops.

Anyone who feels compelled to take this step with us will be in good company. Across the channel farmers, families, and local mayors have taken part in similar daytime decontaminations, and as a result France is currently in the process of banning its only commercially grown GM variety. In Belgium last year a mass public decontamination removed the GM potato trial in question, and is likely to have been instrumental in biotech giant BASF deciding to pull out of Europe.

This crop is a threat to our thriving wheat industry and our food security. This action is for anyone who feels able to help take it out, and all those who wish to support them.

Anvil.

Wed, 02 May 2012 15:49:29 UTC | #939049

Anvil's Avatar Comment 22 by Anvil

Is there a way to genetically modify my ability to spel?

Anvil.

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:07:03 UTC | #939051

inleaguewithsatan's Avatar Comment 23 by inleaguewithsatan

Comment 6 by Neodarwinian :

" nor would we wish to see force used against you. "

That is why such power is in the hands of the state. These people, anti-GM types, are worse than creationists and their behavior demands that rational discourse oppose their nonsense. ( more opposition by the state if needed )

@ Red Dog Number three reason can be agreed with by all but Jos Gibbons seems to have covered your other concerns.

Anti-GM types are worse than creationists? Creationists have been proven wrong time and time again, yet genetically modified foods such as soy show signs of adverse effects on humans. I don't see how anti-GM and naturalist is worse than denying science itself. The anti-GM types have a specific philosophy which lies beyond the grasp of scientific reasoning, while creationists merely dismiss evidence altogether. They aren't comparable at all. I for one avoid several GM foods, in particular GM soy. Can you say for certain there are no inherent risks with ALL GM foods, or merely the majority? I honestly haven't seen the studies or journals which present the evidence and I'm curious of the effects. I'm not anti-GM, but I do think it's a process which should be handled carefully, and humans could easily cause more harm than good.

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:14:18 UTC | #939052

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 24 by Jos Gibbons

Anti-GM types are worse than creationists?

If I had to guess how someone could defend an opinion like that, it's be along the lines of "they're opposing our only way to keep feeding billions & their can't-see-wood-for-trees arguments against GM are analogous to creationist objections to holes in knowledge". I'm not here to defend a specific ranking of people with whom I disagree, though, so I'll leave it there.

genetically modified foods such as soy show signs of adverse effects on humans

Could you please provide an example with a source?

I don't see how anti-GM and naturalist is worse than denying science itself

Firstly, it's a comparison between two ways of contradicting a scientific consensus, not between denying science as a whole and not doing so. Secondly, "natural is good" is a fallacy.

The anti-GM types have a specific philosophy which lies beyond the grasp of scientific reasoning

It's about risk assessment. Science is the only possible source of data for that.

Can you say for certain

Anything in science? No. Can you say even with decent odds that GM dangers exceed those of "ordinary" agricultural methods?

I'm curious of the effects.

Go look them up before disliking GM. Have a case.

I'm not anti-GM

You're anti-GM soy.

humans could easily cause more harm than good

We've already increased the numbers of people we can feed by billions with GM. What more-harm-than-good scenario are you plausibly envisaging based on what we know of real genetics?

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:43:30 UTC | #939057

brighterstill's Avatar Comment 25 by brighterstill

The only important difference between the genetic modification we can do now and the genetic modification every agricultural society has been doing for thousands of years is that we're better at it now. We've crossed the threshold from having to deal with the outward expression of genes (size, weight, colour, nutrient content) and having to go through many many generations to express those genes to being able to select exactly which gene we want to get the result we need and produce the organism we're interested in. It's the equivalent of going from bloodletting to microsurgery. Blunt-force genetic modification through selective breeding to fine-tuned and surgically precise genetic modification through splicing.

Sure it can be frightening to see our technological abilities change, and I don't think even Monsanto would advocate for unrestricted, uncontrolled genetic modification, but there's absolutely no reason why the same responsible, cautious approach we take to all scientific pursuits shouldn't be given the freedom to explore here, especially when the benefits of feeding our growing population with less impact on land-use are so important.

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:45:52 UTC | #939058

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 26 by aquilacane

What the hell is this about?

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:53:54 UTC | #939060

Al Denelsbeck's Avatar Comment 27 by Al Denelsbeck

Comment 10 by rationalmind:

What about the link from a GM produced tryptophan source and Eosiniophilia Myalgia Syndrome?

What about it? The "link" is not the "cause" - the problem was impurities in processing the supplements, and had little or nothing to do with GM tryptophan. This took less than a minute to find online.

For example the migration of the North American Monarch butterfly is being affected because the milkweed plants that the caterpillars eat are being exterminated by the glyphosate being sprayed on the GM crops.

First, it hasn't even been determined that the monarch decline is a real number, since only a few areas can be observed - they may simply be migrating to different areas (not surprising in the slightest concerning the changes in average temperatures.)

Second, the connection between the assumed decline and the milkweed reduction in farmland (which is the only place the glyphosate is sprayed) is in dispute. The same decline would take place with conventional weedkillers - only the adverse effects of those would be substantially greater, a fact that is not in dispute.

Third, we have been seeing countless declines of species the world over, all from the repercussions of human development. Even if GM foods are shown to be the culprit in monarch butterfly population reduction, it's swamped by numerous other practices untouched and unprotested by ignorant fear-mongering chuckleheads. Perspective is not a word they seem familiar with.

Or the enormous effect that GM is having in South America where grasslands and rainforest areas are being gobbled up by enormous soy plantations which are grown by the no-till direct seeding method.

First off, to even try to promote the idea that soy plants would take over from any form of rainforest is fatuous to the point of insanity. Your beef is with land development, which is taking place with and without GM crops. GM crops, and the increased yield and reduced land usage from weed and pest management, actually reduces land development from where it could be without such advantages.

I'd bet that if you questioned the scientists developing GM crops they would have a very poor knowledge of the technical aspects of ecology.

I'll take the bet, and raise you tenfold.

But until you pony up some money, I'll simply treat this as a nonargument. I tend to be more convinced by people who can do their homework, rather than voice suspicions.

We already know that we are diminising the biodiversity at a rate which is not sustainable. This creates environmental damage that will ultimately cause humans to suffer.

Which has nothing to do with GM crops. The keyword is "population," so feel free to take up the population reduction chant. I'm actually all for it.

Except, not by starving a certain percentage of existing humans to death.

Contrary to what is constantly said we are not actually short of food in the world. There are problems caused by global inequality of course, but famines are usually the result of other factors such as war.

What you're trying to argue here is merely semantics. There is more than enough water in the world too, but drought is still an issue. All the whiny farmers who can't grow their produce should simply go to the snow-covered mountaintops, right?

So, distribution is an issue, hampered by costs, politics, and accessibility. What does this have to do with GM crops? Except that some of them are specifically aimed to grow in areas previously inhospitable to them, negating the need for distribution.

All that South American soy is just going to feed cattle to make more "Muck burgers" and generate more obesity which isn't good for people anyway.

Save us all some time, and put your mindless rants at the beginning of your posts so we can see the source of your attitude before going any further.

Wed, 02 May 2012 16:55:11 UTC | #939061

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 28 by Schrodinger's Cat

The biggest worry is not what mankind might create.....it is the increasing dependency of those creations on mankind. Now that's just fine as long as we have the resources to handle our own technology. But.....if there's a global war, or drought, climate change etc and we're thrown back to year zero.....then I very much doubt if our man-made species will cope with the onslaught of true natural selection again. The act of genetically modifying any plant is one of removing it from any environmental context and placing it in an artificial one. If our global society goes belly up then we could be doubly damning ourselves, in having created species so dependent on us.

Wed, 02 May 2012 17:42:34 UTC | #939075

Al Denelsbeck's Avatar Comment 29 by Al Denelsbeck

It's funny - you can look through these comments, on a site devoted to rational discussion, and see just how few people are willing to face facts, maintain perspective, or even consider that they really don't have good sources of info.

Genetic modification has been going on since the dawn of life. Genetic modification with specific intent has been going on since [proto]humans first recognized that offspring had traits from both parents. Most of our food is genetically modified, as are most of our domesticated animals [I actually believe it's all of both, but some pedant will start barking if I say that.]

The specific actions that formulate what we refer to as "GM" are only a much higher level of selectivity, pinning down genes that produce just a desired effect and no other, actually reducing the number of detrimental effects in selective breeding. Anyone familiar with dog or horse breeding knows how many serious, debilitating, and outright fatal issues have been produced with "natural" processes. It happens without human input too - that's how selection works.

The belief that scientific tampering leads to super-strong and unstoppable mutations, and every variant thereof, is comic book thinking. We don't create new genes, we simply transfer them from existing species. Yes, there are adverse effects of some things we do - Thalidomide is the example many people think of, yet Thalidomide still has positive uses, just not in pregnant women. Toxoplasma gondii also has adverse effects in pregnant women, but we have nothing to do with that - except, having learned from it we have pregnant women avoid litterboxes.

That's the point - adverse effects are to be found everywhere. We're not going to be able to eradicate them, and we're certainly not going to predict them all before we take some action. To argue that it's then better to take no action is ludicrous. Benefits often come with risks. Thinking people can weigh benefit against risk and come up with useful actions, which may include eliminating the risks as they're discovered while keeping the benefit.

Even worse, however, are the abject morons who take actions to try and stop others from taking actions, fearing the potential adverse effects of GM (or any other activism hotbutton) while remaining completely oblivious to the adverse effects that will knowingly result from their own actions. It takes a special brand of emotionally-ruled idiot to perform such pointless stunts.

Skip this part if you don't like anecdotes: Many years back in my area, there was a band of "animal liberationists" who attacked a business doing animal testing, trashing the lab and setting all of the mice free. Some years afterward, the subject came up with someone who I knew had taken part, but who believed I didn't know this. I took great delight in pointing out that, not only did the activists' actions fail to stop the testing, they both increased the costs of the product being developed (repairing damages, restarting lines of work) and increased the number of animals being bred for such purposes simply because the released animals were replaced, boosting the revenue of the suppliers as well. The business wasn't going to fold because of a bunch of maniacs; they picked up the pieces and continued their research. The activists' actions weren't guided by a goal or effective plan, only by frustration and selfish ego-boosting.

Wed, 02 May 2012 17:46:17 UTC | #939077

brighterstill's Avatar Comment 30 by brighterstill

Comment 17 by henscastle : this is a common trick used by GM lobbists such as Sense About Science to make GM appear more accepted than it is by confusing it with legitimate and proving breeding techniques. I've seen little in this comment section but the usual PR spin about GM, and how its opponants are 'anti-scientific'. The usual fear-mongering cant about famines and over-population. Not something you expect from a site that supposedly prides itself on reason.

"by confusing it with legitimate and proving [sic] breeding techniques" this language directly implies genetic modification through gene splicing is somehow "illegitimate". Legitimacy of method is a social construct and irrelevant to this argument. Your argument amounts to "it just isn't right."

Wed, 02 May 2012 18:04:31 UTC | #939083