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GM Foods
Posted: 21 June 2013 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve heard a lot of Sturm und Drang about Genetically Modified foods.  Does anyone have an opiniom?  Here’s a site someone sent me.  http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/seeds-death/ It seems over the top. GM may have a downside but this seems to be throwing everything into the pot but the kitchen sink, which makes me skeptical.  What do you think?  I’m particularly interested in what McGyver has to say, but would like to hear from others, as well.

Lois

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Posted: 21 June 2013 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The ones I’ve seen haven’t modified the chemical composition of the food, so I’m not worried about eating them.  Other uses seem to be to block crop losses by insects and weed crowding. 

However, I don’t like companies like Monsanto patenting them, then selling seeds that grow well but have a hidden gene that makes the next generation far less productive so farmers have to keep buying rather than using their own seeds for the next season.  A variation of this is if the farmer uses his seeds that still contain last year’s patented genes, the company can sue him.  I’d prefer to see far more patent restrictions on the supplying companies.

Another problem is when genes transfer to other plants so the standard weed killers no longer work on them. 

Occam

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Posted: 21 June 2013 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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To begin with I think the term is a bit unfortunate. Human beings have been genetically modifying foods for thousands of years. The term GMO ( genetically modified organisms) has become the new scare word among a portion of the population. Some of these people are quite educated but the majority don;t understand the subject at all. They are just frightened by the idea that man is tinkering with nature and they are afraid to consume the fruits of those activities most because of irrational and unfounded fears. Those very same people probably have no idea that prior to man’s tinkering, the Broccoli and Cauliflower they heartily consume never existed. They were created from a type of cabbage through selective breeding. This was also a form of fairly extreme genetic modification but it doesn’t seem to bother them.

The recent type of genetic modification that everyone is so fearful of is different in method but not necessarily different in outcome. Rather than waiting for mutations to occur and selecting for them we can now introduce them intentionally in the form of entire genes. This is done for many reasons but usually the purpose is to make a plant more drought resistant, or insect resistant, or resistant to a specific herbicide so that a farmer can spray the pesticide on the field and it will kill the weeds but not the crop. Some GM’s have also been created to increase the protein or vitamin content of a crop so that it can provide better nutrition.

Using the old method of genetic modification, mutations were random and difficult to control. Modern GM allows us to specifically choose what genes we want to introduce. Since the properties of the genes are known in advance it seems to me on those grounds alone this is actually safer. We know exactly what is going into that food before its introduced. The person who ate the first head of Broccoli had to just hope it wasn’t gong to cause him to grow a third eye. He had no idea what was in that strange new vegetable he was eating.

Modern GM is a very powerful tool and there is of course some danger to all such techniques. Its possible that we may create an invasive super plant that we can’t control and once its out in the wild its very difficult to get that genie back in the bottle. This has always been an issue no matter what method we use to GM our foods but because current methods can modify foods more rapidly its more important to protect the environment until we know the plants are not harmful. At least with modern GM safeguards are in place to protect against this but they are not perfect and a recent episode of GM wheat which escaped from the lab and into the wild illustrates how difficult it can be to completely protect against this possibility. Keep in mind however that lots of people are out there breeding new varieties of plants in their backyards all the time with no safeguards in place at all using the old fashioned form of GM.

All in all I think the benefits of GM crops far outweigh the risk. Without them it would be nearly impossible to feed the worlds people and to date there have been no adverse effects documented from any of these products. It has unfortunately become the latest crusade for people who are afraid of things they dont understand. Luckily these foods have already become so important that its unlikely their efforts will have long lasting or widespread effects.

P.S. - I just looked at the link and without even viewing the film it looks like a complete hatchet job. The claims made in the summary are completely without basis in fact.

[ Edited: 21 June 2013 03:35 PM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 21 June 2013 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Occam. - 21 June 2013 02:23 PM

The ones I’ve seen haven’t modified the chemical composition of the food, so I’m not worried about eating them.  Other uses seem to be to block crop losses by insects and weed crowding. 

However, I don’t like companies like Monsanto patenting them, then selling seeds that grow well but have a hidden gene that makes the next generation far less productive so farmers have to keep buying rather than using their own seeds for the next season.  A variation of this is if the farmer uses his seeds that still contain last year’s patented genes, the company can sue him.  I’d prefer to see far more patent restrictions on the supplying companies.

Another problem is when genes transfer to other plants so the standard weed killers no longer work on them. 

Occam

In all fairness to Monsanto they did do the research, took the risk, and spent a lot of money to create these crops. In some ways this is not unlike the problem the music industry faces when digital music hit the scene. If you don’t protect your product then everyone can make copies and you lose your entire investment. Monsanto has every right to prevent the farmer from taking seeds from these plants and using them for next years crop.

Keep in mind the farmer always has the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock if he wants to and he won’t have this issue. Its a bit disingenuous to want the latest invention but complain about having to pay the price.

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Posted: 21 June 2013 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’ve heard a lot of Sturm und Drang about Genetically Modified foods.  Does anyone have an opiniom?

Like McGuyver said, humans have been genetically modifying food for centuries. Some food staples wouldn’t even exist without it. (Did you know that the root stock for modern day almonds has lethal levels of cyanide? Not what you want to be munching on although some of you might want to offer it to your neighbours or in-laws!)

All which has changed is that modern day GM allows us to achieve fairly quickly what it took decades or even centuries of selective breeding to do otherwise.

That’s it.

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Posted: 21 June 2013 11:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I don’t have a problem with the “modification” in itself, but I expect some disaster to happen with it in the future.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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macgyver - 21 June 2013 03:22 PM

In all fairness to Monsanto they did do the research, took the risk, and spent a lot of money to create these crops. In some ways this is not unlike the problem the music industry faces when digital music hit the scene. If you don’t protect your product then everyone can make copies and you lose your entire investment. Monsanto has every right to prevent the farmer from taking seeds from these plants and using them for next years crop.

Keep in mind the farmer always has the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock if he wants to and he won’t have this issue. Its a bit disingenuous to want the latest invention but complain about having to pay the price.

I also do not have a problem with GMO foods. But farmers sometimes do not actually have the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock. Monsanto is engaging in the good old-fashioned American business practice of legal monopolistic shenanigans, and part of that (from what I understand) is that when they can, they include in contracts to seed distributors that they are not allowed to carry non-Monsanto seeds. Somewhat like how you never see restaurants like McDonald’s never carry both Pepsi and Coke products. Except Monsanto doesn’t have a competitor like Pepsi has Coke. I think that much of the social backlash against GMO has to do with the public perception of their business practices, rather than the alleged unviability of the foods, which just becomes an excuse.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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macgyver - 21 June 2013 03:01 PM

To begin with I think the term is a bit unfortunate. Human beings have been genetically modifying foods for thousands of years. The term GMO ( genetically modified organisms) has become the new scare word among a portion of the population. Some of these people are quite educated but the majority don;t understand the subject at all. They are just frightened by the idea that man is tinkering with nature and they are afraid to consume the fruits of those activities most because of irrational and unfounded fears. Those very same people probably have no idea that prior to man’s tinkering, the Broccoli and Cauliflower they heartily consume never existed. They were created from a type of cabbage through selective breeding. This was also a form of fairly extreme genetic modification but it doesn’t seem to bother them.

The recent type of genetic modification that everyone is so fearful of is different in method but not necessarily different in outcome. Rather than waiting for mutations to occur and selecting for them we can now introduce them intentionally in the form of entire genes. This is done for many reasons but usually the purpose is to make a plant more drought resistant, or insect resistant, or resistant to a specific herbicide so that a farmer can spray the pesticide on the field and it will kill the weeds but not the crop. Some GM’s have also been created to increase the protein or vitamin content of a crop so that it can provide better nutrition.

Using the old method of genetic modification, mutations were random and difficult to control. Modern GM allows us to specifically choose what genes we want to introduce. Since the properties of the genes are known in advance it seems to me on those grounds alone this is actually safer. We know exactly what is going into that food before its introduced. The person who ate the first head of Broccoli had to just hope it wasn’t gong to cause him to grow a third eye. He had no idea what was in that strange new vegetable he was eating.

Modern GM is a very powerful tool and there is of course some danger to all such techniques. Its possible that we may create an invasive super plant that we can’t control and once its out in the wild its very difficult to get that genie back in the bottle. This has always been an issue no matter what method we use to GM our foods but because current methods can modify foods more rapidly its more important to protect the environment until we know the plants are not harmful. At least with modern GM safeguards are in place to protect against this but they are not perfect and a recent episode of GM wheat which escaped from the lab and into the wild illustrates how difficult it can be to completely protect against this possibility. Keep in mind however that lots of people are out there breeding new varieties of plants in their backyards all the time with no safeguards in place at all using the old fashioned form of GM.

All in all I think the benefits of GM crops far outweigh the risk. Without them it would be nearly impossible to feed the worlds people and to date there have been no adverse effects documented from any of these products. It has unfortunately become the latest crusade for people who are afraid of things they dont understand. Luckily these foods have already become so important that its unlikely their efforts will have long lasting or widespread effects.

P.S. - I just looked at the link and without even viewing the film it looks like a complete hatchet job. The claims made in the summary are completely without basis in fact.

Thanks, McGyver.  That all makes sense.

Lois

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Posted: 22 June 2013 09:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 22 June 2013 08:18 AM
macgyver - 21 June 2013 03:22 PM

In all fairness to Monsanto they did do the research, took the risk, and spent a lot of money to create these crops. In some ways this is not unlike the problem the music industry faces when digital music hit the scene. If you don’t protect your product then everyone can make copies and you lose your entire investment. Monsanto has every right to prevent the farmer from taking seeds from these plants and using them for next years crop.

Keep in mind the farmer always has the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock if he wants to and he won’t have this issue. Its a bit disingenuous to want the latest invention but complain about having to pay the price.

I also do not have a problem with GMO foods. But farmers sometimes do not actually have the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock. Monsanto is engaging in the good old-fashioned American business practice of legal monopolistic shenanigans, and part of that (from what I understand) is that when they can, they include in contracts to seed distributors that they are not allowed to carry non-Monsanto seeds. Somewhat like how you never see restaurants like McDonald’s never carry both Pepsi and Coke products. Except Monsanto doesn’t have a competitor like Pepsi has Coke. I think that much of the social backlash against GMO has to do with the public perception of their business practices, rather than the alleged unviability of the foods, which just becomes an excuse.

I agree.  They take it far beyond the patent issues.  I think that should be controlled.  I am also in favor of all GMO products being labeled, though voters shot down that requirement.  I can’t understand why they would not require this information.  How can they be afraid of information?

Lois

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Posted: 22 June 2013 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Well, I’ll bet that if all the gadgets and clothes made in China had to be labeled “made by non-Christians”, their sales would decrease appreciably.  Many who know nothing about GMO would be fearful and avoid those products.  Neither of these would occur based on rational information.

Occam

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Posted: 22 June 2013 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 22 June 2013 08:18 AM

But farmers sometimes do not actually have the option to use plain old un-patented seed stock. Monsanto is engaging in the good old-fashioned American business practice of legal monopolistic shenanigans, and part of that (from what I understand) is that when they can, they include in contracts to seed distributors that they are not allowed to carry non-Monsanto seeds. Somewhat like how you never see restaurants like McDonald’s never carry both Pepsi and Coke products. Except Monsanto doesn’t have a competitor like Pepsi has Coke. I think that much of the social backlash against GMO has to do with the public perception of their business practices, rather than the alleged unviability of the foods, which just becomes an excuse.

Do we know for sure that this is true and not just folk lore? Living in a metropolitan area I dont really know any farmers. Are you saying you know for sure that farmers can not find non-patented seed stock if they want? I would think you could order just about anything you want even if its not available at the local supplier. Monsanto might control some local retailers but they can’t control the internet. Couldn’t a farmer just order a delivery from an online supplier?  And if you really wanted to go that route, once you planted a crop you could put aside a percentage of your field for growing next years seed stock and for every year from then on without violating any patent laws. If I am missing something here let me know. When it comes to the day to day running of a family farm I am completely ignorant.

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Posted: 22 June 2013 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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There was a report about a year ago on NPR about farmers in India or Pakistan who couldn’t get standard seed and were sued by Monsanto if they tried to plant the second generation seed. 

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Posted: 22 June 2013 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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While I don’t like some of Monsanto’s practices, I am perfectly fine with GMO. We have been GMOing our foods for tens of thousands of years. Most of the hysterical posts I see on FB are just fearmongering untruths. It is a shame poor countries that can use the GMOs to feed a larger percentage of their starving population, won’t use it because of Luddite fears.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam. - 22 June 2013 12:09 PM

Well, I’ll bet that if all the gadgets and clothes made in China had to be labeled “made by non-Christians”, their sales would decrease appreciably.  Many who know nothing about GMO would be fearful and avoid those products.  Neither of these would occur based on rational information.

Occam

We have nutrition information on labels, it shows fat, salt and calories, among other information,  Some people might not buy the product because it has too much of one thing or another. Items are also labeled with country of origin, which might also deter some sales. Why shouldn’t products contain info about GM so people can decide? Why should GM be different? Don’t people have a right to be wrong about things? Has the nanny state gone so far that if some people might misinterpret the information that that information should be missing? That’s crazy, IMO.

Lois

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Posted: 23 June 2013 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Lois - 23 June 2013 12:48 AM

We have nutrition information on labels, it shows fat, salt and calories, among other information,  Some people might not buy the product because it has too much of one thing or another. Items are also labeled with country of origin, which might also deter some sales. Why shouldn’t products contain info about GM so people can decide? Why should GM be different? Don’t people have a right to be wrong about things? Has the nanny state gone so far that if some people might misinterpret the information that that information should be missing? That’s crazy, IMO.

Lois

They shouldn’t have that info because it plays into irrational fears. There is no evidence that GMO foods are any more likely to be harmful than any other foods. Lets say there was a crazy group out there that believed all vegetables which were picked by workers who had survived cancer were dangerous and they got enough followers to believe this nonsense. Should we then label all foods picked by cancer survivors so that we can placate these people? It would add nothing to the safety of the food and it would add credibility to their foolish theory which would possibly harm the workers. In the case of GMO foods it would be the same except you would be harming the companies and workers who develop and grow GMO’s.

People have a right to be wrong about anything they like but we as society shouldn’t follow them over the cliff or assist them when they try to push others over it.

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Posted: 23 June 2013 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I think all cars should display a huge sign saying ‘May cause fatal injuries,’ just like the cigarette packs in Canada. And just like the cigarette packs it should also show photos of people dying from car accidents.

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