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Green Light for California's Frankenfoods Referendum
June 13, 2012 8:47 AM   Subscribe

In November "The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act", will be on the California ballot.

One in four Americans think that Genetically Modified Foods are safe. Vermont's recent attempt to force the food industry to label GMF was killed in State legislature, as were past attempts in California, largely because due to intense food industry lobbying. This time the vote goes to the people of CA. Given GMF food is not very popular, the act has a good chance of passing.

Are Biotech foods safe to eat? The U.S. government's position: Genetically engineered crops are safe, resist disease better, and can provide much-needed food in starving nations. Monsanto, unsurprisingly holds exactly the same view.

Perhaps the passing of the bill will stop the trend of more and more farmers planting GM crops.
posted by snaparapans (81 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm as much of a fan of Monsanto as anyone else, but is GM food really that bad?
posted by meows at 8:54 AM on June 13, 2012


nice headline. very 90's.
posted by glug at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2012


Well, if that won't bring out the vote for Obama, I don't know what will.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2012


*sigh* People continue to forget that genetically modified food is nothing new. Modern generic engineering is an update of the same cross-breeding techniques used in agriculture for centuries that have given us things like edible citrus fruits.
posted by SansPoint at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


SansPoint *sigh* People continue to forget that genetically modified food is nothing new.

Well then, the corporations that produce these foods should have no problem with labeling them as such, no?
posted by snaparapans at 9:01 AM on June 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


If we start labeling all genetically modified food as such, we're essentially labeling _all_ food as GM, because hardly a single thing we put into our mouths hasn't been the result of cross-breeding, selectrive breeding or outright genetic modification. I mean everything.
posted by SansPoint at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well then, the corporations that produce these foods should have no problem with labeling them as such, no?

As long as every single orange and lemon has the label too, sure.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and bananas! If you buy an unmodified banana (assuming you could ever find such a thing in a shop) you get this.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and bananas!

Like I'd ever put one of those radioactive SOBs in my body.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:10 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


People continue to forget that the internet is nothing new. Modern IP is an update of the same telecommunications techniques used over centuries to give us things like the telegram and the telephone.

People continue to forget that biological warfare is nothing new. Modern bioweapons are merely an update of the same disease-transmitting techniques used for centuries against civilian populations.

People continue to forget that Citizens United is nothing new. Free speech rights for corporations are an update of the same corporate personhood framework that has been used for centuries to enable efficient economic behavior.

See also.
posted by gauche at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Three out of every four people used to think the earth was flat. The number of people who think something is true does not make it reality. Human Beings have been creating GMO's for thousands of years. Before it was hit or miss luck when we relied exclusively on sexual reproduction and genetic mutation. Now we can identify the exact traits we want find their genetic markers and place them where we want them.

Resistance to certain types of defoliants occurs naturally in several species of plants. Why is moving this resistance to food crops bad? BT is an organic pesticide approved for use on food stuffs it seems the protein coat of the bacteria is hard for pests to digest, it gums up their digestive track and the pests starve themselves to death by eating crops with the BT protein incorporated into their DNA.

This fear of man playing "God" is easy to understand but it is a superstition and doesn't seem rational to me.

I can understand the economic arguments about reliance on patented GMO seeds. Monoculture is bad ecologically too I get those objections. But Frankenfood? Everything we eat is a GMO whether through selective breeding or hybridization or a serendipitous mutation, and now we can do the modifications directly. We can make our food healthier to eat, we can feed the ever increasing population of this planet.

Rational objections I can understand, informed opinions I can respect but the reason of man should not meddle in the natural order is unfounded and unacceptable.
posted by pdxpogo at 9:15 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I personally don't like transgenetic foods. It kind of icks me out on a few levels. At the same time I have no problem with it IF it can be shown that modified foods don't have detrimental effects (and I'm of the belief that we haven't had enough testing -- but I could be quite wrong on that front, I admit).

Regardless of where the science lies, I do believe that consumers have a right to know whether a food is GMO or not. Then they can make up their mind (and pay the lovely extra bougie fees for GMO free food, while the poor folks can continue to consume the cheaper GMO food).

Consumer information is a good thing (though it might have negative side effects, especially when combined with poor understanding of the scientific process of the general public). But if GMOs and non-GMOs are both going to be on the market, it's still better to let people decide for their selves if they wish to consume a GMO or not, and the only way to do that is with proper labeling.
posted by symbioid at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2012


Why is moving this resistance to food crops bad?

Because in a complex system (such as an ecology) it is difficult to know -- and we don't know, and it may be beyond our ability to know -- whether moving such resistance to another organism will not a) disturb the existing equilibrium of the life cycle; b) be transmitted into the wider world in a manner which we can neither prevent nor recall, thereby increasing the possibility of a).
posted by gauche at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Modern generic engineering is an update of the same cross-breeding techniques used in agriculture for centuries

That sounds like unsubstantiated bunk to me!

It is! It is!

There is a world of difference between sharing some genetic information, and actually splicing and dicing genetic traits from way far away on the tree of life.

Now, I'm actually of the opinion that genetic engineering techniques are a very good thing, and have immense potential to improve medicine and agriculture. However, I am also of the opinion that these improvements need to be lab tested and their safety and suitability explained clearly to the public. Handwaving away concerns about food supply safety with such a blatant misrepresentation of the facts won't make anyone feel easier.

Matter of fact, GMO products should display a label loud and proud - "Engineered to conserve water, reduce waste, eliminate pesticides and to taste AWESOME!" That their major producers are skulking around, pretending they're like any other crop is a bit... creepy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


Perhaps the passing of the bill will stop the trend of more and more farmers planting GM crops.

Gosh, I hope not. This morning's article on Slate about peak soil (we're running out of good farmland) and peak water was eye opening. Factor in the impending problem of peak phosphorus, and we could really run out of growable food in the next 100 years.

Genetic engineering may be the only way we can feed everyone.
posted by fremen at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2012


One in four Americans think that Genetically Modified Foods are not safe.

One in four American parents also think vaccines cause autism.
posted by inigo2 at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Genetic engineering may be the only way we can feed everyone.

Or, you know, we could just use the food we grow enough of every day to feed the entire planet instead of feeding it to livestock.

You misspelled "genetic engineering may be the only way we can continue to stop giving a shit about this."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:24 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have no strong opinions on the safety or lack thereof of GMO, but trying to claim that using molecular cloning to bring together genetic material from multiple sources in order to create sequences that would not otherwise be found in biological organisms is exactly the same thing as selecting the big maize plants for reseeding is a pretty dumb argument.
posted by kyrademon at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2012 [21 favorites]


I should add that the main issue with GMOs that I see as most of a problem is the rapid rate of change combined with genes that may have unknown side effects (and which may not show up until much later after having been out in the wider populace).

That is - we now have roundup ready resistant weeds, and we're going to have more and more of an arms race (think "superbugs")... And while I'd *like* to have faith that man has the capacity to push beyond and "win", I don't have such faith either in politics, in economics or in pure ability of the human mind to solve what evolution does slowly over many generations. This is not a "don't mess with nature" screed, not by any means. I guess what I'm saying is "well we've been doing this for years!" isn't quite true...

We never had a fish fuck a plant before, but now we can mix the two genes together. That may or may not be beneficial, and I have no problem being a bit more cautious when it comes to interspecific (or should I say interkingdom?) genetic transplant.

Add in the corporate control and issues that companies like Monsanto exert against non-Monsanto farmers and genetic drift and the abuse of power that comes along with the IP "rights" of giant agrochem companies, and you have one more concern to think about.

I don't like going too far against GMOs because I do think that rabidly anti-GMO people smell like rabidly anti-nuke, rabidly anti-vax and all the other anti-science things we have. Prudence and caution are optimal, and of course in a capitalist environment where money talks, then we should have concerns about the balance of public health and safety and scientific research.

IOW, some of us urge caution and prudence and we aren't all shrill ill-informed fuckwits like the mass of idiot green-hippies that preach an agenda out of fear without being informed of how science works. But we're not going to just praise technology as a means and end in itself without seeing potential negative factors (and factors that may not be known due to the aforementioned lack of widespread testing, proper testing, economics and political issues)...
posted by symbioid at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Put another way, the length of time required to introduce traits by traditional breeding methods is a feature, not a bug, because progress under traditional breeding moves slowly enough to allow the surrounding ecosystem to adapt around the new traits.

Fundamentally, I haven't seen anybody explain to me why GMOs are interestingly different to introducing non-native species into lakes for sport fishing, the results of which are unpredictable at best and often highly disruptive.
posted by gauche at 9:28 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


inigo2 : ooops.... One in four Americans think that Genetically Modified Foods are not safe.

Should read: One in four Americans think that Genetically Modified Foods are safe. Although it is more amazing to me that one in four Americans think vaccines cause Autism,..
posted by snaparapans at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2012


It is! It is!

Wow, that article says, "modern high-tech GM breeding is like Victor Frankenstein slicing ‘superior’ body parts out of fifteen different corpses and using them to sew together his powerful, yet frighteningly unpredictable, monster."

We all know that's not quite right, as he used Abby Normal's brain in his experiment.
posted by peeedro at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adding: I'm an omnivore too but I'm just amazed at the simple-mindedness on both sides here. We aren't risking famine or food shortage if we actually addressed how and why we're using and producing food the way we currently are. Meanwhile, if you're pretending that lab-spliced manipulation of genetic code is the same as natural cross-breeding and selective crop planting then you're either an idiot or just pretending to be one to Win At Internet.™

Monsanto holds rigorous patents on crops, attempts monopolies on seeds, all while farming in this country is converted to mass factory-plantation systems and you're shocked this makes people nervous? People are scared of GM foods and uncertain about the benefits of GM products exactly because of this: because we've entered a generation where a large percentage of food-fucking food, people- is not just owned but actually patented and trademarked by corporations.

And yeah, most people don't want to discuss why so many people are hungry unless they don't have to respond how many times they were thrilled that they can get a double cheeseburger for a dollar. Self included. We're Hungry, Hungry Hypocrites.

Yes it's pointless pie in the sky hippie babble but forgive me for pointing out the blatantly obvious that, like most things, this is a "problem" that is caused by a shit ton of people engaging in varying levels of greed.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


[edited per request from the poster, it was actually 1 in 4 think GMO foods are SAFE, not unsafe]
posted by mathowie at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2012


I'm as much of a fan of Monsanto as anyone else, but is GM food really that bad?

I like the idea of transgenic food, but because in my mind it's linked to things like golden rice or the idea of interesting new foods (onions that taste like mole sauce, sugarcane that makes its own chocolate, beefsteak tomatoes that mean it, etc). Or even industrial but more obviously beneficial stuff like corn that fixes its own nitrogen.

...but in practice it mostly just means that jerkwads engineer corn so that, fuck the taste, you can dump shitloads of herbicide on it and it'll live while all else dies, and that's cheaper than give-a-crap farming so why not. Or corn that, fuck everything else, produces convenient toxins to kill bugs*.

I'd really like not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but Monsanto and company seem to be making a lot of bathwater for very little baby.

*Really? Engineer food plants to make poisons? Who the hell thought this was a good idea? The idea of regular BT -- spraying food down with unregulated self-modifying poison-making Von Neumann machines -- squicks me out enough, but having the plant generate its own poisons?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


We all know that's not quite right, as he used Abby Normal's brain in his experiment.

That was Frederick, not Victor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to engineer a cow with chocolate genes and finally the dream of the brown cows that give chocolate milk will have come true! GLORIOUS TECHNOFUTURE!
posted by symbioid at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR: Meanwhile, if you're pretending that lab-spliced manipulation of genetic code is the same as natural cross-breeding and selective crop planting then you're either an idiot or just pretending to be one to Win At Internet.™

Perhaps. But you need to admit that we mess with nature all of the time, and that we have to utilize unnatural techniques to keep our population alive. Yes, it is unnatural to splice genes into a tomato. It's also unnatural to farm completely unspliced tomatos on continents they never naturally existed on. You can't use natural vs. unnatural as a criterion. Natural things are not intrinsically good and unnatural ones are not intrinsically bad.

Realistically, genetic engineering is a tool; it can be used for positive purposes or negative ones. It has a hell of a lot of potential to allow us to generate more food for less money and with less ecological damage if used responsibly. Like any powerful tool, what it needs is a educated consideration of the risks and rewards involved, and a responsible decision for each individual case. What it doesn't need is a blanket dismissal or fear-mongering (or, for that matter, completely unrestrained use by amoral corporations).
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: *Really? Engineer food plants to make poisons? Who the hell thought this was a good idea?

Um, nature. Over and over and over again throughout evolution.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Like any powerful tool, what it needs is a educated consideration of the risks and rewards involved, and a responsible decision for each individual case. What it doesn't need is a blanket dismissal or fear-mongering (or, for that matter, completely unrestrained use by amoral corporations).

So ... some kind of a label to indicate its presence and allow people to make responsible decisions for their individual cases?
posted by gauche at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Modern generic engineering is an update of the same cross-breeding techniques used in agriculture for centuries...

Really? For centuries private corporations have been putting genes into plants to prevent them from making viable seed and charging you with IP theft if you try to grow them anyway?
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Mitrovarr: You took XQUZYPHYR's comment out of context, though. He's not saying "unnatural" is the dichotomy, he's pointing out what feature that makes it unnatural is an issue. It's the rapidity of change that is the question here. Your 1st paragraph was a bit disingenuous. (at least I think that was his point)...

What you say is precisely true (and it's one I bring up all the time in arguments with anti-vax, all "natural" hippie-mamas I know on facebook that irk me to no end, the same when people post about drugs being "battery acid")... But your arguing from the perspective that we think "unnatural" is the issue, it's not... It's how does it upset the overall balance and evolution in general. Surely you agree that there's a limit, a point at which humans aren't capable of offsetting the negative side-effects of their creation? I know I'm kind of begging the question here, and I don't want to head down a "slippery slope" argument.

You and I seem to be saying the same thing in the second paragraph.

But you seem more open/pro towards the benefits, whereas I'm skeptical. I have a discussion like this with my ex. We both consider ourselves agnostic, but she is more "faith based" agnostic (well it could be, so why not?) and I'm more skeptic-agnostic (it might be, but most likely not).

What's interesting is that we're arguing on the merits of a vast technology that we seem to agree covers a wide range of potentiality. Shades of danger exist... Maybe taking a gene from a potato and putting it into a tomato (both nightshades) can have less disastrous consequences then, say, a cat gene spliced into a banana. MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW CATNANA PHONE! But then again - there's so much minutiae.

What we need overall is a better informed public, and that, as stated above, is not happening because both sides have agendas (one based upon fear, one based upon money), and those caught in the middle really have no voice. Or the voice gets distorted by a media that seeks to drive as many controversy driven dollars to its corporate pockets.
posted by symbioid at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2012


gauche: "So ... some kind of a label to indicate its presence and allow people to make responsible decisions for their individual cases?"

The label in itself is a form of bad information. Its mere presence alone looks like a warning, and will drive consumer behavior in directions that could have an adverse effect on the food supply (or result in the consumption of less fresh fruit/veggies).

Let's not kid ourselves that its primary purpose is to scare, and that it will need to be included on virtually every agricultural product in existence. Anything seedless, anything containing corn, bananas, etc. would all need to be labeled.

There are some pretty "bad" GMO practices that Monsanto, et al. use, and should definitely be discouraged or frowned upon. However, "GMO" in and of itself is far too broad of an umbrella to expect consumers to be able to make informed decisions based on that information alone.
posted by schmod at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there any chance of discussing the bill that the post is about rather than duplicate a thread (y'know, the one that always starts with "This is stupid. Genetic Engineering is TOTALLY NATURAL.") we've already done two or three hundred times before?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I work in biotech, at a company that has partnerships with the "M" word, and I used to parrot that "it's just the same as conventional breeding" line too. While that might have once been true, as early efforts used genes from the same or similar species to the plant being improved, it's certainly not the case now. There's a LOT of regulation and testing to prove this stuff is safe, and I'm not worried about any of the current GMO food offerings, but the tech is there to do all manner of things and a little labeling seems a good idea.

Also, what XQUZYPHYR said.
posted by statolith at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because in a complex system (such as an ecology) it is difficult to know -- and we don't know, and it may be beyond our ability to know -- whether moving such resistance to another organism will not a) disturb the existing equilibrium of the life cycle

This is true regardless of GMOs. The existing equilibrium lasts only until the next successful mutation, regardless the cause.

The proposed law is more a back door attempt to slow down the adoption of GMOs, without quite demonstrating the need. This relies on an appeal to the "ick factor", and sounds like an exercise in the politics of signaling more than anything. And I wonder if it will be about as effective as the CA law that has put cancer warnings under every rock, and is effectively ignored.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:02 AM on June 13, 2012


There is a difference between trusting the CONCEPT of GMO food and trusting the CORPORATIONS that will be turning the genetic wrenches. Or, for that matter, trusting the government watchdogs that are supposed to enforce that corporations test, test, test, test and test GMOs to make sure no corners are cut and nobody gets ass cancer from the products.

No federal or California law requires that food producers identify whether foods were produced using genetic engineering. At the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require safety studies of such foods. Unless these foods contain a known allergen, the FDA does not even require developers of genetically engineered crops to consult with the agency.

Case in point.
posted by delfin at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


gauche: So ... some kind of a label to indicate its presence and allow people to make responsible decisions for their individual cases?

No, not really. It doesn't prevent the ecological hazard that is most valid of the raised concerns, and individual consumers are not qualified to effectively weight the risks GMOs pose. What it really needs is effective, rational, science-based regulation. Of course, this will never happen as long as so much money is in politics, so I might as well ask for a flying pig. Except somebody might actually make one of those someday.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I support the use of GMOs in principle, but I want labeling so that I can avoid purchasing anything produced with seed, etc, from Monsanto, whether GMO or not. That company is a blight on modern agriculture.

But then I would starve.
posted by jb at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2012


Its mere presence alone looks like a warning, and will drive consumer behavior

People aren't smart enough to make choices, so let's decide for them wqhat they get to know, huh?

There is a difference between trusting the CONCEPT of GMO food and trusting the CORPORATIONS that will be turning the genetic wrenches

Absolutely right.
posted by tyllwin at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Let's not kid ourselves that its primary purpose is to scare, and that it will need to be included on virtually every agricultural product in existence. Anything seedless, anything containing corn, bananas, etc. would all need to be labeled.

"GMO" in the ballot proposition clearly refers only to things produced from transgenic/nuclear-transfer techniques, not from selective breeding.

Um, nature. Over and over and over again throughout evolution.

Right. So as not to be eaten. But do we want to give corn a helping hand down that path?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:12 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this going to be like Proposition 65 where beach sand and ethidium bromide get the same warning label and it's basically going to be the cause of a bunch of boutique lawyers and their strawman plaintiffs? Because that would be swell worse than useless.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: Right. So as not to be eaten. But do we want to give corn a helping hand down that path?

Possibly? Nearly every plant, including agricultural plants, produces a whole suit of toxins against a variety of organisms. I don't think we can reasonably say that adding one more toxin to corn is necessarily a bad idea - you have to look at the actual pros and cons.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2012


It doesn't prevent the ecological hazard that is most valid of the raised concerns, and individual consumers are not qualified to effectively weight the risks GMOs pose.

No, but it does help consumers who are concerned about the potential ecological hazard to ensure that they aren't supporting GMO companies with their dollars. In light of the unlikelihood of effective, science-based, non-industry-funded regulation, I kind of feel like this solution is better than doing nothing.

I think it's really interesting that GMO companies are in that rarefied group of businesses that don't want you to know you're enjoying their product.

Its mere presence alone looks like a warning...

Right, and this is a problem of design, isn't it? That ultimately, the mere fact of presenting information draws attention to it. But if the alternative is for people to have no way to know whether they want to put something into their bodies or not, then I should think that information-disclosure (i.e., labeling) is the market-efficient way to handle this situation. (At the risk of quoting myself, here's an earlier comment on market efficiency and trust.)
posted by gauche at 10:17 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


If Monsanto et al. think that Genetic Modified Foods are safe, why fight the warning? If it makes food better, less expensive, more nutritious, and is good for the environment, they can make their case to consumers and the label GMF will be a mark of excellence. Consumers will choose their foods because they are better.

Without any labeling they have no incentive to educate the consumer about the benefits of their products. The tremendous profits to be had, once Monsanto gets its message out, will far outweigh any money that they will have to spend on consumer education.

Why is Monsanto fighting this, it could be boon for their business?
posted by snaparapans at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


There's a LOT of regulation and testing to prove this stuff is safe, and I'm not worried about any of the current GMO food offerings, but the tech is there to do all manner of things and a little labeling seems a good idea.

And THAT is what I'm most curious about. Who's doing the testing and who's reviewing the results? If the piece of the bill I quoted above is accurate, it sure as hell isn't the government, and the lessons of the last three decades (if not the sum of recorded history) make me reach for my torch and pitchfork when I hear the "industry can be trusted to police itself" argument for deregulation.
posted by delfin at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh good, another referendum in California. Because California has definitely demonstrated that the best way to find a solution to a subtle, nuanced and vitally important problem is to let the general public directly vote on the outcome.
posted by WaylandSmith at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


but is GM food really that bad?

Depends on what research and data one chooses to accept as valid.

The GMO Corn and potatoes with BT seem to cause organ failure.


But who's going to pay for the testing to confirm?

The GMOed soy for roundup resistance seem to carry some of the roundup at levels that seem to have an effect. But it's taken 30 years of use and 30 years of advances in being able to track DNA to find that.

And from elsewhere on the Internet this claim:
The Independent newspaper reports that there is a notice in the cafeteria of the Monsanto pharmaceutical factory is High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, advising customers “as far as practicable, GM soya and maize (has been removed) from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.”
The notice was posted by the Sutcliffe Catering Group.
Monsanto confirms the authenticity of the notice, but company spokesman Tony Coombes says the only reason for the GM-free foods is because the company “believes in choice.” Coombes says in other Monsanto locations employees are happy to eat GM foods because they are “sprayed with fewer chemicals.”


Modern gene[tic] engeering is an update of the same cross-breeding

Windows 7 is just an update on Windows 1.0
The i7 processor is just an update on an 8086 processor
A nuclear fission plant is just an update on a steam powered prime mover such as a 1800's locomotive

transgenic foods GMO crossbreeding selection for a trait

4 different ideas that are being equated as the same by some of the posters here. Pro Tip - they ain't.

Well then, the corporations that produce these foods should have no problem with labeling them as such, no?
As long as every single orange and lemon has the label too, sure.
Oh, and bananas! If you buy an unmodified banana (assuming you could ever find such a thing in a shop) you get this.


If selection for a trait is GMO then every reader of this web site is a GMOed monkey. Or mouse. Or bacteria Or however far back you want to go in the tree of life.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the Internet, nobody knows you're a GMOed dog.
posted by delfin at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2012


One in four American parents also think vaccines cause autism.

Do the same 1 in 4 also think vaccines can cause Narcolepsy? Or are 3 of 4 just asleep sheeple?

A new Swedish study shows that all Swedes who developed narcolepsy from the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix received the vaccine from 12 of the 35 batches, despite the Swedish Medical Products Agency’s (Läkemedelsverket) previous claim that no such connection exists. “We will have to think again,” said Maria Szirmai of the Swedish Medical Products Agency to newspaper Göteborgsposten (GP).

Now, when the companies screw up with the transgenic or GMOed stuff - are they accountable?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2012


"GMO" in the ballot proposition clearly refers only to things produced from transgenic/nuclear-transfer techniques, not from selective breeding.

So why the posts about bananas, oranges et la then?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This food product contains substances known to the State of California to cause knee-jerk reactions.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


BT is not unregulated (Schedule III insecticide)nor is it toxic (to vertebrates). It is a naturally occurring bacteria that has been used for a long time (1961 renewed 1998). It is considered safe and effective at preventing catastrophic damage from crop pests.


Fish are not fucking plants. Yes there have been demonstrations of transferring bio-luminescence to various species, but those were either demonstrations or novelty items. Not intended for consumption.

Some of the modifications are intra-species. Where genes from one type of maize that is not commercial is transferred to another increasing the amount of vitamins beneficial oils etc. A hybridization that might be achieved with traditional means but was done more precisely and quickly using gene splicing.

Herbicide resistant crops are only adaptations of our farming methods. We use herbicides in modern farming to cut down on the need for constant cultivation and reduce competition for moisture and nutrients, it is only beneficial for farmers that use herbicides. If the farmer wants to use a different non herbicide method of farming more power to him no one is making anyone use GMOs. I'd like to invite you out to weed an acre of corn sometime. Spreading herbicide resistance isn't a negative impact on the ecosystem it only benefits those who use herbicides.
posted by pdxpogo at 11:00 AM on June 13, 2012


People continue to forget that genetically modified food is nothing new. Modern generic engineering is an update of the same cross-breeding techniques used in agriculture for centuries that have given us things like edible citrus fruits

Up to a certain point. While I can't get too stirred up about cutting genes that confer resistance to diseases from a cultivar and pasting them into another cultivar, I have serious qualms about creating a gene that confers resistance to Roundup and pasting it in the genome of corn and soy to provide Monsanto with increased revenue, especially if those modified seeds are not carefully controlled and are then mixed with native seeds. And I am especially concerned when the no-till farming give rise to super weeds that will choke any type of seed.
posted by francesca too at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The proposed law is more a back door attempt to slow down the adoption of GMOs, without quite demonstrating the need.

Right, because in America if some product or service from a large Corporation is found to impact the health of the citizens the Government will act quickly and efficiently to prevent future harm.

And the legal system in America is such a finder of truth that it is very easy and always correct to determine there was actual harm. And in fact, you don't ever need to be the actual harmed party the legal system will go out of its way to help prove harm.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fish are not fucking plants. Yes there have been demonstrations of transferring bio-luminescence to various species, but those were either demonstrations or novelty items. Not intended for consumption.

Flavor savor tomatoes as I remember were meant to human consumption and had cold water fish genetic bits.

BT Corn is grown for consumption - you didn't say WHAT was to do the consuming, did you?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2012


People continue to forget that the internet is nothing new. [...]
People continue to forget that biological warfare is nothing new. [...]
People continue to forget that Citizens United is nothing new. [...]


All in all a convincing argument that people have no sense of history and have the same arguments over and over again ad nauseum.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012


Herbicide resistant crops are only adaptations of our farming methods. We use herbicides in modern farming to cut down on the need for constant cultivation and reduce competition for moisture and nutrients, it is only beneficial for farmers that use herbicides.

In the case of corn one can use vinegar up to 25% for weed suppression (as I remember)

The only reason I can think of opposing that is it might make the Mercury in the soil bio-aviable to the corn.

If the farmer wants to use a different non herbicide method of farming more power to him no one is making anyone use GMOs.

And if the GMOed corn pollen gets into someone's nonGMOed corn crop?

Who's going to remove that GMOed bit from what was not GMOed previously? Who covers the damage when others choice impact the choice you are citing?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


BT is not unregulated (Schedule III insecticide)nor is it toxic (to vertebrates).

What I meant is that there is no tiny little FDA or EPA inspector down there with the bacteria making sure they don't mutate in some undesired way. That is, there are little self-modifying poison factories, and their activity is unmonitored and unregulated.

Shit creeps me out. Natural, but so is botulism and cobra venom.

Herbicide resistant crops are only adaptations of our farming methods.

Yeah, I know. But "this makes corn cheaper to produce" isn't a particularly big selling point to me. We already grow too much corn.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So why the posts about bananas, oranges et la then?

Imma go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe they didn't read the proposition?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't laugh, I caught one of my strawberry plants totally nailing a fish in my next door neighbor's koi pond.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't worry, GM defenders. Propositions like this are just a natural part of the legistlative process, no different than what has been going on for hundreds of years.
posted by fleacircus at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2012


It's simple really. This is just an update of cross breeding. The first step is a little tough, that being getting the corn plant to have sex with the octopus.
posted by rr at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2012


I don't see how you could support a person's right to pick a doctor, a school, or a retirement plan, and not support the right to pick foods with certain qualities (however illogical those qualities are). If a significant minority of people want to avoid foods from states that start with M, then I say give them a note on the package.
posted by miyabo at 12:34 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


A new Swedish study shows that all Swedes who developed narcolepsy from the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix received the vaccine from 12 of the 35 batches, despite the Swedish Medical Products Agency’s (Läkemedelsverket) previous claim that no such connection exists. “We will have to think again,” said Maria Szirmai of the Swedish Medical Products Agency to newspaper Göteborgsposten (GP).

I'll have a side order of how many Swedes developed narcolepsy? Oh, and could I get the size of the 35 batches? And their chronological and regional distribution? Because this is exactly the kind of situation where assuming correlation equals causation will bite you hard.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If selection for a trait is GMO then every reader of this web site is a GMOed monkey. Or mouse. Or bacteria Or however far back you want to go in the tree of life.

Yes, but don't try to say it in Kansas.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


My own $0.02 is that GM crops can probably be done well and safely. I don't think that will be easy or cheap, and as a result, I have exactly zero faith that a company like Monsanto will do all the science necessary to actually ensure they are safe.

And on top of that, they have that habit of suing farmers whose fields have been cross-pollinated/contaminated by GM crops. Seriously, fuck those guys. I want GM foods labelled because I trust Monsanto as far as I can throw their corporate headquarters. On top of that, I would like to do my best to make sure I don't support their business in any way.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2012


On top of that, I would like to do my best to make sure I don't support their business in any way.

Wanting Monsanto to get as little of my money as possible was what finally convinced me to go paleo and get as much of my food as I can from small local farmers. Wanting to spite those fuckers was literally more motivating than losing weight or getting healthier.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's simple really. This is just an update of cross breeding. The first step is a little tough, that being getting the corn plant to have sex with the octopus.

I'm pretty sure that's how you get Elder Things.

So far as I can tell, GMO'ed crops are bad for everyone except Monsanto. FWIW, I'm also anti-nuke (because people suck at safety, as we've seen), but not anti-vax (no evidence, plus massive free-rider problem). So there.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:51 PM on June 13, 2012


I dunno, the insulin (among other drugs) produced by genetically modified bacteria seems to be pretty helpful. I would also consider the production of rennet by GM bacteria (as opposed to grinding up calves' stomachs) a win from an animal welfare standpoint.

I think the fear of dangerous-to-health (as opposed to dangerous-to-environment) GM crops is greatly overblown; it's not like you can take a gene from a tomato and put in a potato and accidentally get it to produce plutonium, there is a limited selection of toxins these plants can produce, and they aren't going to spontaneously start producing new, unknown toxins. Industrial chemical processes can produce a lot of nasty compounds because they're putting together atoms in ways that our bodies are unprepared to deal with, but plants can't just assemble random atoms together through brute force, they have to go through highly specific, protein-mediated synthesis pathways. If you make a mistake in genetic engineering, you aren't going to get some horrible cancer-causing chemical, you're going to get a plant that produces a bunch of useless (but perfectly digestible) malformed proteins.
posted by Pyry at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2012


Without GMO the world would starve. GMO is why our population has increased since we began domesticating crops and animals thousands of years ago. Simply because we now actually understand how genetics works and can therefore accelerate our ability to develop new strains does not make it a new evil.

If you like, it is an old evil.
posted by linux at 3:41 PM on June 13, 2012


I can't believe we've gotten this far into this without anybody mentioning eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome or the Showa Denko corporation:
The company’s claims, however, could not be corroborated. When U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors went to Japan to check out the production plant, they discovered Showa Denko had erased all traces of the L-tryptophan production line. Despite repeated requests, the company refused to release samples of the genetically engineered bacteria. The FDA officials reported: "The team encountered refusals to provide information, access to records and areas routinely inspected." By destroying all stocks of the modified bacteria, Showa Denko eliminated data and destroyed possible evidence that could have been useful in solving the puzzle and perhaps finding an answer for those suffering the toxic effects of L-tryptophan.

Its frustrations aside, the FDA was no more eager to raise the specter of a deadly experiment in genetic engineering than was Showa Denko. The FDA had learned as early as November 1989 that the company had genetically engineered its bacteria. However, the agency neglected to reveal the fact until August 1990, when it was forced to respond to an article in Newsday. Another piece in Science magazine quoted scientists at the FDA as saying they were concerned about the "impact on industry" of a disclosure of the potential link between EMS and genetic engineering.
I'm not particularly into hippie or Teabag woo-woo, but seeing the way a lot of people died (maybe) from a GMO substance is disquieting - The way the company got away with destroying all the evidence, and the FDA helped them? That's (IMO) truly disturbing.
posted by Orb2069 at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


linux: Equating modern GMO with selective breeding is disingenuous, and has been discussed at length in this thread and others. Bringing it up at this point is basically thread-shitting.

Pyry: Yeah, engineered systems for creating bacteria, insulin, rennet are pretty different from crops; I'm basically fine with those technologies.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:00 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It must have been melamine-producing GMO cows that produced all that poison milk.

GMO is not the real problem -- there is nothing inherently wrong with GMO crops. The problem is faith in the independence of the FDA and USDA. If they have been staffed by industry stooges, GMO is the least of our worries -- there are many ways to cut corners and adulterate products.
posted by benzenedream at 4:15 PM on June 13, 2012


benzenedream - an eponysterical but good point, I think.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:31 PM on June 13, 2012


We've had legislation in Australia for literally years now compelling GMO labelling.

It, too, was fought vociferously by industry, right-leaning govt, and people who felt the public couldn't be trusted with their own agency. Nonetheless, it happened.

Guess what? People still buy a shitload of GMO, products, mainly vegetable oils and rice; the sky didn't fall in; the industry didn't collapse and people have the information to choose what they are buying, and putting into their bodies. You wouldn't even notice it unless you were looking for it, it's just small text on the back of the packet.

I understand that people are like, "The public are idiots and don't understand the wonders of GMO", but you know, that's democracy for you, innit? We don't insist on this level of rationality regarding other consumerist choices, or other areas of life where - coincidentally, I'm sure - there aren't millions of lobbyist dollars sloshing around.

If people don't understand the wonders of GMO, then that's a communications and PR issue for GMO producers, and can be resolved that way. Keeping the public ignorant and essentially saying, "trust us", is elitist and anti-democratic.
posted by smoke at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It reminds me of when some dairies started putting "rBST-free" on their labels, causing big agribusinesses to shit itself. They won a ruling that required those dairies using such labeling to also include a statement to the effect that "no significant difference" has been found between the milk of rBST treated cows and untreated ones. Which is well and good, putting aside matters of how much more pus in the milk you consider significant.

But there's more to it than that. There is no significant difference between shoes made with slave labor and shoes made without slave labor, but that doesn't mean that consumers have no substantial interest in knowing which they're buying. GMO practices are controversial for a broad array of reasons -- even if one accepts at face value the assertion that it is never less nourishing nor more toxic than non-GMO food -- and to oppose informed choice doesn't make your side look very good.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:36 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So how about a corresponding set of labels?

This produce has been genetically modified

-vs-

While not entirely 'natural,' this produce has only been modified using techniques that were available prior to 1950. Some of the crop was lost to herbicides and therefore its per-acre yield was lower, meaning that we had to farm several more acres and use a significantly greater amount of water in order to bring it to you at this price.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 9:28 PM on June 13, 2012


Yeah, engineered systems for creating bacteria, insulin, rennet are pretty different from crops; I'm basically fine with those technologies.

These bacteria would therefore get into the root systems of all terrestrial plants and begin to produce alcohol. The engineered bacterium produces far beyond the required amount of alcohol per gram soil than required to kill any terrestrial plant. This would result in the death of all terrestrial plants, because the parent bacterium has been found in the root systems of all plants where anyone has looked for its presence. This could have been the single most devastating impact on human beings since we would likely have lost corn, wheat, barley, vegetable crops, trees, bushes, etc, conceivably all terrestrial plants. (yea, that goes to its evil government....but it also shows how a GMO microbe could be a problem. If Smallpox is brought back from the printed map - is that now a GMO microbe threat?)


- there is nothing inherently wrong with GMO crops.

Unless you have a fish protein allergy and its a flavor savor tomato.
Or, if you choose to believe the non-agrabusiness research on BT corn/potatoes.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:06 PM on June 15, 2012


GMO is why our population has increased since we began domesticating crops and animals thousands of years ago.

I'd say more to WWI NItrogen production combined with improvements in mining and mineral refining allowing humans to go after P in rocks (green sand). Used to be the bones of the dead were dug up - hence the 'I'll grind your bones to make my bread'. And N was "green manure".

Toss in the cheap oil - production set in motion for WWII that now needed a market - BAM! "green revolution".

I can't believe we've gotten this far into this without anybody mentioning eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome or the Showa Denko corporation:

Because I didn't know? I'll take a read and see if I "knew" it and had forgotten.....

That is part of the reason to have this **** measuring contests - to learn something right? Because I doubt anyone had their position changed.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:12 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


But in 2009, the farmer learned of a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta in 1996 that resulted in four cows dying in two days. The trial was abruptly terminated. Now Gloeckner, along with a German group called Bündnis Aktion Gen-Klage and another farmer turned activist Urs Hans, have brought Syngenta to the criminal court to face charges of withholding knowledge of the US trial, which makes the company liable for the destruction of the farmer’s 65 cows. Syngenta is also charged with the deaths of cattle in the US trial and on Gloeckner’s farm, which should have been registered as “unexpected occurrences”. Most seriously, the German head of Syngenta Hans-Theo Jahmann, is charged for withholding knowledge of the US study from the judge and from Gloecker in the original civil court case.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2012


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