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Nuke it from orbit: GM wheat goes rogue in Oregon
June 1, 2013 2:13 PM   Subscribe

NPR: "About a month ago, a farmer in eastern Oregon noticed some wheat plants growing where he didn't expect them, and they didn't die when he sprayed them with Roundup." The wheat was tested and found to be genetically engineered. "Nobody knows how this wheat got to this farm. Monsanto's last field trials in Oregon were in 2001. After all such trials, the genetically engineered crops are supposed to be completely removed. Also, nobody knows how widely this genetically engineered wheat has spread, and whether it's been in fields of wheat that were harvested for food."

Washington Post: "Japan, the largest market for U.S. wheat exports, suspended imports from the United States and canceled a major purchase of white wheat on Thursday after the recent discovery of unapproved genetically modified wheat in an 80-acre field in Oregon."

New York Times: "Still, the mere presence of the genetically modified plant could cause some countries to turn away exports of American wheat, especially if any traces of the unapproved grain were found in shipments. About $8.1 billion in American wheat was exported in 2012, representing nearly half the total $17.9 billion crop, according to U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes American wheat abroad. About 90 percent of Oregon’s wheat crop is exported."

Washington Post again: "Investors drove down the price of Monsanto shares by 4 percent on Friday as South Korea joined Japan in suspending imports of U.S. wheat after an unapproved strain of genetically modified wheat was discovered in a field in eastern Oregon."

Russia Today: "Japanese authorities have already opted to cancel part of a tender offer to buy US western white wheat and have suspended imports of both that variety and feed wheat, Reuters reported on Thursday."

Bloomberg: "Monsanto halted plans to develop modified wheat in May 2004 after the Canadian Wheat Board, then the world’s largest grain seller, said its 10 biggest red spring-wheat importers, including Japan, the U.K. and Malaysia, wouldn’t accept modified varieties. Italy’s biggest miller, Grandi Molini Italiani, was among buyers in Europe and Asia that refused to import modified wheat amid consumer unease over eating such products."

Quartz: "The wheat is not probably not harmful to humans—although since testing was never completed, we can’t be sure."

Monsanto have released a statement, as has the United States Department of Agriculture.
posted by Wordshore (125 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh... well, there it is.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:18 PM on June 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


Not fit for human consumption? A definite possibility, though not one I would give good odds to. Actually dangerous when consumed? I don't think that's probable.

Also, obligatory Jurassic Park quotes time: Nature finds a way.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:18 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


If memory serves, this very "escaped GMO product contaminates non-GMO crops, wreaks economic havoc" thing appeared in either a John Brunner novel or one of Ursula Le Guin's short stories from the 1970s. My memory is of a sort of re-enactment of a hippie commune that used to be a real commune/organic farm but there was so much cross-contamination with GMO crops everywhere that they could no longer sustain themselves and switched to amusing the tourists.
posted by Frowner at 2:26 PM on June 1, 2013


Digging into Monsanto's Round-up Ready stuff, it looks like a single gene has been added (I think?) to induce protection against Round Up. So unless whatever vector or alternative method they used to introduce the gene has something a little more intriguing in/about it (or accidentally made something more intriguing if it were transposed/spliced/whatevered into the wheat genome properly/improperly) I think the use of Round Up should be the only source of danger here. Unless the anti-Round Up gene expresses in high enough quantities that someone can develop an allergic response to it...
posted by Slackermagee at 2:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, that was unexpected.
posted by arcticseal at 2:31 PM on June 1, 2013


Not fit for human consumption?

Isn't that what the Government says?

It is 'illegal' right? And 'illegal' for a reason, right?

There used to be an option for people who suffered harm to go to court and have that harm redressed. But isn't that option now not possible in a case like this due to Congress and The President signing legislation to prevent lawsuits.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Refreshingly different FPP styling, am liking it, especially since this has been something I've been noticing in my timeline since the last couple of days.
posted by infini at 2:35 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


ok, said it before, but, does anyone remember this? From 2002-2004, probably 2002-3, academic year of: an article in my Association of Accounting Technicians magazine explaining 'negative value/price' using as example some GMO maize/corn grown in america that was found 'too poisonous for dog food' (ie more poisonous than would be allowed even for animals we don't eat, that food would have to be safer than dog food) and buried in the ground at a cost of several million (ie its value was negative). Followed a short while after by a flurry of small stories on press and tv about how Uganda? (ghana? think it was uganda... west coast in the bend, or horn of africa on west side) was being terribly snotty about our kind generous food aid (america's food aid, it turned out if you read the story) demanding it be ground to flour at sea not grinding it to flour on land. Because Uganda's (?) main export was its special maize sold for sowing to farmers in nearby countries, and it didn't want to risk cross-contamination. Which you only found out from the small print. By some method or another, i remember i was able to ascertain that both stories were about the same maize, which in the food aid stories had miraculously acquired a positive value of several million... Sometimes i think we should just bring racism back, i'd rather be called nigger than fed poison, let alone patronised about it and told it was valuable...plus then they could openly declare war on the racists, verbal war that is, without looking rude.
posted by maiamaia at 2:36 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


He should count himself lucky he wasn't prosecuted for biopiracy. That's valuable Monsanto intellectual property there...
posted by acb at 2:42 PM on June 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, if this had happened in India, Monsanto would simply have sued the farmer for millions of dollars.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:44 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


And if one is now thinking about gene transfer between plants - consider Epicyte and its GMO corn.

Corn that's ment to make human reproduction harder. As in sterile.

This GMO wheat was detected because someone wanted the field of wheat dead and sprayed roundup.

Who's checking corn for the "Intellectual Property" of Epicyte? The wheat issue is known because a farmer was able to check. How are you going to check your hot grits for Monsanto/DuPont sterility IP?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:45 PM on June 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


The paranoia about "genetically modified" things is really strange to me, and seems difficult to justify. Wheat is genetically modified. It probably wouldn't exist today without the genetic modifications that humans have been making to it for tens of thousands of years. And not only wheat; we do it to all plants, and (to a slightly lesser degree) to the animals we breed. Genetic modification of crops and livestock is a natural and ancient human practice. But because we've managed to give it a scary name, and because a somewhat disreputable and underhanded company is not involved in it, we're scared to death of "genetic modification."
posted by koeselitz at 2:47 PM on June 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


koeselitz read comment just above
posted by infini at 2:53 PM on June 1, 2013


The paranoia about "genetically modified" things is really strange to me,

Understandable Citizen!

Your Government has determined that not only is such products so safe, they are so safe that no one should have the right to sue over imagined harm.

So do not listen to the reporting about the effects of Roundup on biology. Or BT in plant matter.

Just listen to the comforting reports on the news about how safe it is and support the proposed laws that refer to the agriculture class of whistle blowers as terrorists. And when the advertising on either side of that news report is from Monsanto or DuPont be sure to thank those fine Corporations for providing you their information along with financial support for the news reporting.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


This is a different method that is direct manipulation of the genes rather than directed natural selection. It has not been proven safe or predictable yet.
posted by bleep at 2:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a different method that is direct manipulation of the genes rather than directed natural selection. It has not been proven safe or predictable yet.

And if one accepts the narrative in the book Wheat Belly as being correct - "natural selection" by selective breeding may result in a worse crop from a heath outcome POV.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:58 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


> The paranoia about "genetically modified" things is really strange to me, and seems difficult to justify.

It's the frog DNA that makes me RIBBIT nervous.
posted by jfuller at 2:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


the quora article signed by a "Jake Maxwell Watts" assuming 'he' is a 'real' person and not a 'construct' is riddled with errors that human writers would make but human editors would catch. His errors escape rather like the 'rogue' wheat. Life isn't rogue. Life will find a way to reproduce which is why monkeying at the DNA level is unavoidably result in tragedy. It has probably already happened and is working its way up the food chain. Cheers!
posted by SteveLaudig at 2:59 PM on June 1, 2013


For heaven's sake, fish have been mating with strawberries for millions of years. And the only reason glow-in-the-dark rabbits died out in the first place is because our cave ancestors were able to sneak up on them at night and bash their heads in with rocks: we're simply redressing the natural balance!
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


I don't really believe in the Epicyte thing, given the best source I can find on it in the last ten years is Alex goddamned Jones. And even if it were true (this seems like a huge "if," as far as I can tell there are no published studies on the stuff at all) that wouldn't mean that genetic modification is automatically wrong.

bleep: "This is a different method that is direct manipulation of the genes rather than directed natural selection. It has not been proven safe or predictable yet."

"Proven safe or predictable" - that seems like sort of a ridiculous standard to judge a breeding technique by. There is no breeding technique - "directed natural selection" included - that has been proven safe or predictable. All have hazards, and all are relatively unpredictable. Moreover, "directed natural selection" in plants has always involved direct application of one gene set to another; there's really no natural selection going on, it's all artificial.
posted by koeselitz at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


I am confused. I thought that Monsanto's GM seeds were sterile and could not reproduce, forcing farmers to buy again every season. Now this.
posted by Cranberry at 3:24 PM on June 1, 2013


I don't really believe in the Epicyte thing,

Ok. I provided a link for a reason, but hey - you go do your own research.

the best source I can find on it in the last ten years is Alex goddamned Jones.

Anytime Jones comes up I point out how he starts with some grain of truth. Ever stop to consider that this is another case where Jones has a grain of truth?

And even if it were true (this seems like a huge "if," as far as I can tell there are no published studies on the stuff at all)

What is "true"? That Epicite existed? That a 'product' called Plantbodies(TM) of Epicyte existed? That there was a press conference in September of 2001 where Epicyte president Mitch Hein said "We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies."? That later press statements spoke of only needing 100 acres of corn or how the corn would address overpopulation?

Just because the message or the messenger is not liked doesn't negate the "truth".

There can be a simply found "truth" - test the corn that humans are eating for the gene sequence. Hot spots of birth rate drops exist in Mexico - is the "non existent" gene sequence to be found there?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:25 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought that Monsanto's GM seeds were sterile and could not reproduce, forcing farmers to buy again every season.

No, the "terminator" lines of seeds were never mass produced due to the concern over this "off switch" getting into regular crops.

The "force" used to buy again is legal and via contracts. There was a lawsuit in the last year where someone had bought seed from a feed mill and planted it and determined to be 'infringing'. I'm still awaiting Monsanto returning some soy beans after removing any of their IP from them.

One can go back to 1942 - Wickard VS Filburn. There, growing food for your own use, never to leave your own land, was considered to be involved with interstate commerce.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


> [Alex] Jones … starts with some grain of truth

Yes, and the truth is: Alex Jones is a fucking nutjob.
posted by scruss at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Previously on MetaFilter.
In January 2006, small amounts of genetically engineered rice turned up in a shipment that was tested ... by a French customer of Riceland Foods, a big rice mill based in Stuttgart, Ark. Testing revealed that the genetically modified rice contained a strain of Liberty Link that had not been approved for human consumption. What's more, trace amounts of the Liberty Link had mysteriously made their way into the commercial rice supply in all five of the Southern states where long-grain rice is grown. Aventis Crop Science had contracted with a handful of farmers to grow the rice, which was known as Liberty Link because its genes had been altered to resist a weed killer called Liberty, also made by Aventis. Then, the French pharmaceutical giant that owned Aventis Crop Science decided to sell the U.S. biotech unit and abandon the very emotional business of reengineering the foods we eat. "We didn't want to take any chances," says a former Aventis executive. "We burned and buried enough rice to feed 20 million people." Last November, the USDA retroactively approved the Liberty Link rice for human consumption.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:34 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, and the truth is: Alex Jones is a fucking nutjob.

Go ahead then - show how Koeselitz is right that the source is Alex Jones and that Epicyte never had a contraceptive corn.

Plenty of reasons to slam Jones - but how his rants usually start with some kind of actual truth isn't a reason to slam him.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:40 PM on June 1, 2013


In January 2006, small amounts of genetically engineered rice turned up in a shipment that was tested

Tested is the magic word.

Who would have known about melamine in milk, Horse in burgers, the rice issue, this grain issue, fish not being what the menu says, or other issues without testing?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:46 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


i believe that congress should be allowed to approve any experimental foodstuff for human consumption. But with the requirement that it should be fed only to members of congress and their families for a trial period of five years before it can be offered to the general public.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:48 PM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Alex Jones starts with "somebody created corn that make anti-sperm antibodies" and adds "financed by the Illuminati and/or Obama Administration (even though Mr. Obama was an Illinois State Senator at the time)". Whenever Jones starts ascribing motive, that part you can safely dismiss. (I've started wondering whether he's getting paid for spreading bogus conspiracies by whoever is behind real conspiracies.)

If we can get courts to agree that the cross-breeding of 'patented genetic material' with other crops results in something the patent-holder has NO interest in, the 'GMO Threat' will ultimately just go away. Because Nature finds a way.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:51 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


a trial period of five years

How would 5 years detect the monkey cancer in the polio vaccine?

How would 5 years allow for detection of the "alleged"* Epicyte sterility effects of the young Congress family?

*Alleged only because there is a Doubting Thomas because they have an issue with the message/messenger.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:54 PM on June 1, 2013


Whenever Jones starts ascribing motive, that part you can safely dismiss.

There has to be a time when the nut met the handicap-able squirrel on being right, but really how the hell is Jones able to know the evil in the hearts of men?

He ain't no Lamont Cranston and can't know what others motive was.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:57 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we just nuke the Monsanto HQ from orbit?
posted by Ber at 3:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems to me that eating corn modified with fish DNA would be no more dangerous than eating some catfish with cornmeal breading. We don't grow hooves from eating beef or feathers from eating chicken, why should we be worried about the DNA of the corn we are eating?
posted by gjc at 3:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


We don't grow hooves from eating beef or feathers from eating chicken, why should we be worried about the DNA of the corn we are eating?

The concern isn't that we'll get the DNA into our own cells. The concerns include (but are not limited to) exposing ourselves to the modified proteins that they produce (e.g. Bt corn) with unknown metabolic and allergenic effects, the effect of the toxins on benign insect species, the escape of the genes into other cultivars and wild species and the potential for further ecological havoc...
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:03 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


The paranoia about "genetically modified" things is really strange to me, and seems difficult to justify.

Easy: GMO is the DRM of food.
posted by DU at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


Can we just nuke the Monsanto HQ from orbit?

I live near there. I'd rather you didn't.

We blow raspberries at the place every time we pass it though.
posted by Foosnark at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2013


(Organic raspberries, of course.)
posted by Foosnark at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


We blow raspberries at the place every time we pass it though.

About as effective as any other form of protest VS the "too big to Jail/Buy your way outta jail" class.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:12 PM on June 1, 2013


This is really worrying. Humans have always liked fiddling with things without fully understanding them, but now we actually have the ability to permanently screw up the future of our planet. What if we discovered that one of these runaway GMO plants was responsible for some terrible disorder a few decades down the line? By then, it would be too late to stop it -- international travelers will have carried it all over the world.

And yes, it's true that the plants we eat today were "genetically modified" in some sense, but selective breeding over thousands of years is very different from manually splicing in individual genes. There's no way we can replicate the complex development of a plant over such a long period of time. Our current techniques are "hacks" at best.
posted by archagon at 4:17 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Back in my MUSHing days, I was asked to create a corporation for a cyberpunky dystopian future with vampires, my one requirement that this would be the corporation controlled by Infernal powers. Most folks seemed to think I'd do some sort of mega law firm (Curse you, Angel) and were surprised when I made a corporation that specialized in feeding the world based on Monsanto. "You could have, like, cyber-demons!" they said, "Why are you wasting your time with corn? Your infernal legions could take over the world!"

"Because every bit of our corn's DNA has been spliced with demonic jizz. And we are the only people who grow corn anymore." I replied. "As far as we're concerned, we've already taken over the world. We're just waiting for you all to catch up."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:25 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The concern isn't that we'll get the DNA into our own cells. The concerns include (but are not limited to) exposing ourselves to the modified proteins that they produce (e.g. Bt corn) with unknown metabolic and allergenic effects, the effect of the toxins on benign insect species, the escape of the genes into other cultivars and wild species and the potential for further ecological havoc..."

These are each for the most part very silly fears, but they are ones that the FDA, USDA, and EPA take very seriously anyway. Concern trolling of science aside, one cannot sell as food organisms that have been modified with sequences that encode for peptides that are not immediately broken down in stomach acid or are in any way similar to known allergens - despite the fact that we get exposed to a truly astronomical number of novel and totally uncharacterized peptides every time we eat anything. Check out this freakish genetically modified cow, its kind was first created some time just before 1807 in Belgium when a calf was born with a mutation to its myostatin gene, which has never gone through any characterization process for safety - their meat is delicious by the way. At the same time, getting plants to express pesticide toxins as defensive compounds in natural ways is pretty much always going to be safer for incidental critters than indiscriminately spraying those same toxins, which is what we're talking about here. While the escape of agriculturally useful genes into wild species has been causing limited and specific kinds of havoc to the environment for more than ten thousand years, GMOs change none of this.

When metafilter of all places starts trusting Alex Jones over actual scientists then we know we're in trouble.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


We blow raspberries at the place every time we pass it though.

Giving them any fruits or veggies at this point is asking for trouble. You blow raspberries at Monsanto today, they'll be throwing RaspBombs™ back at you tomorrow.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:30 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, genetically engineered food is horrible.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to a barbecue where we'll have steaks from domesticated and carefully bred cattle that have never existed in nature, corn-on-the-cob from indelible, cultivated grass, and Burbank potatoes that an ancient Incan would never recognize.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:34 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


"It's the frog DNA that makes me RIBBIT nervous."

CENTRAL DOGMA DOES NOT WORK THIS WAY
posted by Blasdelb at 4:35 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


From today's other excellent FPP. Monsanto hasn't been and won't be held accountable for the potential role Roundup may play in affecting the balance of gut flora of everyone exposed to it, since some of those bacteria utilize the metabolic pathway that Roundup exploits to kill plants. Roundup may be safe for human cells, but we aren't comprised entirely of human cells.

Likewise, they haven't been and won't be testing to see if BT or any new pesticide they engineer into crops also has the potential to screw up your gut flora, as long as they can say that the pesticide doesn't harm human cells. It may turn out that all types of organisms are so interdependent that it is impossible to create a selective poison that doesn't ultimately cause more harm than good to humans, birds, bees, etc. when used on a large scale.
posted by gimli at 4:36 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nobody knows how this wheat got to this farm.

Bird eats seed, bird poops seed somewhere outside of farm, seed germinates, grows more seed, rinse and repeat until it ends up on farmland some years later.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to a barbecue where we'll have steaks from domesticated and carefully bred cattle that have never existed in nature, corn-on-the-cob from indelible, cultivated grass, and Burbank potatoes that an ancient Incan would never recognize.

None of these organisms are, to my best knowledge, genetically modified by transplanting genes from other organisms. If there are unforeseen health and agricultural consequences, the FDA will hardly protect us. Some people (even other biologists, I am ashamed to say) just prefer that private capital rolls the dice with the civilization's food supply, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:40 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


we actually have the ability to permanently screw up the future of our planet.

The Planet will be just fine.

Humanity? Perhaps not.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:43 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


But because we've managed to give it a scary name, and because a somewhat disreputable and underhanded company is not involved in it, we're scared to death of "genetic modification."

kozelitz, I generally agree with what you say, but I think the companies who believe they stand to make enormous profits from licensing GM crops have already demonstrated that they are completely irresponsible, and are not willing to admit that there are actual risks involved, like archagon says above. Is it any wonder that many of these companies are among the biggest cheerleaders for small government and little or no regulation?

We're allowing corporations to hack whole ecosystems with little regard for the consequences, in the name of profit. I don't think this will end well.

blasdelb, is the Guardian article linked above not essentially correct (apart from the silly headline)? I don't see anything about Alex Jones there.
posted by sneebler at 4:44 PM on June 1, 2013


The paranoia about "genetically modified" things is really strange to me, and seems difficult to justify. Wheat is genetically modified. It probably wouldn't exist today without the genetic modifications that humans have been making to it for tens of thousands of years.


Yes, and 10000 years of field trials have determined that it's fit for consumption.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 4:49 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is 'illegal' right? And 'illegal' for a reason, right?

There used to be an option for people who suffered harm to go to court and have that harm redressed. But isn't that option now not possible in a case like this due to Congress and The President signing legislation to prevent lawsuits.


(1) Per some other reports, the wheat wasn't made illegal, the project was yanked because the company didn't think it would get approval from GMO-spooked export markets.

(2) The act to which you're referring would've foreclosed some preemptive options by the government to prevent harm; it didn't at all immunize any companies from tort suits based on harm already done.
posted by jpe at 4:56 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Monsanto hasn't been and won't be held accountable for the potential role Roundup may play in affecting the balance of gut flora of everyone exposed to it, since some of those bacteria utilize the metabolic pathway that Roundup exploits to kill plants. Roundup may be safe for human cells, but we aren't comprised entirely of human cells."

Penicillin is many orders of magnitude more effective at fucking up your gut than even the most ridiculous plausible concentrations of round-up ever could be. While penicillin and other antibiotics do have significant ways in which their use effects human health, disbiosis is kinda miserable and does leave you more vulnerable to intestinal pathogens, they are not the cause of all of society's ills. The one paper that your article is building that whole house of cards on tries to make the case that huge concentrations of round-up make cows more vulnerable to C. diff infection, but does it poorly, and with good reason does not itself speculate on how their pet theory might affect human health.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:56 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


When metafilter of all places starts trusting Alex Jones over actual scientists then we know we're in trouble.

The issue thus far on Mr. Jones is not about 'actual scientists' in this case, it is if Epicyte had a GMOed corn and if that GMOed corn was to make humans sterile BECAUSE Mr. Jones used Epicyte and the corn as a talking point.

The "trust" on Jones is about the existence of the corn. One set of The Blue chooses to deny the existence because Alex said such existed.

Concern trolling of science aside, one cannot sell as food organisms that have been modified with sequences that encode for peptides that are not immediately broken down in stomach acid or are in any way similar to known allergens

I would say that "one cannot sell as food organisms that have been modified with sequences that encode for peptides that are not immediately broken down in stomach acid per reporting to the Government by the Corporations that wish to sell the food organisms."

Now perhaps the alleged humans in the alleged test are just mainlining BT via syringes. Scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, have detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women. But do go ahead and show with Science! how that Alleged BT got in that alleged blood.

And if the whole "acid in gut breaks down proteins" meme is true, then eating Castor beans should be no problem as the acid would break down the ricin protein no?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:04 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The safety or not of GMO organisms is, I think, irrelevant. This is a simple property rights issue, and I think it has two prongs:

First, We've already seen Monsanto go after farmers that they claimed saved seeds, and those same farmers lose with the defense that the plants growing on their land could have blown in from neighboring crops.

I'm not going to second-guess the courts in those cases, but what we're seeing here is that seeds can lie dormant for a decade and show up on in someone else's fields.

Second, consumers have the right to choose what they want to buy. No matter what the science behind the matter, we don't have the right to tell consumers "yeah, you wanted cucumbers, but here's your tomatoes". Those consumers are saying they don't want this sort of wheat. Farmers accidentally shipping this sort of wheat need redress for the work they've done that's been rendered worthless by spill-over from neighboring fields.

This is simple property rights: If I were growing organic crops and someone came in and sprayed my fields without my knowledge, but that later showed up in testing, I should be able to go after them civilly for destroying the organic value of my crops, and criminally for trespass.

Whatever the science on the health impacts of GMOs, this is about free markets, free commerce, and property rights. Those are the issues we need to be addressing.
posted by straw at 5:10 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


There isn't really any difference between saying "oh, but genetic modification occurs in nature" and "oh, but climate change occurs in nature". They're basically the same argument. That doesn't mean it A) is a good idea to do overnight what could in theory happen by itself over a span of centuries, and B) is beneficial to the lifeforms that exist now, which we rely on and one of which is us.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:11 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's sort of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but all of the pod people are Monsanto lawyers.
posted by Catblack at 5:15 PM on June 1, 2013


"blasdelb, is the Guardian article linked above not essentially correct (apart from the silly headline)? I don't see anything about Alex Jones there."

The Guardian article linked above is essentially awesome. While unfortunately Epicyte got bought a decade ago by some shitty businessmen who ran it into the ground with the rest of their company, its a really cool idea that could have done an amazing amount of good. But no, eating the proposed corn would not have made you sterile any more than eating someone who had gotten the flu vaccine would give you immunity to last years strain of flu, antibodies do not work that way. What it would have done was make a plant based product that could maybe make an effective spermicide.

rough ashlar, you come into all of these threads with things that are each time demonstrated to be simply not the case and slowly fizzle away as they are carefully rebutted. Maybe this pattern is an indication that Alex Jones is not a trustworthy source of information, even in the indirect way you seem to appreciate him.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:16 PM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


blasdelb, is the Guardian article linked above not essentially correct (apart from the silly headline)? I don't see anything about Alex Jones there.

Mentioning Alex allows a whole derail about 'tin foil hats' and the phatic communication based on emotion 'cuz as a whole The Blue has no use for Mr. Jones thus allowing a "guilt by association" setup in the readers mind.

You, dear reader, will have to decide for yourself if there was a company called Epicyte, if they had a hothouse of corn that was supposed to bring about sterility in humans, and if testing the present and future corn crop would show that gene sequence is now out in the wild.

Thus far rice, corn and wheat that is supposed to not have some GMO element in the human marketplace have had a GMO element in the human food marketplace.

This is a simple property rights issue,

Good. I have some soybeans - If I send them to Monsanto will they remove their IP and contracted rights from the seeds and return them to me so I can plant them and grow some soy without their IP?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:18 PM on June 1, 2013


Penicillin is many orders of magnitude more effective at fucking up your gut than even the most ridiculous plausible concentrations of round-up ever could be.

Well, then it's a good thing we don't spray penicillin on crops or cultivate as food crops for general consumption plants that express penicillin then, isn't it?

(OTOH, we do load up antibiotics in animal feed to keep them from dropping dead from the conditions they're raised in, but that's another issue. Maybe. Oh, you gotta check this out. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:22 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously on MetaFilter.
In January 2006, small amounts of genetically engineered rice turned up in a shipment that was tested ...


A few years ago the ironically-named Triffid flax from Canada was found in bread in the UK. All samples were supposedly destroyed years earlier to prevent exactly that sort contamination (Canada sells most flax to the EU where they don't generally accept GMO). There was never any evidence of any health risk, but it goes to show how little control we really have over this stuff.
posted by swr at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And if the whole "acid in gut breaks down proteins" meme is true, then eating Castor beans should be no problem as the acid would break down the ricin protein no?"

Protease digestion is not a meme. The ricin protein found in Castor beans is specifically resistant, though not entirely impervious, to digestion by the proteases in stomach acid, leading to its extraordinary toxicity in humans. This protease resistance of ricin would be detected by the assay all GMO peptides are required to go through to see if they last any plausibly meaningful amount of time in the gut, and would cause it to be rejected if regulators had somehow failed to notice the pile of dead mice it would leave behind.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


[rough ashlar, you're doing that thing where I have to step in and ask you not to take on all comers. People will disagree with you, and at some point you need to accept that rather than continuously escalating. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:40 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jezebel: Everyone Please Just Shut Up about GMOs

Unusually for the internet, there are some really good and interesting comments below the article, which make the whole thing worth reading.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:57 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blasdelb: do you have a link describing the assays the FDA requires GMO's to go through?
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:19 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


those same farmers lose with the defense that the plants growing on their land could have blown in from neighboring crops.

In the cases that have had published decisions, the court has held that the farmer has intentionally isolated the patented seed. It wasn't just some accident, IOW.

If I were growing organic crops and someone came in and sprayed my fields without my knowledge, but that later showed up in testing, I should be able to go after them civilly for destroying the organic value of my crops

They certainly can.
posted by jpe at 6:19 PM on June 1, 2013


WHEAT WHEAT WHEAT WHEAT

OOMA CHACKA OOMA CHACKA

WHEAT WHEAT WHEAT WHEAT!

(sorry home sick.)
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:31 PM on June 1, 2013


> CENTRAL DOGMA DOES NOT WORK THIS WAY

How does y'all know who ah been conjugatin' wif?
posted by jfuller at 6:59 PM on June 1, 2013


Jezebel: Everyone Please Just Shut Up about GMOs

>As the protestors marched, organic seitan went uneaten.

Seitan? Are you kidding? Gluten is like...poison. It's responsible for all the human health problems GMO and fluoridation aren't responsible for.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really, all we need to do in order to solve the problem is to use the Lance of Longinus to defeat the GMO wheat.
posted by Nomyte at 7:05 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


So in the same vein as the partial discussion above about the old court cases:

Suppose the investigation finishes and it's determined, officially, that "it's unclear" how the seed got to the field. Monsanto agrees with the investigation because otherwise they could be on the hook for some pretty serious penalties and problems - they likely don't want to admit that their seed can live for that long and contaminate fields.

At that point, what's to stop the farmer in question from selling his seed? Could Monsanto still claim that the wheat is the same as that which was patented? It would be complicated, and they won't have any of the licence agreements to fall back on.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:24 PM on June 1, 2013


they won't have any of the licence agreements to fall back on.

Bowman VS Monsanto - Bowman did not have an agreement, yet the Court sided for Monsanto.

The licence makes the case contract law and simpler to deal with.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2013


I read a story a while ago about the Earth being overrun by a type of mutant grass. You couldn’t cut it. Cells from it turned into seed so you couldn’t eat enough of it.
The entire Earth looked like a beautifully manicured front lawn from space though.

“the potential role Roundup may play in affecting the balance of gut flora of everyone exposed to it”
I don’t know why so many people are so ok with dumping that stuff on their lawns.
My brother was cutting my lawn for me for a bit and he absolutely demands I use weed killer. I told him I don’t like to use any chemicals at all. I won’t buy them myself and I won’t pay for them if he uses them.
Next day I’ve got a big bottle of the stuff sitting on the foyer table.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:30 PM on June 1, 2013


If a genetically modified organism gets into the wild, the company that owns it should lose any patent protections they have for it, in the same way that a company can lose trademark protection by allowing their trademark to become genericized.
posted by Pyry at 8:10 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Blasdelb: do you have a link describing the assays the FDA requires GMO's to go through?

There is likely none, because the FDA allows GMO manufacturers to police their own safety.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:43 PM on June 1, 2013


rough ashlar: “You, dear reader, will have to decide for yourself if there was a company called Epicyte, if they had a hothouse of corn that was supposed to bring about sterility in humans, and if testing the present and future corn crop would show that gene sequence is now out in the wild. ”

Totally leaving aside the Alex Jones angle, let's examine the facts:

(1) The most legitimate source, as far as I can tell – the source you quoted – is basically just a reprint of what appears to have been a press release from a company that almost immediately folded without ever bringing a single product to market.

(2) Even assuming the press release was completely above board, I get the feeling you didn't read it. If you eat spermicidal jelly, it won't make you sterile. That's not how spermicide works. If it were, spermicidal condoms would be illegal because prolonged exposure to the stuff would be making people sterile, and probably all the millions of males on earth who regularly consume neem oil would be finding themselves unable to have children.

I only mentioned Alex Jones because he's the most prominent person I can find who's made this whole "Epicyte = sterilization" connection. I guess I'll admit that he has a grain of truth; the grain of truth is that Epicyte probably existed, and (if we're feeling very generous) might maybe have been telling the truth that they'd discovered a natural spermicide. That's where the truth ends.
posted by koeselitz at 9:56 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks this Epicyte business would actually be quite the excellent reprieve for the species? From The Guardian article, it looks like it would work in a way analagous to compounds in clover eaten by sheep though. To really be effective, they'd need to go the way of the genophage.

Unless they wanted this to all be voluntary, of course.

Aaaaaanywho, for those of you fretting about foreign DNA transposing, splicing, or recombining its way into your genome please let me illuminate a few things here.

1. You have a great deal of enzyme expressed in every cell and covering every layer of mucus, slime, oily sheen, and hair and this family of enzymes is dedicated SOLELY to reducing any piece of DNA/RNA it can find to its constituent, non-coding pieces. We've been fighting off viral particles since time immemorial with the stuff, I don't think some weedy little seed is going to get past both our generally destructive digestive processes AND the enzymatic defense. To say nothing of the incredible array of immunoglobulins constantly probing around any and every bodily space for foreign particles.

2. It requires an incredibly complex or hard to decompose system to actually make it into a cell and after that, whatever does scrape past each cell's internal defense mechanisms (and oh man, those defenses) has to then do it ALL AGAIN getting into the nucleus where each cell's set of DNA is tightly stored. Which might as well be a second cell as far as any foreign invader is concerned.

3. We've been trying really hard to get the most basic and robust of inactive viral agents loaded for gene therapy and augmented with a stunning variety of packaging past the weakest types of cell defense (retinal cells for example) and we still fail far more than we succeed. If some random piece of coding/non-coding DNA managed to fluke its way into the nucleus of random gut cell in your body, those in the corresponding sub-fields would be SUPER JEALOUS.

4. Scenario assumption: it happens, and foreign DNA not only gets into the cell, it gets into the nucleus and stably remains there (through a variety of possible means). Not only that, it begins expressing whatever aberrant RNA (and eventually protein) it coded for. Now the cell... well, the cell still isn't done with its duty to the body. Unless some Intensely Complicated and Terribly Bad Stuff happens, the cell is going to start including this aberrant protein in the cellular equivalent of a random drug test. And the factory supervisors (immune system cells) are NOT going to just let him head back to the factory floor.

To sum: as an individual, you don't have anything to fear. As a population, well, minor changes unnoticed in the individual have been doing novel and interestingly weird things since something absorbed something else and finally managed to flagellate its way out of the primordial goop.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:06 AM on June 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


And if one is now thinking about gene transfer between plants - consider Epicyte and its GMO corn.

Corn that's ment to make human reproduction harder. As in sterile.


Do you understand what that corn actually contained and what you'd have to do to make it useful as a contraceptive? Do you get that the spermicidal jelly on toast thing is an urban legend? Or is creating fake fears that this corn will wipe out the human race the entire goal?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:25 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can subsistence farmers afford to feed their children in the next decade or less if this is inevitable model of industrialization of the food?
posted by infini at 12:35 AM on June 2, 2013


GMO is the future. It really is.

For example, A kickstarter project to develop glowing trees and plants to replace streetlights.

How do people feel about that sort of project? Is it different because you aren't eating the glowing plants?
posted by Justinian at 1:05 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, note that those wonderful, mad fuckers aren't just proving this in the lab, they're sending kickstarter backers the seeds. That's hilarious. Let's scatter the glowing plants in random places!
posted by Justinian at 1:07 AM on June 2, 2013


Oh, note that those wonderful, mad fuckers aren't just proving this in the lab, they're sending kickstarter backers the seeds. That's hilarious. Let's scatter the glowing plants in random places!

But we only want to make a world of pure imagination! What could possibly go wrong with mad utopia enabling biotics crawling into and struggling to survive in each and every ecological nice?
posted by Slackermagee at 1:17 AM on June 2, 2013


but the result will be unregulated by the USDA and thus suitable for release. [...] Regrettably the European Union has tighter restrictions in place so we can’t send seeds there as a reward.
This sounds legit.
posted by Justinian at 1:28 AM on June 2, 2013


Ok, more seriously, I expect this is... not a scam, exactly, but nothing to write home about. We've been able to engineer luminescence in other organisms for quite some time. The problem isn't getting stuff to glow, it's getting stuff to glow bright enough and long enough to be useful.
posted by Justinian at 1:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this 'Epicyte' business a plot device from that PD James novel, Children of men?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:55 AM on June 2, 2013


been a press release from a company that almost immediately folded

Press announcement 2001. Acquisition 2004. Over other anti-hepatitis efforts having better market acceptance per one snippet read.

Even assuming the press release was completely above board,

Considering the above "almost immediately folded" VS a 2004 buyout is there a reason your scepticism should be considered valid by others? PACER shows no bankruptcy for epicyte. So under the "all takers" admonishment, do you have the correct PACER data showing the almost immediately folded phatic communication is correct?

Cuz "folded" with no bankruptcy isn't what I'd call "folding" and 3.5 years later being acquired isn't "almost immediately" as far as I can tell.

If you eat spermicidal jelly, it won't make you sterile.

nonoxynol-9 as a chemical is not the same as a human immune response antibody analog.

But do go ahead, show a commercial spermicidal jelly which uses the rare human condition where the female immune system response results in infertility, Then "we" can move this from a academic debate to clinical data showing the effect of oral consumption of such a product.

Corn that's ment to make human reproduction harder. As in sterile.
Do you understand what that corn actually contained


That (alleged) corn, according to the (alleged*) maker was (allegedly) designed to make human reproduction harder. Such was the boast of the press/company.

"Simple" testing of what humans are eating would show what GMOed IP is "out in the wild". If the Epicyte work product isn't in the food chain - debating the work product existence and what it did/can do is an academic exercise. If however the discussed work product is IN the human food chain there needs to be another discussion. Or don't you even agree in widespread testing to know who's "intellectual property" is outside the control of contract law? Law is important and so is Intellectual property - so why no widespread testing looking for these IP lawbreakers?

It requires an incredibly complex or hard to decompose system to actually make it into a cell and after that,

I believe that others have pitched how BT/BTed plants gets broken down in the gut and therefore safe and yet Cry1Ab is being found in the blood of the tested in Canada. BT corn/BT Potatoes arn't supposed to be in the human foodchain for direct consumption. Said plants can be in the diet of the animals humans eat.
So if these people are not eating BTed plants (Can't because its not approved and genes don't escape, right?) and are eating animals that ate BTed plants isn't that a incredibly complex system that results in Cry1Ab in the blood?

I've asked for an explanation of how this CryAb1 is entering the diet in large enough amounts to be detected in 69% of the sample if CryAB1 is 'broken down in the gut'.

(and, where the hell are the "don't eat this food because your gut won't break it down" warning for advertisements for the drugs which effect acid production?)

*alleged again because someone brings up the concern troll of "we don't know if this existed".
posted by rough ashlar at 5:29 AM on June 2, 2013


For example, A kickstarter project to develop glowing trees and plants to replace streetlights.
How do people feel about that sort of project?


Misguided because no tree/plant will generate the same light level as a streetlight *AND* how are these "streetlight trees" going to work in the cold of winter?

Streetlights historically came into existence as a crime reduction effort. I don't believe the plants have the biological energy to emit that level of photons.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:40 AM on June 2, 2013


I don’t know why so many people are so ok with dumping that stuff on their lawns.

Nobody puts Roundup on their lawn. It kills grass, so if they did put it there, it wouldn't be a lawn any more.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:59 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Corn that's ment to make human reproduction harder. As in sterile.

This GMO wheat was detected because someone wanted the field of wheat dead and sprayed roundup.

Who's checking corn for the "Intellectual Property" of Epicyte? The wheat issue is known because a farmer was able to check. How are you going to check your hot grits for Monsanto/DuPont sterility IP?

posted by rough ashlar


So the next time the "depopulation agenda" conspiracy theory comes up, we can point to this, right?
posted by marienbad at 6:06 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting discussion. Although there is some risk that inserting a foreign gene into an organism will have some unexpected side-effect, it's not really fair to compare it with "gradual" plant breeding. Some plant breeding is not gradual: hybridization immediately creates a plant that not only has genes from both parent species, but often shows "hybrid vigor" for unknown reasons. Many crop plants are derived from polyploidy, where a doubling or tripling or 6-xing of chromosome numbers have unpredictable effects on the organism. We take some of these changes in stride, and worry about others, but the key (as others have pointed out) is good testing and time.
posted by acrasis at 6:49 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment deleted. Rough ashlar, cut it out with the "sheeple" stuff and, again, the hypercommenting. ]
posted by taz at 7:02 AM on June 2, 2013


It seems like on one hand you have the U.S., where simply requiring GM food to be labeled as such is met with strong resistance* and on the other you have Japan not only refusing this particular shipment of wheat, but suspending all imports of wheat.

If the science so strongly backs the claim the GMO food is safe then what is the reasoning behind the zero-tolerance bans by the EU and Japan?



*I know that there are many consumer-unfriendly reasons behind this other than scientific.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:19 AM on June 2, 2013



I don’t know why so many people are so ok with dumping that stuff on their lawns.

Nobody puts Roundup on their lawn. It kills grass, so if they did put it there, it wouldn't be a lawn any more.


There is where Monsanto can do God's work: invent Roundup Ready grass seed. You'll never have a weed again!
posted by gjc at 7:40 AM on June 2, 2013


Fuck. Alex. Jones.

Find and quote primary sources. Do the legwork. Get facts. Do not mention that shitweasel's name, and your concerns may find some support in the Blue.

I support outright deletion of any post that uses that psychotic idiot's spew as an argument. As far as I can tell, there is only one person who believes the lunacy that pours in torrents of hysteria from his foam-flecked lips.

The only thing accomplished by bringing up Alex Jones is a massive derail. If you believe there is a truth to be found, go find it and bring it to us without the taint of his name.

Thanks.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:11 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


But do go ahead, show a commercial spermicidal jelly which uses the rare human condition where the female immune system response results in infertility, Then "we" can move this from a academic debate to clinical data showing the effect of oral consumption of such a product.

People taking a monoclonal antibody therapy typically receive frequent injections, though, occasionally, they are delivered orally for the treatment of localized conditions in the gastrointestinal tract (mostly TNF agonists for the treatment of Crohn's disease). There is a paper listing strategies that might be employed to get antibodies past the digestive system in therapeutically meaningful numbers via an oral delivery route, but it's all hypothetical at this point.

But that's pretty much irrelevant to to this discussion since the disorder you describe is a full immune response which requires the participation of activated B cells, while treatment with antibodies is a passive since they are non-living lumps of protein with a half-life measurable in days. There is an entire B cell repertoire mediated signaling pathway required to create an actual immune response and antibodies alone are not that thing.

Seriously, "alleging" that this is an academic debate is kind of insulting to academia.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:12 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


gjc: "
I don’t know why so many people are so ok with dumping that stuff on their lawns.

Nobody puts Roundup on their lawn. It kills grass, so if they did put it there, it wouldn't be a lawn any more.


There is where Monsanto can do God's work: invent Roundup Ready grass seed. You'll never have a weed again!
"

Nope, if that was God's work, God would do it. You mean where Monsanto can do Monsanto's work.
posted by Samizdata at 8:20 AM on June 2, 2013


It could also be proof that there is no god. A kind and just god wouldn't have imbued us with a love of lush green lawns AND invented crabgrass.
posted by gjc at 8:33 AM on June 2, 2013


I don't know why Japan and Europe won't accept GMO grain (although it is based on no science I am aware of). I can only recount the story of Karnal Bunt on wheat. Karnal bunt is a minor disease of wheat that showed up in the US a few decades ago. China immediately banned all wheat from the affected states. After much negotiation, it allowed testing of shipments for presence of the disease; if it was found, the wheat could only be sold for consumption (a cheaper price). Ships to be tested had to wait weeks for results of the test. All of this was hugely deleterious to US wheat growers. And there was always a suspicion that China had Karnal bunt and wouldn't admit it, because the ban was economically advantageous to them.
posted by acrasis at 8:49 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the science so strongly backs the claim the GMO food is safe then what is the reasoning behind the zero-tolerance bans by the EU and Japan?

Their populations, or at least relevant portions thereof, demand it. Of course, populations can demand good things, like CFC bans, but they can also demand silly things, like creationist claptrap in school. Time will tell.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:58 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


five fresh fish: “The only thing accomplished by bringing up Alex Jones is a massive derail. If you believe there is a truth to be found, go find it and bring it to us without the taint of his name.”

Agreed. My apologies; it really was a mistake for me to mention him.
posted by koeselitz at 9:27 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Their populations, or at least relevant portions thereof, demand it. Of course, populations can demand good things, like CFC bans, but they can also demand silly things, like creationist claptrap in school. Time will tell.

So their response to GMOs is like our (policy level) response to climate change, but with uninformed/misinformed citizens instead of lobbyists?

I miss the days when Monsanto was a force of good in agriculture the Monsanto ride was the safest place to smoke pot at Disneyland.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:44 AM on June 2, 2013


So their response to GMOs is like our (policy level) response to climate change, but with uninformed/misinformed citizens instead of lobbyists?

1st - What makes you think they (the citizens) are uninformed/misinformed?
2nd - Don't confuse economic protectionism for the few with good public policy for the many.

Some of the GMOed food we are talking about are carbohydrates (Soy can be human food and the flax would be oil/animal feed, no?) and making carbs a big part of the diet sure looks like bad public policy. But these carbs are cheap and easy and a non-starving population is a not-rioting population.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:04 PM on June 2, 2013


1st - What makes you think they (the citizens) are uninformed/misinformed?

I never said I thought they were. My first question was:
If the science so strongly backs the claim the GMO food is safe then what is the reasoning behind the zero-tolerance bans by the EU and Japan?
ROU_Xenophobe responded with this:
Their populations, or at least relevant portions thereof, demand it. Of course, populations can demand good things, like CFC bans, but they can also demand silly things, like creationist claptrap in school. Time will tell.
That response did not mention any contradicting scientific evidence that the EU, Japan, and/or the citizens had, and kinda-sorta implied that they were just ignoring the science we have (for better or worse) so when I asked (asked, not stated):
So their response to GMOs is like our (policy level) response to climate change, but with uninformed/misinformed citizens instead of lobbyists?
it was to to clarify why, if the science is so solid, the EU and Japan would simply agree to listen to the citizens who are demanding action that contradicts the facts, especially when we have an embarrassing record of putting special interests ahead of science.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:57 PM on June 2, 2013


The organic/frankenfoodz/greenpeace movement is a special interest that is very easy to put ahead of science
posted by Blasdelb at 2:47 PM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yah, but I try not to confuse science and corporatist technology.
posted by telstar at 3:07 PM on June 2, 2013


The organic/frankenfoodz/greenpeace movement is a special interest that is very easy to put ahead of science

And science takes a back seat to business and making a profit.

And if testing will take a long time or be complicated, that testing is skipped if possible. The 'revolving door' of large Corporations into government regulatory agencies than back to the corporate world helps move forward the undertested, products that have problems from 'unapproved' to 'approved' or even products known to have a problem from getting pulled.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2013


"Yah, but I try not to confuse science and corporatist technology."

If only we this really were a debate between corporate exploitation of science, with its various benefits and drawbacks, and public/private or fully socialized alternatives, with their various benefits and drawbacks. That would be pretty awesome. Unfortunately every time anyone tries to have that conversation it gets drowned out by people who think expressing afa3 in tomatoes will make them taste like flounder or make those who consume them grow bolts out of the sides of their necks and walk around with their hands stretched out in front of them.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:27 PM on June 2, 2013


So their response to GMOs is like our (policy level) response to climate change, but with uninformed/misinformed citizens instead of lobbyists?

Could be. Could be like our response to CFCs. We don't know.

it was to to clarify why, if the science is so solid, the EU and Japan would simply agree to listen to the citizens who are demanding action that contradicts the facts, especially when we have an embarrassing record of putting special interests ahead of science.

This is just not a very good argument. It wouldn't be outside political possibility for Japan to enact legislation or programs related to the common folk-myths about blood type and personality, even though that has no basis in fact. And even though there's no such thing as fan death, that didn't stop the Korean government warning people about it as recently as 2006.

Democratic political systems tend to deliver what (activated subsets) of the population demand, because if the current set of political actors won't do that then they can be replaced by ones that will. What the population demands doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do with the actual truth or with what's right.

So, is the EU/Japan ban wise? Dunno. But whether it's wise, irrelevant, or foolish will be almost completely unrelated to the fact that it's popular with their populations. Lots of smart things are popular, but so are lots of dumb things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:58 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is also a considerable body of opinion in Japan that the home islands should be self-sufficient in food, especially rice; should not be importing rice; and should not substitute other imported grains (e.g.wheat) for home-grown rice. I feel sure people of that opinion will be hypersensitive to anything bad or potentially bad or arguably bad about imported grain. Precautionary principle, you know.
posted by jfuller at 5:37 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is also a considerable body of opinion in Japan that the home islands should be self-sufficient in food, especially rice; should not be importing rice; and should not substitute other imported grains (e.g.wheat) for home-grown rice.

But how does one turn square corners with that desire VS the new reality of TOKYO—Concerns about excessive radioactive cesium levels in foods grown or raised near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan continue as the country’s rice harvesting season looms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Japan is the 10th biggest grower of rice, producing more than 7.7 million tons of rice in the 2010-2011; the country also is the 10th-largest consumer of rice. Have the legal levels been moved upward to make what was not legal before legal now?

(and in not-GMO rice and rice growing: Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India's poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world's population of seven billion, big news. No word on if this method is able to work on a grand scale.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:10 PM on June 2, 2013


1st - What makes you think they (the citizens) are uninformed/misinformed?

Maybe that they don't know how an immune response works?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:14 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've read the whole thread but I won't weigh in at this point. Just wanted to thank you all for the Alex Jones derail, which let me finally discover that he is not the same person as Alex James. For a long time I'd assumed that MetaFilter just hated ex-rockstar cheese farmers maundering wankily on in the Telegraph about the Great British Countryside. I was surprised not by this dislike or its intensity, but by how widespread it seemed to be. It's all cleared up now.
posted by daisyk at 2:18 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The organic/frankenfoodz/greenpeace movement is a special interest that is very easy to put ahead of science"

Yes, this is why I compared them to lobbyists. (Although I wasn't specifically referring to actual Washington lobbyists who work on behalf of environmental issues.)

The answers have been helpful, thanks.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2013


From Forbes:

What is something of a conundrum, however, is how and why wheat from a growing program that was discontinued nine years ago, that’s about 500 million acres of wheat ago, according to Monsanto, has shown up only now in a field in Oregon?

The best case scenario is that rogue seeds were carried by wind from former test fields and by some inexplicable natural phenomena happened to land and grow just in this one field. A worse case scenario is that seeds have been carried intermittently over the years and wheat fields have been contaminated with small amounts of GM wheat undetected for up to a decade. Then there’s the worst case scenario, for Monsanto, certainly; GM seeds routinely mixed up with conventional seeds through human error.
posted by Wordshore at 4:18 AM on June 4, 2013


From the Colbert Report last week:

- Monsanto's modified wheat
- Interview with Laurie Garrett
- Sign off
posted by Wordshore at 4:03 AM on June 8, 2013


A new mime should be pushed - send Monsanto seeds and demand they remove their "Intellectual Property" from your seeds and return to you viable seeds that they have removed their property from.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:53 PM on June 11, 2013


Do you not think mimes have suffered enough? Trapped in a box or pulled and pushed by the wind, desperate for assistance yet unable to give voice to their need — pushing them is uncalled for.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:39 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


An image of a mime should be the international symbol for food products containing GM grain. It's the only way you'll ever see a mime on a box of Wheaties.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:27 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]






> "In my experience, farmers have experienced increased production costs and have seen escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops."

What could go wrong?
posted by homunculus at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2013


"The research results were striking, showing that the weight of the uterus in GM-fed pigs was on average 25% higher than in the control group of pigs. "
OK, so long as we're still doing this, here is a link to the damn paper(PDF). Just starting with the obvious, this is published in the Journal of Organic Systems, which is not a real journal; or at least is not yet one having not yet been referenced by Pubmed or given a reputable impact factor. This is how we regulate the effectiveness of the peer review process as a scientific community as really anyone could design a process with an end result in mind and call it peer review - and this Journal has not yet managed to clear a single meaningful hurdle. New reputable journals do start up all the time though and they do it when scientists with good reputations invest their research into them to get them started.

The researchers do have reputations, and they aren't good ones. The lead and corresponding author has degrees but like the other authors doesn't really publish significantly and has a career that could be more accurately described as activist rather than scientific. That she, as well as particularly the author who represents the Verity Farms corperation, have conflicts of interests, which they explicitly declare that they don’t have at the end of the paper, is also not confidence inspiring. their acknowledgements section is also almost a whos who in terms of people famous for their profitably bad understanding of biology.
"The finding was biologically and statistically significant.
Only it wasn’t - at all - for a variety of reasons. As the authors were kind enough to include their raw data in tables, it was suspicious similar looking enough that other researchers have independently analyzed it using the statistical tests appropriate to the kind of small n comparative data with an unknown variance and found very different significance levels - the link even includes the r-scripts used. In addition to this, they also test 18 different parameters and do not include a weight to counteract the expected false discovery rate this would naturally cause - here is a helpful comic for understanding why.

But Blasdelb, you might ask, what could be causing those hideously malformed uterii in those poor pigs? Specifically the ones they made sure to include pictures of as figures that communicate no information but make for great journalist fodder. The authors make no mention of them being aware of Zearalenone (a compound made by fungi that grow on soy) toxicity in their paper, much less testing their soy for it, but the author from the Verity corperation surely could not have been that unaware of the biology of farming pigs. They also did not test for any of phyto-estrogens known to have effects of swine reproduction and to be found in soy.

This solidly puts the authors in at least the first, second and fourth circles of science hell but really should put them further for how aggressively dishonest it is in designing a study to find an effect regardless of whether it is there or not.

To speak perfectly plainly, what this paper does is – yet again – demonstrate the safety of GM products. They show convincingly that the feed they gave the pigs had no significant effect on them.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Monsanto Says Rogue Wheat in Oregon May Be Sabotage"

This is the obvious answer. The wheat did not grow wild, wheat does not work that way, it was planted there by someone and it doesn't make sense that it was an accident. There are however an awful lot of people who would be happy to stick it to Monsanto regardless of how dishonestly it was done and happy to profit from the damage.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:46 AM on June 13, 2013


This is the obvious answer.

Such sounds like one has a theory about a conspiracy.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:20 PM on June 13, 2013




I dunno, the more I read about these megaMNCs and their legally protected IP and R&D (conducted in the days before the great Vacuum Suck of data, natch) and the more I hang out in villages in less than middle income countries, the more I come away thinking I don't really like them.

But I got no citations for that :(
posted by infini at 11:35 PM on June 13, 2013




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