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The HRE was neither holy nor roman, talk amongst yourselves (about GMOs)
July 21, 2003 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Today the British government released a major report on the safety of genetically modified foods. According to New Scientist, "existing genetically modified crops and foods pose a 'very low' risk to human health and are 'very unlikely' to rampage through the British countryside", but others disagree.
posted by turbodog (58 comments total)

 
explain why we should oppose gen en foods
posted by firestorm at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2003


Given the cozy relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush these days, and the extreme eagerness of many of Mr. Bush's donors to get genetically modified food accepted in the EU, this looks like a bit of politics to me.

And few of us here are qualified as genetic scientists to have a meaningful discussion to match your challenge firestorm. Clearly there is a great deal of controversy and it seems that most people in Europe are uncomfortable with gm crops. Their democratic governments are merely reflecting the will of their citizenry. Aren't we supposed to like democracies and the democratic process?
posted by Red58 at 2:25 PM on July 21, 2003


GM crops are cross pollinating with weeds creating super weeds that can't be killed. There is no science to study the long-term affects of this food on humans. The main reason for it is to solve world hunger. Well, that's bull. The main reason is a few agribizs make a lot of money with patents. We can feed the world without frankenfood the studies have been done it's all politics and money at the cost of public health.
posted by stbalbach at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2003


They don’t seem to have learnt the hard lessons of BSE

I am sorry but I fail to see how bovine spongiform encephalopathy may be analogous with what is currently occuring vis-a-vis genetically modified organisms. BSE was a disease that resulted from a change being implemented in the production of animal feed. To simply tar all genetic modifcation, with such hysterical health warnings, seems crude and ill-informed. All genetic modification needs to be examined individually case by case to determine whether what is proposed is indeed desirable and safe. Scare-mongering with the use of phrases such as 'frankenstein foods' that seem to clutter the british press is distinctly unhelpful.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2003


I am sorry but I fail to see how bovine spongiform encephalopathy may be analogous with what is currently occuring vis-a-vis genetically modified organisms.

I believe the point is screwing around with the food chain has unforseen and unintended consequences which vested interests are very capable of brushing under the carpet.

I have no knowledge whatsoever about geneticaly modified food. I live in the UK where we were systematicaly lied to about the safety of our food for a very long time, something that a curious mix of nationalism and head-in-the-sandism made sure we weren't the only victims of too. We know these now to be lies. What we were being told at the time was that the fears were lies, we had nothing to be afraid of and we should do our patriotic duty and eat good, wholesome beef.

You'll forgive me for not trusting anyone who tells me that food that makes me nervous is perfectly safe. Frankly I don't know whether they're telling the truth, whether their independent scientific commission is funded by a GM producer five times removed or whether I'll grow a second head by eating the wrong carrot. I don't particularly want to know either, I just want GM products clearly labelled as such so that I can decide for myself whether I want to eat that particular product or not.

I'm not sure I care for the field testing of crops and the ultimate realisation that cross pollinisation is a distant memory and that we should all stop bitching because the things we were worried about have already happened either, but that's a different story...
posted by vbfg at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2003


Oh good god. Do you think the practice of creating random mutations in plants by blasting them with radiation and then breeding those new mutant plants to create new hybrids is really better then GM? Because that's what they still do in Europe.

These anti-GM people simply seem like ill-informed nutbags to me.

I mean, they don't know anything about how it works but they go on and on about how 'dangerous' it is.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 PM on July 21, 2003


Does that mean they're both safe or that you're already eating one kind of crap, why not eat another?
posted by vbfg at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2003


Is there any evidence out there that consumption of GMF has ever caused harm to human beings?
posted by 111 at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2003


I've found this very interesting collection of links to articles and essays on the potential dangers of genetic engineering. It seems that pollen is really a troublemaker, both for scientist and for some farmer as well. Would you pay Monsanto because some of their genetically resistant crop made it to your field, even if you didn't a plant a single Monsanto seed ? I think I wouldn't and I'm no retrograde luddite either.

The most interesting question is, in my opinion, this one: who's going to bear the accidental costs that will almost surely rise when some company pushes GM too far and too early ? Even if some company will bear the cost, limited liability will reduce the amount of possible compensation. Socializing the hidden costs and privatizing the profits again and again and again ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2003


There is no science to study the long-term affects of this food on humans.

What you're doing is adding new proteins to the organism. If you know what the proteins are, say because they occur naturally in some other organism, then it is easy to evaluate their safety.

I find it somewhat amusing that people will eat fish, and they will eat tomatoes, but they won't eat a tomato with a fish gene in it. As if the fish protein in the tomato is somehow going to be more "harmful" in the tomato than it is in the fish. (Of course, the "flounder tomato" never reached the market, I'm just using it as a hypothetical example.)

Chances are that the cheese in your fridge right now was made with a genetically-engineered version of rennet called chymosin. It was approved by the FDA in 1990 and is now used to make about 80% of the cheese made in America.
posted by kindall at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2003


kindall: I guess tomato protein among fish proteins is not the same as tomato protein AND fish protein in your stomach. I'm no genetic engineer , but if tomato protein among fish protein is the same as tomato AND fish in your stomach, there's no need to modify the fish before you eat it, just eat tomato and fish :) Yum.
posted by elpapacito at 3:18 PM on July 21, 2003


These anti-GM people simply seem like ill-informed nutbags to me.
The problem we have in the UK is that it is very hard to trust anything said to us by governments relating to food after incidents such as the BSE outbreak of the last decade. It doesn't help having people such as science minister Lord Sainsbury (Sainsbury's is the biggest supermarket chain in the UK) part of the decision making process. You may find this hard to believe, but not everyone in the UK understands in detail the process involved in genetically modifying food (incredible I know, I blame the parents) and until a fully independent body that we can all trust says that it is (in principle) safe, and will have no adverse affect on the environment, the public will quite rightly remain cautious.
posted by chill at 3:24 PM on July 21, 2003


Is there any evidence out there that consumption of GMF has ever caused harm to human beings?

A few years back, there was quite a bit of coverage about the accidental introduction of a GM corn known as "Starlink" into the human food supply. Starlink was/is a type of corn with an extra enzyme to fight the corn borer; it apparently caused allergic reactions in some humans, which is why it wasn't approved for human consumption. (I found the first link about Starlink that discussed the issue, btw. Anyone with a later link should post it.)

The frustrating thing for me is that all food we eat is "genetically modified" -- that is, crossed to select traits that are desirable or to get rid of ones that aren't. To say that there even is a thing such as "GM Foods" that should be banned or accepted in binary fashion just seems like really silly policymaking. Some GMOs should not be allowed to be planted or consumed, say, the harmful ones (for example, there has been a lot of discussion about a particular type of corn which has a herbicide bred into its pollen; some research suggests that it kills monarch butterflies, which we generally like), but good policy on the issue of foodstuffs naturally should involve an individual, science based approach, and not one that involves jingoistic sloganeering.

And yeah, I think that labels are totally reasonable. More information = better decisionmaking, and let the market decide.
posted by norm at 3:26 PM on July 21, 2003


Speaking as a "qualified genetic scientist":

GM crops are cross pollinating with weeds creating super weeds that can't be killed.

That's nonsense. Generally speaking, one plant species can't fertilize another, so GM crops won't turn weeds into "super weeds"

Is there any evidence out there that consumption of GMF has ever caused harm to human beings?

Ah, the important question. The answer is NO. Many studies have been done, many more are ongoing. To date, the consumption of GM foods has not been linked to a single case of a single disorder or disease. NOT SO MUCH AS A HEADACHE. By their nature, GM foods have been studied far more rigorously than naturally occuring foods, dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and other unregulated crap that people have no qualms about ingesting. Don't get me wrong, such studies should certainly continue, but we have no reason to believe that they will turn anything up and we eat a lot of things that have not been studied so thoroughly.

You can reasonably raise concerns about the environmental impact of raising GM crops in the wild, but there is not one shred of evidence to support the current European concerns about the impact of GM foods on the people who eat them.

Also of note, Europeans consume more Echinacea and St. John's Wort that Americans do. Ever read a study about the safety of those (largely unregulated) substances?

On preview, Starlink corn had troubles because it was found to have escaped its contained environment and entered wild fields. This was a breach of the agreed upon protocols. I dare you to find that "study" about it causing "allergic reactions" in humans in a real scientific journal.
posted by shinnin at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2003


Alright, for starters, this is not a Government report. It was commissioned by the Government, but was independent, and included organisations such as the RSPB, Greenpeace, Gene Watch UK, and The Royal Society - as well as holding a number of public debates and consultations.

And secondly, they most certainly did not conclude the GM foods were safe for general use within the UK. The final conclusion of this preliminary draft sat firmly on the fence, reaching a firm "we dunno" conclusion.

I don't doubty for a second that Labour is unduly influenced/corrupted by Monsanto and their ilk. But this report is not the bogeyman. Save your energies for when this report is somewhere vaguely near completion.
posted by influx at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2003


So are these two sole examples of harmful GM corn enough to justify the reaction against GMF? Or are they exceptions to an otherwise normal, scientifically sound practice ?
posted by 111 at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2003


That's nonsense. Generally speaking, one plant species can't fertilize another, so GM crops won't turn weeds into "super weeds"


Is that your scientific opinion? It was my (non-scientific) impression that most, if not all GMOs are not distinct species, which would make it possible to fertilize other wild plants of the same species. It was also my recollection that many distinct species of the same genus can breed, creating crosses. That's not to say it's happened, but your dismissive answer glosses over some serious (and in dispute) science on the subject.

So are these two sole examples of harmful GM corn enough to justify the reaction against GMF? Or are they exceptions to an otherwise normal, scientifically sound practice ?

Hell if I know. I guess it depends on what risk model you go on; I think all things considered I'd want some sort of testing and approval model before the floodgates are opened, but as I said before I'm in favor of a science-based approach to our foodstuffs as opposed to sloganeering and staking out political positions before the data is all in. YMMV.
posted by norm at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2003


George Monbiot on GM foods:
...The principal issue, perpetually and deliberately ignored by government, many scientists, most of the media and, needless to say, the questionnaire being used to test public opinion, is the corporate takeover of the foodchain. By patenting transferred genes and the technology associated with them, then buying up the competing seed merchants and seed breeding centres, the biotech companies can exert control over the crops at every stage of production and sale. Farmers are reduced to their sub-contracted agents. This has devastating implications for food security in the poor world: food is removed from local marketing networks, and therefore the mouths of local people, and gravitates instead towards sources of hard currency. This problem is compounded by the fact that (and this is another perpetually neglected issue) most of the acreage of GM crops is devoted to producing not food for humans, but feed for animals.
The second issue is environmental damage. Many of the crops have been engineered to withstand applications of weedkiller. This permits farmers to wipe out almost every competing species of plant in their fields. The exceptions are the weeds which, as a result of GM pollen contamination, have acquired multiple herbicide resistance. In Canada, for example, some oilseed rape is now resistant to all three of the most widely-used modern pesticides. The result is that farmers trying to grow other crops must now spray it with 2,4-D, a poison which persists in the environment.
The third issue, greatly over-emphasised by the press, is human health. There is, as yet, no evidence of adverse health effects caused directly by GM crops. This could be because there are no effects, or it could be because the necessary clinical trials and epidemiological studies have, extraordinarily, still to be conducted...

posted by talos at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2003


It was my (non-scientific) impression that most, if not all GMOs are not distinct species, which would make it possible to fertilize other wild plants of the same species.

In that case, you're not talking about weeds. Your comment raised the spectre of evil dandilions and clovers taking over our farmlands. GM corn, for example, could certainly fertilize wildtype corn, yielding a hybrid. That's just what I mentioned with the Starlix example. But, we still need to identify how this would be a dangerous thing....

I guess it depends on what risk model you go on

That is exactly the right point to raise. On the risk models currently used for drugs, dietary supplements, and newly bred plant and animal varieties, GM crops pass with flying colors. Now, robitussin cough syrup, on the other hand, is only on the market today because it has been grandfathered in from the days before we had decent review criteria.
posted by shinnin at 4:10 PM on July 21, 2003


Talos: patents expire after 20 years. That's not much time for your corporate doomsday scenario to play out.
posted by shinnin at 4:15 PM on July 21, 2003


Is there any evidence out there that consumption of GMF has ever caused harm to human beings?

The answers given to these questions to not address the genuine danger, the potential long term indirect effects of introducing these new species en masse. Yes, it is easy to do trials to see if a food is dangerous, just as you can do trials for drugs. It is not easy (perhaps impossible) to test for long term ecological effects of these new species that did not slowly evolve into the ecosystem, but were suddenly plunked down.

Furthermore, developing the "ideal" corn or whatever may lead to a dangerous new level of monoculture farming. Why grow any other corn when the ideal one is available (or more likely, when purchasing ideal seed is enforced by the corporate powers that be)? So, one day in the near future the entire world may only have one species of corn being farmed. Whoops - a new fungus/virus/whatever arrives on the scene that that corn is susceptible to, then BAM, no corn for anyone for the next few years.
posted by badstone at 4:15 PM on July 21, 2003


Your comment raised the spectre of evil dandilions and clovers taking over our farmlands.

I said nothing of the sort, unless you're telling me that dandelions and clovers are in the same genus as food crops.

(/quibble)
posted by norm at 4:20 PM on July 21, 2003


norm: you said GM crops would pollinate "weeds creating super weeds."

Weed: noun. A plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth

Weeds are the non-corn things in the cornfields and the non-tomato things in the tomato fields.

(/quibble)
posted by shinnin at 4:24 PM on July 21, 2003


Starlink corn had troubles because it was found to have escaped its contained environment and entered wild fields. This was a breach of the agreed upon protocols.

Contained environment? What, are they only growing it under sealed domes a la Biosphere II? Is there proof that these protocols, even when followed, actually prevent cross pollenation with surrounding farms? Do these protocols have the force of law, and are law enforcement bodies trained, equipped and empowered to enforce such laws?

Organic farmers have lost their certification and had no way to move an entire crop as a result of genetic contamination. Other farmers have been sued for "infringment" because of genetic contamination. What is the point in allowing this crap to occur? Sooner or later one of these GM companies is going to release a crop that disrupts the life cycle of bees, and then you'll have a real catastrophe on your hands.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2003


Shinnin: I'd email this to you if you had an email in your profile. I didn't say that. It's easy to verify, just read. Thanks.
posted by norm at 4:26 PM on July 21, 2003


My bad norm, I had you confused with stbalbach, the original author of the point you and I were discussing.

George_Spiggott, your critique of the "contained environment" is exactly right the Starlix case proved it didn't work at all.
posted by shinnin at 4:32 PM on July 21, 2003


Markets are, I thought, all about choice.

Why not put distinctive products on the market, properly labelled, and let the market decide?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:32 PM on July 21, 2003


Why not put distinctive products on the market, properly labelled, and let the market decide?

Indeed.
We could even get rid of this costly and timeconsuming FDA approvals process - when drug companies have a new product, just release it and let the market decide if it's good.

Sorry, a little touchy today. But I do think it's worth pointing out that we don't *really* believe The Market is an appropriate way to make these decisions, do we?
posted by freebird at 4:59 PM on July 21, 2003


No, not entirely on it's own.

I was refering to the position after safety trials have been done: then, instead of hiding GM crops in with non-GM, which is the objection of many UK consumers with US agri-business, food which is unpopular would - I guess - not be sold. Even so, we would have a fair, market place decision.

My major concern is that even with all the safeguards, pollen (GM or not) can travel up to 5km. How does an organic farmer cope with that?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:22 PM on July 21, 2003


Talos: patents expire after 20 years.

And just like trademarks the multi-million-dollar-campaign-donating corporations who hold them will in no way try to extend them or legally maneuver around them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2003


Shinnin, that's a fairly ignorant assessment of what weeds are and how they impact on crops.

Ever heard of canola? What about rape?

Canola is a plant we grow here in Australia for oil from the seeds. Rape is what we call the plant when it grows wild as a weed, in native vegetation and in other crops.

Here's the other interesting thing. Canola / rape is Brassica napus. What else is Brassica?

Brassica oleracea - Cabbage
Brassica rapa - Turnip

Also in the Brassica genus: Mustard, brocolli, brussels sprouts, Kale, Cauliflower.

And, of course, the big push in Australia is for genetically modified canola.
posted by Jimbob at 5:43 PM on July 21, 2003


Jimbob, two plants in the same genus will not produce fertile offspring when cross polinated. Your suggestion that genetically modified canola will alter mustard, brocolli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower is incorrect. Though, as I stipulated in the Starlix example, genetically modified canola can pollinate wildtype canola/rape.
posted by shinnin at 5:54 PM on July 21, 2003


Two plants in the same genus may be able to produce fertile offspring, simply because the "genus" classification is something imposed by humans. At the end of the day, we don't know what is what. Genus, species, family, it's all arbitrary - at the end of the day, the production of fertile offspring is a product of the mechanistic processes of fertilization, not what we decided to classify as a species. I know for a fact that in my lab, I have plants that are fertile crosses of Austroanthonia caespitosa and Austrodanthonia linkii.
posted by Jimbob at 6:10 PM on July 21, 2003


(Admittedly, Brassica is a very well known genus, so the species boundaries may be fairly stable. But the enormous variety and potential for hybrids in the genus doesn't bode well.)
posted by Jimbob at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2003


Who here thinks that the maize that we eat today was naturally occurring? Who here thinks that the Angus beef cows we eat today are genetically identical to the longhorn cows that wandered in the wild? Who here thinks that their pet dog is any less genetically different from a wolf than any GM crop to it's genetic ancestors? Who here thinks that the American Beauty Rose is not genetically engineered?

Humans have been "genetically modifying" plants and animals for thousands and thousands of years. That's no reason to turn all caution to the wind, but why does this issue instill such fear in so many? We're going to have to cut out a lot of things we use today, and have been using for hundreds of years, if we're only going to accept foods that have only been genetically modified by nature.

When did the cult of naturism get so firmly established? Mother nature isn't watching over genetic mutations in plants to make sure that they are beneficial to humans. It's just random.
posted by betaray at 8:02 PM on July 21, 2003


Jimbob, as you must know, the very definition of species (with vanishingly few exceptions in the sexually reproducing world) is a group that is capable of mating to produce fertile offspring. It is an artificial boundary imposed by humans but it means precisely that the members of two species in a genus are distinguished by their failure to reproduce together. Your example of Austroanthonia species, notwithstanding, I will repeat my point: your suggestion that genetically modified canola will alter mustard, brocolli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower is incorrect.
posted by shinnin at 8:03 PM on July 21, 2003


These anti-GM people simply seem like ill-informed nutbags to me.

There wouldn't be half so many 'ill-informed nutbags' if the GMO-using agribusiness corporations would drop their ridiculous opposition to simple product labelling. People want to know what they are eating. In general, governments have agreed with this notion by requiring food manufacturers to print complete ingredient lists on their packaging. If you refuse to tell them they will suspect the worst, and suspect the worst of you for trying to hide something from them.

It's not complicated. Publish the information and let people make their own choices. It should not be up to the people with a vested interest in the matter to decide for everyone else what they are going to choose.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:07 PM on July 21, 2003


"Genus, species, family, it's all arbitrary - at the end of the day, the production of fertile offspring is a product of the mechanistic processes of fertilization, not what we decided to classify as a species."

I thought the that was the definition of species - e.g. horses and donkeys are separate species, because they produce infertile offspring?

All in all, I can see some of the points on why GM food might have negative side effects, but I also realize that there is no use trying to hold back an idea who's time has come.

I suggest we rater try to figure out some guidelines so that the negative side effects are as low as possible. I propose the following:

1. All GM food has to be marked as such.
2. Selling GM seed with modifications designed to make farmers dependent on that brand of seed is illegal.
3. If a GM crop pollinates a non-GM crop, the pollinater, not the pollinatee (sp?) is responsible, and any patent claims the producer of the GM seed might feel that they have towards the pollinatee is null and void.

The third guideline is to prevent the thing Monsanto tried on a canadian farmer, where he was sued for copyright infringement because his plants was pollinated by the plants of his neighbor, a Monsanto customer.

How did that go, by the way?
posted by spazzm at 8:15 PM on July 21, 2003


Regarding horses, donkeys and their offspring, mules:
Mules are as a rule infertile, but on rare occasions fertile mules are produced.

But, as you may have noticed, there is no race of murderous super-mules rampaging trough our cities.

So chill.
posted by spazzm at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2003


I agree with all that spazzm - they are three very good suggestions, all of which haven't and will never be adopted because the GM companies don't want them to be and will fight them to the death. Half the aim of GM seed production is to force farmers to become dependent, for a start.

And yeah, that is the definition of species - the problem is that scientists haven't yet tried mating every species of plant with every other vaguely related species of plant, testing the offspring, and working out if they really are different species. Species names were/are assigned primarly on the basis of morphology, not genetics. Hence, two plants found in two different locations can be given different species names even though they can interbreed.
posted by Jimbob at 8:30 PM on July 21, 2003




Pre-bloody-cisely, Armitage.
posted by Jimbob at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2003


Jimbob:
"[...] all of which haven't and will never be adopted because the GM companies don't want them to be and will fight them to the death."

Are you saying that we should just give up, or that it's easier to ban GMOs altogether than ensuring fair and reasonable rules for their application?

badstone:
"Furthermore, developing the "ideal" corn or whatever may lead to a dangerous new level of monoculture farming. Why grow any other corn when the ideal one is available (or more likely, when purchasing ideal seed is enforced by the corporate powers that be)? So, one day in the near future the entire world may only have one species of corn being farmed."

Genetic engineering will not lead to everyone planting the same sort of seed, just like a century of automotive engineering has not led to everyone driving the same make of car.

badstone:
"Whoops - a new fungus/virus/whatever arrives on the scene that that corn is susceptible to, then BAM, no corn for anyone for the next few years."

Isn't part of the point of the GM exercise that if that happens, we'll have an easy and quick route to make a new plant that is resistant to that sort of thing?

Don't get me wrong - I don't think we should give in to the mega-corps and tattoo the number of the beast on our foreheads - but the whole binary GM bad/GM good, USA vs. Europe level of thinking just creates FUD without leading anywhere, thus playing straight into the hands of the likes of Monsanto. Better by far, then, to keep a cool head and rationally work out some rules of how the potential of this new technology should be harnessed for the common good.

So, once again, chill.
posted by spazzm at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2003


I just don't see much progress happening towards those rules, spazzm. Like I said, I think they're great, but the thought of achieving them (especially in the current climate of WTO, free-trade and all that - no more trade barriers like labelling!) makes me depressed. How do you suggest we make Monsanto budge?
posted by Jimbob at 9:19 PM on July 21, 2003


Jimbob:
The usual way:
Petitions, write ins, voting, writing letters to the local paper or your representative, "f**k monsanto" bumper stickers, give a donation to Schmeissers defense fund, nonchalantly drop references to the "Monsanto vs. Schmeisser lawsuit" in conversations, buying non-Monsanto foods, debating the relative merits of GM food and how it should be regulated for the common good in a rational manner, and so on.

But most importantly, do all this while not sounding like a nut. (I'm not implying that you're sounding like a nut now, of course - you seem to be one of the voices of reason in this thread.)
posted by spazzm at 9:36 PM on July 21, 2003


"Nonchalantly drop references to the "Monsanto vs. Schmeisser lawsuit" in conversations?"

Sure, next time there's a kickin' party in Jimbob's lab.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:45 PM on July 21, 2003


First friday of the month, 5pm.
posted by Jimbob at 10:16 PM on July 21, 2003


hmm such a long topic

how was it that i was first to see it and in a hurry

i'll read later ^^
posted by firestorm at 11:44 PM on July 21, 2003


you should all learn about genetics from reputable, unbiased sources before judging gm foods

certainly the nightmare possibilities do exist

certainly companies tend to be irresponsible

yes, if managed properly, GM crops should not pose a threat

yes, I understand that the Brit gov't lied about beef for the longest time, and some of the distrust I see comes from that

it is unfortunate that the leaders did not foresee the consequences of their actions..

however I refer to PR rather than the GM crops, as for the consequences, many of you especially the doomsayers see some already

but understand, they can be accounted for

and ESPECIALLY if gen en advances far enough, we will be able to tailor devices specifically to control these creations, ie if necessary we should be able to destroy them

should

and if not, so what? nothing worse than what our forebears have already done to the environment

at the least we will continue to try to fix the problem whatever it is that arises

cannot be said for old skool enviro problems

that is what I have to say I will return after reading
posted by firestorm at 11:48 PM on July 21, 2003


If I'm a nutter for wanting to know what I eat, what are you for not wanting me to know? Protector of the world ink reserves?
posted by vbfg at 11:54 PM on July 21, 2003


The attempts to disparage GM skeptics as luddites or anti-business is rubbish, equivalent to callilng any critic of the administration a Saddam-lover.

In principle, genetic engineering is cool. I wish I could be genetically reengineered myself -- get rid of this stupid, useless and dangerous business of getting a fever when I get a virus, for example. Once upon a time one of our ancestors survived a viral infection because his body temperature went up above the virus' tolerance, and now we all have to put up with this worthless, brain-damaging maladaptation.

But while genetic engineering is a cool idea in principle, some of the most prominent businesses involved in it, and their corrupt government hirelings, are venal, amoral scumbags who would do anything for a buck, anything at all.

It's not that I don't trust the technology per se. Our lives are full of technology and most of it is pretty awesome stuff. I don't trust the principal large-scale commercial practitioners of this technology. I don't think they have adequately explored the ramifications of what they're doing with it, and I don't think they give one miserable fuck what happens, because death and destruction only mean lawsuits to them, and as far as their that's just an actuarial matter and an operating cost.

I'll be fine with GM when it's undertaken in a responsible way. Step one is to shut down the assholes who are selling it now. Step two is to do some responsible R&D, and set sane and rational objectives commensurate with its seriousness. Corn flakes that stay crispy in milk doesn't qualify.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:22 AM on July 22, 2003


The line that no harm has been found is entirely misleading.

Firstly, the committee, is staffed overwhelmingly by pro-GM, industry involved people (to the extent that one member resigned in protest and refused to have anything to do with it,) and the pro-industry bias was lamented and complained about by michael Meacher, the former environmnet minister, who tried and failed to redress the balance.

Secondly, no new studies were made to determine whether there was any danger to the health of humans, before this proclamation was made: Scandal as Government scientists back crops without testing them - The Mirror.

The claim is bogus, and is a good example of why people don't trust government (in the UK, at least) over food issues (if not anything.)

The science involved in corporate GM schemes, is extremely limited: it's almost, if not entirely, about how to get genes implanted into organisms.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:57 AM on July 22, 2003


Shinnin, please read on the subject of cross-polination. It will occur:

"The report recommends more research into the hybridisation of oilseed rape with wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and wild turnip (Brassica rapus).
posted by Blue Stone at 3:05 AM on July 22, 2003


3 items:

1. Cross-breeding is not the same as genetic engineering, which involves recombinant DNA technology. Genetic engineering techniques just turned 20.

2. One key element in the debate is that an important difference between Americans and Europeans is that while the first seem to prefer standardized food, the second rather enjoy different kinds of localized foodstuffs. Both cultural positions demand respect, IMHO. Personally, I prefer food diversity.

3. If GM is going to solve the world hunger, why the big intent to implant it in Europe, a continent which already overproduces veggies and has positively and absolutely zero hunger problems?
posted by magullo at 3:32 AM on July 22, 2003


Part of the problem with GM is that there is nothing in it for the consumer. This may change. How about GM decaf coffee? All the flavour, no nasty solvent residue and very little caffine. Once the GM industry starts producing something we actually want the debate may change.
posted by grahamwell at 6:02 AM on July 22, 2003


The line that no harm has been found is entirely misleading. Firstly, the committee, is staffed overwhelmingly by pro-GM

No, Blue Stone, I mean that to my knowledge no harm has been found EVER in any controlled study by any organization in any country. The political leanings of this committee don't change that. Also, the "friends of the earth" website is perhaps not the best place to read up on cross-polination and the suggestion that more research should be done hardly merits your claim that "it will occur." You'll do much better to focus on the danger posed by a GM crop cross-polinating wildtype members of its own species changing the makeup of the natural population. That is a legitimate, serious, and sufficient concern. The rest of the claims that have been made here are pure scaremongering.
posted by shinnin at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2003


I am not scared of Genetic science per se. I am however shit scared of my/your government allowing control over what surrounds me (ie. the crops in the fields) and what I eat (if GM food is not labelled clearly) being handed over to corporate America and Europe.
Why should I trust an entity whose prime motive is not my safety or well being but it's own profit and growth?
When I look at what's in it for me, I see very little apart from supposedly cheap food - wasn't it cheaper meat that started the whole BSE process in motion, the 'demands of the customer' for cheaper product in the stores?

Nope, not for me - I simply don't trust that Monsanto et al to have any concern for me as a consumer of their products beyond what they can't get out of legally. The debate on what is or is not true regarding GM food does not enter into it.
posted by Markb at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2003


I'm not scared of GMO food, but why do we need it in Europe? The stock answer that this technology will enable us to feed the world's hungry doesn't apply here. We have food.

I'm in favour of using technology to solve our problems, but there's not a problem here.

If we're (mostly) happy with our food production methods, why bother introducing GMO into the food chain against the popular will?
posted by Lleyam at 11:09 AM on July 28, 2003


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