What the Haters Got Wrong About Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Comments on GMOs

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photo: Emily Mills | flickr | cc

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Like anything relating to GMOs, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent off the cuff remarks on GMOs and his exhortation to ‘chill out’ was met with competing choruses of cheers and jeers. I watched the reaction unfurl on his Facebook page (here and here) and on Chris Mooney’s posts in Mother Jones (here and here). These were interesting vantage points for related reasons. Chris Mooney writes about the politics of science and is particularly interested in how political loyalties tend to scramble our brains when it comes to picking and choosing which science we choose to accept (or even understand). Neil deGrasse Tyson is a great champion of the scientific method. So it was especially embarrassing and disconcerting to see their corresponding readers and fans parade through to lodge their disagreement with Tyson’s remarks based on a number of common and easily debunked misconceptions and fallacies.

Below I will give examples of the comments that were most emblematic. First, let’s look at what Tyson said.

In the video, all he really does is point out that we’ve been genetically modifying plants and animals through artificial selection to suit our needs for over 10,000 years and the fact that we can do it more precisely in a lab shouldn’t be any cause for concern. (So chill out.)

In his follow ups on Facebook, he broke out some issues that are of a political nature and told people that if they were concerned about patents or pesticides, etc; then focus on patent or pesticide, etc. All of which makes perfect sense.

But many weren’t having it.

The standard response was something along the lines of, “I love Neil, but I disagree with him on GMOs because [insert common misconception here].”

1. “I can’t believe that Neil is saying that GMOs and traditional breeding is the same. I don’t want to eat a tomato that has fish DNA. Breeding in a laboratory is not the same as breeding that happens in nature over hundreds of years.”

There are a number of problems with this. The first of which is that he didn’t say that using recombinant DNA breeding methods were the same at traditional breeding methods, he said that since we have been manipulating the genetics of our food for 10,000 he didn’t see any reason for getting worked up about the fact that we are doing in laboratories now.

Next up, let me point out that tomatoes and fish share around 60% of their DNA already, so it’s too late to avoid that mashup. Nature already put the chocolate in the peanut butter and the peanut butter in the chocolate. The question is, why would one more gene out of thousands be the deal breaker? Would you eat grapes with human DNA? Too late. Humans share around 25% of our DNA with grapes. We share 50% of our DNA with a banana. It doesn’t matter where the DNA comes from, it’s just the basic building blocks. It matters what it does.

While sentiment also stems from a lack of understanding of genetics, there are also some naive assumptions about breeding not considered genetic engineering. I’ve written before about just how specific and technically sophisticated contemporary plant breeding has become. Traditional breeders are going after traits which are just as specific as the traits sought by breeders using genetic engineering. This is something that few people are aware of. Nor do they realize just how sophisticated current methods are.
Consider marker assisted breeding:

[F]ruit and vegetable breeders at both universities and private companies have been turning to an alternative way of modifying the food we eat: a sophisticated approach known as marker-assisted breeding that marries traditional plant breeding with rapidly improving tools for isolating and examining alleles and other sequences of DNA that serve as “markers” for specific traits. Although these tools are not brand-new, they are becoming faster, cheaper and more useful all the time. “The impact of genomics on plant breeding is almost beyond my comprehension,” says Shelley Jansky, a potato breeder who works for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “To give an example: I had a grad student here five years ago who spent three years trying to identify DNA sequences associated with disease resistance. After hundreds of hours in the lab he ended up with 18 genetic markers. Now I have grad students who can get 8,000 markers for each of 200 individual plants within a matter of weeks. Progress has been exponential in last five years.”

[see also: Backcrossing]

Meanwhile, to avoid the regulations that bog down development of genetically engineered crops, a company like BASF is using the Atomic Age method of radiation mutagenesis breeding to develop crops.

Mutation breeding, after booming in the 1950s with the dawn of the Nuclear Age, is still used by seed developers from BASF SE to Dupont Co. to create crops for markets that reject genetic engineering. Regulators don’t demand proof that new varieties are harmless. The U.S. National Academies of Science warned in 1989 and again in 2004 that regulating genetically modified crops while giving a pass to products of mutation breeding isn’t scientifically justified.

“The NAS hits the nail on the head and I don’t think that any plant- or crop-scientist will disagree,” said Kevin M. Folta, a molecular geneticist and interim chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida. “Mutation breeding is absolutely the least predictable.”

That isn’t to say that mutation breeding is particularly dangerous. If you’ve ever had a Rio Star Grapefruit or Calrose rice, you’ve eaten the fruits of mutagenic breeding. It’s just to point out that, today almost no breeding happens that doesn’t involve a laboratory and it’s been a long time since it resembled anything that happens in nature. But that was Tyson’s point. Even the breeding that we did 10,000 years ago wouldn’t have happened in nature. The crops we’ve bred would not have happened in ‘nature’ and they wouldn’t survive in ‘nature’ if we turned them loose. So Tyson’s statement makes a lot more sense if you understand genetics a little better and if you understand breeding a little better.

2. “I don’t want to eat food that makes insects stomachs explode! / I don’t want to eat food that’s been bred to withstand being drenched in toxic herbicides”

This was the second most common reaction to Tyson’s comments, but it may be the most common misconception out there. Let’s try to reconnect it with reality a little bit. There are currently two major traits that GE crops have been bred for.

The second most common trait is the Bt trait. This has been bred mostly into corn and cotton, but is making it’s way into other crops as well. Corn borers and bollworms are two major pests for corn and cotton. These pests have been managed for decades with the organic pesticide Bt which is a soil bacteria which is poisonous to these insects. It’s important to understand the ‘mode of action’ through which Bt kills these insects. In fact, it’s important to understand the concept from toxicology of ‘mode of action’.

Mode of action is the way that a substance acts as a toxin. Most so-called poisons aren’t poisonous in a vague general way. They do something specific to their ‘targets’. The more specific, the better, because something can be very toxic to one organism and harmless to another.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) produces a protein (Cry protein) that when eaten by these bugs is activated by the alkaline environment of their digestive system and binds to a receptor there, paralyzing the digestive system.

The reason this insecticide is so safe is because the mode of action is specific to the target pests. Humans and other mammals have acidic digestive systems, so the protein is broken down in our digestive systems and we don’t have a receptor for it to bind to and paralyze our digestive system. It’s just another protein.

Breeding corn or cotton to express the Cry proteins has an added advantage for the environment. Not only is it harmless to critters without the necessary receptor, but it only kills bugs that eat the plant and leaves other bugs alone, while spraying with Bt can kill some bugs that don’t pose a threat to the crop.

The adoption of the Bt trait in corn and cotton has meant a massive reduction in the amount of soil applied insecticides applied by conventional farmers. (Yes, there is some resistance to Bt developing in insects in some parts of the country and farmers are falling back on some of those insecticides. This is a standard pest management issue and its not clear why this should be seen as making the case against using these crops in the first place.)

Let’s look at two charts the first taken from the journal Science based on USDA data.

Insecticide surprise no 1

The second drawn from a study that looked at insecticide traces found in air samples.

insecticides

Raise your hand if you want to go back to the profile of insecticide use from 1995, the year before the first genetically engineered corn hit the market.

By the way, lots of plant produce their own insecticides. The idea for Bt crops came from nature. In fact, 99.99% of pesticide ‘residues’ in your diet were produced by the plants themselves, naturally.

drenching crops in toxic herbicides‘.

What we are talking about here is herbicide resistant crops, most notably Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready crops. These have been bred so that they don’t die when the herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate) is applied to the fields to kill weeds. The reason that RoundUp was chosen is that it is much more effective than other herbicides while being relatively non-toxic and easy on the environment IN COMPARISON to other herbicides. In fact, for acute toxicity, RoundUp is less toxic to mammals than table salt or caffeine. Again, this has to do with ‘mode of action’. The reason it is incredibly effective as an herbicide is also the reason it isn’t a poison to mammals.

Glyphosate works by inhibiting a metabolic pathway that only plants and bacteria have. For critters that don’t have the shikimate pathway, it is just another salt with the normal toxicity of salt (less than sodium chloride). If you are a plant that relies the shikimate pathway for converting light into energy, it’s literally ‘lights out’.

So while use of glyphosate is up, use of other more problematic herbicides is down. It works so well that it allowed many farmers to adopt what is known as conservation tillage. Tillage is an important tool for controlling weeds. Prior to planting the farmer tills the soil to interrupt weeds which would cause problems during the growing season. While this may seem like a good way of avoiding using herbicides, it releases lots of carbon into the atmosphere, uses plenty of tractor fuel and cause problems with erosion and soil structure. The judicious use of a low environmental impact herbicide like glyphosate is often the environmentally friendlier strategy.

Consider this chart taken from the same study showing trace amounts of herbicides in air samples. Again, a show of hands if you’d like to return to the 1995 herbicide profile (keeping in mind that the category of ‘other herbicides’ that have fallen out of favor, nearly universally had a higher environmental impact).
herbicides

We should address what we mean when we say “drenched in herbicides”. Luck for us, Kevin Folta recently did the math.

An acre is 4047 square (meters).  That means 83 milligrams per square meter. My 7th grade science teacher Mr. Herzing said, “A milligram is about the weight of an insect wing.” Wow, that seems like not much!  But how much soybeans does that get ya? Soybean yields in 2013 were 43.3 bu/acre and a bushel weighs 60 lbs, so that’s about 2598 lbs/acre, or 1180 kg/acre. To make it relatable to herbicide used, we need to get it down to square meters. That’s 291 g soybeans per square meter. So 83 mg of active ingredient is needed to produce 291 g (0.640 lbs) soybeans.  Of course these numbers assume one application, which is likely not the case, but it still is a tiny amount.

Before we move on, I’m sure that some of our readers are starting to rumble about so-called ‘superweeds’. Superweeds is a sensationalized term for weeds that develop resistance to the strategies meant to control them. What you need to understand is the same thing with Bt resistant insects. If the RoundUp Ready strategy is over used, you end up back close to square one, except you’ve gotten a decade of reduced environmental impacts and now you have to change up your game a bit, using some of the tools you would have used if you didn’t have RR crops.

Herbicide resistance is hardly unique to glyphosate. In fact it’s a much bigger problem for other categories of herbicide, but you never hear about that because people are just looking for something to write about and anything with GMOs makes for great reading (I get the irony here.)
herbicide-resistance

You want talk about ‘superweeds’ and glyphosate and the role of GE crops, let’s talk about ALS inhibitors, trianzines and ACCase inhibitors first and then you can tell me how GE crops ‘create superweeds’. Look at those steep curves where each of those other herbicides was out-evolved by weeds, and then look at the rate for glycines and consider the massive amount of acreage they are used on. Glyphosate is actually pretty miraculous in its ability to thwart weeds from developing resistance. I’m sorry, but the ‘GE crops create superweeds’ story doesn’t hold water. What causes resistance is over-reliance on a single strategy, that isn’t specific to GE crops as the cases of those other herbicides with much greater numbers of resistant weeds demonstrates.

3. “GMOs may be safe but I have a problem with patenting food and companies that sue farmers if their neighbor’s pollen blows into their field.”

Let’s start with the second part first.

This is simply an urban myth. Monsanto does not sue farmers for accidental pollination. Even if they did, it would not hold up in court, the case law is very clear on that point. Farmers who knowingly violate the end user agreement covering those seeds are the ones who are taken to court. Don’t wish to end up in court?  Don’t violate the agreement. (Feel free to try to find an example that holds up to a fact check and make me look foolish) This urban legend has its roots in the story of Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola farmer who claimed to have noticed that some of his canola was RoundUp Ready from accidental cross pollination and decided that he now had a way to use what would normally be premium seeds for next to free if he started saving them. The problem with Mr. Schmeiser’s story is that he was A.) obviously trying to pull a fast one, and B.) there was too much RoundUp Ready canola for it to have been from accidental pollination. (The court’s ruling can be found here..)

On to patents and plants.

Here is what Tyson said about patents and crops.

In a free market capitalist society, which we have all “bought” into here in America, if somebody invents something that has market value, they ought to be able to make as much money as they can selling it, provided they do not infringe the rights of others. I see no reason why food should not be included in this concept.

It’s curious that people think that plant breeders should not have the same protections as other inventors and innovators. In support of the Plant Patent Act of 1930, Thomas Edison testified before Congress in support of the legislation and said that “This [bill] will, I feel sure, give us many Burbanks.” refering to Luther Burbank the great plant breeder of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Plant Patent Act of 1930 didn’t cover sexually propagated plants so corn wasn’t covered until the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, but around 1930 hybrids became the norm for corn meaning farmers had a reason to buy new seed every year and breeders could make money by giving them something better every year. Consider:
corn hybrid yields

Corn yields have increased by a factor of six since breeders had a real incentive to create better seeds. Going back to the seeds and yields that we had before 1930 would be an economic and ecologic disaster. Just like in software, there is room for open source projects, and we do need to restore public funding for breeding programs, as with any capital intensive innovation, patents are valuable to make sure that innovation still happens.

There were other issues that people raised, but most of them were equally off base. We’ll be exploring those and others in a project that we are about to kick off next week. Stay tuned.

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  • mem_somerville

    Wow, great piece. I’m so glad you are bringing the historical context. People who just started getting squeamish about GMOs in the last few years have no idea what going backwards would mean. They lack so much knowledge–but they can’t be convinced that they do, of course. The glee with which they celebrate the reported demise of glyphosate really baffles me.

    On a separate track, I was thinking a lot about NdGT’s comment on patents, and I’ll admit that sort of surprised me. But then I was thinking about the equipment used for space exploration and astrophysics–much of that relies on corporate technology, right? How many open-source academic satellites are there? I think the space research community has a better grasp of the inability of a single academic group to put together the rockets or the telescopes or the computing equipment or whatever. They need quality vendors–who I am certain hold patents on the devices–to get them the best tools and materials. Demanding all of that be public and free of IP would just be ridiculous. I’d like to see anti-space activists try it.

     
    • hyperzombie

      I think the big ANTI-GMO push in the last few years is due to the realization the most gen 1 traits are coming off patent in the next couple of years. There will be no stopping GMOs once there are off patent. Europe will wake up one day surrounded by GMOs, just like Brazil.

       
      • mem_somerville

        Do you know how many times I asked activists during the Bowman drama: do you support his use of the GMOs and the glyphosate he loves? Really? When they go off patent are you gonna support him? I would note how much I appreciated their desire to support a farmer who wants to grow GMOs.

        This was met with resounding silence.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          The same applies to Percy Schmeiser who became a hero of the organic movement for trying to use RR canola without paying for it.

           
      • Tom

        You (or anyone else) wouldn’t happen to know which specific events will be going off-patent? Just curious.

         
        • hyperzombie

          I think RR corn and soy come off patent next year, cotton and canola, the year after.

           
          • Tom

            But I’m guessing it applies only to those specific varieties patented 20 years ago. But on the other hand those varieties will be available for crossing the RR trait into new genetic backgrounds.

             
          • August Pamplona

            It applies to the trait itself but, similar to how pharmaceutical companies will come out with slight tweaks to successful compounds which are going off patent, Monsanto is now promoting the use of a new and improved trait (RR2).

             
          • hyperzombie

            Yep they sure are promoting RR2, but that doesn’t mean that RR1 is useless or that farmers can’t use it to make their own varieties.

             
          • August Pamplona

            Of course.

             
    • Paul Hayes

      Unfortunately NdGTs comment on patents wasn’t as rational and well-informed as the rest of what he had to say on the ridiculous GMO ‘controversy’. There is nothing “free market” about patents: they are a form of state granted coercive monopoly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercive_monopoly#Government_monopolies They often infringe the natural rights of others and they are not necessarily economically (and ethically) justifiable.

       
      • mem_somerville

        So are you psyched for off-patent GMOs?

         
        • Kevin Mallborg

          He must be psyched for glyphosate too since it has been off patent since 2000.

           
      • marcbrazeau

        They are an imperfect way of defining a property right. Free markets don’t function without defined property rights. There is lots of innovation and invention where they are unnecessary and can inhibit innovation, but for the really heavy lifts, like pharmaceuticals and nuclear energy, even critics of patents agree that they are important for innovation and difficult to replace. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/07/09/329895088/episode-551-the-case-against-patents

        I would put seed development in that category. At this point, seed development is incredibly capital intensive and the ROI for development needs to be vouchsafed in some way.

        I could be convinced of short spans for patents in exchange for cutting out a lot of the unnecessary and costly regulation which just benefits the biggest players by keeping small and public breeders out of the game.

         
        • Todd Smith

          You said “seed development”… huh huh huh. Dawa coo..

           
  • I am plastering this all over their walls until their house of cards cave in from cognitive dissonance!

     
  • RobertWager

    Good piece thanks

     
  • Loren Eaton

    I think one of the things Dr. Tyson did that made some of the anti’s cringe was to point out that fabricating, exaggerating, cherry-picking safety data because you REALLY object to patents, monopolies, marketing and sales practices, Monsanto, etc. is out of line. It is a purposeful misuse of the scientific method. We on these boards can broadcast this until we’re blue in the face. When a man of his scientific chops calls them out on this, the result is petulance. “He’s a shill. He’s a sellout. He’s not as smart as we thought. He’s not on our team anymore.”

     
    • Tom

      “He’s a witch! Burn him!”

       
      • August Pamplona
        • Loren Eaton

          I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

           
          • August Pamplona

            No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

             
    • Rob Bright

      Well, Tyson should just stick to the science he knows about — astronomy. Clearly someone who doesn’t know the difference between genetic engineering and selective breeding has absolutely no clue about genetic engineering.

       
      • kurzweilfreak

        You could say the same thing about Food Babe, Mike Adams, Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola, Jeffery Smith and pretty much every other anti-GMO activist out there. None of them are geneticists, farmers, biologists or any other relevant field of study, yet they are the ones leading the anti-GMO charge.

         
  • Pingback: What the haters got wrong about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s comments on GMOs | Truth About Trade & Technology()

  • Žarko Radulović

    Great text! Am definitely sharing it.

     
  • Thank you for being so thorough in your explanation of Mr. deGrasse Tyson’s GMO comments. I’ve always suspected that the anti-GMO crowd’s objections were based on a knee-jerk reaction to science they don’t understand but now the point by point arguments laid out this article bring home this understanding.

     
  • johnydas85

    Hi Folks,
    Just a ameteur biochemist here. I have some questions and concerns.
    1> Humans share 50% of their genes with banana. What does it mean? The number of bases differ vastly among the two species. Does it refer to actual expressed genes (the ones used for different RNA expressions)? Just curious.

    2> My concern about GMOs are entirely different and is not covered here. It’ll be great if someone would help a bit.
    So far none of the research done has been able to prove negative sides of GMOs. But are you folks aware of the fact that research on GMOs that can only be published with the consent of GMO companies. My point is, why not allow an open research? I am very much in favor of GMOs and I think this is the only way we can tackle increasing food demand, but hey, we have to prove first these foods are safe.

    3> I am picking up from “Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) produces a protein (Cry protein) that when eaten by these bugs is activated by the alkaline environment of their digestive system and binds to a receptor there paralyzing the digestive system.”
    Anyone familiar with epigenetics and cellular metabolism will know, everything that cell produces has some function. Bt does not produce these proteins with the intention of killing the bugs, it has some other role in it. Copying and pasting the gene into something else, and then producing the foreign protein may create unwanted consequences, and we may or may not find out over the few generations of the crop studied in a lab. So again, lets allow more research into it.

     
    • wmateri

      I’ll do my best to address your (very good, by the way) questions as a PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics (not trying to impress, just stating the credentials):
      1) Gene homology is a difficult concept. The most accepted approach is to use computer software to translate the RNA thats encoded in the DNA into its respective protein, then compare amino acid sequences is proteins. Then the protein sequences across species are aligned by software (e.g. ClustalW) for best fit. Where identical proteins appear in similar spots in the same protein, these are given a high score to indicate identity. Certain amino acids behave very similarly in proteins so when these align, they’re given moderate scores for similarity. Complete differences and/or gaps in the sequence identity are given negative scores. By this measure, there are many common families of proteins across many species. Proteins associated with basic biochemistry are more highly similar across species as distantly related as humans and yeast. Proteins involved in development (e.g. of arms vs. branches) tend to be quite dissimilar. I don’t know the actual comparison across the genomes of humans and bananas but I’m sure there’s a lot of basic stuff in common, while developmental genes are quite different.

      2) Because GMO genes are very commerically valuable, companies protect their research from disclosure until they at least have provisional patents. That said, many university labs are also doing GMO research. In this case university Business Development Offices also do not permit disclosure before filing patents. This kind of crap applies even more to potential pharmaceuticals. It’s not pretty but it’s the way of the world.

      Your second question about proving something ‘safe’ is a common one and highlights a misperception about statistics. When you try to ‘prove’ something in science, you have to do it indirectly. That is, once you think of the thiing you’re trying to prove, you make a Null Hypothesis (that when you collect the stats there will be no difference from your control group). You compare your findings with the Null Hypothesis and disprove that they are similar. The problem in trying to prove something is safe (that your data is significantly different from ‘dangerous’) is that there is no Null Hypothesis, so you can’t even do stats on the data. All you can collect is a bunch of annecdotal evidence. So you literally cannot prove something is safe; it can’t be done. You can only prove it is not more dangerous than the control within certain confidence intervals (always less than 100%).

      3) Gene transfer and gene shuffling happen in nature all the time. Our bodies naturally will encounter many species of bacteria and viruses during our lifetime. There is no a priori reason to think gene transfer of a single gene from an ingested plant will be more dangerous to us than the possible gene transfers from other naturally-encountered organisms. Of course, my favorite piece of data is to observe that Bt toxin containing bacteria are among the only approved ‘organic’ insecticides. So when you eat organic, you’re also ingesting the same DNA and protein.

      All in all, the anti-GMO lobby is designed to produce fear and steer people towards a certain market. While, some of the farming practices may be laudable, most of the information that is used to discourage people from eating GMO is suspect, at best. I’ve looked at some of the tumor studies, for instance, and found them to be full of conclusions that are not at all supported by the data. More importantly, it is a sad commentary on society that we would rather believe actors than scientists when it comes to such issues.

       
      • The anti GMO study featuring the rats with the tumors had to be the most laughable event ever. They chose a type of rat that “naturally” develop cancer (45%), then they have a launch event and proclaim GMOs cause cancer with huge scary images of tumor ridden rats. The study is quickly retracted, because junk science, but the damage is already done and everyone thinks GMOs are a modern plague

         
        • Rob Bright

          They chose the exact same rat Monsanto used in its 90 day studies. While a Monsanto employee was hired to have the study retracted, the very same study was republished in another (more responsible and ethical) journal.

           
          • So you are saying that Monsanto chose a rat for it’s study on GMO that naturally develop tumors at a rate of 40% or more. Source please on that one. Monsanto obviously don’t fund safety studies of GMO crops either

             
          • kurzweilfreak

            Sprague Dawley rats naturally develop tumors with an increasing chance approaching 80% by 2 years of their lives. Do you not see the difference in these rats being ok in short term studies where the chance of tumors developing naturally is negligible and not being ok in a long term study where the chance of them developing tumors naturally is virtually guaranteed? With the small sample sizes and only a single control group for up to 6 different cohort groups, Seralini’s results and statistical analyses were virtually guaranteed to generate false positives out of what is basically just low sample size noise. His study design was a bastardization between a short term subchronic toxicity study and long term carcinogenic study without properly following the design standards for either. We have experimental design standards for a reason, you can’t just pick and choose which parts you want and expect to get meaningful results. For these reasons and others, his “experiment” was junk and likely unethical in his treatment of animals.

            The republished journal is a pay-for-play journal that will publish virtually anything as long as you pay them to. It didn’t go through another round of peer review for that publication. I would hardly call that more responsible or ethical. Richard Goodman had not been a Monsanto employee for many years before his appointment as associate editor of the journal, so any “OMG Monsanto influence!” claims are just that: baseless conspiracy mongering. If you have some actual evidence that Monsanto unduly influenced the journal retraction, you ought to show it.
            http://www.sabhlokcity.com/2013/12/richard-e-goodman-is-not-an-evil-scientist-but-let-monsanto-and-the-industry-fund-seralini-for-another-proper-study/

             
      • johnydas85

        Thanks a lot for the awesome and informative replies, they clear my doubts very well!!

         
    • marcbrazeau

      Kevin Folta on independent research.

       
    • marcbrazeau

      The idea that independent scientists can do the research was largely put to rest here.

      http://grist.org/food/genetically-modified-seed-research-whats-locked-and-what-isnt/

       
      • johnydas85

        Aha, that’s really good to know. This will clear the a hell lot of suspicion on general populace, I mean if they are willing to trust the scientists. But this sounds awesome to me.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          Glad to be able to clear that up.

           
    • Vm

      \Anyone familiar with epigenetics and cellular metabolism will know,
      everything that cell produces has some function. Bt does not produce
      these proteins with the intention of killing the bugs, it has some other
      role in it.\

      I dont know but its possible that the Cry toxin really has only one function – to kill a few particular species of insects. Maybe the bacteria infects insects, multiples a little, then the insect needs to die to facilitate release of bacterial spores? I dont know

       
  • FTBC

    I’ve always been troubled by Tyson’s comparison of artificial selection and the modern GMO industry. Artificial selection is taking a natural product and simply selecting for specific traits. All the underlying systems stay the same. It’s the same system life has followed naturally for billions of years. Not so with the modern crop (heh) of GM foods: now we’re directly introducing traits we want. My concern here is that without an abundance of caution, we could change something fundamental about the food in a way we don’t fully understand, and end up with something truly dangerous on our hands. And I’m not confident in all these for-profit companies exercising due caution.

    I don’t object to GMO entirely. I fear corporate interests are driving us forward too fast, and that we could soon find ourselves in a very bad place because we tinkered with something that we weren’t ready to handle.

     
    • you mean an abundance of caution like, GM crops being the most heavily safety tested substance ever in the history of mankind. Then yes we did that already!

       
    • marcbrazeau

      The traits chosen are very well understood and then tested to see that the expected properties are exhibited. In the case of RR crops, they express a different version of the same enzyme. Bt as an insecticide and bacteria was very well understood before the Cry proteins were bred into crops.

      It’s very much possible to breed dangerous traits into crops using artificial selection.

      I think what you are really saying is, “We just don’t know.” But that’s applicable to everything. Including traditional breeding methods.

       
      • rick

        There are examples of foodstuffs taking on traits harmful to humans via crossbreeding. I dont have a cite, but there were the celery variety that was even toxic to touch and was pulled from grocery shelves and abandoned as a crop.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          The problem with celery (in the late 60’s) was that they dialed up the psoralens, a natural pesticide, but it ended being too high for farm workers who were getting rashes from working with it all day.

           
          • rick

            Yes. I suspect that if that perticular variety of celery were subjected to the same pre market compositional analysis as food or feed products that are derived from plants acquiring a trait via bitech mediated methods, that flaw would have been discovered before its release.

             
    • Roger Morton

      GE takes natural products too. Bt toxin – natural product – used on organic farms. Glyphosate resistance gene is a gene from Agrobacterium – a natural product. So where is your problem?

       
      • Israel Navas Duran

        Everything is made by combining natural products, even nuclear devices. What could possibly go wrong?

         
  • Evelyn Wolke

    I think that the important thing must be how well we can feed folks with the most nutritious food possible. So far, they have not been successful in breeding food for better nutrition; either it’s not been accepted or just hasn’t worked. We need to concentrate on good nutrition and soil conservation as well as insect resistance.

     
    • glebealyth

      Great idea.
      Sadly, food is sold by weight, with very little reference to nutritional content.

      I am all for GMO, if it helps to feed us all better.
      I am a tad concerned because we do not know the long term effects, mainly because the term has not yet been long enough.

      Will general consumption of GMO have deleterious effects, three or four generations from now, on the condition of humanity?
      I don’t know. I hope not, because GMO has potential for great benefit. Only my great-grandchildren will be able to answer, I suspect.

       
      • marcbrazeau

        What is the mechanism or property specific to GE crops that might have deleterious long term effects? Each GE crop is bred for different properties.

        If there was an intrinsic problem of GMOness, it would be apparent in insulin dependent diabetics by now.

         
        • glebealyth

          GE crops are not actually “bred”, they are engineered and that makes a considerable difference.

          The issue for me is that we have evolved, over millions of years, to eat, for example, corn which contains corn genes. Even if they have been artificially selected for, they are still corn genes.

          We have not evolved to eat corn with fish/tomato/elephant genes inserted into it.

          I am not raising this and crying foul. I raise this to ask whether or not we know what the long term effects of eating corn which has recently acquired these foreign genes, which did not come from corn.

          I actually want to know, and am not some sort of luddite.

           
          • marcbrazeau

            We haven’t been eating corn for millions of years. In the New World, corn has been around for about 7000 years, but contemporary corn has lots of new genes (BTW, I’m disappointed that the point that there are no ‘corn genes’ only genes, didn’t sink in. I’ll have to do better with that one next time.)

            For Europeans, we have only been exposed to corn for a few hundred years, not enough time to ‘evolve’ in tandem. We eat tons of food that we haven’t co-evolved with. Kiwis have only been considered food for about 100 years, and no one worries that we haven’t had enough time to co-evolve with them. Lots of people around the world are eating foods that even recent ancestors had no experience with.

            The point of cross breeding is to bring in novel genes to a crop. Full stop. This is a messy and previously poorly understood process, doing it with more precision, should give you more confidence, not less.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            I love mangos. My ancestors never ate mangoes. Should I be worried that my body isn’t adapted to dealing with mangos? There is no long term testing to see if mangoes are harmful to people of European descent.

             
          • glebealyth

            We haven’t been eating corn for millions of years

            OK, I apologize, my pedantic friend.

            Replace corn with a foodstuff of your choice and re-run the argument.

            Yes. we may be doing it with more precision, but we are mixing genes from (foodstuff of your choice) with genes from (other genetic source of your choice) which will not result in a genetic string even close to what we have evolved to eat. THAT is the imprecise part, about which the results are wholly unknown.

             
          • Jennifer Wilson-Pines

            Modern humans and their predacesors have not eaten any grains as a diet staple for millions of years, too difficult to gather a significant amount when you are a hunter gatherer society. And yes there are large populations who have not co-evolved to make use of certain foods- lactose tolerance as an adult is a mutation shared by a relatively small portion of the world’s population, adult lactose intolerance is the standard.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            “Replace corn with a foodstuff of your choice and re-run the argument.”

            Exactly and that was Tyson’s point as well. I wasn’t being pedantic, because it’s not just corn. The entire family of brassica vegetables comes from mustard seed. Broccoli has only been around for 2600 years.

            We haven’t been eating any of the foods we currently eat for very long.

            We have not co-evolved with ANY of the foods we eat. Some staples, we’ve adapted to like milk and lactose.

            Also, the point of breeding in ANY form is the act of bringing in novel genes. Whether it’s natural mutation, wide crosses, crosses with wild relatives, etc.

            Example. You could have weedy rice (a rice relative) that is flood resistant and cross breed that trait into rice and no one bats an eye. But we have no evolutionary experience with eating weedy rice. That’s basic cross breeding. And cross breeding can bring out recessive genes or epigenetic changes which could be unpredictable.

            Or this new habenero:

            “A few months earlier Mazourek had received a shipment of seeds from
            researchers at New Mexico State University. These seeds, they said, grew
            into habanero plants whose red peppers did not even register on the
            Scoville scale. Knowing that Mazourek was a plant breeder interested in
            pepper pungency, the New Mexico scientists thought he might like to
            study the tame habaneros himself.

            Mazourek raised the seeds he got in the mail into adult plants and
            mated them with ordinary habaneros. Inside greenhouses he carefully
            transferred pollen between flowers on the two kinds of plants with
            tweezers, ensuring that the resulting offspring and, eventually, the 600
            grandchildren would have a mix of their parents’ DNA. After growing
            that third generation in a quarter-acre field, he recruited some fellow
            scholars for the intrepid taste test.”

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/creating-tastier-and-healthier-fruits-and-veggies-with-a-modern-alternative-to-gmos/

            Should be do extensive testing to make sure that pepper is safe to eat? What could be the consequences?

            There just is no credible hypothesis as to why the changes made by GE techniques are any riskier than changes made by other techniques.

             
          • glebealyth

            My concern is that evolution proceeds very slowly, whereas technology proceeds rapidly.

            We can already see the results of technology on human physiology in the explosion of obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are direct results of the availability of foods which we have not evolved to eat in excess, being ntroduced into our diet faster than we have adapted to their availability.

            What I want to know is whether we can be sure that the introduction of “foreign” genetic material into organisms which we ingest can possibly be tested and declared safe if the testing regimes have not, and I fear they have not, moved on since those which declared that obviously harmful foods were safe to be brought to market.

            Without some good assurances, I feel as though I am being forced to test technology against my will – a bit like having to use MS Windows.

            It is NOT because I am against Monsanto, et al. Nor it is because I am anti-science (I have both undergraduate and postgraduate science degrees, but not in this area), it is because I am yet to be convinced that enough is known about the long term effects of something which is patently not analogous to “selective breeding” or “artificial selection”. When I have satisfying evidence, I will not need to ask these questions.
            So far, all I have are conjectures and assertions, even from Tyson, a man whom I greatly admire.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            Traditional breeding is not evolution and it does not proceed very slowly. All of your concerns are equally applicable to any form of breeding.

            What you are missing, I think is the concept of credible mechanism for harm or the difference between a credible hypothesis and idle speculation.

            The technique doesn’t matter, what matters are the properties of the product. You can create a potential dangerous crop just as easily with traditional breeding as with breeding using the techniques of genetic engineering. In fact, since in traditional breeding you are transferring thousands of genes willy nilly across two organisms you are more likely to have unforeseen and unplanned outcomes than transferring a single well understood gene to the part of the genome that you’ve chosen.

            The difference is that you are comfortable and familiar with one set of risks and uncomfortable and unfamiliar with another set of risks. That doesn’t make the second set any riskier, only more likely to generate idle speculation.

             
          • glebealyth

            Traditional breeding is within species.
            GE is not.
            Hence, genetic material is being introduced into foodstuffs which is not normal for those foodstuffs.

            The motivation for this in GE products is not nutrition but convenience and profit, with only lip service being given to testing the long term effects, if any, of consumption of these profits.

            Please, do not accuse me of idle speculation, especially as you are not actually offering me an explanation, merely a patronising dismissal.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            1. Not all traditional breeding is within species. An example is the wide cross cereal triticale which is a hybrid of wheat and rye.

            2. As I tried to make clear in the essay, genes are genes, where they come from matters far less than what they do.

            3. Genes move between species in nature fairly frequently. This essay may be of help clearing up some of these stumbling blocks.
            http://www.biofortified.org/2012/10/same-genes/

            4. The motivation in traditional breeding also convenience and profit, so that statement kind of cancels out.

            5. Both toxicity and carcinogenicity show themselves within 90 days in animal models. The legions of 90 feeding trials haven’t generated a hypothesis to test for a mechanism for harm. There has been a fair amount of long term and multigenerational feeding trials as well. Those have not show any significant differences between GE crops and conventional, and thus have not generated a hypothesis to test for a mechanism for harm. If there is no plausible biological mechanism for harm in the theoretical sense (why would a slightly different version of the EPSPS enzyme in RR crops cause problems, given what we know. Why would a Cry protein cause problems, given what we know?) and thorough testing has not turned up any unexpected hypothesis to test, then continued precaution is idle speculation.

            6. I’m not accusing you of idle speculation, I’m pointing out that without a credible hypothesis as to HOW GE crops might cause harm, that is what you are doing. If you have a hypothesis as to how they might be riskier than their conventional counter-parts share it. Otherwise, I don’t know what else to call what you are doing.

            7. The burden of explanation is on you to explain how GE crops might be riskier. People who understand this stuff much better than I do have explained to me why the risks are similar among breeding techniques. My decision was to roll up my sleeves and try to understand why this was the case. I apologize if I’m unable to make it as clear to you as they did to me.

            I would suggest reading Tomorrow’s Table by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak or Mendel in the Kitchen by Nina Federoff as well as trawling the archives at Biofortified.org and Kevin Folta’s blog Illumination.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            Example:

            Credible hypothesis: Snow boarding could cause an increase in bone fractures because accidents put large rapid stresses on bones.

            Idle speculation: Snow boarding could cause an increase in cancer because it is a fairly new sport and we don’t understand the full implications yet.

             
          • Rob Bright

            Again, you conflate and confuse the two technologies, selective breeding (which can conceivably happen in nature and has been practiced for thousands of years) with genetic engineering (which is still in its infancy as a technology.) The fact that the biotechs are basing this technology on the flawed theory that one gene is responsible for one function — we’ve known that since the completion of the genome project that genes have multiple functions, and that we don;t even know what all these possible variant functions are capable of — just goes to show how blindly we are pushing ahead. Your supposed platform of being ‘science-based’ is most assuredly a very distorted view of the scientific method.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            Nobody is conflating the two. They lie on a continuum.

            Scientists who use biotech breeding techniques are quite aware that genes can have multiple functions and will function differently in different contexts. And the uncertainty that creates is just as valid for traditional cross breeding, except with many more genes ending up in many more locations.

             
          • No, did you see the part in this post about how much DNA is shared between various living things? it is a bunch. They aren’t “foreign genes,” they are genes for traits that never evolved in the target product. We haven’t “evolved” to eat any particular food, we digest foods that satisfy our needs for energy and body-building proteins. Genes are just genes, they are not proteins that can cause allergies.

             
    • BluebirdofUnhappiness

      Actually the oilseeds makers have been breeding (both conventional and GM) to modify the plant oil’s fatty acid composition for nutrition for quite some while now.

       
  • Very nice article sums it up quite nicely

     
  • Roger Morton

    Great article. Just a factual error thought. Glyphosate is an amino acid biosythesis inhibitor. Not a photosynthesis inhibitor

     
    • marcbrazeau

      I dumbed that the one done a little too much. Edited for accuracy thanks.

       
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  • Janice Lyle

    fafdl is an organization created specifically to fight anti-GMO sentiments, correct?

     
    • marcbrazeau

      That is not correct. The first post was on the environmental impact of beef consumption.

      http://fafdl.org/blog/2014/08/13/turkey-to-tofurkey-comparisions-and-the-case-of-right-sizing-beef-consumption/

      I’m working on a piece on union organizing and Subway workers and one on agriculture and economic development. This site will cover lots of projects. It’s the outgrowth of my previous blog:

      http://realfoodorg.wordpress.com/

      and forum/community called Food and Farm Discussion Lab which covers tons of topics.
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/FAFDL/

      Fighting anti-GMO misinformation and misconceptions is just one theme.

       
      • Janice Lyle

        I’ll try to be open minded. This is the only topic you would label me anti-science on.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          I don’t like the ‘anti-science’ label, because I think nearly everyone is or thinks of themselves as pro-science. The trouble is, sometimes, as lay people, we don’t have good set of tools for distinguishing good science from bad, and real science from pseudo-science. People may understand how the scientific method works in an experiment, but often don’t understand how the literature hangs together and separating the signal from the noise in the big picture.

          When it comes to GMOs, it takes awhile to sift through it all. I got it in a series of lightbulb moments, but it didn’t come all at once. Part of it was seeing the science writers that I respected categorizing anti-GMO sentiments with anti-vaccine, anti-fluoride and with climate denial. In my food movement bubble, I didn’t even know there was another perspective on GMOs outside of the corporate PR. That sent me back to the drawing board.

          I wrote about some of my lightbulb moments here:
          http://www.biofortified.org/2014/04/realizations-about-gmos/

          And about changing my mind here:
          http://www.skeptiforum.org/marc-brazeaus-500-words-when-the-food-movement-does-not-move/

          I hope those essay are of some value to you. Enjoy your journey.

           
          • Rob Bright

            Biofortified is a trade association publication funded by the biotechs. I assume, since you write for the publication, that you are also funded by the biotechs. Skeptiforum is also a pro-GMO site where all manner of pseudoscience/corporate science/ tobacco science is touted by pro-GMO shills to obfuscate and confuse the public. Why on earth are you pro-GMOers STILL trying to assert that genetic engineering is the same thing as selective breeding? The two are completely different technologies. All you do is confuse and conflate the two in order to misinform people about the very real differences. (It’s very hard to believe you aren’t being paid to misinform people about GE technology.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            So instead of pointing out what I’ve gotten wrong, you make baseless insinuations about funding and motivation.

            Nobody is saying that traditional breeding and biotech breeding are the same. I certainly have not.

            Biofortified is NOT a trade association publication, so your ignorance is getting a little ahead of you. Do you have any evidence that they are funded by the Biotech industry? It’s been mostly volunteer labor, a few small grants to put together GENERA and the sales of a stuffed ear of corn that wears glasses.

            Could you give an example of pseudoscience/corporate science/ tobacco science on either Biofortified or Skepti-Forum?

            For the record, I was unemployed and living on SNAP benefits when I wrote those two pieces for Biofortified, for which I received no compensation.

             
  • IndependentPhotoGuy

    I do not have a problem with the idea of GMO foods. I do not object to the genetic manipulation of any plant in general. I am concerned about what the modification is for. If, as for the Bt example, it allows the use of less pesticide – then great.
    The problem I have is with the “RoundUp Ready” soybeans and corn that are engineered to be able to tolerate larger amounts of RoundUp. Why should I want higher levels of pesticide in my food?
    Also, there is a documentary (so they claim to be) about these issues: Food,Inc. In that film there are multiple claims about Monsanto to use their seed and if they find evidence of Monsanto seed in a farmers field Monsanto will send in people to intimidate the farmers. Who do we know we can believe?

     
    • marcbrazeau

      Did you read the piece, because there was a whole section on this:
      “:The problem I have is with the “RoundUp Ready” soybeans and corn that
      are engineered to be able to tolerate larger amounts of RoundUp. Why
      should I want higher levels of pesticide in my food?”

       
      • IndependentPhotoGuy

        yes, I was just pointing out that I too am concerned about the amount of pesticide in the food rather than the idea that the food was genetically modified. I could have said it better.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          Got it. Thanks.

          I would say that RR crops have meant less pesticides in your food, because RR is applied early in the season and have nearly entirely degraded by the time of harvest. It is usually applied in a single application while other herbicides need multiple applications, and of course RR is less toxic than the herbicides it replaced.

          If you are really worried about RR residues, wheat which is not GE is a more likely source, since RR is used as a pre-harvest burn down.

           
          • Cassandra

            This is just the kind of information that people need to know. Most people couldn’t even name one herbicide besides Roundup. And there are psychopaths running around saying Roundup is more dangerous than DDT…

             
          • hyperzombie

            100% agreement here, and they have no idea that there are non GMO crops that are sprayed with herbicides. Non GMO europe uses far more RU for burndown than we do here, yet no one complains.

            I am sure that most of these people think farmers spray Ag Chems like these morons in this video.

             
          • rick

            Marc — yes glyphosate can be and is sometimes used as a dessicant in wheat, to speed the late maturing process and dry down to enable wheat to be harvessted, and to kill late weeds that might complicate harvest and reduce quality. If wheat doesnot dry properly, is is more susceptible to spoilage, and colonization by fungi, some of which are toxic to humans. A greener plant reduces the efficient function of harvest machinery causing losses by rduced threshing efficiency, i.e. seed not seperating from the head and being wasted by being shed with the straw.

            But I don’t believe it is a widespread practice for wheat or other crops. Most wheat growing regions in the U:S: harvest during hot, dry periods of summer when proper drydown is not a problem. I would put the maximum wheat acreage where late season dessication applications could have any agronomic value at 10% but the practice probably occurs on even a small fraction of that in any given year. In extreme northern wheat growing areas, it is common for farmers have to first swath the wheat into windrows for the crop to dry properly and then later pick the windrowed wheat in combines that thresh the wheat. Windrowing is a solution that has its risks that adverse weather, humid days, wind, even wildlife can reduce quality, volume and harvestability. A dessication might be an alternative. The other factor is when wheat is planted as a second crop and its maturization and dry down of the plant might be interrupted by onset of cooler weather.

            Regardless, application as a dessication (burn down) occurs after the point that the wheat kernals seperates from the plant and are entomed in chaff that is discarded in the threshing process. Applications of glyphosate as a late season dessication application would not be absorbed by any transport through the plant and any direct contact of the kernal would be minimal, Thus, even if dessication applications were more widely practiced, it only add very marginally to the glyphosate residues in the food supply. It is a practice relatively rare in the US but perhaps more common in Canada and northern Europe. The more prominent concern would be environmental residues.

            Samsel gives the very mistaken impression that dessication applications to wheat just prior to harvest are the norm, when it is actually the exception. There is also the allegation that the practice is used because it causes wheat to set out a few more kernals to increase wheat yield by a couple percentage points. No, maximum yield has been determined well before then and glysophate does not magically cause wheat to to set a few more kernals. If there is a yield improvement, it would be the result of better threshability that avoids a portion of the potential yield being lost because it was discharged with the greener straw out the back end of the combine (I have heard of yield losses as much as 30% due to this), and reduced spoilage when the crop dries better..

             
    • hyperzombie

      Why should I want higher levels of pesticide in my food?

      Gmos are not the only herbicide tolerant crops out there, look up Clearfield seed products, by bayer. There are sprayed with izamonox (beyond).
      Also Monsanto tested out non GMO RR crops.

       
  • rye

    My issue with GMOs in a nutshell: Tobacco industry paid to “research” their product, we all know how that turned out. Pharmaceutical industry pays to “research” drugs, everyone with a tv sees class action lawsuits for that advertised on a daily basis. Food industry released Olestra without enough research not that long ago. Now the agriculture industry is paying for “research” to railroad GMOs and doesn’t want to even label their product? No. Just no. If you want to try it, fine. That’s your choice. But people who already have food allergies and chemical sensitivities should not be unpaid, unwilling test subjects in someone else’s long term science experiment. You can be damn sure that Monsanto won’t be picking up the tab for their victim’s hospital bills and funeral expenses even if it turns out down the road their research was bad. You want to be a guinea pig, you be a guinea pig. The rest of us want the choice to opt out for a decade or three. That goes for mutated food as well.

     
    • copperfoxf5

      You’re an unpaid, unwilling test subject whenever you eat food that was made using “traditional” practices like hybridization, allopolyploidization, and mutagenesis. And these methods are used to this day, and their products are not tested like transgenic foods before they are brought to market. And concerning allergies, if you were already allergic to a particular type of food, then don’t bother eating the transgenic equivalent. If you weren’t already allergic, you most likely won’t be allergic to the transgenic equivalent either. When I say, “most likely,” I mean that in the context of, “You most likely will never get hit by lightening AND win the lottery in your lifetime.”

       
      • Cassandra

        Exactly!

         
    • marcbrazeau

      You don’t need to trust the industry funded studies, there are plenty more that show the same results. The “tobacco science” analogy also falls flat, because there was plenty of research and reason to believe that tobacco was harmful during that period for anyone paying attention. That isn’t the case with GE crops. In fact, the activists are the ones practicing “tobacco science” in this case.

      http://www.biofortified.org/2014/02/industry-funded-gmo-studies/

       
    • BluebirdofUnhappiness

      I’m not exactly sure what the Olestra analogy means either. Is there some toxicity issue that we’re unaware of? Or are you referencing the studies that showed the infamous “anal leakage” and the loss of fat-soluble vitamin absorption (and subsequent fortification) because Olestra just passes through your system undigested. Both of those issues were widely known based on the company’s testing. http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/03-19508.pdf

       
      • Ironic, the loss of fat-soluble vitamins also means the loss (detoxification) of fat soluble pollutants (flame retardants, DDT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCB, etc.).

         
    • Warren Lauzon

      Not sure how Olestra got in to this discussion. And with all the class action lawyer TV ads that you see – why do you NEVER see any for being harmed by GMO’s?

       
      • dick picker

        better lawyers and more money being spent to counter it?

         
      • Debbie Owen

        Because GMOs are not yet labeled and any ill effects can’t be tracked back to GMOs and officially documented. Why do you think the GMO biotech companies and the GMA are spending millions of dollars to fight GMO labeling laws? They don’t want accountability.

         
        • Warren Lauzon

          Uhm.. Yeah, OK. Like it is really hard to find out which crops are GMO. Google is your friend.

           
  • Scott Harriman

    What about the organic or non-GMO farmers who have their crops contaminated with GMO pollen from nearby fields and end up having to sell them for a lower price?

     
    • marcbrazeau

      Do you have an example of this? Because the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association just sued Monsanto and they couldn’t bother to come up with any real world examples of this to use in court and they lost their case.

      If you know of any please let OSGATA.

      P.S. This statement from the essay:

      “The standard response was something along the lines of, “I love Neil,
      but I disagree with him on GMOs because [insert common misconception
      here].””

      was meant as a bit of cautionary tale, a little nudge to remind people to fact check themselves, so that they don’t repeat the same mistake.

       
      • Scott Harriman

        FEDCO Seeds, where I buy most of my seeds, has had problems with GMO contamination in corn.

        http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/jan08/organic_corn_seed_tests_positive_for_GMOs.php

         
        • marcbrazeau

          Fair enough. It should be pointed out however, that they pulled the product themselves. The amounts present would not have made their customers ineligible for Non GMO Project certification and since there is no upper disqualifying limit in the organic standards it wouldn’t have matter there either. They have chosen an impossible standard for themselves, that’s their business, but it’s also their fault.

           
          • Scott Harriman

            Although there is no specifically-defined limit for contamination, wouldn’t it be disingenuous for an organic farmer to plant such seed, knowing that it has tested positive for GMO traits?

             
          • marcbrazeau

            It tested for trace amounts of DNA in the field. This means that some individual seeds might have the DNA, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to express the trait. They are also selling it as a specific variety but of course it’s going to be contaminated from other varieties as well, is that any more disingenuous?

            I wish organics was more about sustainability and less about some mythical purity. I also think it was a big mistake to exclude GE crops from the organic standards in the first place. So, I’m biased on the subject and probably not the fairest minded person on this subject. It touches on all the things I hate about the organic movement and none of the things I admire.

             
          • Skip Batz

            So your response is that non-contamination is an impossible standard when an example is given? Good-bye.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            And your contention is that trace amounts of GMO contamination are bad, but massive amounts of contamination from a different variety – even such as Blue corn – is OK?

             
          • Skip Batz

            Nice – so you come here three weeks later with a straw-man argument. I NEVER made that contention; yet you attribute it to me, right here. Tell ya what – read about fallacies here ( http://refers.to/?r=5A7DKd ), and come back later if you are interested in you know, actual discussion.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            There is an upper limit to be certified as organic, .9%.

             
        • Warren Lauzon

          “..Fedco sent three additional lots from the same supplier for testing. One test came back negative, a second showed trace amounts of GMOs, and a third tested positive for GMO presence just above the detectable limit. – See more at: http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/jan08/organic_corn_seed_tests_positive_for_GMOs.php#sthash.8Ja7S6ip.dpuf
          Note that “just above the detectable limit”. It would not have affected their status as non-GMO nor as organic, and the level was far below the .9% max.

           
    • Warren Lauzon

      It makes a nice story for the anti-GMO sites, but it has never happened. Google this “Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al. Supreme Court Case No. 13-303” and see http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/13-303.htm

       
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  • Lawrence Lile

    Missing from this discussion is the decline of the Monarch butterfly, which is caused by the decline of milkweed, directly associated with roundup-ready crops, fencerow-to-fencerow farming, and roundup-ready weed-free fields. Often (the Monarch is one example) we have ignored secondary effects of technologies that make money, and the more money a technology makes, the more stubbornly secondary effects are ignored. Nonpoint-source pollution from farm runoff causes eutrophication of lakes and rivers and the “dead zone” at the end of the Mississippi river in the Gulf. Farming fencrow-to-fencerow has nearly caused the quail to go the way of the passenger pigeon here in the Midwest. These secondary effects are ignored in favor of the almighty dollar. I can already hear the counterargument “But we need these roundup ready crops to have productive agriculture!” which is not true. Conventional farming is not the only way to get high productivity from land. We “need” GMO crops so that we don’t have to consider another economic model which might not make any money for Monsanto. I just spent a day at a very elaborate and well-run organic farm, weedless rows neat as a pin, the only “herbicide” in sight was a herd of ducks and chickens happily eating weeds and bugs. On a yearly basis this farm produces more pounds food per acre than a conventional, roundup-ready Iowa soybean field, and keeps 3-5 people busy fulltime, feeding 80 families with vegetables, eggs, and meat year-round. No, we do not “need” roundup-ready crops to feed the world. No, we do not “need” to spray any herbicides at all to have a productive and sustainable agriculture. We “need” this sort of technology to maintain an unsustainable agriculture, based on gigantic industrial farms (with farmers continually losing money) and mega-corporations who milk those farmers for profit. A spoonful of GMO cornflakes contains a missing Monarch Butterfly in every bowl, instead of a plastic toy. Enjoy!

     
    • Sterling Ericsson

      You mean other than the fact that butterfly populations are back to normal this year? The reason for the drop was because of the bad weather that occurred over the past few years during their migrations. Now that there was no such weather this year, the numbers are back to normal.

       
      • Lawrence Lile

        [Sigh] Please check facts. Monarch populations are 10% of what they were just a few years ago. The cause is not “bad weather”. http://monarchwatch.org/bring-back-the-monarchs/campaign/the-details There is a move to put the Monarch on the endangered species list. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-polsgrove/why-monarch-butterflies-n_b_5864212.html Serious proposals to put an animal on the endangered species list don’t come about from bad weather. I wish it were true that they were back to normal, however this just isn’t the case. If you have a credible source for this assertion (monarchs back to normal) then post it! (note: Fox news doesn’t count as a credible source)

         
        • Warren Lauzon

          It is a combination of several factors, but far too many try to blame it on GMO’s or farmers growing GMO’s, and that is probably the smallest factor, if a factor at all. Weed killers such as glyphosate are a factor, but weed killers are used everywhere, by all farmers, and by almost everyone else. Milkweed is running out of habitat – that is the main problem. And as more research is done, they are finding more causes – such as the fact that roadside spraying weeds for fire prevention in California is even a factor. Perhaps what we REALLY need is a herbicide resistant GMO milkweed…

           
          • dick picker

            how long before we need herbicide resistant humans? or are the big chems already working on that too?

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            Probably quite a while, since humans are not herbs.

             
        • hyperzombie
      • Warren Lauzon

        They are not really back to normal, they are up 2-3x, but still down 60% or so from peak.

         
    • Warren Lauzon

      The Monarch/Milkweed issue has nothing to do with GMO crops. The main problem appears to be a shortage of milkweed, much of it due to deforestation in the winter grounds in Mexico. “.. Monarch populations are declining at an alarming rate, thanks to a deadly combination of factors that includes Illegal logging in Mexico, wildfires, droughts, and a drastic loss of their crucial milkweed habitat in the United States…” . One contributing factor is not the spraying of pesticides on farmland, but the spraying of pesticides everywhere else, such as golf courses and public parks, where milkweed has pretty much gone away.

       
  • Dana Franchitto

    Not all of us who disagree with TYson on this issue are “haters”. We just think ,he was too eager to downplay the hazards of this frankenfood technology.

     
    • Sterling Ericsson

      There are no hazards, no more than conventional breeding has. That’s the point.

       
      • dick picker

        and we have long term, research data profiles showing no adverse conditions are created that may adversely affect the ecology or consumers? how long did it take to discover the adverse effects of agent orange? are we expected to go along with any new technology the alters the naturally emerged condition of plants and animals? selective breeding or culturing is not the same as altering at the genetic level. like evolutionists loath to admit, macro-evolution takes millions of years to create a successful variety, with good reason, unsuccessful varieties die off! gmo’s are not micro-evolving, they alter the dna in ways(macro) unavailable to the farmers and stockmen of the last 10k years!

         
        • Warren Lauzon

          Actually the effect of the toxin in Agent Orange was known BEFORE they ever started using it, and Monsanto warned the Defense Department that it had high levels of dioxin contaminate.

           
          • dick picker

            and it was used widely in this country before it was phased out over the objections to it’s chemical weapon capabilities. looks like dow wants to bring it back under the lesser known badge of 2,4-D!

            2,4-D Herbicide & GE Crops
            Take action to keep 2,4-D from tripling
            MONDAY, JUNE 2, 2014
            A fight is brewing over Dow’s Enlist® Duo, an extraordinarily potent weed-killer designed to kill the new generation of so-called “superweeds” that have adapted to withstand blasts of Monsanto’s popular weed-killer RoundUp.

            Enlist Duo is composed of two harsh pesticides: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, a herbicide invented in 1946 and long known to be toxic to people and the environment, and glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp.

            Dow AgroSciences (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.) has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the mass distribution of its latest products: genetically engineered corn and soy varieties created to resist 2,4-D as well as glyphosate.

            Meanwhile, Dow intends to market Enlist® Duo to farmers so they can escalate their attacks on superweeds spurred by widespread RoundUp use.

            It’s up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether to approve Dow’s Enlist® Duo.

            If the EPA approves Enlist® Duo and if the USDA allows the unregulated use of 2,4-D-resistant GE crops, nationwide use of 2,4-D could more than triple by 2020. Communities near 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean fields would be exposed to eight times more 2,4-D than is now the case, according to the USDA, and even greater amounts, according to independent estimates. Americans’ exposure to this toxic herbicide would soar.

             
          • hyperzombie

            Dick, just curious, but why are you commenting on Agriculture issues when you know nothing about them…..
            Why copy and paste stuff that you know nothing about, every farmer that reads this knows that it is over 50% BS.
            Yes Dow owns Dow Ag science and they want approval of 2-4-D soy and corn, but the rest is pure BS.

             
          • dick picker

            and you are the resident expert? feel free to point at the fallacies in my comments, i’m a big boy i can take it! as to what i know, i know how to read. as to c&p, i’m far to lazy to transcribe! as to you being aa ad hominem debater? blow me, you imbecile! agent orange, which the other participants in this thread acknowledge is bad in a bad way, is being pushed as the next gen. in the fight to “improve” crops! that is all! 50% bullshit included just for you! try not to step in it.

             
          • hyperzombie

            feel free to point at the fallacies in my comments,

            Ok, First of all 2-4-D Has been used extensively in Agriculture for almost 80 years now, it has never been phased out or restricted in any way. It was an ingredient in Agent Orange but it had nothing to do with the any of the health problems associated with AO. The other chemical 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid that was in AO caused the problem because it was contaminated with dioxin. 3 of the 8 companies that manufactured AO, warned the Government about the dioxin contamination and warned them to take extra precautions, but sadly the government ignored this advice and sprayed anyway.(it was War after all)

            Dows Enlist Duo is hardly a extraordinarily potent herbicide, it is just Glyphosate and 2-4-d mixed together, the 2 mildest herbicides that there is. if you want a potent herbicide look up Paraquat. 2-4-d is just a synthetic plant hormone that you can buy at almost any hardware store (it is in Weed N Feed type products and dandelion killers), it is so potent that it will not even kill your grass. 2-4-D only kills broadleaf weeds and doesn’t kill corn, wheat , barley, rye. and many others, it was the number one herbicide in use until roundup(glyphosate) came along, and it is still the number one herbicide for wheat farmers.
            The only things that has change with the Enlist system is the name and now soy is resistant to 2-4-D, thats it, nothing more. It will help farmers fight the so called superweeds (not all that super when you can kill them with 2-4-D), and it will give farmers more options on how to treat the crops. It will make crops rotation easier and battle resistant weeds.
            2-4-D use may go up a bit, but many wheat farmers are now switching to Beyond resistant crops, so I think it may be a wash….
            Anyway hope that helps you understand the issue a bit better…
            Any other questions feel free to ask….

             
        • Sterling Ericsson

          The adverse effects of Agent Orange were already known and both Monsanto and Dow warned the government about the dioxin contamination that that the herbicide should not be used near populated areas.

          Agriculture itself is altering the natural condition of plants and animals. Or do you think wheat being bred from a single genome to the hexaploid it is now over centuries is a natural process? Is duplicating and cross-breeding and hybridizing the genome over and over not altering the genetic level?

           
          • dick picker

            […wheat being bred from a single genome to the hexaploid it is now over centuries is a natural process? Is duplicating and cross-breeding and hybridizing the genome over and over not altering the genetic level?]

            one is coercion of the natural requiring decades to arrive at any desired, perceived improvment , the other is force achieved instantaneously for better or worse. one self regulates the viable and the other dominates all it’s predecessors. gmo soy and corn are running amuck! mexicans are fighting to preserve their indigenous species of corn from extinction due to cross pollination with franken-corn. the rational consumer has a desire to know how the food is grown, big chemical companies are aggressively attacking that right. can/would you deny the effort on the part of for profit corporations to stifle knowledge? you may well fool all the people some of the time…

             
    • Warren Lauzon

      What hazards, specifically?

       
      • Dana Franchitto

        Bt toxins in fetal blood samples, ALLERGIES GUT PROBLEMS, AUTISM AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE AND A HOST OF OTHERS .(oops pardon the caps) alldocumented in studies not conducted by the bio-tech industry.

         
  • Jane Smith

    Monsanto Protection Act. Just in case something does pop up. Monsanto is legally immune now. Just like Gun Manufactures for deaths by their products. I dont think ANY Company should have that level of immunity.. that leaves the door wide open to possible corruption and using shortcuts or altering without testing and be 100% immune to any lawsuit. Not really a GMO specific topic, but a VERY corrupt one none the less.

     
    • Sterling Ericsson

      The Farmer Assurance Act protected farmers against frivolous lawsuits. It made it so that if a lawsuit was filed against a specific breed of crop, farmers wouldn’t be required to destroy their season’s crop unless the lawsuit actually ended with the judge against them.

      Though this discussion is rather pointless, since the law ended in September of last year.

       
      • Jane Smith

        Its still disturbing that anyone can buy themselves immunity to lawsuits.

        Not pointless.. that much freedom has and will continue to cause issues of varying kinds. Imagine if GM was like that.. people dying from what ever and immune to being sued in court of law. Its like Diplomatic Immunity…for domestic companies. Companies have proven their Greed and willingness to put people at risk for profit, in nearly every industrial sector in the world… why encourage it?

         
        • Sterling Ericsson

          It didn’t provide immunity from lawsuits. You could still file as many lawsuits as you wanted, but farmers wouldn’t be forced to destroy their livelihoods unless you actually won the case, as it should be. Otherwise, the organic industry would have been able to just file lawsuits against every biotech crop breed and bankrupt thousands of farmers, even if all the lawsuits were eventually thrown out.

           
        • Warren Lauzon

          You really have no clue what the law covered obviously. Why do anti-GMO folks NEVER do any research, and just assume that whatever they read on the first anti-science site that pops up is correct? In fact the temporary law was kind of an “innocent until proven guilty” provision for ALL farmers, and had nothing to do with Monsanto. The previous law was so badly and broadly written that if an organic popcorn cross pollinated with a nearby field of sweet corn, one farmer could file a complaint and the other farmer’s crop would be destroyed.

          And that is what you and others refer to as the “Monsanto Protection Act”.

           
        • dick picker

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmer_Assurance_Provision

          The Farmer Assurance Provision was originally included as Section 733 in the June 2012 initial draft of the FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill in the House of Representatives.[6]:86-87[7] With respect to the text of the provision, the online news website Politico reported that SenatorRoy Blunt (R-MO) “said he worked with the company (Monsanto) and had a valuable partner in the late chairman, Inouye, who was sympathetic given Monsanto’s large seed operations in Hawaii.”[8]

          Politico further reported that “a House-Senate compromise of the draft (Agriculture Appropriations) bills was brokered in December to include the House language. It was this package that was then folded into the continuing resolution or CR sent onto President Barack Obama … for his signature.”[8]

          hmmm, no longer in effect? seems it was mutated as a continuing resolution, there by exempted from congressional funding requirements and oversight.

           
    • Warren Lauzon

      You failed to mention that it was not aimed just at Monsanto, but hundreds of companies, and the minor detail that it was a temporary few month provision that has long since expired.

       
      • dick picker

        hmmm, no longer in effect? seems it was mutated as a continuing resolution, there by exempted from congressional funding requirements and oversight.

         
        • Warren Lauzon

          “..The provisions of this law remained in effect for six months, until the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2013..”.

           
          • dick picker

            and here it states that two months later it was sent to the prez! i bet he signed it! as a c.r. it has all the weight and enforcement contained in the active law with out need for regular congressional approval for funding to enforce or prosecute.

            Politico further reported that “a House-Senate compromise of the draft (Agriculture Appropriations) bills was brokered in December to include the House language. It was this package that was then folded into the continuing resolution or CR sent onto President Barack Obama … for his signature.”[8]

            any insight on that?

             
    • marcbrazeau

      For starters, the Farmer’s Assurance Provision is no longer in effect. Secondly, it’s clear from your comments that you don’t have any idea what the provision actually did. That’s one of the big problems in this debate. One side doesn’t have any idea what they are talking about and don’t realize it.

       
  • Jane Smith

    Wouldn’t such a Miracle design of Genetic Foods be worthy of bragging? I mean, if something is so good, wouldn’t you want your brand, your company that developed that specific food labeled? Wouldn’t it be a marketing boost for a great product? Then why do companies refuse to say what is what and who developed it? recognition can be a positive thing if the work is well done. I mean, If I developed a special Corn for instance, I would want it to be packaged with my companies seal stating I developed its characteristics…. so why all the hiding.. I dont get it.

     
    • Sterling Ericsson

      You do know there are dozens of companies that use biotechnology techniques, right? Not a single company? And considering that those methods use natural techniques, such as horizontal gene transfer done by agrobacterium as it has done to plants for millions of years, it really is no different than natural processes. More natural, really, than the conventional and organic breeding methods of using x-rays and mutagenic chemicals to force mutations to find useful traits. I don’t think the companies care about labeling a natural process. The public clearly doesn’t care about science anyways.

       
      • Jane Smith

        I would be curious then , what are the winning works to give oneself a “Patent” on such GMO if it is no different than natural process, since products that occur in nature can not be patented.

        How can one enforce a patent when its naturally encroached into non paying farmers fields? Sorry if I seem to go on and on.. I am wanting to learn some things I have had questions of for a long time.

         
        • Sterling Ericsson

          Plant breed patents have existed ever since the 1930’s with the Plant Patent Act. They just need to have a unique new trait not seen in the population they are ostensibly a part of. All new plant breeds have been patented at some point in time, including all organic breeds. But patents expire over time, usually after 20 years or so. Like how Roundup Ready soybeans go off-patent next year.

          Scientists choose what gene agrobacterium will be using and thus make a novel trait that way. It is using a natural process that is directed by humans. Much like selective breeding, actually.

          They don’t have to. They already have a process whereby they will pay a farmer for the contamination and clean it up if it occurs. Though it’s rather rare. It’s only when other farmers purposefully plant the patented seeds without paying for them that there’s an issue. Such as with Percy Schmeiser, who purposefully harvested the crops bordering his land with his neighbor that grew GM canola. He used Roundup along the border area to find the crops that had just barely come to his side and then purposefully harvested those and sowed them in the next growing season, using Roundup on his fields that season the entire time. Which is why his fields were 95% GM canola, which is impossible to achieve through cross-contamination.

           
    • hyperzombie

      Wouldn’t such a Miracle design of Genetic Foods be worthy of bragging?

      They brag about the product all the time, and they have huge labels on them. You just don’t see them because you’re not the farmer who is the consumer of GMO products. Pick up an Agriculture Magazine sometime, there is a ton of bragging about the products, with huge glossy ads.

      I would want it to be packaged with my companies seal stating I developed its characteristics…. so why all the hiding.

      That would be a great Idea and it is done all the time, if you are selling your product directly to consumers. GMO crops are not sold directly to consumers, maybe some GMO papaya. I think this is where the confusion sets in.

       
      • dick picker

        as this pertains to boons that americans desire, less insecticides-herbicides and better ecological impacts, why the enormous amounts of capital expended to stifle gmo labeling? why haven’t the madison avenue guys tried selling it on its purported benefits?

         
        • hyperzombie

          Because you dumb asses poisoned the well….. GMOs need less insecticides, less harmful herbicides, and less overall inputs, You folks are nuts for being against GMOs, they are far more sustainable than Organic foods. And far safer, so long better future, welcome to the placebo effect

           
          • dick picker

            great deflection to the question! did you study saul alinsky? i’m a dumb ass who poisoned the well? we are nuts and would rather have a placebo? i’m so glad you used your mighty, logical, scientific mind to address my question! i almost feel bad for lowering myself to your level, almost! dude, blow me! the fact that big agriculture wants to occlude gmo’s existence is the very reason we need labeling! somethings stinks in denmark and it ain’t just your breath!

             
          • hyperzombie

            Good come back,,,, BTW,
            Look, a GMO label will not give you the info that you desire and will misinform many consumers. For example, if you desire to avoid Herbicides sprayed on your food, a NON GMO product may have even more herbicides (yes even Roundup) on it. If you want to avoid insecticides, a NON GMO product may have even more insecticides on them. If you want to avoid Corporate Seed a NON GMO product can and probably is produced from patented seed. If you want to avoid “lab created Genetics”, a NON GMO product could and most likely has even more genetic change, and it was made in a lab. If You want to avoid transgenic organisms, A GMO label will not tell you that either……See The Problem…..

             
          • dick picker

            i see your answer amounts to “we have gone to far to turn back now”!
            also i can ascertain your current response still avoids my original question. oh, have we forgotten the original question? nice try but no, i still wonder why the enormous amounts of capital are expended to stifle gmo labeling? why haven’t the madison avenue guys tried selling it on its purported benefits?

             
          • hyperzombie

            “we have gone to far to turn back now”!

            i still wonder why the enormous amounts of capital are expended to stifle gmo labeling?that is not what I said, I said it misinforms the consumer.

            i still wonder why the enormous amounts of capital are expended to stifle gmo labeling?

            Well it will cost the companies huge money, and it will misinform the consumer. Plus imagine all the lawsuits, when a bit of GMO stuff gets into a non labeled package.

            why haven’t the madison avenue guys tried selling it on its purported benefits?

            i have no Idea,,, Good Idea though..

             
          • dick picker

            that answer is no answer? it has cost huge amounts to stifle, being my point.

             
          • hyperzombie

            It cost millions to inform voters, billions to separate everything. Big difference.

             
          • dick picker

            i guess you can put a price on life? knowledge? freedom? liberty? hyperzombie, you’re a sick bastard and i believe you have more than a passing interest in science. you hold stances in conflict with rational thought. are you a paid sycophant? if so, your employers are getting a raw deal.

             
          • hyperzombie

            i guess you can put a price on life?

            Dick, that makes no sense, no one has been harmed by GMOs.

            knowledge?

            A label on GMOs will not make you more knowledgeable. in fact it may misinform many.

            freedom?

            You have the freedom to choose now, there are already 2 labels for the GMO fearful.

            liberty?

            ?????

            you’re a sick bastard

            Nope I feel fine today and my parents were married, in a church and everything.

            more than a passing interest in science

            Nope, just interested in Ag issues and Ag science.

            you hold stances in conflict with rational thought.

            Nope, not if you understand GMo and Agriculture.

            are you a paid sycophant

            Never been paid to comment

             
          • dick picker

            thank you very much for the civility in your answers! i’m calling this debate we have had a push since i still can’t see where the general public is going to be misinformed if we are given the information as to what, where and why. labeling is the only sane manner to dispel rumor. heck, you almost make it sound plausible that farmers know what is going on. sad that the family farms from that bygone era of americana are nearly extinct due to conglomerate farming practiced now. good luck with the rest of the skeptics!

             
          • hyperzombie

            Hey I would be 100% pro label if the other side of this debate did not lie so much. How can people be truly informed when one group of people totally makes stuff up. Most farmers do know what they are doing, heck some can afford to Farm for a living. In all my years of living on and in a farm and farming communities, I have rarely seen a “Conglomerate” farm, the only ones that I know of is one Cattle Feedlot and a few Giant Farms owned by a religious groups (Canadian Mennonites sort of), thats it. The rest are family farms.
            I don’t think many Corporations are interested in owning farms, it is the only business that you buy everything at retail, and then sell everything at wholesale, it confuses the bean counters…. Have a great day!

             
          • dick picker

            ok, i was trying to exit gracefully, you say one side lies and that is the rational response to be anti-label? how about william shakespeare’s admonishment the the truth will out?

            many corporations aren’t interested in owning farms, that is why/how monopolies occur. think about the words you spew, please don’t confuse your ignorance with fact. the fact is 14% of total food production comes from the two percent of all farms in the u.s. that are owned by corporations or other non-family entities, 50% of food production comes from the biggest two percent of all farms.

            four companies own 83.5% of the beef market.

            the top four firms own 66% of the hog industry.

            the top four firms control 58.5% of the broiler chicken industry.

            in the seed industry, four companies control 50% of the proprietary seed market and 43% of the commercial seed market worldwide.

            when it comes to genetically engineered crops, just one company, monsanto, boasts control of over 85% of corn acreage and 91% of soybean acreage in the u.s.

            farmers rely on both buyers and sellers for their business, concentrated markets squeeze them at both ends. sellers with high market power can inflate the prices of machinery, seeds, fertilizers and other goods that farmers need for their farms, while powerful buyers, such as processors, suppress the prices farmers are paid. the razor-thin profit margins on which farmers are forced to operate often push them to “get big or get out”—expanding into mega-operations or exiting the business altogether.

            for reference this site lists the agri-business giants, you may have even heard of a few of them. http://www.ranker.com/list/agriculture-companies/reference

            five companies now dominate the worlds grain trading, agribusiness is by nature a production system where price is internal to the company’s operation; competition is reduced; and profits for the dominant corporations are strategically increased. For example, one agribusiness practice is to genetically engineer crops. these crops are engineered to depend on chemicals that the same company sells. monsanto’s soybeans fall into this category. this practice further concentrates the power of agribusiness; it enables the dominant players to sell not only the chemicals, but the patented seed to go with them.

            the claim to “feed the world”, an example concerning mexico, today, scarcely more than 20 large agribusinesses control mexican food and agriculture and it’s now experiencing its worst food crisis in six decades.

            summation:
            just because ” I have rarely seen a “Conglomerate” farm, the only ones that I know of is one Cattle Feedlot and a few Giant Farms owned by a religious groups (Canadian Mennonites sort of), thats it. The rest are family farms.

            I don’t think many Corporations are interested in owning farms”, does not equate to the actual status of the farming business.

            continue to engage me and i am obligated to reply in kind!

            you have a truthful day!

             
          • hyperzombie

            that are owned by corporations or other non-family entities, 50% of food production comes from the biggest two percent of all farms.

            Hey welcome back!

            First of all getting info from Wikipedia is always a crap shoot. Always look for citations at the bottom of the page and if there are none, it is probably crap info. 🙂

            There are in the USA 2% of Farms are “non Family Farms” but they only produce 13.6% of all sales receipts. No where near 50%. Here is the breakdown for Us farms.

            Limited Resource Farm: 7.3% of farms
            0.8% value of product

            Retirement Farm: 14.1% of farms
            1.8% value of product

            Residential/Lifestyle Farm: 40.4% of farms
            6.0% value of product

            Low-Sales Farm: 20.4% of farms
            7.8% value of product

            High Sales Farm: 8.3% of farms
            15.9% value of product

            Large Farm: 4.5% of farms
            16.6% value of product

            Very Large Farm: 3.0% of farms
            36.5% value of product

            Non-Family Farm: 2.0% of farms
            13.5% value of product

            Even some of the so called Non Family farms, are just very big farms with retired owners.

            Here is a cool USDA report on farm size and sales…http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter3.pdf

            There are a few large corporations that Market meats, but they hardly OWN the industry. They are just the middlemen.

            when it comes to genetically engineered crops, just one company, monsanto, boasts control of over 85% of corn acreage and 91% of soybean acreage in the u.s

            Well this is totally untrue, The roundup trait is popular, but not that popular, and it is licensed to all the other companies. And the Roundup trait on corn and soy expires next year. Come fall you can save and replant all the roundup ready seed that you want.

            for reference this site lists the agri-business giants, you may have even heard of a few of them.

            Did you notice that a lot of them are farmer owned Co-ops Even my Co-op is on the list. And a bunch of them are family owned businesses and equipment suppliers.

            five companies now dominate the worlds grain trading

            Farmers control grain trading, these 5 companies are just middlemen, like a stock broker.

            For example, one agribusiness practice is to genetically engineer crops. these crops are engineered to depend on chemicals that the same company sells.

            Non GMO crop breeders do the same thing, look up clearfield crops. Plus if these crops were not beneficial to growers they would not buy them.

            the claim to “feed the world”, an example concerning mexico, today, scarcely more than 20 large agribusinesses control mexican food and agriculture and it’s now experiencing its worst food crisis in six decades.

            Food crisis in Mexico????? They are the 2nd fattest people in the world now, even fatter than Canadians.

             
          • Debbie Owen

            No one has been harmed by GMOs? How do you know? Without the labeling of GMOs how are any ill effects to be tracked back to GMOs and documented? I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this country is much sicker since GMOs were snuck into our food supply in 1996. Who are you or anyone like you to say what we should and should not know about the food we feed to our families? This is a free country and we should have the freedom to know. To say that consumers will be misinformed to see a GMO label is just wrong! You are highly underestimating consumers and that is just insulting. A GMO label gives us the information to know that the ingredients in food products have been derived from GMOs. A few simple words on a label is all we are asking for, food manufacturers are already doing it for other countries anyway so it shouldn’t be much of a problem to do it for us as well. By the way, the fact that you have resorted to name calling really discredits anything you say.

             
          • hyperzombie

            I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this country is much sicker since GMOs were snuck into our food supply in 1996.

            How are Americans and Canadian sicker than 1996? Not cancer, it is down almost 15%?

            Who are you or anyone like you to say what we should and should not know about the food we feed to our families?

            What do you want to know that is not provided for now?

            A GMO label gives us the information to know that the ingredients in food products have been derived from GMOs.

            Derived from? What is your problem with GMOs, it is just a plant breeding method.

            A few simple words on a label is all we are asking for, food manufacturers are already doing it for other countries anyway so it shouldn’t be much of a problem to do it for us as well.

            It is a lot more complicated than you think.

            the fact that you have resorted to name calling really discredits anything you say.

            Ooops.

             
          • J. Randall Stewart

            It is true that modern farming makes us unhealthy. Each of these statements is absolute truth:

            If food were more scarce, it would be more expensive.
            If food were more expensive, we wouldn’t eat as much.
            If we didn’t eat as much food, we wouldn’t be so fat.

            Being fat is unhealthy.

            Therefore, modern farming makes people unhealthy.

             
          • hyperzombie

            If we didn’t eat as much food, we wouldn’t be so fat.

            So true, if you don’t exercise more.

            Being fat is unhealthy

            Depends how fat, and overweight people live longer than skinny folks.

            Exercise is the key….

            Hey Randall, when are you going to buy a Flame Weeder? I want to borrow one for Halloween, crank it up to full power and pull it around town at night without the headlights on, It will scare the crap out of everyone…….Bwhaww Haaa Haa….

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            If you really look at the situation, you will see just how dumb that statement really is.
            “..U.S. residents spent on average about $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures, on food in 2012..”. So if food prices go up 10%, that percentage will rise to ~7% – hardly enough to affect the eating habits of most.

            The US is a major food exporter – #1 in the world. In Pakistan, the average family spends about 47% of their income on food. If US exports get more expensive, it will raise the price of food around the world. So what would happen is that at least some of that price increase would affect the hundred poorest nations in the world a lot more than it would the US.

            http://www.ibtimes.com/us-spends-less-food-any-other-country-world-maps-1546945

             
          • hyperzombie

            In Pakistan, the average family spends about 47% of their income on food.

            they must be not that good at shopping. They should just load up the family in the SUV and drive to the local Whole Foods for some Wheatgrass smoothies, grab some Organic veggies, then stop at the local starbucks for some Fair Trade, Ethical, GMO free, low fat soy lattes. No biggy, see saving money is easy.

             
          • J. Randall Stewart

            If you think about it the right way, there is a bright side to every famine. 🙂 😉

             
          • marcbrazeau

            Why are poor people fatter than rich people? Food is relatively MORE expensive for the poor and LESS expensive for the rich. And yet neither weight nor health correlate to your hypothesis.

             
          • J. Randall Stewart

            I’m trying to think like an anti-farmer. 🙂 Can’t you at least see the bright side of a famine? 🙂

             
          • marcbrazeau

            Touche.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            We would know from the epidemiology just like we would with labels. GE corn and soy dominate the market so much that simple before and after as well as comparisons to Europe would give us the same answers. How would labels help in epidemiology. The record of what the ingredients are exists independent of the label. We don’t use “Sugar Free” labels to track sugar consumption. We look at food disappearance data.

             
          • hyperzombie

            Just to illustrate how expensive it would be to separate everything up the supply chain,lets just look at farmers. There is about two million farms in the USA, lets say a quarter of them have to buy 1 new storage bin to separate the crops.
            500,000 farms
            $50,000 dollars for a cheap bin
            25,000,000,000
            That is 25 billion dollars, talking some real money here. This will go all the way up the supply chain. As a consumer, you are the end user, so you will pay for all this stuff.

             
          • Jan Woods

            First of all, your cost analysis is GROSSLY exaggerated. Second, American farmers have absorbed the cost and taken the trouble to do all of the above for their European and Chinese and Russian Markets, etc. etc. etc. that do not accept GMO because their consumers have rejected it. It boggles the mind that these farmers refuse/cannot use what they already use for European, etc. markets for their American customers. It will raise costs? The rest of the world’s consumers seem able to absorb those costs, and I highly doubt that the cost will be prohibitive here. And if our government subsidized the switch instead of pouring all the subsidy money into GMO crops that NOBODY WANTS it should be do-able, yes?

             
          • hyperzombie

            First of all, your cost analysis is GROSSLY exaggerated

            Have you looked at the cost of storage bins lately? I totally lowballed it, it should be 100 g +.

            Second, American farmers have absorbed the cost and taken the trouble to do all of the above for their European and Chinese and Russian Markets, etc. etc. etc.

            They all accept GMOs, there is no need to separate. Europe and China import Millions of tons of GMOs per year.

            The rest of the world’s consumers seem able to absorb those costs, and I highly doubt that the cost will be prohibitive here.

            Have you checked out food costs in other countries??

            And if our government subsidized the switch instead of pouring all the subsidy money into GMO crops that NOBODY WANTS it should be do-able, yes?

            Subsidies are paid on the crop, not whether they are GMO. Give your head a shake.

             
          • Jan Woods

            I do not like to call people liars, but, straight up, that is what you are doing. GMOs are banned in most of China and GMO shipments have recently been turned away. They are also rejected by Japan, Russia, Peru, Bolivia, Hungary, Poland and more countries than I can list here. They are labeled and therefore not/barely sold in 64 countries. If food costs are higher in other countries, their health care costs are so much lower than in the USA that it makes up for the higher cost of food many times over. They demand better food and they get it, they live higher quality healthier lives AND have more money in their pockets. Subsidies ARE paid “on the crop” and the crops chosen for those subsidies are, mysteriously (not really, chemical companies LOVE to bribe politicians), primarily the major GMO crops like corn, cotton, canola, soy, etc. Mostly used in junk food (our govt. subsidizing obesity!), as animal fodder and ethanol.

             
          • hyperzombie

            I do not like to call people liars, but, straight up, that is what you are doing.

            Nope, you’re the one that is lying. China imports and grows millions of tons of GMOs every year, Japan is Canada’s number three customer for GMO canola, after USA and China.
            The rest of your post is just a bunch of Crazy assed BS. Except for the cost of health care.

            PS Why is the cancer rate in some parts of the EU higher than in the USA.

             
          • notation

            You’re calling someone ELSE a “liar”? That’s rich.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            You really have no idea what food costs are in other parts of the world, and you seem to think that the US lives in a bubble. The only one of the countries to ban (sort of) GMO’s is Russia – the same country that was mercilessly attacked by the huge Ukrainian army and had to defend itself (according to Putin and RT News). See http://www.ibtimes.com/us-spends-less-food-any-other-country-world-maps-1546945

             
          • marcbrazeau

            You are simply misinformed about which countries GMOs are banned in. Please provide sources for these claims, if you are going to try to defend them.

            The subsidies have a lot less than you think in terms of the decision to grow them, the decisions are driven by demand. (except for ethanol policy, which does make a difference by creating demand.) Peanuts, flax, oats and barley are all subsidized as well, and yet, we aren’t drowning in a sea of peanut, flax and oat cookies.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            Russia’s rejection of GMO’s had ZERO to do with science, and a lot to do with politics. And if current indication are correct, he totally screwed up by doing so. With a combination of sanctions, the super-crashing Ruble, and a ban on GMO’s food costs in Russia have jumped over 25% in less than a year. “..After the imports ban, annual consumer inflation rose to 8% in September from 7.6% in August. Prices for meat and poultry jumped 16.8% on the year in September, while prices for fish and seafood rose 14.1%. Growth in food prices has continued, with prices of cucumbers increasing by 7.6% in just one week to Oct. 6..”

            Note that prices on some foods went up in Russia as much as 7.6% in one MONTH. In the future citing Russia as an example of anything to do with GMO’s might not be the best choice.

             
          • Caroline

            More than $100 million spent to defeat initiatives and measures to label GMOs. Sheeesh. they could have used that money to label GMOs already. And now GMA and others are suing Vermont for labeling. What is wrong with this picture? PROFITS over DEMOCRACY.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            Where did you get that $100 million figure? I added everything up for the past 4 years and came up with about half that.

             
          • Benjamin Edge

            Where do you think all the money is coming from pushing labeling bills? Concerned citizens? Not hardly, it is a push from lawyers, Big Organic, and the snake-oil health food supplement industry. Seed companies would just as well prefer to spend their money on more research and development to provide crops with more consumer benefits, but they keep getting distracted by unprovoked attacks.

             
          • Jan Woods

            Wrong. The first few years GMOs did require fewer inputs. But like most short-sighted “solutions” they stopped working because weeds and pests became resistant. As a result GMOs now require more inputs and more newer toxic inputs,( such as 2,4-D, the Agent Orange derivative) than conventional crops and more than organic, GMO is a failed experiment and technology and like big oil it only hangs on because there is so much dark money invested already. The world goes down the toxic tubes for the almighty $$$.

             
          • hyperzombie

            2-4-D newer…..LOL…. Have you been living under a rock for the last 80 years? it is the oldest herbicide around.

             
          • Caroline

            Yeah, and now we get 2,4-D right on our food. How about some 2,4-D laced infant baby formula?

             
          • hyperzombie

            Ummmmm,2 -4-d has been used in farming for almost 80 years now.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            Oldest SYNTHETIC herbicide. Before that they used things like Mercury, Sulfur, and hot pepper mash.

             
          • Jan Woods

            LOL! Yes, 2,.4-D HAS been around. As a component of Agent Orange which caused gruesome and horrible disease and birth defects in Viet Nam and tragic health consequences in Viet Nam Vets and even in their children. 2,4-D has been sprayed on leaf and stem foilage but NEVER before on FOOD CROPS. You can guess that’s the “new” part. It is irresponsible and horrifying that anyone would defend this use of this pesticide. And no studies have been done to learn the synergy of 2,4-D with glyphosate which will combine with it in the soil and in the food crop itself–all the way to our families’ tables.

             
        • Warren Lauzon

          From a personal point, I can see absolutely nothing that putting a GMO label on a can would do for me – it tells me nothing at all about the nutritional value, or anything else of any value.

           
          • dick picker

            good and well if it is not something you need, let others be their own judge! we can’t make an informed choice if there is no information or choice.

             
          • Jan Woods

            Well, that’s you Warren. Most of the rest of us are interested…. put labels on GMO. Once we see all the benefits of GMO for ourselves we’ll quit wasting our money on organic and non-GMO. Think of all the money we’d save! And we’ll quit this whole arguing thing, we’ll quit fighting against GMO, cause we’ll all be clear about what products they’re in. We’ll see for ourselves how fabulous they are. Labeling would be SO worth it! Just think of all the converts to GMO! The GMA and Monsanto could quit spending tens of millions every year to fight labeling. We’d be singing their praises to the sky! Yeah. See how it could be? Now ask yourself WHY labeling is being opposed by the biotechs and the GMA…?…. the only reasonable answer: they’ve got some big liability issues to hide. Labeling will allow tracing of reactions to GMOs and to culpability which, in lawsuits, would cost them billions.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            I have asked this question close to 100 times, and have NEVER gotten an answer:
            Sugar from GMO beets and non GMO cane is 100% identical – a common basic chemical. Yet one would be labeled as GMO, one would not – even though no lab test in the world can tell the difference. So what did you gain by labeling something with beet sugar as GMO?

             
          • Jan Woods

            One would have to answer the question knowing the question is set up so that one has to suspend belief and take your word for it that GMO beet sugar and non-GMO cane sugar is identical. But the patent on GMO beet sugar would say otherwise. So would the excessive amounts of glyphosate sprayed on the GMO beet sugar. Label it.

             
          • Warren Lauzon

            It is identical, it is nothing but a chemical compound. There is nothing in the patent of the beets to indicate otherwise either, so not sure where you got that.

             
    • marcbrazeau

      Number one: Commodity corn isn’t segregated, so there isn’t necessarily RR or Bt traits in any specific batch of food made with those ingredients.

      Number two: As has been pointed out, they are labeled and bragged about to the actual customers: farmers.

      Number three: Name any other food products that are marketed based on the breeding techniques of the ingredients.

      Number four: With consumer oriented traits, rather than agronomic traits, I expect the marketing will include the fact of GE. The Arctic Apple will be the game changer there.

       
      • William F. R. Potter

        Number one: But there’s a good chance there is. Along with glyphosate residues. Which means that the shikimate pathway of some of your gut bugs may be disrupted. And your bacterial population, I guarantee you, is very important to your health. To say nothing of the meta study from earlier this year that correlated gyphosate with cancer.

        Number two: I find your argument to be disingenuous. Monsanto is spending wads and wads of cash to keep people from knowing which food products have Monsanto products. What you said is true. It’s also true that many farmers (read: mega corporations) are looking to make as much money as possible and really don’t care all that much about you. Just the same, I’m open to the idea (but not sold on it) that standard doses of gyphosate are safer than standard doses of conventional pesticides.

        Number three: Where did Jane talk about breeding technique? But that having been said, when a person buys a specific variety of potato, it’s understood that that potato is the result of generations of selective breeding and or hybridization. It was produced with traditional breeding methods. So, traditional methods are implicit to the typical consumer, and transgenic modifications are not, which is perhaps why consumers want them to be labeled as such. I’m not saying GMOs will kill you, and some GMOs may even be better for your health than conventional, but some may be worse. It’s a consumer’s right to decide.

        Number four: That’s a fair point, and I hope you’re right because I could see myself supporting an amazing product. However, as a consumer, I’d like to know if Monsanto is getting a share of my dollars or not. I don’t like Monsanto and would prefer to not give them my money. That, to me, means that whether or not a product contains GMO corn or soy is a consumer-oriented trait–just not one that Monsanto thinks I have a right to know about.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          1. If you are worried about glyphosate residues, then wheat is a more
          likely candidate. Unlike RR crops, glyphosate is used for a pre-harvest
          burn down, whereas w/ RR crops the herbicide is used early in the
          growing season, so it is sprayed on the leaves, not the ear of corn or
          the soybean and it has had time to degrade into component parts. It
          highly unlikely glyphosate residues have an impact on gut flora. The
          idea that they do and the glyphosate / cancer link are both based on
          pseudoscience by Stephanie Seneff.

          2. Which farms are “mega-corporations” the only medium sized corporate farms I know of are produce growers. Commodity crop farmers are nearly all small businesses. A GMO label wouldn’t tell you anything accurate about the presence of Monsanto products either, since Pioneer/Dupont, Bayer Cropscience, and the others produce GMOs and Monsanto produces non-GMO crops as well. I’m not sure why you would prefer to bring your business to BASF or why you would prefer farmers to buy non-GMO seeds from the Big Six, since that’s where they come from.

          3. There are lots of novel traits introduced all the time with traditional breeding that haven’t been around for thousands of years. Also … mutagenic breeding also produces novel traits with greater risk of unintended consequences (very, very low) and isn’t being labeled.

          4. What about Monsanto don’t you like? Do you have anything that they’ve done in the last 20 years that’s any different than their competitors (that stands up to 5 minute fact check?)

           
          • William F. R. Potter

            1. So you concede that labeling would tell the consumer something, although you feel that there are potentially more useful things one could label for. I can agree with that. But labeling GMOs is a start. I would like to see a world in which all of the readily available knowledge about a product is available to the consumer. Were people paid fairly? What farming methods were used? What pesticides were detected and in what degree? How much gov’t subsidy was involved? These things all matter to me. Today, it would be cost prohibitive to introduce all of those things, but the GMO labeling is, by realistic estimates, not an expensive proposition and given that so many people want it, I think it’s silly to oppose it. Regarding the science on glyphosate, I am surprised that you actually think it breaks down quickly and doesn’t persist in the environment. If you would like to get into the science (ignoring the words of “authorities” on the matter and instead considering studies), that could be an interesting exercise. I do know a PhD in plant sciences who felt that the understanding of persistence and safety for glyphosate was shaped by the way the experiments were initially designed. I also know a former Monsanto employee who felt that Monsanto was Satan reincarnate. I am not appealing to authority here, but am rather giving you an honest statement of why I think some of what I do. I have checked out a few studies before and after speaking with them. SO. If you and I were to engage in real discussion on the science, tell me how it is you would weigh one study against another, and what would change your beliefs? For me, I would want to see decay charts with Roundup (ie all the surfactants and other pesticide crap mixed up with the pesticide itself) in a variety of real world situations. I would also like to see long term studies with whatever Roundup residues do actually persist be tested against control groups of zero pesticide, a maximal realistic does, a dose of just glyphosate, and zero pesticide conventional produce. Not just 3 or 6 months in tumor rats, either. That’s off the top of my head. What would work for you? Note that recent studies might be given more weight than older ones, but that design of experiment is a factor too. I will come back to 2, 3, and 4, but I’m out of time for now. Thanks for your reply.

             
          • William F. R. Potter

            2. Nice! You caused me to look a bit more into things. From wiki (citation included on their page) “95% of US corn farmlands are family-owned (90 families of farmers and account for 55% of world corn exports.).” I would say that’s mega, but not as mega as I’d thought. Clearly, by the numbers, most corn is produced by the biggies even though there are more small farmers than large. As to whether or not a GMO label would tell me about whether or not the product was Monsanto or not, statistically, if the product has corn or soy, it’s Monsanto. But note that I never said I was ok with these other corporations. I’ve heard farmers complain of being squeezed by both the sellers (grain, pesticide, insert corporation here) and buyers, and it’s the small farmers you mention who don’t get meaningful US subsidies while the mega farmers do. As far as giving business to corporations for non-GMO seeds, I prefer heirloom varieties because it’s a safer bet that I’m not giving money to Monsanto and their ilk. Ultimately though, each person will have different corporations they dislike, different concerns about the safety of a product, different views on environmental impacts, and so on. Put all of us individuals together, and we’re a diverse group. Some of us have relevant PhD’s and want labeling. Most of us are typical citizens. If the cost is reasonable and it doesn’t hurt people and we decide we want to know something, then don’t we deserve to know? In typing this response, I realize that you and I are both introducing more and more factors as we go along. If we want a productive discussion to occur, we will need to focus more on specific points…

            3. Agree to some extent. I believe that dwarf wheat poses a bit more health risk than older varieties, and it’s not a GMO. As to whether or not traditional breeding poses less risk or more risk than transgenic techniques, I haven’t looked into that. From a common sense perspective, nature provides us with plenty of poisons. OTOH, we have bred plants for millenia, and I am unaware of many examples where we made the plants meaningfully less safe. So, from a gee-whiz common sense perspective, a Monsanto product produced by using a gene gun to make combinations that wouldn’t occur in nature in a million years would seem to be a bit less safe. Could you share a bit more about where you’re coming from with that safety statement?

            4. You’re setting the bar rather low if you think I’d have to demonstrate that Monsanto was worse than other corporations in order to be worthy of my scorn. However, I highlighted Monsanto not because they suck in comparison to other corporations (which my Monsanto friend insists they do based upon her experience working at a corporation that Monsanto acquired), but because they are one of the largest contributors against GMO labeling and because they are a commonly-cited company in the battle to label GMO foods and so represent a go-to example. How about this? How about Monsanto let voters decide with a fair debate instead of dumping millions to dominate the airwaves with deceptive ads against labeling (like citing estimated costs that are way higher than sober analysis suggests)? I of course detest some of the pro-labeling arguments as well, but they get drowned out by the big spenders. I long for the day that elections are decided based upon rational discussion, but I don’t see it happening unless our election laws and corporate favoritism are reigned in.

             
          • Benjamin Edge

            Monsanto only has about 1/3 market share for seed sales in the US. Corn or soy is as likely to be from DuPont/Pioneer as it is from Monsanto.

            Small farmers are eligible for the same crop subsidies large farmers are. It is just that payments (now replaced mostly by subsidized crop insurance) depend on production, so larger farms get more subsidy. Is that so hard to understand?

             
          • William F. R. Potter

            Benjamin, DuPont seeds are Roundup ready. A sale to DuPont yields money for Monsanto on the basis of pesticide sales, does it not? Thus, a GMO label would, in fact, tell me if a product was, statistically, Monsanto (ie if the purchase of the product was supportive of Monsanto). Of course, I already wrote “I never said I was ok with these other corporations,” so even though I’m correct that a GMO label would be a decent indicator that the product in question resulted in profits for Monsanto, I’m still not sure that your data (thanks for being factual) would convince me that GMO labeling would be useless.

            “Is that so hard to understand?” It’s easy to understand. A puny subsidy to a small farmer is puny. A large subsidy to a mega farm that has economy of scale and is already profitable is inappropriate, and would be inappropriate even if the mega farm were somehow not contributing to monoculture, Monsanto’s bottom line, and general corporate dominance of our political landscape. If you don’t object to the way the subsidies are structured, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            Also, glyphosate was categorized as a probable carcinogen before you made your post. Do you think there’s nothing wrong with the way the system is working, and as that labeling for GMO’s is zero value added? And have you seen the recent study which found that chronic “ultra low-dose Roundup exposure” messed up rat kidneys and livers? Given these recent developments, has your thinking changed at all on the appropriateness of labeling?

             
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  • Jennio

    I get concerned about the loss of bio-diversity. Selective breeding of the past had a broad spectrum of different traits that plants were bred for such as hardiness, colour, early germination, shorter ripening time etc. so you may lose a bit of flavour but gain an earlier harvest, or lose a variety of colour but gain hardiness. This still gave us a huge diversity of plants. This GMO breeding is scary in that there are less and less varieties, we know that mono culture is not good, it harms the soil, the structure as well as the life within it.
    I have toured Southern Ontario in the past year or so (I grew up there but have since moved far away) and was shocked to see that fields that once were tomatoes and orchards of fruit trees are now either soy or corn…everywhere. I also learned that the decline of the Monarch butterfly has directly coincided with the planting of these crops. There was not one Monarch to be seen at Point Pelee in the peak of the migration.
    What about the millions of honey bees dying? This is new as well. Despite the declining use of harsher pesticides and herbicides, they are all poison. If a chemical can kill an insect, it can harm you and I, don’t be deceived, that is a fact.

     
    • marcbrazeau

      “Selective breeding of the past had a broad spectrum of different traits that plants were bred for such as hardiness, colour, early germination, shorter ripening time etc. so you may lose a bit of flavour but gain an earlier harvest, or lose a variety of colour but gain hardiness.”

      How is that different than contemporary, biotech breeding?

       
      • Jennio

        If you are asking how conventional breeding differs from genetic modification, I am surprised at that question. Here is a list:
        A) conventional selective breeding is much more closely akin to what happens naturally in the plant/ animal world to adapt and survive, it is a slow process and you quite easily lose another trait in selectively breeding for another – genetic modification is just that- splicing foreign genes into an organism to directly get a specific result is at best far from having the proper science and testing done eg. Long term effects of such practices could result in an unnatural balance in nature, could have significant negative effects on humans and other animals who injest them, the potential of cross – pollination could create more resistant weeds and create other unwanted occurrences in plants not intended to be affected.
        B) conventional breeding uses species closely related- genetic modification uses genes from unrelated species as well as viruses and bacteria, can this result in new or modified diseases? We don’t know and likely won’t for years to come.
        C) genetically modified seeds have pesticides built into them to resist insect infestations and are herbicide resistant, and while the idea of it was to be able to use less pesticide, the reality is that nature is quite adept to changing according to it’s environment which may result in more and different or stronger pesticides/herbicides required to do the job. This also obviously leads us to the fact that we are eating these crops with absolutely no idea of the full implications of that although I personally believe that injesting anything that contains pesticides of any form is not healthy for us.

         
      • Jerry W

        it’s different because variability created by the geographic separation of distance within a continent and the separation of the continents is the primary mechanism that life on earth has used again and again to recover from catastrophe events that occur on a global scale. Over the centuries, many diseases and environmental changes have wiped out whole fields of crops; e.g., potato blight in the1800’s, corn leaf blight – 1900’s that wiped out 85% of all the corn grown in 1971.

        Never again should a major cultivated species be molded into such uniformity that it is so universally vulnerable to attack by a pathogen, an insect, or environmental stress. Diversity must be maintained in both the genetic and cytoplasmic constitution of all important crop species.” (A. J. Ullstrup 1972 The impacts of the southern leaf corn blight epidemics of 1970-1971. Annual Reviews)

        If the monsanto brand GMO seed gets wiped out by disease we are looking at a global food crisis. The lessons of the past are being ignored. How anyone justify that having a single point failure tied to an ever increasing percentage of the worlds food supply is beyond me

         
        • marcbrazeau

          You are missing the fact that GE traits are added to a wide range of varieties of each crop. In fact due to their global reach, the big seed companies are creating different hybrid by crossing varieties from around the world.

          There is not one single variety of “GMO corn”. This is a huge and cartoonish misunderstanding of what’s actually going on.

           
          • JoeFarmer

            Yep, you got that right.

            There is intense competition in the corn seed (and every other kind of ag seed) business.

            When I’m looking at corn hybrids, I look at relative maturity, standability (root and stalk strength), drought tolerance, and resistance to a variety of diseases. Gray leaf spot, Northern corn leaf blight, Southern corn leaf blight, Goss’ wilt, drydown, morphology – tall/short, flex vs. determinant, etc.

            GM traits are just an add-on to all the traits I already listed. Jerry really doesn’t know what he’s typing about.

            There are racehorse corn hybrids and there are old gray mare corn hybrids. The biotech traits are just options like buying a car with heated seats or integrated entertainment center with GPS, blutooth and Pandora. Except the biotech traits are more useful.

             
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  • Jerry W

    “Glyphosate is actually pretty miraculous in its ability to thwart weeds from developing resistance. I’m sorry, but the ‘GE crops create superweeds’ story doesn’t hold water” Don’t know how you got this fact wrong but there are numerous reattach papers that demonstrate otherwise. (See Linked Sources Below). There is also a substantial amount of other legitimate published research that does not support some of your other statements such a reduction of pesticide use due to GMO’s.

    GMO tech has game changing potential and could solve many issues we face today and in the future but Monsanto approach in the developing world has potentially disastrous consequences and while not definitive a growing body of published research and animal studies have suggest that Glyphosate may not be as benign as Monsanto’s research suggests. Remember it is Monsanto’s research you are citing as evidence of its safety and at least 40% of Monsanto’s revenue come from Roundup. Dupont knew of and covered up its Teflon and “C8” issue for 50 years without even a thought of all of the lives that were cut short or the pain and suffering their decisions caused. If faced with similar circumstance the board members at Monsanto will do what is right for their balance sheet regardless. In the long term it cheaper for a organization like Monsanto to keep selling a product and covering up the issues.

    “A review of the impact of rapid adoption of GM crops in South America found that far from reducing pesticide use, the introduction of crops, particularly soybeans, that rely on broad scale glyphosate application as a routine management strategy, has been associated with increased pesticide use, an alarming increase in pesticide related deaths in Paraguay and major outbreaks of glyphosate resistant weeds in Argentina and Brazil, resulting in increased use of more toxic herbicides. Meanwhile, the rapid expansion of industrial agriculture as facilitated by GM crops has resulted in accelerated land grabs and clearing of rainforest in the Amazon basin (Richards 2010). As for the key promise of relief of hunger and poverty, South America’s experience with large scale uptake of GM crops has failed to deliver demonstrable benefits in this regard, with persistent poverty and income inequality (Richards 2010)”.

    Glover, D. (2010). Exploring the resilience of Bt cotton’s ‘pro-poor success story’. Development and Change, 41 (6), 955–981.

    McMichael, P., & Schneider, M. (2011). Food security politics and the Millennium Development Goals. Third World Quarterly, 13 (1), 119-139.

    Richards, D. G. (2010). Contradictions of the ‘new green revolution’: a view from South America’s Southern Cone. Globalizations, 7 (4), 563-576.

    Vanloqueren, G., & Baret, P. V. (2009) How agricultural research systems shape a technological regime that develops genetic engineering but locks out agroecological innovations. Research Policy, 38, 971-983

    http://www.hrac-br.com.br/arquivos/jf102652y.pdf

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18161884

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24223277

     
    • marcbrazeau

      It’s not Monsanto’s research that I’m citing as evidence and their herbicide revenues are closer to 15% of revenues.

       
  • rootbeer08530yahoocom

    Genetic modification through gene insertion is not the same as genetic modification through breeding, period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU9LmFLaC18
    Neil is obviously intelligent among the intelligent, so it makes me wonder. Could the lack of funding in his field persuade him promote GMO’s in exchange for funding in his field. Or maybe he was quick to share an uneducated opinion out of ego.

     
    • marcbrazeau

      Except that, he didn’t say that they were the same, which was the very first thing I pointed out. So, knocking down that straw man doesn’t really get you any points.

       
      • rootbeer08530yahoocom

        It was point less to make the analogy in the first place since they are not the same, just wanted to make that clear to anyone reading the comment. And I also said there is no viable waste disposal that is cost effective, and since this is the case corners are cut which future generations will suffer from. I also said we are far from finding a viable way of getting rid of waste if there is one that is cost efficient at all. And I will add that we obviously have no viable options for clean up and containment when disasters do occur, as I am typing this while radioactive material leaks into the pacific.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          I have no idea what you are talking about. Where did you reference waste disposal?

          Yes, they are not the same. It’s spectrum of greater control and specificity.

           
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            I mistook your comment for a reply from a conversation I have been recently been having. I made this comment a while ago and what you said randomly fell in line with that recent comment.

             
      • rootbeer08530yahoocom

        Yeah he doesn’t say it directly but he equates the two by saying we have been eating GMO’s for a long time as if the GMOs that we have been eating are the same as the ones GM’d in a lab.

         
        • marcbrazeau

          No, he very clearly says that the kind of genetic modification that we’ve been doing since the beginning is called “artificial selection”. Then he says that it makes no scientific sense to object to artificial selection when we start doing it in a lab. And he’s absolutely correct on the science. The psychology is a different matter.

           
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            What? Psychology? That has nothing to do with this topic at all. Are you being sarcastic?

            I haven’t re watched the video, but based on your quotes I don’t need to. he says that it makes no scientific sense to object to artificial selection when we start doing it in a lab. He makes that statement based on the fact that we have been doing “artificial selection for so long. He’s basically saying what’s the difference, it makes no sense to object to it just because we do it in a lab now. This Is the whole reason he brought up “artificial selection” to begin with, to compare and then use it as an example of how they’re the same or similar enough that it promotes no danger. You are either arguing semantics or somethings going over your head.

             
          • “This Is the whole reason he brought up “artificial selection” to begin with, to compare and then use it as an example of how they’re the same or similar enough that it promotes no danger.”

            A. “Compare” is the key word.
            B. That characterization squares exactly with the science.
            C. You are playing to semantics by trying to erase the distinction he made between classic techniques and new techniques.

            It’s absolutely true that the vast majority of scientists work in the relevant fields see no difference in the risks associated with biotech breeding from the risks associated with classical selective breeding.

             
          • marcbrazeau

            What we are talking about is risk perception. That is a psychological phenomenon.

            NDT is absolutely correct that their is no scientific reason why biotech techniques would be inherently riskier than what had been doing previously. The reasons why some people have difficulty accepting or grasping that are psychological in nature.

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            I didn’t even finish the video, I might later on. The problem with communication of science to the general public is that this video was posted in 2012 and the vaccination for the HPV virus has been recently pulled from the shelves as it has crippled and or killed thousands upon thousands of women and young girls. Also there’s the little issue of science being suppressed by corporations (Monsantos roundup must finally be labeled a carcinogen now) or scientist being bought as there were many scientist backing up the false claim that global warming doesn’t exist. And Global warming is a bad example as the only people who bought into that were bible thumping republicans and the ignorant of the ignorant who sadly make up a majority of the country. The reality is GMO’s were put into application before the science of their safety existed (that’s why the science is being done now ). There’s a reason for that, which is corporations weighed the risk to the issues it may cause them in the future and decided to gamble(as many corporations do). They used money to buy their way in without the science. Now they are the ones doing the science, it makes no sense but for some reason many like your self except it. I’m sorry but I will continue to have my sane skepticism. Ho by the way, thiomersal in flu vaccines is a problem, and so is water fluoridation just so you know.

             
    • hyperzombie

      Hilarious, Jeffrey Smith a flying yoga, ballroom dance instructor, explaining to a scientist how the science works…. Just way too,,,funny. What is Pee-Wee Herman’s opinion on GMOs, or maybe the gas station attendant?

       
      • rootbeer08530yahoocom

        I’m pretty sure he states his occupation…

         
        • hyperzombie

          No he clearly states that he is not a scientist.
          Here is a pic of him practicing flying yoga.

           
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            My bad you’re right, I jumped to conclusions. He states that he interviewed many scientist on the topic. If you actually listen to him it makes sense you’ll also need to read up on some topics to confirm, but I mean your basically taking Monsanto and an astrophysicist ones a company selling you GMO’s and the other is a scientist in a field that couldn’t be further from genetics and biology. Opposed to a guy who has been advocating against GMO’s since almost day one (20 years ago) He has had to have learn something. I would take a gas station attendants word for over Neil’s any day it if he’s been immersed in the subject for 20 years. Neils got a huge ego and talks out of his ass some times. I don’t know what’s with the flying but the university that Jeff went to was given a 2.4 million dollar grant to study the effect of meditation on returning vets. The yogic flying looks pretty interesting I think i’m going to try it out, probably does wonders for the core.

             
          • hyperzombie

            “If you actually listen to him it makes sense “

            well if you know nothing about farming.

            “you’ll also need to read up on some topics to confirm,”

            No because he is full of sh1t.

            “Opposed to a guy who has been advocating against GMO’s since almost day one”

            And why does he do this??? so he can sell his overpriced crap on the internet.

            “I would take a gas station attendants word for over Neil’s any day it if he’s been immersed in the subject for 20 years”

            Good luck with that, like are you serious?

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            You do realize the science done to deem GMO’s safe was done by the very company selling the GMO products right so I could say the same to you about selling shit. Neil Degrasse Tyson has done any research on the subject if he did he would have gone into more depth. He’s breaking his own rules. I wrote that last night, and now have just watched his statement about GMO’s in the original post. Where he takes a stance on the subject (he took a side). Then I Googled Neil Degrasse Tyson GMO’s. There was a link to his FINAL say on the matter. He says GMO are a powerful tool if done correctly and the food produced are tested and and that he can’t understand why people thought he was taking sides. He back peddled because he was talking out of his ass. http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/scientist-who-discovered-gmos-cause-tumors-in-rats-wins-landmark-defamation-lawsuit-in-paris/

             
          • “You do realize the science done to deem GMO’s safe was done by the very company selling the GMO products”

            There has been tons of independent research that demonstrates the same things, comes to the same conclusions. Biotech breeding is done based on our understanding of genetics and that understanding has been borne out in application.

            http://fafdl.org/gmobb/about-those-industry-funded-gmo-studies/

             
          • hyperzombie

            who else would you want to pay for GMO studies?

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            Oh dear lord. comparing ethical to economical in rebuttal to my point on ethics, after just counter pointing me with ethics. Are you arguing objectively or to win?

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            Somebody who doesn’t have an interest in pushing their products, obviously.

             
          • hyperzombie

            Oh like the EU, that just finished a 100 million euro study on GMOs and found them to be as safe or safer than conventional crops?

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            There has been suppressed and manipulation of science. http://www.healthnutnews.com/scientist-who-discovered-gmos-cause-tumors-in-rats-wins-landmark-defamation-lawsuit-in-paris/
            There’s probably many more similar situations like this that we will never hear of. Also it’s funny how many countries in the EU have banns or restrictions on GMO’s along with may others that are not in the EU. Funny how the US, with the heaviest of corporate shackles and largest producer of GM corps in the world has no bans or restrictions what so ever. We are going to start labeling products but only because Monsanto agreed to it on their terms (witch i’m sure will be riddled with technicalities and gray area). It’s a fucking joke that anyone trust these companies with the behavior conducted by them. Then there’s the issues that Neil doesn’t touch on and I’m sure the reason he back pedals in his last statement on the matter. Which is that some of the GM specifications for many crops is to survive mass amounts of herbicides (Roundup). Not only is genetics behind these modification probably not compatible with living organisms based on the fact that the genetic makeup based on the ability to handle man made toxic chemicals (science behind round up ‘monsantos product’ suppressed and manipulated and is now well known to be a carcinogen).The herbicides them selves are damaging to the environment.

             
          • hyperzombie

            Healthnutnews??? WTF, you cant be serious? You do know that that site is Mercola’s wife’s Woo site. They make millions selling overpriced unlabeled “Natural Health” products to dupes like you.

            GMOs are not banned in the EU, they import millions of tons of them every year.

            GMOs are highly regulated in the US, unlike the “Natural Health” products that people like Mercola sell for massive profits.

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            Doesn’t matter about the site. The court hearing took place and the outcome actually happened. You can look it up your self. It’s pretty strait forward information that has no relevance to who reports it unless it’s manipulated by the reporter. In this case it has not.

            I’m sure Monsanto has long known roundup was a carcinogen but they did everything in their power to keep that under the table. Shit like that happens all the time.

            Obviously you can genetically modify something and have it come out healthy and have little to no impact on the environment and what ever consumes it. But we have not done the science to know the difference plain and simple. Horizontal gene transfer is a relatively new realization in higher organisms, we don’t know enough. It’s funny how when exciting things come along science and legislation makes us wait an eternity for it to become applicable. While corporate pushed GMO’s came into play before the science existed. Not to mention every GMO is different so the science must be done for pretty much every new modification. That’s a lot to keep up with and I’m sure corporations will cut corners every step of the way.

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            Doesn’t matter the court hearing took place and the outcome actually happened. You can google it if you like…

             
          • ANDRE B THOMAS

            You’ll find this interesting as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvFD6DRn0Cg

             
          • ANDRE B THOMAS

            Please, just watch this TED talk. If you really want to be knowledgeable in general, then listening to a TED talk shouldn’t be a qualm.

             
          • Reality022

            Bwahahaha!
            Yogic flying – where some lunatic bounces around on a mat in the lotus position like some deranged assaroo claiming he’s “levitating” and not just bouncing off the mat.
            That’s a real sanity test, and you’ve caught JS demonstrating his lunacy.

            I’d believe anything this wacko says.

             
          • rootbeer08530yahoocom

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlw8CxTkyxA

            I’m going to fly my way to spiritual enlightenment!

             
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