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View Diary: GMOs: What we can all agree on (230 comments)

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  •  Both those two changes would be excellent (8+ / 0-)

    Expect to have it fought tooth and nail.

    The GMO/not is a simple label, and it's made the simpler by the fact that you can just assume for example that conventional corn is GMO.

    The problem is that if you have to label the specific variety, they can't commingle it in distribution. That's a dealbreaker for them.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 11:42:02 AM PDT

    •  A GMO/Not GMO label (17+ / 0-)

      would definitely address the issues that most anti-GMOers have with the technology at this point in time - when it's all about selling more environmentally destructive chemicals to chemical-based agribusiness, as well as monopolizing the seed market worldwide.

      When or if Monsanto, et al. actually do start producing GMO cultivars that address real nutritional concerns, they can add the asterisks and supplemental info on exactly what has been added.

      Right now, I just want to avoid feeding GMOs of any variety to my family. I grow organics and can buy organics (when I've got enough money to do so), but not everybody has enough money to do that. Processed food producers could buy non-GMO and offer versions of their products at similar price and gain that anti-GMO market, while still selling lots to those who don't care and don't read labels. That would be good.

      It's all about how the pro-GMO folks don't want us to get the simple information that would allow us to avoid. And now that we know the wheat is contaminated with a GMO that never got approved at all - and the North American corn seed bank is similarly contaminated - things are just looking impossible. We don't want their damned GMOs. Labeling GMO/not gives us that fair choice. Though now they'll probably have to give us a "less than X amount" qualifier on the wheat, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, etc. That's a real shame.

      •  This is my problem. (6+ / 0-)

        I am not anti-GMO per se, but the way they have been developed to increase dependence on a chemical product such as glyphosphate. BT GMOs contain poisons that indiscriminately kill insects and anyone who has had their car covered with yellow powder during pollinating season knows that pollen drifts.
        As to nutritional benefits, I would like to see evidence of the success of "golden rice" in bringing increased vitamin A to vulnerable populations. That benefit was touted by developers in Science News at the very beginning of the GMO revolution.
        There have been GMO potato varieties that use genes from one variety of potato to decrease bruising in others. This is just a shortcut around generations of selective breeding. I have no problem with that.

        You..ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes. -Mother Jones

        by northsylvania on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 03:04:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  To my knowledge there is no firm (6+ / 0-)

          information on how successful golden rice would be in delivering vitamin A to vulnerable populations. That's a big deal for me. The fact that we have innumerable GMOs that increase profits already developed while the product which had been pushed as the main justification for genetic modification of food speaks volumes to me as to the motivations of the companies doing the development. These companies are worried about money and only money and I don't trust their research at all.

          If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

          by AoT on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 05:01:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The alternative to GMO crops that contain (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Anne Elk

          Bt toxins is to spray the toxins directly on the crops.

          That actually is much worse for indiscriminatingly killing insects because the spray tends to drift all over the place.

          By contrast, if an insect, say a Monarch Butterfly is minding it's own business just eating it's natural food (milkweed?) it will never be in danger from the Bt-containing crop.  Which in not the case if the Bt was sprayed on the crop and the poor butterfly happened to be passing by at the time . . . .

          •  BT was never sprayed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sewaneepat, Joieau

            in any great quantities as far as I know. Before it was banned for home use, on account of BT GMOs and the danger of getting a resistant bug population, it was used by organic gardeners almost exclusively on brassicas to destroy cabbage moth caterpillars, and it worked quite well. Splicing genes from bacillus thuringiensis into corn, which liberates great quantities of pollen all over the countryside, including onto milkweeds, is a recipe for disaster. Not that many places in the US are miles away from a cornfield, and those that are, are undergoing drought conditions.

            You..ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes. -Mother Jones

            by northsylvania on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 01:09:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bt was sprayed on bagworms.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy, northsylvania

              Although I don't know that it was a big aerial program.  is bt banned for home use?  You can but it at Lowes online as dipel.

              You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

              by murrayewv on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 03:37:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Well, there are websites that say things like this (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              northsylvania, Involuntary Exile
              Increasingly, the types of Bt being used are rare strains that are performance-enhanced or sometimes genetically engineered. The use of Bt pesticides has spread from farms and occasional homeowner use to the spraying of millions of acres every year around the world, often over large tracts of forest land or areas with large urban populations.

              The Bt strains being used are applied at rates up to one billion times the natural levels. Often, they wipe out entire families of insects in the sprayed areas. For instance, Btk, a strain used to control moth pests such as tussock and gypsy moth, kills all insects in the Lepidoptera family (moths and butterflies). Soil biota is also affected – there is evidence to show that nematodes and predator insects (that would naturally control the pest population) are depressed also.

              it could just be made up, who knows.

              etc etc

            •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Anne Elk
              Before [bt] was banned for home use
              I just did a Google search for bacillus thuringiensis and I found bt for sale right here, and several pages of links to where it can be purchased for home use.

              "Treat others as you would like them to treat you." -St. Luke 6: 31 (NEB) Christians are given a tough assignment here: Love the people you don't even like...

              by paz3 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:36:42 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I used it on my roses but it didn't seem to work. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy

              So I switched to chemical sprays. Then I thought, "the heck with that; the caterpillars don't do too much damage." Now I just ignore them. Actually it underlines one thing about pesticides: some of the most dangerous and egregious misusers of pesticides are home gardeners.  

              Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

              by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:11:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not a scientist, but it seems to me that (3+ / 0-)

            there is a huge difference between dusting a specific plant at a specific time when a specific insect appears (ie, dusting cabbage when you see cabbage moths) and inserting the pesticide in the genes of all plants so that it is pervasive. Sort of like the difference between prescribing a specific antibiotic when a person has a specific germ and prescribing a broad spectrum antibiotic every time someone has a sore throat or cough.

            You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

            by sewaneepat on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 04:16:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The pesticide isn't in the genes of all plants (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Anne Elk

              it is rather a myth that transgenes inserted in GMO crops spread throughout nature and contaminate everything.

              And it probably would be more sensible to have the Bt toxin in the plants controlled by an inducible promoter, this approach would make it less likely that pesticide resistant insects would develop.  

              •  It is in the genes of all Bt corn plants. (3+ / 0-)

                I'd be willing to bet that in a few years, Bt resistant corn ear worms will be a problem. Rootworms are already showing resistance.

                http://www.care2.com/...

                You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

                by sewaneepat on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 04:53:57 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Sure, if a single pesticide is used resistance (0+ / 0-)

                  is sure to develop.

                  A sensible approach would have dozens of different variants that were randomly (or in some way) changed from year to year and place to place to avoid resistance.

                  You know, kind of like nature does it - in this particular case, the "natural" approach IS better.    

                  What puzzles me, however, is that people are so much less afraid of natural pesticides compared to "man-made" ones (with "man-made" in quotations because sometimes females are also involved in the production process and / or because the compounds are usually just natural products slightly tweaked . . . .).

                  •  Bt is a natural pesticide so far as I know. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Roadbed Guy, Involuntary Exile

                    For me, my concern about Bt corn is not that I don't like Bt - I think it is wonderful. It is the overuse of it that concerns me. I don't know how the different variants of Bt would work since I believe that different variants kill different larvae.

                    One reason I see for people being more concerned with manmade pesticides than natural ones is that in nature, there is often more than one active ingredient, some of which mitigate against harmful side effects of other active ingredients. I don't know that is the reason, but it is one reason I prefer natural medicines where practicable to man-made ones where one active ingredient is isolated from other components of the plant. (Obviously, that is not always practical - no one is going to inject vinca instead of vincristine for leukemia; however, people in China have been using ma huang for thousands of years for respiratory problems, yet it was only when companies began isolating the ephedra alkaloids and combining them with caffeine that cardiac events led to the banning of a perfectly good medicine when used properly.)

                    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

                    by sewaneepat on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 06:34:45 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  You Shouldn't Be Surprised... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Involuntary Exile
                    What puzzles me, however, is that people are so much less afraid of natural pesticides compared to "man-made" ones
                    Surely you are well informed enough to know that many reports have been published about the persistence of chlorinated hydrocarbon-based pesticides and herbicides in human tissues, and their carcinogenic properties? Even though these substances have been largely phased out, chlorinated hydrocarbon 2,4-D is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, and is the third most commonly used herbicide in North America.

                    "Treat others as you would like them to treat you." -St. Luke 6: 31 (NEB) Christians are given a tough assignment here: Love the people you don't even like...

                    by paz3 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:47:42 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  One example is an anecdote and means very (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Anne Elk

                      little - I provided links for the the prevalence of natural chlorinated hydrocarbons elsewhere in the comments to this diary, for example if that is the type of chemical you are particular concerned about.  One issue is definitely the overuse of pesticides in agriculture, that is quite outrageous (as is the overuse of fertilizers, which has killed off thousands of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico - way worse than BP's efforts, for whatever that's worth).

                      Or another way to look at what my main point was - i.e., a comparison of natural and synthetic compounds is to peruse the most toxic substances on earth - the vast majority are natural products

                      Another concern, aside from immediate toxicity is long term health consequences, such as mutagenicity (that could lead to cancer, birth defects, etc).   A pioneer in this field is Bruce Ames - whose work is described in Wikipedia:

                      Ames on synthetic carcinogens [edit]

                      Bruce Ames developed the Ames test, described in series of papers in the 1970s, which is a cheap and convenient assay for mutagens and therefore potential carcinogens. The Ames test uses the bacteria Salmonella typhimurium to test for mutagens. Previous carcinogenic testing used live animals, and are therefore expensive and time-consuming. This made animal testing impractical for use in screening on a wide scale, and reduced the number of compounds that could be tested. The Ames test is widely used as an initial screen for possible carcinogens and has been used to identify potential carcinogens previously used in commercial products,[4] and their identification led to some of those formulations, such as chemicals used in hair dye,[5] being withdrawn from commercial use. The ease with which Ames test allows widely-used chemicals to be identified as possible carcinogens made him an early hero of environmentalism.[6]

                      Subsequent work in Ames' lab involved looking at an overview of what was mutagenic or carcinogenic, and to what degree. Previously, scientists tended to only look for positive or negative results without considering the magnitude of the effect, which meant that as more and more items were shown to be potentially mutagenic, there was no system for evaluating the relative dangers. He also continued to test various natural and man-made compounds, and discovered that, despite what he and others had assumed, naturally occurring compounds were not turning out to be benign as compared to man-made ones. His continued work eventually led to his falling out of favor with many environmentalists as natural chemicals turned out to also be frequently mutagenic

                      In fact, his group systematically tested thousands of compounds and roughly the same proportion (~50/50) of both synthetic and natural chemicals were mutagenic in his assay.
                    •  Good point, Paz3 (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Roadbed Guy

                      I have argued that the steady replacement of the pretty toxic 2,4-D by glyphosate, thanks to Roundup Ready strains, is a major improvement in pesticide safety. You'd think environmentalists would be applauding the introduction of these strains. For those who don't know what 2,4-D is, think Agent Orange. It's a pretty nasty chemical. Glyphosate isn't.

                      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

                      by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:17:37 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Yeah, most of the egregiously toxic (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Anne Elk

                        pesticides of the WW2 era are not being used much anymore, at least not in the USA.

                        But they apparently still can be pulled out of internet searches to serve as scary boogeymen (as compared to nice cuddly boogeymen!) when the situation warrants.

                •  Well, that will solve the problem, won't it? (0+ / 0-)

                  It's like being opposed to using penicillin because of the rise of resistant bacteria. Bt-resistant insects are like DDT-resistant insects. We just move onto the next strategy.

                  Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

                  by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:13:51 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, your analogy is not at all apropos to my (0+ / 0-)

                    position. I oppose indiscriminate use of Bt and indiscriminate use of penicillin and that is something quite different from being opposed to using penicillin or Bt.

                    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

                    by sewaneepat on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:43:25 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  The Bt toxins were NEVER used (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Anne Elk

            as insecticides. The hard-shell 'spores' of the dormant bacterium were sprayed/dusted onto crops. When the larvae of that bacterium's target insect ingested the spore, its digestive enzymes dissolved the shell and activated the bacteria in its gut. When active - and ONLY when active - the bacteria produces the toxin. This toxin kills the insect larvae, it falls to the ground and decays, releasing the bacteria, which once again go dormant in spores as part of the soil and wait for the next time a worm/caterpillar/grub eats them.

            Bt spores have no effect whatsoever on adult insects - a monarch might not like getting so dusty, but that's it. There is no toxin on/in the spores - it's just dirt until the larval butterfly babies ingest them.

            •  I've seen you post that information before (0+ / 0-)

              (also without any links)

              Just posting it over again doesn't make it any truer.

              Here's what actually happens:

              "All Bt products, including Foray and DiPel, are produced in a similar fashion.  The Btk is grown in large enclosed fermentation tanks.  Foray and DiPel are produced using ingredients and a technology which are similar to those used to make beer or spirits.  During fermentation, the bacteria (Btk) reproduce in a pre-sterilized growth medium containing basic food sources, such as corn, potatoes, grains, etc.  After the fermentation process is complete and the bacteria are grown, the fermentation material, including the Btk, is collected.  This material becomes the basic ingredient of Foray and DiPel.  

              This basic ingredient is composed of the Btk, which is the active ingredient, and the residual fermentation growth material and water.

              So, so far we've learned that the toxin is a fermentation product, not a spore

              But wait, there's more:

              How Btk works -

              •Gypsy moth caterpillars must eat Btk for it to be effictive because it interferes with the digestion system.  The active ingredient is a crystal protein toxin formed by the bacteria. The alkaline gut and enzimes that only caterpillars have activate the toxin that kills the cells lining, stopping the caterpillar from feeding and dies withing 2 to 5 days.  This alkaline condition is not present in the stomachs of humans,birds, or fish and other animals.

              link

              So, bottom line - the toxin has already been produced by bacteria grown in a production facility someplace.  Maybe in New Jersey, maybe in south central China.  I don't really know but that's not all that germane.  What is important is that the formulation used as a pesticide DOES NOT CONSIST OF SPORES that give rise to live bacteria in the target insects' guts.

              •  I Think The Lawn Grub Treatment Is The Live Bt nt (3+ / 0-)

                There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

                by bernardpliers on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:11:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  OK, that makes sense, you'd want (0+ / 0-)

                  something like a spore - which is rather inert - just to sit there all growing season waiting for a grub to come and eat it.

                  But from my Googling (which didn't turn up that application, it must be a rather niche use of Bt) the vast majority of this toxin used as a pesticide seems to be the proteinacous form.  One of the "benefits" seems to be a short half life after application, which makes sense since naked proteins usually aren't that stable (e.g., because the "environment" is full of proteases).  The spores, by contrast, would almost by definition be designed/evolved to be resistant to degradation.

              •  This is NOT the Bt (0+ / 0-)

                which has long been approved for dusting onto organic crops. You know this, I suspect.

                •  Did you read the links I gave? (0+ / 0-)

                  That's exactly what it is used for - for "dusting" crops.  In vast quantities.

                  If you're nitpicking about "organic" crops - I don't get your point,  I never claimed that is what it was being used for.

          •  Better Detailing, Please! (0+ / 0-)

            Your initial contention seems sound, but you are lacking essential specifics. Some might call that disingenuous.

            To directly spray bt, it is dissolved in water. By virtue of the weight of water, said spray will drift far less than (bt containing) pollen, pollen having evolved to drift.

            What you infer about bt spray contaminating the natural food of Monarch larva is on point, but it would not affect an (adult) Monarch 'passing by' as bt only affects moths or butterfiles in the larval (caterpillar) stage.

            "Treat others as you would like them to treat you." -St. Luke 6: 31 (NEB) Christians are given a tough assignment here: Love the people you don't even like...

            by paz3 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:30:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  As a person (15+ / 0-)

        who had to patent a seed to keep it from being gobbled up by monsanto I agree. My seed is very old from a crop that is considered obsolete called a wedge pea. I offered it on the seedsavers exchange for many years. Had Monsanto actually gotten ahold of it I would no longer have been able to legally grow it even though it has been grown by my family for over 100 years.

        My problems with GMOs revolve around this sort of thing and the fact that the current federal masterplan is to encourage all the food to be grown in specific regions on huge mon cropping mechanized farms.

        This has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Agribusiness and their scientists seem to know zero about good farming practices. Because of that I really do not trust them not to screw up with this technology.

        It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

        by PSWaterspirit on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 06:30:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Monsanto Made A Lot Of Enemies With Those Moves (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          onanthebarbarian, Anne Elk

          Those are business practices, not science, but it all gets tossed in the same basket.

          There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

          by bernardpliers on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 07:12:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You patented something used commercially (0+ / 0-)

          for 100 years?  Please give your patent number, if this was successful.  As I understand the patent system, this should not have been possible, since patents are intended to protect novelty.

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 03:52:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Lathyrus sativus? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mikidee

            Maybe you can patent a variety, but this seems like a variant of the patenting efforts for basmati rice.  Honestly, I have heard so many untrue things from folks opposed to GMOs, I find it hard to get to the bottom of comments like this is a blog post.  I keep reading Mona to is trying to patent common varieties of seeds and everything I know about patents ( and I teach about them in college to science entrepreneurs) tells me this is not possible.  In the sir it of open mindedness, I would like a citation to patenting of common seed varieties by Monsanto or any other biotech companies, other than bad stifled, which was shot down.

            You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

            by murrayewv on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 04:04:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, I thought the same thing (0+ / 0-)

            Patents have about a 17-year life. Some people seem to have the idea that patents are forever.

            Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

            by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:27:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  As an older person.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mikidee

        I know some of the first GMOs developed were nutritionally complete, high lysine corn.  These genetics were given away to scientists in Mexico in the 1980s when Agrigenetics closed down and the remnants were sold to Mycogen which was eventually bought out by DowAgro.  The nutritionally complete beans were abandoned when adding the brazil nut lectins were found to risk more nut allergies in people.  The biggest problem in this is no economic advantage in nutritionally complete crops for staples, except in the developing world, where there was little seed selling.  So the little, idealistic companies like Agrigenetics or Agracetus got bought up by big chemical companies and herbicides and Bt were the main products commercialized.  

        The baby got thrown out with the bathwater in all the development.  And the antiGMO rhetoric of the left has led to stigmatization of GMOs as evil and unnatural, while not leading to real improvements in sustainable agriculture for the most food vulnerable nations.  We live in abundance while the world is at threat of overpopulation, and folks here oversimplify the problems.  Agriculture is a complex system, and systems are resistant to change.  If we add an improved seed to a system, that can make a big difference quickly.  That is the hope of GMOs and other plant breeding programs.

        You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

        by murrayewv on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 03:29:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Enough food is grown (0+ / 0-)

          to provide a perfectly adequate diet for every human being on the planet. The failure to provide that is almost entirely a political problem and increasing the amount of food grown does nothing to address that political problem.

          Hence we see people literally starving to death in entire regions while the average populations in other regions (or just the privileged in the same regions) consume so much they become too obese to even move their bulk around.

          •  All GMO Debates Must Come Around To Complaints (0+ / 0-)

            ....that GMO are not a tool of social engineering to create the critics personal vision of utopia.

            There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

            by bernardpliers on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:14:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Not in the face of global warming. (0+ / 0-)

            Major climate changes and major expansions in the ranges of crop parasites will radically change this reality. In 50 years, we will be in tremendous trouble with respect to global crop yields.

            Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

            by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:30:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think it would (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        The parallel is with the Right to Life folks. They want an end to legal abortion. Nothing less. The anti-GMO people do not want GMO anywhere anytime. Nothing less. The labeling issue is just a tactic in a zero sum game.

        Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

        by Anne Elk on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 02:07:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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