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Forum posts for G.M. Foods

Posted by Miguel on Feb 16, 2004
Well as far as I know, just because a tomato has some genetic information from a fish does not mean that you will be allergic to tomatoes with fish DNA in it. It doesn't work like that.

Ditto with the religious and vegetarian argument, a tomato with some DNA from a fish to make it resistant to freezing is still a tomato. The philosophical or ethical considerations that make a vegetarian not want to eat meat should not affect a vegetable that has fish DNA. Its not an animal, or animal by-product like milk or cheese....its just a vegetable.

The superbug argument is a strong one against GMO's, but we have been genetically modifying food for centuries if not millenia. Tangerines, Grapefruits, tomatoes, wheat ...virtually everything you find in your produce section comes from lots careful mixing and pollinating of different strains to create a vegetable that grows faster or is hardier etc. etc. The new kind of genetic manipulation could just be looked at as a faster, more versatile version of what we have been doing for a long long time.

I look at GMO's like a tool....if properly used, we could be growing vegetables in regions like Africa that have problems growing crops. Wheat that requires virtually no water or can grow in clay like soil is possible with genetic manipulation.

Posted by crux on Feb 16, 2004
To a large extent, I agree with Miguel's final point. GMO's could be used to the benefit of the entire planet. Well, first of all to the benefit of those selling said MO's, and then to the rest of the planet. The quality of life could be raised for many areas of the world, and as a result countless lives could be saved.

Now, this is the part that keeps stabbing me in the brain, and understand that I don't like thinking in this direction..but people have to die. Every single day, people have to die. Lots of people have to die to make room for other people to be born. Don't read this as a total damnation of everything that could potentially save lives, or even the original topic of GMO's. This is just something that's been on my mind more and more lately, and almost fit the discussion.

The further we go forward, the closer we come to a point beyond which our planet cannot sustain our species.

Yes and No.
Posted by phduffy on Feb 16, 2004
Larissa, you make some good points.

Personally, I don't have any problem with GM foods. As Miguel said, pretty much every food you eat has been modified, the difference is that we now do it in one generation instead of 100. We can get good things from this. For example, the number of people going blind in China is absolutely ridiculous. And the Chinese eat alot of rice. So, they've modified certain rice to produce 'golden' rice. This is a rice with an added vitamin (I forget which one, it's the one that makes you not go blind... what's in carrots?) It also turns the rice yellow. And it appears to be a good thing.

However, with that said, I understand that there are people that have an issue with GM foods, and I support the effort to label them. You should have to right to eat them or not eat them.

So, don't ban them, just label them!

Crux, I disagree with what you were saying about people dying. If you asked someone 200 years ago if the planet could support 3 billion people, they would have looked at you like you were insane and said no. If you asked someone 100 or even 50 years ago if we could sustain 6 billion people, they would have looked at you like you were insane.

Also, an important thing to remember about world economics is that as a country gets richer, it's citizens have fewer children. Almost every Western Country is below the replacement level of childbirth! If not for immigration, the Western world would get smaller and smaller. (Replacement level is 2.1 children per person). I think Italy is actually shrinking.
So, there's a tradeoff. As we become richer we use more resources, but there are less of us.

don't worry... be happy
Posted by alltogethernow on Feb 16, 2004
A) I agree with Miguel completely, GMO's are an issue that was blown out of proportion several years ago. It is stupid not to use such a great tool. Sure giant chemical conglomerates will be the main benefactors at first, but given time it will only be a boon for the human race as a whole.

2) I agree with larissa as well... on one point anyways. Make it necessary to label GMO's so at least people can choose. The right to make an infformed decision is a right I will always support.

D) Seth you can't look at things that way. If you think about things that way you might as well say:

"Nothing really matters. Whatever Mankind does, whatever it builds, whatever it creates, will all be erased in about 5 billion years when the Sun dies."


Really thats just one way to look at it.....
And why worry?
President Bush is taking us all to Mars... don't you remember?

Posted by crux on Feb 16, 2004
My point isn't that I think nothing matters, and we're all doomed. If I really felt that way, I probably wouldn't have bothered to post anything.

My point is that we (meaning the future of our species, not the present world population) are in danger of overloading the system if we don't spend just as much time considering the consequences of our good intentions, as we do realizing them.

Paul: If you asked someone 100 years ago if they believed that tiny creatures called "germs" were the basic cause of disease and infection, they would have looked at you like you were insane as well.

Germs exist, and they cause infections. The world population is increasing, and the planet's potential for sustaining life is finite.


"Getting rid of viruses is an admirable idea, but it raises enormous problems. In the first 1,400 years of the Christian era, population numbers were virtually stationary. Through epidemics, nature compensated for excess births by excess deaths. I talked about this problem with the director of the Egyptian Academy of Sciences. He told me that scientists were appalled to think that by the year 2080 the population of Egypt might reach 250 million. What should we do to eliminate suffering and disease? It's a wonderful idea but perhaps not altogether a beneficial one in the long run. If we try to implement it we may jeopardize the future of our species. It's terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn't even say it. But the general situation in which we are involved is lamentable." - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Come on, how can you disagree with Jacques Cousteau?

Posted by phduffy on Feb 16, 2004
Crux, I'm not sure about this, but I'm pretty sure that you just proved my point.
If you asked them about germs, they would have looked at you crazy.
Doesn't that prove that we can't even guess at the things that science and nature are possible of?

There is no evidence that the planet's potential for sustaining life is finite. Or rahter, there is no evidence that it is possible to reach the planet's limit.
Now, this may lead you to say "Don't be silly, there has to be some limit, we can't keep going on like this forever". To which I say, well, that makes sense. But some things don't make sense.

I... guh... crap.
Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
I had no idea that so many people liked GMF's. My position is "What the hell are you talking about??!!!".

First of all you must realize that it is all or nothing. If you start GMing stuff then that stuff is what will carry on. The origional strain will die off.

When you GM a field of beans it becomes "better". These "better" beans will be hardier and so forth. Now let's say that your next door neighbor is also growing a field of beans, but they don't believe in GMing shit. Well I guess that your neighbor is just SOL because your "better" beans will propogate with their regular beans to basically end up with your "better" beans.

gotta move a desk, will bitch later...

Posted by nszyngie on Feb 17, 2004
I too agree with Miguel. Misinformation to the general public has led to GMF unpopularity. I think the media has a slow few months and chose to blow this one out fo proportion and make up some horror stories to sell some magazines.

I think a lot of the fear comes from not understanding the process. People need to be educated, so they can make 'informed' choices, not what is force-fed to them by media types.

a bit more
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 17, 2004
okay, as for the fish inside a tomato argument . . .

there are consistencies in DNA across the food chain - from spiders to monkeys to humans. The protein in fish that prevents tomatoes from being suseptible to frost is found in other plants and animals as well. However, some species are easier to manipulate and harvest than others - hence, fish (a particular species of fish too, in this case) were chosen for several reasons:

1) They produce larger amounts of the protein, making it easier to identify.
2) It is more potent than similar proteins, making it 'best in class'.

But at the end of it all, it is just the protein in question that is being used. The protein doesn't smell like fish, or taste like fish, or swim like fish. It is just a protein, that helps to delay the onset of frost. The protein is spliced into the DNA of the tomato plant, and tests are run. If it were a radioactive fish, I might have a problem . . . but this - I believe is okay . . .

(I could be mixing up something here - I think the tomatos have proteins that extend shelf life . . . and other crops use the frsot-preventative one . . . but you get the idea)

All or Nothing.
Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
Keep in mind that Science often has... shall we say... unexpected results.

One of these unexpected results could be like an alergy, or it could be worse. And since the new strain, which could potentially cause unexpected problems, would quickly become dominant, we could not go back to the origional natural strain.

Also please remember about introduced species. Examples: the cain toad, that purple shit that clogs things up, dingos, those zebra mussel dealies, etc. If you start modifying the DNA of stuff, you are changing it, with the intention of making it better (but remember that science has unexpected results). This changed stuff is similar to introducing a new species into an ecosystem. It is next to impossible to contain, and it drastically affects the natural ecosystem. If you introduce something new, something old must die off to make room.

You can't get something from nothing. But apparently the laws of Thermodynamics are all bullshit. Perpetual motion (which isn't perpetual motion) is coming. Zero Point!! We have no need to GM shit. Once we has almost unlimited and almost free power we can feed everybody with what we already have. The big thing is: will we choose to
do it?

We can already feed everybody with our current technology and resources. We choose not to do it. I fail to see what GMing things will accomplish in that area. Politics and money are what keep people starving. If you took all of the money that has and will go into GMing foods and instead put it into shipping current food from the places that have excess to the places that have nothing we could feed at least most of the straving people. Will that happen? Not likely since all of that money is corporate and they can't amke money by feeding the starving for free.

Fuck it, noone cares. At the very least label it.

I see...
Posted by Miguel on Feb 17, 2004
And Mike's point about the propagation is probably the strongest argument against GMO's.

Yes there is a danger that genetically manipulated strains can spread and combine with normal strains of a particular vegetable or grain....but the government takes great pains to stop that from happening. GMO crops need to be isolated for several miles and there are strong measures in place for those who break those rules.

And the problem of vegetable strains being replaced has been going on forever! What you buy in the grocery store are the 2 or 3 varieties of tomatoes that have been chosen by the retailer. There are hundreds and hundreds of different varieties of tomatoes but they are disappearing because of the way we obtain our food and how our economy works. Many old strains vanish into the air because no one bothers to cultivate them anymore, that to me is much more important than people freaking out about GMO's.

There are groups and clubs of people that are dedicated to cultivating and sharing classic varieties of various vegetables. If you are really concerned about the disappearance of these strains then join up and start growing!

Government!? Measures!?!! Toenail!!??
Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
Nice to hear that the government is taking great pains to stop propogation of GMF's. The only problem is that the range of propogation is not several miles. Several hundred miles perhaps, but not several.
The range of propogation is determined by the range of anything that carries pollen like birds, bees, humans etc. What is the range of the wind? Pollen blows around in the wind, if it hits an updraft how can you determine how far away it might get? How did vegetation get onto the islands located hundreds of miles from anything else?

I don't see the GMF debate as anything other than what Humans as the dominant species on the planet should and shouldn't be able to do.

If you want GMF's then we should probably just kill all the "useless" life on the planet to make room for more pastures for cattle (or whatever we decide we want cattle to become) and growing food. We should probably just start strip mining everything to get every last bit of useful mineral we can. We should put ourselves totally in the hands of science and assume that we can find a way to fix all of the problems we have created and are yet to create.. some day. We should burn all of the fossil fuels, then we should look into an alternative. We are in control, we should just take what we can, when we can, while we can.

GM all you want, just do it on Mars or something. I see it only taking one or two genetic manipulation mistakes to cause a HUGE problem.

What problems does GMed food solve that cannot be solved another way? And then ask what problems could GMed food etc. potentially create. Is it worth the risk? I say no. Especially when you consider that you can't go back. There is no magical reset button if we screw up too bad.

I see no relevant advantage to GMing food. Why? What is the point? Where do we stop?

A few thoughts
Posted by kristian on Feb 17, 2004
1) Bring on the GMO really good positive side to GMO is that you can add the gene for Bt toxin to fruits and vegetables...which is a protein produced by bacteria that is toxic to certain insects and pests, but not toxic to humans or other animals...big plus, now we could be growing our tomatos with less pesticides. If given the choice, I would certainly pick a tomatoe with a foreign protein than a foreign chemical in it.

2) I truly believe that the Earth will sort herself out. If we end starvation and milllions of people stop dying of hunger, then certianly SARS or bird flu or small pox will step in. Or maybe just an old fashioned earth quake or monsoon. When we find the cure for cancer (which I am working on, by the way), no doubt a particulatrly nasty strain of the flu will arise. A hundred years or so, influenze killed something like 10 million people in a world wide endemic. But we might as well give it a shot.

3) although I am very much FOR GMO foods, as most other people seem to be saying, I believe they should be labelled and the consumer given the choice, and you may be right on the effects on the ecosystem. Really, who the hell can perdict that? But I would suspect that global warming is having a bigger impact on ecosystems, so what the hell.

Posted by phduffy on Feb 17, 2004
Mike, what you're doing is using something that's known as a strawman.

This is where someone makes a point. You disagree with that point. But, intead of attacking that point, you attack something very similar to that point. For example, if I were to say "Poor people are more likely to commit crimes" and you reply "That's ridiculous, poor people aren't the only ones to commit crimes" you're using a strawman, because that's not what I said.

This is what you're doing here. You say that if you want GM's we should just kill all useless life. This is a completely bullshit idea that does relate to anything that anyone has said. So, I'm calling it a strawman and I'm calling your for using it.
The advantage to GM foods is that it makes them cheaper and helps to reduce famine. Which seems like a decent idea to me.

BONUS: For anyone reading this, both Kristian and Nsyngie are scientists of one kind or another. So I say, you are smarter than me, and I bow down to you.

Oh Yeah!
Posted by phduffy on Feb 17, 2004
Where the hell is webwerm1? She said she'd give us her thoughts on GMs this morning.
We're still waiting!

Posted by nszyngie on Feb 17, 2004
Yes, bring on the Genetically Modified Foods. Yes, label them so that people know what they are eating. And don't forget - they don't label meat, chicken and fish products with all the steroids and antibiotics that they get pumped full of - but that's another story.

I would also rather consume a food with a foreign protein that allows it to be protected from pests at the cost of using less pesticides in the field. The chance of a foreign protein in a fruit or vegetable having an adverse effect on other plants or animals, including ourselves, is highly unlikely. If something does happen, I will be first in line to apologize.

Fact of the matter is, we cannot continue to punish our planet with chemicals and fertilizers. I believe that by developing GM foods that can be grown without (or with less) chemicals, we are on the right track.

go for the big boys!
Posted by Katie on Feb 17, 2004
Just a note back to the propogating issue, and the government control etc. I believe that the government is taking appropriate measures to ensure that, when growing and testing new GMO's, they don't spread their alien DNA to other neighbouring fields. They're doing the best they can. Heck, they once even hired Ms. Carrie Anderson herself to call up farmers and make sure they were keeping to the regulations. But the government isn't the problem.

The problem is the huge, corporate companies that are doing the majority of the research into GMO's aside from educational institutions. They are more willing to take risks, more willing to hide GMO's from the government, and unwilling to take the responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof.

I was working for the government agency that is in place to keep an eye on GMO's and other foods entering Canada, and I can tell you that there were several companies that we were having serious issues with. It was their return that they were interested in, how fast could they get this super frost free tomato to the market and start making money off of it. It was good old fashioned greed. Makes the world go round.

So I can understand why people are skeptical of GMO's, but I think it's a bad idea not to get educated about them before you say that they are not beneficial, and good for the world.

They're great, the bt toxin is very exciting, and you know what? If you're prepared to accept technology in every other aspect of your life, in fact many people demand and need it, then you should be willing to realize that it is impossible to keep technology out of this aspect as well.

I bow to noone.
Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
Thanks Duffy. Now I know the term and I can call YOU on it. The only problem is that I will forget. However I was trying to make a point, I don't want to kill all "useless" life, I was being quite sarcastic.

What I was trying to say is that if you engineer a better tomato, the origional "useless" tomato will die. If we want to modify the other forms of life on this planet then where does it stop? Should we make cows without bones? A door is being opened here, once you pass through who knows where you'll end up.

The only GMing that has any realisitc use is medical. As a food source it is crap. We can make enough food, it is not distributed properly. GMing will not cure famine, if we really wanted to cure famine we would have done it by know.

Although the current GMing is likely pretty safe and what not, I am talking about the future here. Once the technology is in place, the inevitable screwing with things for pure greed will take over. GMing is corporate driven, and in my opinion there is not much worse than that.

As far as GMing leading to less chemicals, I just don't know. You are talking about needing less chemicals to get rid of pests. What about fertilizers? I hope noone is suggesting that we can get something for nothing here. There is always a price to be paid, or a trade-off to be made.

You can make all the fancy rules and appoint all the committee's that you want to govern the issue. If someone wants to screw around with stuff they will, they just won't tell anyone about it. Me arguing is pretty moot anyway. They are and will continue to GM stuff, the long term consequences, the ones I am dissapointed to see are seldom thought of, are yet to be determined.

Due to Human logic, or whatever you want to call it, we will just go ahead and do it. We will discover the consequences of our actions at a later date, as per usual.

Why do we need tomatos that are resistant to frost? How many scientific discoveries and daliances have had dire consequences? I know people are trying to help, but the simplest solution is usually the best one.

As far as bowing to those in the industry, I have no intention of doing that. An outside point of view is always a good thing to any industry. That and I cannot recall a single time when someone has believed something I have said about my field of expertise just because "I know what I'm talking about".

Oh yeah.
Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
I have seen it at least twice now. It has been said, and I will give my interpretation and not the actual words, that the lesser evil is to go with GMing to reduce dependance on chemicals. I find it odd that it is implied that it comes down to chemicals or GMing. What about no chemicals and no GMing... what did they used to call that... um... you know, the pioneers did it... um... natural farming.

If we had been brought up eating natural vegetables with damage from insects, or even the insects themselves still attached, this wouldn't even be a topic for debate.

Posted by Nerhael on Feb 17, 2004
Lots of pioneers in the American prairies also had massive crop loss due to locusts and other such pests, leaving them with no food and probably a lot of death.

Mike, you're arguments have a lot of "Innovation is bad, as you can't forsee it's outcome on the world."

All innovation can end up manifesting unforseen bad consequences, as you suggest, so are we as a race supposed to just stop? Regress to nature and take only what it can provide?

Rhetoric 101
Posted by Miguel on Feb 17, 2004
"What I was trying to say is that if you engineer a better tomato, the origional "useless" tomato will die. If we want to modify the other forms of life on this planet then where does it stop? Should we make cows without bones?"

After the strawman, we have this technique, and its called "the slippery slope". It basically works by saying if you let x happen (usually x is something you are arguing against) then y and z will happen and they are all worse than even x was...

And for the record, I would rather eat a GM'd cow that naturally grow big and fat than one pumped full of hormones and chemicals.

Why is it that if you engineer a better tomato, the "original" tomato will die? We have GM'd foods available and we have regular foods available as well. Is your point that the better GM'd vegetable will automatically be the one that we would want to buy or that would be made available? Or is it that the original crop that you use to insert DNA into will somehow be destroyed? I am seriously confused about this line of thinking. GM crops are here and the good old vegetables we always buy are also here.

And as for your last post about "organic" farming, the reason that we are basically choosing between GM and chemicals is that it's pretty hard to grow enough vegetables to feed North America, much less the third world without taking some shortcuts or measures to ensure that they can all grow. Organic produce is all nice and good, but if you go to your grocery store you will find that it is much more expensive because its harder to produce and it has to be done on a smaller scale. It would be nice if we could all eat products but in reality its very hard to produce on a large enough scale without protection from insects, inadequate soil etc.

i hope not
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 17, 2004
' That and I cannot recall a single time when someone has believed something I have said about my field of expertise just because "I know what I'm talking about" '

I don't know who you are referring to with this comment, but I don't think any one posting here expects someone to "believe" what is posted based on their field of expertise. I don't know where that parallel was drawn, but I think it is walking a thin line . . .

Duffy noted that a few of us are scientists by trade, but perhaps only because we offered some details responses. I don't know why, but he wasn't saying "you gotta believe us".

No one is trying to convince you - just sharing some knowledge, instead of constant strawman opinions.

Posted by mike on Feb 17, 2004
Correct, I would like to regress to a more natural state of life.

Apparently it was incorrect of me to argue against something I see as wrong. All of my techniques for stating my opinions are incorrect, I know I'm not good at English.

I bet the scientists who came up with DDT thought they were doing the world a favour. Scince can be good and bad, i hope GMing turns out good becasue it's here, it's queer, and it doesn't want anymore bears.

I see a pandora's box.

Strawman out. If I only had a brain.

Posted by cosmicfish on Feb 17, 2004
blarg, we have to take the bad with the good as in everything...

someone should engineer plants so that they can 'breath' better, more efficiently and greater amounts so they can clean up all the shit we are putting in the air

Posted by cosmicfish on Feb 17, 2004
or grow feilds of hemp

Posted by alltogethernow on Feb 17, 2004
people have already heard your cry...
along with what you have just suggested...
they are also developing grass that can clean chemical spills.....
links in a little while.. when i get home perhaps..

a lot about something...
Posted by kris on Feb 17, 2004
I don't know how to start this, so I'll just begin.... This is what I think....challenges always welcome....

First off, I think that everyone should read Rachel Carsons, Silent Spring and Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. It was the one book that stirred an outrage in the environmental spehere!

1. GMO's are helping no one but multinational corporations! The green revolution came about for the sole purpose of creating higher yields of produce for farmers. What many people don't know is that the introduction of GMOs have only further distanced the poor from the rich. Companies that create the seeds and pesticides hold the patents therefore creating their own prices for what will benefit them best. Any Third World country that has received these seeds go into further debt and dependence on First World countires for the following reasons: they cannot afford the machinery to cultivate the new produce properly, the pesticides and seeds are very expensive, and they hardly have the education to use any of these properly. Thos farmers who do receive the seeds, pesticides, and machinery do not even get to distribute their produce in their own home markets due to the debt crisis that they have to pay off. Almost all the produce that these farmers create are used as cash crops, therefore creating a barrier to feed their own people and get them out of starvation.
2. Locusts eating whole fields of crops: Has anyone thought that the reason this occurred was not due to the insufficient pesticides that were around but the fact that the farmers had no idea of what they were doing? Most of the immigrants that came to Canada in the early 17th and 18th centuries were middle class men from Europe, most of which had no idea how to farm. They only planted staple crops for subsistence living. Any farmer today knows that you cannot grow the same crops on the same field for the sole reasons that it creates soil depletion and allows for insects to feed off of the plants at a faster and easier rate. With a wide variety of crops there is a smaller chance that insects will take a liking to all of them.
3. GMOs do not require less pesticides. It is true that they do not require the same ones that we used to use on them, but that does not mean that pesticides are not used on them. Studies have shown that the new pesticides that have been used have been failing in many different countries. Pesticides are created to eliminate certain insects from eating certain plants. By killing off those insects, we are causing a disruption in the natural food chain. There always has to be a predator prey relationship. When this is disturbed, we have problems with things such as zebra mussells. Also, there have been some cases where scientists have found insects evolving and becoming immune to the pesticides that were being used.... you cannot beat mother nature!
4. DDT is a perfect example of things gone wrong. When Rachel Carson pointed out all the problems that it had brought out, what did the government do with all the excess that became illeagal in North America....that's right, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Third World, let us introduce you to this 'miracle' pesticed that will solve all your hunger needs!"
5. GMOs do cause allergies. My sister is a perfect example. She cannot eat any fruit or vegetable that has been sprayed. Which means that my house only holds organic produce. And that stupid veggie washer that they sell in grocery stores is full of chemicals as well....just another way to make money; pump our greens full of chemicals and then get us to pay to wash them off!
6. Did you know that Canada has a food relief program that stores vast amounts of food for Canadians for such distasters as the Quebec Ice Storm? Well, they do. The amount of food that is stored can feel the whole country of Algeria for 3 months. And know what we do with it at the end of every year.....we throw it away! If we can create that much food for ourselves and not use it...what does that say!?!?
7. Studies have shown that the constant use of chemicals to create higher yields, resistance to weather, etc have been very detrimental to humans. There are cases of children with such horrible hormone imbalances that the sex of a child cannot be determined, women are streile, mens penis' have become smaller and unable to produce regular sperm (sperm with two heads, no tails....can't swim....etc). This has all been linked to chemicals messing with the brain and signals being lost throughout our bodies.
I think that's everything that I had to say....I can't remember my other argumnets because so many people posted....if it comes to me...i'll post....but for now, i'm gonna rest my fingers...they need their rest!

my last, here
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 18, 2004

Look, I don't know how you went from:

' That and I cannot recall a single time when someone has believed something I have said about my field of expertise just because "I know what I'm talking about" '


'Apparently it was incorrect of me to argue against something I see as wrong. All of my techniques for stating my opinions are incorrect, I know I'm not good at English.'

Stop trying to read between the lines. I never said you weren't entitled to defend your opinion. I appreciate your rebuttals - it gets people to question why they feel something is right or wrong. So thanks. But please, stop this whining shit.

I think there are some discrepancies
Posted by kristian on Feb 18, 2004
First off, I would like to say I am thoroughly enjoying this's awesome to see so many people so passionate about something.

Second, are there any farmers out there that have anything to say based on their expereince?

And third, I think kris is contradicting herself (I don't know you, if your a himself I appologize...I also go by Kris, and get mistaken for a guy all the time). First I believe that you are wrong regarding GMO and reduced pesticides. True, they still tend to use pesticides on GMO crops, however at much lower levels. And the reason they do this is to lower the chances of insects developing resistance to both the bt toxin (the engineered protein) and the pesticide, creating some sort of "superbug". You then go on to say that increased chemical use causes all sorts of bad things (undetermined sex and other physiological problems). First, I don't think it can be conclusive where the exposure to all these chemicals comes from (air pollution, lead paint, ingestion of pesticides, etc). And even if the majority does come from ingesting pesticides, wouldn't that argue that using GMO crops could reduce this exposure?

I believe the vitamin in golden rice is acsorbic acid (aka vitamin C), which the body naturally converts to carotene. A lack of carotene leads to blindness. I think. That is strictly from memory of a class I took last year.

I don't doubt that we do produce enough food to feed the world a few times over. However, as much as some of us (including myself) would like to change this, we do not live in a global community. Maybe North America manufactures 10x the ammount of food we need, but I don't think we are just going to "give" it to a country that is in need. And it's not economically feasible for them to purchase this food. Instead, we spend billions and billions of dollars developing a more nutritious food staple, or a crop that is able to grow in the barren conditions of developing countries, and sell the seed so that they can grow and maintain the crop themselves. Maybe I am naive, but I just can't bring myself to believe that every scientist working in industry (such as myself) is just out to make a buck. I can only speak for myself, but saving the world is more important to me than making 100K a year (which, incidentally, I never will make. It's suprizing how little a B.Sc. earns).

Scientist motivation
Posted by Nerhael on Feb 18, 2004
Kristian, I would believe that most scientists do have noble intentions, but how many scientists are in business for themselves?

Isn't it more the case that scientists work for companies that determine the nature of how their research is used? And I think it's more these people that see the end dollars.

Also, Golden rice is rich in Vitamin A, which it holds in the form of Beta-Carotene. It's the lack of Vit-A the leads to the blindness. I looked up some stuff on Golden rice last night after work. Was curious as to what people thought about it.

Most of the stuff refers to it being falsely held up as hope for curing blindness in a variety of places. The issue they say will remain the same as the people going blind are in a position where they can't afford proper nutrition anyhow, so how are they to purchase the golden rice in the first place. IE economic factors not nutrional are the real problems causing blindness.

I be done here as well.
Posted by mike on Feb 18, 2004
nszyngie :
It's nice to hear my rebutals are appreciated. However, I think there is confusion regarding what and who I was rebutting. I confuse myself a lot of the time, but I know that I was not rubbutting your comments.

The origional statement was about Duffy seeming to suggest I should bow to the fact that others on here were scientists, where I am not.
The second statement you reference was out of frustration at everyone talking about my arguments not being valid because I was using something reffered to as a strawman technique, and another refference about me talking about a slippery slope of some dexcription. I am not proficient in English, debating, writing, etc. I am well aware of that. It was frustrating that noone would look at my points I was trying to make and just kept talking about a strawman. Now that I know what a strawman is, and that it apparently bad, I will not avoid it, but I will take every opportunity to call others on it. I made what I thought were valid arguments, but there were swept aside because, as an analogy, I didn't put my answer in the form of a question.
Also I am a whiner, that's what I do. Sorry if it causes you any problems, but I doubt it will be changing anytime soon.

I like what Kris had to say. It was some of the things I was trying to say only worded in an intelligent manner.

Posted by kris on Feb 18, 2004
Okay, first off, yes, I am a "herself"....

Secondly, regarding GMO's and reduced pesicides. Okay, so the environmental movement has made progress and companies, and farms are now using less pesticides, but the pesticides that you are talking about are not the only ones still in use. Surely BT Toxin is not the only one that is still used. As was stated in my last post, to this day, Third world countries are still using DDT.

As for contradicting myself, I feel I did no such thing. I did not say that "increased use of pesticides" were harming humans, I said that the "constant use of chemicals". I know that uses of insecticides/pesticides have gone down, but that does not mean that the constant use of other chemicals has not had a play on human behaviour and out animal life. Check out what has happened to the birds surrounding the Great Lakes (herring gull, Lake Ontario). Studies are not conclusive, but are pointing towards the use of chemicals. We as humans do not need to digest the pesticides directly to be affected. It can occur as easily as the pesticides running through the soils, going into the lakes (precipitation process), absorbed in the fish, then we eat the fish, or birds eat the fish..... and we get sick, sometimes without even knowing it. How could GMO crop use reduce this exposure? Those crops are still dependant on pesticides. There is nothing natural about them. They are man made, which makes them innevitably flawed.

Yes, scientists have created seeds that are able to grow in different climates. And it is possible for those seeds to help out Third World countries. The reality is that its just not happeing that way. I don't feel like rewriting this, so just check out my prior post, point # 1.

leh ho ma
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 18, 2004
mike: thanks for the clarification. I had a feeling that perhaps the statements you made I misinterpreted, but decided to call you on them anyways. So, no hard feelings. we go!
Posted by Miguel on Feb 18, 2004
In answer to Kris's points:

1. "GMO's are helping no one but multinational corporations"
The issue here is not with GMO's themselves but with the corporations that stand to profit from them. I don't like big corporations, but I dont have a problem with GMO's really, they are a tool to be used, correctly or incorrectly. As for the issue of the GMO's being to expensive and putting 3rd worlder's in debt, a solution to that might be putting legislation through that would allow "generic" GMO's at a much cheaper price than the patented ones...but the industry lobbyists might have something to say about that.

2. "Locusts eating whole fields of crops". Not about GMO's

3. "GMOs do not require less pesticides." Kristian, who is one of the smartest people I know, just answered that quite well.

4. "DDT is a perfect example of things gone wrong". Not about GMO's

5. "GMOs do cause allergies. My sister is a perfect example. She cannot eat any fruit or vegetable that has been sprayed". Ummmm, one thing is GMO's causing allergies due to having a protein strand from a fish or something along those lines, your first statement seems to refer to that. But then you go on to say how you sister can't eat vegetables that have been sprayed with chemicals like pesticides....nothing to do withGMO's. Your sister is allergic to the chemicals that are sprayed in vegetables, GM'd or not.

6. Did you know that Canada has a food relief program that stores vast amounts of food for Canadians for such distasters as the Quebec Ice Storm? Yes I do, and this has nothing to do with GMO's.

7. "Studies have shown that the constant use of chemicals to create higher yields, resistance to weather, etc have been very detrimental to humans." I think I'm seeing a pattern here: NOTHING TO DO WITH GMO'S!!!!1111

So you don't like how Western Civilization hoards food and resources while billions starve? Neither do I, GMO's can help that by providing crops to the third world that are substantially easier to grow than normal crops. The problems are with the practices of evil corporations, not GMO's. Although most of these corporations invested millions into developing the GMO's so they do deserve a return on investment.

And you obviously dont like chemicals being used in your food....Refer back to Kristians post on how GMO's require far less pesticides.

see Miguel's above
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 18, 2004
BAAAAAAAAMMMMM! (read: Pop Tart's commercial)

RE: Miguel point 6
Posted by Nerhael on Feb 18, 2004
Ice storm / Food relief.

While yes, that doesn't directly relate to GMF's, it does relate directly to one of hte points people have been pushing as a pro for GMF's: that of creating more food for people to eat.

It illustrated that we have extra food lying around already that we could use in that nature, and we don't, bringing up the question of whether having increased food production via GMF's is going to result in said food being distributed elsewhere where it's needed.

I see...
Posted by Miguel on Feb 18, 2004
Good point, but this is avoiding the real issue that we are debating.

I could once again refer to how this isn't something that is bad due to GMO's themselves, but its how people use them.

I am giving you this great invention that can grow easily and aid starving people, and you gloomy gusses are coming back and telling me that you don't want this invention because we are full of food already, we're just not giving it to people. This is a macro-economical problem, perhaps due to capitalism, and supranational organizations like the World Bank or the G7 should look into that. But don't blame the poor old GMO's.


I just invented the car, and you say that we have horse and buggies and lots of people are still walking, so what's the use of having a car anyway?

Posted by Nerhael on Feb 18, 2004
You're right, that doesn't have anything to do with GMF's, which is why it should never have been used to defend them. People had used that in defense of GMF's, and someone was stating that as irrelevant. Actually...would that could as a strawman?

Here's something good, and it's good cause it creates extra food. But since we already have extra food...blarg. Bleh, not sure what that counts as.

Cars save people time, something I think we treasure almost as much as money. I don't think GMO's can really be translated to a time saver. I'd call that analogy inapt!!!! INAPT I say.

Also.....heh, what's GMO? I don't know who started using that, but only thing I can think it means is Genitically Modified Organism? Object?

It's all so Cwazy.
Posted by mike on Feb 18, 2004
GMO's ahve far reaching effects and it is an issue that goes far beyond food and pesticides.

The only pro GMing things that I can remember being discussed on a consistent basis have been a reduction in pesticide use and feeding the world's hungry. Every time someone suggests that those arguments might not be enitrely correct or suggest a reason against GMing I hear about strawman, slippery slope, and that has nothing to do with GMO's. It's all so cwazy!! Someone give me in point form what is the great advantage of GMO's. Tell me what GMing things will accomplish that cannot be accomplished in another way?

Creating more food is not necessary. We can already feed all of the world's population with our current food supply. We choose not to do it. The reasons may be money, politics, religion, I am not entirely sure, but increasing the size or availability of food will not feed more starving people. If we truly wanted to feed the starving people, we would simply load food onto airplanes, trucks, boats. or whatever and take food to the starving. We don't do it, as near as I can tell, because there is no advantage for those doing the giving. What do you think?

How will GMing reduce the need for pesticides? How much reduction are we talking? How is it accomplished? Why won't bugs eat these GMed products? How do we know that different bugs won't like the new product? Why won't the bugs just adapt and start eating the GMed products? I say that it is all about corporations telling the public everything that they want to hear, like usual, while downplaying any possible negatives. Is it not possible that introducing new things into the DNA/RNA of other things could have some potential drawbacks? There has to be a price to pay. New viruses, diseases, and so forth for both plants and animals?

It has EVERYTHING to do with what corporations and people will do with GMing. Once you open that door, corporations will keep pushing the envelope, like they always do, with precedents and lobbying and the usual crap they do to get more money and politicians on their side. Somebody will get a tomato to grow in the cold, and the next thing you know we will be making dogs with purple fur because its interesting, and marketable. THAT is my problem. I don't blame scientists for the ways their science gets perverted, but the fact is that it DOES get perverted. I recall a while ago that we decided to use stem cell research to try to get cures for things like cancer etc. The first practical application of stem cell research to hit the market that I have heard of is for improving breast implants!! That's cwazy! That has nothing to do with the original intent of letting experimentation on stem cells take place. I am guessing that it was a profit driven move on the part of corporations who pay the scientists/researchers. It WILL also happen with GMing. Unless we start to GM humans to all have perfect morals. How is that irrelevant? Don't give me any crap about strawman here, I am presenting this as new material, not tearing down old. What do you think?

What do GMO's have to offer that offsets the potential harms of allowing them to continue? What purposes do they serve that has no alternate, less drastic, more reliable, solution? Simplicity is the key. If you want no pests then get to work on zero point energy generation and grow crops underground in a sealed enviromnment. That solves the problem and is still pursuing science. NO pesticide. Can save the starving, but that is not possible with the current state of the world.

I don’t see the need to reinvent the wheel. I cannot deny that there are potential benefits to a tomato that grows in the cold, but it goes way beyond that. I am not talking just about vegetables here. If you allow the tomato, it will snowball into who knows what, the slippery slope is real, it is there, it happens all the time (did you want stem cells to be used for breast implants, or did you think that maybe they would be used to better humanity?). I don’t like the idea of what the corporations will do, they WILL pervert it, legally too, just wait. They will definitely continue Gming, good luck stopping it.

Someone help me out here, seemingly everyone (from yesterday at least) loves GMO's. Tell me what there advantage is. DO NOT SAY FEEDING THE STARVING, that is a totally seperate, and saddening state of affaris. And please sotp calling everything irrelevant, we are exploring a large issue here, as I said, with far reaching effects, who is to say what is and isn't irrelevant with a new and unproven science.

By the way, Car analogy = TOTAL STRAWMAN if we want to play that game. It’s not a fun game.

Give more reasons why. I am tired of the “why nots?”. Just because we can do something, sure as hell doesn’t mean that we should do it. If examples are needed, they will be given.

Posted by nszyngie on Feb 18, 2004
You're grouping scientists into one big category. Yes, science is used in some perverted ways. Yes, research does not always yield 'best practice' applications (see: breast implants).
But it all boils down to funding. Research has come up with new ideas and new methods for solving problems, like limb replacement. SO we figure out that stem cells can be used to procure new parts to the human body, and we get all horny for its practical applications. But then it all gets bogged down on testing and law and policy . . .

I feel I represent the people who strive for innovation in the search of good - limb replacement for amputies (sp.?) and liver or kidney replacement for cancer patients. But you're right, the reality is that people take this 'technology' and use it to satisfy a small niech, say breast implants. But there are companies funding this stuff, because they know they can sell it for a 'reasonable' price, and make a handsome profit.

Growing limbs and organs is more difficult, because funding is not applied to it by the government in the same way as corporations. I wish this weren't the case, because I would love to give some people some kidneys. So I guess what I am saying, is that, I like GMF's in their purest form, in theory, and not the potential they have to cause unknown grief or havoc to others . . . I have to split - wil try to finsih later

Posted by phduffy on Feb 18, 2004
I like how there is all kinds of arguments and bitching and stuff, and none of it involves me! I just get to read about it.

One thing I'd like to clear up though. It seems as though everyone seems to think that government/corporations have all kinds of food that they could just give to poor countries to feed the starving.

It's not like that.

I promise you that if the governments of Canada/US/Britain/G8/ etc could make the problem go away like that they would. They already give billions of dollars in foreign aid.

The problem of feeding the hungry in the third world is alot more complicated than "We're hoarding food because there's no profit to giving them food".
No matter what you think, you don't have an answer to the problem of feeding the hungry. Neither to do I. It's an extremely complex problem, and no one here has really even scratched its surface.

Okay, now please ignore this, as I don't want to get into it with anyone. I prefer to watch you go at it with each other.

Posted by Miguel on Feb 18, 2004
Well Mike....

I don't really know what I can say here anymore. Just because a corporation has a patent or develops something, it doesn't mean that it will just be used to their advantage or that inevitably it will lead to doom. I've got news for you, the R&D departments of corporations are going to be developing pretty much every single new invention and patent that is going to come out in the forseeable future so you better start dealing with it or become an urban guerrila (which is awesome!).

You go on and on and on and on about all the "bad things" that GMO's will bring and all the nefarious consequences of bad science but I only really found a purple haired dog as the example of the EVUHL of genetic modification....I think a purple haired dog would be cool, and we could eventually just breed one naturally anyways (I know there is a breed with blue fur). So what is it exactly that is going to happen? and WHY will it happen? You talk about there having to be a price to pay, but this isn't a bad Michael Crichton novel, and not every scientific development is going to lead to an island full of dinosaurs. Genetically modified foods are already here, and society is reaping the benefits. And as far as I know, the APOCALYPSE hasn't ocurred because of them (now Bush's foreign policy...but thats another post).

Just imagine some of the things you could do with GMO's...vegetables that are super infused with nutrients and essential vitamins that people wouldn't otherwise eat. The ability to have livestock that could digest and eat almost any kind of grass in the world. Fuck I don't know, Im a political science graduate, and not even a good one at that...let Katie or Kristian fill you in on the advantages of it.

I guess this is just a question of perception.

Posted by kris on Feb 18, 2004
Okay Miguel, so you don't agree with what I posted. I know that all my points did not directly involve GMOs....But when you start typing about stuff like this its hard to stay on thing just leads to another....
I mainly posted according to what other people have mentioned....
*in the words of the ever so illustrious and eloquent Riki Lake participants*
"Don't hate!"
Sorry, i'm in a retarded

Posted by phduffy on Feb 18, 2004
I think what you meant was hate the player, not the game.

Or is it hate the game, not the player?

I don't know.

On an unrelated note, I was talking to another frequent poster here, and we think that you should post more movie reviews, we enjoyed them.

Same goes for nsyngie and nerhael.

Posted by kris on Feb 18, 2004
is that your funny way of saying that i should stay away from the "big" posts and stick to something a little less controversial? lol
movies huh? funny guy!

LYNCH HIM!! ^_- ROFL!!!111?/
Posted by Miguel on Feb 18, 2004
Sorry if I came off snappy.

And yes, phduffy is really saying that.

What an asshole.

No no no
Posted by phduffy on Feb 18, 2004
Not at all.
I just thought you did a good job on the reviews, and it's nice to see people other then me or Miguel do movie reviews.
It seemed like you knew more than anyone else on this subject, so that's good.

As you requested...
Posted by kris on Feb 19, 2004
Okay, so I watched a movie tonight...I didn't realize that you had already done a review on it, so I just added a post.

I have a couple of movies that I'll do some reviews on....they'll come within the next week when I have more time.

movie posts?
Posted by nszyngie on Feb 19, 2004
i will do my best to post another movie review in the future. but it takes so much damn effort! Last movie I watched was Time Bandits, a Terry Gilliam film - the same director that was part of Monty Python troupe, and directed Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing, and so much more!
But, it is circa 1984 or something, so it is a) hard to find, and b) a kids movie. Oh well.

Maybe we should post - Movies you should own: i thin that would be interesting. talking about repeat viewings and all . . . sorry, no mention of GMO's here . . .

Posted by Nerhael on Feb 19, 2004
Heh, I remember we rented that in OAC or something, and that it supposed cost a fortune to make. I can't remember the final verdict on whether or not it was good though. May have to rewatch. Or perhaps a review would refresh my memory. Hint hint, nudge, nudge.

but back to the GMOs...
Posted by kristian on Feb 19, 2004
GMO = genetically modified organism

Some examples of good GMOs...number 5 has been talked about to some extent, here is some more info

1. the company I work for (called ARIUS Research) generates antibodies to treat cancer. Current cancer treatments involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. I'm sure it's no secret that these are two particularly nasty treatments. The problem with treating cancer is that to kill the tumour cells, you need very high doses of nasty things, which leads to killing the normal cells. It is this killing of normal cells that leads to the sickness associated with chemo and radiation. My company is developing antibodies (which are derivatives of proteins naturally made by our bodies) to target and kill ONLY CANCEROUS CELLS...they have no toxic effect on normal cells. End result - able to give much higher doses, and the treaetment being much more effective. We are still a few years from clinical trials (and therefore at least 10 years away from actually producing and selling a drug), but the results in model organisms has been very impressive. Now, it's iffy as to whether this is really "GMO", but we use the same technology...we generate antibodies, screw around with their DNA so that they can be administered to humans, then get cultured cells (that we genetically modify) to produce said antibodies.

2. Bacterial and other cultured cells can be engineered to produce a large number of therapeutic agents. I am going to quickly list a few with the disease they treat in brackets (from Bernard Glick's Molecular Biotechnology...yes Katie and Nick, I am a geek and keep that book in my desk).
antihemophilic factor (hemophelia), insullin (diabetes), interleukins (cancer), interferon (AIDS). All these things are currently produced by genetically modified organims, and approved for human use by the FDA.

3. Vaccines. These are genetically altered organisms that provide our bodies with the appropriate immune response when exposed to certain infections. In the event of exposure, our bodies know how to fight it off. I highly doubt that a single person is able to say that have not ever received a vaccination. There is a lot of research currently going on to develop many more vaccines...against SARS, bird flu, HIV and cholera toxin (important in areas with poor water quality).

4. Commercial synthesis. Bacteria could be genetically modified to produce many things that are currenly produced using nasty chemical reactions, often with nastier by products. Examples are indigo (the most manufactured dye in the world due to their use in blue jeans), antibiotics, rubber, adhesives, etc.

5. Bioremediation. Bacteria and plants can be engineered to clean up toxic oil spills, air pollution, pesticides (maybe even the dreaded DTT), manufacturing byproducts, etc.

5. Microbial insecticides...I should make it clear that the bt toxin is not a chemical that is applied to plants. It is a protein. The DNA for this protein has been sequenced from Bacillus thuringiensis, and can be inserted into the DNA of plants. The plant gains the ability to make the protein by itself. The protein is poisonous to insects because it forms a crystal in their basic (and by basic I mean high pH) stomachs. It cannot harm humans and other animals becasue our stomachs are acidic and the crystal in naturally broken down. The bt toxin is very specific for the insect it is able to poison (only a few target organisms). If the plant is able to make bt toxin, it may no longer need to be sprayed with pesticides.

6. Plants can be engineered for a large number of things...herbicide, pesticide, viral and fungal resistance. Increased nutritional content. Better resistance to stress (such as temperature, salt, light exposure). Don't like your antibiotics and other therapeutics being made by bacteria? Plants can be engineered to do the same thing.

OK, so take out of this what you may, it is strictly for information purposes. I think the biggest problem with the GMO debate is that people are uninformed and don't really understand what they are arguing about.

my bad...
Posted by kris on Feb 20, 2004
yeah, now i can see where the confusion was....
i'll be the first to say that i did not know all of that. thanks for the info.
i now hang my head in shame...."i'm not worthy, i'm not worthy"....

Posted by mike on Feb 20, 2004
See, that's all I wanted. Someone to mention all of the actual good stuff about GMing. I think there is also something about GMing corn to cure cancer by making the body recognize cancer cells as a threat.

Such a positive spin has been put on the issue that I don't want to spoil it with pessimism. I truly enjoy that there was no mention of feeding the hungry.

Posted by nszyngie on Feb 20, 2004
In my neverending quest for knowledge, I have decided to turn to a source a should have consulted long ago, when this debate orginally began - scientific journals.

They argue both for and against GMO's and their benefits and implications to our planet. GIven that many are too long to repost here, if you would like me to send you some of the select ones I have been reading this morning, please do not hesitate to email at

and I will send them to you. Note: they are .pdf format, ranging from 100-400 kb in size. If you would like them sent separately (email size restrictions, slow servers, etc) please specify.

Also, if there are journal articles you would like me to send other than GMOs (I occasionally assist friends in the public sector) please specify details and I will send those along too - I have access to anything on the UW library page at:

Posted by vivian on Feb 20, 2004,1286,62349,00.html?tw=wn_techhead_7

Posted by phduffy on Mar 16, 2004
I just rean an article about how one of the founders of Greenpeace is all about the GMOs, and he doesn't understand why people would be against them. ie, Golden Rice, which could prevent 500,000 children a year from going blind. Interesting read. It should be noted that many members of Greenpeace now consider him a traitor. And he has a PHD in science from UBC.

Oh Yeah...
Posted by phduffy on Mar 16, 2004
Corporations are EVUHL!!!!!!ON!ON!O!N!!!