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Old 20th December 2008, 04:59 PM   #1
Baby Nemesis
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Genetically modified food development is a must

While genetically modified food is generally accepted in America, in Europe, environmentalists have fought such a successful campaign against it that in some countries, there are no or very few fields of genetically modified crops. Trials to find out the results of growing them have been sabotaged - crops have been destroyed by environmentalists. Scientists have moved to America to work on new developments.

The attitude of influential environmentalists to genetically modified food is contributing to real suffering in the third world. In Zambia in 2002, for instance, there was a famine, and large shipments of genetically modified Maize were sent from America to help. But the Zambian government, influenced by the words of environmentalists in Europe who were saying alarmist things about how genetically modifying food could be dangerous, turned the shipments away. So the people were left to die instead - what could be more detrimental to health than that? :-7

In Uganda, bananas are one of the staples of the diet. Since most people don't get that much variety of food, a lot of their meals consist of a porrige made of bananas. The food's in danger though, because a widespread fungus kills the growing bananas. Scientists have developed a genetically modified strain of banana that's got a gene from rice which protects against the fungus. But while people go hungry, the introduction of the new strain of banana has been held up, because the government has had concerns about the safety of genetically modified food, influenced by scaremongering from European environmentalists. Things are changing now though and the government are being more supportive.

But people in Africa would be helped a lot if things moved faster. And after all, since genetically modified food's been eaten so much in America for the past decade or two, people can judge to some extent if it's doing a lot of harm.

Starvation is still a huge problem in the third world, and while genetically modifying crops isn't the whole answer to it, because there are several reasons why it happens, it would certainly help.

From a CNN news story called As children starve, world struggles for solution:

Quote:
... The news from the World Food Programme is even grimmer: A child dies of hunger every six seconds, and hunger now kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. ...

Other causes for the rise in global hunger have been documented. They include:

• Surging oil costs have made it more expensive to harvest, fertilize, store and deliver food.

• The rise in droughts and hurricanes worldwide has wiped out crops and made farming more difficult. ...
But genetically modified food could save a lot of lives.

The question is, how to change people's attitudes to it.

Appealing to emotions might help a lot. If a film was made about a farming family in Uganda that was designed to be popular with the public, where the characters were likeable and the personalities were developed enough so people cared about what happened to them, and then the story has a fungus killing their bananas, and their reactions as they go seriously hungry, while research into genetically modified fungus-resistent bananas is being held up because of safety concerns, that might help. There could maybe be another family in the film from Zambia who are suffering because of famine, again with the personalities of the characters being developed enough so people care what happens to them, and then the film could show shipments of genetically modified maize that could save them arriving in the country, but being turned away by the government because of safety concerns. Alongside, it could show genetically modified crops which are being grown for research purposes being destroyed by protestors in Europe, who think something terrible might happen if they're allowed to grow and the science is allowed to develop.

Maybe scientists themselves could help change some people's attitudes to GM food if press releases were put out more often designed to appeal to the general public, about exciting new breakthroughs that could be possible soon if developments are allowed to go ahead.

I'm not sure how good those ideas are.

I wonder if anything else could be done.
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Old 20th December 2008, 05:26 PM   #2
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The truth is that nearly all of our food crops are "genetically modified". Most were genetically modified the old-fashioned way: By many generations of selective breeding.

Last edited by CORed; 20th December 2008 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 20th December 2008, 06:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
The truth is that nearly all of our food crops are "genetically modified". Most were genetically the old-fashioned way: By many generations of selective breeding.
This is what makes the whole GMF controversy very ignorant.
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Old 20th December 2008, 06:40 PM   #4
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I wonder why there was no outrage at mutation breeding(using gamma rays, beta particles, neutrons, ion beams, UV rays or mutagenic toxins to induce high rates of mutations) despite there being thousands of breeds produced this way and many modern crops having one or more of these plants in their family tree?

(one would think organizations like the Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology would go over like a lead balloon among the deep greens, if only for the name)
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Last edited by soylent; 20th December 2008 at 06:45 PM. Reason: ETA
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Old 21st December 2008, 03:00 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
The truth is that nearly all of our food crops are "genetically modified". Most were genetically modified the old-fashioned way: By many generations of selective breeding.
Indeed. There was a television programme about it recently, and the presenter went to the seaside somewhere where he found carrots and cabbage growing in the wild the way it might have done all over the place hundreds of years ago, and it was much smaller than the cabbage and carrots we have. He tasted a carrot, and it tasted a bit stringy and not that nice at all. He said vegetables have been genetically manipulated over the centuries so they'd get bigger, and to eliminate fibres in them that would have protected them from predators, but which would have made them taste tough and stringy for humans.
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Old 21st December 2008, 10:14 AM   #6
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First, a declaration of potential conflict-of-interest. I studied plant physiology and molecular biology in grad school; at one point my thesis project involved an attempt to genetically modify soybean (boy, was I naive). Currently, I'm developing software for managing crop breeding trials and have been in discussions with clients about the specific requirements of producing GM lines.

Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
The attitude of influential environmentalists to genetically modified food is contributing to real suffering in the third world. In Zambia in 2002, for instance, there was a famine, and large shipments of genetically modified Maize were sent from America to help. But the Zambian government, influenced by the words of environmentalists in Europe who were saying alarmist things about how genetically modifying food could be dangerous, turned the shipments away. So the people were left to die instead - what could be more detrimental to health than that? :-7
While Zambia did indeed reject shipments of GMO maize, I'm not sure you can blame the European environmentalists. From http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/20.../17/gm.famine1 ,

Quote:
Americans and Europeans may have been eating GM food for seven years without detectable harm, but there is no long-term proof it is safe, said Mwananyanda Lewanika, a Mississippi-trained biochemist and the president's scientific adviser.
Did the Zambians reject shipments of GM corn? Zimbabwe did, apparently (http://www.scidev.net/en/news/famine...-gm-maize.html), but Zambia rejected a $50M loan, from the US, to buy GM corn from the US.

Then there were the millers and farmers, sitting on stockpiles of locally grown corn, holding back that corn for higher prices and concerned that a flood of foreign corn would drive prices down.

More simply to the point - the problems of food distribution in Africa are much too complex to point fingers at European environmentalists, as you seem to be doing throughout the OP.

Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
But while people go hungry, the introduction of the new strain of banana has been held up, because the government has had concerns about the safety of genetically modified food, influenced by scaremongering from European environmentalists.
The only reports I can find of GMO bananas state that the modified varieties have recently been developed, and are only now being put into field trials. And since Uganda is hosting one set of trials, I'm not sure your statement is correct.

What variety are you referring to?

Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
But people in Africa would be helped a lot if things moved faster. And after all, since genetically modified food's been eaten so much in America for the past decade or two, people can judge to some extent if it's doing a lot of harm.
Unfortunately, food safety isn't the only problem with the acceptance of GM seeds in Africa.

There have been concerns over the plant variety protections (essentially, patents and copyrights) extended to GM seed. Most importantly, GM seed is not allowed to be replanted in most cases, and in many cases must be destroyed if not planted (my neighbor sells seed, and he must burn the unsold bags of GM soybean, IIRC. In another case, a breeder I work with is faced with destroying much of his work from the past decade. He's developed GM soybeans, but the company where he gets his genetic material has developed a new line that is to replace the existing GM event.)

The concern is, then, that GM seed can *only* be eaten, and not planted for the next season. Not a sustainable solution and seen, perhaps cynically, as the US creating a dumping ground for excess seed production. Given the example of baby formula, it's not an unreasonable position.

That concern played into the 2002 Zambian issue. The U.S. corn loan was for US seed that was mixed GM/non-GM; but there were sufficient supplies, elsewhere, of non-GM corn. Note that the Zambian position was not to entirely reject GM seed; they would have accepted processed maize, if raw seed could not be certified GM free.

How much GM crops have actually been used for human consumption in the US? Of the the of my head, the majority of corn production goes to cattle feed; US consumers don't eat much GM corn directly. Similar for soybeans, I think.

FritoLay tried, nearly a decade, to not purchase GM corn, starting in 1999. Cross-contamination between GM and non-GM fields, though, has only recently (as of 2007) made procuring non-GM corn impossible. (http://www.non-gmoreport.com/article...cking_corn.php). So, again, how much GM food have Americans been consuming? Do we really know it's safe?

There are some trouble reports in the literature:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/02648wu132m07804/
http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/con...08390601177670
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf802059w


Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
But genetically modified food could save a lot of lives.
Really? In the banana case, maybe.

But for most GM crops in production, they are a solution to cheaper crop inputs, but don't really have much impact on gross production.

In the case of Africa, the concern is that the methods of production are not suitable for high yields with GMs. Historically, GM varieties are lower-yielding than their non-GM siblings. Under certain production systems, with high agronomic inputs (i.e. NPK), the yield penalty is less than the cost of inputs (i.e. herbicides and fuel) and GM lines can be more profitable than non-GM.

Grow these lines elsewhere, as in Africa, and the yield penalty is much higher.

Yes, there are some irrational concerns over GM crops. But there are also valid concerns about transferring GM crops out of their production systems, simply asserting that the influence European environmentalists has led to the rejection is GM crops is also irrational.

Quote:
The truth is that nearly all of our food crops are "genetically modified". Most were genetically modified the old-fashioned way: By many generations of selective breeding.
Does selective breeding produce such things GURT (i.e. terminator technology) - genetic modifications that render seed infertile in the second generation?
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Old 21st December 2008, 01:50 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dakotajudo View Post
Does selective breeding produce such things GURT (i.e. terminator technology) - genetic modifications that render seed infertile in the second generation?
Yes, hybrid seed(i.e. most food crops planted today). It's not technically infertile but it does not reliably produce copies of the original plant so the seed from the hybrid plant cannot be re-used for next years crop.

You wouldn't want to use the seeds of last years crop anyway; seed are best produced by dedicated seed companies that grow plants under carefully controlled and monitored conditions. That way you can avoid accidentally introducing potential pests from last years crop and insure uniformly high germination rates.
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Old 21st December 2008, 03:02 PM   #8
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Why should we accept gm if we do not want to? The fact is that there is overproduction of food without this and the problem is not shortage: it is far more complex. Until we solve those problems there is absolutely no reason to trust the motivation for gm food. If the US want it, well and good. Why should they not just go right ahead and leave the rest of us alone so far as this issue is concerned?
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Old 21st December 2008, 03:08 PM   #9
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I'm a fan of genetically modified crops, but I will never fial to note the one truly horrendous potential.


Imagine a small nation where the population is highly reliant on potatoes. We will for the sake of argument call this imaginary nation Ireland.

Imagine a new American breed of potato, that produces far higher yields than previous breeds. It si also resistant to many of the troublesome potato blights.

Market forces mean everyone very swiftly moves over to thsi uber-spud. Genetic diversity in the potato crop vanished.

Imagine a new potato blight, which turns the "improved crop" to mould in the earth.

If you know your history, then you will know where i'm coming from... (And yes I know it's Christmas, and Marley is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Oh sorry, wrong Marley.)

So, in a capitalist economy, GM crops do theoretically comprise a terrible risk. As do my puns.

cj x
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Old 21st December 2008, 05:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
but Zambia rejected a $50M loan, from the US, to buy GM corn from the US.
At first they did. Then they were given actual food. In the Guardian article you linked to, Zambians starve as food aid lies rejected, it says,

Quote:
... In the nearest town, Livingstone, several thousand tonnes of emergency relief maize sits in a warehouse with frosted windows on Industrial Road, untouched since arriving in July. Mr Bouvu knows of the food aid.

"The GM? Yes, the radio says it's poison."

Would he eat it? "If it was in front of me now, yes."

A food crisis threatens more than 14 million people in six countries in southern Africa, the result of drought, floods and bad policies. As the crisis deepens so does an anguished debate: should the countries accept genetically modified maize, donated mostly by the US. The maize has been rejected by Zambia and has aroused suspicion in other states concerned about the impact on health, the environment and trade. ... Tensions have risen over the GM stockpiles, which the WFP imported before the government ban. Suspecting it was in danger of rotting, villagers in Kalomo demonstrated for handouts, and crowds in Monze and Nangoma looted a ware house. Aid workers in Southern Province, the worst-hit area, say the ban is hurting the enfeebled and destitute, but that mass deaths are not inevitable if more food comes soon.
Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
Then there were the millers and farmers, sitting on stockpiles of locally grown corn, holding back that corn for higher prices and concerned that a flood of foreign corn would drive prices down.
Sociopathically cruel. That reminds me of something I heard about some boatmen who would ferry people across the Thames in the old days putting up their prices a lot during the 1666 fire of London, since they knew that the people who could pay that much to escape across the river would.

Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
More simply to the point - the problems of food distribution in Africa are much too complex to point fingers at European environmentalists, as you seem to be doing throughout the OP.
Actually, it seems the situation's even worse than I thought. From that Guardian article about Zambia:

Quote:
International environment and development groups accuse the US of manipulating the crisis to benefit the biotech corporations, and of using the UN to distribute
domestic food surpluses which cannot find a market. America responds that hysteria stoked by Europeans is endangering starving people.
It gets much worse. From an African news outlet, in an anti-GM article called How Media is Pushing GM Crops:

Quote:
... As a result, the possible social, economic and health consequence of cultivating and consuming GM "Frankenfoods" are rarely covered. Observers say the uncritical attitude of the media means that it has unwittingly been incorporated into the campaign and has failed to inform millions of African smallholder farmers and their families about the entire truth on GMOs.

The safety aspects aside, this is likely to prove a fatal oversight in a region that has in the past few decades invested heavily in production for export of coffee, vegetables, flowers and other agricultural produce to Western markets - a growing proportion of it comprising organic or specialty items tailored to niche markets obsessed with purity and traceability of ingredients.

The European market in particular is increasingly hostile to genetically modified crops. In April 2007, according to the GMO-Free Europe website, at least 174 regions, over 4,500 municipalities and other local entities and tens of thousands of farmers and food producers in Europe have declared themselves "GMO-free," expressing their commitment not to allow the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture and food in their territories. ... the Bush administration has been trying to "persuade European nations to lift their objection to the use of GMO crops in Africa." ...

The US had earlier tried to introduce GMO crops to Africa in 2002, with an offer of aid that included corn, some of which was genetically modified. Despite a severe drought, Zambia, under European Union pressurer rejected the aid altogether. Several other countries accepted the US corn, but only after it was milled. The Bush administration is reportedly working to persuade European nations to lift their objection to the use of GMO crops in Africa. ...
So it seems that part of the problem is that Africans who export their crops to European markets where organic food has been made popular by environmentalist-types are worried about their exports being rejected if they welcome GM. Incidentally, it seems a shame that they're not growing crops for African markets where they're most needed.

And in the article you linked to about Zimbabwe, Famine-stricken countries reject GM maize, it talks about European influence as well:

Quote:
Two famine-stricken Southern African countries — Zambia and Zimbabwe — have rejected offers of maize from the United States, saying it has not been certified as being free of genetic modification, and arguing that they will only accept maize that has been processed into flour.

Both countries have expressed concern that strains of genetically modified (GM) maize, if planted, could result in genetic material from such strains being transferred to their indigenous varieties. This, they fear, could lead overseas markets, in particular Europe, to reject meat from animals that have been fed on the crop.

Local researchers have said that Zimbabwe should not be quick to embrace GM technology, as such a move could jeopardise the country’s beef markets in Europe and elsewhere. Both Zimbabwe and Zambia insist that they will only accept US grain containing GM varieties if it comes fully processed.
I think it's appalling that the buying habits of environmentally-over-sensitive people in Europe have had such a devastating knock-on effect. I'm sure that if a lot of them realised what was happening, they'd change their ways and protest that GM food isn't being used more. Most probably have no idea what's going on. It seems to be short-sighted profiteers who are to a large extent driving the campaign against GM crops. But if the public learned about what effect it's had, lots of people may well change their attitudes, so safeguarding exports from contamination with genetically modified material will no longer be an issue.

But from an article in the Journal Nature, called A fruitless campaign:

Quote:
... A prime example is the work of the African Union's High-Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology, which was charged with charting a way forward in what have become known as Africa's GM wars. For well over a decade, companies such as Monsanto have sought to create African markets for GM crops such as insect-resistant
Bt cotton, while against them have stood European environmental groups and not a few African political leaders, for whom multinational businesses evoke the spectre of colonialism. The two sides have waged a war in parliaments, in the media and even on the streets. ...
I don't understand why environmentalists, even though they know GM foods could help a lot in times of food shortages and be used to produce pest-resistent and drought-resistent crops, still oppose them, for seemingly mainly ideological reasons.

Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
Did the Zambians reject shipments of GM corn? Zimbabwe did, apparently ... but Zambia rejected a $50M loan, from the US, to buy GM corn from the US.
There would seem to be conflicting information in the stories here, but it's cleared up by the explanation in the article you linked to to make the point about Zimbabwe, which says Zambia was at first offered financial aid, but rejected it; then they were offered actual GM maize that had been rejected by other famine-stricken countries.

I'll respond to the rest of your post tomorrow. In my time zone, it's past my bedtime now.
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Old 21st December 2008, 05:44 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
I'm a fan of genetically modified crops, but I will never fial to note the one truly horrendous potential.


Imagine a small nation where the population is highly reliant on potatoes. We will for the sake of argument call this imaginary nation Ireland.

Imagine a new American breed of potato, that produces far higher yields than previous breeds. It si also resistant to many of the troublesome potato blights.

Market forces mean everyone very swiftly moves over to thsi uber-spud. Genetic diversity in the potato crop vanished.

Imagine a new potato blight, which turns the "improved crop" to mould in the earth.

If you know your history, then you will know where i'm coming from... (And yes I know it's Christmas, and Marley is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Oh sorry, wrong Marley.)

So, in a capitalist economy, GM crops do theoretically comprise a terrible risk. As do my puns.

cj x
I don't see a difference between your scenario and a regular blight wiping out the regular potato crop. Whether it's one crop or another, the effect would be the same.
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Old 21st December 2008, 06:00 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by soylent View Post
Yes, hybrid seed(i.e. most food crops planted today). It's not technically infertile but it does not reliably produce copies of the original plant so the seed from the hybrid plant cannot be re-used for next years crop.
Are most food crops hybrids?

I doubt most small grains are. There was a push for hybrid wheat varieties a few years back, but they proved to be non-viable - the cost of producing hybrids was prohibitive, relative to the yield increase. I'm aware of companies working to develop hybrid rice, but I'm not sure they've got much market share, yet. Canola seems to currently be a mix of synthetic cultivars, hybrids and inbreds.

Thinking on it, I would doubt there are many crop legumes that are hybrids. The species I've grown (soybean, green bean, pea) are cleistogamous - the pollen is shed in a closed flower - strictly self-pollinating crops. Many of the production solanacea are hybrids, but I tend to grow heirlooms (nothing beats the an heirloom tomato for flavor).

I think you're confusing infertile seed with non-true breeding seed. Nothing prevents farmers from replanting hybrid seeds, they just can't expect the hybrid vigor in the F2 generation.

In contrast, the terminator technology produces seeds that are infertile - they do not germinate at all (not not simply germinate to produce less robust plants).

The nearest natural equivalent to terminator technology is the cytoplasmic male sterility systems used to produce hybrids.

But that's part of the issue with GM seed sent to Africa. My impression is that they'd like to be able to plant at least some of the seed for the next years crop. It used to be fairly common practice to hold back some of the seeds of the garden plants the performed the best.

Originally Posted by soylent View Post
You wouldn't want to use the seeds of last years crop anyway; seed are best produced by dedicated seed companies that grow plants under carefully controlled and monitored conditions. That way you can avoid accidentally introducing potential pests from last years crop and insure uniformly high germination rates.
Years ago, soybean seed companies used to advertise based on exactly this. At that time, commercial seed gave a yield increase of 3 bushels per acre compared to bin-run seed. This link suggests roughly the same bu/acre advantage for certified wheat - http://www.hpj.com/archives/2008/sep...edwheatsee.cfm .

I grew up on a farm where the barley and oats we planted came from the bin. Wasn't so much a problem of seed quality for planting, the bigger problem was disease resistance. In most cases, any newly released cultivar has a productive life span of about ten years. After that time, new diseases evolve and impact yield (it should be noted that new lines are released in part to defeat newly evolved disease strains).

In our family farm, it was leaf rust that ultimately made growing oats unprofitable. I was talking to the oat breeder at SDSU, and they've not been able to improve yield over the past decade or so; with limited resources they're hard pressed to maintain production in the face of disease pressures.

Commercial seed is sustainable as long as there is sufficient infrastructure to maintain supply and distribution - can that be said for Zimbia?
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Old 21st December 2008, 06:25 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I don't see a difference between your scenario and a regular blight wiping out the regular potato crop. Whether it's one crop or another, the effect would be the same.
Especially considering a GM crop is less likely to be susceptible to a given disease, and there's no reason to expect all the examples of any crop species would be exactly the same variety, and from the same provider. In America alone, there is a wide array of different varieties of potato grown in different soils and climates.
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Old 21st December 2008, 07:07 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post

I'll respond to the rest of your post tomorrow. In my time zone, it's past my bedtime now.
Please don't take this as condescending, but don't feel you need to respond for my benefit - if you write for yourself, well, that's a different story. I tend to get involved in this kind of thing mainly to put my thoughts on paper. But when the topic is related to crop science, I tend to go the my various personal and professional contacts in person.

It's actually kind of embarrassing, to be honest. I stop by the office of a plant breeder I'm supposed to be collaborating with, and I end up going off a tangent on some topic I came across during an online discussion. A lot of my thoughts on this topic have come from some of those conversations.

So my personal take on this is that you're not being skeptical enough about the true promise of GM crops, and the companies that develop them; and giving too much credit to the influence of European environmentalists.

But I have my own biases as well. Tomorrow, I'm back to work on some features requested by clients developing GM crops. I'd prefer not to be developing for the commercial sector (my heart, and most of my personal contacts, tends toward the public crop breeders) but it pays the bills.

More likely than not, once I get back to work, I'll forget all about this thread; if I do remember it, it will be when I'm face to face with some crop scientist or other.

I will leave you with couple more links to ponder:
http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/200...l/angolagm.htm
Quote:
Ironically, the GM food aid restrictions may end up being a storm in a teacup. Angola has huge agricultural potential and within about four years may not require food aid at all. This, too, is in line with the experiences of other southern African nations. Zambia, whose government controversially rejected food aid during a drought a few years ago, had a glut of maize last year and exported their excess to - that's right - Angola.
http://www.africanexecutive.com/modu...76&sections=43

Quote:
One country that chose to accept GM crops, whilst refusing to adapt patent law to meet Monsanto’s wishes, was Argentina. Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready Soya, developed to be resistant to Roundup herbicide, entered the Argentine market at a time when the country had decided to focus its agriculture towards soya for exports. By subsidizing the Roundup, not patenting the crops, and allowing extensive contamination, GM soya took over 95% of the soya market. The social costs of this takeover were considerable -the herbicide-resistant technology was favorable to the largest Agribusiness farms whose farms expanded to tens of thousands of hectares, while hundreds of thousands of farming families were forced off the land to become unemployed in the cities.

Once Monsanto controlled the nation’s soya economy in this way, they threatened to cut off the seed supply if the Argentine government did not implement patent law, help Monsanto to recoup their royalties, make GM seed saving illegal, and put an end to the black market. A government proposal for a "Technology Compensation Fund" that would levy a charge on farmers selling their soybean harvests, in order to return the equivalent of the royalty charges to the GM Company, is currently stuck in Congress due to resistance from farming groups. Now Monsanto’s new strategy is to block exports when ships carrying exported soybeans arrive in a different country, until their demands for royalty payments are met. Argentina is currently planning to take legal action against Monsanto as the company blocks soya shipments to Spain from reaching the European Union.
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Old 21st December 2008, 07:29 PM   #15
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There are many environmental reasons to support GM crops:
1. More production per area, making for better land use and less deforestation
2. Drought resistance and less need for water meaning less irrigation and soil degradation due to salinization
3. Less need for pesticides
4. Less need for fertilizers.
In addition to the obvious environmental reasons, there are good health reasons like "golden rice" which reduces blindness. http://www.scidev.net/en/news/gm-gol...ood-blind.html
There are risks with GM crops, but the environmental reasons to support them are compelling.

Last edited by portlandatheist; 21st December 2008 at 07:36 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 22nd December 2008, 06:00 AM   #16
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Here's one question I'd like to get an answer for.

If we think solely about maximum financial benefit due to the GM industry, cui bono?

Who benefits the most financially?

I don't know if it's possible to give an adequate answer. I'm not claiming the question is really of importance. But as a person being painstakingly aware of the insatiable greed for wealth prevailing in humans, I still wonder...
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Old 22nd December 2008, 07:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
modified Maize were sent from America to help.
to Help in the Beta test.

Gm is not yet needed to feed the starving people, that is pure marketing by Syngenta and co.

we trow away tons of food every day.
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Old 22nd December 2008, 07:37 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Tapio View Post
Here's one question I'd like to get an answer for.

If we think solely about maximum financial benefit due to the GM industry, cui bono?

Who benefits the most financially?

I don't know if it's possible to give an adequate answer. I'm not claiming the question is really of importance. But as a person being painstakingly aware of the insatiable greed for wealth prevailing in humans, I still wonder...
Monsanto and Syngenta
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Old 22nd December 2008, 06:06 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Tapio View Post
Here's one question I'd like to get an answer for.

If we think solely about maximum financial benefit due to the GM industry, cui bono?

Who benefits the most financially?

I don't know if it's possible to give an adequate answer. I'm not claiming the question is really of importance. But as a person being painstakingly aware of the insatiable greed for wealth prevailing in humans, I still wonder...
What financial value can you put on human life?
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Old 22nd December 2008, 07:26 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dictator Cheney View Post
we trow away tons of food every day.
Totally irrelevant. If the excess food that was thrown away was at the same location as the people who need it most, we wouldn't have a problem would we? Ideally, malnourished communities should be empowered to create their own food resources and end a cycle of dependency and become food secure. GM foods can help in many obvious ways such as increasing crop yields, specifically catered to the local conditions such as saline soil, insects, and drought.
The reason we have plenty of food in the west, and other places continue to have problems, is not a problem of arable land, its technology.
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Old 22nd December 2008, 10:02 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by portlandatheist View Post
The reason we have plenty of food in the west, and other places continue to have problems, is not a problem of arable land, its technology.
There are actually some political factors involved, too, PA. We can't just throw the requisite technology at the problem and expect to solve it.
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Old 22nd December 2008, 10:29 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
What financial value can you put on human life?
I'm afraid I can't quite grasp what you're aiming at. I would never seriously try to evaluate life on a financial basis.

Quote:
Monsanto and Syngenta
Do we have knowledge of exactly who, or even how many people in these companies benfit the most financially?
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Old 22nd December 2008, 10:48 PM   #23
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More than a few political factors:

http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pr...sis-inadequate

Quote:
the World Bank suggests that of the rush for biofuels has pushed up food prices by 75% .....

The World Bank estimates that increases in prices of wheat, rice and maize cost developing countries $324bn last year alone – the equivalent of three years global aid spending. Food inflation has wiped out 10% of the GDP of Senegal, Haiti and Sierra Leone, and around 5% of GDP in Vanuatu, Mozambique and Eritrea, according to latest World Bank analysis. “Food inflation might cause pain in rich countries – but it is shattering entire economies and people’s lives in developing countries,” Heap said.
Quote:
"Rich countries' farm subsidies have systematically undermined production in poor countries. While prices are high they should take the chance to end the unfair subsidies once and for all. Aid should not distract from the urgent need for fundamental root and branch reform in the EU and US,” Heap said.

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/po...ity_crunch.pdf

http://www.globalissues.org/article/...aid-as-dumping

http://www.wto.org/english/forums_e/...food_aid_e.pdf

Quote:
Of all food aid 60% is food aid in kind, mainly coming from the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Argentina. The remaining 40% is so-called untied food aid in the form of cash and comes mainly from the European Union (EU). Any food aid sold in the local markets is competing with local food production. This has the same effect as the dumping of products below cost prices on world and local markets. If, on top of that, this food aid in kind is the result of surpluses created by agricultural subsidies in the donor countries, then subsidized food aid in kind is to be considered as dumping under the WTO chapter on export subsidies
Quote:
Food aid in the USA is now an integral part of the US-economy and US charity.
Food aid increases when surpluses increase. This starts from agricultural subsidies under the Farm Bill, and moves to food distributors that take care of logistics, shipping companies, and finally onto development NGOs that receive food aid in kind in order to execute their development programmes.
Quote:
A whole “charity” industry linked with the food industry, transport, shipping and the distribution sectors are involved. This is why in the US fifty cents of every dollar allocated by the US government is not spent on food, but on getting the food to developing countries mostly with a delay of five months.
The programme has a lot of support among US farmers, but according to a forthcoming
book, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food aid purchases are too small to have much effect on crop prices10. The commercial interests involved are demonstrated by the fact that giant processors, for example, Cargill, Archer Daniel's Midlands, handle the commodities and shipping companies transport the food at rates inflated as much as 80 percent by rules that steer 75% of the business into US firms. A handful of aid organizations sell the food to pay for their development projects, but in so doing compete with local producers in developing countries, the very people they intend to develop.
These policies were propagated by appealing to the satisfaction of the "feel good" factor in charity or the "warm glow", common in the US versus a development and empowerment
approach more favoured by the EU. Recently more criticism is emerging internally and
externally from development and food aid organizations in the US. What the people and
farmers do not understand is that: “the system has been hijacked along the way by shipping interests, by processing interests, with fine-print restrictions in the legislation”. 11
http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/...dies/index.htm

Quote:
"Farmers in countries of the South cannot compete with subsidised agricultural products from Europe," said Thilo Bode, director of the German non-government organisation Foodwatch. "The subsidies the EU pays to farmers in France, Germany, Britain, Spain and elsewhere cheapen European food production in such a way that small farmers in say, Senegal, can no longer exist." Bode said the EU, the U.S. and other industrialised countries pay their farmers a billion dollars a day in subsidies. "These very same countries have forced developing countries through international organisations to eliminate their customs duties and their trade barriers, constraining them to import subsidised food."
There is nothing at all to suggest that GM food is either necessary or desirable if the issue one wishes to address is food security: it serves to entrench the existing problems, by moving dependency from the food itself to the seed. Given the belated recognition of the harmful effects of dumping and the changes in policy which are slowly being implemented in this area it is predictable that the rich countries will want to maintain their profit in other ways: control of the seed base is one of those ways.
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Old 22nd December 2008, 10:55 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Tapio View Post
I'm afraid I can't quite grasp what you're aiming at. I would never seriously try to evaluate life on a financial basis.
Genetically modified food saves lives.
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Old 22nd December 2008, 10:58 PM   #25
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Hardly, Arthwollipot. Food security has decreased in nearly all developing countries because of some of the factors I have linked to above. The problem is complex but gm food is not the answer: the green revolution failed because its analysis of the problem was wrong



http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...7/gmcrops.food
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Old 23rd December 2008, 12:08 AM   #26
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So Borlaug didn't save a billion lives?
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Old 23rd December 2008, 03:03 AM   #27
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'Fraid not.

http://www.foodfirst.org/media/opeds...-greenrev.html

Quote:
If you eliminate China from the
analysis, the number of hungry people in the rest of the world actually
increased by more than 11 percent, from 536 to 597 million. In South
America, for example, while per capita food supplies rose almost 8
percent, the number of hungry people also went up, by 19 percent. In
south Asia, there was 9 percent more food per person by 1990, but there
were also 9 percent more hungry people. Nor was it increased population
that made for more hungry people. The total food available per person
actually increased. What made possible greater hunger was the failure to
address unequal access to food and food-producing resources.

The remarkable difference in China, where the number of hungry dropped
from 406 million to 189 million, almost begs the question: which has been
more effective at reducing hunger-the Green Revolution or the Chinese
Revolution, where broad-based changes in access to land paved the way for
rising living standards?
An alternative and more positive view of the impact of the green revolutin can be found here:

http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/ib/ib11.pdf

but note that the IFPRI and CGIAR are not pure sources any more than any other:they have strong links with the world bank which is arguably a major source of the problem because of its commitment to free trade for poor nations: and inability to insist on it for rich ones (see farm subsidies and dumping)

http://www.cgiar.org/pdf/agm08/agm08...sis_report.pdf
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Old 23rd December 2008, 04:09 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Tapio View Post
I'm afraid I can't quite grasp what you're aiming at. I would never seriously try to evaluate life on a financial basis.



Do we have knowledge of exactly who, or even how many people in these companies benfit the most financially?
i dont have exact knowledge. But taking a look at the CEO wages i would guess that the CEO's provit most, then the lower management, shareholders. scientists.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 04:15 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by portlandatheist View Post
Totally irrelevant. If the excess food that was thrown away was at the same location as the people who need it most, we wouldn't have a problem would we? Ideally, malnourished communities should be empowered to create their own food resources and end a cycle of dependency and become food secure. GM foods can help in many obvious ways such as increasing crop yields, specifically catered to the local conditions such as saline soil, insects, and drought.
The reason we have plenty of food in the west, and other places continue to have problems, is not a problem of arable land, its technology.
no irrelecant at all.
the GM fans claim GM food will solve world hunger because of bigger crop yields.
as iff we cannot produce enough food. we actually could.
and to get GM food you have to pay for the seeds and are not allowed to reprodice them, you have to buy new seeds.
that has nothing to do with helping the poor people, it is simply a bussines with the poor and starving people.

Sure transportation of food is a problem.
But even local there are only small organisations that go collect food in supermarkets and restaurants to feed the homeless.

It all comes down to profit. Would it be profitable to put overproduced tomatos into cans and ship them to poor countrys, we would do it instead of making a tomato battle.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 06:48 AM   #30
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And if your livelihood depended on selling the tomatoes you grow locally to your neighbours in that country, how happy would you be about that?

Rolfe.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 09:23 AM   #31
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The answer is not more food.
The answer is fewer mouths.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 09:52 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
And if your livelihood depended on selling the tomatoes you grow locally to your neighbours in that country, how happy would you be about that?

Rolfe.
then is sending tomatos not a solution, but a problem.
sending free seeds and infrastructure for farming will be more help anyway.

my point is actually that we still produce enough food and GM food, is atleast now, not a must. maybe it will one day when we keep mindlessly overpopulate the planet.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 10:27 AM   #33
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I have nothing against GM food, I am very hopeful that it will contribute to saving a lot of lives. However, if we are not even willing to end subsidies to Ameican farmers that make it impossible for Third World farmers to compete with them, it will be difficult to farmers in Africa to transition to becoming food exporters. The Americans will underbid them and Europe only wants organic food. We cheat them in trade, then give them food. We're robbing them of the economic conditions needed for food security. A simple step, but even our next president with strong ties to Kenya can't touch the agri-subsidy third rail, not as the former senator from Illinois.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 02:10 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Me, two days ago
I'll respond to the rest of your post tomorrow.
A day late, sorry.

Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
The only reports I can find of GMO bananas state that the modified varieties have recently been developed, and are only now being put into field trials.
And since Uganda is hosting one set of trials, I'm not sure your statement is correct.
Yes, they've only recently gone into the trial phase; but it could have happened a few years ago - it was apparently held up for years while debates were taking place over whether GM crops should be allowed into Africa. All the while, people risked going hungry because the bananas that were one of the staples of their diet were being seriously attacked by pests. From an article from 2002 called Tinkering With Banana Genes Could Save Ugandan Staple, but the Seeds Stay in a Lab:

Quote:
*Ugandans devour more bananas than anyone else on earth -- about 500 pounds per person per year. They eat banana pancakes, banana mash, banana chips, banana bread. They season their beans with banana salt. They guzzle banana beer and sip banana gin.

So it's a national emergency when disease and pests devastate this staple crop. ...

The most promising solution, though, is bottled up in a test tube in the world's foremost banana lab 4,000 miles away in Belgium. There, scientist Rony Swennen has genetically modified banana cells to resist the leaf disease. Since 1994 his creation has literally been on ice, in frozen suspension, awaiting the chance to be planted in a test field in a tropical country. His hopes soared three years ago when the Ugandan government came to him for help. He was promised that legislation would soon be enacted to bring his bio-engineered bananas into the country. He is still waiting. Until Uganda constructs a legal framework, officials say he can't proceed.

"It's outrageous when you have the tools to do the job but no one allows you to do it," says Prof. Swennen, forlornly showing off his test-tube creation.
"I can't get it into the fields," he complains. "Everyone has their own agendas."

What has happened on the way to a better banana plant is that Uganda's urgent agenda has become pinned down in the heated crossfire between the U.S. and Europe over the future of genetically modified foods. The U.S. government and American biotech industry are pushing to bring genetically modified, or GM, seeds to Africa. The European Union, where consumers are deeply suspicious of the safety of lab-altered food, is trying to convince the Africans to adopt their own go-slow approach to biotech. ...

In 1999, the Ugandan government was moving aggressively toward embracing biotech crops. The crisis in the banana fields was so acute -- in parts of the country, some 80% of plants were being crippled by Black Sigatoka -- that the government pledged to spend $2.5 million over five years on the banana biotech project. It was the first time the Ugandan government, one of the poorest in the world, had put so much money into scientific research. The university dispatched a student to work with Prof. Swennen in Belgium. Plans were made to transfer his test-tube bananas to Uganda.

Then the contretemps over the safety of bio-engineered food between the U.S. and the EU erupted in Uganda, and the fast-track progress hit the brakes. ...

Still, the project is engulfed in the fear that is creeping down from Europe, where protesters have destroyed biotech test fields and activists pump out position papers over the Internet. Mr. Mugoya, of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, says Ugandans ask: If Europeans are concerned, shouldn't we be, too? To quell the doubters, his council is overseeing the task of writing biosafety regulations, many of which likely will be similar to those in force in Europe.

Mr. Tushemereirwe, of the national banana research program, frets over the lost time. "The Europeans have the luxury to delay, they have enough to eat," he says. ...
Originally Posted by Dakotajudo
Unfortunately, food safety isn't the only problem with the acceptance of GM seeds in Africa.

There have been concerns over the plant variety protections (essentially, patents and copyrights) extended to GM seed. Most importantly, GM seed is not allowed to be replanted in most cases, and in many cases must be destroyed if not planted (my neighbor sells seed, and he must burn the unsold bags of GM soybean, IIRC. In another case, a breeder I work with is faced with destroying much of his work from the past decade. He's developed GM soybeans, but
the company where he gets his genetic material has developed a new line that is to replace the existing GM event.)

The concern is, then, that GM seed can *only* be eaten, and not planted for the next season. Not a sustainable solution and seen, perhaps cynically, as the US creating a dumping ground for excess seed production. Given the example of baby formula, it's not an unreasonable position.
Can you explain more about the copyright laws? I always thought some copyright laws were evil!

Actually, I've just done a little bit of research. I found an article saying that on the one hand, giving companies patents means they have more incentive to invest in new technologies because they'll make more money from them, which will be good in developing countries; but on the other hand, the livelihoods of small farmers could suffer. In fact they are already in some places.

I found an article that even says companies are now taking out patents on conventional plants! A Global Appeal against patents on conventional seeds and farm animals:

Quote:
For several years, patents on genetically modified seeds and animals have been granted worldwide. The damaging impacts on farmers, who are deprived of their rights to save their seeds, and on breeders who can no longer use the patented seeds freely for further breeding, are well known.

In Canada and the US, for example, the multinational seed company Monsanto has sued many farmers for alleged patent infringements.1 The same company has also filed court cases against importers of Argentinean soy to Europe.2 Furthermore, the possibility of patenting seeds has fostered a highly concentrated market structure with only 10 multinational companies controlling about half of the international seed market. Many farmers organisations and NGOs around the world are fighting against these patents. Because genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still not grown in most countries, or only used in a small number of crops, the negative impacts of these patents are not being felt everywhere.

However, there is an alarming new trend for patents not only to be claimed on GMOs (such as Round-up ready soybeans), but also on conventional plants. For example, patent claims have been made for soy beans with a better oil quality3 covering parts of the plant genome when used in conventional breeding and technologies to improve conventional breeding (such as marker assisted breeding).

Some of the most threatening examples in this context are patent applications from Syngenta which claim huge parts of the rice genome4 and its use in breeding of any food crops that have similar genomic information to rice (such as maize and wheat). ...
I wonder how much of this is about greed, and how much is about making more money in order to be able to invest more in the technology. I wonder whether overall, the effects are generally positive or negative. If a significant part stems from greed, then what on earth is the matter with some people!

The (uncopyrighted)article also says:

Quote:
This frightening new trend in patent policy will affect many more farmers and breeders, than has been the case with GMO patents. Any remaining farmers rights and breeders' access to plant varieties and animal breeds for breeding purposes, will disappear everywhere. These patents will destroy a system of farmers' rights and breeders' privileges that has been shown to be crucial for the survival of farmers and breeders, for food sovereignty, and for the preservation
of biodiversity in agriculture. The vast majority of farmers in developing countries are small-scale farmers, completely reliant on saving and exchanging their seeds.

In order to secure the continued existence of independent farming, breeding and livestock keeping and hence the food security of future generations, we, the undersigned farmers, researchers, breeders and civil society organisations from all over the world, restate our rejection of any patents on life, and urge policy makers and patent offices to act swiftly to stop any patents being granted on conventionally bred plants and animals and on gene sequences for use with conventional breeding technique, as well as on methods for the conventional breeding of plants and animals. We also urge companies not to apply for any patents of this kind. ...

NoCopyright
(It would have been ironic if that had been copyrighted.)

That sounds terrible! Surely it's possible to get a better balance somehow? For instance, couldn't the rules be a bit different for farmers in developing countries, or couldn't there be a rule that said the patents would only last a few years?

Now I've found something about a court ruling that could have been incredibly stupid if it hadn't been overturned, so it was at least somewhat better: Monsanto Wins Patent Case on Plant Genes

Quote:
TORONTO, May 21 - In a case central to the international debate over the right to patent gene-engineered organisms, Canada's Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a Saskatchewan farmer infringed Monsanto's patent on genetically modified canola, even though he said the seeds landed in his fields by accident.

While the ruling upholds Monsanto's patent rights, there is no immediate financial benefit to the company. The court said Monsanto was not entitled to profits earned by the farmer, Percy Schmeiser, from his genetically modified crop because he had not financially benefited from the plants' engineered ability to withstand Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. ...

Almost 100 such cases have so far gone to trial in the United States, and farmers have paid penalties averaging $100,000 each to Monsanto. Mr. Kimbrell said if American courts followed the Canadian court's example in not requiring Mr. Schmeiser to repay his profits, it might reduce the economic incentive for Monsanto to pursue other farmers. ...

Under Friday's ruling, Mr. Schmeiser is barred from using Roundup Ready canola unless he pays Monsanto's license fee. He must also hand over to the company any Roundup Ready seed still in his possession.

Nevertheless, the court set aside the lower courts' decision that Mr. Schmeiser owed Monsanto 19,800 Canadian dollars in profits. The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Schmeiser had earned the same profit from the Monsanto product as he would have from ordinary canola. It also overruled the lower courts' decision that Mr. Schmeiser was responsible for Monsanto's legal costs.

Farmers and environmental groups, among others, have mounted campaigns in several parts of the world against patents on genetically modified products, on the grounds that no commercial enterprise has sole rights to a living organism. ...
I don't think I can stand any more of this for the time being. I need a cup of tea. I'll come back to the rest of your post.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 03:47 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I don't see a difference between your scenario and a regular blight wiping out the regular potato crop. Whether it's one crop or another, the effect would be the same.
Right, briefly imagine the genetic diversity in a normal population of plants. We have dozens of potatoes in the UK f'rinstance. Yet if a GM ubercrop is significantly more productive, taht diversity will die out as market forces drive it to be produced almost exclusively - it yields more, it tastes better, etc, etc. Hopefully competing GM breeds would emerge - but if one came to dominate, then it may be susceptible to a disaease,

So if you have 26 varieties, but only a mslla proportion were suceptible to the blight, the harvest is damaged but mass starvation does not follow. Having one breed, and you place all your eggs in one basket - as in the case I outlned?

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Old 24th December 2008, 04:19 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Right, briefly imagine the genetic diversity in a normal population of plants. We have dozens of potatoes in the UK f'rinstance. Yet if a GM ubercrop is significantly more productive, taht diversity will die out as market forces drive it to be produced almost exclusively - it yields more, it tastes better, etc, etc. Hopefully competing GM breeds would emerge - but if one came to dominate, then it may be susceptible to a disaease,

So if you have 26 varieties, but only a mslla proportion were suceptible to the blight, the harvest is damaged but mass starvation does not follow. Having one breed, and you place all your eggs in one basket - as in the case I outlned?

cj x
You are posing a highly unlikely scenario. Firstly, there can never be a perfect potato. Soil conditions and climates vary too much for any one variety to dominate all markets. If one wondrous breed can be engineered, others can and will be to exploit consumer desire for variation, and high yield in various conditions.

Secondly, even if all potatoes on the planet were of only one variety, and even if they all died out suddenly, agricultural companies capable of engineering super potatoes would be capable of producing more potatoes from stock the next year.

Thirdly, even if that failed and potatoes went extinct the modern agriculture does not depend on any one crop so heavily that we'd all starve if one vanished in some totally hypothetical instantaneous disaster we'd have to be crippled by stupidity to allow.

Fourth, there's no reason such a disaster would be more likely to happen to genetically modified foods than more conventional foods. Such a disaster might strike any species.

Fifth, we have been engineering plants and animals for thousands of years. We're only doing it more swiftly and with a better understanding of what we're doing now. Your criticism would be more properly aimed at Mesopotamia.

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Old 24th December 2008, 07:12 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
You are posing a highly unlikely scenario. Firstly, there can never be a perfect potato. Soil conditions and climates vary too much for any one variety to dominate all markets. If one wondrous breed can be engineered, others can and will be to exploit consumer desire for variation, and high yield in various conditions.
My point based on the Irish Famine was it is not that unlikely. Still, as you say market forces should maintain genetic diversity, as people have different tastes. However we have yet to see how it works out.

Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
Secondly, even if all potatoes on the planet were of only one variety, and even if they all died out suddenly, agricultural companies capable of engineering super potatoes would be capable of producing more potatoes from stock the next year.
And they would succumb to the same hypothetical A3 blight, until we actually find out the genetics associated with the disease. One of the great successes of GM food is making potatoes resistant to A1, so I am optimistic, but sadly my warning scenario goes beyond potatoes.

Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
Thirdly, even if that failed and potatoes went extinct the modern agriculture does not depend on any one crop so heavily that we'd all starve if one vanished in some totally hypothetical instantaneous disaster we'd have to be crippled by stupidity to allow.
Sure, because we practice a large number of forms of agriculture. This is not common in near subsistence underdeveloped economies, and the economic impact even to us would be horrific.

Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
Fourth, there's no reason such a disaster would be more likely to happen to genetically modified foods than more conventional foods. Such a disaster might strike any species.
Yes, but if a GM crop achieves more than a 50% share of the market f'r instance, what will happen? If you have forty varieties, but one tastes better, is more nutritious, more resistant to known diseases and yields four times the crop what farmer will not grow it? Then you set yourself up for the disaster scenario. If you have twenty different GM varieties, sure the problem goes away. So do many of the profits unfortunately!

Originally Posted by ImaginalDisc View Post
Fifth, we have been engineering plants and animals for thousands of years. We're only doing it more swiftly and with a better understanding of what we're doing now. Your criticism would be more properly aimed at Mesopotamia.
Of course we have - and hence the wide variety of genetic difference in our plant stock. If we reduce that diversity, we run the risk of disaster.

I'm still enthusiastic about GM food, but one has to consider how this technology will work out in terms of economics and social practices, and most importantly natural selection through disease. If a disease emerges which can effect the highest crop, we are stuffed. So I say put money iin, and make variants of your GM crop, to reduce the risk while gaining the benefits. Make sense?

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Old 24th December 2008, 11:06 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
The answer is not more food.
The answer is fewer mouths.
Ah. You volunteering to disappear?

No, I'm not threatening you or encouraging suicide. I'm just asking what measures you want to make sure that people disappear. Even if you took control of the birth rate overnight, you'd STILL have people starving until their generation is replaced and the old die off.

As it is, I'm all for making sure people survive today instead of die off so you don't have to do anything.
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Old 30th December 2008, 04:25 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by dakotajudo View Post
How much GM crops have actually been used for human consumption in the US? Of the the of my head, the majority of corn production goes to cattle feed; US consumers don't eat much GM corn directly. Similar for soybeans, I think.
Actually, I think it's quite widely estimated that between 65-80% of foods in American supermarkets contain at least one GM ingredient. For instance, from an old article from USA Today called FDA tries to remove genetic label before it sticks:

Quote:
As much as 80% of the foods found in a typical American supermarket contain at least one ingredient created from genetically engineered crops.
And from another one from around the same time called Label fight heats up in Ore.

Quote:
As much as 75% of the American soybean crop and 34% of the corn crop is grown from genetically engineered seeds.
I'm not sure of the current statistics.

And since cattle in America are often fed a diet of corn, much of the meat people eat in America will come from cattle which have eaten GM corn, which might make a difference.

Originally Posted by dakotajudo View Post
I'm not suggesting scientists should just steam ahead designing genetically modified crops without any concern for safety. There should certainly be research into the safety of each product considered, possibly at least sometimes carried out by testers who are independent of the companies making it. And there should definitely be regulations to make sure scientists do rigorous testing, especially of more controversial products, particularly where genes from things that aren't other foods are being introduced into products. If some crop designs are found to be unsafe, that's a reason for changing the design, but not for abandoning the whole technology.

Originally Posted by dakotajudo View Post
Really? In the banana case, maybe.

But for most GM crops in production, they are a solution to cheaper crop inputs, but don't really have much impact on gross production.

In the case of Africa, the concern is that the methods of production are not suitable for high yields with GMs. Historically, GM varieties are lower-yielding than their non-GM siblings. Under certain production systems, with high agronomic inputs (i.e. NPK), the yield penalty is less than the cost of inputs
(i.e. herbicides and fuel) and GM lines can be more profitable than non-GM.

Grow these lines elsewhere, as in Africa, and the yield penalty is much higher.
Maybe. Apparently, research has found mixed results.

In an old BBC article called US farmers fear GM crop fallout it says:

Quote:
Last week, the US department of agriculture released the most comprehensive analysis of data on GM crops in the US. As expected, these show a dramatic uptake among farmers - a six-fold increase to 50 million acres in just two years.

Biotechnology companies sold their crops on the promise of fewer chemical treatments and higher yields. The official figures show that overall, the picture is confusing, with regional variations that are so large it is almost impossible to draw general conclusions.

This puts big question marks over the message from biotech companies that GM crops mean automatic advantages for farmers.

On chemical treatments, for 1997, pesticide treatment was about the same for pest resistant and conventional corn. For herbicide-tolerant soybeans, herbicide use went down in some states, but up in others.

On yields pest resistant corn showed big differences in yield advantage - five times higher in the Prairie states than in the main crop-growing states. For herbicide-tolerant soybeans, yields in the Prairie states were about 25% higher, yet in the Eastern states they were down by about 8%.
But in developing countries, crops that can be modified to be pest-and-drought resistent could even save lives.

From an article on Genetically modified crops in Africa:

Quote:
... Private sector dominance has meant that most agricultural biotechnology research focuses on developed country concerns such as improved crop quality or management rather than drought tolerance or yield enhancement, and innovations that save labour costs (such as herbicide tolerance) rather than those that create employment (Nuffield Council on Bioethics 1999). With the shift away from public sector research to private sector research, agricultural research has become increasingly profit-driven and less focused on needs fulfilment. There are an increasing number of research initiatives of African interest. In Africa, the main GM crops of research and commercial interest are sweet potato, maize, cotton, soybean, pigeon peas, bananas and tobacco. Much of this research is based on public-private-partnerships (PPPs) ... These include projects on vitamin A rice, virus-resistant sweet potato and insect-Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA). Insect-resistant research is seen as particularly important given the losses that are suffered as a result of insect infestations. In Kenya, for example, farmers lose about 15 percent of the maize crop to stem borers.

Research cooperation between developing countries and institutions or companies based in the developed world has been important in promoting transgenic research in Africa. For example, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (SFIT) in Zurich plans to collaborate with researchers in Kenya, Nigeria, the UK and the USA on the African cassava mosaic virus. This virus is transmitted to cassava by whiteflies when they feed on the plant. In parts of Eastern and Central Africa, epidemics of the disease can lead to total loss of harvests. Researchers at SFIT have used genes from a virus that periodically devastates cassava crops to create cassava plants that can resist the virus. Cassava is an important food crop in many parts of Africa and is strongly affected by genetic erosion, pest infestation and plant disease because it is a vegetatively propagated crop. Genetically modified cassava could save African farmers large economic losses. So far, the only way to curb the virus is by intensive use of insecticide to kill whiteflies. But this can be prohibitively expensive
for subsistence farmers and can threaten their health and that of surrounding plants and animals.
Here's an excerpt from an article from the Indian Express about technology to design drought-resistent plants, from a web page with several excerpts from articles about genetically modified crops on it:

Quote:
Today, agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water. Every country is facing challenges in managing water. We have developed a gene that helps plants to grow better even when rain is not good. We have been testing it in South America and the US for some years now. The first such seed, corn, should be available in the US by 2011-12 while cotton may come soon after. The studies on the new corn seeds have shown an 8-10 per cent higher yield even when rains are not good. I would be the first to admit that the challenges of water distribution are too complex to be solved by this alone, but it can be part of the solution.
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Old 30th December 2008, 04:59 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by cj.23 View Post
Right, briefly imagine the genetic diversity in a normal population of plants. We have dozens of potatoes in the UK f'rinstance. Yet if a GM ubercrop is significantly more productive, taht diversity will die out as market forces drive it to be produced almost exclusively - it yields more, it tastes better, etc, etc. Hopefully competing GM breeds would emerge - but if one came to dominate, then it may be susceptible to a disaease,

So if you have 26 varieties, but only a mslla proportion were suceptible to the blight, the harvest is damaged but mass starvation does not follow. Having one breed, and you place all your eggs in one basket - as in the case I outlned?

cj x
Your scenario could surely only happen if very few companies were granted a global monopoly on various genetically modified crops, and also, if non-GM crops were rejected altogether. I don't suppose that'll happen any time soon.

Besides, similar scenarios can happen currently. See, for instance: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolib...agriculture_02

Quote:
Despite the warnings of evolution and history, much agriculture continues to depend on genetically uniform crops. The widespread planting of a single corn variety contributed to the loss of over a billion dollars worth of corn in 1970, when the U.S. crop was overwhelmed by a fungus. And in the 1980s, dependence upon a single type of grapevine root forced California grape growers to replant approximately two million acres of vines when a new race of the pest insect, grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, shown at right) attacked in the 1980s.
Also, I expect scientists are aware of the potential problem, and will be developing ways around it. See, for instance: Refuges of genetic variation: controlling crop pest evolution:

Quote:
Pests evolve resistance to our pesticides at an alarming rate. However, evolutionary theory tells us how we can slow the rate at which genes for pesticide resistance spread: by providing refuges where non-resistant insects thrive. ...

Pest insects have short generation times and large population sizes which means that they evolve quickly. If pesticides are widely applied, or if fields are widely planted with pesticide-producing plants, insects resistant
to the pesticide will evolve. Some degree of resistance has been documented for every major class of insecticide used in agriculture. ... Is there any way that we can slow the spread of resistant genes? Evolutionary theory points to an answer: we can provide havens for non-resistant insects (and their non-resistant genes!). These havens are called refugia — they are fields without pesticides (sprayed or plant-produced) located near fields planted with pesticide-producing crops. ...

Refugia slow the evolution of widespread Bt resistance by providing havens in which the non-resistant insects survive. The allele for Bt resistance happens to be recessive — that means that the resistant allele can be masked by the dominant non-resistant allele. So if a resistant insect (rr) surviving in the Bt-producing field mates with a non-resistant insect (RR) surviving in the refuge, all of their offspring will be non-resistant (Rr). ...
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