GMOs, Monsanto, the future of food, and deGrasse Tyson

Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 02:15 pm
DeGrasse Tyson, I thought, was a widely-respected, straight-talking scientist.

Monsanto, I thought, was a money-grubbing corporation, grasping at a monopoly on food and seeds globally.

The French question that precedes deGrasse Tyson's comment asks about his opinion of genetically modified plants.


Do you have an opinion about GMOs, Monsanto, this vid, anything related?
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 02:29 pm
Neil is right. It is nothing more than hypocresy to call GMO evil, when we, as a species, had been modifyng our food sources threw different types of genetic experiments.

There is nothing wrong with genetic modifications. GMO crops could be the best way to save our species from hunger in the near future. It is only ignorance and missinformation that cuause that kind of fears. Such behavior had occured countles of time in history, every time a new powerfull technology appears.

Lets embrace science, that is the key to mankind succes.

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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 02:42 pm
The modified part we should all already know is about universal. It's the way Monsanto does it that has people worried. First, they try to force everybody to have their products, like a mafia. Second, the insecticide genetically injected is not like old Ogg the caveman selectively breeding wheat. GMOs are illegal in great parts of the world. I personally don't buy their stuff if I can find a choice.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 02:45 pm
I'm not against gene modifying in general, as that is similar, although not exactly like, the many years of regular hybridizing done by our forefathers and even by nature. What I don't like is that sometimes these new seeds become the main ones and quickly impede what was good about having diverse varieties of plants, especially in a given area, but also generally, we need diversity. I am even more strongly against monsanto for it's specific gm products, the round up resistant seeds - the insistence by them re their usage, and their effect on the local ecology, not least of all, the followup growth of nearby weed plants that are both newly round up resistant and rather monstrous.

Farmerman has talked about this somewhere here on a2k. I tend to listen to him on these matters.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:18 pm
Well i really do not know this thing about monsanto, i shall investigate.

On my country OMG are forbbiden for cultivation. But most imports that came from US are actually genetically modificated crops.

There had been huge debates wherter Mexican legislation shoul d permit trangenetic crops. The anti GMO grpoups here fear that the new crops would eventually eliminate the traditional cultivation of precolonial species of corn. On some small parts of Chiapas and Oaxaca many small varieties are still cultivated.

This could be solved by a conservation plan of native species.

I really do not mind eating GMOs. Everything is a GMO, sooner or later also human beens will be.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:43 pm
I will not use Bt (bacillus thuringensis) shot soy or corn. Ive read too many unknowns about this GMO specifically. Its sort of easy to evaluate, humans and animals aren't used to ingesting these, no matter what the "good" that's been reported. I use a multifaceted pwst control method. Using just Bt shot seed will, just like "roundup Ready" plant seeds, result in an evolution pressure for plants and insects to gain immunity. Whereas using an integrated complex program of pesticides and insect predation and companion planting and even adjusting the plnting schedules will take more work but will be permanently effective. Ive read in Genomics journal about the atrophied liver conditions and spontaneous abortions in sheep and cattle is based upon sound research. SInce I run a sheep station and much of our income results from MEAT sales, I will not jeopardize my market share by any perception of harm .
Unfortunately, as for Bt, its been proven in everything up to dairy
cattle size.

Much of S America and Africa is one big "test lab" for many of the GMO seed mfrs, and even they are quiet about NOT pushing Bt shot seed.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:44 pm
If you happen to run up on farmer's comments, or interesting related threads - I'd appreciate a heads-up. Thanks for your participation. Listening to everyone for now. Wink
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:48 pm
Thank you for your insight. I don't want to march around yelling against GMOs without more than the he said / she said battle that's playing out across the news.

Actually, de Grasse Tyson is the first opinion pro-GMO that gave me pause.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:56 pm
The sad part is that people get obsessed about Monsanto and GMOs, and throw the baby out with the bath water. A fine example of this is golden rice (clickity-click!):

Golden rice is a variety of Oryza sativa rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. The research was conducted with the goal of producing a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

The loonies, of whom there is never a shortage, rant against golden rice, just because it's a genetically modified organism.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 03:59 pm
Im using GM's in the "Rundup Redy" kind. These really rent anything but naturalized open pollinated stock that has developed the immunity to Glyphosates by cross breeding.
Bt genes are actually inserted into the specific chromosome of the target plant uing the "gene gun" therapy, and this one is the biggy problem one. Theres a whole bunch of others that use some wacky genes to retrd ripening or thickening skins of fruits (all so this crap ships better)
|To that I say, GROW YER GODDM CROPS CLOER TO THE MARKET . The way they haul tuff like strawberries from Nevada and Clifornia I a goddam crime (IMHO). All they have done is bred a hyposensitive fruit that does NOT respond to atmospheric ethylene so it wont ripen while in shipment. SO we get strawberries that are green and then they OVERDOSE em with an accelerant and C2H5 gas and they ripen quickly (but they then have a taste reminiscent of their cardboard crates in which they were

I get a farmers newsletter that has had a segment on "OMICS" (which is the hybrid word from combining Genomics and Economics) and carries the farmers feelings back to the seed , fertilizer, and pharma companies.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 04:19 pm
At one point DDT, Agent Orange, BST, Saccharine and Aspartame were considered perfectly safe by our government. All these products were/are produced by Monsanto who is telling us now that GMO products are perfectly safe for our consumption.

People can do whatever they want to, I for one look for non-GMO foods and buy as much as possible organic products only. There is a reason why other industrial nations have prohibited the import of GMO products and I am not buying into Monsanto's claim, they're primarily concerned with their profit margin.
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 04:26 pm
So that business re about super weeds potentially showing up in some places sometime after the roundup ready corn (or whatever) has been sprayed is off base? I've vague memories of that happening in Georgia or Alabama, I'd read about it and thought you talked about it on a2k too. (I'll be glad to be wrong, just wondering)
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 04:38 pm
Interestingly enough, very few scientists have tackled GMO studies, except for the Canadians. Their findings and studies are quite impressive and is fully disclosed in Journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2011 - the link for the study is given here

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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 04:57 pm
No, but I did try reportspam.a2k
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 05:14 pm
Name of farmers' newsletter with OMICS, please?

You make the whole damn argument for me about buying local with that one line about wacky genes to thicken skins for shipping. I'm so damn lucky to be in such a farm-rich area.

I've recently experienced a really crappy upsetting thing. I'd be interested to know your thoughts.

A few months ago, my lemon world was blown apart by the Meyer lemon - an oddly perfect looking lemon that appears from the outside to be a work of mass-produced art. Too perfect-looking, actually. Unfortunately, it acts and tastes differently. I have to work overtime to juice it - it yields less juice than its regular counterparts - and (drumroll) they don't taste lemon-y.


I feel like I'm paying $1. a lemon for a mouthful of chemicals.
(yes, that is the cost - and another fact - all lemons are now - suddenly - $1. a lemon in the Bay Area...)
Is this what you're paying?
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 05:54 pm
I love meyer lemons, used to have meyer lemon trees, one at a time, each time in a half barrel, in so. cal and no. cal. I don't think (but I don't know) that they are suddenly new fangled. They're just different. I've also not had trouble juicing them, but I don't see them here often, so maybe I don't recall other times. The regular lemons here are pretty bad overall, eurekas, I think.

Ah, here's the article I've saved, silly since I never see those lemons these days - and in an early paragraph, there's an explanation re their origin -
100 things to do with a Meyer lemon

"Now is the perfect time to revel in them, as the harvest peaks and farmers market stalls, produce aisles and, if you're lucky, backyard trees are loaded with fruit. A cross between a lemon and a sweet orange, imported to the U.S. from China exactly 100 years ago by the man whose name they bear, the Meyer lemon is a furiously addictive fruit.

With sweeter juice, a thinner peel, less acid and a more floral scent (and taste) than other lemon varieties, Meyers are as much fun to cook with as they would be to paint."

So, different uses, mostly, re meyers and other lemons.
Sometimes lemons have been a dollar in my market, but those were the good ones. Now they're puny and cheaper. (I don't go to the best markets)

edit - I seem to remember there was some recent trouble growing lemons in Florida; I've forgotten the reason.
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 06:03 pm
its called the Lancaster Farmer. the "Omics" paper is a separate trade journal that Is a freebie if you re in the business or engaged in some area of genomics o biotech lab.

I heard of Meyers(mostly from osso going on about how great they are). Ive hd many different local styles of lemons in Fla or Mexico or Centrl America. Im not a particular fan of ANY Calif citrus, it (to me) all has a tart and somewhat chemical taste as you said.

There is a Calif Navel orange that, if Fla would have grown it, the grove owner woulda been HOT. Its a sour and poor second to a sweet tangy juice laden orange from the Sunshine state. NO , Im not from the Chamber of Commerce. I love citruses.

DID you ever hear of anybody that was ever ALLERGIC to citrus? I did, first time today EVER.
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 08:52 pm
The story is this on lemons and limes and why they are no longer grown in FL:

Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 10:27 pm
I uused to buy some really great big almost sweet and tasty lemons from a standholder over at Mt Dora and the guy would sell lemon blossom honey too. I hope he wasn't wiped out. (This was in the early 2000's). Do you ever go over to Mt Dora? I used to pick Roseville Pottery over at the Reninger Antique Mall over there.
There was alo a guy in Imokolee that sold lemons. These guys must be
small time compared to the huge orange grower operations eh? I know that we were doing some Phosphate mine work near a huge orange operation and we had to drive all the trucks and cars through this anti canker spray whenever we were on their lands.
Finn dAbuzz
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2014 11:56 pm
I'm not a huge fan of deGrasse Tyson, but it's not my opinion that he would play fast and loose with scientific facts for political or monetary reasons (I doubt we will find him on the Monsanto payroll)

I am suspect of any fanatical movement and the anti-GMO movement is certainly that. When scientists start manipulating data to prove what they have reason to believe rather than letting the data prove what it will, I lose all or a lot of faith in the science behind a certain position. It is why I have been suspect of the Climate-Change movement. (But I have no intention of diverting this thread into a discussion of Climate Change.)

No one, whether they be scientist, teacher, minister, CEO or shoemaker is beyond bias, corruption or just plain being wrong. Our good friend farmerman is obviously a learned fellow and writes with authority on matters scientific, but because he knows more about science than you or I doesn't mean that what he writes about it is always accurate or free of bias. I doubt that he would suggest (unless in smartass jest) that we accept everything he writes as fact.

Web searches for information on GMOs bring up a plethora of sites dedicated to some form of anti-GMO expressions which range from simply arguing there is not enough science on the subject to calling for their immediate worldwide banning to urging the masses to rise up and hang the Board of Directors of Monsanto. Fortunately they can also bring up a number of rationale discussions of the subject from generally reliable sources. My reading up until now has led me to believe that not only are GMOs largely safe, they offer solutions to nutrition problems around the world (such as the Golden Rice, Setanta commented upon)

In conducting a search this evening to provide information for those interested, I haven't seen anything that alters my opinion of either GMOs or the anti-GMO movement.

In 2012 the results of a study by French researchers was published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology which concluded that a Monsanto GMO caused cancer in rats. Rats were fed Monsanto’s NK603 corn and Monsanto’s week-killer RoundUp for two years and the researcher found "“severe adverse health effects, including mammary tumors and kidney and liver damage, leading to premature death”

These photos were included in the report:


As one might expect the anti-GMO movement picked up the story and ran with it.

Mother Earth News

Within days of its publication hundreds of scientists around the world questioned the study, a fact that Mother Earth News acknowledged (after devoting the rest of the article to detailing the findings) in this manner:

Predictably, industry-aligned scientists are questioning the study, but even longtime critics of GMOs, including Hansen, have concerns. Hansen says that while the new study was longer and better designed than any of the industry GMO safety studies, the sample size — 10 males and 10 females per group — was too small to draw conclusions from.

[it's] suggestive that there’s something going on and that there should be further research,” Hansen says, adding that a possible reason the researchers didn’t use a greater number of rats to get more robust results is because multiyear rat studies are extremely expensive.

"Hansen" is Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the political advocacy arm of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Among the scientists criticizing the report were

Prof Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division, King’s College London, warned the type of rat used was very prone to mammary tumours, particularly when food intake was not restricted. And Dr Wendy Harwood, senior scientist, John Innes Centre, said: “The full data set has not been made available, but the findings do not contradict previous findings that genetic modification itself is a neutral technology, with no inherent health or environmental risks.

“This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumors particularly when food intake is not restricted,” he said. “The statistical methods are unconventional … and it would appear the authors have gone on a statistical fishing trip.” Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London,

“The most evocative part of the paper is those pictures of tumorigenesis. They give the impression that this never happens in controls. I’d be surprised if it didn’t, but that ought to be explicitly demonstrated, and if there was a control that ended up showing similar kinds of tumorigenesis then a picture of that rat should be shown as well, just so we can see if there are any qualitative differences between them.” Prof Maurice Moloney from Rothamsted Research

"There are features of this paper that hint at a motive, an intent. I do not believe this was a hypothesis tested. I believe that this was an experiment designed to frighten. I believe that this is blatant misuse of science to forward an agenda." Dr. Kevin Folta - Horticultural Sciences University of Florida

"I am grateful for the authors for publishing this paper, as it provides a fine case study for teaching a statistics class about poor design, analysis and reporting. I shall start using it immediately." Sir David John Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Eventually Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted the paper amidst claims by the anti-GMO movement that the scientists criticizing the study were the paid stooges of Monsanto, and that a member of the journal's Board of Directors, who had once worked for Monsanto, exerted undue influence.

The following article details the links between this study and proposed political activities concerning GMOs


The following are articles addressing this study as well as the topic of GMO in general, and the largely left-wing campaign against them:

Slate-GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left

The bottom line for people worried about GMO ingredients in their food is that there is no credible scientific evidence that GMOs pose a health risk.

Discover-Under Controlled: Why the New GMO Panic Is More Sensational Than Sense

Mark Tester, research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide, expressed this concern to the Science Media Centre: “The first thing that leaps to my mind is why has nothing emerged from epidemiological studies in the countries where so much GM has been in the food chain for so long? If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies?!” A very good question.

Scientific American-The Truth About Genetically Modified Food

The bulk of the science on GM safety points in one direction. Take it from David Zilberman, a U.C. Berkeley agricultural and environmental economist and one of the few researchers considered credible by both agricultural chemical companies and their critics. He argues that the benefits of GM crops greatly outweigh the health risks, which so far remain theoretical. The use of GM crops “has lowered the price of food,” Zilberman says. “It has increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticide. It has raised the output of corn, cotton and soy by 20 to 30 percent, allowing some people to survive who would not have without it. If it were more widely adopted around the world, the price [of food] would go lower, and fewer people would die of hunger.”

In the future, Zilberman says, those advantages will become all the more significant. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world will have to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. Climate change will make much of the world's arable land more difficult to farm. GM crops, Zilberman says, could produce higher yields, grow in dry and salty land, withstand high and low temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease and herbicides.

Discover-Liberals Turn A Blind Eye To Crazy Talk On GMOS

Like I said, liberals are attentive watchdogs when it comes to flawed coverage of climate change. But with crazy talk on GMOs, they are MIA.

Discover-From Darwinius To GMOS Journalists Should Not Let Themselves Be Played

The Conversation

As for Monsanto, here is an interesting article from Modern Farmer

Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?

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