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Frankenfood: The implications for today and the future

 
 
dyslexia
 
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Reply Mon 5 May, 2003 08:25 am
I posted this on another thread but perhaps it belongs here:
as a former very small rancher/farmer that raised my own beef/pork/lamb/veggies i would guess that what i grew was 90% organic. i did use antibiotics against common ailments as well as traditional/folk treatments (a lump of coal fed to pigs cures worms) cost is a major factor. the last time i kept track of costs a butchered steer in the freezer cost me about $1.18 lb but a market steer brought $.89 at auction. when the consumer decides that quality overrides cost the small trational farmer/rancher may have a chance but the potential for that happening is rapidly disappearing as corporate farms/livestock has destroyed almost all family farms in the west. as long as the consumer will spend $3,000 for a big screen T.V. but seek the discount hamburger, well you get what you want and thats what you got.
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Mon 5 May, 2003 08:28 am
http://users.westnet.gr/~cgian/guineapig.htm
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Mon 5 May, 2003 08:29 am
Thanks dys, I was going to ask you to post that here Smile
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Mon 5 May, 2003 08:38 am
This is slightly off topic, but these facts on the West Nile virus-bearing mosquito go to the issue of what happens when we just continue to mess with the natural order of things:

"The predominanty urban species, designated Culex pipien, breeds in rubber tires, bird baths and cans [hmm]. They are unable to reproduce in swampy areas or large bodies of water [like a normal mosquito]. So these bloodsuckers tend not to hit cottage country."

Another monster of our own making, it seems. They are also predominantly bird eaters, and don't really care all that much for human blood, so, let's get over it in the media already. Anyway, point made, I hope.
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Thomas
 
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Reply Mon 5 May, 2003 08:48 am
Phoenix:

Quote:
Thomas- Welcome to Able2Know. I know that you will enjoy it here!

Thanks, and I agree! Smile Interesting article you posted.

-- T
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gozmo
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 11:22 am
Thomas wrote

"Sorry, I don't see how this is scary. If the value of labelling to consumers is greater than the cost for producers to provide it, producers should find it profitable to provide labeling and charge a higher price for their products. Mandatory labelling only makes a difference if its benefit to consumers is smaller than the cost to producers. It thus makes no difference at best and imposes a net cost on society as a whole at worst. Either way, government shouldn't legislate mandatory labelling."


Thomas,

Printing a label specifying the contents of a package is no more expensive than printing a description such as "Baked Beans" . Informative labelling may well be the elusive free lunch.
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 12:14 pm
Thomas, labelling of food products is already mandatory, it has nothing to do with profit margins. It is strictly about information. IMO, if producers want to continue to earn enough consumer respect to continue selling their products in a competitive market, they will suck it up and do it. Mistrust = no sale. The food industry lobbied hard enough against the now mandatory "may contain peanuts" label, but I am guessing you don't see a similarity between a peanut allergy, and an unproven technology that is being forced upon us, with unknown consequences...quite frankly, I find the anti-GMF arguments more compelling, because that lobby has far less to lose than the producers of these products.
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littlek
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 05:21 pm
I'm pretty wary of the genetically modified foods. What if you have a highly dramatic peanut allergy and someone splices peanut DNA with soy beans, or green beans, or something not even in the bean family and you don't know about it? Does anybody know if the protiens involved with the allergies can be transfered from one plant to the other during modification?
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 05:32 pm
Actually littlek, there was a case where soybeans were spliced with the genes of a brazil nut, I think, and it was never released to the market because the allergins were indeed transmitted, and luckily, were discovered in the initial testing. However, nut allergies are well known...and there are tests for them. The question is what about the unkown? I seem to remember a little disaster called Thalidomide...it is cases like that that influence my sense of caution regarding GMF.
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littlek
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 06:16 pm
Scientific American has a section on GM foods. Apparently, gene modifiers have found a way around the contamination of traditional crops and wild plants near fields planted with GM plants. There are a few links on GMFs at the bottom of the page linked below.

Scientific American on GMFs
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 07:07 pm
Great post, littlek, found this on the side against GM foods:

But, of course, many scientists and policy experts argue that we do need biotechnology to feed the world, especially the developing world.

That is an important question to ask because so many people--about 800 million--are undernourished or hungry. But is genetic engineering the best or only solution? We have sufficient food now, but it doesn't get to those who need it. Most hungry people simply can't afford to buy what's already out there even though commodity prices are at all-time lows. How does genetic engineering address the problems of income disparity?

The real tragedy is that the debate about biotechnology is diverting attention from solving the problem of world hunger. I'd like to see people seriously asking the question, "What can we do to help the world's hungry feed themselves?" and then make a list of answers. Better technology, including genetic engineering, would be somewhere on the list, but it would not be at the top. Trade policy, infrastructure and land reform are much more important, yet they are barely mentioned.
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littlek
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 07:10 pm
The idea behind GM food crops to help those in drought-ridden countries is to develop a crop or series of crops that can be grown in sever drought conditions - no?
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 07:34 pm
The idea behind GM foods, at its heart is a good one, but corporate greed, and lack of testing, prevents it from being a viable choice to solve hunger problems world-wide at this point, IMO. Remember the Nestle baby formula scandal?
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 07:35 pm
Actually, I should 'lack of knowledge' rather than 'testing'...
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gozmo
 
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Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 12:03 am
It seems they are tying to fix something which they say ain't broke.
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Thomas
 
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Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 12:14 am
Gozmo, you said that

Quote:
Printing a label specifying the contents of a package is no more expensive than printing a description such as "Baked Beans" . Informative labelling may well be the elusive free lunch.

Printing a label is inexpensive, but informative labelling isn't. For that, you have to monitor all your suppliers. And because there is no test telling you if a specific breed of potato has been created through direct DNA-manipulation or old-fashioned breeding, this monitoring can require a significant amount of paperwork. Just because you (or I) don't see the cost, that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Cavfancier:

Quote:
labelling of food products is already mandatory, it has nothing to do with profit margins. It is strictly about information.

It may not have been about profit margins as far as Congress's intentions are concerned, but it's definitely about them as far as the consequences of the law are concerned. My point is that the law reduces producers' profit margins more than it increases consumer benefit, or else GMF labelling would already be profitable in the the free market. Why impose legislation that infers a net cost on society? And yes, I do see the parallel to the peanut labelling law -- this was just as pointless.
Quote:
Mistrust = no sale.

I agree. That's why I think the volume of sales is strong evidence that most consumers do trust the food industry even though they produce GM food. Finally, I don't see the merit of your point that
Quote:
GM foods are and an unproven technology that is being forced upon us.

You repeat this point several times so I presume it's very important to you. But that doesn't make it any truer. GMF is a technology that has been thoroughly tested for adverse effects, and none have been found that can't also be found in conventional food. If you don't trust me, feel free to research the medical literature in the the Pub Med database. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed
Quote:
I find the anti-GMF arguments more compelling, because that lobby has far less to lose than the producers of these products.


Are you arguing that if you're rich, you're probably wrong about any given issue? Sure sounds like it. I find the anti-GMF arguments less compelling because they are contradicted by consumers' preferences, as revealed by their buying decisions. As Winston Churchill said, "If two people agree, one of them is superfluous." I'm glad none of us is superfluous. Smile
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gozmo
 
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Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 12:30 am
Thomas,

This is not occurring in a competitive markert. It is at best oligarchic and I think you are too far down the supply chain to be relevant. Concentrate on the goods and services that Monsanto and others wish to force upon food growers.

Start here and continue.
http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/organicssue011402.cfm
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Thomas
 
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Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 02:11 am
gozmo wrote:

This is not occurring in a competitive markert. It is at best oligarchic

I'll concede that gene manipulated crops are an oligopoly of large companies like Monsanto and Novartis. But traditional crops aren't, because there are no significant economies of scale for companies who just use last year's crop for this year's seeds. Therefore I think my point still stands that traditional producers would be more profitable if consumers really thought traditional crops were better for them.

As for my labeling argument, if any feature's benefit to consumers exceeds costs to producers, it is profitable for producers to deliver it and charge for it, no matter how big they are. Are you saying that big companies don't try to maximize their profit just because they're big? If not, what am I missing here, in your opinion?
Quote:

and I think you are too far down the supply chain to be relevant.

On the other hand, you're right on top of the demand chain Smile Seriously, the nice thing about supply chains is that they break unless they are mutually beneficial at every link. It doesn't matter how far up or down you are.

-- Thomas
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 04:41 am
Hmm, this is getting interesting. Thomas, I am not saying "just because you are rich you're probably wrong about any given issue" and I am still scratching my head as to how you read that into my comment. I was just saying that when you have huge interests to protect, you will go quite far to protect them, including resorting to providing mis- or incomplete information to the public.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2003 05:42 am
cavfancier wrote:
Thomas, I am not saying "just because you are rich you're probably wrong about any given issue" and I am still scratching my head as to how you read that into my comment.


I just re-read the post I was referring to, and you're right about that part. I apologize.

cavfancier wrote:
I was just saying that when you have huge interests to protect, you will go quite far to protect them, including resorting to providing mis- or incomplete information to the public


I agree, and historically the tobacco industry has tried vigorously to do just that. They even managed to bribe some scientists into making apologetic statements about tobacco. But the tobacco industry never had a monopoly on information about potential hazards, so peer - reviewed medical research publications quickly debunked their lies. People quickly stopped to take the hired guns seriously anymore, and their professional reputation took some well-deserved, sometimes lethal blasts. This should give you some confidence in the scientific community.

Now with GM foods, we have a very different picture. True, companies advertize for their crops vigorously, and some of the advertizing could have well turned out to be lies. But they haven't. This time, peer-reviewed research did *not* come up with any evidence contradicting the advertizing, and it was the self-proclaimed advocates of consumer protection whose scare stories got debunked instead.

If you are right and the multinationals are lying, we should observe a mismatch between corporate propaganda and peer-reviewed science. As it happens, we don't. So I conclude the multinationals probably aren't lying this time.

On a different note, I notice that my misunderstanding of your post was the only issue you are arguing against. May I conclude that I have convinced you with my actual arguments?

Curious

-- Thomas
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