The Conversation reports:

Scientists today said they were appalled and disappointed by Greenpeace protesters who whippersnippered a genetically modified wheat crop being grown as part of a CSIRO trial.

The trial crop was part of an investigation into altering wheat carbohydrate content to reduce glycaemic response and improve metabolic health. Planting began in 2009.

Greenpeace’s justification?

“GM has never been proven safe to eat and once released in open experiments, it will contaminate. This is about the protection of our health, the protection of our environment and the protection of our daily bread.”

How are scientists supposed to discover whether it is safe to eat if you destroy experiments that would address that question?

Update: John Quiggin “It will be a long time before Greenpeace can regain my support, if they ever do.”

Update 2: Christopher Preston:

There is no evidence to support the claims of hazard about this trial made by Greenpeace.

I am left with the view that the destruction of this trial was unnecessary and wanton. That’s why the destruction of this trial has left me completely appalled.

Comments

  1. #1 John Carney
    July 14, 2011

    Has anyone explained to Greenpeace that whipper-snippering plants is not guaranteed to prevent “contamination”? In some cases it could actually have the opposite effect.

  2. #2 Nexus 6
    July 14, 2011

    Here’s an excellent article from COSMOS discussing the sad fall of Greenpeace to an anti-science organisation little different from Heartland and the like:

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/blog/4523/the-sad-sad-demise-greenpeace

  3. #3 Aleta
    July 14, 2011

    I suspect that’s part of the motivation. Prevent the data being generated, whether that is positive or negative, and they prevent the registration/licensing of the GMO.

    Greenpeace will achieve their aims without actually proving whether the GMO was dangerous or not. That proof thing can be a little inconvenient, you know. Why bother having to do all that science, when you can just use guerrilla tactics instead.

  4. #4 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > Greenpeace will achieve their aims without actually proving whether the GMO was dangerous or not.

    I thought it was required that the agribusiness to prove GMOs are safe, not for Greenpeace to prove it unsafe.

    Note too how the cries for complete and open access to data, papers and anything even vaguely pertinent to the research is absent when it’s commercial businesses.

    As to:

    > How are scientists supposed to discover whether it is safe to eat if you destroy experiments that would address that question?

    They aren’t destroying all experiments that address the question: they’re destroying SOME experiments that aren’t controlled enough. You don’t need an open field to grow GM foods to test this and an open field that seeds on a neighbors’ land means their crop is now owned (because of patents on the discovery of pre-existing facts…).

  5. #5 Nexus 6
    July 14, 2011

    What bollocks Wow. All GMO experiments and trials are extraordinarily highly regulated by the OGTR. Greenpeace would have certainly broke many of those regulations with the stunt this morning.

    Here’s the risk assessment and management plan for the wheat trial if you want to read for yourself:

    http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir093-3/$FILE/dir093techsum.pdf

  6. #6 rezsup
    July 14, 2011

    Unfortunately Greenpeace have proven their real worth with this exercise – none.
    attacking the work of scientist of one of the best science organisations in the world whose motto is to provided a better future for mankind with thorough and detailed research with all of the appropriate safety measures – versus a publicity stunt from an organisation trying create attention and emotion to keep their fund flow into their coffers.

  7. #7 Who Cares
    July 14, 2011

    @Wow(#4):
    Check the cosmos article. Has a nice still from the film that Greenpeace shot while doing this. The entire place is covered in netting to prevent exactly your scenario from happening.

  8. #8 Dave C
    July 14, 2011

    They aren’t destroying all experiments that address the question: they’re destroying SOME experiments that aren’t controlled enough. You don’t need an open field to grow GM foods to test this and an open field that seeds on a neighbors’ land means their crop is now owned (because of patents on the discovery of pre-existing facts…).

    What scientific expertise do they bring to bear on the question of whether an experiment is “controlled enough”? Did they not think to communicate their concerns to the investigating scientists prior to acting like a bunch of thugs?

    They apparently have so little respect for scientists, and the scientific process, that it never occurred to them that the scientists might actually pay attention to risks and ethical issues, and actually welcomed any well-founded advice on these.

    Note too how the cries for complete and open access to data, papers and anything even vaguely pertinent to the research is absent when it’s commercial businesses.

    For goodness sake, this is CSIRO, not some monstrous multinational. (I do note that Greenpeace has a big scary block diagram of all the commercial links between CSIRO and big scary corporations, but without something more substantive this is just silly innuendo.)

  9. #9 frankis
    July 14, 2011

    I’ve typically argued that we need Greenpeace to counterbalance corporate rapacity. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, and I certainly don’t like this anti-science stunt from them which reminds me of their hysteria-based campaigning against nuclear power … campaigning that helps the cause of the worst environmental threat to the planet – fossil fuel burning. Greenpeace is a cult like (Pfizer, Monsanto and other of) their corporate foes. It’s a mad, mad world.

  10. #10 MFS
    July 14, 2011

    >and an open field that seeds on a neighbors’ land means their crop is now owned (because of patents on the discovery of pre-existing facts…).

    Crap. The farmer was convicted of selecting for the genetically modified trait appearing in his crop through contamination. He selected for this trait through several generations until he was effectively growing the GM crop without paying for it.

    Firstly, please provide evidence of a successful prosecution or a seizure of a whole crop when there was only seeding in a neighbour’s land. Just saying it happens doesn’t make it happen.

    Secondly, please show me how wheat (the crop destroyed in this case), which is not a wind-dispersed crop, can travel the distance to seed on a neighbour’s land in any profusion.

    Greenpeace is opposed to GM crops because it takes empowerment away from the farmer (a worthwhile reason IMO), but mostly because they don’t understand biology and the concept of ‘playing god’ is convenient to scare people (who also don’t understand it) with. We’ve been genetically modifying crops for millennia through hybridisation and natural selection, only doing so the slow way. Wheat itself is a hexaploid hybrid of at least four different grasses, including einkhorn, emmer, and two different Aegilops spp. If that is not genetic modification and a frankenfood then I don’t know what is.

  11. #11 MacTurk
    July 14, 2011

    Is it okay to state that I have a semi-fanatical hatred of fanatics?

    The idiots who carried out this attack on reason and science are fanatics. And, in this area, are as dangerous as the Taliban are in Afganistan. They both have the same basic approach to life; “We KNOW what is right, and we do NOT want any inconvenient facts to get in the way. So we will tell you what is right, and you will NOT question our holy writ. Because it is right! Because we said so!”

    They are both strong in the purity of their belief, and they are both very sincere about it.

  12. #12 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > And, in this area, are as dangerous as the Taliban are in Afganistan.

    Really? Hyperbole should be kept for when it’s warranted. You see, I don’t think that Greenpeace have killed people, mutilated some and are teaching people to hate other humans.

    > Greenpeace is opposed to GM crops because it takes empowerment away from the farmer

    Snrk. Yeah. Have you talked to an impoverished (I.e. non-government-supported USian or EUian) farmer? Please, let me know how terminator gene GM crops that are patented to a corporation whose overwhelming aim is to improve shareholder value empowers the farmer? After all, the patent means that you have to LICENSE your crop. This means you give up rights to get the crop.

  13. #13 Tristan
    July 14, 2011

    Just to pile on Wow a bit more: CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – the Australian government’s publicly-owned and -funded scientific body. While they do have a somewhat commercial focus, to accuse them of cover-ups the way Wow is doing is nothing short of paranoid conspiracy-mongering.

  14. #14 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > What scientific expertise do they bring to bear on the question of whether an experiment is “controlled enough”?

    They DO have brains, you know. They DO have people with degrees and so forth on such disciples as make them knowledgeable on the subject. Greenpeace don’t refuse to accept anyone with science training to join, you know.

    > Did they not think to communicate their concerns to the investigating scientists

    Yes.

    > prior to acting like a bunch of thugs?

    Well, the corporations act like thugs. As ye sow, so shall ye reap and all that jazz.

    > They apparently have so little respect for scientists, and the scientific process, that it never occurred to them that the scientists might actually pay attention to risks and ethical issues

    Just like scientists such as Fred Singer and so forth actually pay attention to risks and ethical issues?

    And do you think that if one of Monsato’s scientists said “I don’t think this is safe”, do you think they’ll be listened to, or shut up? Do you think that the scientists here:

    [The Cigarette Papers](http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft8489p25j&chunk.id=d0e110&toc.id=d0e110&brand=ucpress)

    are so very different from the ones working in Agribusiness?

  15. #15 Jeremy C
    July 14, 2011

    > There’s a name for his kind of theory.

    Oooohhh, I just stepped in it!

  16. #16 T.G. McCowan
    July 14, 2011

    I don’t agree with the damage BUT. My parents have a farm in southern Ontario. The last few years we have had Roundup resistant weeds in the crops, like giant ragweed and pigweed. 8 ft tall and the only way is to get rid of them is by hand.

    The Monsanto RoundUp GM crops have been planted continuously in the southern states for the last 15 yrs. Even though we don’t use GM seeds, we now have to deal with the fallout.

    Will Monsanto pay for our crop loses due to their product being misused? Don’t think so.

  17. #17 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > to accuse them of cover-ups the way Wow is doing is nothing short of paranoid conspiracy-mongering.

    [Oh really?](http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service229.htm)

    [And the farmers are so empowered](http://www.i-sis.org.uk/farmersSuicidesBtCottonIndia.php)

    [Whilst the genes are jumping ship](http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/antenna/futurefoods/debate/debateGM_CIPenv.asp)

    [And Cotton isn’t doing as well as they said](http://www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/Issue/pn44/pn44p6.htm)

    [Whilst old-style farming is cheaper but doesn’t have a lock-in](http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html)

  18. #18 Jeff Harvey
    July 14, 2011

    *Greenpeace is opposed to GM crops because it takes empowerment away from the farmer*

    Whereas I do not condone the actions of Greenpeace, this statement is absolute nonsense. Take genetically modified herbicide resistant soybean – in this case farmers must effectively ‘rent’ seeds that are the intellectual property of the company that owns the patent. The farmers become more like assembly workers in an automobile manufacturing plant, and can hardly free themselves of this constraint. At the same time, thanks to the widespread use of GMOs, we are losing genetic diversity that is a pre-requisite for species to adapt to multiple stressors. In much of the south farmers have collected their own seeds for generations and thus many farmers each possessed seeds of certain crops that exhibited resistance to quite variable threats. The replacement of local seed collection for one genotype of genetically modified seed adapted to resist one threat is a frightening development in my opinion. And from a recent conference I attended in South Africa it is becoming clear that insects are fast becoming resistant to genetically modified plants containing insectidical toxins.

    The CSIRO scientists concerned in this research were right to be appalled by Greenpeace’s action. But at the same time, in complete contrast with what MFS said above, many genetically modified crops contain genetic combinations that could never occur in nature. For example, inserting the genes of insectidical bacteria into plants crosses phylogenetic barriers – and this is what many scientists (myself included) are very critical of. Moreover, the technology is hardly refined – muchy of it is based on the firing of genetic material from a ‘donor’ organism into the genome of the ‘recipient’ organism where it may end up anywhere and be expressed or not. There may be alos pleitrophic effects, if the function of some genes is linked with other genes. Finally, I consider putting the power of food production into the hads of a small coterie of powerful multinational corporations to be of profound concern.

    Ultimately, GMOs require immense public relations propaganda fort their successful marketing. This is usually found by raising the specter of global hunger in advertising campaigns, when it should be obviouys that the technology is primarily profit-driven. In the end, it is high time that we realized our species will not be able to escape the bottleneck we are in through bioengineered grains and the like. Techno-fixes may temporarily delay the effects of human destruction of natural ecosystems, but in the end there must be economic and political solutions to the vast number of environmental and social problems (both are linked) that plague us.

  19. #19 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > to accuse them of cover-ups the way Wow is doing is nothing short of paranoid conspiracy-mongering.

    [Oh really?](http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service229.htm)

    [Whilst the genes are jumping ship](http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/antenna/futurefoods/debate/debateGM_CIPenv.asp)

  20. #20 Nexus 6
    July 14, 2011

    This is the CSIRO WOW, not Monsanto. It is possible to do agricultural science that has nothing to do with Monsanto you know. Look at what the Gates Foundation is currently pouring massive funding into.

    Funny how these Greenpeace people with brains never duke it out in the peer-reviewed literature, just like their climate denialist brethren. Just selectively quote, misrepresent and generally make shit up. Sound familiar.

  21. #21 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    [And the farmers are so empowered](http://www.i-sis.org.uk/farmersSuicidesBtCottonIndia.php)

    [And Cotton isn’t doing as well as they said](http://www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/Issue/pn44/pn44p6.htm)

    [Whilst old-style farming is cheaper but doesn’t have a lock-in](http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html)

    If Agri-business were REALLY interested in feeding the world, they’d release the patents and set them free.

    That, however, wouldn’t be profitable.

  22. #22 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > This is the CSIRO WOW, not Monsanto.

    Yup. And? They’ll work off work the owner of the patents gave out. They’ll work within the constraints of what they consider.

    > Look at what the Gates Foundation is currently pouring massive funding into.

    Yah, the same foundation that gave millions to the third world for education to be spent on Microsoft products. The same foundation that killed off the OLPC because it wouldn’t run Windows. The same foundation that is a huge tax break for Bill Gates (who is still richer than he was when he said he’d give all his money away by the time he dies).

    > Funny how these Greenpeace people with brains never duke it out in the peer-reviewed literature,

    Funny. They do. Remember the Greenpeace literature in the IPCC 4AR? Funny how the peer-reviewed literature includes only those papers that passed corporate PR.

    Talk about making shit up…
    [And the farmers are so empowered](http://www.i-sis.org.uk/farmersSuicidesBtCottonIndia.php)

    [And Cotton isn’t doing as well as they said](http://www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/Issue/pn44/pn44p6.htm)

    [Whilst old-style farming is cheaper but doesn’t have a lock-in](http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html)

  23. #23 David Horton
    July 14, 2011

    I have always been opposed to GM on environmental grounds (the risk of genes for, say, herbicide resistance or self-produced pesticide escaping into related native species) but it seems there are very good reasons for being concerned about (a) the effects of eating at least some GM foods and of using the “Round Up ready” strains and massively spraying Round Up (http://davidhortonsblog.com/2011/07/07/food-and-not-fine-words/).

    I have always been a Greenpeace supporter, I think they have done good things.

    This wasn’t a good thing, it was grotesquely misguided, anti-science, and will ruin their own image and set back rational resistance to GM foods by years. Some idiot in the organisation should resign.

  24. #24 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > “GM has never been proven safe to eat and once released in open experiments, it will contaminate.”

    It’s already been fount to contaminate:[cross polination 31% up to 1km away](http://webs.chasque.net/~rapaluy1/transgenicos/Papa/GM_potatoes.html)

    Because government guidelines require inadequate protection against contamination of neighboring plants and animals, the test is unsafe but government considers safe. [Or they used to](http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/apr/14/gm-bees). I guess some places haven’t yet decided if safe is safe enough.

  25. #25 Nick
    July 14, 2011

    There is GM and then there is GM…. In this case the gene manipulation involved no insertion of outside material,but a manipulation of wheat sequences to create starches that are less rapidly digested. Rapidly digested starches are implicated in the rise of type 2 diabetes,increasing obesity and poorer bowel health. This manipulation would increase the amount of the starch fermented in the bowel with positive implications for bowel health.

    Greenpeace have been needlessly,and ignorantly, destructive.

  26. #26 Jasso
    July 14, 2011

    I think that settles it, Wow has gone off the deep end.

    Like any conspiracy nut/denialist, all they do is try to fit any form of rationalization, reasonable or not, to their conspiracy. They then ignore information which might contradict them.

    So far, all they have done is complain that corporations are evil and then try to claim that the government funded scientists are either working for them, or just as bad as them.

    >that gave millions to the third world for education to be spent on Microsoft products

    Your complaint is about the foundation is that the donations which helped third world countries went back to Microsoft, all the while ignoring the fact that it still helped increase education in third world countries.

    Not to mention that it seems Wow’s grasp on genetically modified agriculture is so narrow that they confuse the entirety of it with weed killer/pesticide resistant foods (which, as far as I can tell, this particular crop were not).

  27. #27 jamesc
    July 14, 2011

    “Two directors of the biotech giant Nufarm – the distributor of Monsanto’s products in Australia – also sat on the CSIRO board at the time of the wheat experiment’s approval.”

    Greenpeace does nail a conflict at CSIRO, one wonders what commotion 2 oil execs would inspire.

    I think GreenPeace should be ‘wipper snippering’ Petrol Stations, when one takes into account the melting Arctic and the Methane e.l.e below.

  28. #28 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    Ah, so you don’t ACTUALLY have anything substantive other than maligning, Jasso.

    Fair enough.

    I guess that means we’re at stage 2. Shall we cut to the chase: I win.

    > So far, all they have done is complain that corporations are evil

    I hope that isn’t GM straw you’re using.

    I’m saying that corporations are run for the profit of the shareholders.

    > and then try to claim that the government funded scientists are either working for them

    Nope, the guidelines are written by politicians with input from lobbyists. Just like the green policies, you know, where Deep Sea Drilling is OK’d on the basis of….?

    > all the while ignoring the fact that it still helped increase education in third world countries.

    While you’re trying to make out they’re doing it because it;s right, rather than [profitable](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robber_baron_%28industrialist%29)

    It would have bought MORE aid to those countries if the OLPC were purchased by that foundation. However, it wouldn’t have locked them in to Western World corporation updates and service contracts.

    > so narrow that they confuse the entirety of it with weed killer/pesticide resistant foods

    Ah, I am Legion.

    What’s this “they” when you’re talking about ME?

    Do you have MPD and just assume it’s widespread?

    Why is it that the roundup ready products have been on sale for a decade and more, when a product that reduces the onset of type2 diabetes (though not being a lardass would do better, along with dropping HFCS, but you don’t see that happening, do you… I wonder why?) took so long to bring out?

    Would it be because the RR crop is highly profitable?

    PS is this GMO also terminator gene? Have you checked? Is the answer “no”?

  29. #29 Matt
    July 14, 2011

    Wow sounds an awful lot like a conspiracy theorist of any other type. No credible science or rational analysis just ‘corporations do bad things’ Therefore ‘Everything anyone ever associated with a corporation does is bad’.

    Reminds me of a 9-11 denier.

  30. #30 Jeffrey Davis
    July 14, 2011

    I read of a GM modification which moved resistance to the herbicide Roundup into some wheat variety. Needless to say, Nature is wanton and soon spread the change into the environment at large. Funny? Not funny?

  31. #31 Berbalang
    July 14, 2011

    The thing about patents is they do expire and many of the ones on GM crops are due to expire in the near future, including the ones on Roundup Ready soybeans (expires the end of 2014). So the GM crops do eventually wind up empowering the farmers.

    The actions of Greenpeace benefited no one and in the long run hurt us all.

  32. #32 Jasso
    July 14, 2011

    >I’m saying that corporations are run for the profit of the shareholders.

    And the method with which you say it has entirely been about how much harm that “for profit” policy has done, ie how being “for profit” (like a corporation) is evil.

    >Nope, the guidelines are written by politicians with input from lobbyists.

    Which the scientists conducting the experiment were neither. Do you accuse them of of “looking the other way” as well?

    >It would have bought MORE aid to those countries if the OLPC were purchased by that foundation.

    Possibly, but that still doesn’t discount the fact that it was still helping. And since the money used essentially came from Microsoft in the first place, it could be seen as the foundation donating Microsoft products through a voucher system.

    >What’s this “they” when you’re talking about ME?

    I am using “they” as a gender neural singular pronoun. Look it up.

    >Would it be because the RR crop is highly profitable?

    Again, you seem to lump then entirety of the field into Roundup Ready. And again, this crop does not have.

    >PS is this GMO also terminator gene? Have you checked? Is the answer “no”?

    Have YOU checked? Is the answer “yes”? Do you know what effects would occur if it was?

  33. #33 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > Have YOU checked? Is the answer “yes”?

    Sorry, you’re the one who says it’s safe.

    Or, rather, the one doing something dangerous without checking.

  34. #34 thememe
    July 14, 2011

    Nexus 6:
    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/blog/4523/the-sad-sad-demise-greenpeace

    Thats why I stopped supporting Greenpeace years ago when i noticed, that they started to just make up stuff about various issues, just to make their points… a sincery and respectable organisation should resist such urges. A sign that they got more and more purely ideology-driven….sad but true.

  35. #35 Jasso
    July 14, 2011

    >Sorry, you’re the one who says it’s safe.

    I haven’t said anything for or against it’s safety. However, this experiment was designed to determine the safety of the food; which, conveniently enough, it was destroyed before it could give a yeah or nay.

    In fact you have been given plenty of reasons why this crop was not a risky experiment, both in the literature and from the other commenters, yet you have ignored them.

    And do you even know what a terminator gene is and what it does?

    >Or, rather, the one doing something dangerous without checking.

    And that dangerous thing I am doing is…responding to blog comments?

    You really seem hell-bent on trying to convince everyone that Greenpeace can “do no evil” and on making people scared of anything related to genetically modified agriculture on mere assertion.

  36. #36 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > I haven’t said anything for or against it’s safety.

    No? What’s the meaning of this then:

    > Like any conspiracy nut/denialist,

    When it’s responding to my posts that include:

    > I thought it was required that the agribusiness to prove GMOs are safe, not for Greenpeace to prove it unsafe.

    So if you don’t know it’s safe, you are wrong to characterize it as a conspiracy.

    “Oh, I didn’t SAY that, I just MEAN that…” hmm?

    If it’s a conspiracy nut theory, then it’s safe but I don’t believe it because there’s a conspiracy. But if it ISN’T safe, then it’s not a conspiracy to say that the experiment is unsafe, is it.

    > And that dangerous thing I am doing is…responding to blog comments?

    Nope, testing GMOs.

    You know, the CEO of Monsato isn’t actually going out sowing seeds himself, you know. Yet he supports it, as do you.

    And that support is dangerous unless you know what it is you’re supporting.

    Which you’ve just said you don’t.

    So is this because you’re a flaming idiot, a knee-jerk corporatist or just a twat on the internet?

  37. #37 Jasso
    July 14, 2011

    >No? What’s the meaning of this then:

    The meaning is exactly what it says. You are accusing the people behind this experiment of lies and distortions by comparing it to the cigarette industry and baseless assertions as well as employing the same tactics as 9-11 truthers, moon hoax believers, creationists, etc.

    Nothing about calling you a conspiracy nut says anything about the safety of the experiment. It only says something about your actions.

    >Nope, testing GMOs.

    And I’m “testing GMOs” by ….. responding to blog comments?

    >Yet he supports it, as do you.

    I support scientific research, I couldn’t care less who agrees with me. In particular, this experiment, if successful, was intended to help reduce type II diabetes, and I am all for that.

    >And that support is dangerous unless you know what it is you’re supporting.

    Likewise, actions like what Greenpeace did are dangerous if they don’t know what it is they are acting against.

    >Which you’ve just said you don’t.

    Not knowing everything is not the same as not knowing anything. I said that the research was to test the effects of consumption. I do know that steps were taken to address risks of the wheat escaping to the wild. I also know that the actions of Greenpeace were possibly more likely to cause escape than leaving the experiment alone. I also know that you are taking an extreme stance without justification. You seem to automatically think that everyone behind this obfuscated and mislead to make an unsafe experiment.

    >So is this because you’re a flaming idiot, a knee-jerk corporatist or just a twat on the internet?

    Take your pick, I don’t really care what names you call me, since that does nothing to either contradict my position nor support yours.

  38. #38 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > The meaning is exactly what it says.

    Ah, English comprehension is NOT your forte. Meaning is what drove you to say what you said.

    Apparently “a complete arsehole” is the reason why you’re posting.

  39. #39 Jasso
    July 14, 2011

    >Ah, English comprehension is NOT your forte

    I don’t think you quite understand the difference between me calling you a conspiracy nut and me saying that modified foods are absolutely safe.

    When I call you a conspiracy nut, it means that I think you are a conspiracy nut, ie someone that thinks one or more people are conspiring to hide information from the public without reasonable justification or consideration. It does not mean anything beyond that.

    I even emphasised this repeatedly, which you seem to ignore.

    To imply that calling you a conspiracy nut says anything about the safety of the crop is just bad logic.

    >Apparently “a complete arsehole” is the reason why you’re posting.

    Again, these insults do nothing to contradict me nor support you.

  40. #40 Jeff Harvey
    July 14, 2011

    *The thing about patents is they do expire and many of the ones on GM crops are due to expire in the near future, including the ones on Roundup Ready soybeans (expires the end of 2014). So the GM crops do eventually wind up empowering the farmers*.

    As I said above, nonsense. Many of these patents will be renewed. I agree with a lot of what WOW is saying. Corporations do not invest billions in R & D for GMOs and expect to get back a few rupees or dinars. They want hard cash – dollars – for their patents, and this is their prime directive. Those writing superficial sarcastic comments about ‘evil corporations’ here ought to read Joel Bakan’s quitre excellent book, “Corporation”, which is quite a shocking read. And besides, there are plenty of other reasons to be very concerned about this technology that I alluded to above. Farmers are never empowered by relying on bioengineered grains – this is pure poppycock.

    The Nexus throws in this rather vacuous comment: *Funny how these Greenpeace people with brains never duke it out in the peer-reviewed literature, just like their climate denialist brethren. Just selectively quote, misrepresent and generally make shit up. Sound familiar*.

    Again, not to defend environmental NGOs, but how much is the ‘scientific data’ provided by corporations to regulatory bodies to be trusted? My guess would be in many cases not at all. Given that most of these agencies in the US have been gutted by successive administrations or else government and corporate doors are revolving and intermixed, since when has ‘corporate science’ been a reliable source?

    Still, I fully agree with Nick when he writes, *In this case the gene manipulation involved no insertion of outside material,but a manipulation of wheat sequences to create starches that are less rapidly digested. Rapidly digested starches are implicated in the rise of type 2 diabetes,increasing obesity and poorer bowel health. This manipulation would increase the amount of the starch fermented in the bowel with positive implications for bowel health*.

    This is why Greenpeace screwed up big time in this instance. As Nick says there is cross-phylogeny GM (which rightfully concerns me) and there is within-species gene – ‘tweaking’ GM (in this case) which I support. Its important to separate the two.

  41. #41 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    I’ll admit that Monsato are in a bit of a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose with me but they’ve been banging on about how they’ll put carotene in maize to make people healthier but the only thing they’ve pushed in that time are sales of RoundupReady seeds.

    And I’m not worried about rapid digestion of starches when HFCS is pushed and, frankly, is still only a problem when you have plenty of food (see above “we want to feed the world” schtick.).

    Agribusiness could be doing something right, but they have an honesty problem as big as the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. It’s a big barrier to climb.

    I didn’t put it there, though.

    And this is why I can’t rail against the act done here by Greenpeace. Nobody was harmed (unlike some ALF protests).

    Plus if the wheat is terminator-gene-d, this is a terrible thing to put into the wild, even in a test.

  42. #42 Neven
    July 14, 2011

    I’m not sure if Greenpeace was doing the right thing here (am not a big Greenpeace-fan anyhow), but is it wrong to be against research for commercial use of GMO?

    I’m with Wow on this one. People, watch some documentaires, do some research.

  43. #43 Robin Levett
    July 14, 2011

    @Wow #41:

    Plus if the wheat is terminator-gene-d, this is a terrible thing to put into the wild, even in a test.

    Why?

  44. #44 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    What do plants do, Robin? They have baby plants. But they’re done by the process of fertilisation.

    However, fertilisation is NOT the only way of transferring genes.

    Therefore terminator genes that stop plants being fertile can end up in plants that were not intended to be infertile.

    You can google up on all this sort of stuff if you want to know.

  45. #45 Robin Levett
    July 14, 2011

    @Wow #44:

    However, fertilisation is NOT the only way of transferring genes.

    Therefore terminator genes that stop plants being fertile can end up in plants that were not intended to be infertile.

    How common is lateral gene transfer in grasses? My impression (admittedly without deep study – I’m a lawyer not a scientist dammit) is that it is far more significant among bacteria and between organisms in a parasitic relationship than among multicellular organisms generally.

    Unless the rate of LGT is pretty high, even if the terminator gene got into the wild, it would be pretty self-limiting, wouldn’t you say? The only method of further propagation would be LGT; and for LGT to create infertility, the gene would have to be spliced into the right place in the genome to cause infertility. So we’ve got one pretty small number – the chances of LGT happening at all; multiplied by another pretty small number – the chance of the transferred gene hitting the right spot on the genome; representing the chance of LGT causing infertility.

    Where it is expressed, of course, evolution would take its course to eliminate what is a pretty significant evolutionary disadvantage.

    So how realistic is the fear? Do you have any scientific literature to cite?

  46. #46 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    > How common is lateral gene transfer in grasses?

    Not very.

    But then again, that isn’t what you asked for. You asked:

    > > Plus if the wheat is terminator-gene-d, this is a terrible thing to put into the wild, even in a test.

    > Why?

    The answer to that is that running around with terminator genes means that the wheat isn’t just “cross-phylogeny” or just about combating Type 2 Diabetes.

  47. #47 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Disclaimer – I’m a Monsanto employee, employed in R&D, comments herein are my own and do not reflect the opinions of the company (etc etc)

    Wow – on “terminator” technology – why exactly do you have a bug up your ass about this? The technology has never been used in a commercialized product and is merely a patent which Monsanto holds due to the acquisition of Delta&Pine – a technology they have said they won’t use (due to perception issues) despite the fact that it would frankly put an end to many of the perceived issues with GMOs (gene flow, accidental presence etc) as a plant which is infertile leaves no progeny to cause these issues in the first place.

  48. #48 Robin Levett
    July 14, 2011

    @Wow #46:

    If (and I stress if) there is essentially no chance of any consequences of putting terminator genes into the wild, then why is it “a terrible thing” to put into the wild?

  49. #49 Raging Bee
    July 14, 2011

    Ewan R: as someone with admitted experience in agribiz, would you care to respond to Jeff Harvey’s first comment on this thread? I’m kinda leery of GM foods (the monoculture/lack-of-diversity issue concerns me); but I’m not really decided one way or the other. Your response would be appreciated.

  50. #50 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Raging Bee – sure, I’ll give my take.

    Take genetically modified herbicide resistant soybean – in this case farmers must effectively ‘rent’ seeds that are the intellectual property of the company that owns the patent.

    Not really – farmers purchase the seed, not rent it, they sign an agreement that they will not save seed for use the next season etc which is really the only rent like aspect here – the trait in the seed is the intellectual property of the company, although PvP type intellectual proerty may also apply.

    The farmers become more like assembly workers in an automobile manufacturing plant, and can hardly free themselves of this constraint.

    This is pretty nonsensical and I’m not entirely sure how to approach it – the farmer can do whatever he wishes in terms of cultivation of the crop – if they’re using RR they’ll likely spray roundup for weed control, and if they’re using Bt crops ten they may hold back on insecticidal sprays… but everything else they’ll do exactly as they wish.

    At the same time, thanks to the widespread use of GMOs, we are losing genetic diversity that is a pre-requisite for species to adapt to multiple stressors.

    This assertion relies on the fallacy that a given GMO type is genetically homogenous as compared to varieties used previously – GM traits are not only used within wide germplasm within the companies who originated them, but licensed widely between seed companies both small and large – corn and soy variety numbers have seen a steady increase over the past decade if I remember the figures correctly. Introgression of traits into varieties suited to various conditions is a key part of the success of GMOs.

    The replacement of local seed collection for one genotype of genetically modified seed adapted to resist one threat is a frightening development in my opinion.

    See above. Also note that the utilization of hybrid seed and non-farmer saved seed is pretty much ubiquitous at least in North America, and that if farmers wish there is utterly nothing preventing them from saving seed (they jsut can’t, at present, use GMOs – although when RR soy goes off patent in the next few years the capacity to save GM seed will arise (and then face the spectre of going off regulatory approval some time around 2020 or so, which is as far out as Monsanto has promised to provide regulatory approval support for this trait – hopefully the ag industry in general and governments globally can work together to make the transition to off-patent traits smooth as the current structure is set up such that they’ll become all but unusable as soon as there isn’t a vast amount of money supporting global regulatory approval maintainance)

    many genetically modified crops contain genetic combinations that could never occur in nature.

    For a given value of could. (logically with sequencing one could select for jsut about anything in a genome given a large enough population and relying entirely on random mutation to provide the variation – might take a while though) Although indeed most agricultural crops contain genetic combinations that could not survive in nature anyway (could occur, would be selected against) And why something being able to occur in nature is a good call on whether to use it or not is beyond me – I’m thinking insulin produced by bacteria isn’t something that could occur in nature, but it certainly isn’t something I’d argue is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

    For example, inserting the genes of insectidical bacteria into plants crosses phylogenetic barriers

    Mustn’t cross arbitrarily assigned barriers right? One wonders why not exactly, but it sounds scary if you don’t think about it too deeply.

    muchy of it is based on the firing of genetic material from a ‘donor’ organism into the genome of the ‘recipient’ organism where it may end up anywhere and be expressed or not. There may be alos pleitrophic effects, if the function of some genes is linked with other genes.

    This rather makes out that the whole process is done willy nilly and nobody checks anything.

    For a GMO to be a commercial success it has to be pretty much as good as the best hybrids available (there was some intrinsic yield drag for the first generation of RR soy – but here there seems to be a modicom of confusion as to whether this had a real on farm impact – soy yields as reported by the USDA didn’t appear to take a hit, and the tests which demonstrate the difference are generally in agronomically ideal situations which are rarely the case on production farms (the average yields were awesome compared to national averages)) so you can’t have awful pleitropic effects etc, or non expression – this is one of the things which makes developing a commercially viable GMO so expensive – you have to generate a ton of events (individual insertions of the gene cassette of interest) screen through these to find those which are efficacious (in terms of RR and Bt this is as simple as spraying on roundup or making sure bugs die when they eat ‘em) and then take your efficacious events to the field to make sure they yield in the same sort of ballpark as the non-GM version. You also have to, to get regulatory approval, demonstrate that what you inserted is actually what you think you inserted, show that it’s in the genome, show you haven’t inserted stuff you didn’t want to, show you haven’t interrupted other gene function etc etc – all of these things can happen when genetically modifying an organism using current techniques – but they are all checked for – events which fail any of these stages are tossed out until you are left with the result of a single insertion which went right, does what you want it to, and passes regulatory muster.

    Ultimately, GMOs require immense public relations propaganda fort their successful marketing.

    Not really – pro GM propaganda actually appears to be spectacularly underfunded, particularly to the general public, where opinions like your Jeff’s and Wow’s are probably more likely to be heard (although generally the feel I get is that people don’t give a damn) – what GMOs require for success is to work. If they don’t work farmers don’t buy ‘em – the reason for the massive adoption of GMO crops lies not in the crafty dealings of Monsanto PR, but in the fact that farmers like to have simplified weed management, they enjoy the extra time they get, they like not having to spray insecticides as much, they prefer higher profits – take away these boons and the whole GMO arguement goes away because nobody would use them – to think otherwise is to assume that all farmers are dirt stupid with the business savvy of igneous rock.

  51. #51 Isabel
    July 14, 2011

    “ation into altering wheat carbohydrate content to reduce glycaemic response and improve metabolic health. Planting began in 2009.”

    what a bizarre justification. How about just eating less wheat? As in not putting it in every single food, eating wheat at every single meal? And eating only whoe wheat? How high is whole wheat’s glycemic index? This whole story stinks to high heaven.

    Altering the carbohydrate content? Sounds like that fat that you can’t absorb so you can eat all the potato chips you want.

    This is a stupid use of science – to increase some industry’s profits.

    Exactly what is going to substitute for the carbohydrates in this popular source of, uh, carbohydrates? What next, meat with less protein for people with kidney problems?

    Go, Greenpeace.

  52. #52 Neven
    July 14, 2011

    Ewan, I’m genuinely interested and don’t mean to be aggressive.

    Given Monsanto’s reputation, and the reputation of agribusiness in general (or at least that’s the impression I received after watching many, many documentaries and doing research): how do you deal with that? Do you really feel that the development of GMO for profit is without risk?

  53. #53 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Neven:-

    Ewan, I’m genuinely interested and don’t mean to be aggressive.

    You don’t come off as agressive at all, so no worries on that front (I’m relatively immune to agression anyway as I get wrapped up in teh sound of the clicky clack of my keyboard while I write spit flecked responses)

    Given Monsanto’s reputation, and the reputation of agribusiness in general (or at least that’s the impression I received after watching many, many documentaries and doing research): how do you deal with that?

    I honestly don’t feel that I have anything to deal with on this front – I chose the bachelors degree I chose (molecular genetics – which frankly I’d have been better off doing crop science or something, but that’s what happens when you let 17 year olds choose degrees) precisely because of the GMO work Monsanto was doing in the late 80’s and early 90’s – I was pretty unfamiliar with all the hoo-ha accompanying Monsanto at the time, and totally unaware of agriculture in general – working at the company now I don’t see the same Monsanto that is portrayed in various documentaries etc – I could perhaps respond on a point by point basis rather than attempting to deal with anything – historical wossnames I tend to view as more indicative of the time in which they occured, and I guess I also compartmentalize a little with the justification that the Monsanto of the 50’s through late 70’s isn’t the same company as that of the 2000’s+ – I generally view the reputation of agribusiness in general (at least on the seeds side – I can’t say quite the same for the downstream processors) as unwarranted, again if you require specifics you’d have to probe and I’ll do as best I can as to provide an answer.

    On documentaries etc I try to keep in mind that a documentary showing that something a global corporation did wasn’t actually nefarious and evil at all likely wouldn’t cover its costs (Food Inc is about the only one I have watched, and amusingly it was my wife (culinary trained, no real passion for GMOs either way) who spent more time shouting at the TV than I did)

    Do I feel that the development of GMO for profit is without risk? Unfettered I have no doubt there are risks – the risks as I see them in the current regulatory and legislative environment however are miniscule enough to be discounted – the pre checks on everything we put in the field are laborious and at times stupid but all geared towards minimizing risk – any hint of risk is enough to have a project slated – management are incredibly risk averse when it comes to the impacts a product may have – the global regulatory environment is such that I simply cannot see how anything harmful would get through – GM crops require clearance not jsut in the US, but in all export markets – and that is no mean feat (at present Japan essentially is the gold standard as their requirements exceed everyone elses, down to having to actually perform the trials in Japan (I guess for oversight issues) despite the chance of crops being grown in Japan being negligible – they are however one of the world’s most important import markets, so without approval you don’t have a product generally)

    What is kinda sad in terms of the research that Greenpeace jsut destroyed however is that it doesn’t appear to have been driven by the awful corporate spectre which overshadows much of GM research – indeed it wouldn’t would it, as we have our stealth helicopter gunships and the like to keep them off our plots – this approach, combined with the massive regulatory burden on any GM crop, essentially plays right into the hands of big corporations (if you’re taking a conspiratorial viewpoint you may even suggest this is all on purpose – I don’t think so personally) – you can’t really complain that only big corps are involved in this work when you go out and destroy the work of anyone too small to smoosh you (in court) and work to ensure that the regulatory burden on GM crops is in the $100M range – big corps are, under these circumstances, the only ones with the wherewithall to get a product to market.

    Apologies for tangential rambling here… thats what you get for lack of aggression

  54. #54 Paul D
    July 14, 2011

    It’s politics. Greenpeace are useful in some cases, but no one should be surprised when enthusiastic activists do something you weren’t expecting or agree with.
    In order to achieve a goal, you often have to get into bed with people you don’t agree with 100%.
    Personally I am not sure about GM, it depends on the motives of the people developing the product. Some seem to want to develop GM plants or crops to mask the polluting actions of other human activities, that seems pretty dumb when we should be tackling our bad habits rather than masking them.

    In some respects, supporting GM is a sort of climate denialist thing. eg. as long as there are positive outcomes of employing science they are all for it. But if the science points to the fact that we have to stop doing something (climate science) then it is bad.

    GM is probably always go to be a sticky subject. We’ll have to get used to it. My preference is organic where possible even when I’m on a low budget. In any case some organic products are cheaper than conventional these days, well it can be if you look around. Certainly some organic products can be cheaper than popular brand name products.

  55. #55 Hank Roberts
    July 14, 2011

    > slower digestion of starches

    No doubt they checked whether starches that are harder to digest would cause any problems for termites and fungi, because the precautionary principle …

    … oh, wait, Monsanto is a US corporation, isn’t it? And they don’t believe there could be any problems with genes spreading, and this stuff only matters for the time span of the patent anyhow, so they wouldn’t have considered any of the the obvious consequences of changing starches to make them less digestible.

  56. #56 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Hank – why would Monsanto give a flying frog either way about the consequences of this particular trial given that it… isn’t their trial?

    Do try and keep up.

  57. #57 Neven
    July 14, 2011

    Thanks for the answer, Ewan. It helps to make things less black and white, although it would take a lot for me to trust big corporations as Monsanto (as long as their bottom line is making shareholders happy).

    On the other hand, of course, it would be strange for you not to be loyal. For you Monsanto is the people you work with. I have friends who work for big banks that invest in land mines and the coal industry. But all the colleagues are such great people!

    Food Inc. wasn’t exactly fantastic, but there are a couple of others, that – even if only 50% correct – do not paint such a great picture of Monsanto. Most of them have Percy Schmeiser in them.

    But to truly assess the situation, I’d have to do more research. Either way, I always wonder how people rationalize working for multinational companies that are willing to go far for profit.

  58. #58 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Most of them have Percy Schmeiser in them.

    The facts of the Schmeiser case rather undermine his capacity to invoke pity. I’d suggest if the documentaries mentioned don’t mesh with the facts of the case as presented below then the documentary is likely simply just making crap up, or at least promulgating crap that has been made up without doing the requisite research. I’m lazy at the moment so I’ll simply copy and paste my schtick about Schmeiser in response to Wow over at erv:-

    this is a guy who discovered the accidental presence of the gene (the general feel isn’t that it arrived on pollen, but blew in off the back of a truck, not that how it got there is particularly pertinent) – at which point he was totally non-culpable as a patent infringer, he then selected for the RR canola by spraying ~3 acres with roundup and collecting the seed from the plants which survived (probably still not culpable, but this isn’t exactly normal behaviour) – this seed was stored separately from the rest of his seed and subsequently used to plant ~1000 acres – at which point only an utter imbecile would claim that the presence of the transgene was accidental – it’s all there in the court documents – 1000+ acres of saved seed with absolute foreknowledge that these seed contained the RR gene (which unless Percy was living in a box he’d know was patented material) certainly falls under the category of intentional presence – Schmeiser decided to fight this (perhaps for celebrity, who knows? Not sure what the green global lecture circuit pays these days – probably more than farming, I know I keep it in mind as a nice early retirement opportunity should I ever become disenfranchised) and lost hard, repeatedly.

  59. #59 Raging Bee
    July 14, 2011

    Ewan: thanks for the lengthy response. I don’t have time to respond at length, but re: my concerns about monoculture, I will quickly note this: you say that farmers can still use their own seeds, but you do acknowledge that monoculture is a serious problem, and implicitly admit that the farmers HAVE to use their own seeds to counter the problem that widespread use of one standard GM seed creates. And that, in my mind at least, raises doubts about how much of a net improvement GM crops really bring. The whole point of creating a new crop through technology seems to be that large numbers of people are expected to use it, because it’s allegedly better than the old stuff, and that’s where the benefit comes from. But if that results in monoculture, then the net benefit may not be nearly as great as expected.

    Not really – pro GM propaganda actually appears to be spectacularly underfunded…

    Forgive me for being rude, but HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW…

  60. #60 Jeff Harvey
    July 14, 2011

    Ewan seriously undermines his case when he says this: *the risks as I see them in the current regulatory and legislative environment*

    What environment? In the U.S. the regulatory and legislative environment is practically non-existant, particularly since the Reagan administration which helped to eviscerate regulations in the environmental arena. Since then, *substantial equivalence* has predominated, which is utterly meaningless is one considers that this ignores important intrinsic physiological traits that are impossible to verify visually. As I also said above, regulatory bodies are often occupied by people who used to work in the same corporations they are supposed to be policing. Its a classic case of the good-cop/bad-cop strategy.

    Furthermore, a BS in Molecular genetics provides zilch in the way of qualifications to be able to assess the ecophysiological risks of GMOs in nature. I might just as well trust the opinions of a guy who works in a cardboard box factory. IMO the most terrifying development is that a small number of powerful corporations – including those which created toxins like agent orange and PCBs – have more recently ventured into other domains, and are now buying up seed companies in order to exert control the food supply. They aren’t doing this out of any altruistic aim, but in order to maximize profit.

    What strikes me about Ewan’s emails is their striking naievete. Its is if he has not considered any of the many arguments that undermines his views. As I said above, my concern over GMOs would be slightly reduced if they were not hindered by that tidy little tag: intellectual property rights. Moreover, I will also reiterate that bioengineered grains require deep PR cover that manifests itself through the threat of poverty and hunger. But the devil is in the details: many farmers in the south are so poor that they can barely afford a hoe, let alone pay the staggering cost (or annual levies) for GMOs. Simply put, there is more than enough food the profoundly reduce starvation in the developing world, but there is a massive equity gap that maintains (or exacerbates) poverty whilst keeping the rich world in control of the planet’s natural resources. Prominent economists like Patrick Bond, Tom Athanasiou and Samir Amin have made this point clear many times, but clearly people like Ewan have never heard of them.

    The thrust of my argument is that IMHO most GMOs – at least in those examples where phylogenetic barriers are crossed – pose profound risks to the environment. IMO they are profit and not hunger driven, and that the technology is hardly ‘ advanced’ but still very crude. Moreover, the widespread use of GMOs in cropping systems promises to reduce genetic diversity, making it that much easier for weeds or insect pests to evolve resistance to them (as is already happening with many examples evident in only a few years). Genetic diversity in natural populations is a pre-requisite for adaptation to multiple challenges, and in many genetically modified crops this is being lost through the mass production of one genotype. I work with wild brassicaceous plants and in wild cabbage plants, for instance, we can find enormous genetic variability in secondary plant compounds (phytotoxins) in populations growing naturally only a few kilometers from one another. These differences suggest that the plants are possibly adapted to a suite of biotic and abiotic constraints (e.g. micro-climate, moisture, temperature, pathogens, herbivores) that are local in scale. Single genotypes of GM plants may be resistant (at least temporarily) to one kind of threat but not to many others, and thus balancing selection is lost.

    These and many other factors need to be considered in exploring this technology, but so far, in my view, this kind of rigorous scrutiny appears to be lacking.

    Finally Ewan writes this disposable remark: *Not sure what the green global lecture circuit pays these days*

    I will answer it: a lot less than the contrarian/anti environmental/pro corporate lecture circuit. There’s a huge slush fund in that area, as one can see by the volumes of money flowing into think tanks, astroturf lobbying groups and PR firms. In “Trust Us, We’re Experts” (2001) John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton showed that in 1998, agribusiness firms invested 29 million dollars in lobbying members of Congress. That same year, *all* NGOs – and that covers an enormously wide field including the environmental arena – spent a measly 4.7 million dollars lobbying Congressman. And recall that this is only lobbying money, and excludes other monies such as those donated for election campaigns. Its clear which ‘side’ has more money at their disposal.

  61. #61 Neven
    July 14, 2011

    Well, I was in a meeting with Percy Schmeiser where I live in Austria, and I don’t buy that he tried to rip off Monsanto, was caught lying and then continued to lie because he’s getting rich lying during lectures all over the world. But if he is, he and his wife are fantastic actors.

    Either way: I really don’t like the idea that DNA can be patented. And I don’t like it especially if it is patented to make profits. I wouldn’t want to be associated to that kind of set-up, so I take my hat off to you, Ewan. I couldn’t do it.

  62. #62 quokka
    July 14, 2011

    @MFS

    Greenpeace is opposed to GM crops because it takes empowerment away from the farmer

    Sorry, I think this is just populist bunk. The overwhelming determinants of “empowerment” are the economic and social relationships under which GM or any other technology is, or is not deployed. It is not some intrinsic property of the science and technology itself. One could also observe that in developing countries, small farmers are already well and truly dis-empowered.

    Following this sort of populist line promotes neither public understanding and informed discussion of the technology itself nor critical examination of the social, economic and legal framework under which it may be deployed. Buried in the political economy of the latter are the issues of social equity.

    This same sort of stuff is also enlisted in some of the politics of the anti-nukes. Nuclear power is held to be the property of the Very Big Corporation or of the state and therefore not nice. Which kind of ignores the fact that if renewables are ever deployed on the scale needed then they will also be the property of the same sort of players and in many cases the same players. The social and economic relationships will have changed not a jot.

    Some people sympathetic to Greenpeace may think this type of politics to be anti-capitalist, but it really isn’t. It’s just confused.

  63. #63 Watching the Deniers
    July 14, 2011

    Sadly, this is a PR disaster for Greenpeace.

    Imagine if climate sceptics had broken into CSIRO labs and destroyed computers in order to stop “modelling” of the climate?

    We’d be outraged. I’m sorry – but while I’ve had some sympathy for Greenpeace over the years, anyone with a genuine respect for science and empirical evidence should be appalled by such luddite behaviour.

    A war on science, whether waged by those on the “right” or “left” is still a war on science. It casts a shadow of fear over research.

    We rightly condemn the death threats made against climate scientists.

    Greenpeace claim they had “no choice”:

    “…We had no choice but to take action to bring an end to this experiment,” said Greenpeace Food campaigner Laura Kelly. “GM has never been proven safe to eat and once released in open experiments, it will contaminate. This is about the protection of our health, the protection of our environment and the protection of our daily bread.”

    There is no empirical evidence backing these claims.

    One cannot accept climate science and reject other empirical facts because they don’t fit your world view.

    This makes them no better than the climate sceptics.

  64. #64 Watching the Deniers
    July 14, 2011

    Just to back up my statements with evidence, the following bodies have stated at this point there is no risk from GM, and that millions of people have consumed GM food with not one case of harm reported:

    @008 study by Royal Society of Medicine: Key S, Ma JK, Drake PM (2008). “Genetically modified plants and human health”. J R Soc Med 101 (6): 290–8. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2008.070372. PMID 18515776

    US National Academy: “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” [http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10977#toc]

    See also:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food#Health_risks

    I note Greenpeace state that CSIRO is a “front” for big firms. How do these allegations differ from climate sceptics stating the CSIRO is a front for a world wide conspiracy:

    “…The CSIRO is being used as a front for foreign biotech companies; this has compromised its research and put Australia’s multi-billion dollar wheat industry at risk.”

    Are scientists the tools of high taxing socialists or evil capitalists?

  65. #65 Neven
    July 14, 2011

    Watching the Deniers, if you want to discuss this on a conspiracy theory level, bear in mind one big difference: in one case science is opposed by Big Industry X. In the other case science is supported by Big Industry Y. Both Big Industries are lobbying very hard to protect their profits.

    Now if everything in the food industry was hunky dory, I’d say: What a coincidence! But I’d rather be careful in adopting a view that can be transposed to whatever you like, or did you also believe that tobacco was good for you?

    Every issue must be judged on its own merits. And I can help it, but as soon as there is some Big Industry involved that cares about one thing only: infinitely growing profits, I get a tad suspicious.

    So, it’s entirely possible to say: AGW is potentially dangerous, and GMO is potentially dangerous. I don’t see how taking position on one thing, forces you to a certain position on some other thing. Because the scientists say so? Scientists can be very different across different disciplines.

  66. #66 Steve
    July 14, 2011

    Greenpeace has never had any useful traction or influence in the climate debate (at least in Australia), with their lobbying of govt possibly counterproductive, and their stunts and campaigning too polarising to be of net value.

    It seems they are pretty much the same for other environmental issues, except maybe whaling and nuke testing.

  67. #67 Vince whirlwind
    July 14, 2011

    I’d like to thank Jeff Harvey for injecting a bit of sanity into this thread. The misplaced trust of the GM-food-supporters is incredibly naive. Planting GM food releases genes into the environment which contaminates others’ crops against their wishes. That’s all there is to it.

    And despite all the talk of GM crop to cure this and fix that, virtually all of it so far has been aimed at increasing their sales of pesticide.

    The case of Percy Schmeiser seems quite polarising: here is a farmer whose land was contaminated by Monsanto – he tried to “empower himself” by doing exactly what farmers have been doing for 8,000 years and he was prosecuted for it.
    You either support that situation or you don’t. If you do support it, there is something wrong with you.

    This particular action seems slightly misguided, but then with extremists like Monsanto on the loose, it is good to have balancing extremists whose motives are far less questionable.

  68. #68 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    What environment? In the U.S. the regulatory and legislative environment is practically non-existant, particularly since the Reagan administration which helped to eviscerate regulations in the environmental arena.

    The global regulatory environment – the one that costs ~$100M to get a GMO trait approved in – it wouldn’t matter if the US regulatory environment didn’t exist as you’d still be left with the Japanese and the Europeans to deal with – unless what you’re suggesting is some sort of global conspiracy whereby a company that makes a couple billion a year net profit has the power to control all the world’s governments or somesuch.

    which is utterly meaningless is one considers that this ignores important intrinsic physiological traits that are impossible to verify visually

    Although the literature shows substantial equivalence in metabolites, transcripts, reaction of test animals to feedstuffs – what magical physiological traits are you on about which cannot be verified?

    Furthermore, a BS in Molecular genetics provides zilch in the way of qualifications to be able to assess the ecophysiological risks of GMOs in nature.

    I don’t believe that anyone asserted that it was – a capacity to read the literature, 10 years of following the subject with an interest capable to read the literature, and 3 years working in the industry however does allow me to speak with a little bit of knowledge on the subject (you may have noted my crack about crop science perhaps being a better subject to have taken was a little bit of self depracation for picking the wrong subject…)

    IMO the most terrifying development is that a small number of powerful corporations – including those which created toxins like agent orange and PCBs

    See even with my BS in molecular genetics I’m aware that agent orange was created by the US government, not by any powerful corporation.

    my concern over GMOs would be slightly reduced if they were not hindered by that tidy little tag: intellectual property rights

    This doesn’t track – you make a song and dance about ecophysiological issues which are utterly unrelated to intellectual property rights – what the lack of IP rights would do is effectively kill the entire endeavor (if you can’t make back the cost of regulatory approval then you don’t make the GMO (or at least never release it) – perhaps this is what would assuage your fears?

    The thrust of my argument is that IMHO most GMOs – at least in those examples where phylogenetic barriers are crossed – pose profound risks to the environment

    Nebulous uncategorized and as yet undocumented risks – one would think that after 15 years these risks would have made themselves clear if they existed.

    Moreover, the widespread use of GMOs in cropping systems promises to reduce genetic diversity

    Only that it doesn’t, as I made clear above – the traits are introgressed into many different varieties – you seem to be stuck on the erroneous assumption that all GMOs are the same basic genetic package – they ain’t.

    many farmers in the south are so poor that they can barely afford a hoe, let alone pay the staggering cost (or annual levies) for GMOs.

    Staggering costs? Can you back this with any sort of evidence? The costs paid by cotton farmers in India, for instance, equate to less than 2% of the overall cost of growing the crop and lead to 50-150% increases in annual income – the pricing of GM seeds is based on a value share – farmers end up making more than they pay for the seeds (if not why would they buy the seed again – if a farmer doesn’t buy again then wherein the profit?)

    Genetic diversity in natural populations is a pre-requisite for adaptation to multiple challenges, and in many genetically modified crops this is being lost through the mass production of one genotype.

    which GM crops have mass production of one genotype? It certainly isn’t corn, it certainly isn’t soy, it ain’t cotton – perhaps alfalfa and sugar beets – I’m not actually sure here – but the trend for every GM trait introduced is initial release in a small number of germplasms followed by increasing germplasm offerings as the trait matures – this is increased by the cross licensing of traits across the whole industry (Monsanto’s single biggest customer is probably pioneer – who license Monsanto traits and introgress them into their own diverse germplasm)

    These differences suggest that the plants are possibly adapted to a suite of biotic and abiotic constraints (e.g. micro-climate, moisture, temperature, pathogens, herbivores) that are local in scale. Single genotypes of GM plants may be resistant (at least temporarily) to one kind of threat but not to many others, and thus balancing selection is lost.

    Only that as stated, there is no single genotype – you need to stop being so dishonest around this.

    I will answer it: a lot less than the contrarian/anti environmental/pro corporate lecture circuit.

    But – more or less than a farmer makes… which is rather the pertinent question – the only qualification required to get on the green lecture theatre is a good sob story – veracity of the tale is clearly unimportant etc.

    Well, I was in a meeting with Percy Schmeiser where I live in Austria, and I don’t buy that he tried to rip off Monsanto, was caught lying and then continued to lie because he’s getting rich lying during lectures all over the world.

    He is however being whisked around the world to tell his tale to the credulous – the court documents are readily available for anyone to peruse and the story contained therein matches my above characterization – the additional conjecture on my part was mostly lighthearted – and has no evidencial backing whatsoever.

    I really don’t like the idea that DNA can be patented. And I don’t like it especially if it is patented to make profits.

    It technically isn’t as simple as that – it’s a specific configuration of DNA that would be none obvious (under the legal meaning) used for a specifc purpose in specific crops – the whole of which represents a ton of research and development effort plus the cost of regulatory approval – what would be your option for recouping this cost and cultivating innovation in the field? (Cost recouping, cultivating innovation, and sharing of knowledge are essentially what the patent system is built around)

    And despite all the talk of GM crop to cure this and fix that, virtually all of it so far has been aimed at increasing their sales of pesticide.

    Horseshit – profits this year from roundup sales have netted $900M (an increase on last year, but still well under the heydey of patented roundup), profits from seeds and traits were in the region of $2.9Bn (this sector has seen year on year increases)- the money comes from the seeds and traits – the pesticide sales quite clearly aren’t the drivers here – makes a nice story though as pesticides are clearly teh ebil compared to just plants.

  69. #69 Vince whirlwind
    July 14, 2011

    So 25% of their profits are from selling pesticides and that’s not a driver?
    Has anybody told their shareholders this?

  70. #70 William
    July 14, 2011

    Would we even be having this discussion if Greenpeace hadn’t done what they had done? They tried other tactics and they were ignored. They wrote to the companies to ask for more information on the testing and they were denied. People love to bash Greenpeace’s actions before they know the full story, and the bullies they are up against.

    Look up ‘GM Genocide’ in India. Presenting them with the exact promises they are presenting us with, healthier more effective grains. They went on to destroy hundreds of thousands of farmer’s crops, which ultimately cost them their lives as 1000 people a month take their own lives after losing everything. These GM companies are con artists and we’re falling for it. Meanwhile no other country in the world has allowed GM wheat testing, not hard to guess why.

  71. #71 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    So 25% of their profits are from selling pesticides and that’s not a driver? Has anybody told their shareholders this?

    25% of the profits are from pesticides, you claim this 25% is the reason that the other 75% is done, I was merely pointing out that this is a ludicrous stance – the other 75% is done because it is vastly profitable, that it may boost the sale of roundup is just a happy coincidence (particularly now that roundup is off patent meaning that the sales of both are not inextricably linked)

    Look up ‘GM Genocide’ in India.

    How about look it up honestly rather than looking up crank pieces. There is no link between GM release in India and increases in suicide. There is however a proven advantage to utilizers of GM cotton of increased yields and increased net incomes – if the technology was responsible for a “genocide” you are left in the rather sticky predicament of explaining precisely why adoption has increased every year in India in absolute lockstep with massively increased cotton production – these two facts simply don’t mesh at all with any hypothesis that GM cotton is failing to the extent in India that it would be responsible for a wave of suicides (and indeed when one looks at the rate of suicide amongst Indian cotton farmers spanning the period of introduction of GM cotton what is abundantly clear is that the rate doesn’t change at all)

  72. #72 Watching the deniers
    July 14, 2011

    @ Neven,

    AGW is a little more than potentially dangerous – it’s a risk, which the scientific evidence clearly shows. We can argue the particulars, the rate of temperature change etc. Sure, but we now that more CO2 in the atmosphere will raise surface temperatures.

    Risk of GM foods? Where is the peer reviewed science supporting the claims made by Greenpeace?

    I’ve been to their web site, and seen claims but no evidence. There is an [open letter from some scientists and GPs](http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/PageFiles/320004/Open_%20letter_%20CSIRO.pdf) (!) citing some [flawed studies](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food#Health_risks).

    Wiki sums up the debate, I’m going through the papers.

    >>”…In 1998 Rowett Research Institute scientist Árpád Pusztai reported that consumption of potatoes genetically modified to contain lectin had adverse intestinal effects on rats.[108] Pusztai eventually published a letter, co-authored by Stanley Ewen, in the journal, The Lancet. The letter claimed to show that rats fed on potatoes genetically modified with the snowdrop lectin had unusual changes to their gut tissue when compared with rats fed on non modified potatoes.[109] The experiment modified potatoes to add a toxin (snowdrop lectin), but the experiment failed to include a control for the toxin alone or a control for genetic modifications alone (without added toxin); therefore, no conclusion could be made about the safety of the genetic engineering. The experiment has been criticised by other scientists on the grounds that the unmodified potatoes were not a fair control diet and that all the rats may have been sick, due to them being fed a diet of only potatoes.[110]

    And:

    >>”…In 2009 three scientists (Vendômois et al.) published a statistical re-analysis of three feeding trials that had previously been published by others as establishing the safety of genetically modified corn.[111][112][113] The new article claimed that their statistics instead showed that the three patented crops (Mon 810, Mon 863, and NK 603) developed and owned by Monsanto cause liver, kidney, and heart damage in mammals.[114] A 2007 analysis of part of this data by the same group of scientists funded by Greenpeace[115] was assessed by a panel of independent toxicologists in a study funded by Monsanto and published in the journal Food and chemical toxicology. Some reviewers reported that the study was statistically flawed and providing no evidence of adverse effects.[116] The French High Council of Biotechnologies Scientific Committee reviewed the 2009 Vendômois et al. study and concluded that it “..presents no admissible scientific element likely to ascribe any haematological, hepatic or renal toxicity to the three re-analysed GMOs.”[117][118] An evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority of the 2009 and 2007 studies noted that most of the results were within natural variation and they did not consider any of the effects reported biologically relevant.[119][120] A review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand of the 2009 Vendômois et al. study concluded that the results were due to chance alone.[121]”

    I’m sorry, but we’ve all seen these tactics before:

    >>”Independent” scientists questioning consensus science.

    >>Arguments based on controversial, if not flawed research.

    Again I ask – where is the evidence? An assertion of malevolent intent is not evidence.

    I’d ask you, or anyone from Greenpeace the following quesions:

    >>Do you accept the position of the US National Academy of Sciences, that do date there is no evidence of anyone suffering harm from GM foods? Y/N?

    >>Is an attack on the work of scientists justified or not? Y/N?

    >>Do the “ends justify the means”? Y/N?

    These are the central questions.

    No one gets a free pass on making claims on scientific matters without good, clear evidence supported by solid peer reviewed evidence.

    The irony is that I’ve been accused of being a green-fascist-luddite by climate sceptics for accepting the science of climate change.

    If there is a risk associated with GM foods, then it needs to be investigated. Greenpeace is effectively silencing scientists by such acts. Teh only way to determine the risks to agriculture, ecosystems and public health is through research.

    As a member of the lay public I trust the scientific method and community. Yes, some get it wrong. Theories can change. But isn’t that the nature of science?

  73. #73 Tim Lambert
    July 14, 2011

    **Update**: [John Quiggin](http://johnquiggin.com/2011/07/15/greenpeace-an-enemy-of-science/) “It will be a long time before Greenpeace can regain my support, if they ever do.”

  74. #74 Ian Forrester
    July 14, 2011

    Here is a post I put up on Coby Beck’s “How to talk to a climate sceptic” blog a few months ago.

    …………………………..

    The four areas that I think are important are:

    Environmental effects

    Economic effects, especially wrt farmers

    Potential health effects, both human and animal

    Lack of proper regulatory control of GMO’s

    I’ll start with potential health effects.

    When I first became aware of attempts to create herbicide resistant crops I was not worried about potential health effects. At that time (mid 1980’s) there were a number of groups working on creating herbicide resistant crops. One group in Calgary was using a modified mutagenic approach and other groups were using different but similar approaches.

    However, the most successful appeared to be the use of genetic transfer. Genes for enzymes capable of breaking down the herbicide were introduced using what became known as recombinant DNA (r-DNA) technology. My initial views were that introducing one foreign gene product into a plant could have no harmful effects. So for the next few years I was more interested in following up on harmful environmental effects such as gene transfer (herbicide resistant weeds) and the harmful effects of excessive herbicide use.

    As the years passed by some of the actual techniques used in the r-DNA technology became available. I became quite concerned when I discovered that it was just not one gene but several which were transferred into the host plant. Two genes in particular raised warnings. Firstly the whole technology required the addition of a promoter gene to get a decent level of enzyme production. Secondly, antibiotic resistance genes were introduced to enable researcher to select positive insertions of the genetic cassette. Both of these are not what one could call benign.

    The promoter gene is obtained from a virus. Promoter genes raise concerns because they may induce other normally silent genes to become active in either the host or other organisms. One of the most worrisome cases is that the promoter gene may activate viruses which have their DNA incorporated in the mammalian genome. Such viruses are well known and some cause cancer. These virus genes can also be activated by chemical carcinogens. The problems with antibiotic resistance genes are well known.

    These potential problems were raised when r-DNA technology was first used but the people involved said that they were confident that incorporated genes could not be transferred either from plant to plant or from plant to animal. Such predictions have been shown to be myths and the genes are very labile and have been found in many places where they are not supposed to be.

    Another problem with r-DNA which may, and has in fact been shown to, cause health problems in animals and humans is that the gene product as expressed in the host organism is not the same as the initial protein which when isolated from its true host e.g the BT toxin is not the same when produced in Bacillus thuringiensis as when produced in BT corn. The reason for this is what is called post-translational modification (PTM). PTM can take a variety of forms but usually involves a shortening of the translated protein or modification such as glycolysation (addition of various sugar groups to the protein). The PTM is determined by enzymes from the new host thus the finished protein can be quite different from the original. It is the original that was tested, in isolation, for potential health effects.

    This is exactly what Dr. Arpad Pusztai did. He was a pro GMO scientist who was picked by the UK Government to design protocols for testing GMO’s. He did some preliminary experiments on this and decided that one of the things he would check is to see if the GMO organism is more than the sum of its parts. He added all the ingredients in a GMO (he made his own GMO potato) separately and compared that to feeding the GMO. He found nothing when the ingredients were added separately but found many problems in the animals fed the GMO. Thus there is something in the procedure which is the culprit. Unfortunately, his work was immediately halted and he was fired when he presented the preliminary results.
    There are many other cases of problems when feeding GMO’s to animals. There was a celebrated case when GMO maize was fed to dairy cows in an experiment in Hesse, Germany. A couple of the cows died. The experiment was immediately stopped and all of the cows disposed without proper autopsies. How about the experiment by the Russian scientist Dr. Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences

    who fed GM food to the food of female rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soya and a third group was given no soya at all. She found that 36 per cent of the young of the rats fed the modified soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 per cent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 per cent of those born to mothers on the GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 per cent of the young of those given no soya at all.

    Then there is the case of the results presented to the US Government for testing and approval. Eventually these results were released (in Germany) and the results mimicked the results found by Pusztai.

    Why are these results found? First of all, in the US the GMO’s are not tested per se for toxicity or health effects. The groups producing them only have to show “equivalency” to the non GMO counterpart. That is only a very gross analysis and involves nutrient content, protein content and does it “look like” the native organism. In the case of insecticidal proteins (BT) the original BT as produced by the bacterium (it was an approved microbial pesticide for many years and is approved for “organic use”) was used as the hall mark for the new BT incorporated into the new crop. This has been shown to be untrue in at least two properties. Firstly, the gene isolated from the bacterium and inserted is shorter than the native gene thus the protein will be different (possibly three dimensional structure). Secondly, the toxic protein is a highly glycolysated protein. The genes for this are in the bacterium not in the plant. The GM toxic protein will have completely different sugar molecules added. This will have a tremendous effect on the immunological response between native and genetically engineered proteins.

    My own thoughts on the regulatory process for these products is if the results had been presented for a lifesaving drug they would not get past Phase Zero or Phase One clinical trials let alone be approved for use.

    ………………………..

    The science is good but the technology is dreadful showing that technology is not just scaled up science but involves a number of other disciplines, all of which have to be examined and a cost benefit analysis performed to determine the success, or lack of success, of any new technology.

    I don’t agree with what Greenpeace did but I also don’t think that the research plan came anywhere close to stopping migration of genetic material from the test plot. Wheat and barely are wind pollinated and it has been shown that GM pollen can migrate long distances (many kilometers) from the test site. Check out the GM grasses recently tested in the States.

  75. #75 Ian Forrester
    July 14, 2011

    Watching the deniers quoted Wiki as follows:

    The letter claimed to show that rats fed on potatoes genetically modified with the snowdrop lectin had unusual changes to their gut tissue when compared with rats fed on non modified potatoes.[109] The experiment modified potatoes to add a toxin (snowdrop lectin), but the experiment failed to include a control for the toxin alone or a control for genetic modifications alone (without added toxin); therefore, no conclusion could be made about the safety of the genetic engineering.

    This is a completely wrong (dishonest?) description of the Lancet paper. Here is a quote from that paper:

    We compared the histological indices of the gut of
    rats fed potato diets containing GM potatoes, non-GM
    potatoes, or non-GM potatoes supplemented with GNA, to
    find out whether GNA [Galanthus nivalis agglutinin: snowdrop lectin] gene insertion had affected the
    nutritional and physiological impact of potatoes on the
    mammalian gut.

    http://www.biosafety-info.net/file_dir/385548857c702dc83.pdf

    I’m afraid there is as much misinformation spread by the GMO companies and their supporters as there is by the fossil fuel industry.

  76. #76 Pete Bondurant
    July 14, 2011

    I’ve donated to Greenpeace every month for a decade. This is the last straw. Despite their other good work, their anti-science and increasingly illogical approach to nuclear power and GM means I’m withdrawing my support. This from International Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo
    :

    A handful of GM chemical companies are working with government scientists on a type of white bread they say will cure bowel cancer. The reality however is that this magically modified white bread is no better for you than any number of safe, healthy, affordable foods already available in local grocery stores.

    “Cure” bowel cancer?! How’s that for denialist style mis-representation. As for “magically modified white bread”!? This is just scientifically illiterate fear mongering. These people used to be heroes – now they just sound like ignorant luddites. Very sad.

  77. #77 Hank Roberts
    July 14, 2011

    > “They walked in wearing full hazmat gear and walked out
    > without encountering a single security person….”
    from the original article

    Did Greenpeace mention whether they carefully removed all the pollen from their hazmat suits and tools? Somehow I doubt it.

  78. #78 Hank Roberts
    July 14, 2011

    I think reality is getting ahead of us rather quickly:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20694-e-colis-genetic-code-has-been-rewritten.html

    How timely:

    DNA is now DIY: OpenPCR ships worldwide 06 Jul 2011

    http://openpcr.org/2011/07/dna-is-now-diy-openpcr-ships-worldwide/
    “… OpenPCRs are on their way to users in 5 continents and 13 countries around the world. For $512, every OpenPCR kit includes all the parts, tools, and beautiful printed instructions – you ONLY need a set of screwdrivers.

    A PCR machine is basically a copy machine for DNA. It is essential for most work with DNA ….”

  79. #79 David Irving (no relation)
    July 14, 2011

    Like Pete Bondurant, I’ve been supporting Greenpeace for years. I’ll be withdrawing my support as well, and letting them know why.

    While I’m dubious about the safety and benefits of GMO, I’m not a life scientist. Every credible scientist I’ve heard give an opinion on them (most prominently Lord Robert May) doesn’t seem to be concerned.

    I don’t believe we’re justified in cherry-picking which science we accept, and which we deny.

  80. #80 Watching the deniers
    July 15, 2011

    @ Ian Forrester

    I know what the paper claimed: it is the methodology of the research methods that are in question, and it would seem to be flawed research.

    That’s the point, and I was very, very clear in stating that flawed research does not make the foundation of a rationale argument.

    [Enserink, M. (1999). “TRANSGENIC FOOD DEBATE:The Lancet Scolded Over Pusztai Paper”. Science 286 (5440): 656a. doi:10.1126/science.286.5440.656a](http://www.sciencemag.org/content/286/5440/656.1)

    But you’ve not answered my direct questions:

    >>Do you accept the position of the US National Academy of Sciences, that to date there is no evidence of anyone suffering harm from GM foods? Y/N?

    >>Is an attack on the work of scientists justified or not? Y/N?

    >>Do the “ends justify the means”? Y/N?

    So, anyone arguing the anti-GM cause prepared to tackle these questions.

    Imagine if religious extremists attacked a research facility developing a new form of birth control. Would we be outraged? Of course, they’d claim the moral high ground.

    What do we need to help clarify the the risk of GM foods? More research. But we can’t do research if extremists attack the work of scientists.

    This is what frustrates me about some elements of the environment movement: it gives the likes of Andrew Bolt/News Corp/Alan Jones perfect fodder to tar scientists with the same brush.

    A few activists feel they’ve “done something”. Thanks guys. Good work. In the midst of the *very important* CO2 debate and what looks like a runaway greenhouse effect kicking into high gear, these stunts are nothing more than “own goals”.

    @ Tim Lambert – good to see John Quiggin coming out swinging. Those of us with a respect for science and the scientific method need to equally condemning of anyone waging a war on science.

  81. #81 Watching the deniers
    July 15, 2011

    @ Hand Roberts

    End of article notes;

    >>There are other advantages. Genetically engineered organisms whose genomes are written in a brand new genetic code cannot mix promiscuously with other organisms if they escape into the wild. A new genetic code would also confer immunity on bacterial cells against viruses, which attack by incorporating themselves into the host cell’s own DNA. That could help with applications like drug production: the bacteria we engineer to produce drugs like insulin are routinely attacked by viruses.

  82. #82 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    Back in the 1990s CSIRO senior scientist were lamenting the funding regression from pure science to Applied science. Then the move to more commercial partnerships.

    Last I heard CSIRO where beginning to require more and more commercial partnerships in order to win internal funding allocation. This grant transmutation coincided with the rapid growth in for profit biotech and monopolisation of genomes.

    [Maarten Stapper](http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/csiro-dumps-antigm-expert/2007/05/26/1179601737365.html) believes that his GMO caution got in the way of this new commercial partnership funding paradigm. Though *assistant chief of plant industry, Dr Mark Peoples, said Dr Stapper’s redundancy had nothing to do with his views on genetic engineering. A project on the management of irrigated wheat he had worked on was now finished.*

    Howerver, what Mark Peoples asserts was a simply a case of Stapper’s work finishing, actually required a mediator in 2004 *to resolve a dispute between Dr Stapper and the then head of the plant industry division, Dr Jim Peacock*

    [More recently]( http://www.crikey.com.au/2008/07/21/csiro-scientists-gm-letter-campaign-backfires/) CSIRO Plant Industry Deputy TJ Higgins has defended the safety of GMO crops by making an improper associations between regulatory tests required for current commercial GMO (such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola) , and with effectiveness of case-by-case evaluation of GM plants*” (such as was done with Higgins GM Field Pea, abandoned because toxicologists found it caused immune problems and lung damage in mice.*)

    But Higgins’ *claims are “simply wrong” says nutritional biochemist and epidemiologist Dr Judy Carman, whom the West Australian government commissioned to undertake independent studies into the safety of GM foods.*

    >*Carman told Crikey: “TJ Higgins’ GM pea provides a clear example of the failings of our current GM food regulatory regime. The pea failed miserably on all the [independent health] tests conducted.” And despite Higgins’ claims, “these tests are not required by our food regulator”.*

  83. #83 Ian Forrester
    July 15, 2011

    Watching the deniers said:

    Do you accept the position of the US National Academy of Sciences, that to date there is no evidence of anyone suffering harm from GM foods? Y/N?

    How can the US NAS make such a ridiculous assertion? There have been no feeding trials on humans, except for the huge unregulated one where GMO’s have been added to the average diet without anyone’s consent or knowledge.

    In case you are unaware of it there is no labeling of GMO’s in the States or anywhere else. Milk can be labelled as GMO free except in the US.

    Therefore my answer to your question is I do not accept the NAS position since it is impossible for them to have reached that decision because we cannot connect illness to eating GMO’s. There are a large number of peer reviewed papers which show that GMO’s are harmful to animals, including the study which you do not seem to understand or are deliberately misinterpreting. Shades of AGW deniers here.

  84. #84 Vince whirlwind
    July 15, 2011

    It’s no worse than the misrepresentation that has accompanied Monsanto’s unrelenting PR.

    The fact is that Greenpeace aren’t trying to sell us anything, whereas Monsanto is pursuing profit by deliberately releasing something into the environment which will contaminate others’ crops, whether they want it or not.

    Think Cane Toads. But far, far worse.

  85. #85 Vince whirlwind
    July 15, 2011

    @ #81 – why bring wishful thinking into this? This isn’t about organisms with a brand new code, but about organisms that *do* promiscuously share their Frankengenes with other organisms in *my* environment. No rational person should be happy about this incredibly poor way of implementing a supposed scientific advance.

  86. #86 Watching the deniers
    July 15, 2011

    @ Ian Forrestor

    Again, I know what the paper said. I’m not misrepresenting it. All the literature cited that “proves” GM foods may be harmful have been examined and shown to be flawed. Go back and read the quote I got from Wikipedia, and look at the follow up studies/research.

    I think I’m really, really clear here. Look past that paper.

    You say “How can the NAS make such a ridiculous statement…”

    So – where is the evidecne of harm? Can you point to a fatality? An injury? No?

    Do you accept their position on AGW?

  87. #87 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    Tim asks:

    >*How are scientists supposed to discover whether it is safe to eat if you destroy experiments that would address that question?*

    Indeed, but how are scientists supposed to discover whether it is safe to eat long term if they limits tests to [28 day feeding trials](https://p3-admin.greenpeace.org/australia/PageFiles/321712/Greenpeace%20Report_Australia's%20Wheat%20Scandal.pdf)?

    It can take months for some substanced to imbalace one’s system or build to a level that produced toxic effects. I’ve recently suffered zinc toxicity which took 12 months to build up to a level high enough to produce pathalogical symptoms. Insulin resistance associated with diabeties can take decades of poor diet to produced its expression.

    >there is currently no publicly available information on the parameters of these animal-feeding studies and the OGTR
    does not require testing for potential toxic or allergic effects […] Greenpeace has submitted a Freedom
    of Information request to the CSIRO for both the health and safety parameters and the ethics clearance papers relating to the testing of GM wheat on humans. CSIRO has denied
    this request […] This removes the capacity for any
    external review of the testing of potentially unstable, experimental GM products on Australians.

    >The limited public information that is available indicates that CSIRO’s tests on rats and pigs will run for just 28 days before GM wheat is tested on humans. The first two phases of human tests will go for just one day.

  88. #88 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    >Can you point to a fatality? An injury? No?

    We’d also have trouble finding a fatality caused by smoking if we couldn’t find who smoked and who didn’t

  89. #89 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    >*Greenpeace has a big scary block diagram of all the commercial links between CSIRO and big scary corporations, but without something more substantive this is just silly innuendo.)*

    [The text](https://p3-admin.greenpeace.org/australia/PageFiles/321712/Greenpeace%20Report_Australia's%20Wheat%20Scandal.pdf) accompanying that diagram reads:

    >This year’s GM wheat trials were proposed and approved while two directors of Nufarm were serving on the board of the CSIRO. Nufarm is the exclusive distributor of Monsanto’s
    Roundup Ready products in Australia. Doug Rathbone has been Nufarm’s Chief Executive and Managing Director since 1982. During this time, he served on the board of CSIRO from 2007 until 2010.9 John Stocker joined Nufarm’s board in 1998. He served simultaneous appointments as CSIRO Chief Scientist
    from 1996 to 1999 and returned to CSIRO as Chairman from 2007 until 2010.10

    >The CSIRO’s current GM wheat project was locked in during this time – a clear confl ict of interest. CSIRO policy requires that no board member of CSIRO should become entitled to receive a benefi t by reason of a contract made by CSIRO with a firm the board member represents.

  90. #90 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    >We’ve been genetically modifying crops for millennia through hybridisation and natural selection, only doing so the slow way

    Our tried and tested hybridisation does not produce large random damage to the genome like a gene gun does (damage to genes can have significant and unpredicatable an effects).

    Nor does our hybridiastion place the new the new gene is a random spot along the gene sequnce (like the gene gun, where changing place on in the gene sequence can have significant and unpredicatable an effects).

  91. #91 Watching the deniers
    July 15, 2011

    @ jakerman

    >>”Can you point to a fatality? An injury? No?

    >>We’d also have trouble finding a fatality caused by smoking if we couldn’t find who smoked and who didn’t>

    Ah yes, but millions of people have been eating GM foods for over 15 years, again got the NAS report.

    Again I ask: point me to a fatality or injury.

    Unless like Ian you’re going to dismiss it out of hand without reading it?

    I mean, you wouldn’t want to dismiss information based solely on gut feeling? Right?

  92. #92 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    >*but millions of people have been eating GM foods for over 15 years*

    Yep, and millions smoked. After more than a century of not finding any fataltiy due to smoking, we were eventually able to conduct epidemilogical population studies. Key to such studies are the questions like:

    * do you smoke?
    * how long have you smoked?
    * how much have you smoked?

    The equivalent GMO questions are not answerable by most of the popution where GMO are avalible. Hence I take a conservative appraoch rather the Laissez-faire three monkey approach to public health. Especially when there is little gained but gene monopolisation the current by commercial GMO crops.

    Are you suggesting that

    >*Again I ask: point me to a fatality or injury.*

    Same answer WTD, you count

  93. #93 Neven
    July 15, 2011

    It seems we’re prodding an angry beast with a sharp stick in more ways than one.

  94. #94 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    Please ignore anything from *”Are you suggesting that”* in my post @92

  95. #95 jakerman
    July 15, 2011

    >*It seems we’re prodding an angry beast with a sharp stick in more ways than one.*

    My understanding is this would have likely been GP’s aim. To get the subject into the public eye, rather then hidden away.

  96. #96 Tim Lambert
    July 15, 2011

    **Update 2**: [Christopher Preston](http://theconversation.edu.au/greenpeaces-gm-vandalism-bad-for-farmers-bad-for-science-bad-for-australia-2349):

    >There is no evidence to support the claims of hazard about this trial made by Greenpeace.

    >I am left with the view that the destruction of this trial was unnecessary and wanton. That’s why the destruction of this trial has left me completely appalled.

  97. #97 Davis
    July 15, 2011

    As I said above, nonsense. Many of these patents will be renewed.

    This is simply incorrect.

    Except in extraordinary cases (undue approval delay at the PTO, or undue delay due to an interference proceeding), U.S. patents cannot be renewed. I’m not especially familiar with foreign patent law, but I know that European patents are also 20 years with no further renewal, and I think the same is true for most signatories to TRIPS (which mandates a minimum term of 20 years, but no maximum term).

  98. #98 Jeff Harvey
    July 15, 2011

    Davis,

    Your defense of GMOs is feeble. As I said earlier, there are many reasons – both socially, politically and environmentally – to be very concerned about the spread of some aspects of this technology. If your only defense is that some patents will not be renewed in several years then you’ve already lost.

    WTD: in the U.S. most of the research on cross-phylogeny GMOs is done by the corporations themselves, who then hand their results to the regulatory agencies. Given that the FDA and EPA have been reduced to mute status, many of these results are accepted as valid and used in evaluating the safety criteria. My point is that inserting the gene of an insecticidal bacteria into a plant and then expecting it to be an important arsenal in pest control is very much mistaken… plants have evolved to respond to a myriad of threats in the environment, and yet here we are assuming that one genotype of a certain crop will enable pest damage to be reduced over an extended time period. As I witnessed at a conference I attended recently in Bloemfontein South Africa, talk after talk addressed rapid resistance of some serious pests to GMOs. The whole technology reeks with simplistic assumptions about nature whilst ignoring the fact that diffuse selection operates in natural selection, whereby optimality is evolved through compromise. Threats to fitness are dynamic and often unpredictable.

    And to reiterate, much of the technology is not driven through anything other than short-term profit. Even if some of the patents were not renewed after 5 years, who cares? The horse has already bolted and the ecological questions remain.

    Ewan, I am not being dishoest about genotypes. Let me ask you this: Is there more genetic diversity in Roundup ready resistant soybean or in the seeds that farmers have collected for years after harvest? In Bt-maize or in wild types of teosinte as well as in many different strains of maize that are grown by different cultures around the world? Don’t be stupid! Your BS degree is certainly clouding any rational judgment you have on this issue.

    The rest of Ewan’s responses to my posts are useless bunk. Fifteen years is certainly not long enough to verify the many potential hidden dangers in this technology to the environment or to human health. He has never heard of the ‘extinction debt’, or of time lags in cause-and-effect relationships in global change scenarios. Besides, there is also evidence that many weeds are becoming resistant to herbicides as a result of increased spraying on crops, as well as insect resistance to Bt-crops. Hardly unexpected. When Ewan writes, * There is however a proven advantage to utilizers of GM cotton of increased yields and increased net incomes -* he is speaking more rubbish. GM cotton is not well adapted to very wet environments and soils, which are characteristic in cotton growing areas of India. The use of GM cotton in India, from all available evidence, has been an unmitigated disaster.

    And the technology is not cheap. Its not aimed to benefit farmers in the south but investors in the north.

  99. #99 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    Let me ask the proponents of GMOs this: if the public really does want GMO food, why is it that they refuse to allow marking of food products with GMO products in it?

    A free market REQUIRES a fully informed consumer.

    Why then are you refusing to inform the consumer?

  100. #100 Jeff Harvey
    July 15, 2011

    This excellent article in the GMO journal sums up some of the scientific concerns over the technology:

    Loss of Biodiversity and Genetically Modified Crops
    By Deniza Gertsberg | June 17th, 2011 |

    It is a statistic that is hard to deny: industrial forms of agriculture, with emphasis on large-scale monoculture crop production, have a negative impact on biodiversity. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, referring to the scale of the loss as “extensive,” found that some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost since 1900 as farmers turn to genetically uniform, mass-produced crop varieties.

    The term “biodiversity” was derived from “biological” and “diversity,” and refers to the total diversity of all life in a given locale — one as small as a backyard (or smaller) or as large as the entire planet Earth.

    Since genetically modified crops (a.k.a. GMOs) reinforce genetic homogeneity and promote large scale monocultures, they contribute to the decline in biodiversity and increase vulnerability of crops to climate change, pests and diseases.

    Genetically modified crops grow in a dynamic environment and interact with other species of the agro-ecosystem and surrounding environment. As “biological novelties to the ecosystems,” GM crops may potentially affect the “fitness of other species, population dynamics, ecological roles, and interactions, promoting local extinctions, population explosions, and changes in community structure and function inside and outside agroecosystems.”

    The recent concerns raised by Dr. Don Huber, who noted a link between GM crops, engineered to withstand continued applications of glyphosate, plant diseases and spontaneous abortions and infertility in pigs, horses, cattle and other livestock, further underscore the troubling fact that GM crops may likely have a larger negative impact on the agroecosystem and the surrounding environment. More importantly, Huber’s revelations further point to the inaccurate assumptions made by this nation’s regulators. GM crops are not substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts, they interact in novel ways to impact the plant, the soil and the animals that consume them and government agencies should think twice before deregulating GMOs.

    Independent scientists studying the affects of GMOs have also raised other concerns regarding the impact of GMOs on biodiversity. The spread of transgenes to wild or weedy relatives, the impact of GMOs on nontarget organisms (especially weeds or local varieties) through the acquisition of transgenic traits via hybridization, the evolution of resistance to pests (in case of Bt crops), accumulation of Bt toxins, which remain active in the soil after the crop is plowed under and bind tightly to clays and humic acids and the unanticipated effects of the Bt toxin on nontarget herbivorous insects, ((Garcia and Altieri.)) are areas of concern as are increasing concerns about the adverse impact of GMOs on insects (such as bees, for example), nematodes, and birds, all of whom either consume GMOs seeds or their by-products or are present in glyphosate saturated soils. “[T]he vast majority of soybeans and cotton, and 70% of our corn, is Roundup Ready, leading to over 230 million lbs of glyphosate being sprayed each year,” noted Bill Freese, the Science Policy Analyst at the Center For Food Safety.

    Furthermore, the impact of GMOs on biodiversity is also seen in the development of superweeds and superbugs since over-reliance on and the abundant use of single herbicide and pesticide lead to resistance in the pest community. The “unregulated use of glyphosate-resistant crop systems has triggered an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds infesting 10 million acres or more,” in this country alone.

    GMOs contribute to a decline in biodiversity in one other way. According to Bill Freese, the Science Policy Analyst with the Center For Food Safety, as biotech companies acquire conventional seed companies, conventional and organic seeds are pushed out. Freese states that:

    When Monsanto buys up seed firms, it discontinues the conventional lines, and offers only biotech versions. … So from Monsanto’s perspective, it makes no sense to sell a high-quality conventional variety when you can charge higher prices and make more money selling that exact same seed, only with a Roundup Ready or other biotech trait(s) stuck into it.

    It’s not just Monsanto. Bayer and other biotech firms don’t want to sell conventional varieties anymore. [They are] [n]ot as profitable. And since the biotech trait is patented, you get the bonus of patent protection when you insert the trait into a seed. That allows the likes of Monsanto to sue farmers for the “crime” (patent infringement) of saving seed, … .

    While additional studies are needed to gain a fuller understanding of the impact of GMOs on biodiversity, the currently available information begs the question of whether GMOs bring more harm than good, especially when small-scale farmers, using ecological methods, can address the pressing agricultural concerns.

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