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 Watching the deniers
    July 17, 2011

    Jaker wrote:

    >.Here are some of the observations we should studying openly to either increase confidence in the safety of GMOs or improve understand so that GMO can safety problems can be confronted.

    You’ve given me a link to a blog! (Seed of Deception it’s called).

    I’ve asked you guys repeatedly for *peer reviewed science.*

    Actual research.

    It’s like refuting AGW by sending me to Watts up with that!

    You posted this stuff over at John Quiggin’s site, and he dismissed it as well.

  2. #2 Watching the deniers
    July 17, 2011

    @ Jaker, Ian, Jeff etc.

    It comes down to this: should we attack the work of scientists if we don’t agree with it based on our *beliefs* and *values*? GP have committed an act on par with the Climategate hack.

    I note over at the Conversation that [John Cook of Skeptical Science writes](http://theconversation.edu.au/greenpeaces-gm-vandalism-bad-for-farmers-bad-for-science-bad-for-australia-2349?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+conversationedu+%28The+Conversation%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#comment_4443);

    >>I once supported Greenpeace but discontinued because I became fed up with its arrogant know-all claims in areas where I suspected the world was at the frontiers of knowledge. At least we can support genuine efforts to discover the truth – so far as it can be ascertained.

    Greenpeace are shedding support and allies over this stunt.

    Really is time for them to reconsider their attitude to science and their tactics.

  3. #3 Ian Forrest er
    July 17, 2011

    nsib said:

    For example, no one is “randomly inserting genetic material” into anything, and to suggest otherwise is quite dishonest.

    That is a completely dishonest statement. The “shotgun” method (using gold rather than lead) is a completely random process. No one knows where the genes especially the nasty promoter gene will be located.

    Promoter genes in the wrong place can have very nasty results.

    I suggest you actually read up on the various methods involved.

    Using AT is just as random but maybe a bit more reproducible from insertion to insertion.

    Good grief, you GMO promoters are as lacking in your science knowledge as the AGW deniers.

  4. #4 nsib
    July 17, 2011

    Ian,

    Nah, I’m not falling for tag-team tactics. You misrepresented AaronG’s argument and this article. Do you have anything to say in your defense?

    Jeff Harvey,

    I see I probably misread your statement about “randomly inserting genetic material”. I took it as saying the genetic material was random, rather than the location. Sorry about that. Still, I don’t understand the divide you see between technology and, well, whatever you think we should be using to solve our environmental problems. After all, aren’t things like crop rotation still a technological innovation?

  5. #5 Watching the deneirs
    July 17, 2011

    nsib wrote:

    >>Still, I don’t understand the divide you see between technology and, well, whatever you think we should be using to solve our environmental problems. After all, aren’t things like crop rotation still a technological innovation?

    Agree 100%!

    *I’m NOT advocating GMOs are a cure all, and should not be treated without caution.*

    Properly researched and regulated they *may* be part of a mix of solutions to help feed the growing global population.

    Just as importantly, climate change is going to put our food producing capability to the test: we’re going to need a very large toolbox of adaptation strategies and technologies at our disposal.

    And no, I don’t science/technology is a panacea for it all.

    Adaptation/our response will come down to government policy, market driven solutions, industry solutions and by individuals willing to make changes to their lifestyle.

    I’m planning to install solar, water tanks and grow my own food (I’m buying a new place to facilitate this). I’ll never get 100% “off the grid” but plan to reduce my reliance on fossil fuels, reduce my CO2 foot print and learn a bit of self sufficiency.

    But all those lovely solar panels I want, the hybrid car I’m planning to buy are “technology driven” solutions.

    Heck, a push bike is a piece of technology.

    So, there seems to be agreement on my first question that GM foods pose a low risk to human health.

    Should we have concerns about the implementation and regulation of the technology? Of course!

    But we don’t break into labs and destroy research.

    That is the work of thugs, and places GP on the same level of other anti-science movements.

  6. #6 Michael
    July 17, 2011

    WtD,

    I don’t think technology per se is the issue at all. As ever, it’s the use that technology is put to.

    And equating crop rotation with genetic engineering is avoiding the issue of the huge difference between things like breeding selction.

  7. #7 Watching the deniers
    July 17, 2011

    @ Michael who said:

    >>I don’t think technology per se is the issue at all. As ever, it’s the use that technology is put to.

    I agree!

    This debate is an important one. It must be had, and if it has to be vigorous, then good. I’m not arguing GM=good.

    I’m saying we have to play by the same “rules” and respect the value of the *scientific evidence.*

    It’s why I’ve asked Jaket et.al to give me science to back their claims. To date, I’ve been given blogs and partisan websites (such as “Seeds of deception”, neutral much?). As a blogger – but I understand the difference between my opinions at that of actual research.

    GP are making assertions of a scientific nature. Thus their evidence has to be credible.

    You can’t claim the imprimatur of science and then trash research claiming “it had to be done”.

    However, if you opposition to technology is based on flawed/incorrect assumptions and beliefs, then yes. If it is about stoking people’s fear of bio-tech, then that is of concern to me.

    To me it’s a romantic reaction to technology, stemming back to Huxley’s “Brave New World”… heck even Shelly’s Frankenstein – note how GM food is often called “Frankenfood”?

    It’s an irrational fear.

    A lot of what I see coming from the “anti” GM crowd is a mixture of:

    >A) mistrust of technology (hence the continual reference to the “unnatural” qualities of GM and referencing flawed studies

    >B) mistrust of corporations and governments/scienctists unable to properly regulate this technology – or the regulators and scientists are in the thrall of the likes of Monsanto.

    I’ve been to the GP site and the message is:

    >A) GM has “never been proven to be safe”

    >B) CSIRO/Monsanto are in bed together, therefore cannot be trusted

    Therefore, because GP does trust CSIRO or the work of these scientists, they can have the “right” to attack research.

    I’d ask if Jaker, Jeff and Ian are comfortable with that precedent.

  8. #8 Ian Forrester
    July 17, 2011

    nsib said:

    Nah, I’m not falling for tag-team tactics. You misrepresented AaronG’s argument and this article. Do you have anything to say in your defense?

    Just what part of that report are you claiming I misrepresented?

    Was it the part where they said:

    Mallory-Smith studied wheat pollen flow last summer using blue seeded winter wheat, along with white wheat cultivars to identify the potential for gene transfer to nonresistant wheat varieties. Working with a graduate student, Brad Hansen, to do wheat-to-wheat studies, they verified that pollen traveled 145 ft. according to a recent Farm Journal report [mid-February 2002]. Mallory-Smith told Farm Journal, “It’s safe to assume the same would be true for pollen from herbicide-resistant varieties.” The research is ongoing.

    According to Martin Entz at the University of Manitoba, Pierre Hucl’s research at the University of Saskatoon has shown that wheat pollen can move up to 800m [2,624 ft or about 1/2 mile].

    or was it this bit:

    Hucl (1990; cf Anon 1999b) found that the frequency of outcrossing for 10 Canadian spring wheat cultivars varied according to the genotype, where the frequency was always lower than 9%. [Research results were compiled by National Pollen Research Unit, at the University College, Worcester, UK.]

    I don’t consider 9% to be negligible as stated in the paper submitted for approval of the tests.

    In fact, the term “negligible” is mentioned frequently. As a scientist that is meaningless but I’m sure that lots of non-scientists will equate “negligible” with “zero”.

    From my reading of the submission I’m sure it was probably not prepared by scientists but by the various hangers on who spin scientific information to fool the lay person.

    To get back to your comments by AaronG, he said :

    wheat pollen does not go very far (well 1/2 mile is pretty far to me)

    and that wheat strains do not cross pollinate. This report claims that wheat does in fact do that so any farmer planting non GMO wheat has a “non negligible” chance of his crop being contaminated and a subsequent drop in price.

    Don’t say that hasn’t happened with other crops because it certainly did. When RR canola was introduced into Canada the price of RR canola was aprox 50% of non GMO varieties. Within a few years non GMO canola was contaminated (from seed contamination) and suffered the same drop in price.

    Of course the companies selling the GMO’s and their promoters said the chances of this happening were “negligible”.

  9. #9 jakerman
    July 17, 2011

    WT Denier, you are in denial of the evidence I’ve presented. Genetic Roulette cites multiple peer reviewed studies.

    http://www.seedsofdeception.com/documentFiles/274.pdf

    It doesn’t help your argument to exhibit such denial. Further more, what evidence would you expect when Biotech companies block access to their product for independent testing?

    JQ, fallaciously dismissed the site, its up to you if you want to repeat the same fallacy. But you are exposing yourself when you ignore the evidence.

  10. #10 jakerman
    July 17, 2011

    WT Denier, let me ask a very simple yet fundamental question:

    Do you accept the evidence that GMOs have been found to increase damage (e.g. gut, liver, or other organ damage) to rats and mice compared to controls, even in limited feeding trials? And consequently we cannot assume that GMO do not differ from other foods in “any meaningful” way?

    And following from this, do you not think it sensible and rational to require proper transparent verifiable feeding studies for GMO food before said GMOs are comercialised?

  11. #11 Watching the deniers
    July 18, 2011

    @ Jakerman

    Your link is a bibliography, full of citations to blogs, websites, company web sites, press statements and some research (?).

    There are hundreds, and hundreds of sources listed here but it tells me nothing.

    It includes references to those studies that have been flawed or found wanting. It includes references to the Monsanto website. It has references to government agencies.

    *There is no context, nothing to indicate the content of the references. So which of these hundreds of references are you referring me too?*

    The Monsanto references?

    So in fairness, I decided to play ball and look at one piece of research that would seem to support you case: yes I picked it randomly.

    I chose:

    >>“Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005; http://
    http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html

    Which took me too… what I don’t know. Some random Russian website?

    So I decided to look into the study of rats in more detail.. I looked for the author and further references of this study.

    The results of this study where presented at Terra Madre: a food conference!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_Madre

    The aim of this biannual conference is to:

    >>Terra Madre is a network of food communities, each committed to producing quality food in a responsible, sustainable way. Terra Madre also refers to a major bi-annual conference held in Torino, Italy intended to foster discussion and introduce innovative concepts in the field of food, gastronomy, globalization, economics. Terra Madre is coordinated by the Slow Food organization.

    What th..?

    So, the research was presented at a slow food conference?

    I mean… what th…?

    OK… maybe this research is somewhere else? So again I looked and found it on this site: http://www.iatp.org/

    This is the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy.. which sounds impressive, until you read it’s tag line “Progressive Politics. Practical Solutions.”

    Apart from GM, [they don't like nanotechnology either!](http://www.iatp.org/documents/racing-ahead-us-agri-nanotechnology-in-the-absence-of-regulation)

    Jeez… I’m in the rabbit hole here.

    So I tried another reference to this piece of *ground breaking research*:

    >>“Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first
    generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

    This must be the original research? Right? I mean it looks “sci-ency”? Right?

    So I try and find it, but it leads me to the same rabbit hole of the SAME websites, saying the same things! It’s all self referential. It’s a bloody hall of mirrors!

    I found the “journal” Ecosinform on a Russian website

    http://ecosinform.ru/

    Now… I spent some time on that site. It appears to belong to a Russian environmental group as best I can tell. How do I know? I’m not fluent in Russian but I can read cyrillic characters and can do some on the fly translation with the help of a dictionary.

    The citation refers to a magazine article, not peer reviewed literature.

    Here is edition the “research” appears in:

    http://www.ecosinform.ru/userfiles/file/1-64_Ec_inf_1_06.pdf

    Now the “research” itself has not actualy been published in any peer reviewed science journals.

    Nada.

    None.

    There are some [vauge conspiratorial musings that the authors were "stopped".](http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Winter20082009/JeffreySmithKeynote/tabid/1016/Default.aspx). Apparently the author of the paper was hushed up in some big conspiracy… uh oh.

    Ecosinform a supplment to another glossy Russian enviromental nournal called Echoes. Now, I’m all for Russian enviromentalism – goodness but don’t they need it.

    BUT…

    I’ve seen this *crap* before with the climate sceptics.

    It’s a Potemkin village of science, it all looks impressive, and full of “sci-ency” references. But seriously Jaker.

    I mean seriously!

    It’s a Gish Gallop, nothing more. Seriously, it was like being back writing “Watching the deniers” following up Monckton’s/Bolt/IPA etc. claims.

    I mean, if I’m going to present an argument I at least back it up with credible evidence.

    *This GM-soy-kills-rats “research” was presented at a slow food conference and published in supplement to a Russian glossy enviromental magazine?*

    Do you know how freakin long it took me to untangle that garbage?

    Farrrrrrrrrrrrrrk….

  12. #12 Tristan
    July 18, 2011
    For example, no one is “randomly inserting genetic material” into anything, and to suggest otherwise is quite dishonest.

    That is a completely dishonest statement. The “shotgun” method (using gold rather than lead) is a completely random process. No one knows where the genes especially the nasty promoter gene will be located.

    Oh my – it’s as if you have this picture in your head of a gold bullet blasting into a nucleus, randomly shattering the genome and then the parts coming back together with the new DNA somewhere in them.

    This isn’t how it works at all. The “gene gun” approach is simply a brute force physical method of getting your plasmid past the cell wall, rather than having to take the trouble to develop a complete vector that’ll infiltrate the cell of interest. Once in the cytoplasm, the approach to getting the DNA actually into the genome is the same as in any other transfection technique – hijacking viral machinery. You include the DNA coding for viral integrases in your plasmid. Cell transcription/translation machinery makes integrases, integrases splice your gene into the genome.

    Yes, it’s random – but the processes involved are (a)physical trauma, and (b) viral processes. Far from being unprecedented, these are exactly the sorts of processes plants have been dealing with throughout their history.

    Seriously – I don’t have a problem with you disliking GM. My problem with you is the same as my problem with climate change deniers, creationists etc. – you’ve very obviously decided you don’t like it, you’ve arrogantly decided you know enough about it to not need to learn more, and you’re very, very obviously simply making up ad hoc arguments to defend your position rather than trying to use the facts to decide what your position should be.

    The one thing you’re not doing is skepticism.

  13. #13 Vince whirlwind
    July 18, 2011

    Tristan,
    I’ll fully support GM product testing that is done in a way that guarantees zero contamination of existing crops.

    I’m not being ignorant, arrogant, or dismissive of the facts. The facts are that these products –
    – are often of dubious economic value
    – force people into a “locked-in” relationship with Monsanto (etc.)
    – reduce biodiversity
    – create superweeds
    – contaminate other people’s crops willy-nilly
    – are surrounded by a slick and dishonest PR machine’s efforts – pretty much the same PR machine that gives us the anti-climate change bull and gave us the Iraq war and the nonexistent WMDs.

    *That*’s scepticism.

  14. #14 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    Oh, and by the way, there is no such thing as a “promoter gene”. A promoter is a sequence of DNA at the start of a gene that basically says “start transcribing this gene here”. There are many different ones: some “always on”, most condition-dependent. GM can use either.

  15. #15 Ian Forrester
    July 18, 2011

    Tristan said:

    Oh my – it’s as if you have this picture in your head of a gold bullet blasting into a nucleus, randomly shattering the genome and then the parts coming back together with the new DNA somewhere in them.

    My, my more strawmen. Are your strawmen made from GMO straw too?

    And thanks for confirming my comment:

    The “shotgun” method (using gold rather than lead) is a completely random process.

    by saying:

    Yes, it’s random

    It seems like Tristan doesn’t know where the DNA in plants is located. The DNA is located in the nucleus, not the cytoplasm.

  16. #16 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    It seems like Tristan doesn’t know where the DNA in plants is located. The DNA is located in the nucleus, not the cytoplasm.

    Oh, for crying out loud. In order to transfect a cell, the most challenging step is getting your plasmid from the outside of the cell, to the inside of the cell (the cytoplasm). If you’ve designed the plasmid properly, the cell itself handles the rest – which of course includes transporting the construct into the nucleus.

    See, this kind of utterly moronic “gotcha” is exactly what I was talking about.

    As for your response to “Yes, it’s random” – I said that mainly in response to jakerman’s earlier suggestion that the random damage from this approach is somehow magically different from the sort of random damage that every single cell goes through every single day:

    Rather than the conventions causes of mutations we have evolved to deal with, gene guns make are large disruption in the formation state on the new gene, these mutations are subsequently passed to every cell of the new organisation, multiplying billions of times. This is radically different to the rate of mutation normally dealt with by organisms.

    Anyway, you know what’s not random? The selection step, where you go through the collection of cells you transfected, to find the one(s) where the gene inserted properly, in a suitable location where it is expressed well and does not markedly disrupt the expression of other genes.

  17. #17 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    WT Denier,

    Like other deniers you engage in the fallacy of cherry picking, so I’m forced to be boring and start you with a small fraction of the the list you are denying:

    http://www.seedsofdeception.com/documentFiles/274.pdf

    * J. R. Latham, et al., “he Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” he Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
    2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7;
    * Allison Wilson, et. al., “Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications,” Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews – Vol. 23, December 2006.

    *“Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada; An Expert Panel Report on the Future of Food Biotechnology prepared by he Royal Society of Canada at the request of Health Canada
    Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment Canada” he Royal Society of Canada, January 2001.

    * Allison Wilson, et al., “Regulatory Regimes for Transgenic Crops,” Nature Biotechnology 23 (2005): 785; citing the following: M. Hernandez, et al., Transgenic Res. 12 (2003): 179–189; P. Windels, I. Tavernier, A. Depicker, E. Van Bockstaele, and M. De Loose, M. Eur. Food Res. Technol. 213 (2001): 107–112; W. Freese and D. Schubert, Biotechnol. Genet. Eng. Rev. 21 (2004)

    * A. Forsbach, D. Shubert, B. Lechtenberg, M. Gils, R. Schmidt. “A Comprehensive Characterisation of Single-Copy TDNA Insertions in the Arabidopsis thaliana Genome,” Plant Mol Biol 52 (2003): 161–176.

    * F. E.Tax, D. M. Vernon, “T-DNA-Associated Duplication/Translocations in Arabidopsis: Implications for mutant analysis and functional genomics,” Plant Physiol 126 (2001): 1527–1538.

    * H. Kaya, S. Sato, S. Tabata, Y. Kobayashi, M. Iwabuchi, T. Araki, “Hosoba toge toge, a syndrome caused by a large chromosomal deletion associated with a T-DNA insertion in Arabidopsis,” Plant Cell Physiol 41, no. 9 (2000): 1055–1066.

    * Wilson, et. al., “Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications.”

    * S. K. Svitashev, W. P. Pawlowski, I. Makarevitch, D. W. Plank, D. A. Somers, “Complex Transgene Locus Structures
    Implicate Multiple Mechanisms for Plant Transgene Rearrangement,” Plant Journal 32 (2002): 433–445.

    *Allison Wilson, PhD, Jonathan Latham, PhD, and Ricarda Steinbrecher, PhD, “Genome Scrambling—Myth or Reality?
    Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants Technical Report—October 2004, http://www.econexus.info;
    see also J. R. Latham, et al., “he Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” he Journal of Biomedicine and
    Biotechnology 2006, Article ID 25376: 1–7.

    * I. Makarevitch, S. K. Svitashev and D. A.Somers, “Complete sequence analysis of transgene loci from plants transformed
    via microprojectile bombardment,” Plant Mol Biol 52 (2003): 421–432.
    * Latham, et al., “he Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” 1–7; see also John Innes Centre, “Study
    G02002—Methods for the analysis of GM wheat and barley seed for unexpected consequences of the transgene insertion,”
    September 2001 to January 2005.

    * S. M. Jain, “Tissue culture-derived variation in crop improvement,” Euphytica 118 (2001): 153–166.

    So WT Denier, instead of being such a bore, anser my [simple fundamental question](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/07/greenpeace_destroy_genetically.php#comment-4486368).

  18. #18 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    >I said that mainly in response to jakerman’s earlier suggestion that the random damage from this approach is somehow magically different from the sort of random damage that every single cell goes through every single day.

    [Evidence shows](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/07/greenpeace_destroy_genetically.php#comment-4461367), the damage from gene insertion (especial with massive gene gun damage) is on a diffident scale to the sort of random damage that every single cell goes through every single day. The effects on genes and gene expression are massive.

  19. #19 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    5% of genes differentially expressed, is I think what you said. You know what other things will cause differential expression in 5% or more of genes?

    Lack of sunlight.
    Excess of sunlight.
    Lack of water.
    Excess of water.
    Cold.
    Heat.
    Time of day.
    Time of year.
    Lack of minerals.
    Salt.

    Pretty much everything, really.

    Differential expression of genes means sweet F. A. in and of itself. More data is needed to know whether it’s a good or a bad thing.

    Oh, wait…

  20. #20 MFS
    July 18, 2011

    >I’m not being ignorant, arrogant, or dismissive of the facts. The facts are that these products – – are often of dubious economic value – force people into a “locked-in” relationship with Monsanto (etc.) – reduce biodiversity – create superweeds – contaminate other people’s crops willy-nilly – are surrounded by a slick and dishonest PR machine’s efforts – pretty much the same PR machine that gives us the anti-climate change bull and gave us the Iraq war and the nonexistent WMDs.

    What a lot of criticism of GMOs seems to fail to address is that farmers only grow them because they are more profitable for the farmer. Case in point: an acquaintance grows opium poppies. Due to a moratorium on GMOs in the state he lives in, he cannot get RoundUp Ready poppies. As a result of this he has to spray his poppy crop six times with different cocktails of herbicides that every time manage to almost, but not quite, kill the poppies, as well as killing everything else (hopefully). It costs an arm and a leg, significantly reduces the yield, and if it rains at the wrong time, at best he has to re-spray the same crap, ot worst he loses the crop to weeds. His friends elsewhere who grow RoundUp Ready poppies only have to spray twice with glyphosate, which is not only much, much cheaper, but significantly less harmful to the environment.

    Nobody is forcing him to lock into a supplier with a company. He can choose to go back to growing the less profitable traditional varieties any day. It’s just not good money for him and not good for the farm. As to a reduction of biodiversity, that is called a monoculture, and has little to do with GM. Virtually every plant strain of hybrid origin being grown today is the same, and open pollinated commercial crops in many plant families have been rare as hens teeth since long before GM came along.

    As to superweeds, they arise the same by being hit continually with herbicides (i.e. through an artificial selection process). Hybridisation of GM plants with wild weeds has only proven a problem with very few families, and AFAIK is pretty much restricted to the Brassicas. What is the solution to this problem? Terminator technology, of course. Again, a farmer is not obliged to purchase a seed lot with terminator technology from a supplier, they can keep on growing the same variety they have been. There is no market for them unless they’re significantly more profitable for the farmer to grow than traditional varieties, enough to overcome the fact that the farmer cannot save seed from one generation to the next.

  21. #21 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    As for mutations, it’s been known for rather a long time that that’s a consequence of plant tissue culture, not of transfection per se.

    Plants regenerated from relatively undifferentiated callus cultures possess a vast array of genetic changes. Such variations can result in useful agricultural and horticultural products. For other purposes, however, variations in traits other than those of interest may be undesirable–for example, using cultured cells for genetic engineering. Any steps made toward understanding the basis of tissue culture-induced genetic variation should be helpful in developing a more stable and manipulatable somatic cell system. This review provides a glimpse at the specific kinds of genetic changes encountered among regenerated plants and their progeny. Included among these variations are cytosine methylation alterations of the genome. The repeat-induced point mutation (RIP) phenomenon, reported for filamentous fungi, is invoked to provide a framework to consider the origin of variation in plant tissue cultures.

    My bold. You know who really like and take advantage of that fact? Traditional plant breeders. For GM engineers it’s actually a problem, because what they really want is a plant that’s identical to the original apart from their inserted gene.

    Let me re-state that very clearly: it’s not the gene insertion that causes most of the mutations. It’s the very high background mutation rate that occurs in any plant tissue culture, which plant breeders have been taking advantage of since well before GM ever existed.

  22. #22 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    Tristan is ignoring a 2-4% change in DNA and acting like the insertion of single gene producing a 5% change is expression of genes is nothing of interest, and raises no questions or concerns or indicates.

    I suppose next Tristan will argue that this scale and quality of DNA change is the same as the disruption caused by DNA breakage in each cell every day? Oh, wait…

  23. #23 Neven
    July 18, 2011

    Because of this discussion I have watched a documentary that has been sitting on my hard drive for quite a while: The World According to Monsanto. This documentary was co-produced by Arte France, the National Film Board of Canada, WDR, which in my opinion are quite serious broadcasters (no Channel 4). It has some great material on the role the FDA played/plays in the approval of GMO for the market, the influence of revolving-door-lobbyists, the suppression of scientists who said ‘wait a minute’.

    The pro-GMO people are basically telling me I should trust Monsanto. It’s like asking me to trust Exxon, BP, Goldman Sachs and Tepco. The thing that is driving AGW is the same thing driving GMO research. How people don’t see that is beyond me.

    Ewan R, if you’re still reading: quit your job asap, plan for it, step out, you don’t want to be part of this criminal organisation, no matter how friendly your colleagues and bosses are. You’re smart, you can do something more useful. Please, it is people like you who are making all of this possible.

  24. #24 Jeff Harvey
    July 18, 2011

    Neven, you say it perfectly when you write, “The pro-GMO people are basically telling me I should trust Monsanto. It’s like asking me to trust Exxon, BP, Goldman Sachs and Tepco. The thing that is driving AGW is the same thing driving GMO research. How people don’t see that is beyond me.”

    Many of the same people endlessly promoting GMOs as a ‘wonder technology’ are the same people denying AGW. Philip Stott comes to mind, but there are others. In both camps, we are endlessly told that ‘human ingenuity’ and ‘technology’ will deal with any limitations imposed on us by nature, and especially those caused by human simplification and/or alteration of natural systems across the biosphere. Its the ugly head of neoclassical economics raising itself again.

    I have expressed my concerns about the technology in several posts on this thread. These concerns cover a wide array of quite different fields: social, economic, political and scientific. Several people here – WTD most prominently amongst them – argue that it is up to scientists like myself to *prove* that GMOs pose a threat to human health of the environment. This is exactly what the climate change denialists are saying. Throw the ‘precautionary principle’ out the window and that the onus is on critical scientists like myself and many colleagues to prove that the outcome of these two experiments – one through climate change, the other through genetically engineered organisms – may have serious consequences down the road. Until this is proven, we should plough ahead with this technology as well as to keep belching out those greenhouse gases. As far as I am concerned this is a ‘bastardized’ reversal of what the PP is all about.

    To repeat myself for the umpteenth time, inserting genetic material from insecticidal bacteria or goats or rabbits or whatever into the genomes of plants pushes science and humanity into a new and unpredictable direction. For many molecular biologists, IMO the genome has become a ‘plaything’ in which the consequences of the technology end at the level of the organism. Consequences beyond that – with the environment, for example – are seldom factored in. Therein lies the rub. Certainly many GMOs have been placed into the environment with little or no concern or study as to their potential effects on native flora and fauna or on large-scale ecological communities. This is probably because a lot of money and profit is at stake. I am not an anti-technology luddite but a cautious scientist with profound concerns. Again, IMO its just a shame that in this area amny scientists have abondoned the notion of caution and have opted instead for a reckless devil-amy-care attitude that downplays all of the potential risks whilst focussing only on the perceived benefits.

  25. #25 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    Reading comprehension. It’s a dying art.

    I am not “ignoring 2-4% change in DNA” – I’m pointing out that this isn’t primarily due to the genetic modification, but simply due to the very high background mutation rate in plant tissue culture – something that non-GM breeders take advantage of to generate random variability from which they can select new traits.

    Similarly, I’m not ignoring changes in expression in 5% of genes – just pointing out that, in isolation, such an observation is meaningless. To understand whether or not it’s a bad thing, you have to look much deeper, at what those differentially expressed genes do. What pathways they represent, what enzymes are produced, what metabolites are affected.

    Or, you could just do what most breeders do: look at how well the plant grows, look at its yields, look at the composition of the edible portion, perform feeding trials etc.

    Now, a question for you. Should be a trifle, since you’re so knowledgable about GM and, of course, haven’t dismissed anything without understanding it first.

    In your own words, describe in a few sentences:
    A. How roundup (glyphosate) works, and why it’s so toxic to plants and not to animals;
    B. How a Roundup Ready plant is resistant to glyphosate; and
    C. Why this makes RR plants so scary?

    Pretty straightforward questions. I could answer A and B in 2-3 sentences, but I must admit I’m stumped on C.

  26. #26 Watching the deniers
    July 18, 2011

    @ Jaker

    Ok thanks for your references! Now we getting somewhere. I’ll read.

    At the very least, I’ve been forced to review a greater variety of materials and consider the issue.

    More like it mate.

  27. #27 Watching the deniers
    July 18, 2011

    @ Neven you say:

    >>The pro-GMO people are basically telling me I should trust Monsanto. It’s like asking me to trust Exxon, BP, Goldman Sachs and Tepco. The thing that is driving AGW is the same thing driving GMO research. How people don’t see that is beyond me.

    No, I’m not asking you to trust Monsanto.

    I’ve asked for evidence to back claims. Heck, I wouldn’t trust them – what we’ve all been saying is “don’t destroy the work of scientists”.

    Remember, it was the work of CSIRO scientists destroyed *not* a Monsanto facility that was broken into.

    It is the supposssed terrible nature of GM and the collusion of CSIRO with evil corporations that lead Greenpeace to think they had license to do what they did.

    The logic of of some seems to be:

    GM/Monsanto bad > CSIRO bad > destroying “corrupt” research good.

    Now, Jakerman asked me if I supported proper trials of GMO – 100% agree.

    And I’ve asked for evidence, which he has and I can now review.

    This is how it should be conducted.. not with a whipper snipper but words and debate.

  28. #28 Neven
    July 18, 2011

    WTD, in response to Frank I wrote:

    “I’m not condoning what those Greenpeace activists did. I don’t have enough details anyhow. But that’s why I also don’t condemn it, cry about own goal this, own goal that, and how we, the reality-based progressive smart ones, are so much better than the anti-science, anti-GMO luddites who are really just like AGW deniers.

    How do we judge the Greenpeace activists that scaled that chimney at Kingsnorth power station?”

  29. #29 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “I’ve asked for evidence to back claims”

    Which claims? The claim is that GMOs are both safe and necessary.

    Both claims are unproven and the production of GMOs is proven to be a disaster for the actual farmers in developing worlds.

  30. #30 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    Tristan I’m glad it seems we agree that GM techniques including combinations of gene gun and tissue culture cause genetic disruption of a scale and quality that can not simply be assumed equivalent to normal day to day DNA breakage.

    >*To understand whether or not it’s a bad thing, you have to look much deeper, at what those differentially expressed genes do. What pathways they represent, what enzymes are produced, what metabolites are affected. [...] look at the composition of the edible portion, *perform feeding trials etc*.

    My beef is that such feeding trials are not required. And those done typically are short term and/or have other serious flaws. A protocol for high quality trials(which includes transparent trials and are repeatable by independent parties) are what I’ve been arguing for.

  31. #31 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “What a lot of criticism of GMOs seems to fail to address is that farmers only grow them because they are more profitable for the farmer”

    [FALSE.](http://www.i-sis.org.uk/farmersSuicidesBtCottonIndia.php)

    It may be true in the first world and then only in America where you were put on GMOs before you were told about them. Europe has asked for labelling and segregation so that the consumer can choose for themselves. And in the developing world its cheaper to avoid big agribusiness products, but often aid is given as GMO products. Just like Bill Gates pushes Microsoft products “to aid the third world”.

  32. #32 Watching the deniers
    July 18, 2011

    @ Jakerman

    I’ve started reading and reviewing your citations. A few things to note.

    Ok this one:

    >>>[Allison Wilson, et al., “Regulatory Regimes for Transgenic Crops,” Nature Biotechnology 23 (2005): 785; citing the following: M. Hernandez, et al., Transgenic Res. 12 (2003): 179–189; P. Windels, I. Tavernier, A. Depicker, E. Van Bockstaele, and M. De Loose, M. Eur. Food Res. Technol. 213 (2001): 107–112; W. Freese and D. Schubert, Biotechnol. Genet. Eng. Rev. 21 (2004)](http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/files2/20501.pdf)

    Is a letter to Nature Biotechnology(Correspondence section)

    Does not constitute research, but opinion.

    Now, this one which is cited multiple times;

    >>[J. R. Latham, et al., “[T]he Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” [T]he Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7](http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jbb/2006/025376/abs/)

    So I got to article, I start reading… but I note something. The journal is published by Hindawi Publishers.

    Who?

    Who or what is Hindawi? They are an “open access peer review” publisher based in Cairo.

    Under the Hindawi model authors pay to have their article published processed and published… OK then.

    Their business model is interesting and the company has been in operation since 1997 and lets say they’re… semi-legit?

    It’s not a scam, but they’re kinda borderline.

    Now, I manage the information services department for a large professional firm and I have some guidelines on selecting and purchasing information.

    This is my profession: to assess the accuracy, authority and legitimacy of publishers and sources.

    I negotiate with publishers pretty much every day, some of them the largest in the world.

    I get spammed/mailed/cold called and marketed to every day, so I have a good feel for the legitimacy of published resources. While they seem to be (kinda sorta) legit, they are well.. a little bottom-feederish.

    Here’s a good discussion on the open text/Hindawi model which is [regarded as controversal and almost a scam by some](http://blog.pokristensson.com/2010/11/04/academic-spam-and-open-access-publishing/):

    >>Another open access publisher that likes to send spam is Hindawi. However, news to me was that Hindawi now spams on behalf of EURASIP, an organization I thought was reputable (until now)

    Now I could ask my peers at the university libraries their opinion on the status of their publications, who holds this journal in their collections (a good marker of a journals legitimacy).

    But having searched a few collections, I can tell you:

    > It is not held at the National Library of Australia

    > Monash Uni has a [link to it via their catalogue](http://library.monash.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=5294&recCount=20&recPointer=1&bibId=2134239), but no physical holdings (I mean it’s free, why bother?)

    So.. what about the paper itself?

    I’ve read the article and well… It’s now wowing me. Don’t know much about the Hindawi quality control.

    The authors of the paper are associated with:

    >>Bioscience Resource Project – an “independent” and pretty partisan group.

    >>Econexus – another independent think tanky thing.

    The three authors have degrees, which seem legit, though none appear to be currently associated with any academic institutions.

    The Bioscience Resource Project don’t like nanotech either looking at their website.

    I’m seeing a pattern on all these sites now: invisible, tiny stuff like DNA and “nano-tech” is kinda of scary to them. They really don’t like teeny-tiny stuff science looks at. I mean, if you can’t see it how can you trust it?

    Now, you may think I’m not being fair or nit-picking.

    But this is my job. To question the legitimacy of sources, determine their value and assess materials as trusted information sources.

    This paper is kinda failing on that front.

    It makes some very broad and sweeping generalisations, and is about public policy – it does not actually present any original research, but refers to other research… Which means I’d have to go to those sources as well..

    In short it argues: WE DONT KNOW ENOUGH SO DO NOTHING.

    That’s the paper’s argument: it’s too dangerous. We don’t know! So just stop! Ok enough with the research!

    It’s an Op-Ed with footnotes.

    You can see my dilemma here mate, can’t you?

    It’s looking a bit thin, and I’m only two papers in.

    I will continue through your list though, that’s only fair.

  33. #33 Bernard J.
    July 18, 2011

    I’ve been very reluctant to comment on this thread, because it is so fraught with political (and probably with scientific) complexity that it makes the physics of climate change seem plain sailing by comparison. However I’ve reached a point where I feel compelled to repeat a few points and to add several more. And I say this as a person who worked with one of the first PCR machines in Australia, the clicking, hissing thing that it was…

    My first concern with the non-contained use of genetically modified organisms is that their ecological effects are mostly unknown, and are largely unknowable, until they have been released and have completely equilibrated with the environments that they colonise. Even years of controlled testing cannot predict all of the effects that a released GMO might exhibit, as no controlled experimental environment can really replicate the intricacies of a functioning ecosystem.

    One of the problems is that genetic engineering is not the same as random mutation in a genome, nor is it the same as hydridisation between species capable of natural interbreeding – protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Reflecting its very raison d’être, GE involves the wholesale transference of large and (often complexly) functional pieces of genetic information, and as Jeff Harvey points out these transferred inserts are usually foreign to the taxa receiving them.

    The upshot is not only that humans might release weedy species novel to a particular ecosystem, as is commonly discussed, but that a GMO may have other, unforeseeable impacts. One such impact is exemplified by [Bob Seamark's work with mouse poxvirus](http://www.csiro.au/files/mediarelease/mr2001/Prmousefox.htm) (pretty illustrations [here](http://www.bioresearchonline.com/article.mvc/Australians-create-killer-mouse-virus-0001)), where a predicted response did not occur, and a severe consequence was instead evidenced.

    The CSIRO poxvirus incident is a notable example, and many engineerings would not be so spectacular, but to repeat – the problem is that synergies and emergences resulting from transferred genetic material interacting with its new milieu cannot be easily forecast in all cases. And this applies not just to the engineered host organism itself, but to the ecosystem(s) in which GMOs may be released. If genetic exotics follow the pattern of action of more traditional translocated exotic species, then it is quite possible for a GMO to lie as a ‘sleeper’ in its new milieu, and ony manifest a negative action when density, interaction with other species, or other conjunctions of factors reach a critical threshold.

    My second reservation reflects Isobel’s observations above, to the effect that a lot of genetic engineering is a case of having a hammer and seeing everything as a nail. This really is the case – often the ‘problem’ being ‘addressed’ could be more cheaply and simply solved merely by switching the organisms, or even the varieties, being used, or by altering other techniques and processes.

    You want vitamin A? Plant a crop that produces it naturally – there are already plenty available. You want a sweeter tomato (as was being engineered in a lab I used to work in)? Try some of the almost extinct heritage varieties – or just put sugar on the ones that aren’t sweet enough for the poor diddums you’re marketing to. You want something that can grow in salinated soil? Don’t salinate it in the first place, or if you do, consider action to rehabilitate it…

    My third issue with much GE is that in many cases it presupposes that the laws of thermodynamics don’t act in the ‘real world’. Increasing productivity, improving nutritional content, increasing hardiness – all of these modifications are asymptotic to the natural thermodynamic limits of metabolism, and many projects seem to ignore that there are only so many benefits that can be squeezed into a ‘useful’ organism.

    And harking back to my previous point, it is often easier (if not as profitable for corporations) to employ an alternative agricultural/horticultural/forestry (or whatever) strategy to optimise yield (or other desired performance) in a particular context.

    My fourth objection to some GE centres on the fact that in many cases it does not deliver cost-benefit to the farmer for example (in the case of agricultural use). The loss of seed-saving cultures, the need for accompanying fertilisers and/or herbicides and/or other sundries, and the cost of the GM seeds or other organisms themselves, all have the potential (and in some cases the demonstrable consequence) to greatly erode the short-term benefits of the GMO – where such benefits might actually exist.

    And even if there is a cost-benefit to the farmer, there is the potential for the more general cost-benefit to be less evident, when ‘external’ costs (point 2) become apparent.

    My fifth problem with some GE is that the frequently inevitable spread into ‘the wild’ (whether that ‘wild’ is the crops of traditionally-grown produce, or the ecosystems of the planet) cannot be controlled. This is an abrogation of the rights of people who do not wish to be impacted by GE, to be so un-impacted. I have yet to hear of an argument that can justify the removal of the rights of present and future generations to have their own choice for or against GE. I can imagine some, but most GE projects don’t seem to have the lofty goals that I can come up with – instead they are simple, commercial enterprises.

    Having said all of this, I am not opposed to all GE. The modification of micro-organisms for the production of biological actives is trivially justifiable, as are other modifications where the GMO or its products are easily containable. The problem seems to be the perenial one where, as with many other fields of human endeavour, genetic engineering seems oblivious of the fact that we live in a global ecosystem where everything is interconnected, and where our actions sooner or later have consequences, but vested interest doesn’t acknowledge this until Pandora’s jar has been well and truly opened.

    And expecting a nebulous hope to triumph over the release of all of the other contents of Pandora’s jar is a long bow to draw indeed.

  34. #34 Jeff Harvey
    July 18, 2011

    *Why this makes RR plants so scary?*

    This is an easy one to answer. The introduction of herbicide tolerant RR crops has encouraged farmers to spray more and more glyphosate (roundup) herbicide into their crops and field margins, on the understanding that it won’t harm their crops. Of course this ignores the fact that more of the stuff will enter the food chain and that more weedly early successional plants will be exposed to it, meaning that resistance will evolve faster. This article sums it up:

    http://botany.wiki.lovett.org/file/view/U.S.+Farmers+Cope+With+Roundup-Resistant+Weeds+-+NYTimes.com.pdf

    In fact, weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to roundup. Hardly surprising really, but as always there are consequences. What your point illustrates Tristan, is that you don’t know a whole lot about population genetics, evolutionary biology and ecology. Let me guess – these are not your areas of ‘interest’.

  35. #35 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Having read most of this thread I must say the argument from both sides is very weak. I remain agnostic on the environmental threat(s)of GM technology though having worked on the UK GM FSE* trials it is clear that the beneficial effects of GMOs for the environment can sometimes be overstated.

    I have seen that GP were instrumental in blocking aid to Zambia when the grain shipment was from GM crops (the advisor to the government (Lovemore Simwanda) had gleaned all his information from GP and had not done any further research) so Zambians starved whilst GM grain mouldered in silos near Lusaka.

    I remain sceptical that multinationals have the best interests of the public at heart, but then the same could be said of big pharma. Though we still have better healthcare than at any time in history (and yes, I know the trickle down to the third world is poor in this respect too).

    I do feel that there are several GM technologies that can be of great benefit to the human race though – not Roundup Ready or other economically-driven technologies, more the likes of the attempts to alleviate the pressure on fish stocks by the creation of Omega-3 rich plant oils** (note, the likes of linseed do contain Omega-3 fatty acids, but not the very-long-chain fatty acids found in fish oils that are considered beneficial to health)

    What I find in this thread though is a continued linkage to secondary, partisan sources such as blogs and cherry-picking of results to bolster an argument (as WtD says this is as bad as linking to WUWT as a source of climate info).

    A case in point: Ian Forrester states “Mallory-Smith studied wheat pollen flow last summer using blue seeded winter wheat, along with white wheat cultivars to identify the potential for gene transfer to nonresistant wheat varieties. Working with a graduate student, Brad Hansen, to do wheat-to-wheat studies, they verified that pollen traveled 145 ft. according to a recent Farm Journal report [mid-February 2002]. Mallory-Smith told Farm Journal, “It’s safe to assume the same would be true for pollen from herbicide-resistant varieties.” The research is ongoing. According to Martin Entz at the University of Manitoba, Pierre Hucl’s research at the University of Saskatoon has shown that wheat pollen can move up to 800m”.

    A look at Mallory-Smith’s research (easily found through google) finds this: “Jointed goatgrass continues to be a significant weed problem in wheat production in Oregon and across the wheat growing regions of the USA. It is closely related to wheat and the only options for control are to use a herbicide resistant wheat cultivar or to extend the rotation and use spring crops in the rotation sequence. Our research has shown that wheat and jointed goatgrass form hybrids and that it is possible for the resistance gene to be transferred to the hybrid. When the hybrid was backcrossed with jointed goatgrass, the backcross generations retained the gene and have a high level of self-fertility. The results of our studies are important to the development of management strategies to minimize gene movement to jointed goatgrass. Our data indicate that to prevent gene movement the hybrids must be controlled and jointed goatgrass control in areas surrounding the herbicide resistant wheat fields is critical. Because jointed goatgrass is a winter annual, spring crops have been effective at reducing jointed goatgrass populations but there were reports that spring biotypes of jointed goatgrass were being selected. However, no spring biotypes were identified in our studies although there were variations in vernalization requirements among different populations. A short vernalization requirement may allow jointed goatgrass to produce seed even in spring crops.”*** Hardly the damnation that Ian no doubt hoped it would be.

    In short this debate would be better if the participants held strictly to the science and referenced their claims using the literature that is available.

    *webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20080306073937/http:/www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/

    **greenbio.checkbiotech.org/news/accumulation_novel_omega_3_fatty_acids_transgenic_plants

    ***cris.csrees.usda.gov/cgi-bin/starfinder/0?path=fastlink1.txt&id=anon&pass=&search=AN=0186570&format=WEBFULL

  36. #36 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    >*It’s looking a bit thin, and I’m only two papers in.*

    Crumbs WTD, you’ve only got a few hundred more then you can make an informed decision.

    >*In short it argues: WE DONT KNOW ENOUGH SO DO NOTHING.*

    Your alleged summary shows me I shouldn’t take a review from you as approximately accurate. Here is what the paper’s authors actually find:

    >To retain public and institutional confidence, biosafety
    decisions need to be clearly grounded in evidence. This review is an attempt to determine the degree to which the genetic consequences of transgene insertion contribute to
    uncertainty and risk in transgenic plants. We conclude that
    much remains to be discovered about genome-wide and
    insertion-site mutations. In particular, lack of information, especially for crop plants and particle bombardment, means that plant transformation may be even more damaging than is apparent from this review. Even with the limited information currently available it is clear that plant transformation is rarely, if ever, precise and that this lack of precision may cause many of the frequent unexpected phenotypes that characterise plant transformation and that pose a significant biosafety risk. It is also clear that implementation of the steps outlined above can greatly decrease that risk.

    >Ultimately, it should not be forgotten that though transformation- induced mutations magnify the risks of genetic engineering, they bring no benefits and are unnecessary for the production of transgenic crops.

  37. #37 jakerman
    July 18, 2011

    BTW WTD, I assume by your continued declining to answer [this question](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/07/greenpeace_destroy_genetically.php#comment-4486368) (despite my continued request) that you think it not important nor relevant?

    >Do you accept the evidence that GMOs have been found to increase damage (e.g. gut, liver, or other organ damage) to rats and mice compared to controls, even in limited feeding trials? And consequently we cannot assume that GMO do not differ from other foods in “any meaningful” way?

    >And following from this, do you not think it sensible and rational to require proper transparent verifiable feeding studies for GMO food before said GMOs are comercialised?

  38. #38 Jeff Harvey
    July 18, 2011

    *I remain sceptical that multinationals have the best interests of the public at heart*

    Chris, that’s putting it mildly. The fact is that I cannot find a single example in the historical record where a multinational corporation had the ‘best interests of the public at heart’. I suggest that you read Joel Bakan’s “The Corporation”, which should tell you everything you need to knw about the primary agenda of MNCs. There are some pretty shocking examples in there where, far from having the ‘best interests of the public at heart’, large and powerful corporations have dumped toxic wastes into rivers, broke environmental laws again and again, and compromised public safety in a number of other ways even though they were fully aware of the potentially devastating consequences of their actions (or inactions). In some of the more high profile cases, corporations have even presented their statisticians in court to coldly explain that they compromised public safety because in doing cost-benefit analyses it was cheaper to pay the victims of their negligence than to invest in producing safer products through recalling them. I think the term coined by Noam Chomsky, ‘amoral tyrannies’, describes many corporations perfectly. Some have gone farther and have argued that corporations display classic psychopathic tendencies, bearing in mind that self-valorization (through profit maximization) appears to overrule just about any societal obligations they might have.

  39. #39 Mike C
    July 18, 2011

    One potential impact of GP’s action may not be increased transparency but increased secrecy.

    Currently the OGTR website publicly lists the locations of all GMO tests sites and even gives you a nice Google map image. Now that scientists have good reason to expect their trials to be destroyed, we can expect a push for this information to be made private.

    Own goal by GP in my opinion.

  40. #40 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    Another potential impact is visibility of the problem and more accountability.

    Your opinion seems to be “this could happen, therefore it is happening because it isn’t what greenpeace want”.

  41. #41 Mike C
    July 18, 2011

    It’s basically common sense Wow

    Scientists now know GP will happily break into their research sites and destroy their research. They will want to take steps to protect their research. The easiest step to take to do achieve this is not to make public where they are doing the research.

    I personally support the fact that the sites are public but GP must have known that an obvious response to their action would be to make it harder for them to do the same again.

    I will however make some inquiries with some plant scientists I know when I next seem them to see what people are thinking.

  42. #42 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    No, it’s basically ignoring what you said.

    Here is your statement again:

    > One potential impact of GP’s action may not be increased transparency but increased secrecy.

    Note here: potential.

    Then you drop straight through that potential and make it real:

    > Own goal by GP in my opinion.

    Now note that this was government testing. That information is releasable under FOIA.

    Hiding it again is not an option.

  43. #43 Mike C
    July 18, 2011

    The “own goal” in “my opinion” is that GP has made secrecy more likely, which is not their stated desire.

    I thought what I said was pretty clear. I am assuming you disagree, so why not just say so, instead of performing acrobatics with my words?

    From reading the Greenpeace info, they seem unhappy that an FOIA for more information about the target genes was declined. Can you not see a potential situation now where the sites of new research might become “commercial in confidence” or “confidential for security reason” leading to a rejection of any FOIA?

  44. #44 Neven
    July 18, 2011

    Form this Greenpeace Q&A on GMWatch:

    *Why is Greenpeace targeting CSIRO?

    Greenpeace’s work is targeting the release of unsafe GM wheat into our food supply. The CSIRO is working with foreign GM companies to release unsafe GM wheat into our food supply. These foreign GM companies include Limagrain, one of the biggest investors in GM in the world, and Arcadia Biosciences.

    CSIRO’s closeness with foreign GM companies has created a clear conflict of interest within the CSIRO. The GM wheat field trial which Greenpeace has removed from the environment was 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 and Monsanto owns 90 per cent of GM products worldwide. Monsanto and its GM partners stand to make billions from the genetic modification of Australia’s wheat.

    CSIRO’s closeness to these GM corporations compromises their ability to make decisions in Australia’s public interest and has resulted in the release of unsafe genetically modified wheat into the Australian environment.

    Does anyone know if this is correct?

    And if it is: Can someone watch the documentary I linked to in one of my previous comments and tell me why I should trust anything Monsanto says? Why is CSIRO so close to these GM corporations? Why is Monsanto different from Exxon or BP?

    Jeff Harvey, you probably know this, but there is a documentary film based on Bakan’s book, also called The Corporation. It’s really good, by the way.

  45. #45 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Jeff, I write eight paragraphs and all you focus on is one line and then effectively rewrite what you’re already written umpteen times upthread.

    I don’t think you’ll find anyone arguing with your point from #237 but it’s one thing to fantasise about hippy dreamworlds where there are no multinationals it’s another to realise that that utopia aint gonna be around any time soon.

    We live in a world of multinationals, the food we eat, the drugs we take, the vehicle we take to work and the fuel we put in it, the computers we sit at and the music we listen to are all largely controlled and produced by multinationals. If you’re preaching revolution then I’ll say aye but until the revolution comes we’re stuck with the blasted corporations.

    I’m more interested in your thoughts on the fish oil research I cited. Given a binary choice would you rather GM produced fish oil or further depletion of our fisheries?

    (One note on destruction of crops: The UK GM FSEs found largely in favour of the GP-type viewpoint, despite protestors trashing many of the study sites and making those findings less robust – and therefore more open to wrangling by agribusiness).

  46. #46 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    > Given a binary choice would you rather GM produced fish oil or further depletion of our fisheries?

    My answer: “Stop fishing so much”

    There’s no reason to be a binary choice and therefore answering “No GM fish” to it would be meaninglessly accurate.

  47. #47 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Neven, I find it hard to believe that the likes of Syngenta & Bayer Cropscience (amongst others) only hols 10% of GM products. Perhaps it depends on how you measure it?

  48. #48 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    > The “own goal” in “my opinion” is that GP has made secrecy more likely

    That doesn’t make it an Own Goal for GP. It makes it IN YOUR OPINION counterproductive. Only if that even comes about would it be an own goal.

    But given FOIA, more secrecy isn’t really an option, is it.

  49. #49 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Wow, how do you get Omega-3 into people without fishing?

  50. #50 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    Odd. I don’t eat much fish. About once or twice a month, I’ll have some fried fish in batter, but that’s about it.

    So how am I getting Omega-3 into me?

  51. #51 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Wow, that might explain a lot :p

    “omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function”

    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

  52. #52 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    Nah, I’ve enough fatty acids as it is.O_o

    I know what role they have, though. I also know that fish don’t come in tubs with Flora Margarine written on the side (I also don’t like margarine). I also note that we’re fishing too much.

    There’s no need for your binary answer. The answers are far less constrained than you would like.

    I’m still functioning absolutely fine and far better than many posting on here. Either they’re exuding all Omega-3 they’ve eaten or they’re eating less fish than me.

    Which still begs the question: How am I getting the Omega-3 into me?

    You insist we have to eat all the fish we do.

    I contest this isn’t necessary.

  53. #53 Ian Forrester
    July 18, 2011

    Chris S there are numerous sources for long chain unsaturated fatty acids besides fish. In fact most fish get them through their diet and do not synthesize them.

    Many years ago when “biotechnology” was a respected discipline (I no longer refer to myself as a biotechnologist) one of the main areas of research was “single cell protein”. I was at a meeting over 30 years ago and a prominent scientist said we should not be looking at “single cell protein” but at “single cell oil”.

    A whole witch’s brew of these acids can be obtained from proper cultivation of various fungi and algae, in high yields I might add.

    Unfortunately, over the past 20 years or so biotechnology has been taken over by the molecular biologists whose mantra is “genetic engineering can solve all your problems and who cares about knock on effects”.

    As you can see I am not a fan of what is going on in the commercial aspects of bio-science.

    We have missed the boat with the Government and big business view that genetic engineering is a cure-all for all our problems.

    I prepared a research proposal on microbial production of these fungal oils over 20 year ago. Unfortunately the response from the government official who looked over the proposal was insulting to say the least.

  54. #54 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Meh, I had typed a lengthy response to Jeff upthread, but alas my inability to properly create links (or save copies of my lengthy responses…) means it was lost in mdoeration.

    Potted version without links follows.

    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?

    This isn’t the right question to ask – comparison needs to be made within available commercial lines used pre and post adoption of GMOs – it’s a given that production agriculture reduces diversity to an extent (at least in the farmers field – and frankly the important thing isn’t the diversity in the field, but the diversity in the genome collections of the breeding population, which in large multinational collections are far wider than anything that has come previously) – you are asserting that GMOs reduce this further – which categorically isn’t the case – there are hundreds of available varieties which have GM traits in them for GM crops – generally as many, or more, than the number of varieites available from the companies selling the traits than there was prior to the introduction of GMOs (because as a seed producer what sells your seed isn’t the GM trait – they’re so broadly licensed that they can essentially be assumed available in any germplasm – it’s the performance of that trait under different conditions)

    You certainly are being dishonest – you paint it as a picture where there is a single genotype of GM available. The following quote gives an example:-

    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.

    So yes, on this subject you are clearly either an egragarious liar or have no actual knowledge of what you’re talking about. I’ll lean to the latter until shown otherwise.

    Don’t be stupid! Your BS degree is certainly clouding any rational judgment you have on this issue.

    How exactly is my brief four year flirtation with molecular genetics having even the remotest impact on my judgement here? Would I perchance have better judgement had I foregone university altogether? Perhaps I would think with absolute crystal clarity if only I’d avoided any sort of formal education whatsoever?

    The rest of Ewan’s responses to my posts are useless bunk.

    Well argued sir, concise counterpoints which sink everything I’ve said.

    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.

    So? Yes, it’s expected, but it is only a problem if you expect the technology to remain static. Herbicide and insecticide resistance, just like antibiotic resistance, are inevitabilities – but I don’t see how this can be an arguement against using them, it’s simply an arguement to maintain a broad arsenal and not rely on a single mode of action all the time (hence the current development of more HT and IR transgenics to bring to the mix). Also – if you are opposed to the utilization of, for instance, roundup – surely evolution of resistance isn’t any sort of arguement against the technology – just something you’d hope to see ASAP – with enough resistance the GM trait simply goes away.

    * There is however a proven advantage to utilizers of GM cotton of increased yields and increased net incomes -* he is speaking more rubbish.

    Here you are, without doubt, an egragarious liar. There is a slew of peer reviewed literature expounding the virtues of GM cotton in India – it is linked with increased yield and incomes

    Attributes and Socio-economic Dynamics of
    Adopting Bt Cotton – Rajinder Peshin, A K Dhawan, Kamal Vatta, Kamaldeep Singh – Economic & Political Weekly december 29, 2007 (paper is rather scathing about production ag in general, but one can only draw the conclusion that the Bt varieties outperform non-Bt hybrids and utterly destroy non-hybrids in terms of productivity and profitability – for a 3% increase in upfront costs one stands to gain 90% in end of year profit)

    Peer-reviewed surveys indicate positive impact of commercialized GM crops – Janet E Carpenter Nature Biotechnology Volume: 28, Pages: 319–321(2010)

    – letter to nature biotech reviewing evidence of the impacts of GM crops in general – noteworthy is table 2 which has Bt cotton rated as on average giving +30% yield (across 82 individual results with a std error mean of 3.5%, a min value of -25% and a max value of 150%)

    IFPRI Discussion Paper 00808 October 2008 – Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India Reviewing the Evidence – Guillaume P. Gruère Purvi Mehta-Bhatt Debdatta Sengupta

    Is a rather mammoth work – I’d call attention to the figures at the end graphing suicides vs adoption for 3 regions and for the rest of India – in 2 of 3 regions there is actually an apparent decline once adoption becomes significant, for most however the rates remain essentially unchanged year on year – which rather scuppers the arguement that GM cotton caused anything approaching a wave of suicides.

    Bayer and other biotech firms don’t want to sell conventional varieties anymore.

    Most farmers don’t want to buy conventional – they like the traits, they want more, market forces therefore dictate that you sell ‘em what they want (why the hell Pioneer would willingly give up massive licensing fees to Monsanto if farmers wanted its products untraited for instance raises immediate questions – seems rather foolish to line your competitors pockets if there was actually a sizable market for untraited seeds)

    I think that covers my lost response… (apologies for unlinked references – I think they killed my last post and thus I have avoided them, hopefully the references are enough for even a white belt in google-fu to find)

  55. #55 Holly Stick
    July 18, 2011

    This guy argues that cotton yields cannot be attributed to biotech cotton, because they rose before it was in widespread use.

    Also he suggests that Bt exacerbates the problem of technology treadmills:

    “…Bt cotton has been generally effective in warding off caterpillars. It has not “failed” and has not run up farmer debts, no matter what the network of anti-GMO sources say. But it has now snagged farmers on a genetic technology treadmill. By 2009 there were 5 different Bt gene combinations going into 284 separate Bt hybrids. Before anyone figures out how these seeds function, they will be replaced. Now populations of the non-target pests are starting to explode, and biotech companies are working on new genes as a solution for that problem.

    But for Indian cotton farmers, the “solution” is the problem…”

    http://fieldquestions.com/2011/05/13/do-not-read-gm-cotton-and-indian-farmer-suicide/

    Ewan, this kind of thing is why you need to think about the whole ecological along with how the farmers actually farm. There appears to be a problem with producers of GM crops not understanding how the whole system works.

  56. #56 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    > There appears to be a problem with producers of GM crops not understanding how the whole system works.

    I think it’s also a problem with Western (especially American) farming practices being considered The One True Way To Farm (Everywhere), when in actual fact, there’s a lot of problems in transplanting a mechanised western farming practice to a developing world.

    A bit like a looong time back when Nestle (IIRC) gave “food aid” to the third world areas as baby formula. Except that the formula required water which is highly contaminated. If they’d fed the adults better, the babies would be fed better too.

    Another one is where milk or powdered milk is sent as Aid. Except that lactose intolerance is the normal state of humans that have been weaned. But we don’t remember that here in the west and lactose intolerance is seen as odd or different.

  57. #57 Jeff Harvey
    July 18, 2011

    Ewan,

    If you want to be taken seriously, then take your head out of your a** and look beyond the individual organism to trophic interactions, communities and ecosystems. For a gene jock that may indeed be difficult, if not impossible, but try for just a second. And may I say that your use of the term ‘egregious liar’ gains you few brownie points. What is clear to me is that your understanding of biology, at least what there is of it, begins with a few genes and ends at the genome. Beyond that it seems like you don’t give a damn what happens. Ever heard of a complex adaptive system? Know even one iota about cause-and-effect relationships in ecology? Or do you think that humans will forever create techno-fixes to deal with our ever expanding war on systems that sustain us?

    The entire saga with GMOs, especially in the United States, has largely bypassed regulation in favor of using open systems as testing grounds. Hence the use and abuse of the term ‘ substantial equivalence’. American consumers have been part of an ongoing experiment for the past 15 years, as GMO foods don’t have to be labelled. Chock that one up for pressure applied by the chemical-agribiotech industry on government regulatory bodies, and the fact that these bodies and senior positions in these corporations are ostensibly ‘revolving doors’. Once the horse has bolted, its usually too late to do anything about it, anyway. The real coup for the industry has been to be able to bypass the precautionary principle entirely and to use open systems and society as an experimental test ground.

    Most farmers don’t want to buy conventional??? Where are you referring to? In India, or Africa, where the technology is hardly cheap? I suggest you swallow a little bit of your arrogant pride and read Monique Robin’s three year study, “The World According to Monsanto”. She describes the effects of GMO cotton on farmers in India in quite a lot of detail, and it isn’t pleasant reading. Perhaps it will take off those ideologically-driven blinkers you seem to be wearing. Like it or not, a lot of scientists, including many molecular biologists, have great reservations about this technology. And to presume that it benefits poor farmers in the developing world is utter nonsense. As Holly Stick says (and see my link the New York times article in my last posting) once roped in farmers find it very hard to go back to traditional farming methods.

    Like it or not, you are as naive as anyone I have ever exchanged comments with online. I think the reason for that should be patently obvious to everyone reading here.

  58. #58 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Wow at #251. This is looking more like the “It’s cold today in Wagga Wagga” tactic that we are all too familiar with.

    Ian at #252. Sure, we could develop new cultivation methods for fungi & algae or we could use the tried & tested agricultural methods and engineer supplements into them.

    Both. I used the fish oil example as it is GM tech that appears to work & is designed primarily for its health benefits than for saving money (through increased ease of cultivation etc.) I’m sure we all agree that in the long-term we are looking at a reduction of available crop-land combined with increasing population pressure that will necessitate squeezing more from our agriculture than we currently do. Perhaps I should have asked whether people are against genetic engineering for (insert health benefit here) instead.

  59. #59 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Jeff, is there a reason you’re continually referring us to books & newspaper articles rather than the primary literature?

  60. #60 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    This guy argues that cotton yields cannot be attributed to biotech cotton, because they rose before it was in widespread use.

    I’ll take the word of peer reviewed literature over a blog post.

    Bennett, R.M., Ismael, Y., Kambhampati, U., & Morse, S. (2004). Economic impact of genetically modified cotton in India. AgBioForum, 7(3), 96-100.

    Matin Qaim and David Zilberman. Yield Effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries
    Science 7 February 2003: Vol. 299 no. 5608 pp. 900-902

    Richard Bennett, Uma Kambhampati, Stephen Morse, and Yousouf Ismael
    Farm-Level Economic Performance of Genetically Modified Cotton in Maharashtra, India
    Appl. Econ. Perspect. Pol. (2006) 28(1): 59-71

    etc etc

    Ewan, this kind of thing is why you need to think about the whole ecological along with how the farmers actually farm. There appears to be a problem with producers of GM crops not understanding how the whole system works.

    I don’t think there is a problem with the producers not knowing how the system works – they know fine well how it works – pests are a problem farmers are going to have to deal with if they’re growing a particular crop, Bt deals with a subset of these pests – farmers will have to buy it every year, great, here’s a profit (or value-share, in industry parlance) opportunity – it’s a win win, farmers increase their income wildly, companies producing the technology increase their income – but because you can attach the ‘treadmill’ label it’s apparently a bad thing – seems to me however that if you’re increasing productivity, profitability and reducing reliance on actual harful insecticides that rather than looking at things in a vacuum (oh dear, these poor farmers have to pay 3% of their production costs for this technology every year!) you could look at the difference to how things were previously (oh look, these farmers *only* increase production costs by 3% but see 30+% increases in productivity, massive reductions in insecticide use (particularly of the most toxic insecticides), 50-150% increases in profits – looked at in this light who cares that a portion of the money profits the company that originated the technology? The alternative is farmers making less money, producing less cotton, using more insecticides to do so.

  61. #61 Jeff Harvey
    July 18, 2011

    ChrisS,

    I agre with you entirely. My point was to say that multinational corporations need to be heavily regulated. I tremble when I hear such terms as ‘public-private partnerships’ or ‘voluntary regulatory programs’ because one of the main reasons for the existence of governments is to safeguard society as a whole from the actions of a small minority. I am not envisaging any kind of utopian world free of MNCs, but at the same time I believe that we need strong government to keep them in check. In the United States regulations have often been gutted because successive administrations have become more and more dependent on corporate money to get into and stay in power. In essence the system is a plutocracy – with both main parties utterly beholden to the corporate lobby.

  62. #62 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    If you want to be taken seriously, then take your head out of your a** and look beyond the individual organism to trophic interactions, communities and ecosystems.

    Alas as a Crohn’s sufferer I would love to have the capacity to have my head where you appear to think it is, I would however suggest that it is you who requires a proctologist’s help in seeing the light of day. You have perpetually ranted about seeing the trophic interactions, communities and ecosystems aspect without providing any relevant information about how GMOs are effecting these – again the peer reviewed literature would suggest that the effects are beneficial by and large – reduced toxicity of herbicide used, reduced overall insecticide use, the capacity to produce more on the same amount of land. If you could point me to specifics rather than shouting about generalities which appear to simply sound good but have no substantive backing I’d appreciate it – you simply look like you’re running a gish gallop otherwise (ah you’ve countered that point, but what about the 500 other pieces of nebulous fluff I’ve ranted on! Ha, didn’t cover them so I’m right!)

    And may I say that your use of the term ‘egregious liar’ gains you few brownie points.

    I wasn’t attepting to gain brownie points, I was simply asserting that you’re an egregious liar (although spelling it in an unconventional manner, which is amusing, and I thank you for at least not mocking that aspect!)

    Most farmers don’t want to buy conventional??? Where are you referring to? In India, or Africa, where the technology is hardly cheap?

    As we were discussing the ubiquity of GM seeds in the seed market I was under the assumption that we were discussing the US seed market – where demand for GM seeds is such that those are the varieties on offer. If you want to take a look at India then fine – you’ll note that recently a shortage of Bt seeds in India sparked panic amogst farmers leading to them lining up for days to get their hands on them – hardly the action of farmers who do not want the technology.

    Also you again harp on about the cost – my citation above shows that the seed cost leads to an approximate 3% increase in production which is countered by 50%+ increases in profitability, in what world is this hardly cheap?

    suggest you swallow a little bit of your arrogant pride and read Monique Robin’s three year study, “The World According to Monsanto”.

    3 year studies are easy to do when you don’t have to actually fact check or anything – I’m assuming it trots out the same old nonsense that gets raised time and time again, Putzai, Mexican corn contamination, revolving doors (I assume anyone who has moved from one company to another within the same industry would see immediately how bloody ridiculous the idea of holding such loyalty to your previous employer that you’d be willing to do your job improperly is… although probably not as conspiracies are always mroe exciting than the assumption that people with experience and expertise in an industry are likely to be among the top candidates for advancement ot positions requiring experience and expertise within that industry…), Indian farmer suicides (dealt with ad nauseum above… yadda yadda yadda.

    And to presume that it benefits poor farmers in the developing world is utter nonsense.

    To presume so is indeed nonsense, I do however have the benefit of about a decade of peer reviewed literature covering India, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Africa – so I don’t have to work on presumption.

    Asserting that there are no benefits to poor farmers in the developing world however is utter nonsense, particularly as it is completely at odds with the literature (although if you’re including fluff pieces such as newspaper articles and massively biased documentaries as “literature” then you’ll find an avalanche of “evidence” to the contrary – although at the same time you’ll have to reject global warming, accept that Elvis is alive and well, and seriously doubt evolution (and apparently buy that for some reason the rutting habits of Hollywood celebs are important newsworthy items))

    Like it or not, you are as naive as anyone I have ever exchanged comments with online.

    You’re the one citing documentary pieces and newspaper articles, I’m the one citing scientific literature (I guess Science may be a little low brow as a publication, for which I apologize) – clearly yes, I’m the naive one here.

  63. #63 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    “again the peer reviewed literature would suggest that the effects are beneficial by and large – reduced toxicity of herbicide used, reduced overall insecticide use, the capacity to produce more on the same amount of land”

    Ewan, I refer you to my link above, repeated here: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20080306073937/http:/www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/ where it was found that GM management of Bt crops were, in general, more harmful to soil invertebrates and pollinators than conventional management (despite the efforts of anti-GM protesters to destroy the trial sites).

  64. #64 Holly Stick
    July 18, 2011

    When I give you a link to an environmental anthropologist’s blog, which you would do well to learn from, Ewan, remember that it is on the internet and that when he provides links that some of them are to the peer-reviewed literature, if you had the gumption to check them out.

    If you actually read his blog, you would find some support for some of your positions, but not all.

    Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 1, February 2007
    http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/stone480102.web.pdf

    Tests on GM associated pesticides in some Canadian women:

    “…The spread HT crops into Canada and several other countries has not reduced weedkiller use — actually it has led to increases especially in the use of Roundup, but also to less use of other more toxic sprays. The spread of Bt crops has reduced the use of chlorpyrifos and many other toxic insecticides, but we now know it means most babies (in Quebec anyway) are born with Bt in their blood. What that means for our health and our babies, we really don’t know, but it’s hard to resist the conclusion that it’s better than organophosphates in the blood, and worse than neither.”

    http://fieldquestions.com/2011/04/27/blood-type-bt/

  65. #65 Holly Stick
    July 18, 2011

    “Summary. — A longitudinal anthropological study of cotton farming in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, India, compares a group of villages before and after adoption of Bt cotton. It distinguishes “field-level” and “farm-level” impacts. During this five-year period yields rose by 18% overall, with greater increases among poor farmers with the least access to information. Insecticide sprayings dropped
    by 55%, although predation by non-target pests was rising. However shifting from the field to the historically-situated context of the farm recasts insect attacks as a symptom of larger problems in agricultural decision-making. Bt cotton’s opponents have failed to recognize real benefits at the field level, while its backers have failed to recognize systemic problems that Bt cotton may exacerbate.”

    http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/WD2456.pdf

    From this blog post which I linked to before:
    http://fieldquestions.com/2011/05/13/do-not-read-gm-cotton-and-indian-farmer-suicide/

  66. #66 Marion Delgado
    July 18, 2011

    I like John Quiggin but I don’t care a bit what he thinks of Greenpeace. And vice versa.

    I don’t go out doing what they (Greenpeace) do. Even commercialized, secretive safety testing can be better than nothing.

    That said, I wish I could say they should do X, Y or Z instead. But that would be misleading too. Nothing, so far, stops the corporatized science lobby. There are no good alternatives. Perhaps the best one would be, more brainstorming, more innovation. Breaking shop windows can draw press attention to protests, but it has diminishing returns.

    To point out just one greater issue: if you have all these joint ventures, the secrecy agreements required by the corporate part violate the most fundamental principle in all science – the sharing of data and information so you make progress universally and don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and can replicate or fail to replicate results.

    To point out another, there’s an evolutionary process that’s absolutely destructive to the public interest at work here. If I do research, and you do research, and we’re driven by market fundamentalist policies of cash-starving publicly funded research to seek private funding, and my research is corporate-friendly in results, and yours is not, I will be re-funded, and you will not. And after only a few years, the corporate-friendly research on that issue will predominate.

    And only market fundamentalists who believe that markets have a superior informational process to traditional science will think that’s a good outcome.

  67. #67 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Holly – Alas time is not something I have in as much of an abundance as I would like – you link me to a blog, I’ll assume it’s a worse source than peer reviewed science (given that the claims are contradicted by the bulk of the literature on yield I stand by this – yield for instance is shown on a comparitive basis within a single year to be higher in Bt hybrids than non-Bt hybrids – it would be wrong to claim that all of the yield increases are due to Bt (as it is clear that large increases are due to the adoption of hybrids – which themselves can be classed as a technology treadmill – again, not necessarily a bad thing although the terminology would appear to classify it as such)

    The work on Bt levels in blood is deeply flawed – the paper reports levels of Bt below the threshold of the test utilized and deeper literature search on the test shows that it hasn’t been validated in blood (entirely the opposite infact)

    Chris S – your link doesn’t work for me, in either incarnation.

    Brookes, G. & Barfoot, P. (2006). Global impact of biotech crops: Socio-economic and environmental effects in the first ten years of commercial use. AgBioForum, 9(3), 139-151.

    Shows environmental improvements discussed and relies on more than a single paper (if I recall correctly one of the reveiws on roundup safety also includes both modelling and real world analysis showing improved environmentla effects on beets) – again the literature, by and large, supports improved, rather than reduced environmental quality with utilization of GM crops – of course given the stochiastic nature of the world one would be surprised for there to not be any literature which shows otherwise (I’d go with the weight of evidence rather than hanging my hat on a single paper – generally the benefits aren’t so great that you’d expect an absolute slam dunk every time, with statistics being what it is, and environmental variability being what it is you are of course going to get false positives and negatives at no fault of anyone)

  68. #68 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Ewan: I’m not talking about a single paper but a body of work based around the largest field experiments on GM crops of its time I linked to the non-technical summary. Perhaps you may want to start at the Proc Royal Soc B theme issue linked below where the first papers were published and follow on from there – ISI will help there I’m sure.

    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/358/1439.toc

  69. #69 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Chris S.

    Thanksfor taking the time to dig out the roysociety link – alas I see nothing there about Bt crops – all the articles appear to be discussing HT crops – the effects seen in the 3 articles discussing GMHT crops all appear to simply be down to the efficacy of the herbicide – less weeds = less insects, which makes sense if the crop is not the primary draw for insects in the area. This I think is best summed up in the final paper on the link “Responses of plants and invertebrate trophic groups to contrasting herbicide regimes in the Farm Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops” which basically states that the reduced availability of weeds had a knock on effect – which isn’t really surprising – I would suggest that anyone expecting better weed control without effecting downstream consumers of the weeds etc would be commiting exactly the fallacy I am accused of earlier in this thread (ignoring ecosystems and trophic levels etc) – however if you’re going to go along the lines of this arguement you’d have to conclude that any weed control is a bad thing as it’s always going to shift energy captured by plants away from insects and the like and towards consumers.

  70. #70 Chris S.
    July 18, 2011

    Ewan, you’re right it is GMHT rather than Bt, senior moment on my part. Though I should point out that these were within-field comparisons between GM & conventional thus invalidating your general thrust – GMHT management is worse for agricultural invertebrate species than conventional.

    As for this “shift energy captured by plants away from insects and the like and towards consumers” I guess you got that straight from the corporate phrasebook. I expected better from you

  71. #71 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Chris – I don’t think it invalidates my general thrust – GMHT management may be worse for some agricultural invertebrate species than conventional, however the overall environmental impact of the system (which is of greater importance than simply within field performance of invertebrates – particularly when their performance is dependant on the presence of weeds) has been demonstrated to be lower in the literature.

    As for this “shift energy captured by plants away from insects and the like and towards consumers” I guess you got that straight from the corporate phrasebook. I expected better from you

    Why? This is what agriculture does, it is directly about trophic levels etc – you stop light interception by weeds, capture that energy in crops, and prevent – to the best of your ability, insects from extracting energy from the crop – thus you maximize yield – any farmer is doing this – what else exactly do you think pest and weed management is trying to do?

  72. #72 SC (Salty Current)
    July 18, 2011

    Ewan R, if you’re still reading: quit your job asap, plan for it, step out, you don’t want to be part of this criminal organisation, no matter how friendly your colleagues and bosses are. You’re smart, you can do something more useful. Please, it is people like you who are making all of this possible.

    It’s an honest plea, but it’s probably not gonna happen. Ewan’s in, as he’s been demonstrating for years – his decade of reading the literature that somehow failed to turn up Rick Relyea or lead to a real engagement with the IAASTD, his claims that surfactants aren’t a problem ’cause they’re in shampoos and all, his dismissal of the human rights and environmental crimes of Monsanto connected to Plan Colombia as hyperbole, his hours upon hours years upon years of these disingenuous comments (google him),… Personally, I have nothing against Ewan, but admitting upfront the easily discoverable fact that you work for M*nsant* and talking about how you have Crohn’s does not an ethical/epistemic justification make.

    (By the way, Wow – I sure hope you’re not the one commenting at ERV…)

  73. #73 SteveC
    July 18, 2011

    @ Bernard J #232 above.

    Thank you for that post. It sets out pretty much my somewhat fuzzy objections to many aspects of GE, only a lot better than wot i could have.

  74. #74 Holly Stick
    July 18, 2011

    Speaking of fish oil, Omega-3, ecosystems and actions having consequences:

    “…Thus menhaden have what I call ecological leverage. That is, if you fish them into oblivion, you’re not just destroying a single species; you’re also threatening to unleash a cascading set of effects that could lead to full-on ecosystem collapse…”

    http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/07/menhaden-omega-protein-chesapeake

  75. #75 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Personally, I have nothing against Ewan, but admitting upfront the easily discoverable fact that you work for Mnsant and talking about how you have Crohn’s does not an ethical/epistemic justification make.

    Neither one is intended as such, the being upfront about being a Monsanto employee is nothing more than professional cowardice on my part – not doing so has ramifications at work – we’re told “sure go out and engage in the debate – but make sure you a) Tell people you work for us and b)tell them that whatever you say isn’t the view of the company”

    The second is merely my attempt at a little dark humour, it’s a pretty defining aspect of my life this past couple of years and as such I rarely pass up the opportunity to make light of the situation a little when head up the ass type comments happen along (having your haemoglobin levels drop to 50% of where they should be due to things I’m sure you can picture without me spelling them out any more obviously here can do odd things to your sense of humour I guess) – if you want to be utterly conspiratorial about things then fine, it’s all a fine tuned strategy to make the people love me – I would have assumed that from my history with your own fine self, and on other matters, that you’d have come to the pretty obvious conclusion that such strategy is probably beyond me.

    I am however rather upset that I wasn’t greeted with what I thought was our agreed standard, apparently my powers of corporate manipulation are only good for a few hours on a single blog.

  76. #76 SC (Salty Current)
    July 18, 2011

    Neither one is intended as such, the being upfront about being a Monsanto employee is nothing more than professional cowardice on my part – not doing so has ramifications at work – we’re told “sure go out and engage in the debate – but make sure you a) Tell people you work for us and b)tell them that whatever you say isn’t the view of the company”

    I don’t fully believe your “not PR!” shtick. I honestly kind of want not to believe you, given the commitment you’ve shown to this. If there’s no compensation…

    The second is merely my attempt at a little dark humour, it’s a pretty defining aspect of my life this past couple of years and as such I rarely pass up the opportunity to make light of the situation a little when head up the ass type comments happen along (having your haemoglobin levels drop to 50% of where they should be due to things I’m sure you can picture without me spelling them out any more obviously here can do odd things to your sense of humour I guess)

    Whatever. Of course, you know nothing about your interlocutors.

    I am however rather upset that I wasn’t greeted with what I thought was our agreed standard, apparently my powers of corporate manipulation are only good for a few hours on a single blog.

    It’s been more than 24 hours since reading your first comments here (which I was shocked, shocked to see, knowing your amateur status).

    People can google you, dear.

  77. #77 James Haughton
    July 18, 2011

    Good story in Crikey about the political economy of GM wheat trials: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/07/18/greenpeace-gm-wheat-crop/

  78. #78 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    SC:

    I don’t fully believe your “not PR!” shtick. I honestly kind of want not to believe you, given the commitment you’ve shown to this. If there’s no compensation…

    Seriously: how is that statement not precisely equivalent to the “you’re just doing it for the grant money / corporate kickbacks / desire for totalitarian world domination” argument commonly used by climate change deniers on this very blog?

  79. #79 SC (Salty Current)
    July 18, 2011

    Seriously: how is that statement not precisely equivalent to the “you’re just doing it for the grant money / corporate kickbacks / desire for totalitarian world domination” argument commonly used by climate change deniers on this very blog?

    Huh? That some people are writing in some form on behalf of corporate insterests is well substantiated by Oreskes and others. I’ve been dealing with Ewan since I think 2009. Monsanto couldn’t buy better spin. (The “not PR!” quote is an actual quote from Ewan. Google it.) I can’t prove it, and, as I suggested, it’s possible that he’s a pathetically unremunerated ideologue. Are you confused?

  80. #80 Tristan
    July 19, 2011

    it’s possible that he’s a pathetically unremunerated ideologue.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. A person who is:

    – (almost) unfailingly polite unless provoked (and even then only goes so far as to call a lie a lie);
    – knowledgable;
    – erudite; and
    – willing to take the time to communicate details of the actual science behind GM, rather than snippets

    must, of course, be either a paid shill or a “pathetically unremunerated ideologue”. You honestly don’t see that you’re committing a textbook ad hominem fallacy?

  81. #81 SC (Salty Current)
    July 19, 2011

    A person who is:…

    I’ve described what he “is.” Google it or do a search at Pharyngula.

    You honestly don’t see that you’re committing a textbook ad hominem fallacy?

    Sigh. That’s not the case. As I’ve said, I’ve been dealing with Ewan and his arguments (in great depth) for two years if not more. My comment was in response to one pleading with him to find alternate employment – not to a substantive argument from him. Drop the tiresome nonsense.

  82. #82 Tristan
    July 19, 2011

    Well, I certainly haven’t hung off every word he writes, but I’ve noted Ewan’s posts many times over the past few years, and have yet to see one that I disapproved of. As far as I’m concerned, as long as someone is fairly representing the science, I honestly don’t care whether or not they’re being paid for it. The truth is never “spin”.

  83. #83 SC (Salty Current)
    July 19, 2011

    and have yet to see one that I disapproved of.

    How nice for you!

    As far as I’m concerned, as long as someone is fairly representing the science,

    Brilliant. Of course that’s wrong, as I just began to hint at in my original post. I don’t have the time to provide you with links to previous discussions, but you’re more than welcome to find them or investigate more generally what I referred to.

    I honestly don’t care whether or not they’re being paid for it.

    You’re sharp.

  84. #84 Tristan
    July 19, 2011

    Brilliant. Of course that’s wrong,

    Riiight. Of course it is.

  85. #85 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    It’s been more than 24 hours since reading your first comments here (which I was shocked, shocked to see, knowing your amateur status).

    Clearly you leave a more lasting memory than I do – I was referring to your rather tender “f*ck off Ewan” way back when on Pharyngula – the one I utilized my powers of corporate whateverwhatever to coerce out of you. It at least left me feeling warm and fuzzy and seemed like a good punctuation mark in our raging to and fro of the period.

    Monsanto couldn’t buy better spin.

    Could you perhaps tell our PR people that – I don’t particularly want a job with them, but the occasional kickback would be nice… or a plaque or something, perhaps a statue outside the Monsanto sponsored lecture theatre or whatever it is at St Louis Zoo… nothing too fancy.

    The “not PR!” quote is an actual quote from Ewan.

    Indeed it is, which, if I did actually work in PR, would likely be a hanging offence internally (that or they’d feed me to the Triffids) – I occasionally change up my disclaimer and attempt to be humorous with it too (and to head off the automatic ah ha – you’re from PR, which frankly should be obvious from my unpolished, wordy and quite often rude comments – our PR folk at least tend to be non-confrontational, sunny and nice – all of which I guess I could fake for a while but not so well, and not in so few words) (plus who in PR would use a half paragraph parenthetical so blithly?)

  86. #86 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    “I don’t go out doing what they (Greenpeace) do. Even commercialized, secretive safety testing can be better than nothing.”

    However, why is it secretive testing?

    If it’s a secret to protect the company in being beaten to the punch (or not getting as much a headstart as others), then once there’s a request for an open trial, why is the testing kept secret?

    Why are reports that are started never mentioned again when they don’t turn up the right answer when they’re done in-house?

    The reasons may be benign, but there’s a shitload of money out there to get the pressure on to do wrong.

    And since you get the patent on it anyway, why be secret about it? The patent is on the mechanism to get the result, not the result itself (you patent the way the moustrap is made, not the trapping of mice in a device), why does even that make a difference?

    Each internal trial should be recorded and displayed. The results of them should be made available when a public trial is requested. At least them ideas on how safe the trial may be can begin to be formed on information.

    And in the case of this GM product, though it may be benign in this specific case, it is true as well, for this specific case, that it’s a rather pointless problem. If you aren’t over-eating the wheat with lots of other high-calorie foodstuffs, you won’t have a problem. Therefore “eat less” would be just as effective, cheaper and also help in feeding the rest of the world. And without worries about the unintended.

  87. #87 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    “Wow at #251. This is looking more like the “It’s cold today in Wagga Wagga” tactic that we are all too familiar with.”

    Nope.

    This is me countering your “All swans are white” proposal, Chris.

    There are a lot of people who don’t get much protein from fish around the world. Are we not human too?

    There’s also a problem with [bycatch](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bycatch). Some small improvement for some things (e.g. Australian Shrimp nets being improved reduced bycatch from 85+% of the catch to less than 60% of the catch), but this fish isn’t being caught to give people Omega-3, is it.

    I’m not saying that Omega-3 has no effect. I’m not extrapolating myself to the entire world. I’m saying that your assertion that humanity needs more fish because we need more Omega-3 is false as anything other than a vague “nicety”.

    So again, I ask: how am I getting my Omega-3?

    Am I not human?

  88. #88 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    If it’s a secret to protect the company in being beaten to the punch (or not getting as much a headstart as others), then once there’s a request for an open trial, why is the testing kept secret?

    The rather banal reason is that big companies don’t want to let their competitors know what strategies they are trying, and also that corporate lawyers would probably prefer employees not to disclose the contents of their lunch – just incase (they are a spectacularly conservative bunch regarding any and all information)

    If you aren’t over-eating the wheat with lots of other high-calorie foodstuffs, you won’t have a problem. Therefore “eat less” would be just as effective, cheaper and also help in feeding the rest of the world. And without worries about the unintended.

    Because that has worked so well.

  89. #89 Ian Forrester
    July 19, 2011

    Ewan R said:

    Because that has worked so well.

    I’m assuming you are being sarcastic. There are many ways to eat a lower glycemic diet than eating less. People seem to confuse glycemic index with total calorie intake. While the two are related they are not the same.

    One can eat the same number of calories but have foods with a lower glycemic index.

    Simple ways are to eat whole grain wheat bread rather than over-refined white bread, or whole grain bread, or substitute other cereals for white rice. An example of this is to eat more barley. As any good Scotsman knows barley is an excellent replacement for potatoes when eating lamb. Barley is also great in stews and soups.

    What makes you think that people who are unwilling to take these simple steps to eat a diet with a lower glycemic index will buy into more expensive refined white bread made from this new GMO wheat?

    Is this project simply a way to get the government in the mood for approving GMO wheat which will have other traits but once again offering no benefits for the consumer? Or are you expecting this new GMO wheat to displace existing non GMO wheat so that consumers, once again will have no choice in the matter?

  90. #90 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    And if the problem is “They won’t want the BROWN bread”, then why would they be eating the Golden Rice GMO?

  91. #91 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    I’m assuming you are being sarcastic. There are many ways to eat a lower glycemic diet than eating less. People seem to confuse glycemic index with total calorie intake. While the two are related they are not the same.

    There may be many ways, but a vague assessment of society at large shows that they fail horribly in most cases – if you can provide a lower glycemic index product which is otherwise identical to the crap people stuff into themselves against their own best health interests then in my opinion this is a good thing. If you can provide expanded choice of products to people who have to carefully watch what they eat (type I diabetics for instance) then this, in my opinion, is a good thing.

    What makes you think that people who are unwilling to take these simple steps to eat a diet with a lower glycemic index will buy into more expensive refined white bread made from this new GMO wheat?

    What makes you think the white bread made from this wheat will necessarily be more expensive? What makes you make the rather bizarre assumption that people won’t pay a little more to avoid what many see as a major impediment (drastically altering diet – I’ve done many various elimination diets in my time to attempt to figure out if any particular products are problematic for me, and it isn’t at all easy or pleasurable – my wife works in the gluten free industry where the goal is essentially to provide gluten free products which are as close to indistinguishable from gluten containing products as possible – the rather pat arguement would be ‘simply avoid gluten rather than trying to imitate’ – but it rather ignores human nature.

    I’m not arguing that your solution wouldn’t work if everyone had the willpower to undertake it, just that as I see it people don’t have that willpower, and that it makes sense to ameliorate the bad choices people do make rather than throwing up ones hands and saying “oh well, they chose it, guess that’s score one for the makers of diabetes medicine” (well and that giving people expanded diet choice when they’re in a shitty health situation is good)

    And if the problem is “They won’t want the BROWN bread”, then why would they be eating the Golden Rice GMO?

    These are two totally different products and you’re being incredibly stupid to equate the two – the targetting of golden rice is at people who, I’d assume, would be deeply shocked to hear that anyone at all would refuse food of any sort, and equally dismayed at the wild overabundance and waste of food in the societies to which the low glycemic wheat is aimed – it is a case of fortifying a staple crop to improve nutrition amongst some of the worlds poorest people – the wheat project, as I see it, is somewhat less laudible as it ameliorates issues caused at the complete opposite end of the spectrum (as well as autoimmune issues which cause type I diabetes – not everyone this would help can have blame heaped on them for their condition) of ridiculous overabundance.

  92. #92 Ian Forrester
    July 19, 2011

    Ewan R jokes:

    What makes you think the white bread made from this wheat will necessarily be more expensive?

    So the GMO companies are going to give the seeds away? The farmers will not pass on the additional costs to keep this product segregated from non GMO wheat? They will not pass on the costs of cleaning their equipment before moving from one field to another? The rail companies (or trucking companies) will not pass on the extra costs of keeping track of this GMO wheat? The millers will not pass on the extra charges for rigorous cleaning of their equipment when changing from GMO wheat to non GMO wheat. Bakers will not pass on the costs of baking small quantities of bread thus losing economies of scale? Grocery stores will not pass on the additional cost of additional marking and pricing of products?

    You, Sir, live in a dream world. Of course it is the objective of the company you work for to negate all the additional costs I have outlined by ensuring that everyone in the supply chain has no choice in the market hence no additional costs.

    Good grief, you are pathetic if you think people will stand for that. Of course, they haven’t in the past but unfortunately numerous governments have failed to represent the people who elected them and have succumbed to their generous sugar daddies i.e. GMO promoting companies.

  93. #93 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    And why is this wheat cheaper than the wheat we already have? Are they going to swallow the costs of R&D and the application for the patent?

    In fact, why bother with a patent at all, if they aren’t going to charge more for the wheat under patent?

  94. #94 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    So the GMO companies are going to give the seeds away?

    No, like any wheat seed there will obviously be a cost.

    The farmers will not pass on the additional costs to keep this product segregated from non GMO wheat?

    Wheat markets are built to keep different grades of wheat segregated – I’m not convinced that adding GM to the mix will cause issues. So your arguements on farmers, rail companies, millers etc fail.

    On bakers etc – it rather depends – if company A sees an opportunity to gain market share by selling low glycemic bread (requiring no extra effort on their part) then selling at parity with the competition makes sense.

    Not that this is an inevitability – my next point went on about why exactly I felt that even if there were an increased cost that in my opinion most consumers would be far happier paying a bit extra than making a pretty significant dietary shift. Odd that you decided to omit that bit.

    Of course it is the objective of the company you work for to negate all the additional costs

    I’m thinking not – this project, afaik, isn’t a Monsanto project (at least not from a cursory glance) so I would, given that Monsanto is getting back into wheat, infact have every reason to suggest that this stuff will incur extra costs and shouldn’t be released because my desire, shurely, should be that the only wheat seed sold, or traits marketed, be big M.

  95. #95 Neven
    July 19, 2011

    Good story in Crikey about the political economy of GM wheat trials:

    James, do you have a link where I can read the whole piece (I don’t feel like signing up for a daily mail from Crikey)?

  96. #96 Ian Forrester
    July 19, 2011

    Ewan R said:

    Wheat markets are built to keep different grades of wheat segregated – I’m not convinced that adding GM to the mix will cause issues. So your arguements on farmers, rail companies, millers etc fail.

    For someone who professes to work for a GMO company you seem to lack understanding of what happens in the real world.

    There is a big difference between various strains of non GMO wheat and GMO wheat (assuming it is ever approved, it seems like Canada is backing away from GM wheat). There are two big reasons why they should be completely segregated. Number one, obviously is contamination. Farmers and buyers of wheat (or other crops) do not want contamination since it will affect their price.

    Secondly, since it is illegal for farmers to have any GM plants in their fields without paying the GMO companies exorbitant fees (check out the Supreme Court of Canada ruling where the judge stated that it doesn’t matter how the GM material got there, spillage, contamination of seeds, wind blown or whether the farmer actually planted them you are in default of the patent holder’s rights and will be guilty). Anyone in the supply chain could be sued by an angry farmer if he can identify where the pollutant seeds came from. This will encourage anyone who handles GMO material to be extremely cautious and will (if they have any sense) ensure costly protocols are implemented.

  97. #97 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    For someone who professes to work for a GMO company you seem to lack understanding of what happens in the real world.

    You are the one who appears to be operating under the assumption that wheat isn’t already heavily segregated and that the processes for doing so aren’t already implemented pretty much wherever wheat is grown. It appears that you lack any understanding of what happens in the real world vis a vis wheat production, distribution, and utilization – as I haven’t the first clue what you do however I can’t say whether this is a massive failing on your part or something that shouldn’t be expected because you’re so removed from Ag that to expect anything other than rhetoric and romanticized notions of what farming should be is near hopeless.

    There are two big reasons why they should be completely segregated.

    No more so than for any other GM crop – just because you want it to be so doesn’t make it a necessity in the real world.

    My point is however that unlike corn and soy, wheat is already segregated by variety heavily, therefore there would be no additional burden in segregating if this were required.

    Farmers and buyers of wheat (or other crops) do not want contamination since it will affect their price.

    As it would if you mixed varieites of wheat designed for different processes (hard red and soft red winter wheat for example – which have overlapping areas of growth) – as stated, the mechanisms for segregation of wheat types already exist within the market for wheat. There is no reason to think that a small amount of possible cross contamination wouldn’t be perfectly acceptable – just as it is for other commodity crops – it would infact create a market where a premium could be charged for wheat which was segregated and could be guaranteed non-GMO.

    Secondly, since it is illegal for farmers to have any GM plants in their fields without paying the GMO companies exorbitant fees

    Firstly GM companies don’t go after farmers for accidental presence, secondly to call the fees exorbitant is theatrical for sure but hardly accurate.

    Anyone in the supply chain could be sued by an angry farmer if he can identify where the pollutant seeds came from. This will encourage anyone who handles GMO material to be extremely cautious and will (if they have any sense) ensure costly protocols are implemented.

    15 years evidence of GM crops in commerce would suggest you’re making this up.

  98. #98 Ian Forrester
    July 19, 2011

    No wonder Monsanto is one of the most hated corporations there is. They and their employees have no idea what is happening in the real world concerning their GMO crops.

    [Here](http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/03/30/us-farmers-sue-monsanto-over-gmo-patents-demand-right-to-conventional-crops/) is a recent quote concerning farmers’ attitudes to exactly what I said in my last post:

    The Public Patent Foundation filed suit yesterday against Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds with farmers asking to be protected against the biotechnology giant’s potential lawsuits in case of accidental contamination from plants grown with its seeds.

    Now this law suit is just the first step, I’m sure that if the farmers win their next step will to sue GMO companies for polluting their crops if it results in lost business income or loss of markets.

    If farmers will sue Monsanto they will sue others who contribute to the mess.

  99. #99 Jeff Harvey
    July 19, 2011

    Golden rice was a public relations stunt. Thats hardly surprising, since GMOs require deep PR cover – using hunger as their beating stick – to promote their products. At the same time, the ago-biotech industries have invested a lot of money in PR firms which have spun the GM story using all kinds of mendacious propaganda. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of ‘PR Watch’ in Wisconsin have authored two startling books, “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” and “Trust Us, We’re Experts” which examine the sordid link between the agro-biotech industry and billion dollar Public Relations firms. Of course Ewan hasn’t read them – why should he in his position? Just keep those blinkers on, Ewan.

    With respect to vitamin A-enhanced golden rice, vitamin A deficiency has never been a problem for people in the far east. The billions invested into it would have been far better off encouraging people in the region to have a more nutritionally diverse, healthier and ecologically more sound diet. Imagine someone telling you to eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner – in fact at every meal. They’d tell you to take a running jump.

    As economist Tom Athansiou said in his book, “Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor”, he would think that things were headed in a better direction if new technologies were shared between the north and south. But of course this is not the case, nor is there any sign that it will ever be. Technologies are monopolized by the rich north and are foisted onto the developing world who have to pay big dollars for access to them. Its a kind of economic imperialism in which there is more concern over who has patent rights to biodiversity than there is concern over protecting it. This is what the stumbling block in getting the United States to ratify the Rio Biodiversity Treaty (1992) was all about: patents and intellectual property rights. And in the U.S. corner big time in Rio were the agro-biotech firms, rubbing their hands together over the prospects of seeing the planet’s genetic diversity carved up for profit.

  100. #100 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    They and their employees have no idea what is happening in the real world concerning their GMO crops.

    So you’re basing this on what exactly… because there is a lawsuit by one group concerning something that has never happened this somehow means that Monsanto employees don’t know what is happening in the real world?

    Protection against lawsuits for accidental presence (which, if it eases folks minds, would probably be a good thing (I think I am probably at odds with company policy in this belief)) in no way suggests that therefore if there is accidental presence a lawsuit would be succesful – the two are clearly completely different stories (the first appears to me at least cut and dry – the second would open up a whole slew of potential cross contamination type lawsuits (can a farmer growing field corn sue a farmer growing sweet corn for contamination with pollen, or vice versa, can a grower of heirloom tomatoes sue for presence of pollen from non-heirlooms? (although as these are cases where there would be an actual meaningful change rather than simply presence of a transgene which confers no meaningful change to the end product perhaps there’d actually be some merit there…))