GMO plants and herd immunity

On Colbert Report the other night, I saw Eric Schlosser made a new movie bitching about GMOs and food production in the US, ‘Food Inc’.

Im not saying anything until I see it.

*zips-lips*

However I will use this flurry of ‘OMFG LIEK GMO FOOD IS GEIVING MAH CANKER AND MAEKING MAH FAAAAAT!’ news activity to talk about a super cool convergence of fresh fruit and epidemiology!

About 20 years ago, there was an epidemic of papaya ringspot virus in Hawaii. PRSV is carried by aphids, tree to tree, rendering the papaya trees dead. Well, worse than dead. More like plump reservoirs of PRSV, where aphids could pick up some PRSV to infect moar trees.

Decimated papayas in Hawaii. Until scientists created GMO papayas resistant to infection.

But some places (eg Japan) are still scared of GMOs, so they do not want. Need ‘organic’ papayas to sell to GMO newbs.

Neat solution: Create a barrier of GMO papaya around native papaya to act as infected-aphid-sinks, protecting the native papaya. This is the same principle of herd immunity: If 95% of the population is immunized against polio, the 5% that are underimmunized (or the offspring of cranks) are still protected!

In the HDOA plan, a 1,000-acre parcel of land in Kahuwai, which was isolated and predominantly upwind from the main planting areas in Puna, was targeted for nontransgenic fruit production destined for sale in Japan. About 600 acres were devoted to the production of nontransgenic Kapoho variety, and about 300 acres of the transgenic Rainbow was planted to create a buffer of resistant plants. The transgenic plants served to interrupt the movement of PRSV by viruliferous aphids into Kahuwai. The goal of this strategy was to reduce initial infection rates and secondary virus spread, thus slowing the PRSV epidemic in the Kahuwai management area.
… the Kahuwai management area had very low PRSV incidence and represents the situation where a degree of isolation was possible, and roguing of infected plants was strictly followed. In the remaining areas of Puna, the disease incidence was much higher than Kahuwai. The likely reasons are that PRSV management was less intense and the more random planting of Rainbow was less effective in protecting nontransgenic plantings. HDOA, however, removed infected fields that had been abandoned by growers. This activity greatly reduced PRSV incidence and has served to keep the incidence of PRSV in nontransgenic papaya relatively low as compared with 1992-1998 when PRSV-resistant papaya were not available.

KEWL! GMO plants protecting the ‘organic’ plants! LOL!

But the foodies aint happy. They dont want ungodly GMOs mixing with their pure-bred stock, birthing mulatto papaya abominations. Sure their super awesome organic papayas would be dead by now if it werent for GMOs, but like, whatever. Details, details.

But that stupid bit of irony did prompt a Q in mah brain. Maybe a Hawaiian might be able to answer for me– why didnt you all cull every papaya plant 10 years ago (saving seeds), plant GMOs only for a few years to clear out the PRSV epidemic, and replant native papaya? Plant people have options not open to us human people– why didnt you kill everyone to kill the epidemic, and just start over?

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    June 8, 2009

    I know the crazy herd knee-jerk mentality is ridiculous. The same type of mindset leads to irrational opinions on global warming (the “Inconvenient Truth” phenomenon) and anti-vax people.

    However — the big problem I have is that when you have a very large and powerful organization like Monsanto, with political leverage to boot, red flags go up in my head whenever I see them pushing for ANYTHING. How do I know they have my interests at heart? How do I know I can trust them as long as they’re driven by a profit motive? I mean, these WERE the same folks that made Agent Orange and DDT (and are still selling the latter to the third world — good thing that won’t come around and affect us at all!)

    So when they lobby for things like “substantial equivalence”, allowing them to have genetically modified comestibles on store shelves without any kind of labeling indicating it as such, I get a little prickly. I’m not saying I *wouldn’t* buy a product like that, but I would like to be empowered, as a consumer, to consciously make that choice.

    I had recently heard that they were behind legislation that would have a detrimental effect on smaller farm operations, but I don’t have the link handy. It’s very similar to the “lead-testing on goods produced for children” legislation that PASSED last year — my wife, who makes organic cloth menstrual pads (I am being totally serious), also occasionally makes cloth diapers. She can no longer do this because everytime she uses a new color or produced a new product design, it would need to be tested for lead.

    Anyways — I understand your dislike of the crazy hysterics and all, and I also know that most GMO foods are probably completely safe to eat. But I would like to be the one making the decision regarding what I put in my (and my children’s) bod(ies).

    I like being able to look at the Nutritional label of a product seeing a rough summary of the contents, and being able to decide to ELECT to pay a little extra if I would prefer a brand that uses raw sugar instead of HFCS, or that has low sodium content, or that uses poly-unsaturated fats instead of partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to make the same choice about the vegetables I buy?

  2. #2 jrshipley
    June 8, 2009

    Point taken. GMOs have positive effects. Has anyone denied that? The reason I’m agnostic about the net C/B is that I feel like I don’t know enough about the potentially negative effects. One way to learn more about this sort of thing: subscribe to the scienceblogs combined feed and read up. Alas, LIEK OMG THIS SNARKIFIED POST WAS TOTALLY F’ING UNINFORMATIVE.

    Maybe try explaining why my concern that GM products are being rushed to market without enough study of health risks is unfounded. It’s not a hippy eco-purist thing for a lot of people. It’s more of a “don’t make supermarket shoppers unwitting guinea pigs” thing. Is the “scientific” pov that we don’t need to test because genetics is LIEK SOOOOO KEWL? Or, is there a reason to be confident that corn wired to release a massive dose of pesticide when you bite into it is completely safe? For all I know, the concerns people like me have are misplaced. After reading this post, however, “all I know” is unfortunately “not much more”.

  3. #3 travc
    June 9, 2009

    Nifty clever application of GMO.

    I wonder how many varieties of papaya are grown… probably on the order of 1. However, if not, crossing the GMO and a good variety of other strains and selecting for the relevant resistance would be a good thing IMO. Monoculture is generally a bad thing…

    BTW, when are all the bananas going to die (again)? Isn’t that coming up soon?

    GMO is like most things, upside and downside. Most people agree that the business model of Monsanto and it’s ilk is pretty abusive bordering on evil. I’d say outright evil, but there is the whole thing of feeding many many many people which gives them at least few positive points.

  4. #4 Greg
    June 9, 2009

    Judging by the title, Food inc. might not be so much about he health or environmental impacts of GM foods but more about the fact that most of this technology is owned by a single corporation.

    They might also have an issue with 1000 acre mono cultures the market of which is 5000km away.

  5. #5 Stephen Bahl
    June 9, 2009

    I know nothing at all about papayas, but maybe culling them, replacing them with GM version and replanting the original variety would be impractical? For one thing, it would have to be coordinated properly, which might be expensive. And could they be sure it would even work? Might the virus have a natural reservoir somewhere from which it could bounce back after the vulnerable plants are reintroduced? Couldn’t it even be able to just chill out sans host long enough to re-establish itself when the vulnerable plants are introduced, or is it too fragile to do that?

    And why bother if the GM version is pretty much identical except for the viral vulnerability?

  6. #6 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Are there really no legitimate concerns with biotechnology applications in the food industry?

    Am I wrong to believe that concerns over the introduction of antibiotic resistant patatoes (you’ll tell me that is an oversimplification of what the BASF potato is) are legitimate or should at least be further investigated?

    Am I a woo meister for being concerned about the effect that biotech products may have on the local ecology? Say the loss of biodiversity, or how it affects animal populations?

    I have no problem with searching for more efficient crops to help feed the growing population of this planet, but this should not mean giving multinationals a blank check to plant whatever comes out of their labs. They should still have to show evidence that their products are safe

    Progress is not always a positive development, salmon farming on the west coast appears to be causing the growth of sea lice population which is affecting wild salmon populations adversely. What problems will genetically engineered farmed salmon cause?

    Are you not reacting a bit hysterically to the hysteria surrounding gm and biotech foods? I’m not a big fan of a blanket approval process for biotech products simply because the individual process forces the biotech firms to prove that their product is safe for human consumption and the environment.

  7. #7 zayzayem
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha, there are legitimate concerns regarding GMO and Big Agriculture’s monopoly in as much as there are some legitimate concerns regarding vaccines and Big Pharma’s monopoly.

    The problem is that hysteric voices based on ignorance and conservative values drown out legitimate concern and make it that much harder for legitimate concerns to be taken seriously when it comes to appropriate regulations to be put into place.

  8. #8 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha, the issue that is being used in this film is that “Monsanto is evil” and not an examination of GMO processing of foods. There are researchers who are working on GMO development who are interested in making “open-source” seeds and wresting control from the companies such as Archer-Daniels and Monsanto. Ansstasia Bodnar is a great soource of information as she is doing post-grad studies at Iowa State University.

    The main issue that bothers me is that like it or not, the population of our planet is growing. It would be nice to return to the family farms that we remember, but without clearing more and more land to raise the foods needed to feed so many billions of people we are going to have to enlist technologies such as GMO foods to grow drought-resistant crops, cotton that fights weevils, corn that fights borers. It’s one way to move away from pesticides, fertilizers and injected hormones and potentially provide more earth-friendly agricultural processes.

    Just from the trailer for this film, it looks to have as much scientific substance as Ben Stein’s Expelled.

  9. #9 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha asked,

    Am I a woo meister for being concerned about the effect that biotech products may have on the local ecology? Say the loss of biodiversity, or how it affects animal populations?

    That depends. Do you feel the same way about new varieties of non-GM crops?

    If not, you may only be mis-informed. Traditionally bred products can also affect the local ecology, reduce biodiversity, affect animal populations, etc., in ways just as significant as a typical GM crop. If you think all new products should be evaluated based on their intrinsic potential to cause such harms, and not based on whether they are GM or non-GM,* then no, you’re not a woo meister.

    If you think GM foods are unsafe because they are Frankenfoods, against Nature, playing God, unnatural, etc., then you probably are a woo meister.

    No offense. ;-)

    *Granted, there are things we can do in GM crops that we can’t do with non-GM crops. But such crops should be evaulated based on what we did (e.g. introduced drought resistance traits or herbicide resistance), not how we did it (e.g. genetic engineering vs. traditional crosses).

  10. #10 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Sorry, my bad.

    I thought the rant was aimed in a general manner at all criticism of biotech food products. I have not yet seen the movie, so I couldn’t comment on that.

    It’s not a question of returning to the family farms we remember, they’re gone for good. It’s a question of applying the precautionary principal and making sure that these products will not adversely affect the local and global ecology.

    There is another way we could make food production more efficient. We could stop wasting precious resources on junk food for example. We could also, we may have to one day, stop overfeeding the developed world’s population. Our calorie intake is excessive.

    We also pave and build over some of the most fertile land on the planet to extend our suburbs. Vancouver, in Canada, is a case in point where the Fraser river’s fertile delta is fast being lost to development.

    As long as the food safety process as applied to GMO’s is not watered down (like it was for the supplements industry), and that ecological impact is also taken into account. Then I’m all for those GMO’s that pass the approval process.

  11. #11 humorix
    June 9, 2009

    Nature delivers every day of thousand OGM (by the wind, rain, honeybees, etc), and sometimes toxic plants come into the world. Laboratories control. It differs and it is surer.

  12. #12 Brian Foley
    June 9, 2009

    It’s not wrong to be concerned about biotechnology, but is is sort of hypocritical to worry only about “new” methods of crop modification such as adding a gene to a crop and not worry about viruses bacteria fungi and other problems or about conventional crop breeding.

    With regard to killing all papayas and waiting for the virus to go away, that is probably not going to happen. There are two “strains” of the Papaya Ringspot Virus, the W strain which infects cucurbits (watermellons, cucumbers, squashes, etc) worldwide and the P strain which infects both cucurbits and Papayas worldwide (and probably dozens of wild plants not of economic importance). So while the papayas are gone the virus will be surviving on these other hosts.

    Although Wikipedia says the P and W strains are “so close to identical in antigenicity and DNA sequence that they are considered to be the same species”, we really don’t have an adequate definition of what a virus “species” is, and the sequences of the P (GenBank accession AB369277 for example) and W (GenBank accession AY010722 for example) are only 88% identical. Twelve percent difference between viruses can be very huge in some virus families, in others it is not so huge. DNA distance/similarity alone cannot be the only method used to determine if viruses belong to the same species or genus.

    At any rate, if we want Papayas and we can’t eliminate the virus and/or the aphids, we have to make intelligent choices about the best method of raising them. Just because externally applied Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) toxin is “natural” and “organic” does not necessarily mean that it is safer or better than adding a ringspot virus coat protein gene to the Papaya genome ( http://www.apsnet.org/ONLINE/FEATURE/RINGSPOT/ ). And clearly both Bt toxin (to kill the aphids, not the virus) and genetic modification of the papaya, are safer than spraying DDT to kill the aphids.

  13. #13 ERV
    June 9, 2009

    Aaron– Unless you have a very specific point to make, I wouldnt use the word ‘Monsanto’. There are over 9000 seed companies out there, but food freaks use ‘Monsanto’ as a trigger word, like Creationists use ‘Darwinism’. It makes me a sad panda.

    The GMO label thing I agree with them, on. If I were them, I wouldnt want to put ‘CONTAINS GMO’ on my labels either, because people are stupid and dont know how food is made, and wont know where GMOs kick ass, and where they might not. Therefore, all GMOs will be put into ‘OMG DO NOT WANT’ categories, even the ones that are very good things (ie GMO cheese). If it doesnt effect the food in a negative way, what does it matter whether its on the label or not? You know it would just be a marketing scheme, right? “GMO FREE BREAD!” tells you nothing about the quality and nutritional content of the bread.

    “But I would like to be the one making the decision regarding what I put in my (and my children’s) bod(ies). ”
    Would you feed your children all natural cheese made with the guts or newborn baby calves, or GMO cheese made with GMO bacteria? You know the angelic all-natural food industry calls ‘newborn baby calf guts’ ‘enzymes’, right?

    “decide to ELECT to pay a little extra if I would prefer a brand that uses raw sugar instead of HFCS”
    Why? Because the carbon footprint of shipping all natural sugar from Brazil is so much better than making HFCS in Iowa? Because 120 calorie Mountain Dew made with natural sugar is so much better for you than 120 calorie MD made with HFCS? Its all marketing, dude!

  14. #14 ERV
    June 9, 2009

    jrshipley–
    “GMOs have positive effects. Has anyone denied that? The reason I’m agnostic about the net C/B is that I feel like I don’t know enough about the potentially negative effects.

    Maybe try explaining why my concern that GM products are being rushed to market without enough study of health risks is unfounded.”

    “Vaccines have positive effects. Has anyone denied that? The reason I’m agnostic about the net C/B is that I feel like I don’t know enough about the potentially negative effects.

    Maybe try explaining why my concern that vaccines are being rushed to market without enough study of health risks is unfounded.”
    A’yup.

    “Alas, LIEK OMG THIS SNARKIFIED POST WAS TOTALLY F’ING UNINFORMATIVE. After reading this post, however, “all I know” is unfortunately “not much more”.”
    Whats the title of this post, again? ‘GMO plants and herd immunity’? Yeah, we learn about how GMOs can be used to up herd immunity to pathogens, thus protect organic crops in, what, like kindergarten? Kids sing songs about it on Barney. Sorry, man, Ill try to step it up next time.

    Dipshit.

  15. #15 ERV
    June 9, 2009

    Stephen– “Might the virus have a natural reservoir somewhere from which it could bounce back after the vulnerable plants are reintroduced?”
    Oh duh! You are totally right. If it can infect other plants, even asymptomatically, culling wouldnt work at all, and Im sure it infects other plants.

    Good catch!

  16. #16 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    I wonder if killing the Hawiian papaya population wouldn’t have also killed the Hawiian papaya growers.

    A point that I think gets overlooked often and is worth remembering, though I think it bears little real merit, is that GMO fears do have plausibility to the general public. Some of them know the plants produce pesticides. Since they also know pesticides are poisons, that’s instant fear right there. And unfortunately the association between the plant’s pesticide and “poison” is extremely difficult to neutralize with good research. Especially when they know we’re not infallible.

    Many of them also intuitively assume that the genes we’re sticking in crops are not genes that would be found in food we normally eat. That’s often not the case, of course, but the point is that simultaneously triggers the “not food, don’t eat” instinct and implies that we are completely ignorant of the gene’s possible effects, since we haven’t been eating it. Which has a kernel of truth, given that if it really is a “new” gene to our food, we’ve been eating the “old” genes for milennia without any problems whatsoever (yes, I know that’s false) and the new one’s been researched for just a few years.

    I’m aware that most, if not all, of these concerns wash out. But I do think it’s worth understanding how this could be plausible to some people. Though yes, I’m sure there are nuttier objectors as well.

  17. #17 BAllanJ
    June 9, 2009

    Nice post, erv. Thanks.

  18. #18 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    People are stupid? A bit harsh, don’t you think. If there are no labels for GMO foods, then you will be giving a major boost to those who think all GMO should be banned. They will ask why the need for secrecy and the stupid consumers will latch onto the lack of labeling as reason to be suspicious. Information and education go hand in hand, don’t they?

    By the way, I did enjoy the post. I had no idea that herd immunity applies to plants as well as animals. I never did see Attenborough’s footage of the great papaya herds of Hawaii.

  19. #19 Sili
    June 9, 2009

    Of course, living in plenty and being devoid of empathy, I think that continuing to try to “feed the world” is not a good idea.

    Letting the less fortunate die from hunger is horrible, yes, but unfortunately my preference that a suitable percentage of the population be sterilised as early as possible is not likely to gain any traction.

  20. #20 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha,

    Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with GM foods as a class. Even so, I used to think as you do – that if poeple want know if a product contains GMO’s, let’s tell ‘em.

    After reading and thinking about it more, however, I realize it’s not so simple. First, there are physical limits to how much we can put on a label. Second, it’s arguably unfair to force companies to include a label with a negative connotation that has no factual basis.

    For instance, as ERV asks in #13 above, should we require cheese companies to label products “made with newborn calf intestines?” What if some people don’t want to buy products made on Wednesdays. Should we require “made on Wednesdays” labels for them?

    These are hyperbolic examples, to be sure, but the point is how do we decide what manufacturers must include on a label? Is simple popular demand enough, no matter how irrational it might be? Or should we require objective evidence to support required labels? I now tend toward the latter, and IMO, there’s no objective reason that GM foods require such labels. I no longer think it’s fair to force GM labels solely because people are irrationally afraid of “frankenfoods.” (If there were objective evidence that GM foods as a class could have significant effects that non-GM foods do not, I’d be more supportive of labeling.)

    At the same time, I think companies should be allowed to label their products as “GM-free,” but ONLY if they can reasonably back up that claim. That would presumably require testing, documented sourcing and supply chains, etc., which could increase the price, but if people care enough to pay extra (as they do now for “organics”), that’s fine with me.

  21. #21 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    I really don’t think that’s a realistic interpretation, sascha. People who worry about GMOs already and know about the labeling fight might ask “why all the secrecy?” But WITH labels, EVERYONE will ask “why am I being warned?” They will assume there is a risk to be warned about in the first place.

  22. #22 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    You may very well be right that GMO products as a class do not create any heightened risk to the consumer. You further want the labeling of GMO to be restricted to allowing non GMO foods to be so labeled.

    I don’t think that having the companies labeling their products as having or incorporating GMO products is detrimential to their marketing of these products. They already have to label country of origin, date of manufacture, contents including additives. It doesn’t add that much to their overhead. I admit EU regs are stricter than US regs, but I believe that consumer protection requires disclosure.

    The use of additives as a class do not necessarily entail significant effects, yet they are included on labels. The point of labeling requirements is not to obligate the corporations to include that which might entail significant health risks as these would simply not be allowed. The point is rather to inform the consumer over the contents of what he is purchasing. It is a necessary requirement when concluding any contract. If the information leads the consumer to the wrong conclusion then this is not an indictment of the labeling regs, but rather of the consumer’s own information gathering. The negative connotation is not reason enough for me to make the food safety process any laxer than it already is. Consumer protection trumps business interests IMHO in this case.

    You are right we don’t require cheese to add to their labels that they are made with animal rennet, but then most people already know that some form of enzyme is necessary for coagulation, or is at the very least involved in the cheese making process. In fact some Bio or vegetarian cheese manufacturers do label whether their cheese is manufactured with animal rennet or not. The regs may not require this but some consumers do. Rennet is also a processing aid, thus does not fall under most labeling requirements.

  23. #23 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    A small correction, I jumped the gun on rennet labeling requirements. I’ll have to go back and doublecheck. My apologies.

  24. #24 rimpal
    June 9, 2009

    What’s the problem labeling foods? We now have Kosher, Halal, and Vegetarian/Vegan labeling. There’s Rennet (calf intestine) cheese and then there is enzyme cheese – which is why to be sure, I pick up Kosher cheese form my vegetarian son. And maybe we should label everyday cheese as “Made with calf intestines” rather than simply “Rennet”. Big deal! The problem with GMO isn’t what it may do to you – the Frankenfood obsession is bizarre. It’s the way Monsanto (not an independent company any longer) and its friends try to push the debate. To quote George Monbiot tinyurl.com/9qd7h “The biotech companies know that they will never conquer new markets while activists are able to expose the way their operations damage food security and consumer choice. While working…to open new territory, they also appear to have been fighting covert campaigns against their critics. Their products may not be poisonous, but can we say the same of their techniques?”

    as far as the experience of GMO vs. “traditional” produce is concerned, there is no contest. Factory farming and GMO now have given us tonnes of the stuff we like to eat or gorge on but robbed us of the flavourful experience a good meal used to be. I wish the choice weren’t between starvation and a full stomach.

  25. #25 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    rrt

    It was probably a stretch, but the gist remains the same. The information is best when it-s provided.

  26. #26 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    I think it is disingenuous to suggest that on the one hand lots of safe ingredients and additives are labelled while simultaneously arguing that GMO itself is sufficiently different from non-GMO that we should label it. We don’t label corn strains. Why make an exception, taking special positive action for those that are GMO unless you’re arguing there IS a risk?

  27. #27 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    I’m not arguing there is a risk in individual GMO products. GMO qualifies as a class not because it is inherently different from the original “natural” product it derives from, but because it belongs to that class of products that has been extensively manipulated by humans. I know that nearly all our “natural” crops and animals have been extensively manipulated by humans, but this was before labeling requirements. In any event they are also included on modern labels. When you have a package labeled chicken, the consumer knows he is getting modern modified chicken and not the neolithic ancestor.

    I don’t believe you are arguing against the, not very onerous, approval process for GMO’s so I’ll stick to the labeling requirements.

    Labeling requirements fulfill the need for disclosure inherent in any contractual negotiation as well as certain safety needs. Most everything in the product you are purchasing is included on the label. Including the GMO on the label does not mean to say it is unsafe, it is simply fulfilling the requirements of disclosure. As a purchaser you will want to have the maximum information about the product before you buy. What the consumer does with this information is irrelevant. If the consumer chooses to eschew GMO foods or carrots from wherever, or anything green, so be it.

    When you buy a red car and the spec sheet included in the contract stipulates it is a red car this doesn’t entail that the car is any less safe than a blue or green car. If some feel that the red car is inherently unsafe because they read it in the check out line of the supermarket, what would you do. Have car dealers hide the color of the car because it would otherwise be unfair to require them to disclose the color of the car? No, you’d ignore it.

  28. #28 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha,

    I hope this doesn’t sound offensive, but I urge you to re-consider the logic of your arguments.

    Requiring labels that say “contains GMO ingredients” would certainly affect marketing. Consumers won’t be more likely to buy products with a GMO label, given the almost universally bad press GMOs have received. The net effect is virtually certain to be detrimental. Maybe you think the effect would be too small to matter, but whatever effect there was is almost guaranteed to be negative.

    Consumer protection is only a legitimate concern IF GMOs as a class present some significant risk. To the best of my knowledge, they do not.

    Providing disclosure is reasonable, but only to a point. It’s not possible to disclose everything about a product. AS rrt noted (#26), we don’t require disclosure of every strain of corn that was used to make a bottle of corn syrup. Why not? Because it’s not sufficiently relevant. If a company wants to put that on its label, more power to them, but they shouldn’t be required to.

    If there were a good reason to require GMO labeling, I’d be all for it, but I haven’t seen one so far. And, IMO, “people want it for irrational reasons” is not a good reason.

    Finally, I’m not arguing for making the food safety process more lax. That’s a strawman argument on your part. Rather, you are arguing to make it more strict! And without rational justification (or so I contend). I agree that consumer protection trumps business interests, but you haven’t shown that consumers would actually be protected by such labels.

  29. #29 William WallaceW
    June 9, 2009

    Laugh now about GMOs, but any scientist who isn’t a liar has to admit it is an experiment in progress.

  30. #30 Scrabcake
    June 9, 2009

    Wow. This reminds me of the mood I was in last week when Bay Area NPR did a nice little segment about Chevron in Ecuador and only interviewed some activists with anti-Chevron websites.
    OHGOD TEH EVIL BIG OIL. Way to thoroughly and thoughtfully cover this subject, guys.
    Anyway, last time I checked, with GMO foods, there are a lot of inherent risks, ie the usual risks with introduction of a new species into a non-native landscape, and also of unwittingly helping to evolve corn resistant bugs to eat the bug resistant corn. (I went to school in Australia where there’s always a bit of justifiable paranoia about things getting loose and stomping on any local wildlife in its path.), but as to the chance of any of these risks coming to fruition, the (scientific) jury is still out. And there’s no indication whatsoever that any of these modifications will have any health risk to humans.
    I view legislation against GMOs as a dangerous combination between the “Autism Vaccine Link” type of thinking (or not thinking) and the “Big companies are always evil” ideology.

  31. #31 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    @William WallaceW

    Everything we do is an experiment in progress. Anything else that we might have done instead (like banning GMOs) would also have been an experiment in progress. It can’t be avoided, so we have to make the best judgment we can, hopefully based on the evidence available at the time.

  32. #32 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Of course I’m willing to reconsider. But I would have to see a significant negative effect from the labeling requirement. I believe most consumers will tend to see the label as proof it has gone through the approval process and is considered safe. Obviously we could simply see if the EU labeling regs concerning GMO’s has had a negative effect or not. I’m not aware of any study having looked into that, but that would certainly help the debate along. The GMO industry might simply be overreacting to a very vocal but small section of the population, without factual foundation.

    GMO’s as a class represent a risk only insofar as the safety of new GMO’s appearing on the market is not necessarily confirmed. The approval process will be the last hurdle. Because they have to go through an approval process they are treated, at least here in the EU, the same way additives and colorants are. You may think that because additives and colorants do not pose a significant risk, they also need not be included on the label. It would be a fair view to hold.

    I believe that consumers are protected by labeling requirements, albeit indirectly. Having to disclose the essential ingredients allows for a wider oversight of the food processing industry then could only be achieved by the always stretched resources of the various food safety agencies. Consumer protection groups, and more scientifically mature consumers as well, could then be included in the oversight process. Obviously, the drawback would be that these labels could be misused by the more irrational militants. But they will simply find their ammunition elsewhere, if they couldn’t find it on labels.

    I know you were not arguing against the approval process, but it’s not a straw man argument. I believe it was BASF that was complaining that the process was unnecessary. My apologies if you thought I was pointing the finger at you.

    I can imagine that in a decade or two, when GMO’s will have become ubiquitous, the labeling requirement may not be as necessary. The consumer will then presume that the product contains GMO’s unless otherwise stated.

  33. #33 Prometheus
    June 9, 2009

    ERV@15

    “If it can infect other plants, even asymptomatically, culling wouldnt work at all, and Im sure it infects other plants.”

    Melons, cucumbers pretty much all the gourds.

    That documentary looks good and scary.

    I love the white guys in suits with briefcases trampling the wheat on the way to a leviathanic factory puking black poison into the pretty Midwestern sky.

    Damn you Capitalist lackey running dogs of the American hegemonic military industrial complex! Quit trampling the people’s wheat!

    Ooooooo, I do hope there is a lot of juxtaposition that will convince audience members that they have discovered a secret horrible truth.

    Cow craps in pond. Cow drinks from pond. Cow gets milked. Cherubic child drinks milk.
    *gasp*
    Cue Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as Donna Cargill buys a giant diamond for her Bucket O’ Giant Diamonds doorstop.

    Damn you multinational corporations! Damn you to hell!

    Thanks Spurlock/Moore for making every modern documentary into a political autobiography of the god damned documentarian.

  34. #34 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    Mostly just seconding quetzl here…

    “Most ingredients…are included on the label.”

    Bullshit. Any truly natural, organic grain or meat inherently has a list of chemical components longer than my arm. It just depends on what you think is worth printing in detail and what isn’t.

    “Labeling requirements fulfill the need for disclosure…”

    You are assuming your conclusion here. The need for disclosure has not been established. Your vehicle analogy does not help: only relevant features are disclosed. The overwhelmin majority of your vehicle’s features, let alone components, are NOT disclosed.

    As quetzl says, if there is reason to list, then list. But “more power to the consumer” is not a valid excuse in this context. You are making special pleading to list GMO.

  35. #35 alex
    June 9, 2009

    Monsanto ARE an evil company.

    Amongst other things they will not allow farmers to reuse seeds, but expect them to buy new seeds each season.

    They are typically litigious (US what do you expect), and are even sueing farmers where ‘their’ seeds have blown in and sprouted from a GM farm elsewhere.

    At least Europe (most if not all countries) has had the good to ban GM at least for now.

  36. #36 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    You are presuming that I find “natural” or organic to necessarily be better. Whether I do or not is irrelevant as I have not used that argument to found my position. Most organic produce here in Switzerland at least can only be labeled “Bio” if it conforms to very onerous production requirements. Whether it is better is irrelevant, it simply fulfills the requirement of disclosure. In this case, though it is to avoid producers calling something “Bio” when it isn’t. The consumer trusts the system and can make an informed choice.

    As far as the need for disclosure, it is not “my” conclusion. It is a requirement of contractual obligations. I simply think that the presence of GMO’s is part of the essentialia negotii, the essential elements of a contract. The determination of the item the consumer is purchasing is necessary for the contract to be valid. Whther these need to be fixed by statute is open to debate, but as a rule it is unfair to put the onus of informing themselves on the consumer. The resources available to the consumer are either insufficient, or he suffers from information overload. Requiring statutory disclosure from the Companies is generally more efficient and fair.

    Now, you may believe that this goes too far and that it is not an essential element. Why would the consumer need to know whether there were GMO’s in the product? You are perfectly entitled to hold that opinion, and it is certainly no less valid than my own. I believe that the consumer is entitled to know about any of the important elements going into the manufacture of the product he is purchasing. IMHO, GMO’s belong to this category. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. I can smugly sit back and enjoy the EU’s Regulations (EC) Nos 1829/2003 and 1830/2003 mandating that products containing GMO’s be so labeled.

    The overwhelming majority of the features and components of a car are in fact disclosed, even if only by implication. You do not need to disclose all the nuts and bolts involved in the brake system assembly, but you generally disclose that it has brakes and the general type of brake assembly. In fact if the consumer wanted to, he could request the shop manual and he would have a complete list of every nut, screw and bolt that went into the manufacture of his car.

    I’m sorry if my position offends you, but I don’t think the debate over whether to label or not is quite as clear cut as you make it out to be. You think only health issues would justify creating a special treatment for GMO’s as opposed to non GMO’s, you further dismiss consumer concerns as being irrelevant.

    I believe that consumer concerns are in fact relevant. Why? Because it is an essential part of the way the market functions. Informed consumers make the market more efficient.

  37. #37 Prometheus
    June 9, 2009

    “Monsanto ARE an evil company.

    Amongst other things they will not allow farmers to reuse seeds, but expect them to buy new seeds each season.

    They are typically litigious (US what do you expect), and are even sueing farmers where ‘their’ seeds have blown in and sprouted from a GM farm elsewhere.”

    Yep, if you sign an iron clad agreement for a pilot program and use their proprietary seeds at a discount or cull seed stock from so called blow overs to compete with their seed sales using their own engineered seeds they will sue the bejesus out of you.

    So will Pioneer (aka DuPont).

    It takes 45 of your tax dollars in subsidy for every dividend dollar ADM pays out.

    They are all EEEEvill because they are in the farming business.

    I have a farm. A small family farm

    *release bluebirds*
    *cue sunshine*

    If it will add a penny to my check I will plant genetically modified hippie baby strangling string beans the day they announce the federal subsidy.

    It’s not a capitalist plot. People are opportunistic dicks. Corporations are just large scale opportunistic dicks.

  38. #38 Hasufin
    June 9, 2009

    Monsanto is an evil company.

    So is Pioneer, which doesn’t do anything at all with GMOs.

    The problem isn’t the GMOs at all – it’s the unethical agribusiness. If anything, the non-GMO agribusiness firms are *worse*, in that they have a leg up on the nasty little business model.

    The thing is, too often it’s not recognized that the GMO matter is orthogonal to the ethical questions. GMOs are, like any technology, neither good nor bad. There are concerns, to be sure, but those concerns truly haven’t been properly voiced, and we’re nowhere close to addressing them. Instead we’re wasting time with ridiculous pursuits, false inquiries, and senseless conflating of matters which aren’t relevant to the technology at all.

  39. #39 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    No, I do NOT dismiss consumer concerns as irrelevant. Care to look at my initial comment? I’m well aware that concerns, founded or not, can be a factor, the EU being a prime example, and I’m well aware human health is not the only factor. But I am focusing on the material justification for a positive labeling requirement.

    You are making my point beautifully with your vehicle analogy. The majority of features and components are not disclosed. You bring in “by implication,” but that means you’re just shifting my statement to be “explicitly disclosed,” which I’m fine with. Do cars have brakes? Most people know that they do. But brakes are a broad category, and they are not identified unless there is specific reason to call attention to the difference. Disc brakes are significantly better (usually) than the baseline standard drums. Porsche has a dizzying array of expensive brake options, and of course they are all Brembos. Likewise, grain is grain–we do not list the specific strain and attributes unless thereis reason to do so, unless they differ in some significant way.

    Your position does not offend me, but your logic distresses me. “Agree to disagree?” “I simply think…?” These are not valid justification for any position save one of raw political popular vote. Certainly not when the question is largely scientific. You want to give GMO plants special treatment, different from most others, yet you continue to refuse to demonstrate why.

  40. #40 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    I interpreted your conclusion: “But “more power to the consumer” is not a valid excuse in this context.” as stating their concerns are irrelevant as regards GMO labeling. Was I wrong? Also, consumer concerns are in fact material justification, they are just not scientific justification.

    Brakes are always mentioned in the specs appended to the sales contract just as wheels and doors and everything else is. Most companies specify exactly which brake assembly you are getting with your car. To avoid confusion given the myriad of options available to the consumer. Also because the brake assembly and the other options are included in the manufacturer’s marketing campaigns.

    Of course most people know car have brakes, it’s still an essential element of a contract. The consumer expects the car to have brakes. Just as most consumers may not expect the food they eat to contain GMO’s, hence it’s mention may be an essential element.

    “agree to disagree” whether mention of GMO’s is an essential element of a contract or not. We disagree on so much else, we might as well agree on something.

    I may not “simply think”? How should I phrase my position statements. I say unto you, my word is law? Now my very choice of wording causes you discomfort. Pray forgive my presumption. By the way, the justification followed that particular sentence fragment.

    I thought I just demonstrated why they should be given special treatment, because they are different than most other plants. If not why should we need an approval process before they can be brought to market? If all potential risk can be a priori excluded we could just allow the corporations to bring everything to market without having to get approval.

  41. #41 Scrabcake
    June 9, 2009

    I think the crux of the biscuit here is that labeling food as GMO would be just begging for stupid people to take that as an admission that GMOs are somehow bad.
    For example, when you see “includes Olestra” on a bag of potato chips, most consumers think “loose stools” automatically. (If I’m not mistaken, most chips include Olestra these days but they stopped labeling them, probably for this reason.) “Includes X” is pretty much taken by the consumer as an admission that the food is going to produce in them some scary horrible illness, even if the science is fuzzy. Of course, marketing departments take this and run with it. I can just see a package of velveeta in the future with a big star on it “Contains no GMOs”, the implication being that HAVING GMOs must be hazardous to your health.
    Most people don’t bother to look at the background on any of these labels to see a) what the risk of getting a disease from this food product really is…in most cases, freakishly low. or b) whether the label even logically applies to what it’s stuck on. Most people go by what they hear on the ADD-fueled-panic-fest that is the evening news and the labels themselves.
    So, in short, for those TLDR folks,
    Labeling->Evening News->Panic in the Herd->Political Stupidity limiting use and research.
    God. I’m sounding like a fiscal conservative. :P

  42. #42 Scrabcake
    June 9, 2009

    BTW, Promethius, I can has some of those Baby Strangling Stringbeans when you’ve got them? (I think the brand name is BSStringbeans)

  43. #43 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Biscuits have cruxes? Then it must GMO.

    So, if the people are too stupid to make their own choices, who should be the one to determine what the people are not to dim to hear. I’m sorry but I’ll stick to labeling and vote for more funds for science classes instead. Educate the people so that their decisions are more rational.

    By your logic we should do away with democracy, it’s the same stupid people reacting to the ADD fueled panic fest. Not a very rational way to run society is it.

  44. #44 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    Yes, you were wrong. That was aimed at what I perceived, and perceive, to be your use of consumer empowerment as a shield. That is not a valid excuse, in it’s own right, in this context because consumers are not generally interested in which strain of grain they are consuming. It only becomes relevant when you label the grain “GMO.” That the concerns exist and have a real impact on the production and marketing of grain I never remotely denied.

    I really don’t know what to make of your last paragraph. Sascha, of course some new element like additives and GMOs have to go through safety approvals! That’s the whole point! You are again being disingenuous when you suggest I want risks to be excluded a priori. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to take you seriously.

    Are you really going to defend the idea that “different” requires special treatment of the sort you advocate? Again, to your car analogy: Countless differences are not publicized or listed on a bill of sale. It would be incredibly impractical to do so. You admit my point when you observe that items are listed as marketing tools and to avoid confusion where options are available. But people don’t care what particular type of plastic was used to make their dashboard unless they have reason to care, like if they heard it lasts twice as long or that it exudes a potential carcinogen…say, BPA. Gee, where have we heard of that before?

    If you have issues with the review process, or think specific mistakes were made and specific risks exist, argue that. But if you’re satisfied with the results, then there is no compelling reason to identify GMO any more than any other grain variety. If there IS a reason, then address the reason. “Different” isn’t enough at this stage. You’re asking producers to go out of their way when they normally wouldn’t.

  45. #45 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 9, 2009

    Just the word “gene” or “genetics” makes the knees jerk.

    Some tomato growing crunchy-granola types are vehemently against some new varieties because their selection was helped by genetic testing during the old-fashioned process of crossing desirable varieties. The agronomists were not transplanting genes, not modifying genes, just checking seedlings to see if they had the desired genes and keeping the ones they wanted to use. It cuts YEARS off the breeding program to not have to grow a plant to adulthood, cross it and test the seedlings.

    But these people were vehemently certain that the use of genetic testing on the tomatoes was going to produce mutant grandbabies or something.

  46. #46 CC
    June 9, 2009

    Monsanto ARE an evil company.

    Amongst other things they will not allow farmers to reuse seeds, but expect them to buy new seeds each season.

    What’s evil about that exactly? Monsanto says “Here’s a deal we have to offer, it might help you. These are our terms.” If the farmers like the deal they say “Ok, great”, if not, they say “No thank you.” Mutually beneficial mutually voluntary agreements are evil?

    It’s Monsanto’s technology. It’s their prerogative to set the terms on which they will license it. If their terms are too demanding, they’ll price themselves out of the market and no one will use their technology.

  47. #47 Scrabcake
    June 9, 2009

    I’m not anti-democracy. :P
    I am just saying that sometimes, when your bug resistant carrots are reviewed and found safe, the average consumer at the grocery store does not need to know if they are GM. The only reason to single out foods for labeling when you know that there’s no evidence that they’re bad for you is if you want to manufacture a controversy.

  48. #48 CC
    June 9, 2009

    Now, you may believe that this goes too far and that it is not an essential element. Why would the consumer need to know whether there were GMO’s in the product? You are perfectly entitled to hold that opinion, and it is certainly no less valid than my own. I believe that the consumer is entitled to know about any of the important elements going into the manufacture of the product he is purchasing. IMHO, GMO’s belong to this category.

    But why not food developed using induced mutagenesis during the breeding process? Note that in the NAS’s 2003 report “Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods”, when they ranked breeding technologies according to how likely they expected unexpected consequences to be with the technologies. The technology that was ranked most likely to result in unintended consequences in breeding was induced mutagenesis. Yet no one seems to think it needs to be labelled or that foods developed by this breeding method need extra scrutingy before being approved.

    It’s a clearcut double standard and it demonstrates unequivocally that the objections that people tend to present against GMO’s are after-the-fact justifications and not the real grounds of their objections, which tend to be more associated with deep-seated feelings about GMO’s somehow being ‘wrong’ or ‘abominations’.

  49. #49 CC
    June 9, 2009

    Factory farming and GMO now have given us tonnes of the stuff we like to eat or gorge on but robbed us of the flavourful experience a good meal used to be.

    Why would GMO affect the flavour? If anything, I would think that traditional breeding methods would be more likely to cause drift in the flavor as one breeds for commercially desirable traits. The idea behind GMO is that you can take the trait you want and put it in, rather than making changes to the entire genome until the trait you want pops up.

  50. #50 Scrabcake
    June 9, 2009

    The ideal resolution to this for me is to not label GM products. Stores like Safeway will carry them, and it will just be implied that the foods there might be GM, just like it’s implied that the tomatoes might be artificially ripened. (Note nobody really cares about this).
    If you’re anti-monsanto or wary of GM foods, you can go to Whole Foods just like you do now. Whole foods will probably run a big marketing campaign about how they’re the only ones that carry “good for you non-gm foods”, and charge extra money, which people will happily pay.
    The people who are looking for something else to exclude from their diets will have their expensive “manually modified stringbeans”, and the rest of us can eat our cheap abominable stringbeans.

  51. #51 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    Sascha asked:

    So, if the people are too stupid to make their own choices, who should be the one to determine what the people are not to dim to hear.

    This is the key question, with the critical addendum, “and on what basis?” Someone has to decide what food labels must contain, and they have to decide based on something.

    You advocate mandatory labeling of products that contain GM ingredients, right? OTOH, I doubt you advocate mandatory labeling of grain variety for non-GM ingredients (to use rrt’s excellent example). Assuming that’s so (and please correct me if it’s not), why should labels be required to disclose GM ingredients, but not grain variety?

  52. #52 CC
    June 9, 2009

    I can imagine that in a decade or two, when GMO’s will have become ubiquitous, the labeling requirement may not be as necessary. The consumer will then presume that the product contains GMO’s unless otherwise stated.

    I think in North America it’s already generally advised that consumers can assume a product contains GMO’s unless otherwise stated. By your logic of ‘full disclosure’ this suggests that labelling products as containing GMO’s is unnecessary in North America.

    It seems to me that a label which only says “This product contains GMO’s” is completely useless for informing the consumer. It contains no information about what ingredient was genetically modified, what the modification was, and the intended effect of the modification. The only thing it would be useful for is if a consumer wishes to avoid all GMO-containing products. It’s useless if a consumer has an actual informed objection, like say they wish to avoid a particular type of modified corn or potato.

    It’s not about ‘informing the consumer’, because a label which only says ‘Contains GMO’s’ imparts a negligible quantity of information to the consumer.

  53. #53 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    I dunno about others, CC, but my concern about patented, one-use-only seeds is that this could lead farmers to become completely dependent on a few companies’ seeds. I do not know what the evidence bears out, if there is any.

  54. #54 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Consumer empowerment is not a shield to hide an anti GMO agenda, it is simply protecting the inherently weaker partner in a contractual negotiation. It is also part of the societal compromise that regulates all human activity.In Switzerland the people went to vote twice on genetic engineering during the nineties, once to approve a constitutional amendment requiring regulation and labeling of GM research and products and the second time to reject an outright ban on GM research and products. Had the legislation on regulation of GMO’s not passed then the ban might have found more favour in the electorate.

    I understand now your problem with my reasoning. Forgive me, I’m just a stupid member of Herr Omnes. You feel that as the GMO’s that have been approved are shown to be safe, they need not be declared. I was to dense to get that first time around.

    I disagree. The label is there to show to the consumer that the product contains GMO’s that have been declared safe for human consumption. Not that the product contains GMO’s that have been declared safe for human consumption, but we have our doubts and the local witchdoctor tells us that it isn’t safe anyway. Have some coolaid instead.

    We do the same thing with additives and colorants. They are all safe (I hope) for human consumption, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed. But they are still required to be included on the label. Of course we could debate whether any labeling is necessary beyond that which the producer thinks is necessary to sell his product.

    Most labeling is to avoid later confusion when an item, an amount or a quality the consumer expected to find in the purchased product is found to be lacking or is present when the consumer did not expect it. The fact that a product contains GMO’s is a quality of said product. The Consumer may wish, for whatever reason’s – to eschew GMO products. I find it easier to have the label simply state that the product contains GMO’s than to force the consumer to find ways of determining whether it contains GMO’s or not.

    The specs for a car are part of the sales contract, at least over here. They may not be included on the bill of sale, but they are enforceable conditions of sale. The consumer may not care about the type of plastic, but he may care that it is plastic and not wood or metal. The analogy is he may not care it is this or that particular brand of GMO, but the consumer may care that it is GMO. We don’t ask the consumer why he buys a Hummer rather than the much more rational Prius, we accept it as his prerogative.

    By the way, I found something I was not aware of in the swiss legislation. Products may not be labeled GMO free, as it is impossible to guarantee that a product contains no GMO’s. This also creates an exemption for those products that may have been accidently contaminated with GMO’s during the production process. Food for thought, for me at least. I have come to accept you see me as some kind of foodie luddite standing in the way of progress with all the other fools. Or maybe it’s the two in the morning blogging blues.

    If you do not believe that the consumers wishes to have the product so labeled is a legitimate concern in its own right, then we can stop this exchange now and not waste further time and finger tips.

  55. #55 CC
    June 9, 2009


    I dunno about others, CC, but my concern about patented, one-use-only seeds is that this could lead farmers to become completely dependent on a few companies’ seeds. I do not know what the evidence bears out, if there is any.

    That’s hardly a new development with GMO’s and patents. It’s also the case with hybrids, which have been around for a long time. You can’t replant them. At least, you can, but the desirable properties of the hybrid rapidly disappear in a few generations because they don’t breed true.

    Anyhow, I don’t see that it would be hard to keep stocks of non-patented seeds handy in case you want them. Reading a high-profile Canadian patent infringement case, it appears that one can fit enough canola seed to plant 1030 acres in the bed of a pickup truck, suggesting that storage space requirements are not particularly demanding.
    And if there’s substantial demand for them among farmers, that would make it easier, as there would be lots of farmers growing them.

    Anyhow, I’m skeptical that a situation would arise where a farmer wanted to buy seeds that he (or she) would be allowed to replant and there’d be no one willing to sell the farmer such seeds because everyone’s growing one-use-only seeds and there just aren’t any of the other kind around. I’d be surprised if one-use-only seeds would gain such complete market penetration that there are no other seeds to be found anywhere for those who want them.

  56. #56 CC
    June 9, 2009

    You feel that as the GMO’s that have been approved are shown to be safe, they need not be declared. I was to dense to get that first time around.

    I disagree. The label is there to show to the consumer that the product contains GMO’s that have been declared safe for human consumption. Not that the product contains GMO’s that have been declared safe for human consumption, but we have our doubts and the local witchdoctor tells us that it isn’t safe anyway. Have some coolaid instead.

    But why GMO’s only. If I’m a consumer who wants to be empowered, why not tell me if the strains of food organisms in the product were treated with radiation or chemical mutagens during the breeding process? All of your statements about GMO’s apply equally well to that. It’s a quality of the product too.

    What’s with the apparently arbitrary double standard?

  57. #57 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    Yes I suppose that labeling for the US is probably too late. Over here in Europe I wouldn’t expect to find GMO’s in products unless so labeled.

    The basis will be a mixture of the concerns of the various interests involved, Scientific, safety, ethical, even religious. Here in Switzerland that is the basis for the decision.

    The requirement for the presence of GMO to be included on the label without being more specific is a compromise between the various interests that worked out the regs. It appears to be sufficient for consumer advocates without creating an undue burden on the producer. Complete traceability would be too onerous.

    The package will state whether it’s from barley, wheat and whether it contains GMO’s but not what exact strain of the GMO modified cereal.

    I am out of here. If I ever need expert witnesses I know where to come looking.

  58. #58 Sascha
    June 9, 2009

    I’m not running away, just falling asleep at the keyboard. 3 AM here.

  59. #59 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    I know what you mean, CC, but the situation still makes me nervous. I think there have been concerns for a while that farmers would actually not be able to practically maintain a separate seed bank for long…?

    Anyway, I would add to your reply to Sascha that this isn’t just about whether the grain’s been modified. It’s about what that modification means. What changes were made? How does this affect the phenotype? What mechanism of action is there for it to be “bad?” That’s what matters when it comes to human consumption, and that’s all that CAN matter (setting aside social realities.)

    I think Sascha’s critical errors, or at least the points I disagree with him on, are shown here:

    “The consumer may not care about the type of plastic, but he may care that it is plastic and not wood or metal. The analogy is he may not care it is this or that particular brand of GMO, but the consumer may care that it is GMO.”

    First, I think he’s wrong to treat GMO grain as a fundamentally different material in the analogy. GMO in general isn’t metal to a “natural” strain’s plastic: It’s another, nearly identical polymer, with maybe one atom’s difference in the molecule. If the difference was as drastic as he was suggesting, I would agree. But I think his scenario is analogous to saying “GMO soybeans are to soybeans as soybeans are to oats.”

    Second, he keeps missing the point that there has to be a reason to be concerned. The customer may care that it is GMO? WHY?!? There has to be a reason why. If not, it is silly to identify GMO when we wouldn’t identify other comparable things.

  60. #60 becca
    June 9, 2009

    Ya really wanna put a peanut gene into soybeans, not account for that in the ingredients, have some poor sap die of anaphylaxis and sue you?
    Well, ok, that’s a poor hypothetical cause we *know* peanuts are *common* allergens. But people may *need* to know what they are eating, even if it’s a generally safe ingredient.
    Of course, to be useful you’d have to give a little bit of information about the nature of the specific GM. A relatively practical way to implement it could be a small packaging labeling symbol and a website address to find out the details.

    I think people have a right to know what they’re buying, and to make their own irrational decisions accordingly.
    I don’t want horsemeat in my hot dogs. It’s not dangerous, it’s not rational, but what can I say? Perhaps I read Black Beauty one too many times.
    Fighting irrationality with secrecy isn’t worth it.

    Besides, as scientific as we all like to be, I suspect most food choices are actually made on a fairly “irrational” basis. Or do you really have the background information in nutrition, economics, ecology and ethics to determine the objectively “best” foods among those 44,000 supermarket choices (if so, please help me to acquire the same, it would save so much time shopping!)?

    I have a personal vested interest in GMO labels. I feel I should have a right to at least attempt to spend my dollars on the food that is farmed in the most sustainable way- which in itself would generally lead to selecting GMO foods as the best option (i.e. for equal sized farms, GMO food is generally more efficient). Besides, I definitely want to go with GMO enzymes over standard animal rennet.

    I understand the annoyance with people who get a bad case of the paranoids about some scientific topics. I don’t buy that big brother paternalistic “we know what’s best” is usually a good long term strategy for dealing with that.

  61. #61 Prometheus
    June 9, 2009

    Sacha wrote
    “I believe that consumer concerns are in fact relevant. Why? Because it is an essential part of the way the market functions. Informed consumers make the market more efficient.”

    And I would agree except for the fact that I think I have demonstrated that people are dicks.

    Consumers do not want information, they want absolution.

    State mandated labeling frees them from responsibility secure in the knowledge the government is doing their homework for them.

    It is a great comfort as they lay their pin heads on their hypoallergenic cruelty free pillows and digest their ‘Hungry Man All Day Breakfast’ to know that no part of their convenient microwavable repast has been mutated by demon scientists full of perverse book learnin’.

    All of this is academic in the context of the U.S.A..

    Lawsuits brought by deranged freaks are what determines all of our labeling.

    “Warning! The Little Big Chief Child’s Archery Play Set is not to be used as an anal stimulant. DO NOT insert The Little Big Chief Child’s Archery Play Set in any orifice.The Little Big Chief Child’s Archery Play Set may have come in contact with peanuts or peanut derived products.”

  62. #62 qetzal
    June 9, 2009

    @Sascha,

    I’m still waiting for you to explain why GM labeleing should be required, but grain varieties shouldn’t. Recognizing that it’s late for you, I hope you’ll answer tomorrow.

    @becca,

    Sounds like you’re saying that if enough people want a particular label, regardless of how irrational their reasoning, then the law should force suppliers to include such labels. Yes?

  63. #63 anonymous
    June 9, 2009

    re: 60,62
    I have known people with various allergies and seen their difficulties in determining what is safe to eat, what might cause discomfort and what will kill them. It may or may not be false advertising to list something with enough peanut-ness to kill someone as plain soybean – but it seems to undermine the concept of people making informed choices.

  64. #64 rrt
    June 9, 2009

    Actually, becca, I think you’re further making my point. In your example, there is an actual REASON to be concerned. And you wouldn’t label the product simply “GMO,” you’d label it to inform that there’s a peanut allergen present. Though to be pedantic I should point out I don’t actually know much about peanut allergies, and that “a peanut gene” in, say, wheat, almost certainly would not trigger a peanut allergy.

    I don’t see your broader wishes about GMOs and sustainability (interesting twist, btw) as being relevant to requiring labels, though. I understand wanting to vote with your dollars, but I see it as a separate social issue unrelated to human safety and nutrition, which I’d rather keep mandated labels limited to.

    Qetzal: I’m not suggesting it would be good, but yes, if the majority of people demanded a completely irrational label, they could require it, legally or through commercial forces. For the most part, I accept that as a risk.

  65. #65 Prometheus
    June 9, 2009

    Wait.

    I just cashed my imaginary check for my crop of baby strangling string beans and now I have to plow them under to plant Genetically Modified Soynuts (They’re Anephantastic!)?

    The Imaginary Department of Agriculture sucks.

    Screw you guys. I’m just gonna grow pot.

  66. #66 William Wallace
    June 10, 2009

    What’s evil about that exactly? Monsanto says “Here’s a deal we have to offer, it might help you. These are our terms.” If the farmers like the deal they say “Ok, great”, if not, they say “No thank you.” Mutually beneficial mutually voluntary agreements are evil?

    All I have to say is it’s a good thing that the promoters of the navel orange didn’t use the tactics that Monsanto did, or they would be even more expensive.

    Yes, Monsanto and other corporations have a take it or leave it deal. More farmers should leave it, or form a co-op to develop their own high yield seeds, in my view. Some of you may have the expertise necessary to help.

    Meanwhile, fictitious conscienceless legal persons also known as corporations continue to have a huge impact on our destiny.

  67. #67 Sascha
    June 10, 2009

    @ Prometheus

    “People are dicks” is not a valid scientific argument, but then again I’m just a dick so how would I know. Also it’s gender insensitive. Stupid is gender neutral, I would prefer it from now on if you scientists restricted their characterization of me and my fellow unwashed to gender, race, ethnic, sexual orientation, faith and political neutral terms such as stupid, idiot, moron, a.s.f.

    @ qetzal,

    Consumers don’t appear to be so concerned about what grain variety they are purchasing so it need not be required on the labeling. i know that’s not going to satisfy you, but that is all I’ve got.

    The reason is the one you ascribe to becca, if enough people wish for the labeling then the law should mandate labeling. Even if their reasons are scientifically irrational.

    It is the system we choose to live by. If you disagree with the mandatory labeling requirement, then you are free to attempt to convince the european consumer that they have erred. If enough consumers are convinced by your argument, then the mandatory labeling scheme for GMO’s can be overturned.

    I understand the situation is reversed in NA, if I want to see mandatory labeling of GMO’s in NA, I have to convince the consumer that it is necessary for their protection. If I can’t, then no scheme will be enacted.

    I have a question though. If there is no scientific basis for concern about something, does that necessarily exclude any ethical, social or religious basis then? If the scientific method is the only legitimate basis for the decision making process, where do ethics fit in to the process? Or is there a scientific basis for ethics I am unawares of? Ok, that makes three questions, so I can’t count. Sue me.

  68. #68 rimpal
    June 10, 2009

    CC says
    [Why would GMO affect the flavour? If anything, I would think that traditional breeding methods would be more likely to cause drift in the flavor as one breeds for commercially desirable traits.]

    I am talking from experience. I come from a country with arguably the greatest variety of produce in cultivation (No, not anywhere in S. America though). The banana I get here tastes like flavored wax, the almonds taste like flavored dried soap. As for other produce it cooks faster but contains a lot more water and is neither as aromatic or tasty. I am very fond of mangoes (and there are some parts where I come from where you can eat a different variety every day of the entire season) but recoiled from them after my first taste of what passes off for mangoes here. But then industrial scale agriculture has given us a lot of food cheaply (but then prices are rising fast).

  69. #69 Carlie
    June 10, 2009

    I would imagine that not killing off the native papaya ensured a somewhat continuous supply (they are trees, even if quick-growing ones) and that there would still be a few available for the organic market.

    Over the last few years I’ve become more and more annoyed at the GMO/non-GMO dichotomy. Some genetic modifications, like the papaya virus immunity, are great. Some, like Roundup resistance, could be incredibly problematic because of cross-pollination to weeds. I have a few colleagues who work in the field of quantifying accidental transgenics due to crop pollination, and it’s a bigger issue than pro-gmo forces like to handwave away. It’s just too broad of a brush to paint all GMO as a yes or no question. It’s an incredible technology, but needs a lot of oversight.

  70. #70 rrt
    June 10, 2009

    Why would you appeal directly to the consumer in the first place, sascha? We have mechanisms in place to review food and drugs. It goes through those.

    Ethical, social, religious concerns? That can be a complicated question, but I’ve already told you, twice now, that I understand and respect the power of the general public to demand and enforce just about anything, legally or otherwise. In the broader question of the use of GMO plants, I would never rule out such questions a priori, though the burden is on those who would raise objections to justify them. But again, I would strongly argue that is a separate issue from product labelling. I can’t see mandatory labelling just because some groups also want to be 100% sure they are exercising their option to support or oppose GMO with their dollars as a consumer. Labels should be about the consumer’s safety and nutrition.

  71. #71 qetzal
    June 10, 2009

    Sascha,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t agree that public demand all by itself is an adequate justification to legally require specific labeling (or lots of other things for that matter). Of course, there’s always some reason for public demand, but I think it’s those reasons that should tip the scale one way or the other.

    But, I appreciate that you disagree. Thanks for clarifying.

    (Note that none of this should preclude voluntary labels. If some company thinks they can improve their sales by labeling their products as with or without GMOs, that’s fine by me. As long as they can back up their claim, of course.)

    As for your question, ethical, social, or religious concerns could certanly be legitimate bases for such decisions, even in the absence of any scientific concern. In the case of GMOs, however, it seems to me the vast majority of objections are couched in scientific terms: supposed safety issues, biodiversity concerns, etc. Your very first comment (#6) was along those lines, even though you now agree that the real reason for requiring labels is simply popular opinion, however (un)realistic.

    The only non-scientific issue I see consistently raised against GMOs is the claim that GMOs = Monsanto and Monsanto = Evil. Even assuming Monsanto is evil, that’s a bad excuse for requiring GMO labeling.

  72. #72 SC
    June 10, 2009

    The main issue that bothers me is that like it or not, the population of our planet is growing. It would be nice to return to the family farms that we remember, but without clearing more and more land to raise the foods needed to feed so many billions of people we are going to have to enlist technologies such as GMO foods to grow drought-resistant crops, cotton that fights weevils, corn that fights borers. It’s one way to move away from pesticides, fertilizers and injected hormones and potentially provide more earth-friendly agricultural processes.

    You are simply wrong. See, for example, this summary of the IAASTD report:

    http://www.greenfacts.org/en/agriculture-iaastd/

    and this new UCS report about GM food crops:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield.pdf

    But then industrial scale agriculture has given us a lot of food cheaply (but then prices are rising fast).

    And “cheaply” has to be defined here. In the industrial US system – reversing the previous ratios – it takes like 10 or 12 calories to produce one calorie of food. This is insanity. We’re basically eating oil, in a system subsidized by the government to benefit corporations.

    Agribusiness corporations have no interests other than their profits, which are enormous. They have done and will continue to do everything they can – including using the same tactics as the tobacco companies – to present indistrial agriculture as a desperately-needed “scientific” savior, to keep people from recognizing the problems with the system (poisoning the environment and contributing immensely to global warming, degrading the soil and thus the viability and quality of the food and leading to malnitrition, eliminating food sovereignty and security, creating mass suffering for animals, sucking resources at a ridiculously unsustainable rate, driving farmers into poverty,…), and to misrepresent and fight alternatives, including alternative (nonreductionist) scientific approaches. If we continue to let corporate interests drive our global food production we’re totally screwed.

    See also Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil, esp. chapter 4.

  73. #73 Prometheus
    June 10, 2009

    Sacha @#67

    “Prometheus

    “People are dicks” is not a valid scientific argument, but then again I’m just a dick so how would I know. Also it’s gender insensitive. Stupid is gender neutral””

    Just so you know, I’ve been castrated to increase my meat to feed ratio as part of AgbizCo’s (a wholly owned subsidiary of Globocide Inc.) Human Capon 3000 project. So those fine distinctions in epithets do not apply.

    Besides I do not use ‘dick’ as a scientific term but rather a professional term of art.

    I’m an legal artist.

    A soprano legal artist.

    And on a serious note I do understand your position. Most product labeling information is a response to a trend, an aesthetic, or a lawsuit rather than any real effort at accommodating shrewd consumers.

    So why should wanting real information about the genetically essential nature of a biological product raise such an outcry?

    I think the answer, that the agricultural research and development aspect of scientific community is trying to give, in a very genteel way, is that people are bigots when it comes to science and genetics.

    That which is too difficult to draw a diagram of, on the back of a postage stamp, is treated with fear of a deception hiding a host of eeeeeviiiil ulterior motives.

    I am not sure whether the right to as much information as is practicable and pertinent overrides a demonstrable 1,300 year old perception of the intellectual as being in league with Satan and a desire for the data primarily so many consumer can exercise that unfounded bigotry.

    This is a corollary to our HIV transmission prosecution discussion.

    I tend to caution, seeing every regulation as a weapon which may fall into the hands of an idiot (or worse)and every prohibition as a potential collection of Mobsters flying down a Chicago street with machine guns blazing.

  74. #74 rrt
    June 10, 2009

    SC: What is the food exhibiting that 10:1 calorie ratio?

  75. #75 Sascha
    June 10, 2009

    Regulations are double edged tools that can hinder as much as further human activity. But I grew up in Europe where we tend to see the glass half full rather than half empty. We believe that regulations protect society from less scrupulous members who would run amok if given half an inch.

    I don’t know that the consumer is necessarily bigoted, some undoubtably are. I think trust in science is much higher than you imagine; somewhere I stumbled on some numbers. Can’t remember where. Blasted gmos’s eating away at my brain again.

    Human capon, how would that taste?

    I feel like Winnie tracking a woozle. Going around in circles. That’s all from me folks, I’m all washed out. Much enjoyed the chat.

  76. #76 Aaron
    June 10, 2009

    @Abbie (reply to her reply to my comment)

    I understand your points, and yes, the GMO labeling would probably make people apprehensive about purchasing those products. (And yes, “Monsanto” is a knee-jerk buzz word, but I am not familiar with the names of the other seed companies. It’s sort of like referring to “Wal-Mart” when discussing the negative effects of big-box-mart corporations)

    HOWEVER

    The way legislation is, and the way our business & agricultural laws are currently set, we are giving these seed companies carte blanche to do what they will, genetically, with their products with little to no oversight!

    In the same way that I feel very strongly against large swaths of TEH CA$H being spent in a non-disclosed budget by our congresspersons, or against a trial without Habeas Corpus (where you do not know the identity of your accuser nor the evidence they have against you) — I have similar feelings about the lack of oversight with GMOs (biotech and non-biotech).

    Look at the “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan” labels — some people will see that and instantly say “I’m not supporting those countries”, but most don’t care. But still, we are offered that *CHOICE* by being informed (and thus empowered) consumers.

    THAT’S all I’m asking for.

    I’m not saying they need to stop doing what they’re doing, I just want them to stop doing it in such a clandestine way.

  77. #77 Karl Haro von Mogel
    June 10, 2009

    Abbie, you make an excellent analogy between the herd immunity afforded by vaccines and the PRSV-resistant papayas surrounding the organic papaya plots. I think I shall have to steal it. :) (I’ll give you credit.)

    I wanted to make a few points to add to this discussion. First, about labeling, we require labels on products if there is a demonstrated “need to know”, not a “want to know.” Personally, I would like to know whether the food I am eating came from No-Till or Conservation-Tillage farms, which are better for the soil and atmosphere than farms that relentlessly disc the dirt. Several commenters are pointing out that anti-GE activists are treating these crops as a special case – why label it if one gene is added via transformation, when you are not asking for labels for different crop varieties that have different alleles and/or genes? Why not label plants derived through mutagenesis (which is the least predictable/riskiest way to modify plants), and even further, crops that have been crossed with wild, sometimes poisonous relatives?

    The “CONTAINS GMO” label is sought not for the purpose of informing consumers, but for the purpose of trying to create a backlash (or perception of a backlash) against GE crops and those who grow them – to make them grow the non-GE varieties. This will probably not even work they way they intend it to work.

    Several experiments on consumer preference have found that sweet corn (Canada, California), and fruits (EU) labeled as GMO’s along with the pesticides that they are sprayed with have shown that people actually prefer the GE produce over the sprayed conventional produce. Another study in the EU noted that food producers that make GE and GE free versions of the same product do not notice a difference in sales – people are ignoring these labels.

    Additionally, research conducted in Oregon has found that labeling food as containing “USDA-approved GE crops” actually increases the perceived value. At the same time in Oregon, when consumers were asked if they would pay $1-10 per year for GE crop labeling, the desire for labels went from virtually everyone to about 20% instantly. To put this in perspective, more people than that believe in Astrology, and that G.W. Bush was a good president.

    I wanted to mention that the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report “Failure to Yield” ought to be called “Failure to Read.” The report actually states that Bt corn has increased yields by about 3% in the past decade, but since few actually bother to read the report this fact is missed, and it is not in the press release. They only studied two traits in two crops (Bt and Roundup Ready in Corn and Soy), and only in developed countries where these crops replaced other modern methods – ignoring the body of research on operational yield in less-developed countries and on other crops such as cotton that show greater differences. They also state that there have been no field trials of specifically yield-enhancing traits at all – this is false. Look up Mendel Biotechnology Yield Trait in google for one example.
    The traits in most of the currently grown GE crops were not expected to significantly impact yield because they mostly replaced other farming practices such as pesticides, or other herbicides. But the broad-reaching conclusion of this limited analysis doesn’t hold up.

    And GE crops have nothing to do with how food tastes. Yet.

    Genes transferred from known allergen-containing organisms are given extra special scrutiny for the reason of allergies. As such, a brazil nut gene that was being tested as a possible seed storage protein to enhance soybeans was found to be allergenic and was scrapped. There are even researchers investigating how to use genetic engineering to eliminate the allergenicity from peanuts!

    There is healthy, rational doubt and skepticism, but like other scientific topics of contention such as embryonic stem cell research, evolution, global warming, and (gasp, what year is this?) vaccines, doubt is being wielded as a weapon to thump science on the head with ever-moving goalposts. The real question is how to use the technology, and how to regulate it, not whether to use it at all.

    (I often post as Inoculated Mind, BTW)

  78. #78 SC
    June 10, 2009

    I wanted to mention that the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report “Failure to Yield” ought to be called “Failure to Read.”

    No, dear. That should be the title of your post. Otherwise, it makes no sense.

    The report actually states that Bt corn has increased yields by about 3% in the past decade, but since few actually bother to read the report this fact is missed, and it is not in the press release.

    I actually bothered to read it more than once (it’s not very long). This modest increase is mentioned quite clearly from the beginning of the report, and in no way counters the overall findings or conclusions.

    They only studied two traits in two crops (Bt and Roundup Ready in Corn and Soy), and only in developed countries where these crops replaced other modern methods – ignoring the body of research on operational yield in less-developed countries and on other crops such as cotton that show greater differences.

    First, you might want to pay attention to where these criticisms are addressed here:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/science/the-real-scoop/2009-entries/TRS042909.html

    You might also note that I linked to the global IAASTD summary, and recommended a book which does address these questions in the Indian context.

    The traits in most of the currently grown GE crops were not expected to significantly impact yield because they mostly replaced other farming practices such as pesticides, or other herbicides.

    *snort* “Other herbicides,” indeed. Are you suggesting that these are supposed to reduce the use of chemicals, or that they have in practice? Also, this is addressed in their response.

    But the broad-reaching conclusion of this limited analysis doesn’t hold up.

    Which conclusions are you talking about, specifically? You appear to be missing the point. The report was produced in response to a global food crisis which corporations are claiming that their products are important if not essential to addressing. This is the gist of their own propaganda, and that provided by their mouthpieces (I’m reading Paarlberg’s stupid screed Starved for Science right now). Resources are being devoted to it based on this belief which is not supported by science, and other more promising alternatives being ignored or underresearched.

    rrt:

    SC: What is the food exhibiting that 10:1 calorie ratio?

    Good question. Grr – you made me get out my clunky old computer :) (must transfer book notes…). I got that from two sources: Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the Shiva chapter I mentioned above. Pollan says the same thing here:

    http://www.michaelpollan.com/article.php?id=97

    After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

    You can find it in the book (7-10 cals) on page 183 (I don’t have the actual book so I don’t have the reference). Also, on page 46 he talks about on the farm itself farmers pre-chemical fertilizers produced more than 2 cals of food for 1 of fossil fuels, and now it takes more than a cal of fossil fuels to produce 1 of food (I think he’s talking about corn specifically here). I don’t know where the average value for “modern supermarket food” comes from, but it appears to be an average. Shiva mentions the ratio twice in that chapter, and her references are here:

    http://www.southendpress.org/images/cms/SoilNotOil_Endnotes.pdf

    Chapter 4, notes 7, 11, and 12. She goes on to make some comparisons: “Energy use for corn production in the US is 176 times more per hectare than on a traditional farm in Mexico and 33 times more per kilo. One cow maintained and marketed in the industrial system requires six barrels of oil…” (notes 13 and 14).

  79. #79 SC
    June 10, 2009

    By the way, when this

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html

    is the environment in which research is being conducted (or not conducted), well…

  80. #80 SC
    June 10, 2009

    I’m so sorry. One last bit – some context for the UCS study:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/ge-crops-no-solution-for-0129.html

  81. #81 Prometheus
    June 10, 2009

    Ugh.

    This thread sure is a roller coaster.

    The limit of my emotional investment in these discussions is my love for the potential of GM fungus resistant wheat. Wheat fungus kills a lot of kids. GM fungus resistant strains seem to be the only hope other than destroying the lots that pop hot on the Cyranose

    So okay I will play.

    I will staunch my inherent desire to be blithe and engage this topic for a minute. I do IRL own half of what would be regarded as a small family farm but it is a portion of a larger family operation consisting of 43,000 contiguous acres under cultivation in soybeans, peanuts, wheat, cotton, and cattle grazing (winter wheat and grass).

    For those of you with a copy of the “Big Book of Logical Fallacies”…..Not anecdotal Argument. Authority by necessity.

    The caloric estimates quoted here are really high because the majority of studies can’t accommodate secondary and by-product use (Example: It turns out the greasy lint scraped off seeds from my cotton crops is used to make kosher and vegetarian hot dog casings. Funky.) So it would probably be better stated as “At a one to one ratio we are eating fossil fuels.” Ad arguenndo I am prepared to let the proposition of Human Metabolic Calorie = Combustion Engine/Steam Turbine Calorie slide.

    At this point you hit a wall because the stated interests compete. It is the same cost versus yield ratio we hit on a bell curve in farming.

    The reason for one family to farm over 15 square miles of land has everything to do with fuel conservation. Energy costs have taken priority over everything in agribusiness within my generation. Large scale and factory farming represent an enormous energy savings.

    Mono crops (which we don’t do because some of the family still have dust bowl/boll weevil nightmares) are even more energy efficient propositions, maximize yield but are arguably a more environmentally destructive endeavor than strip mining.

    So what do you want from us?

    You are the market. We have subsidy, max yield, weather, bugs and all those other considerations but what Great Uncle Walter and ADM have in common when it comes down to the wire is $$$. We are just trying to be the cutest/cheapest/tastiest lemonade stand on the block.

    The global MARKET and the petty whims of nationalistic grandstanding are what drives global food production. Nobody farms GM wheat because we can’t sell it in Europe. See, it’s you wacky consumers and your pouty politicians. Boy would I like to trade some of my wheat for pigtail Cohibas and Havanna Rum.

    You want GMO labeled, non-eroding, cruelty free, profit sharing, small community feminist booga booga beans?

    You want Great Uncle Walter to quit peeing in the hedge rows?

    Cross my palm with silver and the tassels spin in whatever direction irks you the least.

    Monsanto will bend over and call you big daddy. It’s in their By-laws.

    You as a consumer have to make those decisions with your consumption and if you lobby legislate it (bully the rest of the market) we just start looking for loopholes (it’s fair….you did).

    Vandana Shiva who is a nice lady who’s heart is in the right place but I really don’t believe (once you get beyond a Lychee orchard in Saharanpur) that her Ecofeminist theories (or data) hold up to any real scrutiny.

    In case you hadn’t noticed the climate in Iowa differs from that in central Mexico. The reason they do so well with yield is because manual labor is free due to crushing poverty, they grow mostly white corn which has the highest yield as the second oldest domestic strain and because they have three F*CKING growing seasons to our one. That being said Shiva neglects to mention that they are maxed out on their available arable and are importing 10 million tons of tortilla corn per year.

    The same problems are contained in the sweeping statements of Michael Pollan and what passes for homework at Via Campesina.

    What we must remain conscious of, in these debates is whether we are addressing what actually is going on with GMO, agribusiness, corporate farming and the global food market

    or

    if we are being roped into an international game of “telephone” ramped up by the propositions of ludissmo, anti-capitalism and romanticized late nineteenth century notions of ‘land reform’ for their own sake. The latter has little to do with environmental responsibility and hungry people.

    If you want to argue about the merits of Maoist Agrarian Theory let’s do that.

    If you think Uncle Walter should be turned out on the streets to live off his own fat, we can talk about that too.

    But don’t tell me that undergraduate night terrors over “food sovereignty”{dirp.} have shit to do with global warming, soil erosion or health risks/ GMO foods.

    That’s disrespectful. I can glue a solar panel to a bust of Adam Smith just as fast as you can Photoshop Trotsky behind the wheel of a Prius.

    Let us not waste each other’s time.

  82. #82 SC
    June 10, 2009

    I will staunch my inherent desire to be blithe

    Having read the read of your post, I can say FAIL.

    and engage this topic for a minute. I do IRL own half of what would be regarded as a small family farm

    Yes, so you’ve mentioned.

    but it is a portion of a larger family operation consisting of 43,000 contiguous acres under cultivation in soybeans, peanuts, wheat, cotton, and cattle grazing (winter wheat and grass).

    For those of you with a copy of the “Big Book of Logical Fallacies”…..Not anecdotal Argument. Authority by necessity.

    Where is that a valid argument? Where are you offering anything other than anecdote and limited knowledge?

    The caloric estimates quoted here are really high because the majority of studies can’t accommodate secondary and by-product use (Example: It turns out the greasy lint scraped off seeds from my cotton crops is used to make kosher and vegetarian hot dog casings. Funky.) So it would probably be better stated as “At a one to one ratio we are eating fossil fuels.” Ad arguenndo I am prepared to let the proposition of Human Metabolic Calorie = Combustion Engine/Steam Turbine Calorie slide.

    At this point you hit a wall because the stated interests compete. It is the same cost versus yield ratio we hit on a bell curve in farming.

    The reason for one family to farm over 15 square miles of land has everything to do with fuel conservation. Energy costs have taken priority over everything in agribusiness within my generation. Large scale and factory farming represent an enormous energy savings.

    I haven’t the slightest clue what you’re arguing in the middle of this, but the last part is simply asserted, and in contradiction to other evidence. You’ve also left out key elements – farming of what? compared to what, and using what methods?

    You are the market. We have subsidy, max yield, weather, bugs and all those other considerations

    Subsidies, and the global organization of food production and system of trade in food, are human constructions.

    but what Great Uncle Walter and ADM have in common when it comes down to the wire is $$$. We are just trying to be the cutest/cheapest/tastiest lemonade stand on the block.

    And political conditions have been created that allow people in some places and at some times to produce food “cheaply” that isn’t at all cheap in the larger sense or the longer run.

    The global MARKET and the petty whims of nationalistic grandstanding are what drives global food production.

    No, global corporations with profit interests and the governments and global institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) that serve them do. There is no such thing as an abstract “market” in food in the current system.

    You want GMO labeled, non-eroding, cruelty free, profit sharing, small community feminist booga booga beans?

    You’re being an ass. Why don’t you read the fucking findings of the reports I linked to and their actual recommendations (and the goals of Shiva’s and other organizations, including many of farmers) and address them concretely?

    You want Great Uncle Walter to quit peeing in the hedge rows?

    Cross my palm with silver and the tassels spin in whatever direction irks you the least.

    Monsanto will bend over and call you big daddy. It’s in their By-laws.

    As I said – ass. You can keep suggesting that my only possible role is as an individual consumer; doesn’t make it so.

    You as a consumer have to make those decisions with your consumption and if you lobby legislate it (bully the rest of the market) we just start looking for loopholes (it’s fair….you did).

    I can and do act as a consumer, occasional producer, activist, and scholar. (By the way, we in New England have plenty of agriculture, and a great and growing variety of new programs to encourage and study local, sustainable, ecological farming and to connect it to programs for poor people. We also have organizations that fight with people in other countries.)

    Vandana Shiva who is a nice lady who’s heart is in the right place but I really don’t believe (once you get beyond a Lychee orchard in Saharanpur) that her Ecofeminist theories (or data) hold up to any real scrutiny.

    What condescending and unsupported assertions. Shiva has a PhD in physics, has been active for years with movements of farmers and ecological- and water-rights activists, and has her own organization dedicated to researching these questions.

    In case you hadn’t noticed the climate in Iowa differs from that in central Mexico. The reason they do so well with yield is because manual labor is free

    ?

    due to crushing poverty, they grow mostly white corn which has the highest yield as the second oldest domestic strain and because they have three F*CKING growing seasons to our one.

    Hmmm. I may not be understanding. How would the growing seasons affect the per kilo ratio?

    That being said Shiva neglects to mention that they are maxed out on their available arable and are importing 10 million tons of tortilla corn per year.

    There are so many confounding variables and unclear actors here I wouldn’t know where to start. But since I don’t have the original cite I don’t know that they don’t have the similar problems. In any event, I mentioned that briefly after referring you to the chapter in which she provides comparative data on inputs, yields, and net profits at farms in the same region of India. Are you suggesting you know that those data are faulty? Based on what?

    The same problems are contained in the sweeping statements of Michael Pollan and what passes for homework at Via Campesina.

    Oh, right. You, Prometheus the Proud Farmer, can argue from necessity, but not them:

    http://viacampesina.org/main_en/

    Bunch of ignorant peasants.

    What we must remain conscious of, in these debates is whether we are addressing what actually is going on with GMO, agribusiness, corporate farming and the global food market

    That’s what I’m trying to fucking address, and you’re not responding in any substantive way.

    or

    if we are being roped into an international game of “telephone” ramped up by the propositions of ludissmo, anti-capitalism and romanticized late nineteenth century notions of ‘land reform’ for their own sake. The latter has little to do with environmental responsibility and hungry people.

    This is ridiculous. Who has said anything of the sort? (I do have to love the land reform in scare quotes, though – says quite a bit about you.) Let’s get something fucking straight: Rejecting the corporate-driven model of food production does not mean rejecting science or technology. It means a more comprehensive scientific approach and support for the best and most promising scientific initiatives. Got it?

    If you want to argue about the merits of Maoist Agrarian Theory let’s do that.

    Why would I want to do that? What are you even talking about? Shhesh, you’re starting to make Paarlberg sound reasonable by comparison.

    I will, however, link to this

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/kropotkin/fields.html

    simply because he was a scientist who was profoundly ahead of his time. Since you’ve preliminarily dismissed the arguments of anyone who disagrees with you, I’m unconcerned with your response; maybe someone else might take an interest, though…

    But don’t tell me that undergraduate night terrors over “food sovereignty”{dirp.} have shit to do with global warming, soil erosion or health risks/ GMO foods.

    First, like Shiva, I have a doctorate. Fuck you and your ad homs. Second, I don’t have to tell you anything. You can read about food sovereignty and try to understand it in any number of places (including some of the links I’ve provided here).

    I can glue a solar panel to a bust of Adam Smith just as fast as you can Photoshop Trotsky behind the wheel of a Prius.

    That’s a very powerful argument that contends with the substance of what I’ve provided, Prometheus. Mature.

    Let us not waste each other’s time.

    On that we can agree. You’re tedious and arrogant and haven’t said anything substantive. I commented originally because I wanted to correct the mistaken idea that GE crops were the key to responding to the food crisis, and to provide the information to do so. I think I’ve done that. It’s pretty clear that you’re not exactly open to reasonable discussion of alternative courses of action, so I would be wasting my time engaging with you further. Bye.

  83. #83 SC
    June 10, 2009

    and haven’t said anything substantive

    OK, that’s not entirely true. Very little substantive. :P

    In any case, my larger purpose here has been to point out that these are real and urgent public, political issues that we approach, or need to approach, as something other than mere consumers or producers, and that we can – not as individuals but acting in concert – do something to influence how things go. I hope I’ve done that a little bit, despite efforts here to depoliticize what are fundamentally political questions and to paint those with challenging political views wrongly as anti-science (that sets me off – I admit it).

    Maybe I’ve failed.

    …BUT…I will soon have my own blog from which to pontificate, thanks in no small part to the encouragement of Abbie months ago. So thanks for that, ERV, even if I don’t think I agree with you on this.

    Best to all.

    :)

  84. #84 Lora
    June 10, 2009

    My family has farmed the same piece of land in PA for 300+ years. Unfortunately, this does not make me more of an authority than Prometheus.

    Although I got a giggle out of his suggestion to grow pot. We used to, back in the days when it was still hemp and boat rigging was still made out of it. Then those bastards at DuPont invented polyester.

    Here are my objections to Monsanto and monocropping in general:

    -Monsanto has sued for patent violations farmers who do not grow GMO crops, whose crops had been contaminated by their neighbor’s GMO crop (Percy Schmeiser, the Nelsons). The pollen, as it so happens, drifts a lot further in real life than it did in the lab, and other farms, previously able to sell their organic-labeled produce for premium prices, are testing positive for GMO contamination (David Vetter, Susan Fitzgerald); thus, they are unable to retain their organic certification after many years of hard work, and have to sell their crops for a fraction of the price they’d have gotten otherwise. This is not a business practice I wish to support.

    -I work with many ex-Monsanto employees. I’ve heard horror stories. Bad ones. Others have cited the company history. My co-workers confirm that the managers and some of the decision-making scientists there are neither the sharpest tools in the shed nor the most ethical and thoughtful people on earth. No, this is not scientific data, but they do have a record of significant EEOC complaints and lawsuits, more than other companies of similar size. Also, they were, and are, notorious polluters in Anniston, Alabama and other sites. And they created their own town to avoid paying taxes to East St. Louis. I do not wish to give my money to such organizations.

    -Monocropping, although very efficient at producing high fructose corn syrup, is a bad business model for any business, including farming which is inherently risky due to weather and ecological variability. It puts ALL the financial risk on the farmer, while processors accept NONE of the risk. It turns perfectly good soil into little more than hydroponic medium. It requires, at large scale, massive investments in capital equipment that take a long time to recoup. Due to various reasons (climate change, Earl Butz-style policies, peer pressure, etc.), it has effectively made farmers into peasants. This is not a business model that I support.

    -There are actually more efficient ways of polyculture farming where farmers accept less risk, diversify their crops, utilize pasture intensively, and make an actual living wage–while maintaining competitive prices. Although my family has followed this model for 300+ years (they are Mennonite and Amish), Joel Salatin has written about it more recently as a feasible means of farming, even in these modern times. I realize many modern farmers tend to look down on polyculture farms and pastured meat as a bunch of crazy hippies, though. From an ROI standpoint, it is highly efficient for the individual farmer, although less so for ConAgra.

    Before you leap to accuse me of the most horrible hypocrisy, I am actually a very dedicated locavore who grows most of her own food from heritage breeds. This is because, as rimpal notes, it tastes better. Much better. Part of this is soil quality (terroir isn’t just for oenophiles), part of it is the breed quality when you’re breeding for flavor instead of shipping durability, part of it is freshness, part of it is the processing method cleanliness. Plus, it’s cheaper. It costs me about $0.50/dozen for eggs from my own chickens, $0.75/lb. for mesclun greens, $0.10/pound for tomatoes. I made two gallons of real maple syrup this year–for free. It’s amazing how much time you have to do this when you don’t watch TV.

  85. #85 qetzal
    June 10, 2009

    SC wrote:

    I will soon have my own blog from which to pontificate, thanks in no small part to the encouragement of Abbie months ago.

    Good luck with that. If you’re as much of a condescending ass there as you’ve been here, I doubt you’ll attract much more than trolls.

  86. #86 SC
    June 11, 2009

    Good luck with that. If you’re as much of a condescending ass there as you’ve been here, I doubt you’ll attract much more than trolls.

    Another substantive and finely-crafted response. I’ve already got controversy and a troll and the blog isn’t even up yet! Thanks for taking the time to post that. I’ll consider it an endorsement. Thanks, qetzal!

  87. #87 Prometheus
    June 11, 2009

    SC#82

    “You’re tedious and arrogant and haven’t said anything substantive.”

    Well Duhhh. You forgot dick and great big whore.

    Congratulations Captain Obvious, I’m a business lawyer.

    You actually devoted an entire evening pouring over selections from the Noam Chomsky recommended reading list and dumping links from the anarchy clearing house to respond to a post you claim is completely devoid of substance.

    Substance=getting your number

    score.

    You mad?

    Hehehehe.

    “I can and do act as a consumer, occasional producer, activist, and scholar.”

    I picture you wearing a teeny crown and twirling your mustache in the mirror immediately after writing that.

    You forgot to mention that you are a popular after dinner raconteur and get more tail than Frank Sinatra.

    Sheesh, f*ckin’ people.

    #84 Lora actually talks sense:

    “My family has farmed the same piece of land in PA for 300+ years. Unfortunately, this does not make me more of an authority than Prometheus.”

    Of course it does. Your understanding of scale, production rotation diversification are not some abstract romaticized politicized faculty mixer converstion starter. I agree with almost everything you said. I think anybody reasonable would.

    Your criticisms of Monsanto are specific recent exemplars that are all perfectly valid. You are right. They are ethically challenged.

    If you want to do something about them you must do it in terms Monsanto cares about and that farmers care about.

    They have a horrible and inefficient hindsight business model which tries to after-the-fact lobby and lawyer their way out of problems created by haphazard operations.

    Five thousand kids screaming their heads off at the WTO meetings will not change that.

    Pointing out to your broker that they are blowing dividends and all the R&D budget on legals because they can’t get their shit together hits Monsanto where they live.

    100% accord on monocropping and I use my wok (recycled from a cultivator when we started to phase out deep disc) with pride. To that end, the real devil isn’t GMO or really even food producers.

    The corn syrup industry has been disgusting fiasco from day one. That is the real horror show of petro-calorie to agri-calorie.

    The reason it goes on and on, first with sugar tarrifs and now ethanol ripping the soul out of the midwest is largely because people are so wrapped up in jingoist mantras that they have forgotten what PATRONAGE looks like.

    We are held hostage by a system that runs, not like a competitive market, but like a gaggle of petty Fanjul Family, ADM and Cargill aristocrats waiting for Louis the 14th to come out of the powder room.

    “Plus, it’s cheaper. It costs me about $0.50/dozen for eggs from my own chickens, $0.75/lb. for mesclun greens, $0.10/pound for tomatoes. I made two gallons of real maple syrup this year–for free.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha another German! I think I’m in love.

    See what I mean about farmers and that extra penny on the check guys?

    Great Grandma Elspeth was a Von Brunken! There is a tiny patch of wheat planted at the foot of her grave. Mennonite fist bump!

    This year it is eight ball eggplant, tomatoes (romas), cucumbers, yellow squash, courgettes, green beans, snow peas, walking onions and my specialty, the temperamental but delicious red okra.

    All the other downtown offices have Boston ferns. I’ve got two kinds of oregano and my basil is off the hook.

    When I told the city planning department I wanted to plant potatoes in the decorative bump-outs it took my wife three tries to convince them I wasn’t kidding.

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about rototillers.

    I can’t help myself.

    Waste is wicked.

  88. #88 Sven DiMilo
    June 11, 2009

    I just read the thread, and it looks to me as if SC brought thought, argument, referenced facts, and suggestions for further reading, whereas Prometheus brought hyperclever prose, logorrhea, snark, and assertion.

    My pick for “condescending ass” has to go the other way.

  89. #89 Lora
    June 11, 2009

    Rototillers? Around here, we have wild geese and turkeys flocking across the golf courses. To me, that looks like Xmas dinner… This year will be the first year I’m raising my own turkeys, as my auntie who used to shoot the cornfield raiders has passed away. I’m going to run them in the orchard to clean up all the dropped fruit and acorns.

    Tonight’s dinner: Homemade mozzarella grated onto new potatoes, fresh Thai basil on top, scrambled eggs w/ green onions and snow peas, a few little slices of smoked venison sausage, peppermint tea & honey, peach sorbet left in the freezer from last year. I’m thinking I might make some kale-and-bean soup with the rest of the venison sausage, though, my Scotch kale is getting tall. Got my first strawberries of the season this week! Oh boy!

    Seriously, if you have not read Joel Salatin’s books on farming, start with You Can Farm and move on to whatever livestock book you like. Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal was kinda cheesy and highly politicized, though. In a not-so-good way. But the other ones are quite good, very practical and full of useful ideas. And I tell you what, I went home a couple of weeks ago for a funeral, and the ONLY farms that were surviving and doing well, were all my Mennonite and Amish cousins. In fact, they had even expanded and bought a few properties of their previously-monocropping neighbors: I saw a large corn processor previously owned by ADM switched over to a cooperative owned by Amish, a corn monocrop farm in the process of being switched to pastureland for the most beautiful Percherons I have ever laid eyes on, and several of my cousins at the funeral said they had expanded their businesses substantially–one aunt had opened two new market stands at different farmers’ and flea markets, a cousin who used to have only a shack for selling tomatoes and sweet corn had installed a proper store complete with candy, hot sandwiches and BBQ, another cousin’s deli looked like it had been renovated by Williams-Sonoma if they ever do a German deli and tea shop.

    If farmers ever want to survive, they need to stop monocropping, and figure out how to cut out the middleman. Even our local CSA farms do okay, and that’s in New England where the growing season is short and the soil is rocks mixed with clay. Selling finished products online helps a lot too, per my cousins: cheese, wine, grapevine wreaths from the grape prunings, sausages, snack mix, candy, fruit baskets.

  90. #90 Prometheus
    June 11, 2009

    Sounds like you have it going on. I wind up swapping a lot of stuff with locals. If these are your first turkeys, keep an eye on them. White turkeys and guineahens are amazingly stupid. If they get into fermenting fallen fruit they will get drunk and manage to kill themselves.

    Thank you for the book recommendations.

    If you have not been, you would love Ruhlman’s blog.

    This link is to the page talking about Hedin’s NYT’s op-ed on actual experience in political patronage, subsidy and monocropping.

    http://blog.ruhlman.com/ruhlmancom/2008/03/continued-victo/comments/page/1/

    All of Ruhlman’s books are fantastic as well.

    How are your bees?

  91. #91 SC
    June 11, 2009

    You actually devoted an entire evening pouring over selections from the Noam Chomsky recommended reading list and dumping links from the anarchy clearing house to respond to a post you claim is completely devoid of substance.

    Substance=getting your number

    score.

    You mad?

    Hehehehe.

    Bizarre.

    I said explicitly that I had no expectation that you would listen (opposing ideas appear to send you into fits of frothing irrationality). Other people read this blog, asshole.

    And good work, Monk. Except that I’ve been a vocal anarchist and frequent commenter at Pharyngula and numerous other science blogs for the past year and a half, so I doubt you’re dazzling anyone with your feats of deduction. Your particular brilliance, though, lies in your evasively using my presumed or real politics in a giant, all-encompassing collective ad hominem. Congratulations.

    (I’m also a woman, btw. I don’t have a moustache; I also don’t brag about sexual conquests, and lose respect for those who do.)

    All the other downtown offices have Boston ferns. I’ve got two kinds of oregano and my basil is off the hook.

    When I told the city planning department I wanted to plant potatoes in the decorative bump-outs it took my wife three tries to convince them I wasn’t kidding.

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about rototillers.

    I can’t help myself.

    Waste is wicked.

    And yet you reject out of hand related arguments and practical suggestions made by anyone you find politically undesirable. That’s incredibly stupid, quite frankly.

  92. #92 Lora
    June 12, 2009

    Bees are, frankly, surprisingly well. We have several apiary clubs in this area, and one of the locals decided to bring in a Russian strain a couple years ago–the resulting Russian x Italian crosses have been quite resistant to Colony Collapse. Then again, we don’t crop dust, everyone around here does minimal selective spraying so as not to contaminate the drinking water reservoirs. Maybe ours are just lucky, less stressed. Hard to say really. Our resident hayloft bats seem to be OK too, I saw them the other evening, eating skeeters.

    I like that blog, but damn, I must disagree with him about offal. I ate plenty of those things as a kid, and, well, after weekly liver-n-onions at Grandmom’s house, I am glad to let my dogs have the offal.

  93. #93 Sven DiMilo
    June 12, 2009

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about rototillers.

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about the functional ecosystem that used to be there.

  94. #94 SC, OM
    June 12, 2009

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about rototillers.

    I see a golf course and start fantasizing about the functional ecosystem that used to be there.

    I often think about this:

    http://www.linktv.org/programs/golf

    But, of course, if they were unhappy about it they should have just, like, not joined.

  95. #95 qetzal
    June 12, 2009

    Sven DiMilo wrote:

    I just read the thread, and it looks to me as if SC brought thought, argument, referenced facts, and suggestions for further reading, whereas Prometheus brought hyperclever prose, logorrhea, snark, and assertion.

    My pick for “condescending ass” has to go the other way.

    See the first half of SC’s second comment (#78), in response to the comment immediately previous. Is that your idea of polite discussion? Not mine.

  96. #96 SC
    June 12, 2009

    Posted by: SC, OM | June 12, 2009 2:48 PM

    Shit. That was me. SC. Just SC. :/

  97. #97 SC
    June 12, 2009

    See the first half of SC’s second comment (#78), in response to the comment immediately previous.

    You mean the one that included, in response to my link:

    I wanted to mention that the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report “Failure to Yield” ought to be called “Failure to Read.”

    ? No, nothing condescending there.

    Is that your idea of polite discussion? Not mine.

    Is this your idea of polite discussion, then?:

    On Colbert Report the other night, I saw Eric Schlosser made a new movie bitching about GMOs and food production in the US, ‘Food Inc’.

    Im not saying anything until I see it.

    *zips-lips*

    However I will use this flurry of ‘OMFG LIEK GMO FOOD IS GEIVING MAH CANKER AND MAEKING MAH FAAAAAT!’ news activity to talk about…

    Who gives a shit about polite?

  98. #98 Prometheus
    June 12, 2009

    “I see a golf course and start fantasizing about the functional ecosystem that used to be there.”

    A holier than thou Dead Head?

    Check.

    Now all I need is a honest County Commissioner and a banker with a heart so Bizarro Toto and I can get back to Anti-Kansas.

  99. #99 SC
    June 12, 2009

    “I see a golf course and start fantasizing about the functional ecosystem that used to be there.”

    A holier than thou Dead Head?

    Check.

    Now all I need is a honest County Commissioner and a banker with a heart so Bizarro Toto and I can get back to Anti-Kansas.

    Sure you want to stick with your initial assessment, qetzal?

  100. #100 Prometheus
    June 12, 2009

    I thought qetzal’s assessment was that we are both jerks but that you are a hypocrite about it.

    That’s wrong too. I am often ethically obligated to be a hypocrite?

    Why do you care?

    YOU, the dogmatic pretentious armchair revolutionary with delusions of grandeur and pertinence. ME, the shallow arrogant self indulgent pariah who is so much less funny than he thinks he is….

    I’m not your civility bright line test and I ain’t your cognitive therapist. Go get validated somewhere else carpetbagger.

    #92 Lora
    Happy about your bees.

    If you start to see CCD you might consider my buddy Binford as a first line of defense. The mite resistance they have been selecting for seems to be working.

    Danny and Binford Weaver are the nicest pair of white Presbyterian Texan hetero-normative default body type patriarchal petroleum sucking puppets of the global agri-megacorp conspiracy to enslave and starve poor indigenous women and children, you will ever hope to meet.

    http://www.beeweaver.com/home.php

    Say howdy to Bennie Lou for me. Tell her she’s a peach.

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