Green terrorists destroy GM wheat

This is why we need science blogs like Tomorrows Table, Biofortified, GMO Pundit, and James and the Giant Corn**.

“I’m sick of being treated like a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science. As far as I’m concerned, my family’s health is too important. GM wheat is not safe, and if the Government can’t protect the safety of my family, then I will.”

Canberra Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury this morning condoned the action on ABC Radio, citing Greenpeace’s long-held opposition to GM crops, and saying that sometimes the end justified the means.

Ah well, its just plants, right? No big deal, ‘the ends justify the means’.

So when are ‘mums’ going to start shooting geneticists to ‘protect the safety of their family’?

** Please leave your other plant bio faves as comments, these are just the ones I keep an eye on, want more!

Comments

  1. #1 Loughrey
    July 16, 2011

    Spence 93: Well, perhaps “lie” is a trifle strong – “wilful and wishful self-deception” might be more accurate. But please blame my inarticulacy for the error, not my politics or religion; your post is way more insulting in ascribing motives than mine was (and, I have to say, was intended to be).

  2. #2 Loughrey
    July 16, 2011

    Spence 99:

    And you want to give up these benefits from a Pascal’s wager style concern about crocoducks and the like? Really?

    Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve said several times that the benefits might well outweigh the risks. But I do think that we shouldn’t breezily proceed as if it’s all ok, as if GM were just nature speeded up. The science isn’t easy; the function of the people who understand it (like most of the people on this board) should be to advise and educate the population, but not to proselytise or even influence them. It’s not your decision, boys and girls; and, thankfully, it’s not Monsanto’s decision either. It’s the decision of millions of people like the derided mum the OP talked about. You remember, the same way prime ministers and Presidents get elected?

  3. #3 Achrachno
    July 16, 2011

    A “No one was terrorized.”
    ERV “You mean no one you know was terrorized, which means it doesnt count.”

    I mean I’ve not seen any evidence that ANYONE was terrorized, whether known to me personally or not. Plus, I just inherently find it hard to believe that anyone would be terrorized by two women with weed whackers cutting wheat. Two women that apparently no one even saw doing their vandalism.

    If there is evidence, testimony from one or more researchers would count, that someone was terrorized (contrasted to angry, irritated, discouraged, or a similar emotion that I can imagine feeling after an incident like this) then I’ll change my opinion. This does not seem like terrorism to me. I don’t even see evidence that these people wanted terrorize anyone. They just seem to have been in a panic about GMO wheat and were desperate to get it out of there. They seem to have proceeded in the least terrorizing direct action they could imagine. They snuck in when no one was around and used common lawn tools. If they’d intended to terrorize couldn’t they have thought of something more dramatic?

    As I said earlier, we seem to be abusing that word “terrorism” these days in order to get the additional emotional punch it provides against our enemies (but not much longer, as the edge wears off).

  4. #4 Loughrey
    July 16, 2011

    Spence 96:

    This is classic creationist thinking. Appealing to the fact that any given sequence is incredibly unlikely.

    Of course, given the number of permutations DNA can take, any given perm is fantastically unlikely. This is how creationists claim that evolution cannot have happened, because it is just so unlikely.

    I don’t see the logic here. Appealing to the fact that any given event is unlikely is a perfectly valid way of getting through life. There is a small-but-non-zero chance that all the air molecules in my room will suddenly rush out of the window, but I don’t keep an oxygen tank by my desk on the off-chance. The question is: how unlikely? The creationist point is completely different – they are assuming that because heritable variation is random, evolution as a whole is. This is a logical error (in fact, a category error). Oh, and Spence, mate – do stop calling me creationist. If you knew the trouble these people have caused me…

    Most of these individual splices end up being non-viable….

    This is the point!

    Do you agree with this simplified description? “Nature” works by monkeying about with the genotype, by whatever means. “Monkeying about” means that the changes are essentially random – there’s no purpose or plan to them – they’re done on spec. These changes feed through to the phenotype, and it’s that that’s judged as viable or not. The changes at the genetic level don’t stand or fall on their own merits, but on those of their organism and its environmental fitness & effects. Of course, there’s huge wastage. Nature, not being stupid*, mitigates this wastage by making sure all changes are small. The end result of this beautiful system is a gradual but illusionary directionality.

    *Don’t write in accusing me of panpsychism, please – this is a figure of speech.

    Now compare this with GM. GM works by deliberately altering the genotype in a specified non-random way. The alternation produces an exactly predictable phenotype (within each generation’s variation). The organism is never judged on its fitness, except in the limited sense that its environment is engineered to ensure its survival. There is no wastage, and consequently changes at each stage can be large. The end result is a rapid and genuine directionality.

    Hmmm. Well, I guess a jet airplane is just walking speeded up.

  5. #5 ERV
    July 16, 2011

    I mean I’ve not seen any evidence that ANYONE was terrorized, whether known to me personally or not. Plus, I just inherently find it hard to believe that anyone would be terrorized by two women with weed whackers cutting wheat. Two women that apparently no one even saw doing their vandalism.
    *shrug*

    brb, gonna go destroy the local African American restaurants.

    Just a chick with a hammer, wont hurt anyone, who cares?

    brb, gonna go destroy all the work of my classmates who used animals in their research.

    Just a chick with a lighter, wont hurt anyone, who cares?

    brb, gonna go destroy a field of GMO corn.

    Just a chick with a weed-whacker, wont hurt anyone, who cares?

    Its not just vandalism. Its vandalism that sends a message. Part of that message is “This time its wheat. The next time it might be you. Might not. Wanna keep doing this kind of research and risk it?” Part of that message is scaring people away from ‘undesirable’ activities– if they want to keep doing the undesirable activity, and their fields burn down, or their research labs burn down, and their houses burn down, well, they were ‘warned’.

    The ends justify the means, theyve said it plainly.

  6. #6 nsib
    July 16, 2011

    Loughrey,

    Nature, not being stupid*, mitigates this wastage by making sure all changes are small.

    Here’s another place where you demonstrate that your knowledge of evolution is piss-poor. Never heard of autoploidy or alloploidy?

    GM works by deliberately altering the genotype in a specified non-random way. The alternation produces an exactly predictable phenotype (within each generation’s variation).(Emphasis mine)

    Also, lol.

  7. #7 Loughrey
    July 16, 2011

    IMO, the word “terrorist” should mostly be avoided by careful thinkers. It’s emotive and manipulative and depends too much on the long-term judgement of history. Mandela and Gandhi were both called terrorists; the Boston Tea-Partiers would have been, if the word had been around. (By the way, doesn’t the Tea-Party remind you of the GM destroyers? What would you have said if you’d been writing in the 1780s? Or do you think – “oh, that’s different”?)

    On the other hand – the French bombing of the Rainbow Warrior is a good candidate for “terrorism”…

  8. #8 Spence
    July 16, 2011

    Loughrey #102:

    Well, perhaps “lie” is a trifle strong – “wilful and wishful self-deception” might be more accurate.
    OK, I still disagree with this, but my point was made above and I will stick to it.

    But please blame my inarticulacy for the error, not my politics or religion; your post is way more insulting in ascribing motives than mine was (and, I have to say, was intended to be).
    If you have an interest in science and critical thinkin, the first thing you need to know when reading the words of a scientist (or critical thinker) is that those words are typically carefully chosen and nuanced. In science, it is not acceptable to jump to “implied” conclusions or anything else, and I would expect others to understand this.

    In my post above, my language was chosen carefully. I stated that the emotional rhetoric about lying is typically evidence of advocacy and/or trolling. I am not saying these are the reasons you are posting what you have done here. Perhaps it was an error, or an inarticulate statement. This gives you the opportunity to defend yourself, which you did.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve said several times that the benefits might well outweigh the risks.
    OK, and to be fair, I should stress that I agree with you on this. (Usually I only pick out the points that I disagree with, but it can be a worthwhile exercise to identify points of agreement)

    But I do think that we shouldn’t breezily proceed as if it’s all ok, as if GM were just nature speeded up.
    Well, I didn’t say GM was nature speeded up (to be fair to you here, others may have made this point and I may have missed them). Once again, I was very careful and nuanced in my post. My first post made it clear that GM was the equivalent of *selective breeding* speeded up, not nature. I even made it clear in my first post that I considered selective breeding to be “unnatural”, i.e. a clear difference to what would have happened without man’s influence. What I wanted to know was why one method was acceptable and the other wasn’t.

    Also: I don’t see “breezily proceeding” as a fair or accurate characterisation. Here in the UK, I think that no GM crop has been licenced for general use despite their use in the US for the last – what – twenty odd years? Even in the US, the regulations are more stringent for GM than any other crop.

    Final points: I am not a biologist, and do not know much compared to many posting here. If I can see mistakes in the thinking, I know we’re not even close to the science. I appreciate that my approach isn’t typical of modern spin doctoring designed to sway the most people. But I’m not interested in that (ends justify the means); I just want to get the science right.

    Oh yes, and it appears that the “derided mum” was a member of greenpeace, so hardly representative of the wider public view.

  9. #9 Spence
    July 16, 2011

    There is a small-but-non-zero chance that all the air molecules in my room will suddenly rush out of the window, but I don’t keep an oxygen tank by my desk on the off-chance. The question is: how unlikely?
    No. Just focusing on “how unlikely” is why your commentary is equivalent to Pascal’s wager. The precautionary principle and Pascal’s wager share failings of (1) ignoring potential value (benefits), (2) assuming costs are so large any miniscule risk is not acceptable. This is not credible in the case of GM. The *correct* questions are; what are the benefits; what are the costs; correctly accounted for including risk. There is a rational debate that can be had on this topic, but we’re not going about it the right way here by pushing the precautionary principle.

    “Nature” works by monkeying about with the genotype, by whatever means.
    Once again, I’m not comparing GM to nature, I’m comparing it to selective breeding. Secondly, as I’ve already pointed out, not all of nature’s changes are small. Thirdly, big changes happening over a long time are still big changes.

    The idea that nature has some mechanism to protect life through these timescales is an unconvincing projection of the concept of a fragile, mothering representation of nature. Nature isn’t like that. Nature has no moral values or protection. Nature could wipe out life in an instant and not have any hang ups about it. Life has remained on earth *despite* nature, not *because* of it, because life is incredibly robust.

    The end result is a rapid and genuine directionality.
    Yes! I agree with that. But that is not a bad thing, it is a good thing!

  10. #10 ErkLR
    July 16, 2011

    Loughrey [94]

    Can you be absolutely 100% sure that, say within the lifetime of my children (the next 70-odd years), we won’t [have crocoducks]? If not, aren’t you a little bit worried?

    Do you have some sort of proposed mechanism for how these crocoducks would end up happening? Such as, if you splice in a gene from another species, you’ll have the same genes in 2 species. You know what that means? You might have homologous recombination tiniker! As for the rest of you who refuse to follow this fear-based reasoning, if you doubt this is possible, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS??

    SLC[97]
    Heh, too many liars for Jesus to keep up with.

  11. #11 Spence
    July 16, 2011

    You might have homologous recombination tiniker!
    I shall use my incredible knowledge of SCEINCE to point out you are missing the letter “l” from your comment. The *actual* effect you are referring to is known as a homologous recombinaltion tiniker. Any for reals scientist wud no that.

  12. #12 windy
    July 16, 2011

    The question you must ask yourself is whether in the relatively near future – say the lifetime of those just being born now – GM will be common and cheap and unregulated enough to “disturb [the] general tree-like patterns of evolution”. In fact, don’t ask “will that happen”; ask “might it”.

    Just like reproductive technologies – right now it’s mostly about some lesbians and career women wanting babies, but in the future it MIGHT lead to some Brave New World type dystopian society -you can’t deny it!

    In short, if all our knowledge of biology were to be destroyed – I dunno, some kind of global catastrophe or giant war – then there could be no rediscovery of biology for the millions of years it would take for phenotypes to settle back into an obvious tree-like pattern.

    You’re talking about something we already have had to discover – gene trees are not equal to species trees. Now you’ll probably cry that it isn’t the same thing, but why assume these hypothetical future biologists won’t be able to figure it out without following the exactly the same route of discovery? Should we also not dig up any fossils since it might give future scientists the wrong impression? If I were a hypothetical scientist of the future, I dunno, I might be more upset about us having driven untold numbers of species extinct and causing a civilization-destroying catastrophe than messing with the genetics of selected species.

    And assuming corporations will be to blame for this – what possible profit is there in scrambling the genomes of most species on earth?

    the word “terrorist” should mostly be avoided by careful thinkers. It’s emotive and manipulative

    I could say the same thing about your scenario where GM prevents the “rediscovery of biology”.

  13. #13 windy
    July 16, 2011

    Well, I didn’t say GM was nature speeded up (to be fair to you here, others may have made this point and I may have missed them).

    My #50 and Ellyn #61 and some other posts have made the point that the gene insertion step in GM is similar to horizontal gene transfer in nature (Loughrey’s first post didn’t make it clear what the ‘unnatural’ part was supposed to be). I agree that it’s better to compare the end result to the results of traditional selective breeding.

  14. #14 Mary
    July 16, 2011

    From Tim Lambert’s post at Deltoid, this update has a nice description of the larger impact of stunts like this–and why it is terrorism:

    http://theconversation.edu.au/greenpeaces-gm-vandalism-bad-for-farmers-bad-for-science-bad-for-australia-2349

    It’s not just a publicity thing. There are real consequences to people.

  15. #15 Percy
    July 16, 2011

    “GM foods have a chance to increase our global food production at a rate that might keep up with expanding populations–*if* we just give them a chance (and solve some of our soil issues.) I’ve written about this before, but this makes me mad enough to want to do a reprise.”

    This assumes that to foster expanding human populations is a *good* thing. That’s a very subjective and anthropocentric view. In my opinion, we should be working to create food that sterilizes human beings.

  16. #16 Loughrey
    July 17, 2011

    Let’s be cladistic about this nature/ breeding/ GM thing. Note: in the following I’m coarse-graining the three processes; sure, there are important (sometimes essential) exceptions to this pattern, but these exceptions are invisible unless you already have an advanced biology. The difference is between things that happen rarely, and those that can or do happen often. If you like, I’m asking what Darwin would have thought. Yes, things have moved on extraordinarily, and I’m jolly pleased to hear it, but most of the planet still thinks in a Darwinian way, the same as we do in a Newtonian way. And quite right too: it’s a good enough approximation for most things.

    Here’s my list.

    Random mutation of genotype: Nature yes, breeding yes, GM no.
    Mutation or change in genotype tend to be small: N yes, b yes, GM not necessarily.
    Genotypes of fit phenotypes tend to spread through the population: N yes, b yes, GM not really (they *are* the population)
    Huge wastage in every generation: N yes, b yes, GM no.
    Evolution is gradual: N yes, b yes, GM not necessarily.
    A genotype can get stuck in “local maxima”, where an fitter phenotype exists nearby on the genetic landscape but it can’t get to it because the path involves becoming less fit first: N yes, b yes, GM no.
    Crocoducks possible: N no, b no, GM as possible as any other transfer.
    Creates general tree-like structure which enables classification: N yes, b yes, GM no.
    Enables consilience – the ability to predict the genotype of an unknown organism from its place in the classification: N yes, b yes, GM no.

    I’ve really tried to be honest here. I’ve missed out lines where all three produce the same answer (like “genotype feeds through to phenotype”), but I tried and failed to think of a single thing which GM has in common with one of nature or breeding but not the other. The closest I got was that the environment of both GM and breeding is a human construct, but that doesn’t seem to me material because it’s still selection. Everything else is nature yes, breeding yes, GM no (or the other way round).

    I really can’t see how anyone can say GM is in any way in common or speeded up with the other two, unless (as I said) you also believe that an airplane is just speeded up walking.

  17. #17 Spence
    July 17, 2011

    Loughrey #116,

    You are kidding, right?

    Please tell me you’re kidding.

  18. #18 ErkLR
    July 17, 2011

    Crocoducks possible: N no, b no, GM as possible as any other transfer.
    Creates general tree-like structure which enables classification: N yes, b yes, GM no.

    OK, I was certainly ridiculing you previously, but still I would like to know, how are you proposing this would happen? On purpose, by accident, and what would be the actual mechanism?
    If you just have a fear, but no reasonable mechanism to produce these things, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    I’ve stuck a jelly fish protein-tagged rat gene into pig cells. But that didn’t make them jellyrat-pig cells, it made them modified pig cells.

  19. #19 Prometheus
    July 17, 2011

    ErkLR@#118

    “jellyrat-pig”

    Where do I send the check because I am soooo getting one of these?

    What flavors are available? I like raspberry.

  20. #20 ERV
    July 17, 2011
  21. #21 Prometheus
    July 17, 2011

    Awesome!

    Just in time for Halloween.

  22. #22 ErkLR
    July 17, 2011

    You’re in luck Prometheus, I just happen to need to clean out the cryobank. However, you won’t be getting an actual animal out of this, I’m pretty sure not even nuclear transfer could make a pig out of cells whose parent line had been in culture >30 years.

    Heh, I hadn’t even heard of those fruit-themed fluorescent molecules Abbie linked to.

  23. #23 rnb
    July 18, 2011

    @Percy

    You and your descendants should volunteer to be the first ones sterilized.
    As a matter of fact, it can be done now without waiting for someone to develop a food that will do so.

  24. #24 Prometheus
    July 18, 2011

    ErkLR@#122

    “However, you won’t be getting an actual animal out of this, I’m pretty sure not even nuclear transfer could make a pig out of cells whose parent line had been in culture >30 years.”

    How will you know until you try?

    Hmmmmm?

    I think you people are underestimating the worlds desperate need for fruit flavored glow-in-the-dark luncheon meat.

    How many sandwiches will be misplaced in the darkness because you have no sense of adventure?

  25. #25 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    How many sandwiches will be misplaced in the darkness because you have no sense of adventure?

    It is after all better to light a sandwich than to curse the darkness.

  26. #26 ErkLR
    July 18, 2011

    Fruit-flavoured still won’t happen, those fruit-themed fluorescent molecules are just fruit-named, no actual flavour *sad panda*. However, if you want glowing meat, I’m not surprised to find someone is way ahead of me on that front: http://www.conncoll.edu/ccacad/zimmer/GFP-ww/cooluses7.html
    I also read an abstract from a Chinese group who independently did GFP pigs. Sadly, these still require an external power source to glow. There’s your dose of Debbie Downer.

  27. #27 Prometheus
    July 18, 2011

    “How far that little sandwich throws his beams!
    So shines a good BLT in a naughty world.”

    The Delicatessen of Venice, Act 5, Scene I

  28. #28 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Loughrey – are you seriously raising the issue that classification may not be as easy at the molecular level as a valid reason not to use GMOs?

    This seems spectacularly odd, particularly as presumably whoever you’re tryng to protect would have to either live long enough after the extinction of mankind that the knowledge itself was lost, or are aliens – is the capacity of aliens or the future cockroach derived overlords of our planet’s ability to create easy molecular phyolgenies a germane topic of debate? hey sure, some kids might be spared blindness – but Thx’Mkkklian paleogeneticists might have to beef up their algorithms lest they think that teosinte is an ancient ancestor of the rat!

    to go through the rest of your list

    Random mutation of genotype: Nature yes, breeding yes, GM no.

    I’d say most GM is random in that is unpredictable in advance (not those that have been commercialized thus far, but those in development now rarely, in my experience, does a gene do exactly what you expect – its rather exciting when it does happen, although when it doesn’t it can also be quite illuminating

    Mutation or change in genotype tend to be small: N yes, b yes, GM not necessarily.

    I’d say not necessarily on all counts here, some mutations are fricking massive in nature, others not so much – likewise in my experience the vast majority of gene insertions (at least in corn) don’t do a bloody thing – it’s rather highly annoying.

    Huge wastage in every generation: N yes, b yes, GM no.

    There is enormous wastage in GM in the equivalent of selection generations – to date I’d guess over 10,000 individual events have probably been tested across crops – very few even make it past the early stages of testing – even succesful genes will only have a single event of many make it to the field (as each event needs reg approval it makes no sense to commercialize mutliples)

    Crocoducks possible: N no, b no, GM as possible as any other transfer.

    That’s a no on all counts (less for breeding than the other two, but still wildly unlikely), and frankly would be more achievable at our current or any near term future predictable knowledge by breeding rather than GM – considering we’ve turned wolves into fricking chiuauas.

    Creates general tree-like structure which enables classification: N yes, b yes, GM no.

    I’m pretty sure any remotely competant molecular geneticist could create trees using genes not altered – it’d be pretty obvious also which were engineered in (we can see genes which have been intorduced by HGT right now, so it isn’t like there is no precedent for this) – you’d have to erase all knowledge first for this to be an issue I think.

    Enables consilience – the ability to predict the genotype of an unknown organism from its place in the classification: N yes, b yes, GM no.

    I’m thinking that anyone can predict as much, if not more, about the genotype of a GMO based on its tree classification (given that it will nest precisely within its own variety of its own species) than one can about even closely related species – GMOs at present have at most 7 (I think, I forget how many genes smartstax is) genes added to the whole genome – unpredictably these plants are virtually indistinguishable at the genotype level from other corn (and are more like their non-GM variety brethren than they are like other varieties of corn) – how many genes exactly are you postulating will be altered in order that genotype is unpredictable (on the same matter what is genotype predictability? I can see phenotype (the arguements would run the same, and I’m assuming thats in the ball-park of what you’re on about) working along lines like you are discussing somewhat.

  29. #29 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “It’s not just a publicity thing. There are real consequences to people.”

    As does the strongarming tactics that caused a farmer in India to commit suicide.

  30. #30 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “Firstly, you can’t be 100% sure of anything. ”

    We CAN be sure that the research and development of GM crops is hidden. We can also be 100% sure that there has to be a reason why GMO products are not labelled in the USA.

  31. #31 JohnV
    July 18, 2011

    I dunno Ewan, Loughrey might be right. The next Charles Darwin is only going to try and construct phylogenetic trees using Arctic Salmon antifreeze genes. Of course, since he’s the next Charles Darwin he’ll look at a tree that contains 1) arctic salmon and 2) tomatoes on the same branch and be like “oh fuck it”.

    In other news, we should quickly destroy all airplanes. After all, their existence is preventing the next Leif Ericson from sailing west and discovering north america.

  32. #32 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “So is a non-profit organization, say like Feed the Children, purchasing GM crops or seed to help feed starving children in a third world country a bad thing?”

    Yes.

    “Should they only purchase non-GM crops and/or seed”

    Yes

    “knowing that they will successfully feed fewer starving people and consequently more people will die?”

    They couldn’t know this until they bought the stuff.

    And, if you want to go that road, they’d know that since they couldn’t replant the GM seeds that weren’t eaten, the GM option would mean more starving people the next year.

    And, since they can’t control their seed population as well under such stress, they wouldn’t be able to sell seed to the European Union, reducing the market for purchasing their product, leading to more future starvation.

    I wouldn’t go down that “what if” road, but if you want to go along, that’s one of the roads down there.

    PS forgot to check the frog thing, I’ll try to remember to do that tonight.

  33. #33 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “My next door neighbor is a PhD plant geneticist that works for a large ag company (not Monsanto). I am going to his daughter’s wedding next weekend. Should I kill him?”

    No.

    “My next door neighbor uses neither herbicides or pesticides on his yard. If I have to kill him to protect the planet,”

    You don’t have to.

    I find it a little creepy that you’re so fixated on killing people mind.

    “is it okay if I steal his beautiful tomatoes that were probably grown from a GM seed and make a nice salad?”

    No.

    “Or should I burn his house and yard down to make sure those tomatoes don’t turn into giant killer tomatoes like the ones in that science-based movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”?”

    No, you should see a psychiatrist. Now.

  34. #34 Wow
    July 18, 2011

    “Perhaps you mean “proteins” instead of “prions”?”

    No, I believe I meant prions. A protein bent the wrong way doesn’t work. Prions bend it like Beckham but aren’t themselves DNA.

    “Anyway, some DNA really isn’t “for” anything. ”

    That we know about.

    It may have been used to allow cyanide-rich plants to be digested when we were all derived from pretator plants 2.5 billion years ago.

    It may have only expressed itself when we were under 5x the CO2 levels and changes our digestion pathways.

    It may have expressed itself only with another DNA strand that humans have lost but insects still contain.

    All we know is that we don’t know what it’s for.

    Note: in the latter case when we then combine the insect DNA with our food and pick the wrong carrier for the DNA strand we may find ourselves expressing some of that DNA we currently call junk. This need not necessarily be good for the human concerned.

    PS as to:

    “Because they’re the ones who have the incentive to produce lots of good quality food (cos otherwise everyone will buy someone else’s grub instead).”

    Why would they care? You just buy out the other corporations and then they buy from you when they leave. Or they don’t know because it takes some time and that could be anything that killed you off.

    You’re imagining the invisible hand working here but that requires we be fully informed. Not something the invisible hand is doing for us, is it.

    Worse, it’s giving us the invisible finger.

  35. #35 JohnV
    July 18, 2011

    “It may have expressed itself only with another DNA strand that humans have lost but insects still contain.”

    Sorry, can you clarify that? Upon first glance it seems like you’re suggesting insects have a triple helix and humans (presumably a pre-human ancestor) also used to have triple helix DNA.

    I just read that wrong, right?

  36. #36 ErkLR
    July 18, 2011

    We CAN be sure that the research and development of GM crops is hidden. We can also be 100% sure that there has to be a reason why GMO products are not labelled in the USA.

    It’s probably the Illuminati. Or Free Masons. Or the Illuminated Free Masons (GFP-modified super secret controllers of the world).

    You’re also conflating purchasing milled rice for food with farmers growing and selling rice in the poor countries. AFAIK, milled rice purchased for food is not plantable, but I could be wrong.

    Since rice is specifically being discussed here, the aim is to cross Golden Rice with local varieties in poor countries and the farmers will be able to do the same things with it, they can with their traditional rice.
    http://www.goldenrice.org/Content3-Why/why3_FAQ.html see: Administering the Golden Rice Project. “These farmers will be able to grow, save, consume, replant and locally sell Golden Rice.” Wikipedia cites $10,000 USD as the maximum profit before royalties need to be paid, but doesn’t cite the source.

  37. #37 Prometheus
    July 18, 2011

    Wow@#134

    “Note: in the latter case when we then combine the insect DNA with our food and pick the wrong carrier for the DNA strand we may find ourselves expressing some of that DNA we currently call junk. This need not necessarily be good for the human concerned.”

    How does this happen? Homologous recombinaltion tiniker? If I can’t have raspberry flavored glowing jelly rat pig kebabs I would totally take a set of wings. Nothing flashy, something nice like the Orthoptera that I can fold under a sport coat and that will get me across an airport parking lot.

    I think I should have both. Imagine gliding home from a luau while literally and figuratively lit up.

    I have an altimeter so The Bride isn’t going to be picking me off of the grill of a semi.

  38. #38 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Note: in the latter case when we then combine the insect DNA with our food and pick the wrong carrier for the DNA strand we may find ourselves expressing some of that DNA we currently call junk. This need not necessarily be good for the human concerned.

    Pick the wrong carrier? Just make sure it ain’t T-mobile and it’s all golden, shurely?

    What of the junk that contains entirely repetitive elements (which clearly doesn’t code for anything now, nor has done)? Does your bizarre conspiratorieal view of biology account for this – I mean, we know how the genetic code works, it is essentially universal (with a few minor variations just to make life interesting), “dead” genes are pretty bloody obvious (hey look, it appears to be code but there’s no start codon, or there’s an inapproriate stop codon which truncates the protein down to a few amino-acids, or the TATA box is buggered beyond all recognition) – bits of junk really are bits of junk, great big honking sequences that repeat on an on for thousands of bases and clearly have no function (that some DNA has function we don’t know about is true, but this doesn’t remove the fact that great honking chunks simply don’t have function), obvious remnants of viruses etc.

    Not that you’d be expected to know this, your knowledge of how DNA functions or can be expected to function appears to derive more from Marvel than from molecular biology.

  39. #39 ErkLR
    July 18, 2011

    obvious remnants of viruses etc.

    Someone should totally start a blog about that kind of thing.

  40. #40 Stephen Bahl
    July 18, 2011

    No, I believe I meant prions. A protein bent the wrong way doesn’t work. Prions bend it like Beckham but aren’t themselves DNA.

    This is gibberish. I’m sorry, but there’s no nice way to put it. You seem to think you’re saying things that make sense, but you’re not.

  41. #41 Loughrey
    July 18, 2011

    JohnV 131:

    … dunno Ewan, Loughrey might be right. The next Charles Darwin is only going to try and construct phylogenetic trees using Arctic Salmon antifreeze genes. Of course, since he’s the next Charles Darwin he’ll look at a tree that contains 1) arctic salmon and 2) tomatoes on the same branch and be like “oh fuck it”.

    Well, I didn’t mean that, because Darwin was only able to examine apparent features – he didn’t have access to the genotype. In the unlikely event he even noticed the tomatoes were frost-resitant, he’d have put it down to convergent evolution. This isn’t nit-picking – it’s the whole point. None of the plentiful examples of “natural GM” (for example, at GM Pundit) would have been apparent to Darwin, or indeed anyone without specialist equipment and the advanced theory we now have to back it up. Consequently, none of these upset the general tree-like structure of nature, and so (Erasmus) Darwin was able to ask, why is nature arranged thus? The answer being of course that the classificational tree is also a phylogenetic one. If the natural GMOs had have upset the tree, Erasmus would never have asked that question, and shazam! no theory of evolution. The same goes for human GMOs – only a genuine crocopig (or whatever it was a million posts ago) would throw a new Darwin. Which is why I’m having such an uphill struggle convincing anyone, including myself.

  42. #42 Loughrey
    July 18, 2011

    The list of “natural GMOs” at GM pundit is at the following address – for some reason it didn’t come out in the above post.

    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/search/label/Natural%20GMOs

  43. #43 JohnV
    July 18, 2011

    Loughrey he would put it down to convergent evolution until he sequenced it and saw that they were the same damn gene (allowing of course for mutations/the length of time from now to 2.Darwin).

    If we’re talking about some post-apocolyptic world 50,000 years from now, then honestly and sincerely, who gives a shit. If humanity ends up in that position then its fucked because we’ve already used up all the easily accessible anything on this planet and they’ll be too busy trying to figure out what they can do with wood instead of metal.

  44. #44 Spence
    July 18, 2011

    And Loughrey, what happens when physicists create atoms and isotopes which don’t occur in nature? How are they going to cope with that in the future?

    And when chemists create molecules that don’t occur in nature?

    How on earth can science possibly cope with this? Or, looking at it another way, why should physicists and chemists get all the fun?

  45. #45 ErkLR
    July 18, 2011

    only a genuine crocopig (or whatever it was a million posts ago) would throw a new Darwin. Which is why I’m having such an uphill struggle convincing anyone, including myself.

    You know, having a mechanism for this wild, uncontrolled genetic mixing pot would be a first step to convincing anyone. Furthermore, I would suggest you’re having problems convincing anyone because it’s a ludicrous fear-based scenario. If you can’t even convince yourself, I think it may be time to let it go, and if you really can’t convince yourself, why the feck are you wasting so much type on it?

  46. #46 Loughrey
    July 18, 2011

    @ErkLR 118.

    OK, I was certainly ridiculing you previously, but still I would like to know, how are you proposing this would happen? On purpose, by accident, and what would be the actual mechanism?
    If you just have a fear, but no reasonable mechanism to produce these things, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    I’ve stuck a jelly fish protein-tagged rat gene into pig cells. But that didn’t make them jellyrat-pig cells, it made them modified pig cells.

    I confess I don’t have a mechanism. All I have is – four billion years of natural GMOs – result: bugger all, at least on a coarse-graining view. A decade or two of GM – result: well, just look at you guys. It’s absolutely amazing, yet you treat it so calmly! Oh, just stick another jelly-pig rat-tagged protein gene into the mix, as if you were just making chicken soup… and the genetic sciences are accelerating at faster than Moore’s law rates, and show no sign of plateauing out. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s brilliant, and I think we’re really entering the age of science. The next fifty years are going to be amazing. But, on the other hand, at this rate I can’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be crocoducks within that time. The technology will be there, and it seems to me that you’re the one being unreasonable by hoping it won’t be used, for one reason or another.

    I’ve stuck a jelly fish protein-tagged rat gene into pig cells. But that didn’t make them jellyrat-pig cells, it made them modified pig cells.

    Hmm. If you look at an organism as just the series of its base-pairs, then yes, I agree you just have modified pig’s cells. One series of base-pairs are much like another and all the pig’s genes are mutable anyway, as several people have pointed out. But organisms aren’t just the sequence of their genes: they have niches in the environment, and places in the classification, and in the phylogeny, and are selected by their environment and they collectively select the environment in turn. At that level, I’d say yes, you have produced a laboratory jellypig, or would have if it had been alive (I assume it wasn’t). Of course, even then it’s not a real jellypig, because you’re regulated and monitored and prevented from introducing the little critter to the one thing that would enable it to express its phenotype – the environment. That won’t always be the case, as GM gets going. Then, thinking of your jellypig as modified pig (instead of thinking of its cells as modified pig cells) is a serious category error. Of course, your jellypig probably doesn’t have much survival value, or commercial value for that matter; so I’m as unworried by it as I am by any of GMO pundit’s natural GMOs. But as GM gets going, GMs will be installed in protected favourable environments, and thus will spread through the population regardless of their natural fitness. Then, maybe when a new Darwin comes along, perhaps without the history of modification, he or she really will think – well, this doesn’t make sense; I know, I’ll become a priest after all.

    That really will be a pity.

  47. #47 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    Wow @ 134: everyone following this conversation is now a little dumber for having read that. I award you no points, and may Cthulhu have mercy on your soul.

    Seriously, crack open an elementary molecular biology text.

  48. #48 Loughrey
    July 18, 2011

    Well, I have overcooked this Darwin 2 business. As JohnV 143 says, there won’t be any civilisation any time soon after the next apocalypse, because we’ve used up all the easily accessible resources. Bummer, but we are were we are. So forget all this new Darwin stuff.

    But I only got into it because I was trying to show the word “unnatural” applied to GM because it had the potential for disturbing the general tree-like structure. Nothing in nature – including human-driven “artificial selection” – has ever disturbed this structure before, and nothing anybody here has said has convinced me that GM cannot disturb it. As I said right at the start – maybe humans should take that risk anyway (taking risks is one of the things humans excel at), but I believe we should go into it with our eyes open, and that the decision should be taken by the polity and not by scientists – people like the derided mum in the OP, for example.

    Thanks, everyone.

    why the feck are you wasting so much type on it?

    *Blinks wonderingly* Because I like to stretch myself. Why do you do things?

  49. #49 Tristan
    July 18, 2011

    I would like to propose a new law of science/skeptical blogs:

    Within the regular, friendly commenters on any scientific or skeptical blog that addresses a contentious subject, there exists a substantial proportion who possess no scientific or skeptical skill whatsoever. They fit in because (a) they happen to agree with the blog owner on their pet subject, and (b) they’re very good at camouflage – piling on when the more knowledgable commenters signal that someone is wrong. They’re mainly there for the feeling of group identity, rather than the advancement of any particular cause.

    The best way to work out who is who is for the blog owner to make a post on a different, contentious scientific/skeptical subject, and closely monitor behaviour. It all becomes clear very, very quickly.

  50. #50 Ewan R
    July 18, 2011

    Nothing in nature – including human-driven “artificial selection” – has ever disturbed this structure before,

    afaik molecular phylogenics gets pretty messy when you consider bacteria, as such your whole theory is essentially nonsense – it just happens that most of life that we’re interested in now stopped utilizing horizontal gene tranfer to any great degree and destroyed the prior pattern of untreelike genetics which had predominated.

  51. #51 ErkLR
    July 19, 2011

    Loughrey, I think you’ve come very close to saying why a giant mixed pot of organisms won’t happen. First off no one wants to make a crocoduck, second even if they wanted, they can’t now. Even if they could in the future, as you’ve said they would not compete in a natural environment. Ignore the pig cells I’ve modified since they never were for creating animal and can’t be used as such as I’ve said, the topic is actual organisms. The genes added to GMOs are generally useless to the plants/animals outside of our selective breeding. As I’ve said, people have already made GFP pigs (Green Fluorescent Protein is from jellyfish). If we released them into some wild population, the GFP gene would at best sit around at a very low frequency in the population and over time, likely collect inactivating mutations, as it is not subject to natural selection keeping it. Furthermore these modified pigs are just that, modified pigs. It is not a category error to call them pigs, they aren’t jellypigs.

    It seems you were first articulating a fear that with many GM plants and animals running around we’d end up with a monstrous soup of cross-animals. There is no mechanism for this, we know it doesn’t happen in nature, so it can’t happen except in some far future possibility where we do it on purpose. If you want to talk about the ethics of truly designer animals as some exercise, fine. But to use a fear-based approach with no mechanism of how it would happen just because we have GMO’s around, is quite frankly silly. I may have a fear of zombies, but no one’s going to take me seriously* because there’s no way for zombies to happen.

    Really, it seems what you’re doing is committing the naturalistic fallacy and using an appeal to nature.

    *The recent CDC stunt not withstanding.

  52. #52 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    “Sorry, can you clarify that? Upon first glance it seems like you’re suggesting insects have a triple helix and humans (presumably a pre-human ancestor) also used to have triple helix DNA.”

    I’m saying that we evolved from other species. The remnants of useful DNA remain, but since the expression of DNA building depends on other factors, including other DNA strands, that “junk” DNA isn’t junk, just like our appendix isn’t junk, or the Coccyx isn’t junk: we just don’t use it.

    Are you saying that our ancestors had a triple helix DNA? That’s the only way you can get that reading of it. Or were you just being an idiot in an attempt to project it away?

  53. #53 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    Tristan was dumb to begin with.

    Of that there is no doubt.

    Maybe he’ll be visited by the Ghost of Intelligence Past tonight…

    (by the way being able to make that yard-of-lard thickchick dumber would be nearly a superpower!)

  54. #54 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    “This is gibberish.”

    Yes, so much easier to just throw away a point of view you don’t like than to correct it.

    This is exactly why GMOs are not accepted by the public: their defendants are all amoral idiots who insist that only they know what’s going on and that anything that isn’t in support of GMOs must be done because of a lack of intelligence.

    OK, so what stops prions being formed and becoming malignant?

    Or would you rather ignore that expressing the coding of DNA depends on non-DNA elements and that junk DNA isn’t useless, it’s just we don’t know what it’s used for.

    Alternatively, you can just pat yourselves on the back and insist that only you know the truth and that anyone who asks “where’s the data?” is on the level of the illuminati conspiracies.

    Makes it so much easier to sleep soundly if you can belittle before you ignore what you don’t want to see.

    You are, as the mums said, arrogant assholes who treat everyone as if they cannot ever understand. As you managed to prove with one person saying “So get a PhD” followed by another saying “A PhD doesn’t stop you being wrong”. A rather direct statement that not only do these mums NOT know what’s going on, but that they can NEVER know what’s going on (unless they decide that it’s all safe).

    S’funny how you KNOW you’re right and ignore the facts you don’t like to see.

    A bit like creationists.

  55. #55 ErkLR
    July 19, 2011

    I suppose it hasn’t occurred to you Wow, that you are not taken seriously because you say ridiculous things and in a manner that suggests you are not open to reason?

  56. #56 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    I’m aping the people talking here, Erk.

    Go back, have a look.

    “Go get a PhD then”

    Greenpeace HAS people with PhDs

    “Having a PhD doesn’t stop you from being an idiot”.

    And note that all I’ve had back is what these mums have been complaining of and avoidance.

    Ewan may legitimately never have known about Monsato suing farmers. ERV may not have known about the problems GM crops cause (being American with a more targeted and repressed mainstream media), but all I’ve had back is nothing but insults and denies of any problems whatsoever.

    It rather looks like there’s not a single person here who is not open to reason.

    And I’m not here to reason with you: I’m here to educate you.

  57. #57 Ewan R
    July 19, 2011

    Ewan may legitimately never have known about Monsato suing farmers.

    Which of my posts even remotely suggests that I don’t know that Monsanto sues farmers – I responded to your piece about Schmeiser with a clarification of Schmeiser’s actions as depicted in the court doucments which rather suggests that I’d be fully aware that Monsanto had sued the guy because otherwise how would one explain the presence of court documents – my point is not, and never has been, that Monsanto does not sue farmers who infringe on the patent, but that the infringement has to be at levels which are non-accidental presence and which logically have occured with the farmers explicit knowledge of the presence of the trait – I’d assume most people would decry legal action against farmers for true accidental presence (I’d count myself amongst these numbers) but that for clear patent infringment there would be a tad more support (although obviously not for those who oppose patents on transgenic traits, but then that isn’t generally the light in which the Schmeiser, or any other case is presented – it is generally presented as a poor innocent farmer who didn’t know about the presence of the trait – and this is clearly horseshit in the Schmeiser case, and I would argue in any other case that has been prosecuted – for the main reason that even if Monsanto were the bullies they are portrayed as I don’t see a true accidental presence case having a creationists chance in Pharyngula of succeeding)

  58. #58 ErkLR
    July 19, 2011

    Ewan may legitimately never have known about Monsato suing farmers.

    This is an example of what I’m talking about. He specifically addressed this issue in his last paragraph of post #29. He spoke specifically about the case in Canada you mentioned. He had a very different version of events. He may be wrong, you may be wrong, but you addressed none of what he said about the case. Is he wrong about what the farmer did? Are the court records wrong? Did Monsanto lie about what the farmer did?

    And yeah, I’m the one who said having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you correct or not crazy (through a quote from Bob Park). It’s true, as illustrated by the ID and YEC people who have Ph.D.s from legit universities.

    I think you belie your intentions of asking “where’s the data” when you say “I’m not here to reason with you: I’m here to educate you” ie) Your asking “where’s the data” is really on a rhetorical device, you’re really only here to tell people what you consider the truth, and can not be convinced otherwise.

  59. #59 ErkLR
    July 19, 2011

    And Ewan beat me to it while I was starting an assay.

  60. #60 Nomen Nescio
    July 19, 2011

    consciously breaking user agreements for profit, aka pirating.

    “consciously breaking user agreements for profit” == hijacking, robbery, and murder on the high seas?

    is that the way language is being abused these days? damnyoukids, geddoffamylawn, back in my days words MEANT THINGS.

    (this pet peeve of mine started back in the “software piracy” days. no, violating software copyrights is not and never was “piracy” EITHER, it was and is copyright violation. call me back when those geeks in their basements start not only wearing eyepatches and cutlasses, but chopping people up with said cutlasses.)

  61. #61 Stephen Bahl
    July 19, 2011

    Yes, so much easier to just throw away a point of view you don’t like than to correct it.

    I tried to correct it. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t coherent enough for me to understand what the problems were. I know you’ll just assume that I’m dismissing you offhand or that I’m being deliberately obtuse or that I lack reading comprehension or whatever. But the truth is that I’m being sincere. I don’t understand why you brought up prions in the first place, because it doesn’t make any sense to do so. And I’m not really sure what you mean by “bending” proteins, so I can’t really correct you except to say that it’s not a thing, and that doesn’t seem helpful.

    OK, so what stops prions being formed and becoming malignant?

    Prions have been discovered in animals and fungi. Not plants. I have no idea why they haven’t been found in plants. Do you have some reason to think that recombinant DNA technology would create prions in plants?

    Or would you rather ignore that expressing the coding of DNA depends on non-DNA elements and that junk DNA isn’t useless, it’s just we don’t know what it’s used for.

    Who’s ignoring expression? What point did you have about expression?

    And again on junk DNA, there really is some DNA that isn’t “used for” anything. Look, I don’t think anyone is saying you need to be an expert on biochemistry to talk about it. I certainly wouldn’t say that. I’m not an expert either. But if you don’t know about something, don’t pretend that you do and talk about it as though you know everything. People will catch on. No good will come of it.

    Alternatively, you can just pat yourselves on the back and insist that only you know the truth and that anyone who asks “where’s the data?” is on the level of the illuminati conspiracies.

    Where’s what data? The data that recombinant DNA technology induces prions in plants.

  62. #62 TylerD
    July 19, 2011

    For any junk DNA deniers:

    Do you have a plausible explanation for the variation in exon/intron structure in eukaryotes where the same gene occurs that doesn’t invoke non-functional DNA?

    Thanks in advance.

  63. #63 plop
    July 20, 2011

    “Green terrorists destroy GM wheat”

    Most stupid title ever. Just try to get informed to what is really terrorism before using this word for destroying some crops.

  64. #64 TylerD
    July 20, 2011

    Intimidation used toward political ends = terrorism.

    Denying that these acts were terrorism = apologetics.

  65. #65 plop
    July 21, 2011

    I’m sure the crops were really scared… Grown up a bit, please. Terrorism is when you use violence and murder against peoples. Plants are no peoples. Or maybe you think they are ?

    And, btw, US is the main terrorist state in the world. If you are US citizen and if you really want fight terrorism, fight its foreign policy.

  66. #66 TylerD
    July 21, 2011

    >not realizing that destroying people’s property is one of the main means of intimidation.
    >tu quoque

    Cool logic bro.

  67. #67 plop
    July 21, 2011

    According to your definition a child throwing a rock at a glass of a car full of soldiers heavily armed is intimidation and terrorism…

  68. #68 Robin Levett
    July 22, 2011

    As I understand it, plop, much of what the IRA did in Northern Ireland in the Troubles was not terrorism, because it gave warnings. Is that correct? Ditto the Weather Undergound, which in all its incarnations only ever went after property.

  69. #69 StanR
    July 22, 2011

    Ewan, if you’re still around, what is your opinion of Monstanto’s sweet potato project in Kenya that reportedly didn’t solve any problems at all? If you were with Monsanto at that point, or have heard of this, is there any feeling of lessons learned? Is there some other side to this story?

    Here’s a link for the text, since it doesn’t seem to be on the Science in Society Site: http://www.greens.org/s-r/35/35-03.html

    It seems that if the figure of around $6 million spent on the project is correct, and the lack of success is correct, that’s a significant failure. (In contrast, in the last few years the Scottish Crop Institute apparently got a grant from the Monsanto Fund totaling £186,000 to help Kenya with their methods for producing disease-free seed tubers.)

    As for the blog entry, I agree that “green terrorism” in this particular case is more hyperbole than description, and I also think the link to a picture starving children is more (and more shameful) hyperbole. That GMO wheat wasn’t going to go into Wheat-Soya blend food aid destined for Somalia.

    As someone uses a term like terrorism to cover widely varying events, that person risks equivocating very different actions and intentions, which is unfair to both the perpetrators and the victims. As confused as the angry mum may be, it looks real preposterous to call it terrorism.

  70. #70 Ewan R
    July 23, 2011

    I’m still around… Wambugu’s project was before my time at Monsanto – I shall have to see who is around who actually remembers anything significant about it – it appears the only thing I can find online is that the project seemed to be working, and then… didn’t – I’m still trying to parse out whether this is just because it didn’t translate to the field, or whether it is because breeding got there first (or if a combination of the two occured)

    Lessons learned? One would hope a reduction in hubris prior to real field testing of products, and approaches which utilize both biotech and breeding towards the same end – I would say that WEMA manages the second in spades, however the former possibly not so much. I think that lessons learned on the reality of moving from greenhouse studies to field studies are probably a lesson more harshly learned on internal projects rather than just this one external.

    It’d be interesting however to know also what was learned on the positive side – what’d we learn about why the approach didn’t work, what molecular techniques were developed specifically for sweet potato etc

    It seems that if the figure of around $6 million spent on the project is correct, and the lack of success is correct, that’s a significant failure.

    I’m not sure that is the case – $6M for a project that made it into phase II studies and international field trials etc may sound a lot, but the figure actually seems relatively decent in terms of an R&D project – I think the industry generally expects somewhere in the region of 50% of phase II projects to not actually make it – here’s a case where the wrong side of the coin was landed on, when the potential benefits are in the 100′s of millions I think gambling $6M isn’t necessarily a bad risk to take (given that a similar project for virus resistance in the Hawaiian papaya industry virtually saved the industry you can’t really write off the approach – although it seems a shame that Hawaii got the version that worked and Kenya didn’t)

    I shall poke around and see what I can find – I used to work a couple of cubes over from the scientist charged with running the transgenic side of WEMA – she seems like a good bet as a first contact (I presume lessons learned from the sweet potato project would include how to go about running transgenic experiments on a different continent to where you live..)

  71. #71 Wow
    July 25, 2011

    “As I understand it, plop, much of what the IRA did in Northern Ireland in the Troubles was not terrorism, because it gave warnings”

    Well, they also blew things up with explosives and mined army transport busses. It may seem like a tiny difference to YOU…

    “Do you have some reason to think that recombinant DNA technology would create prions in plants?”

    Prions were an example of non-DNA coding for a viable organism. Plants may do something else.

    Of course, if prions exist in insects and we put insect DNA in a plant, what says we won’t get prions in plants?

  72. #72 ErkLR
    July 25, 2011

    1. Complain people avoid your rhetorical questions.
    2. Avoid legitimate questions about one of your points.
    3. ???
    4. Profit.

  73. #73 Ewan R
    July 25, 2011

    Prions were an example of non-DNA coding for a viable organism.

    You’re really falling foul of the first rule of holes right here. In epic proportions.

    Of course, if prions exist in insects and we put insect DNA in a plant, what says we won’t get prions in plants?

    Unless we stick in DNA that specifically codes for a prion then essentially everything we know about molecular biology says we won’t. If of course we put in DNA that does code for the prion… well, then quite unexpectedly… insect prions in plants… although I don’t know that mad grasshopper disease is a good approach to pest management – probably takes too long to kick in and what not.

  74. #74 Stephen Bahl
    July 26, 2011

    Prions were an example of non-DNA coding for a viable organism. Plants may do something else.

    Prions are indeed not DNA. But they aren’t “coding” either. I’m not sure where you got that idea.

    Of course, if prions exist in insects and we put insect DNA in a plant, what says we won’t get prions in plants?

    Ewan R seems to have covered this, but I’ll be redundant. Firstly, most proteins don’t have a prion form at all. We would have to put an insect gene that codes for a protein that has a prion form in the first place into a plant. And then we’d have to make sure that the protein could go into its prion form somehow (not sure what the best way to do this would be). If we did all that, the result would be insect prions in plant tissue. I suppose that could be cute, but making them glow sounds easier and way more fun.

  75. #75 Robin Levett
    July 26, 2011

    @Wow #171:

    Well, they also blew things up with explosives and mined army transport busses. It may seem like a tiny difference to YOU…

    I was responding to plop’s comment that:

    Terrorism is when you use violence and murder against peoples. Plants are no peoples.

    So far as I am aware, the Europa Hotel (which from my recollection at this distance in time they seemed to blow up every other week) isn’t peoples either. Soldiers are, of course; as are civilians and members of the various paramilitary groups, and the IRA murdered many of each, hence I did not claim that the IRA exclusively attacked property with warnings. My question was whether plop really meant that events such as the Europa Hotel bombing(s) were in his view terrorist. I say yes.

  76. #76 StanR
    July 28, 2011

    Thanks, Ewan. I’d be interested to hear what you find, if anything. Also, I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes.

  77. #77 Ewan R
    August 3, 2011

    StanR – just dropping a note to let you know that you haven’t been forgotten… the period from Tasseling to harvest (and beyond) is a tad busy and I simply havent had time for my normal internet meanderings.

  78. #78 Wow
    August 6, 2011

    “PS forgot to check the frog thing, I’ll try to remember to do that tonight.

    Posted by: Wow | July 18, 2011 1:15 PM”

    Had loaned the book out, so I had to wait for it to come back.

    Frogs.

    It was frogs.

    Check the index of “The Science of Discworld” for frogs. On my hardback version, pages 265-267.

    There’s no need to apologise for all those who insisted frog was wrong.

  79. #79 Defiantnonbeliever
    December 5, 2011

    Pro GMO people don’t have a leg to stand on as long as the right to vote with their dollars and not involuntarily subsidize GMO foods is available and considered inviolate. This is science perverted by un and miss-regulated profit motive with all freedom to choose removed from people.

  80. #80 EvilYeti
    December 5, 2011

    More evidence Greenpeace is a political organization (as if there was any doubt, really) and not one that bases its actions on science or reason.

    When the anti-GMO crowd have anything except FUD to offer let me know.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt

    #179, certified organic should be mostly non-GMO. You can always grow your own produce.

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