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 Badger3k
    July 13, 2011

    “”I’m sick of being treated like a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science.”

    Then stop being one, and start trying to learn and understand the science, you stupid mum!

  2. #2 James
    July 14, 2011

    Thanks for the plug!
    In the research field by my university we don’t have a single transgenic plant growing, yet it still must be surrounded by a tall fence complete with motion sensors (which are constantly being triggered by clumsy students) because everyone knows the corn is being grown for research and some even think a purple corn plant is OBVIOUSLY the fruit of genetic engineering.

  3. #3 tas121790
    July 14, 2011

    Why did Greenpeace use gas powered weed eaters instead of electric?

  4. From what I understand, here in France the main argument against GM crops (specificaly Monsantos corn) is the uncontrolled spread and subsequent lawsuits of said crops.

    Monsantos corn being patented, if a single individual Monsantos corn stalk is found in an adjacent field, the owner of this field is basically fucked.

    Still, we have assholes such as José Bové regularly destroying whole fields (and McDonalds, too)…

  5. #5 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “Then stop being one, and start trying to learn and understand the science, you stupid mum!”

    Problem is, Monsato et al won’t LET you understand the science. All the research is vetted internally and commercial in confidence.

    All the screaming about the weather data MUST be available to all, and the drug and agribusiness continue to hide everything and get defended.

    Meh.

    And as for “No big deal, ‘the ends justify the means’” this is ENTIRELY what the agribusiness do. And unlike mums, they have money, power, and influence with the movers-and-shakers.

  6. #6 Zyzle
    July 14, 2011

    I’ve never quite understood how, having spawned, you suddenly become an expert on… well everything (seriously 5 rage-inducing minutes on the mumsnet forums and you’ll see what I mean)

  7. #7 Mary
    July 14, 2011

    That’s just awful. I can’t believe that these same people want to claim how terrible it is that climate scientists are threatened and harassed….yet…???

  8. #8 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    Funny. Over at deltoid, it’s Greenpeace:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/07/greenpeace_destroy_genetically.php

    Here, it’s a few mums only.

  9. #9 Spence
    July 14, 2011

    Monsantos corn being patented, if a single individual Monsantos corn stalk is found in an adjacent field, the owner of this field is basically fucked.
    This doesn’t appear to have been a problem in the US, and I’m not sure why it would be an issue in France either – unless France has some screwed up legislation. In which case, why not just fix the legislation? It sounds like a poor excuse.

    The issue in the UK seems to be that politicians are too scared to piss off the irrational green lobby groups that drown the debate with fearmongering pseudo scientific garbage. **FRANKENFOODS** etc.

  10. #10 Neil Craig
    July 14, 2011

    “Understanding” The Science means actively preventing anybody doing any experiments according to many eco-Nazis. Unfortunately it is not confined tom GM.

    However she provides a good example of how those opposed to the most basic principles of science like to shelter under its name. A phenomenon not unknown to “scienceblogs”.

  11. #11 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “This doesn’t appear to have been a problem in the US”

    Mostly because everyone’s buying Monsato’s product now. But it has caused several lawsuits in the past when trials spilt seed on nearby fields.

    “and I’m not sure why it would be an issue in France either”

    Because GMOs aren’t nearly 100% of the market. Therefore it’s still possible to infect a nearby NON-GMO-Customer’s field.

    “The issue in the UK seems to be that politicians are too scared to piss off the irrational green lobby groups”

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Ah, me.

    The green lobby is damn near powerless. However people generally don’t want GMOs, don’t see why they want GMOs and want to be told if there are any GMO products in their food, which causes the USA some problem because they lump everything together and are busy crying about the trade embargo.

    It’s not “FRANKENFOODS”, it’s “Why the hell should we be made to be beholden to a corporation for our food whose only goal is to make bucketloads of money”.

  12. Spence:

    I stated it was “from what I understand”, which isn’t a lot.

    But wouldn’t it be property/patent theft if some farmer had patented stuff growing on his fied without authorisation?

    Honest question.

    And everyone please pardon my french on my comments, I’m french (ie.e: I still have no fucking clue about how double conssonants work in english. <— see “conssonants”).

  13. #13 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    That’s certainly the way Agribusiness dealt with it before. Their idea goes like this:

    1) The GMO is a benefit
    2) You didn’t pay for that benefit
    3) YOU THIEF!!!!

    It’s the same accountant mindset that the copyright cartels use to “prove” quadrillion-dollar losses from piracy and a multi-million dollar fine for 24 tracks.

  14. #14 ERV
    July 14, 2011

    Phil– The only case I know of (featured in the movie ‘Food Inc’) was a guy who was cleaning/selling seeds for unauthorized users. It would be like me buying a DVD, ripping it, and selling it to friends, and then being surprised when Universal studios comes after me.

    Its not a case of ‘one stray seed/plant’, its a case of consciously breaking user agreements for profit, aka pirating.

  15. Abbie: This is a whole subject I am not so familiar with. You know why? Because I don’t mind GMOs. At all. I really despice people destroying fields because it’s GMO.

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

    This is worrying, though, I think.

  16. Also, Abbie, are you playing the “pirate” card on me because I am a musician?
    :)

  17. #17 Spence
    July 14, 2011

    “Why the hell should we be made to be beholden to a corporation for our food whose only goal is to make bucketloads of money”.
    I’m pretty sure 99% of the food I eat comes from people who work for a living, make a profit, and live off that profit themselves. So I do not see this as a material distinction of GM vs. non-GM. Both are pretty much the same.

    Monsanto have to compete, and the seed market seems fairly open, so I don’t see why Monsanto would have any kind of stranglehold over farmers, who are free to buy any seed they want (and maybe use seeds without Monsanto genes as a marketing tool to charge more).

    But GM isn’t doing anything that can’t be done through “natural” methods anyway (i.e., selective breeding and cross-breeding, which isn’t exactly natural, but seems acceptable for some arbitrary reason). The GM technique just shortens the time frame.

  18. #18 Spence
    July 14, 2011

    Phil, you raise valid concerns.

    However, these concerns are primarily driven by the regulatory requirements of GM foods. Because GM foods have to be tested to an extent far beyond any other type of food, attempting to bring such a food to market is astonishingly expensive.

    The only fair way to enable this is to allow patents so that companies can protect their investment.

    Another option would be to back off the stringent regulations and tests. Then bringing a product to market would be less expensive and not require patents. I somehow doubt this would be popular, though.

    The irony is this; people demand tough regulations because they fear the technology, but the tough regulations push the technology into the hands of the megacorps. These two things come hand in hand. C’est la vie, if I can just momentarily borrow your language :)

  19. Spencer: couldn’t agree more. I was just pointing out the main reason publicized in France against GMO. Never said I agreed, although biological patents DO make me feel a bit nervous.

  20. #20 Onkel Bob
    July 14, 2011

    But GM isn’t doing anything that can’t be done through “natural” methods anyway (i.e., selective breeding and cross-breeding, which isn’t exactly natural, but seems acceptable for some arbitrary reason). The GM technique just shortens the time frame.

    Hey! Don’t be inserting logic, facts, and reality into the conversation. This is about irrational responses to things we don’t understand. I mean, how did teosinte transform into maize? By fucking magic of course!

  21. #21 Onkel Bob
    July 14, 2011

    Funny. Over at deltoid, it’s Greenpeace:

    Funny, Greenpeace took credit for it:

    Greenpeace activists, including one mother who wants to protect her family, have stopped a GM wheat experiment outside Canberra this morning.

    Link

  22. #22 INTP
    July 14, 2011

    I have to agree with WoW’s concerns. I’d also like to recommend an interesting 2009 article by agro-ecologist Don Lotter from “The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity” (International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, Volume 16, issue 1 (2009), pages 50-68).

    From the abstract:

    Discussed are increasing science community and university dependence on private industry funding and on development of proprietary technologies; monopolization of the make-up of expert scientific bodies on transgenics by pro-industry scientists with vested interests in transgenics; deficient scientific protocols, bias, and possible fraud in industry-sponsored and industry-conducted research; increasing politically and commercially driven manipulation of science within federal regulatory bodies such as the FDA; and bias in the peer-review process, tolerance by the scientific community of biotechnology industry manipulation of the information environment, and of biased treatment and harassment of non-compliant scientists.

  23. #23 Badger3k
    July 14, 2011

    Onkel Bob – over at Deltoid Wow is trolling his/ her conspiracy theories. My comment on the Mommy-Warrior still stand despite his trolling. The woman is ignorant of basic science, something Monsanto has no control over. She’s an idiot.

    I wonder I’d the next step will be to say that GM crops cause autism (or maybe even the gay).

  24. #24 isaacschumann
    July 14, 2011

    Thanks for calling this out. I wonder if these people would have destroyed Mendel’s pea plants as well? I mean, it was clearly the precursor to evil modern agriculture and all of the horrors it has visited upon the world;)

    here’s a blog for the list:

    http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com/

  25. #25 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    Yup, there were links, but they can all be ignored if you proclaim it trolling.

    Do you actually know what “trolling” means?

    Hint: it doesn’t mean “saying something I don’t like to know forcefully”.

    Just a hint.

    then maybe you can, instead of ignoring any facts you don’t like to hear, counter those facts with others of your own?

    You know, actual grown-up discussion.

    Nah, that requires you do some *thinking*, doesn’t it. Far better to say “trolling” rather than actually work out what’s incorrect.

  26. #26 isaacschumann
    July 14, 2011

    Badger, OF COURSE they cause autism and gayness.(you are sooo behind the times) Greanpeace was just preventing that evil CSIRO from gaying up Australia’s wheat.

  27. #27 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “Funny, Greenpeace took credit for it:”

    What’s REALLY funny is that you seem to think I was saying it wasn’t one or the other.

    When, in actual fact, I was commenting on how here it’s all “ignorant mums” with the hysteria (along with the Green terrorism) of wondering: “So when are ‘mums’ going to start shooting geneticists” here, but over there on deltoid it’s all “Greenpeace shouldn’t have done this”, “Greenpeace are just wrong here”.

    Nothing about mums.

    And on here, nothing about how Greenpeace were doing it.

    Well, until you thought you had something to beat me up with.

    PS Abbie, take a look, there’s a lot more out there than you know:

    Second link I found:

    http://bestmeal.info/monsanto/facts.shtml

    “Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing GMO genetically modified Roundup resistant canola in 1998. Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby GMO farm. Monsanto successfully argued in a lawsuit that Schmeiser violated their patent rights, and forced Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.”

    Since it names names, you can check the veracity yourself.

  28. #28 Prometheus
    July 14, 2011

    On a happier note, I am sending Great Uncle Joachim this article. He just got a justification for the Dillon Aero M134 Gatling Gun he has had his eye on.

    Hope you had fun in Australia Greenpeace….Welcome to the Midwest.

  29. #29 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Full disclosure as I rarely have anything interesting to say about viruses and the like – I’m a Monsanto employee, I work in R&D on GMOs, the views contained herein are entirely my own and don’t reflect those of the company (yadda, and indeed, yadda)

    Fully intend to head over to deltoid to deal with some of Wow’s other howlers on this topic but given that ERV is a funfest of lolisms and whatnot hopefully a rushed post here will go down a little smoother.

    Problem is, Monsato et al won’t LET you understand the science. All the research is vetted internally and commercial in confidence.

    Other than that it isn’t – there wouldn’t be independant research if this was the issue – in dealing with the recent complaint about the restrictiveness of the research agreement Monsanto switched policy on research on transgenic seed etc (interestingly the reason for these research embargoes is likely more to do with preserving hybrid identity as a trade secret rather than anything to do with the GMO attached – not that I expect this to be widely believed, but for those few who don’t require a proctologist to help them see the sunlight this may be moderately interesting)

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

  30. #30 Onkel Bob
    July 14, 2011

    I wonder I’d the next step will be to say that GM crops cause autism (or maybe even the gay).

    Been there, done that.

    Soy is making kids ‘gay’

  31. #31 Matt
    July 14, 2011

    “I’m sick of being treated like a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science.”

    Then go to college, get a degree in biology, go back get your masters, and then your doctorate.

    For now you ARE a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science.

    Or how to behave in society.

  32. #32 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “Then go to college, get a degree in biology, go back get your masters, and then your doctorate.”

    Then be refused to see the data for the studies in GMOs because you won’t sign an NDA.

    PS Greenpeace has plenty of people with biology degrees and post-docs.

  33. #33 ErkLR
    July 14, 2011

    PS Greenpeace has plenty of people with biology degrees and post-docs.

    As Bob Park often says “A Ph.D. is not an inoculation against stupidity.”

    I’m just doing research in a Uni lab, and I wouldn’t tell most people about my data without a NDA.

  34. #34 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “Monsanto don’t unleash the hounds unless there is clear evidence of intentional presence of the transgene sans license.”

    Like this guy:

    “Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing GMO genetically modified Roundup resistant canola in 1998. Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby GMO farm. Monsanto successfully argued in a lawsuit that Schmeiser violated their patent rights, and forced Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.”

  35. #35 Wow
    July 14, 2011

    “As Bob Park often says “A Ph.D. is not an inoculation against stupidity.”"

    So then why did Matt say “Then go to college, get a degree in biology, go back get your masters, and then your doctorate.” if it means you’ll STILL say they’re too dumb to understand?

    I guess then that you have a PhD because you’re still showing the stupid.

  36. #36 JohnV
    July 14, 2011

    Hey Wow did you fail to read the rest of Ewan’s comment or do you just not comprehend what he wrote? Do you have any response to it beyond repeating the same claim?

  37. #37 ErkLR
    July 14, 2011

    I was not aware that I’m responsible for explaining others comments nor that Matt is the arbiter of what is correct (at least with respect to how much education one needs to understand GMO science). Actually I disagree with Matt on that point, to understand GMO science, you do need some bio education but not even a Master’s is needed. Bob Park’s point is that even people with a Ph.D. can still be crazy, especially on certain issues. For instance, wasn’t it Bill Dembski* who lied his way through a Ph.D. at an accredited Uni so he could claim some authority? But hey, nice ad hominem on calling me stupid!

    *some ID guy, can’t remember which one.

  38. #38 Thanny
    July 14, 2011

    Hey, “Wow”, do you have a disability? The very sentence following your quote begins an explanation of the Schmeiser case, which was not at all as you described.

    You’re behavior is pretty much one-for-one with that of a creationist.

  39. #39 Prometheus
    July 14, 2011

    Ewan was pretty clear. I followed the case.

    Percy Schmeiser “discovered” a small portion of one section of his land had patented licensed round-up ready canola on it. None of the versions of how it got there hold water. He deliberately killed off any non GMO canola in it. He harvested and cleaned seed only from that patch and planted his 1000 acres the next year with that seed then sold it.

    i.e. When your neighbor’s champion race horse wanders into your yard, you call your neighbor. You don’t advertise $100 pony rides then grab a liquid nitrogen tank start and jacking off the horse.

    If Percy Schmeiser isn’t a thief he is at least an asshole.

  40. #40 Rhology
    July 14, 2011

    Implying that Greenpeace thus furthered famine by this action is really quite ignorant.

  41. #41 Rambleale
    July 14, 2011

    On a recent trip to the John Innes centre, http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/index.htm ,
    It was most pathetic to see tiny patch of late blight resistant GM potatoes caged up and surrounded by alarms, CCTV etc. As the head of the project pointed it could end up that only large multi-national (cue evil Monsanto theme music) will be able to afford the security needed to do GM work on crops. The groups trashing GM trials should seriously consider if they think this would be a ‘good thing’.

  42. #42 dustbubble
    July 14, 2011

    Don’t fret, rambleale@41. Maybe they’re pulling the same stunt as Frederick the Great.
    Despite all urging, and demonstrations of the benefits of the evil potato all over Europe

    The peasants remained suspicious, in spite of a 1771 paper from the Faculté de Paris testifying that the potato was not harmful but beneficial.

    he planted a royal field of potato plants and stationed a heavy guard to protect this field from thieves. Nearby peasants naturally assumed that anything worth guarding was worth stealing, and so snuck into the field and snatched the plants for their home gardens. Of course, this was entirely in line with Frederick’s wishes.

    Personally I have two very rigid categories which no evil scientist can make me abandon.
    Good food, and no food.

  43. #43 Spence
    July 14, 2011

    I mean, how did teosinte transform into maize? By fucking magic of course!
    You mean god didn’t do that bit? Damn, people have been lying to me again!

  44. #44 Michael Caton
    July 14, 2011

    Ms. ERV, thanks for posting this. My only comment is that there’s no reason to make a distinction here. These aren’t “green” terrorists, they’re just terrorists, just like the animal rights extremists.

  45. #45 BoxNDox
    July 14, 2011

    According to both Wikipedia and Schmeiser’s own web site, he never had to pay Monsanto anything because the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that while there was patent infringement, he didn’t profit from it. So Wow’s assertion that “[Monsanto]
    forced Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages” appears to be false.

    On a side note, Schmeiser subsequently sued Monsanto for cleanup costs. The case was settled for $660.

  46. #46 Loughrey
    July 14, 2011
    But GM isn’t doing anything that can’t be done through “natural” methods anyway (i.e., selective breeding and cross-breeding, which isn’t exactly natural, but seems acceptable for some arbitrary reason). The GM technique just shortens the time frame.

    Hey! Don’t be inserting logic, facts, and reality into the conversation. This is about irrational responses to things we don’t understand. I mean, how did teosinte transform into maize? By fucking magic of course!

    Proponents of GM often claim that it does exactly what nature and human breeders have always done, but speeded up. This is not true, and it is depressing that it’s been allowed to go uncorrected here (yet again). Both natural and artificial selection work on the phenotype, whereas GM works direct on the genotype, something hardly ever seen in nature. Furthermore, GM can mix genes from widely differing species, which if it had ever happened regularly in the past by any means would not have produced the phylogeny that we see all around us and which is the foundation of the science of biology.

    This is not necessarily an argument against GM; only to say that GM isn’t “natural” in any way, and it isn’t like human artificial selection, and it isn’t like anything ever seen on the earth before. This is a giant step for humans, changing things forever in ways we don’t begin to understand; and to pretend it’s just a speeded-up relation of rose breeding is a frightening and depressing lie.

  47. #47 Alex SL
    July 14, 2011

    As with many of these issues, it should not be seen to much in black-and-white. Like Phil, I am, as a biologist, convinced that GM plants are not in any way more dangerous to us humans as such than plants bred in the traditional ways. People who think that introducing a new gene somehow makes them impure should get their heads checked. (“I don’t want any genes in my food!” Right.)

    On the other hand, you can hold that position and still wonder whether it is wise to have a corporation like Monsanto exert so much power over the food industry and politics. There was a time when a farmer in India or Bolivia would just store a couple of his seeds from this year to plant out next year. If GMOs continue their march of triumph, there will be a time when that is impossible, as they can only remain competitive by using them. So then they have to pay an annual fee to shareholders in the US and Europe to even be allowed to earn their living instead of buying seeds once and that’s it. We should at least be aware that a world like that is a very different one from the one we had before. I at least would feel way more comfortable if all the GM crops could be developed and held by government-financed research institutions and turned into public domain when considered tried and tested. We are talking about the most basic need of all human beings here, after all.

    I addition, I remain utterly unconvinced that much of what Monsanto et al are doing will actually help that significantly to feed the world population. I can certainly see splendid uses for more salt-, drought- or heat-tolerant crops, but genes for pesticide resistance will sooner or later spread into the wild relatives of the crop via pollination or weeds will simply evolve resistance themselves; same for genes inserted to kill bugs. It is a rat race. And anyway, the real problems for our future food supply seem to be climate change, overuse of aquifers, soil erosion, death of soil microorganisms, and the fact that people just can’t seem to stop breeding even if they are hungry already. Of course, except the first and the last those items are caused by exactly the kind of industrialized agriculture that GMOs are developed for.

    So yes, there is something to be gained from GM crops, especially in the area of making them grow in less hospitable places. Yes, those activists are loons. But there is no reason to turn into cheerleaders of Monsanto of all things! They need the same kind of watching as News of the World or TEPCO.

  48. #48 Ewan R
    July 14, 2011

    Both natural and artificial selection work on the phenotype

    artificial selection works increasingly at the molecular level devoid of phenotype – you figure out which bits of DNA are associated with a desired phenotype (initially) and subsequently ignore phenotype and just check that your genotype stays how you want it (breeders do a surprising amount of architectural shifting of genetic sequence this way – pulling useful bits of chromosomes together so that they are co-inherited more frequently for example) – your characterization of artificial selection is very pre molecular breeding. Conceptually one could utilize a massive breeding population and a longass period of time and transform any piece of the genome to do whatever the hell you wanted it to simply by sequencing and selecting only those individuals closer to your target at the end of each generation – by this method any and all conceivable transgenes could be inserted into an organism without once checking phenotype and without incurring any regulatory burden.

  49. #49 windy
    July 14, 2011

    Both natural and artificial selection work on the phenotype, whereas GM works direct on the genotype, something hardly ever seen in nature.

    Yeah except for this little thing called ‘mutation’. GM breeders still need to observe and select for the desired phenotype, like traditional breeders.

    Furthermore, GM can mix genes from widely differing species, which if it had ever happened regularly in the past by any means would not have produced the phylogeny that we see all around us and which is the foundation of the science of biology.

    It has happened regularly, if very rarely (at least for eukaryotes). With GM, it happens more often but is still rare in the grand scheme of things – not enough to disturb general tree-like patterns of evolution. It doesn’t contradict the claim that GM does what nature has done, but speeded up.

  50. #50 nsib
    July 14, 2011

    This is a giant step for humans, changing things forever in ways we don’t begin to understand; and to pretend it’s just a speeded-up relation of rose breeding is a frightening and depressing lie.

    Hey Loughrey, don’t assume other people don’t understand something just because you yourself don’t get it. There is no gene that genetic engineering can create that can’t be gotten from natural or artificial selection, given enough time. The only difference between a rose gene and a fish gene is a finite number of base pairs, and those are all subject to mutation.

    Oh, and this?

    and it isn’t like anything ever seen on the earth before.

    Complete B.S. Viruses have been transferring genes between species for millions of years.

  51. #51 nsib
    July 14, 2011

    Ah, ninja’d. That’ll teach me to not refresh before posting.

  52. #52 Grant
    July 14, 2011

    In New Zealand a few years ago (1999?) we had a group who destroyed a crop and more recently in a closed glasshouse (for example, see: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=586108).

    My recollection is that among that non-GMOs destroyed were a Ph.D. student’s subjects, which set her work back a year. (I forget the details now, so I may be wrong.)

  53. #53 Douglas Watts
    July 15, 2011

    The commons are the commons. Someone has to protect them. Scientists are utterly ignorant of history, which is why they are such useful tools for industry. You’ll do anything for a paycheck.

  54. #54 Alex SL
    July 15, 2011

    Douglas,

    Many scientists express their concern about patenting biological resources. The people analyzing contamination of water sources by fracking are also scientists. Scientists are usually motivated primarily by the desire to generate knowledge, not by high paychecks, otherwise they would not have become, well, scientists; there are way higher paying career paths for people with the intellectual capacity that is necessary to become a good scientist.

    A mum who thinks that genes are somehow icky IS a mum who is ignorant of science. And having a different opinion about the regulation of GMOs does not mean you are allowed to destroy others’ property. Especially because many eco-activists are too moronic to realize that not every plot that contains experimental plants contains GM plants; similar to what Grant pointed out, there are enough cases of ecological or taxonomic experiments that have been destroyed by vandals whose cognitive abilities are greatly overshadowed by their quasi-religious zeal.

  55. #55 Achrachno
    July 15, 2011

    Terrorists? That seems a tad strong. I think we’re using that word much too freely these days, though more as an epithet than an actual description. I doubt anyone was fearing for their lives because some wheat was destroyed with weed whackers. We can’t seem to call those who practice “shock and awe” terrorists — but two women with lawn tools?

    Wouldn’t “green trespassers” or “vandals” be more accurate? What they did was a major pain for those doing the work, expensive and damaging, but until they do start threatening lives to scare people away from this research, “terrorist” seems way over the top to me.

  56. #56 windy
    July 15, 2011
  57. #57 Spence
    July 15, 2011

    Re: Loughrey,

    The method by which DNA changes is uninteresting, if you can get to the same end result by different means (exactly what Ewan R pointed out, which is why I pointed out GM speeds stuff up). The DNA sequence is entirely within the capability of nature.

    Complete B.S. Viruses have been transferring genes between species for millions of years.
    There is a certain irony, given the name of this very blog, that people don’t realise that…

  58. #58 Stephen Bahl
    July 15, 2011

    Terrorists? That seems a tad strong. I think we’re using that word much too freely these days, though more as an epithet than an actual description. I doubt anyone was fearing for their lives because some wheat was destroyed with weed whackers. We can’t seem to call those who practice “shock and awe” terrorists — but two women with lawn tools?

    Are you familiar with “eco-terrorism”? It’s a term that’s usually used to describe sabotage (as opposed to blowing people up or whatever). Tree-spiking and the like.

  59. #59 KosherCorvid
    July 15, 2011

    I just don’t understand where all the misinformation comes from! Especially since some of the “traditional” methods for creating new strains of foods are so much less predictable and relatively unregulated (giving us toxic Lenape potatoes), yet no one makes a stink because we’ve been doing them for so long. Why is it that when one alters an organism’s genetics through breeding, it’s fine, but make a precision strike with all the tools at one’s disposal and it’s mad science?

    There’s a great book for the layman on the subject (Mendel in the Kitchen), but those who need its information most will never read it. That “dumb Mum” would probably throw it at my head and say it was hurting her children.

    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.

  60. #60 Rambleale
    July 15, 2011

    Re: GM verses ‘traditional breeding’.

    A wheat fusarium resistance researcher once told me that he had a really good variety developed by knocking out a gene in a specific pathway exploited by the pathogen but as it was GM it wasn’t comercially viable. Now he was trawling through various varieties searching for one with a mutation taking that gene out ‘naturally’ to use in his breeding program instead.

    A mad waste of time,money etc.

  61. #61 Ellyn
    July 15, 2011

    Douglas Watts:
    “The commons are the commons. Someone has to protect them. Scientists are utterly ignorant of history, which is why they are such useful tools for industry. You’ll do anything for a paycheck.”

    Hey, I resent that remark. If I was a greedy money grabber, I wouldn’t have become a scientist. There’s no money in my field.
    And if you were truly interested in defending the commons, wouldn’t calls to review patent law perhaps be a little more constructive than vandalism?

    My favorite story of gene transfer across species I like to tell the ‘Oh-er GMO is unnatural’ crowed is that of one of the species I worked on while doing my Masters. Drosophilla ananassae is a fruit fly that’s one of the thousands of insects that carry the bacterial symbiote, Wolbachia . In some populations of D. ananassae , there appears to be a possible insertion of the whole Wolbachia genome in their second chromosome. (They think it’s they whole thing – of 45 genes screened, 44 genes were present) This isn’t just merely gene transfer between species, but between different kingdoms. I think there are now groups looking at the insertion to see if anything in there is functional or if it serves any benefit to the fly.
    This isn’t the only time this has happened; a similar thing has occurred in another Wolbachia carrier, the beetle Callosobruchus chinensis . About 30% of the bacterial genes are present in the beetle’s nuclear genome.

    While I’ll admit that horizontal gene transfer is rare in eukaryotes, it is not entirely unheard of and not at all unnatural.

  62. #62 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    There is far more than DNA involved in the development of an organism.

    E.g. RNA. Prions.

    There are things we don’t know about DNA: Junk DNA isn’t junk, we just don’t know what it’s for.

    And the proteins built by the DNA coding depend on expressions in other development pathways and changes in the enviornment (which is why a frog has more DNA information than humans: it has to code up how do build a baby in an uncontrolled environment).

    This is why cross-breeding is a safer bet.

    Genetic progress by cross-breeding explores the nearby possible. Genetic progress by artificial insertion explores any possible. And unless we know the consequences, we can’t say it’s right.

    Of course, if there were a problem in 20 years with Bt Cotton, for example, the CEO at the time of its production and all the people who pushed it will clear it up, won’t they?

  63. #63 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    “Terrorists? That seems a tad strong. I think we’re using that word much too freely these days, though more as an epithet than an actual description.”

    Yup.

    If they’d blown up a shopping center and said “As long as you allow GM foods, further actions will be taken”, THEN it would be fair to call them terrorists.

    They are saboteurs.

    It’s a real word.

    You can use it.

    And it’s actually accurate.

  64. #64 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    “If I was a greedy money grabber, I wouldn’t have become a scientist. There’s no money in my field.”

    There is if you’re willing to prostitute your honour.

    It’s also possible to happen if you’re immersed in a culture of greed. It’s the driver of the moving overton window: to fit in, you’ll migrate a little toward the median position of the people you meet most often. Then a little more. And so on.

    There’s also a lot of money in science if you’re willing:

    1) Geology. Work for the fossil fuel industry.
    2) Mathematics. Work for the investment bankers
    3) Chemistry. Work for Agribusiness
    4) Biology. Work for Big Pharma

    and so on.

    NOTE:

    a) Getting paid for work is not wrong.
    b) Working for these companies is not wrong.
    c) Evidence of wealth or working for these companies is no proof of malice.

    You don’t have to be evil to work there, but it helps.

    One of several problems with businesses now is that they’re being run by MBAs (Accountants) or Bankers (Accountants). A biopharm company OUGHT to be run by a chemist, biologist or similar.

    That’s not to say that they’d be more honourable (see Wegman or the Wehrmacht for example), but that the operation of the business would be run for the purposes of that business, not for the purposes of extracting maximum profit with a side helping of running away before it all goes south.

    If I were putting my money in a bank, I’d want the bank to be run by a banker, not a scientist.

    But why are most businesses run by bankers, even though they’re not about banking?

  65. #65 windy
    July 15, 2011

    And the proteins built by the DNA coding depend on expressions in other development pathways and changes in the enviornment (which is why a frog has more DNA information than humans: it has to code up how do build a baby in an uncontrolled environment).

    Argh, no. First of all a frog does not necessarily have a larger genome than a human. It’s salamanders that have the huge genome sizes. This has nothing to do with an “uncontrolled environment” (it would be strange if salamander environments were several times more uncontrolled than those of frogs) And how does this relate to GM, anyway?

  66. #66 JohnV
    July 15, 2011

    In that giant wall of text he managed to not explain his position on the Schmeiser case and Ewan’s comment, but managed to drop additional turds.

    I’m very shocked.

  67. #67 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    Well Salamanders LOOK a lot like frogs.

    What it has to do with GM is that genetic modification doesn’t modify the non-genetic expressions that cause an organism to grow and develop.

    E.g. we don’t change prions.

    It also neglects the environmental factors that change gene expression. E.g. what if it’s a cold winter and your genetic modification doesn’t express itself in the right toxin production? What about if it’s really wet? We can check many, but not most of these changes.

  68. #68 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    I;m with you too, JohnV, I couldn’t get anything sensible out of EwanR’s wall of text either. Best I could get from it is “I knows it’s safe and I’m right”. Which is certainly a statement, but hardly anything to take to the bookies.

  69. #69 JohnV
    July 15, 2011

    No you’re certainly not with me. However, that response does answer my question at 36 :p

  70. #70 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    Well, Ewan hadn’t apparently read mine, so I figured that sauce for the gander was also fine.

    I note that despite your postings you haven’t explained your position on the Schmeiser case nor your feelings about Ewan’s post (I have).

    But I guess it’s easier to snipe than have an opinion and defend it, isn’t it.

    So I’m rather glad there’s a difference between us. You, counting your money until your soul turns green.

  71. #71 Ewan R
    July 15, 2011

    Well, Ewan hadn’t apparently read mine, so I figured that sauce for the gander was also fine.

    How exactly had I not read your piece – you posted a rather glossed over version of the Schmeiser case devoid of any of the actual details of the case – I merely interjected with the facts of the matter as reported in the court documents – facts which you’ve done utterly nothing to post feelings or position on.

    But I guess it’s easier to snipe than have an opinion and defend it, isn’t it.

    would certainly explain

    I couldn’t get anything sensible out of EwanR’s wall of text either.

    Personally I prefer a spray and pray approach to the whole sniping thing however (hence my walls of text)

    (are there bonus points for FPS references?)

    One of several problems with businesses now is that they’re being run by MBAs (Accountants) or Bankers (Accountants). A biopharm company OUGHT to be run by a chemist, biologist or similar.

    From what I remember Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, has a BS in agricultural zoology, a postgrad degree in agriculture, and only then went on to get an MBA – so apparently you’re totally digging the leadership of Monsanto, which I guess is a good thing. (most of the MBA holders I work with have a background in the sciences and then took the MBA later in life simply to get ahead in the company in management positions etc – my guess is that this would likely also apply in other agribusinesses and chemical companies)

  72. #72 Ellyn
    July 15, 2011

    Wow:

    I should have been clearer perhaps- I meant my specific field of science. I am in evolutionary genetics. If anyone is interested, our groups’ work focuses on how populations adapt to environmental stresses, such as the effects of climate change or insecticides. Trust me when I say it can be difficult to procure funds, and for anyone to imply that we are only in this for the money is laughable.

  73. #73 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    Aye, Ellyn, but it’s not sufficient to say “I wouldn’t have gone into science if I wanted money”. The money is out there. If there’s a commercial edge available by exploiting it, it’ll pay.

    Yours is one (of many) where there’s no large economic windfall so doesn’t get much in the way of dosh.

  74. #74 windy
    July 15, 2011

    Well Salamanders LOOK a lot like frogs.

    LOL! I suppose, like weasels have a striking resemblance to kangaroo rats… are you trying to Poe us?

    E.g. we don’t change prions.

    And that’s a bad thing?? Do you know what a prion is? Anyway, afaik, no prions have been identified in plants, so it’s kind of a weird reason to be suspicious of GM wheat.

    It also neglects the environmental factors that change gene expression. E.g. what if it’s a cold winter and your genetic modification doesn’t express itself in the right toxin production? What about if it’s really wet?

    Do you think traditional cross-breeding of new plant varieties is somehow immune to these concerns? There’s always Lysenko’s method that didn’t require any sort of genetic modification of the plants (traditional or GM), but that didn’t work out so well…

  75. #75 Achrachno
    July 15, 2011

    S.B. “Are you familiar with “eco-terrorism”? It’s a term that’s usually used to describe sabotage (as opposed to blowing people up or whatever). Tree-spiking and the like.”

    Yes, but tree spiking is designed to scare people out of cutting trees. Chain saw hitting spike results in metal bits flying all over the place. But oddly, as far as I know, tree spikers have always warned people that some trees in forest X were spiked. They apparently don’t want anyone to get hurt: even that form of terrorism is much milder than setting off a car bomb in a market or dropping bombs from the sky on a city. Milder than real terrorism, that is. Using a weed whacker on wheat is substantially less terrorizing than even tree spiking (with warning). It’s aggravating and all, but I doubt that any of the researchers were actually in terror of the women with weed whackers. POed big time, no doubt.

    Let’s try to use words that reflect reality, rather than becoming verbal extremists.

  76. #76 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    “Do you think traditional cross-breeding of new plant varieties is somehow immune to these concerns?”

    Since cross-breeding reaches the nearby possible rather than reaching well beyond any reliable extrapolation, yes.

    Or, if you want to be REALLY silly about it, the chance of disaster is reduced to the minimum level, though we still may get ripped a new one years down the line like we did with bananas:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#Modern_cultivation

    “There’s always Lysenko’s method”

    No, there isn’t. Sorry:

    “In reality, the technique was neither new (it had been known since 1854, and was extensively studied during the previous twenty years), nor did it produce the yields he promised.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism#In_agriculture

    PS what do you mean “that didn’t work out so well…”? The method was used (see link), but just didn’t work. Your phraseology would infer that we had some actual damaging result of the method in agriculture.

    Are you sure you’re not getting it mixed up with Lysenkoism ideology, rather than the method?

  77. #77 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    And doesn;t this sound more like the GM trials than the opposition to them?

    “So quickly did he develop his prescriptions – from the cold treatment of grain, to the plucking of leaves from cotton plants, to the cluster planting of trees, to unusual fertilizer mixes – that academic biologists did not have time to demonstrate that one technique was valueless or harmful before a new one was adopted. The Party-controlled newspapers applauded Lysenko’s “practical” efforts and questioned the motives of his critics. Lysenko’s “revolution in agriculture” had a powerful propaganda advantage over the academics, who urged the patience and observation required for science.”

    (from the same link)

  78. #78 ErkLR
    July 15, 2011

    Gish Gallop FTW!

  79. #79 windy
    July 15, 2011

    Gish Gallop FTW!

    Bullfrog!! …or is it a salamander? I can’t tell anymore!

  80. #80 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    “as far as I know, tree spikers have always warned people that some trees in forest X were spiked. They apparently don’t want anyone to get hurt:”

    The IRA used to warn ahead of time before blowing up their bombs.

  81. #81 Wow
    July 15, 2011

    Not really, windy. I don’t have the reference with me, so made light of the issue.

    I didn’t think that would be too big a deal for you, but if that’s your bag, then I’ll get back to you.

    Meanwhile, anything of substance about post 34:

    “Monsanto don’t unleash the hounds unless there is clear evidence of intentional presence of the transgene sans license.”

    Like this guy:

    “Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing GMO genetically modified Roundup resistant canola in 1998. Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby GMO farm. Monsanto successfully argued in a lawsuit that Schmeiser violated their patent rights, and forced Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.”

    Or were you doing a bit of tag-team gishgalloping yourselves?

  82. #82 nsib
    July 15, 2011

    Wow. It’s like you’re incapable of reading anything that conflicts with your views. Everything Ewan R @29 said after “Monsanto don’t unleash the hounds unless there is clear evidence of intentional presence of the transgene sans license.” was a direct refutation of your pitiful take on that story, and this is the second time you’ve ignored that. It’s already clear your thoughtbox is broken; there’s really not a need to parade that fact anymore, so save whatever face you have left and stop posting crap.

  83. #83 JohnV
    July 15, 2011

    holy shit Wow.

  84. #84 cynical1
    July 15, 2011

    Questions for Wow: These are all yes/no, either/or type questions.

    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?

    Should they only purchase non-GM crops and/or seed knowing that they will successfully feed fewer starving people and consequently more people will die?

    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? And, if so, should I kill him before or after the wedding to help fit a more rigorous definition of terrorism? I think his daughter is going to be upset either way but she’s a social worker so I guess I won’t have to kill her, although she may carry some of those GM corn genes that took over his mind and body years ago. (He can get pretty excited talking about his corn experiments so it must have happened!)

    My next door neighbor uses neither herbicides or pesticides on his yard. If I have to kill him to protect the planet, is it okay if I steal his beautiful tomatoes that were probably grown from a GM seed and make a nice salad? 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”?

    Please guide me in my journey toward enlightenment.

  85. #85 Stephen Bahl
    July 15, 2011

    Let’s try to use words that reflect reality, rather than becoming verbal extremists.

    I don’t know what a verbal extremist is, but I should make it clear that I haven’t called these people terrorists nor defended the notion that they are terrorists. My point was merely that the word “terrorism” is commonly used to describe stuff like this. “Eco-terrorism” usually doesn’t involve intentionally killing or maiming anyone and I’ve typically seen it used to describe the destruction of property (like this) in conjunction with political motives regarding the environment, sometimes only vaguely (like burning down houses that were purported to be “green” because they considered that claim to be a lie).

    Anyway, there’s certainly a difference between vandalizing someone’s research and killing people, but the use of “terrorism” as a term to describe stuff like this is already quite widespread. If you were already aware of this but want to argue against this use of the word on the basis that it conflates two different things, fine, I guess I don’t really have an opinion either way on that.

  86. #86 Stephen Bahl
    July 15, 2011

    There is far more than DNA involved in the development of an organism.

    E.g. RNA. Prions.

    There are things we don’t know about DNA: Junk DNA isn’t junk, we just don’t know what it’s for.

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

    Anyway, some DNA really isn’t “for” anything. I remember some posts on this very blog giving examples of this, although I can’t remember which ones off the top of my head.

  87. #87 JustaTech
    July 15, 2011

    @Achrachno: So when does it change from sabotage to terrorism? When there is a press release? “We have destroyed this field/spiked these trees/burned down these houses to make you stop doing X.”

    Is there a minimum monetary value to the damage? A number of years of research lost? A number of endangered species destroyed? Or is it not terrorism until someone dies?

    I guess the only thing to be thankful about this incident is that the people chose to use weedwhackers rather than setting the field on fire.

  88. #88 Loughrey
    July 15, 2011

    @Windy 49 quoting me 46:

    Furthermore, GM can mix genes from widely differing species, which if it had ever happened regularly in the past by any means would not have produced the phylogeny that we see all around us and which is the foundation of the science of biology.

    It has happened regularly, if very rarely (at least for eukaryotes).

    Whoops. Indeed it has. My brain meant “commonly”, not “regularly”. Apologies.

    With GM, it happens more often but is still rare in the grand scheme of things – not enough to disturb general tree-like patterns of evolution.

    Well, this is the key point for me. We’re still at the beginnings of the application of this technology. So far, the number of GM gene transfers across species and higher taxa is negligible, and we know where and what they are, and it’s all carefully monitored and jolly good. But the genetic sciences are progressing at Moore’s Law rates and faster (for example, about a decade to sequence the first human genome, about 60 sequenced in the decade after); and, unlike the number of transistors on an IC, the genetic sciences show no sign of plateauing-out any time soon. 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”. If your answer is yes, you should be worried. Just imagine. If the GM provenance and history of a particular organism isn’t known or available (or is secret for IP reasons!), there’ll be no clear way of classifying organisms by phenotype; a new Linnaeus wouldn’t be able to get started. Life will not form a neat aggregational hierarchy, with no lower-ranking nodes belonging to more than one higher-ranking one; a new Erasmus Darwin wouldn’t be able to get started. No longer will we be able to make falsifiable predictions of the internal or non-apparent traits and characteristics of an organism based on our knowledge of the organism’s classification; how, for example, are you doing to trial new drugs on mice? 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.

    I happen to think that would be a pity.

    It doesn’t contradict the claim that GM does what nature has done, but speeded up.

    I concede that eventually “nature” might insert arctic roe’s genes into potatoes, or grow an ear on the back of a mouse. I suggest the time before it’ll happen is one of these many-times the age of the universe numbers. I also suggest the resulting hybrid might not be viable, or that its resulting phenotypical effect might not be selected; in contrast, GM companies will make sure their products are “selected” (ie by farmers) and those products will become dominant.

    @Ewan 46

    artificial selection works increasingly at the molecular level devoid of phenotype – you figure out which bits of DNA are associated with a desired phenotype (initially) and subsequently ignore phenotype and just check that your genotype stays how you want it (breeders do a surprising amount of architectural shifting of genetic sequence this way – pulling useful bits of chromosomes together so that they are co-inherited more frequently for example) – your characterization of artificial selection is very pre molecular breeding.

    Yes. See above – “we’re still at the beginnings of the application of this technology.” (Apologies if I’ve misunderstood you).

    Conceptually one could utilize a massive breeding population and a longass period of time and transform any piece of the genome to do whatever the hell you wanted it to simply by sequencing and selecting only those individuals closer to your target at the end of each generation – by this method any and all conceivable transgenes could be inserted into an organism without once checking phenotype and without incurring any regulatory burden.

    Please see above – how many ages of the universe is a longass?

    @Nsib 50

    Complete B.S. Viruses have been transferring genes between species for millions of years.

    Uh-huh. But not enough to “disturb [the] general tree-like patterns of evolution.” (Windy again.) I believe in my post 46 I said that “GM was unnatural”, not that rare and hard-to-observe viral transfer between species is “unnatural”. Of course the latter happens – but it is rare in the grand scheme of things, and completely invisible to the naive naturalist classifying and researching a real individual plant or animal. GM has the potential to do this on a scale which will completely change life on earth, and in a way that nature could never realistically have done. So, I think I stand by the word “unnatural” here; if anything is, GM is.

  89. #89 ErkLR
    July 15, 2011

    You’re saying that because we are modifying a small number of cash-crops, we may end up with crocoducks?

  90. #90 Corkscrew
    July 15, 2011

    It’s not “FRANKENFOODS”, it’s “Why the hell should we be made to be beholden to a corporation for our food whose only goal is to make bucketloads of money”.

    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).

    The alternative to this state of affairs is not pretty.

  91. #91 JohnV
    July 15, 2011

    holy shit @ loughrey

  92. #92 Loughrey
    July 15, 2011

    Just reread my post 88 and I’d like to add that I’m not arguing that because GM is “unnatural”, we should or can abandon it. I’m just saying that it’s a big big decision, and society should go into it with its eyes open, and it should be decided democratically by common men and women, and not giant multinational companies or (I dare say) the kind of people who post on this board; and I’m saying that the oft-repeated claim that GM is just natural or artificial selection speeded up is a simple lie, and that the matter is too important to play Junior Common Room debating like that with.

  93. #93 Stephen Bahl
    July 15, 2011

    Just reread my post 88 and I’d like to add that I’m not arguing that because GM is “unnatural”, we should or can abandon it. I’m just saying that it’s a big big decision, and society should go into it with its eyes open, and it should be decided democratically by common men and women, and not giant multinational companies or (I dare say) the kind of people who post on this board; and I’m saying that the oft-repeated claim that GM is just natural or artificial selection speeded up is a simple lie, and that the matter is too important to play Junior Common Room debating like that with.

    So these people who are advocating for an elimination of democracy and the rule of multinational companies and/or rule by those who comment at ERV…

    …Where can I find them? I sort of missed that part.

  94. #94 Loughrey
    July 16, 2011

    ErkLR 89:

    You’re saying that because we are modifying a small number of cash-crops, we may end up with crocoducks?

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

    A year or so ago someone mooted GM mosquitoes that would be unable to carry the malaria parasite. Such mosquitoes would also be given some kind of selective advantage so that they would become dominant in a wild population, and then released. Is that a good thing? It will save many lives, but the ecological effects are unknown and the lives might have been saved anyway if the money were invested in water technology, nets, drugs, etc. Honestly, everyone – I really don’t know; it’s a tough call. Just about the only thing I’m sure of is that GM won’t stop with “a small number of cash crops”, and that as soon as a decade from now we’ll be seeing many more ideas like the mosquito one. IMO we should all be frightened of this technology – very frightened. Perhaps we should adopt it anyway, but that’s because we’re humans, and humans are able to overcome their fear. But to adopt it and change the structure of life on earth just because it will make Monsanto a few dollars… well that’s simply incredibly depressing. (See Alex @ 47, every word of which I think all sides can agree with).

  95. #95 Spence
    July 16, 2011

    Loughery:
    and I’m saying that the oft-repeated claim that GM is just natural or artificial selection speeded up is a simple lie
    Nothing pisses me off in a scientific debate than this. On a point of scientific disagreement, one side ratchets up emotional rhetoric by accusing the other side of lying. It is an unscientific way of discussing things, and in this case utter bullshit; we’re talking about people’s understandings of evolution, and saying something is a lie implies that they accept your version of evolution but are intentionally choosing to ignore it. Utter bullshit. You have no way of knowing this, short of telepathy. And given how weak your understanding of evolution appears to be – your thinking has more in common with a creationist than a biologist – you really are in no position to make such a claim.

    In short, in science it is acceptable for people to hold different perspectives. Flinging around accusations of lying are evidence of political advocacy and trolling and not evidence of being willing to engage in scientific discussion.

  96. #96 Spence
    July 16, 2011

    I concede that eventually “nature” might insert arctic roe’s genes into potatoes, or grow an ear on the back of a mouse. I suggest the time before it’ll happen is one of these many-times the age of the universe numbers.
    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.

    That any single DNA sequence is fantastically unlikely is irrelevant. It doesn’t mean nature can’t reach it. The question has to be, what are the risks associated with these sequences? Which your point fails to answer.

    Well, what we do know is that nature does indeed randomly splice huge chunks of DNA from one form of life to another. We have loads of evidence of this. Even the title of this blog alludes to evidence of this taking place over and over again. We can trace back histories of evolution by looking at how viruses have spliced into the population.

    Most of these individual splices end up being non-viable. So, in fact, what we see in our population is just the tip of the iceberg. Some end up as just junk. Of those that end up as junk, some coincidentally happen at the same time as an advantageous DNA change and are kept. It is just these that we get a record of.

    And if you count up the ones we have a record of, plus the more common ones we don’t have a record of, none of these changes have resulted in the end of the ecosystem as we know it.

    As you seem to have tacitly acknowledged, there is no barrier in nature to these things. The path of evolution is not deterministically predictable – there is no set path to nature, and nature does not care about what types of lifeforms are created. The idea that the remoteness of probability of some creature evolving is a meaningful indicator of the risk associated with such a creature is just irrational. Not only is there no barrier, but nature (plus geological time spans) have run tests aplenty of splicing all sorts of DNA together. And you know what? There were no big problems. Life carried on in much the same way it always has.

    That isn’t a reason not to test. Indeed, GM crops are more carefully tested than any other crop designed through other means (which could, given enough time, reach the same end). Which means, to my mind, GM crops are probably safer than any other crop type.

  97. #97 SLC
    July 16, 2011

    Re ErkLR @ #37

    I think that Mr. ErkLR is thinking of Jonathan Wells, currently with the Dishonesty Institute in Seattle, who got his PhD in biology at UC Berkeley at the behest of the Reverend Moon. Others who have taken this route include PhD astrophysicists Jason Lisle and Marcus Ross, both of whom are YECS.

  98. #98 Achrachno
    July 16, 2011

    Justa: “So when does it change from sabotage to terrorism?”

    When terror is used as political weapon to force a government or population to change a policy, activity or belief through fear — which it plainly was not in this case. No one was terrorized. Please use a more appropriate word.

  99. #99 Spence
    July 16, 2011

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

    Firstly, you can’t be 100% sure of anything. But you can be pretty sure that we won’t have crocoducks, or anything else that will cause enormous devastation. Furthermore, we can be pretty sure of the significant benefits GM crops can provide. Reduced water usage. Reduced pesticide usage. Increased crop yields that feed more people. Crops with greater nutritional benefit that can counteract malnutrition and ill health associated with it, especially in the poorest countries.

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

  100. #100 ERV
    July 16, 2011

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