Anastasia Bodnar and GMOs: Interview Part II

I'm going to be interviewing Anastasia Bodnar, an expert on agriculture who is on the board of Biolmogy Fortified, Inc, "... an independent 501(c)(3) that aims to encourage conversation about agriculture, biotech, food, and related subjects. The interview will be Sunday, March 22, DETAILS HERE. She is very interested in the intersection between science and policy when it comes to agriculture." The Interview will be next Sunday, March 22nd, on Atheist Talk Radio.

Anastasia is an expert on GMOs, and that is mainly what we'll be talking about. Mike Haubrich interviewed Dr. Bodnar on Atheist Talk Radio a few weeks ago, but they did not get through all the interesting stuff they wanted to cover, so this will be like Part II but with me.

A bit about Anastasia from her web page:

Originally from Florida, Anastasia has a BS in Biology from the University of Maryland and a PhD in Genetics, with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture, from Iowa State. Anastasia researched using biotech and breeding to enhance nutritional traits in corn and investigated potential unintended effects of genetic engineering.

Prior to completing college, Anastasia served as a Preventive Medicine Specialist in the US Army. In Seoul, she led a team of specialists in public health, occupational health, and environmental inspections. At Ft. Meade, she was program manager for a West Nile virus surveillance program for the north-eastern US. She also served as a Department of Defense certified pest controller, consulting on integrated pest management methods.

In 2011, Anastasia was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow and worked at the National Institutes of Health. She conducted special projects in science policy, science communication, and legislative affairs. Anastasia currently works for the US Department of Agriculture in the Biotechnology Regulatory Services.

I've got a pretty good idea what we are going to talk about, but if you have questions do post them below or call in or email during the show!

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"GMO's"? Really?

(You're use of grammar is a bit lose).

By Windchaser (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

Thank you for your substantive and helpful comment. That, however, is not grammar. It is highly unpossible that I would make a grammatical mistake.

Windchaser, Really?

"(You’re use of grammar is a bit lose)."

Perhaps you are unable spot the two grammatical mistakes you made in your post due to the "log in your own eye" as you were criticizing the "splinter" in Greg's?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

Many of the arguments put out for why GMOs are not safe and should not be allowed are as scientifically empty as the arguments against (say) evolution and vaccines. Does she see a reasonable way to counter those arguments in a factual way that will be widely accepted, or is the PR war too close to being lost?

I assume businesses are in GMOs for the long run. Does she also think so, or is she seeing signs that industry is on the verge of considering the resistance is too costly (in damage to their reputation and their bottom line) and so might consider getting out?

Possibly off-target:
What would she say are the most accessible reliable sources for articles on safety of GMOs?

Windchaser: did you not notice this as the headline Greg linked to:

"GMO's and Social Media", Anastasia Bodnar on Atheists Talk #299, January 25, 2015.

I would suggest you take a minute and do a little research before you loose your cool.

Please have the producers pay attention to the remote audio feed quality. The last show with Dr. Bodnar was unintelligible. I know this can be tough, but have them see what they can do.

By M. T. MacPhee (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

Indeed! I am assured that we will have good audio this time.

I've always thought that one good argument is this:

Option 1: No GMO crops at all
Option 2: Traditional GMO crops
Option 3: "New-style" GMO crops

Option 1 is voted "no" by everyone, as it leads to sky-high prices for food and wide-spread starvation. (Reasons should be obvious...)

Option 2 is the one we've gotten used to. Option 3 is desirable for replacing Option 2, but has bad PR.

Point is, those who are against Option 3 are pretty much oblivious to the fact that they're eating Option 2 food, and are deluded into thinking that they've enjoying Option 1 -- only they're not (unless they're farming & eating their own teosinte, einkorn, etc.).

And what about the "non-GMO" foods we're eating today? None of it is actually "non-GMO" -- they've all been heavily genetically modified (to increase yields, to add desirable traits, to increase hardiness, etc.).

One may ask then, what's the difference between Option 2 and Option 3? The "non-GMO" Option 2 foods these anti-GMO types prefer are genetically modified using mutagenic chemicals, radiation, etc. that intentionally scramble the genetic code -- in ways unknown -- in the hopes that a small percentage will mutate in a desirable way.

Do we know everything that's happening in the cases where we irradiate or chemically mutate corn, wheat, rice, livestock, etc. to "improve" it? No... Do we know in the case of Option 3 GMO? Yes...

So what's safer to eat? Food that's been genetically modified in uncontrolled, poorly-understood ways, or food that's been genetically modified in known, carefully-controlled ways?

Bottom line, if you're shopping at the grocery store for food, it's all been GMO'd, and pretty much done in ways that should scare you (if you're that type). At least the new-style GMO is done in a manner you should consider safer.

...Because eating truly non-GMO'd food is not an option. (Even if you buy seeds and grow your own in the backyard -- the seeds have been GMO'd, too. Sorry!) Pick your GMO method carefully!

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

Brainstorm says, "Perhaps you are unable spot the two grammatical mistakes you made in your post due to the “log in your own eye” as you were criticizing the “splinter” in Greg’s?"

I thought the ironic humor would help lessen the snark factor of my post. Sorry, but I find "GMO's" to be pretty distracting.

Anyways. Greg, thanks for posting the info! I'm looking forward to the interview.

By Windchaser (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

"GMO's" is the correct plural form for an acronym.

"GMOs" is the form advocated by journalism style guides. I guess it is also correct.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

Windchaser - why do you find it "distracting"?

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

It has seemed to me that we've been using GMO's since the earliest days of human cultivation. There is certainly nothing natural about the modern banana, tomato, carrot, corn, or pretty much any harvestable crop. I can't think of any food crop that has been the source of a major problem.

There have certainly been non-native plant species that have caused problems though. Kudzu in the eastern US or Eucalyptus trees along the western coastal US.

It would be interesting to hear if there are ways to test GMO's for their capacity to become invasive.

It's not just limited to crops, though.

We've also GMO'd every form of livestock (animal) we've domesticated for "harvesting".

None of the animals "down on the farm" in today's world existed before mankind began tinkering with their genes, too.

Modern GMO techniques simply make the processes safer.

So one of the ultimate ironies is that if GMO labeling were to be required on all foods sold that have been genetically modified, then nearly ALL foods in the grocery stores would have to carry such labeling.

The issue is ridiculous, and ridiculous twice-over because the ill-informed public who rage against "GMO foods" are actually campaigning against the safer form in favor of less safe forms -- without realizing what they're advocating.

It's sort of an "inadvertent hypocrisy"...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

I certainly hope that modern GMO technology is not simply a faster version of selective breeding. For example, with modern GMO technology alleles are not simply selected for, but potentially garnered from one species and used in a different one. Otherwise there would not be much real potential.

I think your wish has already been demonstrated. E.g., "Golden Rice", the genes for beta-carotene were transferred into rice from daffodils and a soil bacterium.

More than a half-million children die each year globally from Vitamin A deficiency -- something that Golden Rice "cures".

Shame on all the misguided hypocrites who have tried to stop the production of Golden Rice (et al), causing families around the world to have to needlessly bury their children!

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Mar 2015 #permalink

GMO's have become a big deal in many people's lives and have increased the quaility of most people's lives . GMO's have a lot of good traits such as resistance to pests, resistance to herbicides, increased nutritional value, or production of valuable goods such as drugs.

Products under development include crops that are able to thrive in environmental conditions outside the species' native range or in changed conditions in their range (e.g. drought or salt resistance). GMO's thus exponentially increases the succesful crop rate.

Without GMO's there would not be enough food to sustain this rapidly growing population of our world. The population is too big for the amount of recources and food availible, and thus will lead to a lot of deaths because of this difficiency of food.

Even though there probably are a lot of unknown side effects of the GMO foods that we eat , GMO's seem to be the best solution to solving this problem.

By M. Bester ( u1… (not verified) on 17 Mar 2015 #permalink

Brainstorms: Yes, I hope we get to discuss "Golden Rice" in particular.

Windchaser, I did get your meaning. I only use the greengrocer's apostrophe if it makes things clearer, as with Oakland A's.
More to the point, I am worried about GMOs not because they represent changes to the produce, but because Big Ag - like Big Oil, Big Pharma, etc. - seems more concerned about profit than safety.

Greg... That's my thought as well. It's just a faster, more direct variation on what we've already been doing for the past 10k years.

I have concerns opposite of those who are frightened of GMO's. One of the biggest challenges with climate change is going to be with crop production sustaining 9-10B humans this century, while we're also experiencing more severe flooding and droughts. Even if we are capable of rapidly bringing down CO2 emissions, based on what we've already emitted, we're still going to have considerable adapting to do. GMO's may hold the key to managing some of those challenges.

This just doesn't seem like a great time to be taking any potential solutions off the table (as it were).

I'm a little sceptic that GMO's tech would solve issues as complex as, say, yield, drought or pest resistance, given that it's rarely been used as single gene mendelian polymorphisms in historical conventional breeding. (or when it is, e.g. in plant resistance to pests, it is generally bound to rapid arms race coevolution turnover).

I don't say this never happened (of course I'm fully aware of corn dwarfism or oat golden rust resistance), simply that documented evidence is rather leaning to link sustainable elite phenotypes with rather multigenic constructs.

I think a question around this might be interesting.


There are already GMO-produced varieties of corn that are drought-tolerant. GMO engineering to introduce genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, has transferred pest resistance to corn (rootworm) & cotton (pink bolworm). There are GMO-engineered changes to crops to make them grow in salty water (tomatoes).

And Golden Rice was far from a single gene Mendelian polymorphism: the researchers who developed it had to engineer an entire biosynthetic pathway in rice endosperm, adding three beta-carotene biosynthesis genes from two other species.

Your understanding of GMO technology is WAY behind the times! Read up on where we are today -- it's quite interesting.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 17 Mar 2015 #permalink

Are those tomatoes out there actually being grown? I know that was an early project but I was not sure if it ever came to fruition . And I say that knowing full well that a tomato is a fruit.

I think Laurent who is a plant evolutionary biologist is rather ahead of the times rather than behind them! Long term, it does make sense that your average allele that confers resistance to a pathogen, assuming it is a specific allele (one genotype) producing a specific phenotype, will get out-evolved or otherwise sidelined. That is a good question. Is there consideration in GMO development for diversity and the Red Queen?

In America? Not sure that it was ever allowed, due to the anti-GMO litigators.

China, on the other hand, has been successfully growing GMO-modified tomatoes, as well as eggplants and peppers using ocean water. (They have less interference by citizenry and a more pressing need.)

No offense to Laurent, but his comment maybe gave the wrong impression -- there are GMO success stories, but as with anything bio-tech, the industry can never rest on its laurels and declare any breakthrough as closing the book on the subject -- evolution is relentless, and so there will always be catch-up work to maintain a competitive edge in the "arms race".

As for a similar level of effort needed for drought resistance, salt tolerance, and nutritional fortification, I'll leave that also to the experts. They certainly have their hands full with the biological and technical battles -- they don't need the legal & political battles to hamstring them.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 17 Mar 2015 #permalink

Well, I may be bibliographically antedated with regard to some aspects of the question. Science is generally moving fast (though not always as fast as pretended).

Brainstorms, while I take no offense at your generous advice, I also think it may apply to you. Based on your own comment, I also get impression (hopefully also wrong):
pro-GMOs advocates are too often a bit naively scientistic in their approach of the issue, and quick and prone to label any less optimistic contender with an anti-science stamp that is just plain unfair.
I understand this is because they are not used to meet with "resistance" or "lesser optimism" from people that understand GMO technology correctly, since most of the time this is about stumping onto not-so-knowledgeable tech-deniers. But still.

When I read in your comment that golden rice's failure has directly its roots from people trying to prevent its production, I really wonder if you're not dismissive of the fact that part of the issue is also adoption by local producers of the new technology / variety. This step is often overlooked, even though there are strong cultural and economic constraints to change.
Hypertechnophiles tend to view real world change as a logical and self fulfilling prophecy, and that's where they are bound to fail. GMO's don't escape this, because some subtleties are not even considered of importance. (And in the golden rice case, rice colour was itself a troubling matter for people that would have benefitted from the product).

Beside, GMO's will be an important convenience tool for the industry and the potent industrial agriculture occuring in the temperate western world, but one cannot assume that it will take over more complex agricultural spaces, especially in the tropics. We should stop arguing that it will put an end to starvation or local agricultural deficiencies, because their causes are way beyond the rather limited scope of gene-technology and involve many aspects of ecology, economy and culture that are actually far from understood.

And yes, I'm a muddy hands-on field empiricist. This may have at least an important consequence with regard to the debate: I'm probably more strongly sceptical first-hand about claims of, say, drought resistance, than most people. I may be wrong about this, but this is the first and lasting lesson in field experience.

Greg, that is a great question. It is not limited to GMO's, but asking how GMO's fit in that equation is important.

Currently, many plant breeders are trying to think around what is called "pyramiding": should we cumulate many resistance genes in varieties? The alternative would be managing resistance genes more dynamically (different options with regard to cultivated varieties) in space and time, so as to increase resistance durability. (That would fit in the goal of increased sustainability).

Brainstorms shares the kind of PR we constantly hear from GMO companies: lots of talk about the likes of Golden Rice.
Yes, wouldn't it be great if poor people got access to that kind of thing.

In the Real World, however, virtually 100% of commercially-grown GMO products have nothing to do with better nutrition, and everything to do with increasing the cost of seed for poor people by figures similar to 8000%. And increasing their dependence on herbicides. Which also cost money.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I think it's Brainstorms who is "behind the times", when he shares with us his excitement over:
"Bt, has transferred pest resistance to corn (rootworm)

Um, that "resistance" is fast becoming a thing of the past and not something that seems quite as exciting as it might have in the past:

It may have paid to be sceptical of the scienc-y promises of the GMO industry, which really hasn't yet delivered a product that is both needed and actually looks like working properly, but has managed to bugger things up for a quite a few people.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

Craig, that's a load of ideological BS you just uttered there.

You can read this piece to get a better idea (and maybe read the rest of the series, too):…
Note that an important reason for the higher financial gain from the organically grown corn is due to the higher price you can ask. It's in essence a marketing issue (put a Nike label on a shoe, and its price increase by x-100%).

Laurent, yes, it certainly applies to me -- this is not my field of expertise! And I am not so much a pro-GMO advocate as I am anti-"anti-GMO advocates". I.e., I want to see GMO be given its due based on sound science and proven benefits, not quashed due to fearful prejudices. We should all understand GMO adequately (myself included) so that we can set intelligent, thoughtful policies regarding its development & use.

I also didn't mean to imply that golden rice’s failure stemmed directly from people trying to prevent its production; I'm aware of the social/cultural elements that also come into play regarding its deployment by farmers. I hand-waved and lumped "all non-science" reasons into one phrase. Better to spell out each consideration as you did (time permitting).

I suppose in this venue there's really less need to push back against the prejudicial oppositions. Actually, I find the debates that involve these multiple factors to be more engaging, so thanks for the insights.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

Craig, I'm not a GMO advocate, nor a beneficiary of that industry. The Bt example was just that: an example. I've already noted that once developed, such things as pest resistance do need continual, on-going development due to the effects of evolution to defeat their purpose.

Your statement regarding Golden Rice boils down to, "Those who would benefit most from X are not currently receiving the results of X, therefore X is not a valid pursuit"; this is a logical fallacy -- I would expect you to see that.

Your statement about "virtually 100% of commercially-grown GMO products have nothing to do with better nutrition" is unrealistic & cynical...

Macro already addressed the fallacy regarding cost. I would add that nearly every new technology demonstrates a decline in end-user prices as it develops and goes into wider production.

And that the same phenomenon happens regularly in the pharmaceutical world, with drug companies voluntarily reducing the costs to less-wealthy nations to make sure that the product is available to their markets.

I hope you're just having a bad day and aren't actually that negative when it comes to the potential for technology to solve mankind's problems...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I think there's more than that to Craig's arguments. Again, don't be too dismissive, they are perfectly valid concerns.

GMO's are an oversold technology, and should reasonnably be put back at their place (important, but not miraculous). First, researchers should be more carefull to not mimicking industry narratives as to how this tech will solve major societal issues. Yes, there's some interesting potential, but no, we are not exactly filling the full bragged promises.

I remember as a youngie (that's the previous millenium I realise), private industry breeders took scientists to the field trials for transgenic potatoes supposedly resistant to mildew in my homecountry. And guess what? GMO clones were the only diseased plants.
Of course, we then discovered about gene silencing processes. We then discovered about RNA interference. We then discovered about small RNAi and transcriptional dynamics. All this knowledge came out thanks to transgene-tech.
But on the other hand, there's something quite disappointing: the discourse to promote GMO has never changed a iota over the first (and basic) failures, and never had any pro-GMO acknowledged these. Even you, you are saying words I've heard about twenty years ago already. To me, an unbalanced immutable narrative is not the sign of healthy or mature discourse.

Same happened when transgenes were not supposed to cross species boundaries, were not supposed to create environment selective for weed or insect resistance or lead to further the need for increased herbicide weed control, were not supposed to break free in human food tracks while supposed to stay in cattle grains and the list is still going on.

Of course, none of these documented events were that bad and catastrophic. But as the list was growing in the previous decades, it should have induced at minima a change in the narrative, so as to adjust to all the potential prescriptive bad luck events that had been correctly predicted by evolutionary biologists.

When you promise gold, people expect gold, not golden rocks. Frankly, while I completely understand how one is exasperated by anti-GMO bad arguments, I cannot despise the "anti"-crowd for thinking transgene tech is sort of a snake-oil. Because it sort of looks like it is.

Which lead to a question worth posing: in times of dire research funding, how much grant monney is diverted from potentially efficient alternatives to fuel biotech only approaches because of its inner narrative of miraculous solution?

I ask that, because it looks like conventional breeding has improved yield potential at a much larger scale, and GMO builds upon a success without acknowledging that part coming from hard blind genetics, taking gratification for a success it doesn't compare to yet.

(Yep, this is to feed the debate).

Yes, I'm sure there's more to Craig's arguments than that. And I'm actually likely to agree with some (or many) of them. But I'm not going to agree with faulty logic in making any of those arguments (nor do I think any of us should).

If you think I'm being dismissive, then you're reading too much into what I'm trying to say, or I'm doing a bad job of communicating...

Issue: GMO’s are an oversold technology. Agreed. I'm not trying to sell the idea to anyone; I'm not an advocate of the technology myself. I would like to see it be given its due place in the scheme of things, not be prejucially dismissed out of fear, ignorance, etc. Your point about over-promising and under-delivering is well put. Their researchers are shooting themselves in the foot by doing so. That doesn't help anyone, researchers or the public.

Issue: GMO research has resulted in the understanding & development of much science & technology. Yes, much like the space program has been credited with developing spun-off & derivative technology that has help prove its worth. We shouldn't overlook that benefit.

Issue: The failure of pro-GMO advocates to acknowledge its failings & shortcomings. Agreed. Perhaps those in the field are working too hard to justify their existence and funding. I'm not one of those, and I may have said things that you've heard over 20 years because I'm not in the field -- I feel no need to advocate, but I do wish to push back against attitudes that are anti-science (and that about any legitimate science, not just GMO). Point is, my pushing back against anti-GMO bad arguments is not itself advocating GMO.

Issue: GMO technology makes itself look like "snake oil". Again, they have themselves largely to blame for that. Human nature makes for hyping things that look promising that need support & funding to realize benefits.. which can lead to over-selling. But that's an over-selling issue. Does this negate or invalidate the science & pursuit thereof of GMO?

Issue: Does GMO divert too much grant money? I can't answer that; I don't know. Who among us can know, before the fact, where particular research will lead us and what benefits we'll reap by pursuing them? How can we determine what's worth funding and how to divide the pot of grant money?

Issue: Conventional modification of genetics has improved yield potential at a much larger scale. Okay, that's an argument for not replacing conventional techniques with GMO (among many others). But does this argue for not pursuing GMO also?

Issue: GMO fails to acknowledge the shoulders it stands on. Another failing of those involved; but again, does this negate GMO as a science? Does it negate the results?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

My point would be that, while I don't (so far) see a good reason to object to this "golden rice" stuff, I remain convinced that _much_ about unbridled GMO development and use is plain crazy. In all cases, what I would insist on is a preemptory public review on all such development rather than what we now have-- a for-profit system which takes "GMO" virtually anywhere and everywhere what's regarded as a sufficient return on investment is perceived--and nowhere, by the way, where that is lacking. How does Anastasia stand on that view? I wonder.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

Yo hav A Typogaficul eror heer: ..."of Biolmogy Fortified, Inc, “

By proximity1 (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

It's too expensive to be "unbridled". And if we apply those standards to GMO methods of genetic modifications, we'll need to apply them wherever conventional methods are used, because there are conventional methods (radiation, mutagenic chemicals) that are less controlled in terms of what's actually happening to the genome than in the cases of GMO modifications.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

RE: ' "It’s too expensive to be “unbridled”. ' @39

In other words, the supposed financial constraints of the reseacrch are, alone, sufficient as a "bridle"? That means that the very same interests enjoy the roles of judge and jury--since the financial analysts who determine or help determine the cost-effectiveness of any prospective research are themselves employed and paid by the same firms which stand to profit. Whatever your scientific bona fides, your understanding of political human nature leaves much to be desired.

Unbridled meant unchecked by any disinterested parties which present some reasonable chance of representing a well-inforned general lay public opinion.

One way or another, your reply is another indication of how and why we are in danger and in trouble concerning this issue and why it is too important to be left to interested professional scientific actors.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 24 Mar 2015 #permalink

You read WAY too much into one small sentence. I merely pointed out that GMO research is expensive -- too expensive for there to exist "unbridled" use of the technology. "Unbridled", as in "uninhibited, rampant, runaway, irrepressible, unstoppable, intemperate, immoderate".

I.e., you are not going to see your neighbors cooking up GMO "frankenstein" organisms in their garages and unleashing them on the world -- one of the fears of the anti-GMO crowd, as it were.

Don't criticize me for not using your preferred definition of "unbridled" when you only define it after the fact.

Your response also pre-supposes that no governmental, institutional, societal, etc. rules, regulations, laws, policies, etc. exists or would ever exist to apply controls to GMO activities. I did not imply such myself; this comes from you (putting words into my mouth).

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 24 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ 42:

You challenged _my_ use of unbridled -and yes, I do know both what it means and why I used it. You also presumed to know both of those when, in fact, you know the dictionary definition but, clearly, you didn't understand my point _at all_. Or you chose to ignore or avoid addressing it---just as you've done once more in the last reply.

Indeed, I do suppose that no governmental, institutional ...etc. exists now and there's nothing to suggest that this is going to change in the foreseeable future, either. Meanwhile, though you claimed that GMO research is too expensive for it to be done in an "uninhibited" manner (one of the apt synonyms which conveys my intended sense here) you offer us nothing in substantiation of that claim: no citation of the gross or net expenditures on GMO and nothing at all other than your good word for the fact that this financial constraint is all that is or ever could be (two may make that observation, right?) necessary. You discount the idea that as technology "advances", the opportunities for "bathtub"-style GMO endeavors might arise--or maybe the idea just never occurred to you. But there again, why we ought to join you in that assumption is something you don't bother to explain. How the hell do _you_ know that that neither I nor anyone else shall ever "see...neighbors cooking up GMO ...organisms in their garages" ? Hint: You don't know.

Again, your comments are another in a long series of indications of why we're courting disaster in GMO research. I leave for other readers of this blog to judge your comments for their fairness, their open-mindedness and their good faith rather than offer my own one-word characterization for the way you've comported yourself in our exchange of views.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

All this starry-eyed pro-GMO agitation is reminiscent of the naive enthusiasm for nuclear technology back in the '50s.

"Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission:

"It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter; will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history; will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age. This is the forecast of an age of peace."

-New York Times, August 7, 1955

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

The first chairman of the AEC, David Lilienthal:
"there is nothing of a physical nature more friendly to man, or more necessary to his wellbeing than the Sun. From the Sun you and I get every bit of our energy...the energy that gives life and sustains life, the energy that builds skyscrapers and churches, that writes poems and symphonies. The Sun is the friend of Man. In its rays is the magic of life itself. The life-giving Sun is itself a huge atomic energy plant."

Current scepticism-intolerance by GMO-enthusiasts is sounding very similar to this 1950s nonsense.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

Agendas and Instability in American Politics, Second Edition
By Frank R. Baumgartner, Bryan D. Jone

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Laurent. Good post.

The part of the pro-GMO narrative that irks me is the part where there is incessant promotion of the virtues of the likes of "golden rice" out of all proportion to the commercial reality of which organisms they are actually selling, whose virtues are entirely different from "golden rice"'s.

Let's stop talking about "golden rice" and let's talk about what Monsanto et al are actually doing: boosting the sale of roundup, and selling expensive seed that at once reduces the genetic diversity of our food crops and encourages intensive agriculture which is in fact the prime enemy and risk factor when it comes to crop yields.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

...and just like Ben Goldacre has documented in the field of medical/pharmaceutical research - when the companies funding the research selectively release only the research findings they like, we end up with a body of "science" which is not fiable for drawing evidence-based conclusions.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 25 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ 47:

Hear ! Hear !

By proximity1 (not verified) on 26 Mar 2015 #permalink

Point is, those who are against Option 3 are pretty much oblivious to the fact that they’re eating Option 2 food, and are deluded into thinking that they’ve enjoying Option 1

No, Unt Huu. Selective breeding amongst genotype/phenotype is not the same as transgenic.

You know, There is a reason I didn't stick moth genes into tomatoes or bacteria into everything Monsanto.

By Élan vital (not verified) on 27 Mar 2015 #permalink

Agriculture is the backbone of a Country's food security, so the use of GMO's will help strengthen food security since GMO's act as a reliable and sustainable way/procedure of of ensuring good quality food , produced at large amounts. Despite this advantage, the disadvantage to it is that its effect on human health is not known (although studies are still being made). I think we should focus more on firstly identifying its effect before using GMO's on a larger scale.

By Thule Mlandu (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

Food security and GMO are antithetical concepts. Real food security would prohibit humanly-directed plant and animal transgenetic manipulation for any commercial food production uses as wildly dangerous because, unlike natural processes-which, in any case, are part of our natural environment's workings, humanly directed gene manipulations are making an experimental test lab out of open nature with consequences which we can not properly foresee and thus place all flora and fauna at risk from our potential blunders. If this isn't readily understood by all, that alone is good reason why we have no business in running such risks. If we can't feed the planet's populations without reliance on GMOs to boost crop yields, then the planet is insanely over-populated already and it is that problem-- which underlies virtually all other social and political dilemmas-- which we sould address as a priority.

However, the political processes are in such a state of degradation or ruin that, even before any of that can be attempted, the politcal processes must be made responsive to the public's own best informed general interests. In that goal we find too many professional scientists squarely in league with powerful interests which oppose and prevent that political reform.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

#50: "Selective breeding amongst genotype/phenotype is not the same as transgenic."

I never said it was. Read my comment again. My point is this: Outlawing "new style" GMO technologies will not remove "conventional" GMO foods from your table. They're both genetically modified and one is not more dangerous than the other.

Conventional GMO techniques have been used for centuries to genetically modify organisms (plants and animals) to increase pest resistance, increase yield, and confer new desirable traits, just as with new GMO. But conventional GMO techniques can & do include the use of such things as radiation and mutagenic chemicals to cause genetic modifications of the foods you eat (from which selection begins). And the results of these conventional GMO techniques changes the genomes of your food in ways that are not well known or understood.

Contrary to what you imply, it is not just "innocent selective breeding" that's performed. Ignorance of this causes the public to mistakenly assume that conventional techniques are safer and better understood than new GMO techniques. That's misleading people into accepting things that they perhaps should be more concerned about. (We understand one reason why they're not: Familiarity breeds complacency. If new GMO techniques were common, we'd see the same complacency for them.)

And sticking daffodil genes into rice keeps 500,000 children per year from going blind or dying. That's not going to be accomplished (in anyone's lifetime) using conventional techniques.

Should I really get into a snit over that because Monsanto may make a profit doing such things? That's a form of blood on your hands -- and all over misdirection about what industry has really been doing to the plants & animals you eat. NONE of them are natural! Stop kidding yourself that they are.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

#52: Nice argument, but a non-sequitur. Nature is more clumsy at making genetic changes that humans are, and could be expected to make similar dangerous blunders to put flora & fauna at risk.

Not that that hasn't already happened. Ebola is one of Nature's blunders, putting humans at risk. Ditto for HIV. Toxic parasites. The pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica that caused massive loss of chestnut trees.

One could fill this blog page with examples of Nature playing Russian Roulette with genetic mutation that has caused massive loss of life, resources, and capital.

Shall we outlaw Nature making genetic changes because of the potential that Nature could produce something with consequences which we can not properly foresee and thus place all flora and fauna at risk from Her potential blunders?

Your argument doesn't work. Mankind is part of nature. We're changing the Earth all the time. This is one aspect of many, many examples. Get over it. Help fight global warming if you want to be afraid of something we're doing.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

Well, yes Brainstorms #53. But it is not generally accepted as 'kosher' to induce polyploidy in cannabis by subjecting the seeds to the ionizing x-rays found within the confines of old television rectifier tubes or using the mutagenic colchicine to achieve the same outcome.

^^ This was done with wheat and many consider it a cumulative toxin (gliadin) now. The advantage for increased yeild was solely due to convenient, consistent height for mechanical harvesters -- This is true for most current strains of GMO as actual potential yeild is invariably reduced.

As a wise sage with bad feet once pointed out; 'Who put the Tribbles into the quadriticule?'

By Élan vital (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

Man, I hate it when they do that!

To bastardize Arthur C Clarke's famous quote, "As with any sufficiently advanced technology, one must apply it with care, lest one cause bad magic".

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 28 Mar 2015 #permalink

RE 54:

..." Nature is more clumsy at making genetic changes that humans are."
And for "support" of that bald assertion we have (again) just your good word. The actual point is not which, if either, is more "clumsy", "Nature's" happenstance genetic evolutions or, on the other hand, those attempts undertaken by people for (typically) selfish purposes when not simply purely profit-driven aims. No. The point is that we're inevitably going to be subject to natural evolutionary outcomes to a greater or lesser extent since even "our" own efforts to cicumvent them just might cause as many undesired ramifications as they were intended to remedy.

"One could fill this blog page with examples of Nature playing Russian Roulette with genetic mutation that has caused massive loss of life, resources, and capital."

Right, one could. But just why humanly-directed interventions should "double down" on nature's given risks by undertaking their own is (again) something you assume as self-evidently proper or, if not, you either choose not to explain (defend) here or perhaps you just can't explain (defend).

RE: "Shall we outlaw Nature making genetic changes because of the potential that Nature could produce something with consequences which we can not properly foresee and thus place all flora and fauna at risk from Her potential blunders?"

LO (fucking) L ! Allirony is lost on you, isn't it? What seems clear is that, if they only could, indeed, too many scientists would love to do that. In fact, with just a tiny bit of care and imagination, an observer might notice that, in effect, for all practical intents and purposes, GMO research is actually an attempt to achieve the "next best thing", as such scientists would define that, to "outlawing" any and all non-humanly determined genetic outcomes at least as far as human health and food needs are supposedly concerned. That, in other words, is the dispute in a nutshell. And I had to point this nuance out to you!? That's rich! You make a fine hostile witness for the prosecution so, please, do tell us more!

" Help fight global warming if you want to be afraid of something we’re doing."

IOW: "Go away! You bother us (i.e. me) !

LO (fucking) L again. Gee, I'm so used to deciding for myself when, where and how to defend causes I support or criticize those which I oppose that, rather than take your kind advice to drop dead, I'll continue to challenge you to come up with something which begins to resemble an intellectually respectable argument. Unlike your attitude here, I regard your doing so as something which is at least within your rights to attempt even if so far all we've seen suggests that it isn't within your capacity to do.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 29 Mar 2015 #permalink

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Let it be the public's abiding and rightful place, then, to be the first and the last arbiter of distinguishing scientists' good "magic" from their "bad"--- stupendously arrogant fucking stupid and dangerous---magic since scientists are not immune to "the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to."

By proximity1 (not verified) on 29 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ 53: " But conventional GMO techniques can & do include the use of such things as radiation and mutagenic chemicals to cause genetic modifications of the foods you eat (from which selection begins). And the results of these conventional GMO techniques changes the genomes of your food in ways that are not well known or understood."

See also: "Petitio principii"

By proximity1 (not verified) on 29 Mar 2015 #permalink

More RE this citation of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke---

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Perhaps, to someone who's largely innocent of any understanding of science, that might likely be the case. But no one who's acquainted with the essential tenets of scientific investigation should laugh off that line as ridiculously naive.

To those who've left behind them an enchanted view of the world, no, technology, however advanced, is not anything like magic. It's not thought to be magic simply because it may not be understood by non-experts---which includes most of us today in some fields, at any rate. We might dimiss this sort of aphorism as typical of silly throw-lines which people find charming --unless they actually think about them for a few minutes. For a scientist to toss out this line as anything other than a gag or a matter for derision is sad, pathetic and an indication of a person who apparently hasn't bothered to think about it. For no one else to have done so, to have noticed the intellectual bankruptcy of this shallow-minded tripe--that, too, ought to give us pause in a science forum such as this. It's a piece of junk-"thought" and ought to have been dismissed as such.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 03 Apr 2015 #permalink

correctio for 60, above---
Should have read,

"But no one who’s acquainted with the essential tenets of scientific investigation should do anything other than laugh off that line as ridiculously naive.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 03 Apr 2015 #permalink