To GE or Not to GE, that is the Question

To GE or Not to GE, that is the Question

What do you think of the new development regarding the 107 Noble Laureates condemning Greenpeace for their anti GMO campaign and especially against "Golden Rice?"

How safe or unsafe, in your view, is our future if we include GE (Genetically Engineered) crops in our staple diet?

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21 Replies

  • I'm not an expert on this, but I don't need to be. Nobody does. It's not difficult to find the evidence. Indeed we have inadvertently conducted the biggest ever controlled trial on GM food. It has been largely banned in Europe because of very active green parties, but is very widespread in the USA. If GM food were in any way harmful, wouldn't you expect an excess of health problems in the USA? The answer is that there is none - and this after years of GM food in America.

    The anti-GMO rhetoric is much like a religion. It became part of green doctrine early on and has become an item of faith, that they can't relinquish. The bizarre thing is that the greens accept the science on climate change but reject it on GMOs (and nuclear power). That's dishonest.

  • I agree with the fact that anti GMO lobby mostly works on a fear inspired model (much like religion). There is a fear of crossing a plant with the worm. Of course the source of fear is mostly due to misinformation about the genome.

    But, there are some really visible problems with GMO too that needs to be addressed as well.

    Yes, there is some work going on to address the issues of safety but in the light of sounding anti-science, the constructive critiques of the process feel intimidated to speak out clearly. (I'm talking about people strictly within the scientific community). Those who do are called anti - science.

    It is impossible for scientists to predict how it will affect the gene pool in the long term since, in past, humans do have inadvertently tweaked the genes of some plants but in small ways. While some GE experiments are really radical in approach.

  • I also agree there are problems. How could there not be, when we are entering new territory? But they will be solved by science not by hysterical and emotional opposition. One problem is that, as you imply, intelligently challenging the new science attracts the same label as blanket opposition. This is not helpful.

    Underlying the opposition is the conviction that GM is `unnatural'. There is almost nothing we eat that is natural. Genes have been altered for millennia by selective breeding. OK not the same thing as GE, but horizontal gene transfer is common in nature. Our own genome contains dormant viral sequences.

    To my untutored eye, it looks as if orthodox GE may well be an unnecessarily blunt instrument. Gene editing seems to be a better way forward, driven by a much better understanding of the system of inheritance. But that is opposed by the anti-science community as well.

  • Yeah right.

    Their argument is based entirely on Appeal to Nature which serves no purpose.

    Keeping the factor of safety in mind, the regulations need to be tough around GMO (that doesn't mean lobbying against it), until we have the best understanding of its future repercussions and the tools to tackle it.

  • Is this comment indicative of the way scientific Americans mangle English?

  • Mangled English doesn't even matter when facts are being mangled.

    As far as the article is concerned I believe SA has taken a really dignified stand in calling a spade a spade.

    It lays out the cards on the table and explains the nuances of the GMO debate pointing out the facts, the benefits, the possible problems and the importance of criticism.

    SA is a good embodiment of the scientific method.

  • well said. Also it is easy to pontificate about GM food when you are guaranteed not to go hungry or become destitute because pests have eaten all your crops.

    Pretty soon we are going to have to feed a human population of 10 billion plus - GM would seem the obvious solution

  • True that.

    At the same time what we can do is reclaim agricultural land wherever it is being misused.

    What Nolan showed in Interstellar is a world that we are moving to. The one with most food grains will matter a lot in the future.

  • We have an understanding of the fear the Greens have of companies like Monsanto doing despicable corporate stuff around GMOs but the answer is not to ban the science. The answer is to inform people and lobby parliament to ensure the corporates act in our interests, not their own on every occasion. A good place to start is to join the campaign to make the EU trade treaties like TTIP and CETA more geared towards people rather than multi-national companies and to campaign to ban the Corporate courts (anti-democratic, anti-justice corporate "courts" consisting of people who are neither elected or appointed as judges by elected Governments). The simplistic anti-science-we-don't-like stance by the Greens on this and nuclear energy is more like religion, not rationalism.

  • Yeah the grey area around GMO lies with the Corporate lobbying. Vested interests are responsible for maligning the image of science to a great degree.

    Like leaded petrol was sold and its critiques were kept silent for years by the strong lobbying of the energy industry.

    GMO studies need to get out of the corporate ambit so it is not played with to protect the interests of Monsanto.

    However, with the rise of the "Organic lobby", its in their interest to keep GMO under the radar of suspicion as long as their costly products continue to "enrich our lives" with Natural care.

  • TTIP may come in before Brexit. This is worth a watch regarding the vulnerability of the NHS if TTIP is approved by the European Commission:

  • The truth is that we don't know and will never know. There is assumption that modifying the genome will only occur at one place and does not occur at an unknown place.

    We know how the DNA is a code for churning out particular proteins. The plant that is used and is non GM has properties that are reasonably well known by the communities that use it as a food plant.

    If the genome gets modified at an unknown place the GM crop could create a subtle poison which is never picked up because no one is looking for that particular problem. The GM crop could also become a haven for nasty viruses which again is never looked for.

    Using GM to produce needed biological enzymes is one thing. The biological enzymes can be selected from the GM crop by industrial process. The GM crop can be safely grown in sealed greenhouses.

    GM crops in the states have been shown to produce pollen which contaminate non GM plants.

  • I agree to a certain degree of uncertainty with GMO. But, that is why we have stringent regulations regarding how it is modified and tested before it comes to market finally.

    With time, we can develop a better understanding of the variables responsible for the mutation in the genome and maybe better tools to tackle it.

    Yes, the potential for unknown mutation cannot be disregarded but the idea of a "subtle poison" in an unknown location is a bit of a slippery slope. Since wherever GM crops are being grown or modified is well documented (there aren't many) and monitored.Then you have the eagle eyes of the "Green lobby". So fret not, they'll be really happy to point out the mistakes.

  • Thanks for the reply. Not sure of the meaning in your last paragraph.

    The first 12 years of my working life was in quality and reliability. The documents the customer saw and the company's internal discussions on how to sell a less than perfect product were always interesting.

    All the best.

  • That is the Corporate greed which is a part of larger human greed and is omnipresent irrespective of which lobby they support.

    Working in Q&R you must have witnessed the gap in the claims made by the products and its actual functional value. This gap is filled by advertisements.

    They all want their products to be on the forefront and rest of it isn't as "viable". Then again it is not that every products passed out by corporate machinery is trash.

    So the dilemma of an average user is about which product should he/ she subscribe to.

    Sorry if my last para was a bit ambiguous, what I meant was there are enough watchdogs to point out the follies in GMO all around the globe. That is, wherever GMO is produced and sold is under observation by the creators as well as the critiques of the crop.

  • It is possible to be 'rationally' against GM technology for food production. Yes, it can deliver the same benefits as plant breeding (but faster), but the methods and rates of change are totally different: like comparing going by bike or going by rocket. If we (well-fed) experts really are worried about vitamin A deficiency, rather than push the unknown-unknowns of GM golden rice, we could provide and promote foods such as carrots / sweet potato - dirt cheap and delicious.

  • Fair enough, I think there is a grey area over GMO that does allow a rational rebuttal.

    What I am interested in is what according to you is harmful? I mean if you wish to say because a plant is growing faster it is a danger to us then I wish to know how it is a danger to us and if there are any confirmed studies that show the "fast growing" plants are a menace.

    I concur with the second point that Yes, we can and should look for alternatives other than GMO.

    There is a big anti GMO Organic lobby, if they can think in this direction that would be really beneficial for all of us. Moreover, then they will have a counter to offer to the GMO lobby that "we have a cheap alternative source of nutrition that is easy to grow, will produce higher yield, can counter the hunger in the world and manage the dietary needs of the future generations of the world."

    This way it is a win-win situation, we'll just have to choose the best alternative.

  • Clarification: issue in not 'fast growing' plants. Analogy rather is concern over rate of change to genetic mix and environments (i.e. bike ride- slower, but you can change direction; jet-faster, but once you push go-button, you are 100 miles down the road before you can modify direction). Perhaps analogy is not the best...?

  • Okay, I'm not an authority on genome but as much as I've studied science I think a mutation in genes occurs the same way in GMO as it does in any DNA.

    As for a dramatic rate of change in DNA, GMO has been around for 20 years and they are constantly under monitoring and scrutiny. As of now I don't know if the sudden mix in genes have created a detrimental result.

    Can it create a detrimental result 50 years later? Yes, it is possible.

    It is also possible that we would've developed a sophisticated GE system to counteract any ills of the sudden mix in genes that take effect after half a century.

    Everyone is cautious around GMO, even the scientists supporting it. They very well know the risks involved, its not like they have been given a free pass. I cannot say that Corporates would be as cautious as the scientists but writing off GMO on likely dangers is not the best way until there is an evidence to claim otherwise.

    All we need is caution (even though there has not been a credible data to support GMO is harmful) not a blanket ban.

  • I don't know whether or not gm is safe, but it certainly hands a lot of power to big pharma, via eg patents. Poor farmers have to buy seeds every year, instead of just saving the best-quality for sowing. This may or may not help food production stats, but it sure keeps them poor.

  • Yes, that is a concern whether a poor farmer can afford GM seeds or not.

    This will only happen when GM is commonly available in the market, so that its out from the clutches of big corporates.

    Meanwhile, the govt. can provide it to the poor farmers at a subsidised rate, given it wouldn't face a backlash from the Organic lobby, who too have their monetary interests tied with the farmers.

    The Return on Investment is obviously high.

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