Can GMOs End Hunger in Africa?

Feb 27, 2015

By Elizabeth Lopatto

Depending on who you ask, genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are the solution to malnutrition and hunger in the developing world, or a threat to food sovereignty. Take Uganda, for example. Ugandans eat, on average, a pound of bananas daily — more than any other population. But this crucial resource has been threatened by a bacterial wilt disease, which turns the banana plant’s sap into ooze, wilts the leaves, rots the fruit, and eventually destroys the crop.

Banana wilt was first seen in Uganda in 2001, and neither pesticides nor chemicals have stopped it. Farmers tried to control the wilt’s spread by torching infected plants and disinfecting tools, but the disease cut Ugandan banana yields by as much as half from 2001 to 2004. In the country’s central region, wilt hit 80 percent of plants, and sometimes knocked out whole fields, according to a report from The Guardian.

So scientists at Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) — which receives funding from the Gates Foundation — created a genetically modified banana by inserting a green pepper gene into the banana’s genome. The new gene seems to trigger a process that kills infected cells and saves the plant. NARO wants to give the seeds away for free, but no regulation exists around GMOs in Uganda, and Uganda is obligated to take a cautionary approach to GMO technology, as signer of 2000’s Cartagena protocol. The Ugandan government is considering passing a law that would allow the introduction of GMOs, including the bacteria-resistant banana, but some food scientists worry it may open the door to corporate exploitation by multinational companies like Monsanto down the line.


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81 comments on “Can GMOs End Hunger in Africa?

  • The “original sin” of GMOs is that patenting has been allowed.
    As demonstrated by this instance, private funding and lucrative interest is not necessary to come up with valid solutions.

    I think GMOs can be a real help toward a redistribution of food among the world population (which is a rather left wing-ish way to say “end hunger”), but they can mean disaster and huge, uncontrollable power in the hand of few non representative individuals by means of patents. Thus, caution is the word of order…

    In this instance, though, I’d say it’s reasonably safe, since the engineer of the GMO in question is a public subject. Anyway, no patents and open access to papers and procedures, please!



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  • Can GMOs End Hunger in Africa?

    It seems unlikely, as those corporations who are producing them and their political stooges, are among the prime sources of poverty and starvation.

    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2343978/uk_aid_is_financing_a_corporate_scramble_for_africa.html

    UK ‘aid’ is financing a corporate scramble for Africa

    £600 million of UK aid money is going to help companies like Unilever and Monsanto take over African land and agriculture, writes Miriam Ross. The corporate power-grab will be disastrous for the small-scale farmers who feed at least 70% of Africa’s people.

    Judging simply by its name, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition sounds like a worthy initiative.

    Just the kind of thing we should be spending international aid money on, you might think.

    But look just a little closer, and it becomes clear that the scheme, launched by the G8 governments along with the biggest global food and agriculture companies, has little to do with feeding undernourished people.

    In fact, a new report from the World Development Movement suggests that the New Alliance, which is receiving £600 million from the UK’s aid budget, will actually increase poverty and inequality in Africa.

    The myth of ‘growing more food’

    The rhetoric being used to promote the New Alliance is all about growing more food. But the myth that the solution to hunger is to grow more food has been busted many times over.

    The world currently produces enough food to feed an estimated 12 billion people, yet of the current population of 7 billion, around one in seven people are chronically undernourished.

    The experience in Africa itself is further testimony to the failure of rising production to solve the problem of hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa produced 10% more food per person in 2011 than in 1991. But the numbers of undernourished people rose by 40% in the same period.

    Through the New Alliance, a handful of the world’s biggest food and agriculture companies have agreed to ‘invest’ in the ten African countries whose governments have so far signed up to the scheme: Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, Benin, Malawi and Senegal.

    The great African land-grab unfolds

    But in return, each of the African countries has had to agree to make major changes to their laws – all intended to make life easier for big business.

    The reforms required of African countries will make it much easier for companies to get hold of large tracts of farmland. In Ethiopia for example, a scheme is being set up to fast-track investors’ access to land.

    Like the European colonists of the 19th century, proponents of the expansion of agribusiness see Africa’s land as under-used and ripe for exploitation.

    But much of the land being targeted is already home to people who grow crops or tend animals on it, or who depend on it for water, firewood, medicinal plants or hunting.

    At least 56 million hectares of land have been sold or leased in Africa since 2001, and inevitably, the further transfer of land to multinational corporations will dispossess many people whose livelihoods rely on it.

    Many big companies arrive with promises of jobs. But jobs that do materialise are often too few, and tend to transform family farmers into poorly paid wage labourers with little bargaining power, and few become available to women.

    Restricting and privatising seeds

    The New Alliance is also privatising seeds, in some countries demanding reforms that restrict small farmers’ ability both to save seeds from a crop to plant the following year and to exchange seeds among themselves.

    Giant seed companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont are big players in the New Alliance, and have pushed for new seed laws that will give farmers little choice but to buy seeds from them.

    As well as making farmers pay for what they could previously grow and share with each other, reliance on corporate seed will reduce the genetic diversity that is crucial in helping small-scale farmers respond to a changing climate.



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  • The “original sin” of GMOs is that patenting has been allowed.

    But if you dont want to use the patented Evil corporation seed, just buy the non gmo, and let farmers who want to use gmo seed, be free to do so.



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  • The anti-gmo(faith based) fear monger over corporation selling food for profit, but cant see the irony that the ones selling magic beans, are the ones selling “organic” food which is more expensive and make more profit out of fear mongering, ignoring scientific consensus in this new age movement of “natural” things.



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  • GMO covers such a huge number of traits, most infamously terminator genes, where the seed company creates a monopoly on seed. What we will need are drought tolerant crops, and crops that do not need chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The opposite of the direction Monsanto has gone in past.



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  • Crazy Feb 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    The anti-gmo(faith based) fear monger over corporation selling food for profit, but cant see the irony that the ones selling magic beans, are the ones selling “organic” food which is more expensive and make more profit out of fear mongering, ignoring scientific consensus in this new age movement of “natural” things.

    There nutty fears put out about franken-foods, but the real scientific concerns are about ecological damage, economic corporate monopolies, loss of genetic diversity, and the potential for creating invasive herbicide resistant “franken-weeds”!

    The media pals of the big corporations are quite happy to spread low-grade anti-GMO nuttery to distract people from the real risks!



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  • How does the terminator seed creates a monopoly on the seed? the farmer dosent want an seed which he wont be able to use the next season, them he sould buy some other seed, there isn’t only one kind of tomato, orange, apple etc… and second, just because an pesticide or fertilizer is “natural” doesn’t mean that its better, probably its even worse than one that has been created on a lab, and third, the use of pesticide has decreased since the adoption of crops that kill pests (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v487/n7407/full/nature11153.html).



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  • Environmental impact of GM herbicide resistance
    What is the impact on the environment where GM resistance leads to increased use of herbicides? So far there is very little data suggesting a major increase in herbicide use, and this completely ignores how glyphosate is far less toxic than many alternative herbicides (such as atrazine) – meaning that increases in the mass of herbicide used do not always translate to an increase in environmental impact. Sustained glyphosate use and poor management practices have led to some weeds becoming resistant to the herbicide.[50] Proper weed management practices and careful use of selective herbicides can help mitigate this resistance.
    The number of reported new cases of herbicide-resistant weeds has actually slightly decreased after the introduction of GM crops. Out of the 24 known glyphosate-resistant species, 13 were actually first documented in non-GM crops. As such, superweeds are a problem related to herbicide use and not directly to GM crop use.



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  • And if there really was such an big environmental issue, in sure there would be a an wory in the scientific community which i cant find anything about.



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  • Crazy Feb 27, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    How does the terminator seed creates a monopoly on the seed? the farmer dosent want an seed which he wont be able to use the next season, them he sould buy some other seed, there isn’t only one kind of tomato, orange, apple etc…

    The ones you list are probably some of the safer crops.
    The problem with GMO and seeds, is that many such as cereal crops, are wind pollinated and their pollen spreads to fields for miles around, mixing with surrounding crops.

    and second, just because an pesticide or fertilizer is “natural” doesn’t mean that its better, probably its even worse than one that has been created on a lab, and third, the use of pesticide has decreased since the adoption of crops that kill pests

    “Natural”, is a red-herring, but there are huge environmental problems from both past and present use of pesticides – they don’t only kill the pests – they kill lots of other creatures too, including some very useful ones such as bees, and the birds which eat the insect pests, or the fish which eat the mosquito larvae in the water!
    In third-world countries where health and safety are disregarded, they also cause serious damage to agricultural workers using the sprays without protective gear, or villagers sprayed from the air by careless operators.



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  • 11
    Lorenzo says:

    Here is something to consider. We humans care about patents -well, I do only in a very marginal way and there are many examples where the lack of a patent lead to a considerable step further in progress, but that’s another story-
    Winds, pollinating insects and similar don’t give a damn. As in: you can not even begin to fathom the size of the damn they don’t give. Thus, they are going to go about their business and, unavoidably, some GMOs from one field are going to end up into some field owned by a farmer who does not use them -thus, she didn’t acquired them nor paid for them in any way.

    If she happens to be checked by an inspector from one of the patent holders, and traces of those seeds are found, she can choose whether to have her field destroyed or pay as she had bought the seeds for the whole field. This because, since there’s a patent holder, it is the only subject entitled do decide who distributes the seed -and if you don’t have a bill, you didn’t buy it from them, thus you “stole” it.
    Since buying the seeds costs a lot of money, the patent holder has power over you. A power which is not wanted (she didn’t buy the seeds in the first place) nor representative in any way. A power of this kind is all too easy to misuse.
    This kind of mechanism, I don’t like. And I think it can be heinously pernicious in a fragile, mostly rural economy such as those you find in Africa.

    GMOs, poor them, have no guilt. They are not evil and by no mean they give you cancer -some pesticides might, but that’s another story. The fact that they are patented and thus licensed, though, creates problems, because the almost totality of nature doesn’t give a big fat damn about patents, field boundaries and other human constructs.
    Since making the inspections “fair” is just unpractical: you’d have to test each field extensively and check that the presence of your seed is within the expected values, given the neighborhood -and is very much not in the interest of the patent holder, who’s the one who pays for them- you either let nature do the business for the patent holder, regardless of which farmer wants what, or you abandon the patent system all together: who wants to pay for the seed is welcome. Who finds the seed in her own field, is also welcome.

    This means that the seed, after a very short period of time, becomes de facto public domain… If I followed my own political inclination, I may argue that that’s the way it was supposed to be from the start because human knowledge belongs to the whole humanity. But it may make sense even from a free-market point of view: there’s no way to be sure of the purity of the seed if you don’t buy it (or spend even more in testing the bag you bought from your friend), thus those that will keep on selling will be the really good, sturdy seeds, while the others will be just diluted into the preexistent pool.

    Everybody’s reasonably happy.



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  • “The media pals of the big corporations are quite happy to spread low-grade anti-GMO nuttery to distract people from the real risks!”
    The part about media spreading “nutty fears” is just conspiracy non-sense, and it isn’t just some low-grade nonsense (to distract from what you see as the real issues) if the anti-gmo crowd believe in it.



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  • Any proof of such cases that you mentioned were there was only traces of the seeds? like the case of Percy Schmeiser which attempted to claim that he was innocent and that the glyphosate-resistant crops appeared on his fields via pollination or from a passing truck’s spillage, but the judge pointed out that all 1,030 acres were planted with glyphosate-resistant canola at a purity of 95-98%, far beyond the 0.5-2% typically seen from accidental contamination. Furthermore, the fact that Schmeiser intentionally sprayed glyphosate on his crops betrayed his knowledge of the seed, since glyphosate will kill any non-resistant plants.



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  • Crazy Feb 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    “The media pals of the big corporations are quite happy to spread low-grade anti-GMO nuttery to distract people from the real risks!”

    The part about media spreading “nutty fears” is just conspiracy non-sense, and it isn’t just some low-grade nonsense (to distract from what you see as the real issues) if the anti-gmo crowd believe in it.

    The point I am making is that the media friends reckless promoters of GMO (who are paid by them for advertising the products) quote the hippies and ignore the scientists in their news reports!



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  • Crazy Feb 27, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    The number of reported new cases of herbicide-resistant weeds has actually slightly decreased after the introduction of GM crops. Out of the 24 known glyphosate-resistant species, 13 were actually first documented in non-GM crops. As such, superweeds are a problem related to herbicide use and not directly to GM crop use.

    It only takes a few genes to escape from “Round-up-Ready” – Round-up resistant cereal crops into related weed grasses and there will be a plague of them, which could be a genie which is very hard to put back in the bottle!

    I am not against GMO, but am against some of the reckless experiments and commercial malpractices which are going on.

    There is a very big difference between scientific potential and political reality.



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  • Lorenzo Feb 27, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Very interesting post, Alan. Thanks.

    Yes! Multinational corporations taking over third world land to export both the food and the money, is NOT feeding the poor!



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  • 19
    Lorenzo says:

    Here.
    Up there you find a link to a documentary published by a very reputable news program of the Italian’s Public Television (RAI).
    Sadly, all the material is in Italian, and I have no time to provide a translation. You can, anyway, download the transcription of the documentary and run it through an automated translator, if you care to read it.

    Percy Schmeiser is named -and was interviewed, but he is not the only one any way. Also, form a fast reading of his case, the dispute was totally different from how you present it in your post. He never denied having planted GMOs seeds, he maintained that those seeds were his because he grew them.
    That well represents my objection to patenting and thus licensing seeds.



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  • @Alan4discussion, for some reason i cant directly reply to your last coments.

    “You can’t have looked very far! Try some papers on ecology. Concerns about misuse of antibiotics and pesticides have been widely reported for the last 50 years! http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/149910/
    The key word here is “misuse”.

    “The point I am making is that the media friends reckless promoters of GMO (who are paid by them for advertising the products) quote the hippies and ignore the scientists in their news reports!”

    Yes, they quote the hippies which most of the american population agree with!!! So they are not making the anti-gmo crowd sound like a bunch of crazys, if most of the population agree with them. And i cant find any major organization or polls with scientist that say there is a environmental issue with gmo, all i can find is polls and statements from major scientific organisations that say that gmo crops are as safe(i assume that its both on health and environmental issues) as non-gmo crops.

    https://sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/
    http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/



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  • 21
    Lorenzo says:

    The key word here is “misuse”.

    But the key concept is “selective pressure”, and you can’t get away from it. And, the stronger a pressure you apply on an organism, the more you poke it towards the development of defences.

    And i cant find any major organization or polls with scientist that say there is a environmental issue with gmo

    Apparently, you missed the FAO… A very tiny organization, indeed.
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x9602e/x9602e07.htm

    Admittedly, the document doesn’t prove that there is an environmental damage, but it states that extensive study is needed, because there is evidence that such a damage might be there and be a large problem.

    The pretense of being smarter than ~3.8 billions of years of evolution is a bit laughable, frankly. This doesn’t mean that experimenting with genomes must be forbidden in any way, of course (on the contrary, it’s a great opportunity for learning!), but it should make a shedload of caution a basic necessity.



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  • Precisely GMO Bt crops use less pesticide because the pesticide toxin has been engineered into the plant. Oh, and Monsanto has also introduced drought-resistant corn in 2013.

    Terminator genes are such a red herring. No company has ever sold a seed with a terminator gene in it.

    [Edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use.]



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  • The article above mentions the claim that world agriculture now produces enough food to give each person on the world 2000 calories a day. That is such a worthless factoid. That’s simply taking an average. America, for instance, both produces and EATS far more than 2000 calories a day. If world hunger is just a distribution problem, then some Americans will have to give up some of their calories to the Africans. All volunteers step forward! No, it is impossible to ship all those saved calories to Africa, the food would probably spoil. Something has to be done to increase African food production. Alan, a 10% increase in food production over 20 years is miserable especially when Sub-Saharan population has risen from 514862986 in 1990 to 853231271 in 2010, or 66%!!! The number of undernourished people rose by 40%? Hey, break out the champagne, that’s way less than the population growth percentage! No, Alan, Africa can do better. As the article stated, Africa was once a net exporter of food, now it depends on imports and hand-outs. Small African farmers can do wonders with the right training and technology (see Conservation Farming Unit). This Norwegian Government supported effort teaches Zambian farmers low-tech ways to increase their yields and improve their soils. Dramatic improvements have been achieved. However, even with these improvements, the Zambian farmers get nowhere near the yields American farmers get with their farm machinery, farm chemicals and their GMO and conventional crops. We Americans too waxed poetic about our small farms and decried their demise, but we got over it. Farming is a business which has to be run efficiently and on a sufficient scale. Even organic farms are being run similarly, squeezing out the small producers. If one faces facts honestly, most of the small poor farmers of Africa would probably prefer to live in a shantytown outside Mombasa than eek out a living on depleted soils. You can rail against the winds of progress all you want, but in the end, that’s just pissing in the wind.



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  • 24
    Lorenzo says:

    Precisely GMO Bt crops use less pesticide because the pesticide toxin has been engineered into the plant.

    Can you please substantiate your claim?
    Because, as far as I know, the template for corporate-manufactured seeds is different: they do not “produce” any toxin by themselves, but are engineered so that a particular, particularly effective, pesticide can be used.



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  • 25
    Lorenzo says:

    No, it is impossible to ship all those saved calories to Africa, the food would probably spoil.

    Come on, don’t be silly. The reason why America doesn’t export more toward Africa is mostly because Africans don’t have enough money to pay.
    Food of every kind is shipped around the globe on a daily bases: just take a walk in the narest supermarket and check where all the stuff comes from.

    I do agree on the fact that Africa can benefit from modern technologies and techniques in agriculture to boos its yield without converting itself into a big, overexploited farm.land -with the consequent humongous loss of biodiversity. But again, I really don’t see how licensed seeds can help in that sense.
    O the other hand, open access to the knowledge base and education surely move you toward the objective.

    You can rail against the winds of progress all you want, but in the end, that’s just pissing in the wind.

    Patenting and licensing food sources (but I’d argue it’s useless for everything else as well) is not progress, is it? It’s just lucrative. That is the main objection that’s been made around here against the usage of GMOs.

    America, for instance, both produces and EATS far more than 2000 calories a day.

    On a less (?) serious note, given America’s problems with morbid obesity, if you brought that average down it will do you nothing but good…
    Well, it wouldn’t do the Western world anything but good, actually.

    Furthermore, a little redistribution of the available food sources around the world wouldn’t hurt, either. Together with a uniform increase in efficiency, that might even prove beneficial in fighting the never ending problem of habitat loss to farmlands.



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  • “Experience built up through decades of environmental impact studies suggests that the impact of new biological elements in ecosystems may take years or decades to be understood.”

    That document says that gmo could have an impact on the environment, not that it has, and that there should be years or decades long studies on the on the possible environmental impact of gmo’s, which in pretty sure has been made based on the fact that this document is 14 years old and gmo’s has been widely used for over 20 years and the scientific community overwhelming sees gmo as safe.
    http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/



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  • Crazy Feb 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    And i cant find any major organization or polls with scientist that say there is a environmental issue with gmo, all i can find is polls and statements from major scientific organisations that say that gmo crops are as safe
    sleuth4health.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/is-gm-food-safe-experts-around-the-globe-answer/

    This link is talking about food safety which I said earlier is not the major concern.

    (i assume that its both on health and environmental issues) as non-gmo crops.

    Assumption is the mother of misconception and error.

    There are enough environmental disasters from reckless past agricultural and horticultural developments, to provide evidence for a cautious approach to making major environmental changes which can cause multi-billion $ problems. I would agree that GMO is potentially beneficial, but reckless approaches to biological and ecological problems escalate massively when self replicating organisms are released into the environment.

    That is why science based countries have quarantine regulations. (Which are frequently inadequate in the face of commercial pressures.)

    There is already massive environmental damage from invasive species, so we should be careful about the risks of creating new ones.

    That document says that gmo could have an impact on the environment, not that it has, and that there should be years or decades long studies on the on the possible environmental impact of gmo’s, which in pretty sure has been made based on the fact that this document is 14 years old and gmo’s has been widely used for over 20 years and the scientific community overwhelming sees gmo as safe.

    Pesticides have been used for over 60 years and industrial pollution created for over 150 years.

    New problems associated with these, are still being discovered!



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  • Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Well Alan, it appears anything related to gmo’s is considered reckless to the irrational side of the environmental movement.

    I suppose anything rational is going to be disputed on the reckless side of the argument!

    There are serious issues to be considered, and pretending that that the expert environmental scientists, are just irrational hippies, has the same ethos as the doubt-mongering over global warming by the vested interests of the carbon industries, pretending the climate scientists were hippies – with recruitment of the same sort of cheerleaders for ignorance in support of science denial.

    Ecology, like climatology, is a complex subject which is not as widely understood as it ought to be.

    Estimated damage and control cost of invasive species in the U.S. alone amount to more than $138 billion annually.

    . . .But hey! Let’s not bother checking if we are creating new ones!



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  • 30
    Lorenzo says:

    which in pretty sure has been made

    Well, then, try to quote one of these studies. Since they have been made -instead of rather meaningless opinion pools.

    Moreover, we are not talking about safety in feeding off GMOs, but environmental safety, which is an entirely different matter.



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  • There are serious issues to be considered, and pretending that that the expert environmental scientists, are just irrational hippies, has the same ethos as the doubt-mongering over global warming by the vested interests of the carbon industries, pretending the climate scientists were hippies – with recruitment of the same sort of cheerleaders for ignorance in support of science denial.

    Then why dont we see more opinion polls of scientists on the enviromental issue? or on the number of scientific papers that say there is an enviromental issue of gmo’s? because when i search for “gmo safety” all i find is on the safety of eating them.

    And comparing people who opose this idiotic knee jerk reaction that people have towards gmo, to climate change deniers is not just stupid, but ironic considering if you just look at the nutters not on NaturalNews but on the Richard Dawkins Facebook page you will find the real science deniers.
    https://www.facebook.com/RichardDawkinsFoundation/posts/10153033480100155



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  • when i search for “gmo safety” all i find is on the safety of eating them.

    Google Search 101- Try varying your search terms. There will be key phrases used in the discipline that you will need to hit upon. Getting close to them, scan a few likely documents to find yet better (recurring) phrases.



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  • In this study, Italian scientists cataloged and analyzed 1783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods:

    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07388551.2013.823595

    And here is the list with all the studies:

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Ge-crops-safety-pub-list-1.xls

    “Our goal was to create a single document where interested people of
    all levels of expertise can get an overview on what has been done by
    scientists regarding GE crop safety,” lead researcher Alessandro
    Nicolia, applied biologist at the University of Perugia, told Real
    Clear Science.



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  • Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Then why dont we see more opinion polls of scientists on the enviromental issue? or on the number of scientific papers that say there is an enviromental issue of gmo’s? because when i search for “gmo safety” all i find is on the safety of eating them.

    As I pointed out earlier, The commercial interests promoting GMOs want to argue about food and not the real problems of commercial monopolies and environmental damage.

    Try Googling ” Invasive species” and you will find massive costs from deliberately and accidentally introduced species into foreign habitats where they are not part of a balanced eco-system and have no natural predators.

    Japanese Knotweed was an award winning garden plant over a hundred years ago.

    Tumble weed was occidentally imported to the US mixed with crop seeds.

    http://smithsonianscience.org/2013/04/top-six-invasive-plant-species-in-the-united-states/

    Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
    Origin: China, Japan and the Pacific islands – introduced to USA as an ornamental plant.

    Opuntia Cactus was introduced to Australia as a profitable orchard fruit bush, before it over-ran massive areas and took decades to bring under control.
    https://www.daff.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/76606/IPA-Prickly-Pear-Control-PP29.pdf

    (And yes! The prickly pears were quite safe to eat!)

    GMO plants are native to nowhere, they have no natural place in an ecosystem, and they have no natural predators. Some of them are being bred with genes to be predator and herbicide resistant!

    If any of these genes get into anything which goes rogue or rampant, they are going to be just as costly (or more so) as previous infestations of invasive species.

    GM crops can cross breed with related species.



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  • If you created a GMO crop that fixated its own nitrogen, in one sense that is more natural than buying and applying fertilisers. In other, it is less natural. However, form the point of view of third world economics, the first is definitely preferable. However, it is not the sort of thing Monsanto would do. It wants to increase its share of the pie of crop costs.



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  • Patenting and licensing food sources (but I’d argue it’s useless for everything else as well) is not progress, is it? It’s just lucrative. That is the main objection that’s been made around here against the usage of GMOs.

    What is your definition of progress? My definition is higher yield for less work. That generally means higher profits for the farmer too. What is it with this rejection of patenting and licensing? Do you reject it in all business endeavors or just biotechnological development? I guess in your ideal world all companies should spend millions to develop products and then just allow them to be pirated by anyone who wants to. If Monsanto creates a superior plant which allows no-till farming, easy post-sprouting weed killing, and higher yields, they deserve to be compensated for that invention. Farmers who want to continue to plow their fields, hand-hoe their weeds or use more toxic weed-specific herbicides and are content with lower yields can just not buy Monsanto seed. Last I checked companies were supposed to be lucrative. What about companies in your neck of the woods?

    Furthermore, a little redistribution of the available food sources around the world wouldn’t hurt, either.

    So you are volunteering?



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  • @Alan4discussion all these examples have nothing to do with gmo’s, your using something that its a completely different issue because you dont have the evidence on your side.

    Just gonna repost my answer up there that also applies to your question on the environmental issue on gmo.

    In this study, Italian scientists cataloged and analyzed 1783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods:

    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07388551.2013.823595

    And here is the list with all the studies:

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Ge-crops-safety-pub-list-1.xls

    “Our goal was to create a single document where interested people of
    all levels of expertise can get an overview on what has been done by
    scientists regarding GE crop safety,” lead researcher Alessandro
    Nicolia, applied biologist at the University of Perugia, told Real
    Clear Science.



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  • Lorenzo, Lorenzo, Lorenzo… There are many kinds of GMO plants. You are thinking of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans which have been modified to be immune to a non-specific (it kills all weeds) HERBICIDE. This allows herbicide application after the corn has sprouted, killing weeds, but not the corn or soybeans. The claim that these crops are “drenched” in highly toxic herbicides is also a lie. If the weeds are dead, they are dead, further applications of herbicide are a waste of money.

    So-called Bt crops have been engineered to produce internally the same pesticide toxin that the bacteria Bacillus Thuringiensis produces. When insects take a bite, they recoil in disgust and seek out the crops of neighboring farmers instead. Bt bacteria is a natural bacteria that lives in the soil. This Bt pesticide toxin is so “natural” that even organic farmers spray it willy-nilly on their organic crops. Bt gene manipulated corn and cotton save the farmer having to drench their crops in pesticide like the organic farmers do.



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  • Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    There are serious issues to be considered, and pretending that the expert environmental scientists, are just irrational hippies, has the same ethos as the doubt-mongering over global warming by the vested interests of the carbon industries, pretending the climate scientists were hippies – with recruitment of the same sort of cheerleaders for ignorance in support of science denial.

    Then why dont we see more opinion polls of scientists on the enviromental issue? or on the number of scientific papers that say there is an enviromental issue of gmo’s? because when i search for “gmo safety” all i find is on the safety of eating them.

    I see you have now found large numbers papers on this science, which on the time-scale of invasive species, environmental impacts, and long term events, is still in its infancy.

    Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    In this study, Italian scientists cataloged and analyzed 1783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods:

    And here is the list with all the studies:

    geneticliteracyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Ge-crops-safety-pub-list-1.xls

    I would again point out, that the wider environmental impacts are from the growing of GM crops, NOT the eating of GM foods.

    I don’t have time to read or list all of these , but some look like they could be dealing with environmental issues:-

    Hazard identification and risk assessment procedure for genetically modified plants in the field—GMHAZID – Environmental Science and Pollution Research

    The release of genetically modified crops into the environment – Plant Journal

    ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF TRANSGENIC CROPS AND THE ESCAPE OF TRANSGENES INTO WILD POPULATIONS – Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics

    Assessing environmental risks of transgenic plants – Ecology letters

    Ecological versus ecotoxicological methods for assessing the environmental risks of transgenic crops – Plant Science

    Planning Environmental Risk Assessment for Genetically Modified Crops: Problem Formulation for Stress-Tolerant Crops – Plant Physiology

    Trace and traceability—a call for regulatory harmony – Nature Biotechnology

    Genetically Modified Salmon and Full Impact Assessment – Science

    GM grass eludes outmoded USDA oversight – Nature Biotechnology

    Glyphosate-Resistant Goosegrass. Identification of a Mutation in the Target Enzyme 5-Enolpyruvylshikimate-3-Phosphate Synthase – Plant Physiology

    Honey Bees: Estimating the Environmental Impact of Chemicals –

    Uptake of Bt-toxin by herbivores feeding on transgenic maize and consequences for the predator Chrysoperla carnea – Ecological Entomology

    Assessment of the non-target effects of transgenic Bt corn pollen and anthers on the milkweed tiger moth, Euchatias egle Drury (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) –

    Assessing responses of soil microorganisms to GM plants – Trends in Ecology and Evolution

    Effects of Novel Pesticides on Bumble Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colony Health and Foraging Ability – Environmental Entomology

    Selection of relevant non-target herbivores for monitoring the environmental effects of Bt maize pollen

    Bt-transgenic rice straw affects the culturable microbiota and dehydrogenase and phosphatase activities in a flooded paddy soil – Soil Biology and Biochemistry

    Weed and arthropod populations in conventional and genetically modified herbicide tolerant fodder beet fields – Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment

    Canopy- and Ground-Dwelling Predatory Arthropods in Commercial Bt and non-Bt Cotton Fields: Patterns and Mechanisms – Environmental Entomology

    Effects of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant cropping systems on weed seedbanks in two years of following crops – Biology Letters

    Weather Effects on Cross-Pollination in Maize – Crop Science

    Assays of the production of harmful substances by genetically modified oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) plants in accordance with regulations for evaluating the impact on biodiversity in Japan – Transgenic Research

    The fate of antibiotic resistance marker genes in transgenic plant feed material fed to chickens – Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

    Prediction of allergenicity of gene-modified foods by serum-based testing – Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

    Influence of Glyphosate-Tolerant (event nk603) and Corn Rootworm Protected (event MON863) Corn Silage and Grain on Feed Consumption and Milk Production in Holstein Cattle – Journal of Dairy Science

    Attempts to detect transgenic and endogenous plant DNA and transgenic protein in muscle from broilers fed YieldGard Corn Borer Corn – Poultry Science

    This is just a tiny fraction of the papers on your link.

    They show that a huge amount of work is being done, and has yet to be done, before anyone jumps up and down pronouncing all GM crops to safe across all the risk areas! A few tests showing SOME of them to be safe to eat, shows SOME OF THEM are safe to eat – nothing more!

    As I said earlier, this is a very large and complex subject which cannot be assessed by scientifically illiterate tabloid journalists, or twee surveys of opinion!

    Ignorance of the risks is no basis for making pronouncements of safety!



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  • Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    (And yes! The prickly pears were quite safe to eat!)

    GMO plants are native to nowhere, they have no natural place in an ecosystem, and they have no natural predators. Some of them are being bred with genes to be predator and herbicide resistant!

    If any of these genes get into anything which goes rogue or rampant, they are going to be just as costly (or more so) as previous infestations of invasive species.

    GM crops can cross breed with related species.

    @Alan4discussion all these examples have nothing to do with gmo’s, your using something that its a completely different issue because you dont have the evidence on your side.

    You have just demonstrated in this comment, that you have absolutely no understanding of the science of ecology.

    Just gonna repost my answer up there that also applies to your question on the environmental issue on gmo.

    In this study, Italian scientists cataloged and analyzed 1783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods:

    And here is the list with all the studies:

    geneticliteracyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Ge-crops-safety-pub-list-1.xls

    “Our goal was to create a single document where interested people of
    all levels of expertise can get an overview on what has been done by
    scientists regarding GE crop safety,” lead researcher Alessandro
    Nicolia, applied biologist at the University of Perugia, told Real
    Clear Science.

    There is no reason (apart from wish thinking), to assume all these scientific studies support GMOs as being safe! Many of them are investigating serious risks arising from GM crops and agro-chemicals! While we should applaud efforts to make progress with scientific investigations, reckless cheer-leading for untested risk taking should not be encouraged.

    I have listed a sample of the multitudes of titles from your link in my earlier comment. They illustrate a small sample the diversity of safety issues which need to be investigated.
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/02/can-gmos-end-hunger-in-africa/#li-comment-170758

    It’s a bit like space technologies!
    There is a big difference between promoting space developments, and reckless experiments, blowing up rockets on launch-pads, exploding space shuttles by ignoring engineers, or frying astronauts because the ground crew had not been trained to understand school level science about combustion in pressurised oxygen!

    High-risk science is no place for ego-happy cowboys with one-track tunnel vision!



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  • 42
    Lorenzo says:

    First of all, thank you for the spreadsheet. I will take a look at the articles -in the next months: although the reported links are (disturbingly) all not openly accessible, with some Google’s help it’s often possible to locate the full paper.
    Thing that, I think, you did not do. And, if you did, you didn’t read what you found carefully.

    Here’s the confirmation of a point I was making, taken from the Italian review you posted:
    Concerns have been raised about possible outbreak of resistant populations of target species due to the high selection pressures produced by the repetitive sowing of GE herbicide and pest resistant crops. Glyphosate resistant weeds have been reported (Shaner et al., 2012), as well as Bt resistant pests (Baxter et al., 2011; Gassman et al., 2011). Glyphosate tolerance appears more relevant because, while new Bt proteins are available which can be combined in strategies of stacking, or pyramiding, to reduce the risks of insect resistance (Sanahuja et al., 2011), it seems difficult to find herbicides equivalent to glyphosate in terms of efficacy and environmental profile; therefore, proper management of weed control is necessary (Shaner et al., 2012).
    Here’s the source paper: http://www.innocua.net/web/download-1608/nicolia-20131.pdf

    So, it turns out, there are some environmental concerns after all. Anyhow, I think this is somewhat a secondary issue: pesticide resistance isn’t only GMO-related.
    My problem with GMOs is that they are patented and licensed.



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  • Bravo, Crazy. You found stuff

    Now, before you quote sources like geneticliteracyproject.com you had better check their credentials.

    OK so this is Google Search 102, and landing on arch propagandist John Entine (search done for you) is a bit unlucky. Entine- executive director of geneticliteracyproject and helpmeet of Monsanto and Syngenta.

    Try again.



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  • 46
    Lorenzo says:

    What is your definition of progress? My definition is higher yield for less work.

    Mine happens to be different: I consider progress achieved when there a new skill or bit of knowledge is discovered and shared -usually, to make life a little better and/or more interesting.
    Your definition covers just the efficiency of the process and… I find it somewhat restrictive.

    What is it with this rejection of patenting and licensing?

    An observation that things that are, at least in their design, open and accessible to many people tend to progress more rapidly -or inventions that are not covered by a patent spread more easily, for the collective benefit. A huge example of that is… the Otto cycle engine. In particular, a patent couldn’t be filed on the in-cylinder compression, allowing the whole cycle to be available for everybody. Another example from the same market segment is the now universal injection system for Diesel engines, the common-rail, developed by Alfa-Romeo and now adopted by everybody.
    And I’m using Linux since a while, now (finally), and it kicks proprietary systems’ butts.

    If Monsanto creates a superior plant […]

    It will still get its costumers, since buying from them would be the only guarantee to have the correct seed and not lose the whole crop because your friend thought it was funny to write GMO on any old seed. If the seed is so good, it just won’t be worth risking to “pirate” it.
    Practical example: I’d have no problem paying the (hefty) fee to use RHEL and enjoy their support, because their system is just awesome and it’s worth the expenditure -I use CentOS, though, because the fee is too hefty for my wallet, right now… But Red Hat seems OK with that, since they are sponsoring CentOS. Furthermore, Red Hat is very lucrative, indeed.

    Bottom line: if you have an idea good enough, and if your product holds up to the goodness of your idea, a patent and a restrictive license is utterly redundant. And it’s counterproductive in the interest of collective progress.



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  • 47
    Lorenzo says:

    That’s a neat site you linked there. I will be using it a lot. Thanks.
    Anyhow, the material our Crazy guy linked is quite weak stuff even ignoring the involvement of objectionable individuals like John Entine.



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  • phil rimmer Feb 28, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Bravo, Crazy. You found stuff

    Now, before you quote sources like geneticliteracyproject.com you had better check their credentials.

    OK so this is Google Search 102, and landing on arch propagandist John Entine (search done for you) is a bit unlucky. Entine- executive director of geneticliteracyproject and helpmeet of Monsanto and Syngenta.

    Try again.

    Who would have think it Phil?
    Corporate salesmen, employing disreputable pseudo-scientists to promote their products and disparage critics, in order to con the gullible into challenging actual scientists ??

    Now where have we seen that before? ?



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  • And you are checking all the boxes of arguments that theists use by instead of criticizing the argument(or in this case the study) just atack were the study is linked, well done sir.



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  • Crazy Feb 28, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    And you are checking all the boxes of arguments that theists use by instead of criticizing the argument(or in this case the study) just atack were the study is linked, well done sir.

    Some of us actually know what the arguments are, and how biological mechanisms work, without being spoon-fed diversionary nonsense by pseudo-scientist propagandists!

    You linked lots of studies including cherry picked ones collected by propagandists. – Did you read or understand any depth of the subject areas covered by any of them?

    You could not even understand my links to the risks generated by the major global problem invasive species!



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  • 51
    Lorenzo says:

    Just a fast point of clarification here: you linked no study. You linked a comprehensive review and a spreadsheet with nearly 1800 papers listed in it, some of which are studies.

    Since some doubt on the neutrality of the spreadsheet’s source has been cast, it would be interesting to know the genealogy of it: who compiled it? Was it fed to the Italians, was it inferred form their work or was it compiled by them?



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  • There we have it. We see how far the termites have gone (apologies to The Hitch). The anti-GMO hystericals have to resort to ad hominem attacks because they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    They fear-monger and fear-monger, repeating their anti-GMO talking points ad nauseam. The Genetic Literacy Project is a highly SCIENTIFIC website which features science journalists and scientists commenting about scientific studies made by real scientists. As scientists (Mr. Entine’s scientific credentials are impeccable and none of you can hold a candle to him) they are entitled to debunk all “cherished belief” not based on science and they have thoroughly done so, over and over again. That’s all the anti-GMO movement is based on, cherished belief. Not one single deleterious effect of GMO food or farming has ever arisen in all the years of this anti-scientific campaign, but we are told someday one might arise, kind of like the “prove there’s no God” argument. We are told about irrelevant invasive species which did their dirty work entirely without the benefit of GMO biotechnology. I guess we should ban all natural plants because they might become invasive elsewhere! In the meantime, farmers enjoying the advantages of modern biotechnology will continue to do so (while the EU imports our GMO soybeans to feed their animals), consumers enjoying the benefits of cheap and healthy GMO food will continue to do so. But will African countries forever remain colonial slaves to European food superstition? This article was very good in asking that question. If Bill Gates and other biotechnology advocates win the day, Africa will one day again become a food exporting region. China is working overtime to develop its own biotechnology industry and agriculture. Maybe it is Europe and its Luddites that will be left behind, that will have to go hat in hand to Africa?



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  • 54
    Lorenzo says:

    The anti-GMO hystericals have to resort to ad hominem attacks because they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    My personal objections to GMOs have, so far, went unanswered, if I may point that out. I think the reason why is because they are more political and sociological in nature than biological or environmental.
    As a matter of a fact, I already voted in favor of the particular GMO in this article, because it will, at least, be freely available -even though free availability is not my point, rather I would concentrate on the openly accessible nature of the project.
    Furthermore, frankly, I never even had to go beyond facts (often presented by your side) to reject an absolute “GMOs are the Good and the Salvation” position.

    Europe

    Now, the EU sometimes has a way to take in too high consideration what enviro-nuts say and come up with naive regulations. But in this case I don’t think it’s particularly unfair: all it’s required is a case-by-case evaluation, which is mildly advocated even by the Italian review of the subject. And, indeed, some GMOs are allowed and grown in the EU.
    The labeling policy might seem overkill, but that’s more of a cultural thing than anything else -and it’s not restricted to GMOs. You’re absolutely welcome to laugh at it, while we laugh at your safety stickers on microwave oven warning people that cats and babies should not be dried inside.

    The Genetic Literacy Project is a highly SCIENTIFIC website

    Given its founder and director’s history, there is room for doubting of its impartiality on this subject. Anyhow, it enters here only by hosting a spreadsheet with nearly 1800 articles -which may or may not be the ones covered by the Italian review posted by Crazy. To dismiss those doubts, it would be sufficient to be a little more explicit on the document’s genealogy.
    The Italian review seems to have originated in a public university, which should be guarantee of an acceptable level of impartiality -admittedly, I didn’t check if there were large donations to the university done by Monsanto, but, frankly… I have better things to do.



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  • prietenul Feb 28, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    There we have it. We see how far the termites have gone (apologies to The Hitch). The anti-GMO hystericals have to resort to ad hominem attacks because they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    SPOT THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROJECTION IN THE THREE EMBOLDENED PIECES OF TEXT!

    They fear-monger and fear-monger, repeating their anti-GMO talking points ad nauseam.

    So! the comments on the science of ecology sail right past you “ad-nauseam” without creating any understanding – no intelligent comments or signs of understanding, on the risks of creating highly damaging and costly invasive species?? –
    Just a silly assertion that the argument about the need to evaluate a collection of potentially multibillion $ problems, is just “fear-mongering”. The problem is real and already is widely understood in the related area of imported species new to particular locations, but the denial you exhibit is intransigent!

    “The problems don’t exist because I can’t understand the science or the required management regulatory structures!”

    It sounds just like the YEC and anti AGW – fundamentalist science denial!

    We are told about irrelevant invasive species which did their dirty work entirely without the benefit of GMO biotechnology.

    So a confirmation biased assertion of irrelevance, leads you to the strange conclusion that invasive species cannot do their dirty-work (perhaps more effectively) WITH the benefit of GMO biotechnology?

    I guess we should ban all natural plants because they might become invasive elsewhere!

    Still guessing instead of doing research?? –
    Most competently managed countries DO BAN the import of natural plants (and cultivated ones) being imported without a licence, because they can become invasive weeds! – Just like the ones I listed earlier.
    http://www.gainvasives.org/Regulations.html

    Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. §7701 et seq.)

    The Plant Protection Act (PPA) authorizes the USDA to prohibit or restrict the importation or interstate movement of any plant, plant product, biological control organism, noxious weed, article, or means of conveyance if the Secretary of Agriculture determines that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the introduction into the U.S., or the dissemination within the U.S., of a plant pest or noxious weed (7 U.S.C. §411(a)).

    The movement of plants, plant products, biological control organisms, noxious weeds, articles, and means of conveyance are also regulated (id. §412). The USDA may prohibit or restrict the importation, entry, exportation, or movement of the aforementioned in interstate commerce if it determines that prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the introduction into the U.S. or the dissemination of a plant pest or noxious weed within the U.S. (id.). The USDA may also publish, by regulation, a list of noxious weeds that are prohibited or restricted in interstate commerce (id. §12(f)(1)).

    The PPA specifically authorizes USDA to hold, seize, quarantine, treat, apply other remedial measures to destroy or otherwise dispose of any plant, plant pest, noxious weed, biological control organism, plant product, article or means of conveyance that is moving (or has moved) into or through the U.S. or interstate, if USDA considers it necessary in order to prevent the dissemination of a plant pest or noxious weed that is new to or not known to be widely prevalent or distributed within or throughout the U.S (id. §414(a)). This authority extends to progeny of prohibited items moved in violation of the PPA. The PPA also authorizes USDA to order an owner, or an agent of the owner, of a plant, plant pest, noxious weed, biological control organism, plant product, article or means of conveyance to treat, destroy, or otherwise dispose of those items (id.).

    In addition, the PPA authorizes USDA to cooperate with other federal agencies or entities, states or political subdivisions of states, national governments, local governments of other nations, domestic or international organizations, domestic or international associations, and other persons to carry out the provisions of the PPA (id. §431).

    Real problems are not addressed by cheer-leading for denial and ignorance!



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  • Lorenzo, I have enjoyed our discussion, although we will have to disagree on the efficacy of patents. You feel they hamper further research, I feel they protect the inventors and allow them to recoup their investment. I can’t understand your hesitation to believe the 1800 scientific studies surveyed by the Italian university. I’m sure there is some duplication among the studies and some might even have the same authors, but many have multiple authors, so we can safely say far more than 1800 scientists are involved, and they found no negative effects on human health or the environment from the use of GMO crops. The 1783 studies are not ongoing studies as implied by Alan, they are completed studies which have arrived at conclusions. I really wonder how aspersions cast on professional scientists by rank amateurs can be taken seriously by anyone. I frankly would be very embarrassed to express my opinion in public if it contradicted that of 88% of scientists, as surveyed by the PEW polling organization, who see nothing wrong with GMO foods, but that’s just me. We live in the age of the Internet where every Tom, Dick or Harry can air their ignorance, prejudices, and superstitions in public. I think its a shame that it occurs here at RDF which is dedicated to reason and science. Even Richard Dawkins has defended GMO science in a letter to Prince Charles. Need I say more? Anyway, I’m glad we agree that the GMO bananas should be made available as soon as possible and I look forward to agreeing with you on many other subjects.



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    Thank you.

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  • Sorry Mods. Didn’t think that it would seem I was advertising for the company. I was trying to make a point but understand the deletion.



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  • 61
    Lorenzo says:

    Lorenzo, I have enjoyed our discussion, although we will have to disagree on the efficacy of patents.

    Same here. As for our disagreement on patents: it’s what, ultimately, makes the world go forward. If we agreed on everything, the push for progress would be missing.

    I can’t understand your hesitation to believe the 1800 scientific studies surveyed by the Italian university.

    Well, I didn’t read them yet: I can’t “believe” them any more than I can deem them as hotwash, can I? And the review is quite synthetic (after all, it’s just 9 pages for 1783 articles). I will browse the article themselves, especially those relative to the gene introgression and its impact on the environment -topic that, I think, may pose some long term concerns, and is the focus if this article, quoted by the review (and dismissed a bit too quickly, IMHO): http://plantsciences.utk.edu/pdf/kwit_etal_2011_transgene.pdf

    As a matter of good practice, in general, asking question about the effects certain actions have on the environment is not only legitimate but also useful. This does not mean refraining from doing research and later use the discoveries, it means do more research and making sure we are not doing something we’ll have later to undo -with much effort and expenditure.



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  • prietenul Mar 1, 2015 at 6:03 am

    The 1783 studies are not ongoing studies as implied by Alan, they are completed studies which have arrived at conclusions.

    I did not say these studies or articles were not complete. I said the subject areas needed further investigation because they are long term issues which have serious risks.

    I really wonder how aspersions cast on professional scientists by rank amateurs can be taken seriously by anyone.

    So do I! Especially when people of dubious character are mixing pseudo-science articles and claims with cherry-picked bits of science on behalf of corporate marketing. (We’ve seen it before from the carbon industries)

    I frankly would be very embarrassed to express my opinion in public if it contradicted that of 88% of scientists, as surveyed by the PEW polling organization, who see nothing wrong with GMO foods, but that’s just me.

    I would be embarrassed if I could not tell a general survey on attitudes to food, from a scientific report on environmental risk management.

    prietenul Mar 1, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Alan, you are contradicting the 88% of scientists who see nothing wrong with GMO plants.

    No I am pointing out that they see GM FOODS acceptable, and have said nothing in the survey about the environmental safety of the GM plants!

    88% of AAAS scientists think it IS SAFE TO EAT GM FOODS
    http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/pi_2015-01-29_science-and-society-03-01/

    Who is the denialist here?

    Quite!



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  • There are two basic errors of thinking in that statement Your first error is "Argument from authority". It does not matter what experts say only what the evidence is. The second is "Argument from numbers". It does not matter how many people believe something, only what the evdence says. Or as Bill Maher puts it "Eat shit 20 trillion flies can't be wrong" 🙂 There is clear and abundant evidence that there are disastrous ecological effects from the use of GMOs. For example. use of Glyphosate resistant crops in the USA has led to the destruction of the milkweed plants which are the food of the monarch butterfly. The effect is so bad that there is currently a move to list the monarch butterfly under the USA's Endangered Species Act.

    [Slightly edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use]



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  • rationalmind Mar 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    There are two basic errors of thinking in that statement Your first error is “Argument from authority”. It does not matter what experts say only what the evidence is. The second is “Argument from numbers”. It does not matter how many people believe something, only what the evdence says.

    . . . and the third error was that the “88% of scientists”, in the survey, referred to views on food consumption, not the ecology or environmental impacts of growing the plants or leaking genes into weeds, so it was irrelevant to those issues.



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  • Just to be clear about sites like geneticliteracyproject.com, the problem is not that they publish lies per se, but that they publish partial and carefully selected material. This works well for a propaganda site like geneticliteracy as it presents itself as useable as a single source….which it most certainly can not. I would recommend primary and .ac sources

    For the record I am broadly pro GMO but cautious about business models and want to see some substantial further undertakings be required of GMO vendors particularly in the case of an African implementation, which is at risk of a third round of ravishment (after slaves and minerals.)



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  • “appeal to authority”

    You said that because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true.

    It’s important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence. However it is, entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not.

    You’re welcome!



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  • Is this what the anti-GMO crowd has descended to, monarch butterflies and potential Roundup-resistant couch grass?

    Re: Monarch butterflies: First let me say I love the Monarch butterfly and its disappearance would be very saddening. However, a brief google reveals that there are three reasons for its decline. The decrease in milkweed plants, deforestration in their wintering grounds in Mexico and recent harsh weather (heat and drought). The decrease in milkweed plants is indeed attributable to increased use of Glyphosate in the American Midwest. But this doesn’t mean all milkweed plants have been eliminated and measures are being considered to replant milkweed along the monarch butterfly migratory path. No one can claim ALL the monarch’s food has disappeared. Glyphosate is also used during pre-planting of non-GMO crops to kill weeds and so avoid having to plow, so you can’t strictly blame GMO crops. So-called Bt genetically modified crops do not affect the monarch butterfly in any way. You (rationalmind) therefore have no reservations about GMO Bt crops, is that right?

    Re: Leaking genes: Alan and I have locked horns over this one elsewhere. Gene leakage between different species can’t happen. If it could, why do we need GMO technology? Genes could perhaps jump to similar species but what would that mean? A weed would no longer be susceptible to Glyphosate and might become an agricultural pest. This is already happening as certain weeds are developing resistance due to natural selection (not gene leakage). What’s to be done? Well, I’m sure all will be happy to hear Monsanto is already working on a new herbicide and herbicide-resistant seeds. But if worse comes to worse and Monsanto fails, we will just go back to the pre-Glyphosate days: we will have to plow the weeds under again. Which brings us to couch grass…



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  • prietenul Mar 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Re: Leaking genes: Alan and I have locked horns over this one elsewhere. Gene leakage between different species can’t happen. If it could, why do we need GMO technology?

    This is utter nonsense! At a most basic level, have you never heard of hybridization? There is also the factor of gene leakage of crossing pollen from related playing a role in stimulating self pollination.

    http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Briefing_33_A4.pdf
    .How do GM crops cause contamination?
    There are a number of ways in which a GM crop
    may cause contamination of other non-GM crops
    of the same species or of wild related species,
    including the following:

    .•Cross-pollination of neighbouring crops or related wild species.

    The extent of this will
    depend on an array of factors including
    distance between plants, whether they are
    flowering at the same time, how compatible
    they are, landscape and the relative
    contribution of wind or insects to pollen move-
    ment

    .Limiting gene flow via pollen.

    Most of the research on plastid genetic modification has involved chloroplasts; it is one of the most advanced attempts to develop a biological method of gene containment (although this is not necessarily the primary driver of this type of research). Chloroplast transformation has some other advantages which make it attractive to genetic engineers, but there are some technical problems and limitations on how useful it could ever be.

    So let me get this straight!
    You deny that gene leakage is happening, but genetic engineers are researching ways to try to limit it! –
    Strange that you have recognised this “does not happen” and they haven’t?

    Genes could perhaps jump to similar species but what would that mean? A weed would no longer be susceptible to Glyphosate and might become an agricultural pest.

    . . . . and along with other new properties such as stronger growth and insect resistance, become an invasive super-weed!

    This is already happening as certain weeds are developing resistance due to natural selection (not gene leakage). What’s to be done?

    Yes! There is more than on cause of environmental problems.
    Discovering a second problem, does not make the first one go away!

    Well, I’m sure all will be happy to hear Monsanto is already working on a new herbicide and herbicide-resistant seeds.

    Unfortunately, herbicides have failed to control numerous invasive species, but I am sure Monsanto would be very happy to sell their more of their products to continue the multi-billion $ escalating battle against them.

    But if worse comes to worse and Monsanto fails, we will just go back to the pre-Glyphosate days: we will have to plow the weeds under again.

    So you just shrug off all the ecological problems, – secondary killing of wildlife and contamination of water-ways, with a prayer that science will wave a magic wand and undo all the damage!

    Which brings us to couch grass…

    . .. . which is actively propagated by ploughing!



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  • prietenul Mar 1, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    “appeal to authority”

    Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence.

    However it is, entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not.

    The difference is that you quote a survey on the wrong subject area, (food consumption), and wrongly claimed this gave the backing of expertise (of general scientists not specialists) on the safety of PLANTS

    rationalmind Mar 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Your first error is “Argument from authority”. It does not matter what experts say only what the evidence is.

    So your attempt at dismissing Rationalmind’s challenge is fallacious! as unlike others here, you presented no valid evidence.



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  • Moving from debunking nonsense, and going back to the OP:-

    @OP – The new gene seems to trigger a process that kills infected cells and saves the plant. NARO wants to give the seeds away for free, but no regulation exists around GMOs in Uganda, and Uganda is obligated to take a cautionary approach to GMO technology, as signer of 2000’s Cartagena protocol.

    The lack of scientific expertise in drafting regulations is the real issue. This resistant banana could be of great benefit, but until some properly thought through regulatory mechanism is in place and the “all or nothing approach”, is both obstructive and dangerous.

    Disasters like Bhopal happened because weak and ineffectual or uncaring governments left their environments, citizens and workforce exposed to dangerous exploitation by reckless multinational corporations, who took full advantage of the lack of regulations to cut corners and take disastrous risks, in the expectation, that if they caused a long term problem or disaster, they could simply walk away and start a new operation elsewhere. – Counting on the local governments being to weak and ineffectual to do anything about it.
    Mining and oil-drilling companies have been doing this for decades.

    The Ugandan government is considering passing a law that would allow the introduction of GMOs, including the bacteria-resistant banana, but some food scientists worry it may open the door to corporate exploitation by multinational companies like Monsanto down the line.

    You can be sure that the multinationals will put (relatively) big money and political pressure to give them as wide a free reign as achievable in seizing land and exploiting the local workforce!

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/18/ethiopia-pastoralists-forced-their-land-sugar-plantations
    .Ethiopia: Pastoralists Forced off Their Land for Sugar Plantations.

    (Nairobi) – The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of other commercial agriculture.

    The 73-page report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley,”documents how government security forces are forcing communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.

    “Ethiopia’s ambitious plans for the Omo valley appear to ignore the rights of the people who live there,”

    http://www.globalissues.org/article/693/rights-of-indigenous-people
    There are approximately 370 million indigenous people spanning 70 countries, worldwide. Historically they have often been dispossessed of their lands, or in the center of conflict for access to valuable resources because of where they live, or, in yet other cases, struggling to live the way they would like. Indeed, indigenous people are often amongst the most disadvantaged people in the world.



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  • Google is no substitute for proper knowledge gained by years of study. It is true that the Monarch Butterfly does have other problems but loss of habitat is the prime one. I’m sorry but your statements about there still being some milkweed present are a real give away for lack of knowledge of ecology and in particular population dynamics. Loss of habitat causes population extinctions long before all the habitat is destroyed. This is in effect population dynamics 101 that you need to study before you can make any argument that isn’t risible in the face of the evidence.

    The simple matter is that ecologists are very concerned about GMOs

    Let us take the example of Bt which is often erronously described as a “soil bacterium” or worse “A soil bacteria[sic]”

    In fact we know nothing about its natural ecology and resistance is appearing. So we may be creating a resistance to a natural pathogen, which is actually its true ecological role. That would be insane, yet there is no research that I can find ( after multiple searches over several years) that shows clearly what the natural ecology of this species is.

    Yet the arrogance of the GMO industry is so bad that they ignore this aspect entirely.



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  • prietenul Mar 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm
    Re: Leaking genes: Alan and I have locked horns over this one elsewhere. Gene leakage between different species can’t happen.

    But if worse comes to worse and Monsanto fails, we will just go back to the pre-Glyphosate days: we will have to plow the weeds under again. Which brings us to couch grass…

    You did not seem to learn much from this earlier discussion!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/01/creating-a-genetic-firewall-for-gmos/#li-comment-167545

    Is this what the anti-GMO crowd has descended to, monarch butterflies and potential Roundup-resistant couch grass?

    I really wonder how aspersions cast on professional scientists by rank amateurs can be taken seriously by anyone.

    They can’t!
    But you keep on making these assertions illustrating a gross lack of understanding of the subject, despite clear links and explanations from the scientists participating in this discussion!



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  • Rationalmind said:

    There are two basic errors of thinking in that statement Your first error is “Argument from authority”. It does not matter what experts say only what the evidence is. The second is “Argument from numbers”. It does not matter how many people believe something, only what the evdence says.

    I quoted in response:

    It’s important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence.

    Alan, it’s very gallant of you to try to pull his chestnuts out of the fire, but let’s let more impartial RDF readers decide who is right on this one.



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  • Rationalmind, if Bt is so bad, maybe you should tell the organic farmers to stop spraying it on their crops.

    Google is a wonderful way to find information on any topic. I think it’s a bit elitist to say no one can form an opinion without having studied the topic for many years. I am more humble, I defer to the scientific consensus. The scientific consensus can be readily found through Google. For instance,

    GMO crops have been extensively examined by every major science and food safety authority in the U.S. and abroad, including the European Union, who have all declared them to be as safe as non-biotech crops of the same species, both for food and for the environment. These authorities include the (United States) National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the (British) Royal Society and the European Food Safety Authority. In 2010 the European Commission stated: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

    Yes, this is “an appeal to authority” but, as I pointed out, sometimes it’s legitimate to do so.

    Regarding the monarch butterfly, I am as disturbed as the next person by the decline of this majestic insect. The verdict is out on whether it will make it or not. I hope it does.



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  • Alan, I would get that glasses prescription rechecked. I said:

    Genes could perhaps jump to similar species but what would that mean?

    If you would reread what I said, you would perhaps understand that I questioned the usefulness of the glyphosate immunity trait to a weed. Unless an eradicator was trying to kill that weed with glyphosate, that weed would derive no advantage whatsoever. If a such a weed were behaving in an “invasive” manner, it would be pretty stupid of someone to try to eradicate it with glyphosate anyway, he would kill all the indigenous plants too. If you are so worried about your couch grass, I can recommend the Bayer Corporation UK website
    to you. They specifically advertise their herbicides as combatting glyphosate-tolerant and resistant grass and broad-leaf weeds. …And Rationalmind said Google wasn’t a good source!

    And you say, “Unfortunately, herbicides have failed to control numerous invasive species, but I am sure Monsanto would be very happy to sell their more of their products to continue the multi-billion $ escalating battle against them.”

    Which is it, Alan? Is the glyphosate resistance trait a desirable trait or not? Now you are saying gene leakage would provide no benefit to weeds.



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  • prietenul Mar 3, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Google is a wonderful way to find information on any topic. I think it’s a bit elitist to say no one can form an opinion without having studied the topic for many years. I am more humble,
    I defer to the scientific consensus. The scientific consensus can be readily found through Google.

    This not a scientific consensus!
    This is a false claim that there is a consensus covering all these topics.
    It a wild claim made on a website with the names of some scientific bodies stuck on to it, to add the illusion of the type of false authority Rationalmind and Phil, explained in an earlier post.
    Nobody can give assurances that all GM organisms are safe in all environments way into the future, so anyone making such claims is a charlatan!

    Try Google Scholar for better quality material.

    For instance,

    GMO crops have been extensively examined by every major science and food safety authority in the U.S. and abroad, including the European Union, who have all declared them to be as safe as non-biotech crops of the same species, both for food and for the environment.

    This is utter nonsense! Nobody has done studies covering all these areas, and scientific bodies do not make these sorts of wildly exaggerated claims!
    That is WHY amateurs should be careful about what they read on Google. Creationists, AGW denial, and charlatan sites are there in abundance!

    There are numerous examples of misleading crap like this petition (below) doubt-mongering global warming, where people who APPEAR to have relevant qualifications are silly enough to feed the charlatans on topics way outside their personal knowledge and expertise!!

    People who have a depth of knowledge of the specialist subject areas, can easily spot the deceptive nature and wild exaggerations of pseudo-science websites.

    Over 31,000 scientists signed the OISM Petition Project

    These were people with some sort of science degree – not experts in climate related subjects. who did not spot the biased nature of the questions – along with the fox-readers etc. who were too ignorant to recognise their own ignorance!

    is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

    Which is a deceptive statement in view of the serious risks of introducing conventionally bred or wild species into new environments as I have made abundantly clear.
    These risks do not disappear on the incantation of the magic words GMO! – and with an escalation of new genetic combinations, it is highly probable that existing problems will be multiplied by widespread new introductions!

    Each one needs to be properly individually evaluated! You can’t simply make sweeping generalised statements! Experiments on GM corn have little relevance to experiments on GM Salmon, or GM apples!



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  • prietenul Mar 3, 2015 at 8:13 am

    And you say, “Unfortunately, herbicides have failed to control numerous invasive species, but I am sure Monsanto would be very happy to sell their more of their products to continue the multi-billion $ escalating battle against them.”

    That’s right! People have been trying to eradicate Japanese knotweed for over a hundred years – with NUMEROUS herbicides and have failed.

    http://www.knotweedmanagement.co.uk/fact-file/
    A DEFRA working group estimated that it would cost £1.5 billion to control it across the UK.
    London’s 2012 Olympics organisers spent four years controlling the weed .

    http://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/sep/08/japanese-knotweed-house-sale

    Other countries also spend billions on trying to manage it.

    Which is it, Alan? Is the glyphosate resistance trait a desirable trait or not?

    You really should not apply simplistic black and white thinking to complex biological problems.
    It COULD be beneficial in cereal crops, IF the gene leakage side effects, do not massively cost more than the benefits, and if toxic residues do not persist in the foods and in the environment.

    Now you are saying gene leakage would provide no benefit to weeds.

    No I am not! Glyphosate resistance is not the only gene leakage to weeds and potential new weeds, and glyphosate is not the only herbicide which is failing to contain invasive species.

    Oh! . . .and you might like a look at this article: Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/



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  • Alan, if you say the glyphosate immune gene can leak to weeds and then you say glyphosate doesn’t work against weeds now, then you are saying the leakage of glyphosate immune genes would do the weeds no benefit. You can’t even understand the logic of your own posts.



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  • prietenul Mar 3, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    From Alan, we get:

    Nobody can give assurances that all GM organisms are safe in all environments way into the future, so anyone making such claims is a charlatan!

    And Alan tacks on an ad hominem, calling the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the (British) Royal Society, European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission “charlatans.”

    This is comical!!! Your evidence that any of these scientific bodies said this is??????????

    Oh! Yes – some hired propagandist said they supported his silly claims!

    You are reaching troll-like levels of hysteria.

    I have mentioned psychological projection before, and while I don’t like arguments from authority, I AM an environmental scientist who actually understands the content of reports and knows the difference between a peer-reviewed study, a dodgy article claiming to be based on scientific papers, and an irrelevant survey on a different topic”!

    In 2010 the European Commission stated: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

    In other words, some of them may well be safe, – but any GMO invasive species may, or may not, be worse than the introduced conventional species, with an estimated damage and control cost of invasive species in the U.S. alone amounting to more than $138 billion annually.
    Then there is the additional environmental impact of herbicide resistance / pesticide toxicity aspects in some of them.

    Extensive new developments being on a par with extending existing causes of problems, does not equal “being harmless”!

    (Improvised explosive devices are not per se more risky than conventional land mines!)



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  • I see the Chinese are trying to use GMO to produce TB-resistant cows. It appears to give resistance against low level infection but I would suspect further tests are required to make sure it is not providing a reservoir of the disease to spread to other breeds, or to people buying meat or dairy products. Still, it could have potential to reduce disease.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31709107

    Scientists produce TB-resistant cows

    Scientists in China have produced a herd of genetically engineered cows that are better able to ward off bovine TB infection.

    The long-term goal of the research is to avoid the need to cull livestock by breeding disease resistant cattle.

    Bovine TB is a risk in many areas, including New Zealand, England and Wales, and parts of Africa and Asia.

    In the UK over 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2013 at a cost to taxpayers of £100m.

    Researchers at the Ministry of Agriculture in Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China, used hi-tech genetic technology to insert a mouse gene into Holstein-Friesian cattle.

    The gene protected the animals against low levels of TB infection.

    Commenting on the study, Prof Heiner Niemann, of the Institute of Farm Animal Genetics at Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Germany, said the findings were another step towards the creation of disease resistant livestock animals based on advanced genetic tools.

    “Whether this approach protects cows against TB infection when exposed to high doses of the pathogen remains to be determined,” he added.



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