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What questions do you have about GMOs?


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#1 Rebel Rose

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 05:27 PM

Hi all, I'm finishing up a book about GMO's.  It's meant to be a "quick and dirty" fast track guide to real and authentic answers to the most commonly asked questions about GMO's and GMO-related topics.

 

It started out as an article, then a series, then maybe a column, and by this last Christmas I just threw my hands in the air and said, whoa, it's a book!

 

At this point, I have over 80 questions to answer about GMO's, but I'd like to make sure I've got all the bases covered, so if you have some questions to ask, now is the time to get involved, and I would really appreciate your input.

 

If you want to bring on some fire and brimstone, I'm okay with that too.  I really want to try and address everyone's concerns.  My position is neutral, except that I do consistently take a stand against inaccuracies, hyperbole and hysteria. 

 

I won't quote anyone by name without asking permission first, nor seek interviews without consulting eGullet guidelines.

 

 

 

 


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#2 annabelle

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 07:15 PM

What is your POV?



#3 Mjx

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:56 PM

 

What is your POV?

 

She mentions here that:

 

 

. . . .  My position is neutral, except that I do consistently take a stand against inaccuracies, hyperbole and hysteria.
 

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#4 gfweb

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 07:04 AM

My POV is that there are three areas of potential concern. First That the gmo product will be directly harmful to those who eat it. Usually this is without basis. Second that there will be unintended consequences eg ecological mischief. The situation is a lot like that with a new drug which has passed thorough testing but is not truly known to be safe(or not) till in use for a few years. Third, the persecutory overreach of corporate lawyers in defense of their patents. These guys can be real a-holes
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#5 dcarch

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 07:42 AM

With computers, when something goes terribly wrong, you can wipe clean your hard drive, go to your back up file and do a restore, everything will be 100% good.

 

Can that be done with GMO if something goes very wrong?

 

dcarch



#6 annabelle

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 07:45 AM

Thanks, Michaela. 

 

I have been following the Genetic Literacy Project for some time.  Recently, they posted an article debunking the claim made by many that GMOs have not been studied in depth, when in fact there have been over 2000 studies worldwide.

 

My concerns are along the same lines as gfweb's. 

 

I do not find Monsanto, et alia to be bogeymen.  I am concerned about feeding undernourished populations and increasing crop yields.


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#7 Rebel Rose

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 08:33 AM

I forgot to mention, there is also a poll here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/V2QBKX

 

Thanks!


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#8 Rebel Rose

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 10:31 AM

I have been asked by eGullet to announce that results of the poll will be shared with respondents and the public. 

 

SurveyMonkey poll results are immediately available to all respondents and will be available for 30 days after the poll has closed.

 

I will also be sharing the results of the poll on my blog, and I am willing to share them here on request.


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#9 Rebel Rose

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 11:05 AM

Back to questions, the major issues are not only covered, but have been broken down into individual questions. 

 

The basic sections of the book are as follows:

1.  What GMO's are and how they are created.  Some Botany 101 (hybrids, grafts, etc.)

2.  Specific GMO's:  RR corn, Bt corn, Bt wheat, Bt cotton, etc.  Also a discussion of dwarf wheat (which is not GMO)

3.  GMO's and our health

4.  GMO's and the environment

5.  GMO's and the economies of farming

6.  GMO's in the global village (how US pricing and availability affects other countries, how subsidies play into this, etc)

7.  GMO's in the media (how to vett articles for authenticity, etc)

 

Some of the questions already included:

Do Roundup Ready crops create a need for even more herbicides and pesticides?

Is Bt corn responsible for a glut of “sweet corn” – low protein/high sugar corn?

Will golden rice save starving populations?

If I buy garden seeds, will I get stray GMO seeds?

Are there GMO’s in beer, wine and liquor?

Does Monsanto control the supply of GMO seeds?

Do GMO’s create monoculture farming?

Do GMO’s require more water than other crops?

What about Agrobacterium transfer to other plants, animals and humans?

Why is there resistance to GMO labeling—don’t we have a right to know?

 

The book is nearly finished, so this is sort of a "last call" for specific questions.  But if you don't have specific questions, just raising your hand and sharing general concerns (as gfweb and annabelle did) helps to give me an idea of where people are at in their understanding of the topic and what your deepest areas of concern are.  Thanks!

 

dcarch, that's a really good question, and no one has ever asked me that before!  I don't think anyone could give a factual answer to that (which is what the guide is about) but I will definitely include it as 'food for thought'.  Thank you!


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#10 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 11:57 AM

GM fish are worth a mention


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#11 Rebel Rose

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 07:04 PM

Yes, thanks, I have a section on GMO animal production and research.  Any particular reason you are concerne about GMO fish?


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#12 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 07:31 PM

Ecological mischief. GMO salmon were said to be "nearly sterile".



#13 annabelle

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 07:46 PM

It would mess with your neutral POV, but I would be interested to see note taken of the disregard of empirical evidence by the anti-GMO crowd.  The debunked and retracted rat study is but one that is constantly touted as The Truth! about GMOs. 

 

This attitude of disregarding science in favor of opinion is a dangerous trend.  I see it often on organic blogs and it is distressing.


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#14 Ttogull

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:11 PM

I am not an expert on this topic. I would enjoy a truly neutral point of view on this topic. I have a background in research, and I have personally witnessed the "top experts" in my field dismiss out of hand findings contrary to results that overturn their own research that created their reputation and legacy. In one case, the editor of a prestigious and influential journal literally locked his office door and hid when someone proved mathematically that his results were incorrect and misleading (something occasionally possible in my field). This "top expert" was able to squelch the contrarian's publication in all top journals. Moreover, the "top experts" control which publications and grants are accepted, so the field is soon populated by parrots that echo the party line. Soon the parrots are promoted, who then have their own reputations to protect, and the cycle continues.

I entered research because I thought it was about learning. The exchange of ideas. Back and forth. Instead, it is the protection of one's own work. Nobody reads anyone else's work, even in the referee process. Publication and grant rejection are based on reasons that obviously have no relation to the study being evaluated. Acceptance too, if it follows party line. I left research. I distrust anything the "top experts" say.

That said, I am fascinated by recent work involving the gut microbiome. Things are in their infancy. And the results are astounding. I have improved my health in probably no less than 100 ways by focusing on feeding the bacteria in my gut. My quality of life has improved. And I am not one of those suffering from debilitating autoimmune diseases. Just an average middle-aged guy.

There is evidence of horizontal gene transfer in the gut. The bacteria trade genes back and forth. Maybe this is good, but what if we inadvertently make it bad? My concern, related to dcarch's, is what if all the GMO stuff transfers genes to our bodies that are harmful? I have read that studies (true?) show that genes related to antibiotic resistance show up in people who have not taken the antibiotics in question, but are otherwise exposed. If something goes wrong and the genes in GMO food somehow express differently in humans, how do we take it back? If the study of gut microbiome is in its infancy, and the effects on our health are seemingly profound, of what value is the research done by the "top experts"?

I am willing to be convinced, but only by someone I trust. There were 3 people I trusted in my former profession, and all were marginalized by the "top experts".

#15 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:20 PM

I am not an expert on this topic. I would enjoy a truly neutral point of view on this topic. I have a background in research, and I have personally witnessed the "top experts" in my field dismiss out of hand findings contrary to results that overturn their own research that created their reputation and legacy. In one case, the editor of a prestigious and influential journal literally locked his office door and hid when someone proved mathematically that his results were incorrect and misleading (something occasionally possible in my field). This "top expert" was able to squelch the contrarian's publication in all top journals. Moreover, the "top experts" control which publications and grants are accepted, so the field is soon populated by parrots that echo the party line. Soon the parrots are promoted, who then have their own reputations to protect, and the cycle continues.

I entered research because I thought it was about learning. The exchange of ideas. Back and forth. Instead, it is the protection of one's own work. Nobody reads anyone else's work, even in the referee process. Publication and grant rejection are based on reasons that obviously have no relation to the study being evaluated. Acceptance too, if it follows party line. I left research. I distrust anything the "top experts" say.

That said, I am fascinated by recent work involving the gut microbiome. Things are in their infancy. And the results are astounding. I have improved my health in probably no less than 100 ways by focusing on feeding the bacteria in my gut. My quality of life has improved. And I am not one of those suffering from debilitating autoimmune diseases. Just an average middle-aged guy.

There is evidence of horizontal gene transfer in the gut. The bacteria trade genes back and forth. Maybe this is good, but what if we inadvertently make it bad? My concern, related to dcarch's, is what if all the GMO stuff transfers genes to our bodies that are harmful? I have read that studies (true?) show that genes related to antibiotic resistance show up in people who have not taken the antibiotics in question, but are otherwise exposed. If something goes wrong and the genes in GMO food somehow express differently in humans, how do we take it back? If the study of gut microbiome is in its infancy, and the effects on our health are seemingly profound, of what value is the research done by the "top experts"?

I am willing to be convinced, but only by someone I trust. There were 3 people I trusted in my former profession, and all were marginalized by the "top experts".

GMO genes are less dangerous to transfer than the zillion natural bacterial toxins in our gut bugs.

 

The antibiotic resistance genes show up in the bacteria in unexposed people, not in the people themselves. And we all carry these bacteria with resistance genes already.  Don't think this is a logical worry.


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#16 annabelle

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:41 PM

Not trying to hijack the thread, Ttgull look at this article:

 

http://www.geneticli...e/#.Uu7qx_bEPuI


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#17 Ttogull

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:47 PM

[quote name="gfweb" post="1952632" timestamp="1391916027"]
[/quote]
GMO genes are less dangerous to transfer than the zillion natural bacterial toxins in our gut bugs.
 
The antibiotic resistance genes show up in the bacteria in unexposed people, not in the people themselves. And we all carry these bacteria with resistance genes already.  Don't think this is a logical worry.[/quote]

I am sorry. You are one of the good guys, so I mean this with all respect.

First, says who?

Second, my concern is about antibiotic resistant bacteria in unexposed people. I don't understand your distinction. But why do we carry bugs with this resistance gene already? What is the long term impact? My feeling is that no one knows. We are flying by the seat of our pants, and no one is willing to admit it.
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#18 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:58 PM

We carry these bugs cause the world is filled with them and we are part of the world.  The resistant bugs exist because the antibiotics used legitimately for infections and illegitimately (in my opinion) in factory farms exert an ecological pressure that selects for resistant bugs...and they become the normal flora.

 

African countries with no medical care (and therefore no antibiotics) have very few resistant bugs in their people's normal flora. If we didn't use the drugs the resistance would go away in time. But we can't let people die of infection, so we use the drugs. IMHO the real problem is the routine mass treatment of hogs and chickens with antibiotics so that they can survive in cramped pestilential conditions.

 

Dragging this back to GMOs...in my mind the risk of GMOs is trivial compared to the risk of antibiotic abuse in farming. The GMO risk is mostly hypothetical....the antibiotic overuse in farming risk is incredibly well-documented and already a problem. How can we let it go on?


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#19 Ttogull

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 09:15 PM

We carry these bugs cause the world is filled with them and we are part of the world.  The resistant bugs exist because the antibiotics used legitimately for infections and illegitimately (in my opinion) in factory farms exert an ecological pressure that selects for resistant bugs...and they become the normal flora.
 
African countries with no medical care (and therefore no antibiotics) have very few resistant bugs in their people's normal flora. If we didn't use the drugs the resistance would go away in time. But we can't let people die of infection, so we use the drugs. IMHO the real problem is the routine mass treatment of hogs and chickens with antibiotics so that they can survive in cramped pestilential conditions.
 
Dragging this back to GMOs...in my mind the risk of GMOs is trivial compared to the risk of antibiotic abuse in farming. The GMO risk is mostly hypothetical....the antibiotic overuse in farming risk is incredibly well-documented and already a problem. How can we let it go on?


Precisely! Scientists tell us that antibiotic overuse in farming is ok. Scientists tell us GMO is ok. We see from studies that maybe there are unintended consequences. I try to limit my exposure to antibiotic chickens. Why not let me limit my exposure to GMO chickens? And get this: I am not anti-GMO. I am pro-transparency. Granted, I would tilt towards more natural foods,but I have no ideological bent.
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#20 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 09:32 PM

There are scientists that are honest and honorable...and there are the ones that are wrong or deluded or, even worse, corrupt. Just like politicians or journalists or lawyers.

 

Plenty of scientists and docs are appalled at agricultural antibiotics.  Probably the vast majority. Personally, I don't know any who aren't appalled/scared. But the farm lobby and politics get in the way of doing the right thing.


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#21 Edward J

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:55 AM

My concerns regarding GMO's are the following:

 

-The direct link between GMO and "Roundup", can one exist without the other?

 

-Can a farmer generate his own seed with last year's crop, or is s/he dependant on the mnfctr for providing him/her with next year's crop seed?



#22 annabelle

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 11:39 AM

Roundup was developed as a weedkiller originally used in tobacco farming more than 35 years ago.  There was a great deal of hoopla about the ethical issues of killing weeds while growing tobacco.  Never mind that tobacco is a legal product and a large part of the GDP of tobacco producing states.  It's efficacy as a consumer product to be used on lawns and gardens was later exploited.



#23 Edward J

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 11:55 AM

That is true, but what about now?  Do you know what purposes roundup is used for now?



#24 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 12:13 PM

If I understand your questions correctly....

 

GMO Round-Up Ready soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, etc....have a tolerance for Round-Up...in other words, Round-Up won't kill them the way it will normal crops...meaning the farmer can spray for weeds after crops are up rather than only before.....which is the way it used to be done.

 

There's nothing forcing farmers to buy GMO, so a farmer could, if he/she wanted to, grow normal crops and save the seeds.


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#25 gfweb

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 12:34 PM

That is true, but what about now?  Do you know what purposes roundup is used for now?

I use it for poison ivy a couple times a year. Its a general purpose weedkiller.


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#26 annabelle

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 12:41 PM

I use it around my yard and in the garden to beat back invasive weeds.  I use Sevin (which is a pesticide) in my vegetable garden to get the drop on invasive pests, as well.  I'm not growing vegetables for cutworms to eat, after all.


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#27 Rebel Rose

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 10:42 AM

It would mess with your neutral POV, but I would be interested to see note taken of the disregard of empirical evidence by the anti-GMO crowd.  The debunked and retracted rat study is but one that is constantly touted as The Truth! about GMOs. 

 

This attitude of disregarding science in favor of opinion is a dangerous trend.  I see it often on organic blogs and it is distressing.

 

Yes, as I indicated in the OP, I do take a stand against hysteria, hyperbole and hypocrisy.  I'm also including brief profiles of 5 or 6 high-profile anti-GMO personalities and basically debunking them.  This will probably make me unpopular with the anti-GMO crowd, but I believe that truth, integrity and authenticity make for a stronger position whether you are for or against GMO's.  Also, I object to children and youth being fed lies, propanganda and hate speech about food and farmers.


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#28 Rebel Rose

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 10:46 AM

There is evidence of horizontal gene transfer in the gut. The bacteria trade genes back and forth. Maybe this is good, but what if we inadvertently make it bad? My concern, related to dcarch's, is what if all the GMO stuff transfers genes to our bodies that are harmful? I have read that studies (true?) show that genes related to antibiotic resistance show up in people who have not taken the antibiotics in question, but are otherwise exposed. If something goes wrong and the genes in GMO food somehow express differently in humans, how do we take it back? If the study of gut microbiome is in its infancy, and the effects on our health are seemingly profound, of what value is the research done by the "top experts"?

I am willing to be convinced, but only by someone I trust. There were 3 people I trusted in my former profession, and all were marginalized by the "top experts".

 

I don't want to get into too many areas that don't already have some verifiable information, but I do explain that the transferred genes come from common soil bacteria that are all around us and exist within us already.  (I am also a firm believer in keeping one's gut bacteria happy and healthy!)


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#29 Rebel Rose

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 11:01 AM

My concerns regarding GMO's are the following:

 

-The direct link between GMO and "Roundup", can one exist without the other?

 

-Can a farmer generate his own seed with last year's crop, or is s/he dependant on the mnfctr for providing him/her with next year's crop seed?

 

Yes, Roundup has been used for decades on regular crops, and as others have commented, has also been used by home gardeners.  It is considered the safest of all herbicides available on the market, barring perhaps citrus-based ones but even those are so concentrated they require protective gear during application.  Over a dozen people have tried to commit suicide by drinking Roundup or other glyphosate-based herbicides (god knows why, because the surfactants make it sweet, I suppose) and all but one failed.  Dogs have eaten glyphosate crystals (Labs will eat anything) and survived.

 

Yes, small and mid-size farmers can and sometimes do grow crop for seed, but the process of hulling and sifting the crop is laborious and requires special equipment, so it is more cost-effective to buy seed from agribusinesses who specialize in crop propagation.  Specialists also have the laboratories to test seed and assure quality, and they have proper storage protocols to assure the seed does not get moldy or infected during storage.

 

You may be interested to know that GMO seed is more expensive, and growing a GMO crop is entirely optional on the part of the farmer.   Seed, water, fuel, chemicals and labor are the top 5 production inputs for most grain crop farmers.  So if the cost of seed goes up dramatically, the farmer has to figure out how to reduce one of the other inputs and/or increase productivity.


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#30 annabelle

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:37 PM

 

It would mess with your neutral POV, but I would be interested to see note taken of the disregard of empirical evidence by the anti-GMO crowd.  The debunked and retracted rat study is but one that is constantly touted as The Truth! about GMOs. 

 

This attitude of disregarding science in favor of opinion is a dangerous trend.  I see it often on organic blogs and it is distressing.

 

Yes, as I indicated in the OP, I do take a stand against hysteria, hyperbole and hypocrisy.  I'm also including brief profiles of 5 or 6 high-profile anti-GMO personalities and basically debunking them.  This will probably make me unpopular with the anti-GMO crowd, but I believe that truth, integrity and authenticity make for a stronger position whether you are for or against GMO's.  Also, I object to children and youth being fed lies, propanganda and hate speech about food and farmers.

 

 

 

Sounds good.  I'm a strong believer in looking at the science and not at the hype, as well.  Naturally, this has put me at odds with those who wish to return to "the good old days" which only exist in imagination as regards both farming and health, specifically vaccinations for humans.  There is no talking to the scientifically illiterate who having not reasoned themselves into their positions are not able to be reasoned out of them.  Persons who are willing to learn, are a different story, of course.

 

Best of luck in your endeavors.


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