Convince me transgenic is bad.

So I’m buying a soy protein shake powder with vitamins at a GNC the other day(thought I would try it for post workouts) and on the label is a big sticker, obviously a selling point for this particular brand, which read in bold letters “Only non-GMO’s.” Alright. First off, that’s a falsehood, unless you can demonstrate you use only some wild-type soy which grows in deep in the recesses of the amazon basin, it’s already a genetically modified food. Second, why do I care?

Can someone form the anti-GMO camp hammer out the cogent arguments against transgenics? The morons walking around in Frankenstein costumes at WTO protests aren’t doing much for me. What’s the main thrust of their protest, what are the goals of those raising serious questions about GMO’s?
From what I’ve gleened so far:
1)fear of ingesting foreign, unknown, proteins that may act as allergens
2)fear of globalization and Monsanto’s black heart
3)cause-du-jour, which makes this phemomenon so, so, genesequa…
4)less than harmonic trade(among other)relations between the US and Europe/ fear of Americanization
5)fear, loathing and mistrust of egghead scientists
6)the consequences of introducing GMO’s to the environment w/out knowing the impact

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for transperancy when it comes to what gets into the food supply, if this is the crux and goal of the anti-GMO camp, I hear you and points 1 and 6 make sense to me. However, irrationally protesting the dispersal of GMO technology to farmers in 3rd world countries where huge benefits are possible because of reactionary sentiment toward globalization is just nonsense.

lm: However, irrationally protesting the dispersal of GMO technology to farmers in 3rd world countries where huge benefits are possible because of reactionary sentiment toward globalization is just nonsense.

I agree that it would be silly to oppose a commodity merely because it’s manufactured by a First World big corporation and purchased by a Third World small farmer. However, what’s the evidence that the GMO crops that agribusiness currently wants to market in the Third World actually will have net “huge benefits” for the farmers? Most of the advantages I’ve seen described for such crops sound good in theory, but stumble on the fundamental issue of cost. Many farmers want to get next year’s seed from this year’s crop or trade seed with other farmers, whereas biotech companies naturally want to go on selling them seed year after year, which they’d find difficult to afford.

Personally, I’m not opposed in principle to GM technology, but I do have some concerns about it along the lines of your reasons (1) and (6), with a little bit of (2): not that I hate globalization or Monsanto per se, but the commercial motives and economic power of the pro-GMO faction seem so strong that I worry that they might steamroller even legitimate opposition. I also think there’s a case to be made for a reason number (7), preservation of biodiversity. That, however, is a potential objection to all forms of monocropping, not just GM crops.

As far as I see, the largest protest against genetically modified food is that “THERE ARE THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO TAMPER WITH!!! OOGA BOOGA!”.

And the main thing about GM foods in 3rd world countries is that we are able to make breeds of corn and grains that have higher yield and survive better in the harsher enviroments. A genetically modified cornstalk might have twice as much yield, and actually survive in the desert, which means alot more food.

its a “lets get mad either way”

people: grar! the plants will escape and eat babies!!! the companys are EVIL!
company: I highly doubt that… but well, we could sterilize them…
people: yes, you better!
company: yeah, alright, if it makes you feel better.
people: ah ha! we were right!!! they ARE EVIL they just want to sell seeds no one can resell and buy babies to eat with their capitialism!
company: but you said…
people: we don’t remember what we said our knees jerk far to much to keep track anymore!

D2: And the main thing about GM foods in 3rd world countries is that we are able to make breeds of corn and grains that have higher yield and survive better in the harsher enviroments.

Again, that sounds like a very good thing in theory, but I haven’t seen studies to back up claims that we do have GM strains that will produce significantly higher yields and/or endure harsh climates significantly better and make economic sense for farmers in the long run.

The thing is, Third World agriculture is just not a high-profit business as a rule, and I haven’t seen a good explanation of how Third World farmers will be able to substantially benefit from GM products while still providing to the GMO companies the profits and property-rights protections that they expect.

At best, it sounds to me like a potentially great idea that hasn’t been thought through on practical terms yet. At worst, it sounds like potential exploitation, where seed companies woo farmers with promises of miracle crops and then lock them into arrangements that won’t be profitable for them in the long run. I don’t think you have to be an “ooga-booga” alarmist to find this possibility troubling.

oocc: *people: grar! the plants will escape and eat babies!!! the companys are EVIL!
company: I highly doubt that… but well, we could sterilize them…
people: yes, you better!
company: yeah, alright, if it makes you feel better.
people: ah ha! we were right!!! they ARE EVIL they just want to sell seeds no one can resell and buy babies to eat with their capitialism!

:slight_smile: and all that, but you seem to be suggesting that the public isn’t allowed to be concerned about more than one problem. I mean, if herbicide-resistant GMO’s do escape to create herbicide-resistant weed strains, that potentially is a genuine problem. On the other hand, if “terminator gene” GMO’s do cause financial hardship for farmers who depend on saving and trading seed for next year’s crop, that is potentially a genuine problem too. Why blame this Catch-22 on the public rather than on the product?

In fact, the thing that puzzles me most about the whole GMO debate is just this sort of apparent collapse of the old principle that “The Customer Is Always Right.” Way I always thought of it, if a company wants to sell me something, it’s their responsibility to come up with a product that I want to buy and don’t have any significant qualms about. It’s not my responsibility to say meekly, “well, if you say this is a good product then I guess I oughta buy it, so here’s your money.”

The company is free to try to reassure and educate me and do whatever it can to prove to me that their product really is good, but if I’m still unenthusiastic about it then they have no business shoving it down my throat. The Customer Is Always Right.

Kimstu , absolutely correct. However, when you aren’t given a chance to actually try the product how would you know? Especially when the government does little to clarify misinformation being spread about your product. Perhaps that isn’t the gov’s job? However I tend to think it is when they are the one conducting the safety,environmental impact trial, etc.

lm: *However, when you aren’t given a chance to actually try the product how would you know? Especially when the government does little to clarify misinformation being spread about your product. Perhaps that isn’t the gov’s job? However I tend to think it is when they are the one conducting the safety,environmental impact trial, etc.

I see your point, but the situation in the US seems to be practically the opposite of what it is in Britain. In the US, we have strong resistance to GM labeling, widespread commercial use of GM crops (to the point that almost no product made with certain grains could be certified GM-free), and very minimal standards for GM product testing. Not having a chance to try the product is not our problem here.

Britain’s approach, on the other hand, as far as I can tell from your link, seems to be to come down on the side of caution. I don’t know whether the British government really is neglecting or misrepresenting the scientists’ point of view, although several scientists seem to think so. If so, of course, that’s wrong.

On the other hand, I don’t quite see how anyone can expect to set public policy on such a fundamental and potentially far-reaching issue as introducing GM crops into the environment, without having a lot of argument and brouhaha and confused public perceptions about it. Medical drugs, for example, have a notoriously long approval period, and even when finally approved often remain controversial. Seems pretty logical that something like transgenic modification of food crops would provoke similar levels of public anxiety and regulatory caution.

I’m from the states, it just seems most of the press about GMO’s comes from Europe (that’s why I linked the BBC story) I don’t think the Europeans have any monopoly when it comes to resistance to genetic engineering, however. IIRC aren’t GMO’s considered unfit for human consumption in the US? I seem to recall a huge scare a few years back when GMO corn destined to become cattle feed may have “accidentally” ended up in the human food supply. Products were pulled from the shelves, protests, promises of tighter legislation from politicians, etc.

There was a PBS doc on the subject of GMO’s which aired a segment in which they followed a US educated African scientist who was trying to introduce transgenics in her home country. Some staple crop grown by subsistence farmers there(some type of tuber?) had been hit hard by blight, anyways, she was convinced GM crops would have a very positive impact on people lives not only in her country, but throughout Africa. I believe she had run some trials and the crop size and quality differences of the GM crops were quite substantial when compared to unmodified. Need to go dig up a cite for this but she was perplexed at Americans(like the ones responsible for torching a researcher’s laboratory here in MI) attitudes, having never been hungry or unable to afford pesticides. So there are least some researchers who think the benefits would outweigh the risks.

On the environmental point, reduction of pesticides would always be a good thing. It would be wonderful if all farmers had the luxury of small scale organic techniques for pest control, but with world population topping out at 6 billion, this is just not feasible.

I’m about as card-carrying tree-hugger as you can get, but I also have an education in environmental science to back that up. I can say wholeheartedly that I personally think that pesticides are a good thing. Without them, the world would not be able to support the population that it already does.
But that doesn’t make me feel any better about “Round-up-ready” commodities and other various GMOs, and here’s why. These types of GMOs encourage farmers to use significantly large amounts of herbicides and pesticides, saturating the ground and the desired crop. Who wants to eat a food saturated with a chemical designed to kill plants or insects? (There are even crops that are modified to produce pesticides. Yum.)
I don’t like the idea of “sterile” crops because I feel it puts the farmers in the pockets of the companies that produce them. They must buy the seed year after year, and have no stockpile for next year because they can and will be sued for using it! I suppose it makes other crops oh-so-slightly more protected because they will not be pollenated by the sterile GMO plants. I just have a moral problem with a product that encourages people to use vast amounts of chemicals on their food and economically enslaves them at the same time.
One thing I am certain of is that mother nature is in charge. No matter what we put out there, nature will adapt and absorb, the real question is whether it will be to the benefit of humankind or not. So while I’m not really concerned that GMOs are to be the end of the world, I think we need to be a bit less reckless about all this. I believe we should have thorough testing of these products before they are distributed to farmers and introduced into our diets. If that means creating a new regulatory body (because the EPA and the FDA can’t seem to decide whose jurisdiction these “crops” are) then so be it. But these companies need to assure the public that these products are safe and thoroughly tested. You don’t have to be a Luddite to demand to know the facts behind these products. And right now they are totally obscured.

Ghanima , how do GMO’s encourage the use of more pesticides? What exactly are “round-up ready” crops? I’m not familiar with this term. I thought the whole idea of transgenics was to reduce to dependance on pesticides by introducing genes from naturally resistant strains into less resistant strains of scrops(not just foodstuffs either). I completely agree with you on the issue of disclosure(see the OP about transperancy) products should be labeled so the consumer can make informed choices, but is another regulatory body really a good idea?
Also, who goes after the farmers if they stockpile seed? Wouldn’t that be the job of a regulatory commision for non-compliance with laws concerning GMO’s?Sterility in transgenics is mandated by regulatory commisions, not the companies. Why couldn’t a farmer who didn’t like what was happening with his GMO crops/customer service just go back to regular seed or are they bound by some type of contractual obligation? Don’t farmers generally buy seed from companies seasonally anyway(for field rotation, etc)?
Lastly, I never claimed people in the anti-GMO camp are all Ludites(I suspect many are much more well informed on the subject than I am) just the ones who wave signs and chant slogans about Frankenfood while smashing the window of a Starbucks.
Which brings me to another question I have concerning transgenics and the anti-globalization movement? What does one have to do with the other?

Ghanima …


I’m not Ghanima, but as a card-carrying tree-hugger with degrees in environmental studies I’ll take a crack.

Roundup Ready” are seeds that are designed to be resistant to Roundup, ‘a non-selective herbicide used to kill unwanted grasses and weeds.’ The idea is that you plant your RR seeds and then spray all the Roundup you want because it won’t harm your output. (It may still harm the ground, and the groundwater, and surrounding herbs, grasses and weeds.)

Hopefully this link will suggest an answer to both questions. Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, is being sued by Monsanto because they found some of their seed on his land, and he never paid for it. He insists that it blew over from someone else’s land, something that’s entirely possible. (The facts of this particular case may never be known, but I’m not comfortable with the fact that a company has the power to sue me, successfully, because of something that’s completely beyond my control.)

A lot of third-world farmers object to GMOs because they do the exact opposite: they save seeds from each year’s crop to use for next year’s. That way, even if they don’t have any money, they can still have a crop next year. If the seeds are sterile after a season, and they don’t have money, they don’t have anything at all.

Something that’s widely misunderstood about the ‘anti-globalization movement’ is that it’s utterly misnamed. I have worked extensively within this so-called movement and I have never heard anyone within the movement use the name (except as a matter of convenience when talking to someone else who used the name first).

‘Globalization’ just is, it’s an agglomeration of lots and lots and lots of processes, working interactively and sometimes conflictingly. For instance, the Seattle demo (a huge success within the ‘movement’) would never have happened without the Internet, a product of globalization.

The difficulty is that the problems they are ‘anti-’ are diverse and reflect local interests, which of course vary across the globe. There is no convenient label that they fall under. There are overarching themes that they share, but each person who attends an ‘anti-globalization’ demo is there for his/her own reasons: GMOs, SAPs, trade issues, labour issues, the list goes on. Plus, there’s nobody checking reservations at the door so anybody can go and protest anything they like. Just because I am at the same protest as Mr X in no way implies that I agree with Mr X. It’s a free country. We’re both entitled to be there.

It would be much more accurate to call it a movement of people who are against economic globalization, which is still much too broad a term to be really useful but refers approximately to the way money and profits are encouraged to flow across borders, and are given more consideration than human rights. This is the basis for objections to things like the WTO and to world economic summits and such things: the protesters are objecting to policies which privatize natural resources, putting them quite literaly in the hands of foreign investors and removing them from the hands of people who need them. There are countless cases of corporations suing governments for loss of profits, when governments tried to reclaim control of resources that their people needed to survive.

My own thoughts: I am cynical when anyone says “But this new technology will feed the starving!” People are not starving because there is not enough food. There is plenty of food. People are starving because their ability to produce their own food has been compromised (due to things like land grabs and GMOs) and they don’t have the money to buy food. I have no reason to believe that if GMOs were introduced to, say, Africa, they wouldn’t just pad the pockets of a small group of elites, with not much hunger averted.

If you’re interested in pursuing this issue, read Vandana Shiva, an Indian (‘anti-globalization’) activist who is concerned with biopiracy. This is an address she gave in Seattle in 1999 (I don’t know if it was from the big demo, tho.)

“Round-up ready” crops are crops that have been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Round-up. This means you can plant your crops, then soak your field in herbicide, and the only thing that will grow is the GMO crop. That’s an example of how GMOs encourage herbicide abuse.
Alternatively, of course there are crops that have been modified to produce their own pesticides, so that they are resistant to insects and pesticides need not be used. Which is great, except now you have pesticide IN your food, not on it.
The origins of this kind of technology lie in the type of GMOs you described, the ones who are bred to have stronger resistance to their natural predators, or to grow in various climates, etc. But it has gone far, far beyond that.

Is another regulatory body a good idea? Yikes, that’s quite a question. Personally I think the FDA should create a branch of themselves designated to govern this type of thing. But it hasn’t happened yet. Don’t hold your breath either.
Right now, it is the corporations themselves that go after farmers that stockpile their patented seed. It does happen. Also, a farmer who has soaked his field in herbicide has little likelihood of a successful crop the next year using regular seed. He must let the field lie fallow and the herbicide dissipate, at major cost to his livelihood.
Sterility in transgenics is not currently mandated. Ask farmers in Canada about their canole crops. IIRC, nearly all canola crops in Cananda that have been tested have come up with GMO genetics, from pollen that has drifted from the USA. There is virtually no Non-GMO canola to be found in North America. (Caveat: I may be thinking of soybeans here. I am going from the dim glow of my long-term memory.)
Of course you didn’t call ALL anti-GMO persons Luddites. I simply said that being anti-GMO doesn’t make you one. No hard feelings.

As to GMO and globalization - that’s an entire thread all on its own. Long story short: GMOs facilitate globalization. They encourage a global economy. Whether that’s good or bad is an issue I’m not touching with a ten-foot genetically modified cornstalk.

Anyone has the power to sue you for anything. If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have much to worry about. Mr. Schmeiser was ordered to pay damages becuase the court found his story, uh, somewhat unsatisfying, to put it nicely. There was no doubt that he knew he was growing Monsanto’s product in his fields.

I don’t know about land grabs, but if a farmer has had his land reduced by force, he would probably like to have the best crops that he can get on the land that he has left. As for your claim about GMOs being responsible for compromising their ability to produce food, I’d like to see you try to defend that statement. I’m baffled.

Vandana Shiva is a nut. If she had her way, millions of poor people would starve to death.

CurtC , you realize by the mere linking of *Michael Fumento’s * name to my thread you may have inadvertantly sealed its fate to that of a twisted, flaming heap of former boxcars and rubble strewn tracks :slight_smile:

Interesting link though, funny how one man’s pundit of truth is another’s crackpot.

"Europeans have been brainwashed against biotech foods by environmentalist groups like Greenpeace, political demagogues and a media that routinely refer to them as “mutant food” or “Frankenfood.” A 2002 survey of all EU nations found, incredibly, that half of those surveyed believed that genetically engineered fruit would alter a person’s own genes. "

from here

Points for point #4 of the OP. Ignorance born of protectionist propaganda. I’m still not seeing any real hard evidence that GMO’s encourage pesticide abuse.

This case is currently under review by the Supreme Court of Canada. Mr. Schmeiser contends that the grain appeared in his feilds unaided by him, and is challenging Monsanto’s ability to patent a life form. The argument is that Monsanto has indirectly and illegally patented a plant by claiming control over genes in that plant anywhere they end up.

Labmonkey - That link is rather partisan

Europeans want labelling to provide the consumer with choice. The US says this is too hard to do. TOUGH.

Saying that you cannot prevent its spread into other crops is just playing into the hands of the people who are worried about it.

Consumer choice is what it is all about, Consumers may not want your product but that is their choice , their loss to your way of thinking but still their choice.

Unless the seed blows onto your land, which it can do. Again I’m not defending the good farmer, but the lawsuit began down a road I’m not comfortable with. Once we start patenting life it can only end badly.

Right. But there are quite a lot of ‘landless people’ in the world who can’t grow any crops at all. (Note that this is a bit of a hijack and not entirely related to GMOs, I’m just trying to make the point that lots of people are prevented from eating because they can’t grow anything, GMO or otherwise, and are forced to buy it. Changing what they buy is not as important, to me, as allowing them to grow something themselves. If we were really concerned with ‘feeding’ them, we could do it without GMOs. I contend that we are not really concerned with feeding them.)

Their ability to produce food often depends on having seeds saved from previous years. If their seeds are sterile and they have no money, they will have no crops.

We can agree to disagree, if you want, but that doesn’t mean that what she has to say is worthless. Whoever is interested can read up and decide for themselves.

I realize that. This seems quite the polarizad issue, not much in the middle. However, I don’t think because the survey( available in the link) is provided in an oped piece it is in any way invalidated. My point wasn’t about the labeling, label away (see my earlier posts about disclosure) However, 50% of people believing something as patently untrue as transgenics altering their genes seems to support the European scientists’ argument (from the BBC article) that their work has been unfairly targeted and the subject of misinformation and propaganda.