Class Warfare Blog

May 29, 2018

GMO Skepticism

A recent research effort showed than in some areas, anti-science attitudes are strongly correlated with religion (surprise, surprise). In other areas, there were correlations with science knowledge or rather the lack thereof, supporting those who think that science education is an effective way to combat anti-science attitudes.

One such example of the latter involved the safety of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The researchers found that those who possessed more science knowledge favored GMOs and those with less science knowledge did not.

I have a fair amount of science knowledge and I do not favor GMOs … currently. My attitude was bolstered by the release … finally …. of studies that show that, once again, Monsanto Corporation is bilking the public. Monsanto created “Roundup” a weed killer that actually worked. The problem with Roundup is that if you spray it on a weed and accidentally spray a patch of lawn, it dies too. Roundup is a vegetation killer. So, Monsanto created GMO crops (corn, wheat, potatoes, whatever) that would resist the effects of Roundup, boosting the sales of Roundup as a weed-control agent for farmers and by creating a massive market in their new Roundup resistant seeds.

Monsanto promised increased yields using the new seed and Roundup weed control. So, is that what happened. Well, the study is now in and the difference between Monsanto-focussed fields and control fields is zero, zip, nada. Gosh, you spend that much more money and you’d think it just has to be better. well, it is … better for Monsanto’s bottom line.

Now I will not argue that GMOs do not have benefits, that would be silly. I would argue that we need to look carefully at the benefits and the costs, especially the potential costs. In the Roundup study, the costs were high and the benefits almost nonexistant.

When I first became aware of GMOs, the big “product” was a more “machine harvestable” tomato that had better eating properties. The way this was achieved was to splice into the tomato’s genome some DNA contributed by a trout, yes, a fish. My argument to “go slow” on GMOs goes like this:

We have been genetically modifying crops since the beginning of agriculture. We did this first by choosing to use the seed from plants that gave the best harvest or the best quality of produce and eschewing using seed from lesser plants. Further down the road, we learned how plants propagate and learned how to cross breed plants to make sturdier hybrids. (This is how we pulled off the Green Revolution; we made “dwarf” versions of wheat and rice that had shorter, stronger stalks that could support heavier grain heads, then we used chemical fertilizers up the whazoo to boost the seed cluster sizes (and as a side effect, we have polluted our waterways with these chemicals creating dead zones in our seas the size of small planetoids).)

These “traditional” processes allow nature to have veto power over anything we try. Each stage of a hybridization either produces a viable plant or not. If not, it produces no seed and that possibility is vetoed. It is a little like breeding horses. If horses are bred to horses, the offspring are viable and can breed. If horses are bred to donkeys, you get mules which are viable but cannot breed (end of the road). If horses are bred with cats … ? No one has ever tried this you say. Hmm,  I wonder why?

In the modern GMO process, the genetic material itself is changed directly and nature only has a say as to whether the end product is viable. The result has not been vetted by nature other than in this manner.

So, how do you cross breed a tomato and a trout? If you thought a horse-cat hybrid was crazy, what the hell do you think of a tomato-trout hybrid?

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. What happens to the trout genes in the tomato when the tomato’s genome gets out and interacts with the world at large? But, but, but farmers are used to hybrids that can’t reproduce, you argue. You should take it up with the farmers who are in court suing their neighbors who said the GMO crops they planted couldn’t possibly “get out” and start growing in their neighbor’s fields. (They did.)

Plus, hybridized crops do breed, they just don’t “breed true,” meaning you are much more likely to get the parent stock sprouting than the hybrid stock. I remember my father gathering up the tomato plants that sprouted in our compost heap each spring, replanting them, culling the “bad” ones, but then harvesting “heritage tomatoes” before that term was made common. They breed, just not true.

More info here.

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9 Comments »

  1. Do you think the bad acts of the Monsanto Corporation colors a lot of mistrust and misinformation of GMOs? I like the idea that GMOs can promote, such as more food for areas that are having trouble growing enough food to feed their populations. On the other hand I hate that the Monsanto Corporation claims to own the seed even from already grown plants and the farmers are in a pay the company loop. Then again if we can manage to get more food using less chemicals and less resources I think that is good. That the Monsanto Corporation has damaged farmers fields that are not part of their products usage or participating in the product trials and then denying them restitution is horrible.

    See my point. I like what I think the idea of GMOs can do to be helpful, but I think the Monsanto Corporation is a horrible company that has done a lot wrong and damaged both the environment and people. So I am sort of pulled in both directions on the issue and wish we had a better company doing GMOs or stronger regulations on the companies involved. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Scottie — May 29, 2018 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

    • I think Monsanto is a bad actor all around. I also think that we need to go slow with GMOs. Currently these are profit producing efforts. I would rather than they are governmental products, something the government used to do and is necessary for us to be successful. If there si a major blow up, the offending corporation goes out of business and reopens its doors under another name the next day … and we are left holding the bag. (Think Superfund cleanups.)

      That link I provided seems to claim that most of the yield gains claimed by GMO’s are rather increases due to traditional methods and claimed by GMOs. Because there is so much money to be made, there is a massive propaganda machine operating. If you search “GMO” you will get hits from all over Monsanto’s website.

      Hugs back. (I am old enough that this stuff may not affect me but I wonder about my child and grandchild. The intensive used of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides has resulted in every drop of natural water on this planet being contaminated by those chemicals. I am not chemical-phobic, far from it, but we have to take a look at the total costs of these process and that includes what economists call “externalities,” which are costs that are borne elsewhere (air and water pollution, road destruction by transports, etc.) which is why corporations don’t give a shit about them.

      On Tue, May 29, 2018 at 1:01 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — May 29, 2018 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

      • I agree with you. My husband and I were talking this morning of the issue of contaminated water. We are debating the costs and methods of putting filters on our kitchen water lines. I wanted a large total filter on the main incoming line but he feels that is too expensive and hard to maintain. He thinks we need to only the cold kitchen tap and the new refrigerate has a filter system in it. I can see his logic but I still feel uneasy about the water and our use of it. Hugs

        Like

        Comment by Scottie — May 29, 2018 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

        • It is hard to get honest information about filtration systems in your locality (wherever you live). This is because most of the info is coming from people with something to sell. I have lived in houses with whole house filtration systems and, in our case it was easy and inexpensive to maintain. But were there more contaminants, the price escalates as you add to the list. In our case the culprit was acid and the solution was to pass the water through a bed of crushed calcite (a mineral). Easy peasy. If you want to get rid of particulates (grit), easy peasy. If you have dissolved chemicals that are not minerals, then it gets tougher, much tougher. Have you check in with a state university in your area? They may be able to provide guidance, also check with your county water people. They may be able to help.

          What s very troubling is that oral contraceptives, excreted in urine are now showing up everywhere in our waters. Same is true for anti-depressants. It is getting scary.

          Good luck and hugs to you both!

          On Tue, May 29, 2018 at 1:18 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — May 29, 2018 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

  2. I have concerns as well. One is; how much food we continue to grow may be directly resulting in continued population booms. The UN estimates that 14 billion will populate the planet in the next 100 years, and all brand new people. 2nd, they have spliced a bean with a fungus also so the bugs won’t eat the bean. Should I eat the bean that not even a bug will eat. They are not too selective, so it makes me question if they know something we don’t.

    Like

    Comment by jim- — May 29, 2018 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

    • I am reminded of the phrase “You make that sound like a bad thing.” It is a funny line in a comedy on Netflix, but in our lives, it is effing scary. realize that these things are to be used in place of proven techniques that work, but they cost more, so they are not doing it for your safety, they are doing it to preserve their profits. (and then they say … you make that sound like a bad thing).

      On Tue, May 29, 2018 at 1:24 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — May 29, 2018 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

    • You are not a bug, are you? The compounds that kills the bug is only killing the bug, not any other species. There is a considerable difference between us, so that the poisonous compound wont necessarily affect us humans.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Sigmund — June 21, 2018 @ 8:34 am | Reply

  3. I notice that the primary studies cited are from 2009. Why did this take so long to get publicized? I had no idea!

    Like

    Comment by gfbrandenburg — May 29, 2018 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

    • I chose that one because it was broad. The Monsanto study was more recent. There are a zillion articles on the topic but it seems a large portion of them are propaganda.

      On Tue, May 29, 2018 at 2:58 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — May 29, 2018 @ 9:14 pm | Reply


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