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Contemplation of the day: So, what's the deal with GMO foods? I've assumed that the idea that GMOs are harmful is just an urban legend that has grown so big that everybody stopped questioning it... an idea that everybody believes just because everybody else they've ever met believes it.... despite a complete lack of actual credible evidence... like religions or the idea that boiled okra is food. Does anybody among my friends know if there is any credible, factually based argument behind the anti-GMO fervor?

 

Corn and banana's are the biggest genetically modified food I can think of. It's interesting in a way. For bananas we do not eat the food originally eaten years ago as that banana no longer exists. Corn on the other hand is weird. You can drive by fields in Texas which list special numbers for seed the plant was from but corn is turned into a billion things like fuel for cars to tortilla strips. I personally think you can taste a difference when you eat these foods. Much like you can taste and see the difference a freshly laid egg and one you buy at the supermarket.

 

There are people who think the food is bad for you because the natural benefits are bred out of the plant to make them sturdier for longer growing seasons, transport to stores and other things that it is too late in the morning to enumerate. But really I think some of the blame for obesity, diabetes and heart risks lay also in our lifestyles that we live as evolution can't keep up with the diets we currently eat while our bodies are still designed for actual working during the day and the sleep cycles of people say during the 1800s.

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The problem with saying GMOs are bad is that it is too general of a label so it becomes a generalization. It's like saying electricity is bad because it can kill you-- even though it changed our lives and we're dependent on it.

 

There is definitely some food material that is scary unhealthy for us out there, but there's also types of food that would have vanished or otherwise been uneatable otherwise.

 

The whole/natural food movement isn't a terrible one, and the FDA is a crock, but that doesn't mean corn modified to have a longer growth season is a terrible thing.

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My favorite part of the GMO discussion is how the people who are first to shout down any dissent on the issue of (anthropogenic) climate change on the basis of scientific consensus are often the same ones who claim corporate conspiracy when the broad scientific consensus on the safety of GMO food is mentioned.

 

It's only science if it supports your beliefs!

 

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I'm not scared of GMO food. I definitely get the "ick factor" it evokes in some people, and have empathy for it. I know bugs aren't gonna hurt me and they're high in protein, but I just don't wanna eat a caramelized hissing cockroach on a stick, either. Unfounded, even irrational, I know, but thinking about it helps me "get" people who have an aversion to eating stuff that you wouldn't or couldn't find reproducing naturally.

 

Artificial selection, if used intelligently can be a very, very good thing.

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GMOs (and related categories- fears over factory farms, pesticides, non-organic, etc.), are the leftist's version of "creation science." That is, quackery and pseudo-science peddled by charlatans to play on dumb people's emotions, rather than rooted in anything scientific. You got your mega-church pastor passing the collection plate so he can buy a new BMW on one hand, and Whole Foods marking up items by 200% to draw in the lemmings on the other hand. It's all just marketing. The exact same song, just different instruments.

 

We had a thread on a substantially similar topic a couple years back. Pavonis said this:

 

What's wrong with GMOs? There's nothing we eat today that wasn't genetically modified at some point. There's nothing natural about wheat, corn or rice. They're all freakishly mutated grasses that we bred deliberately. They're about as natural as a transistor. So why worry about further genetic modification of our food?

We went 4 pages in that thread after that and no one had an intelligent answer to him.

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I have a small concern with GMOs regarding the foundation of their health. I won't go into a bunch of boring details, but sometimes no amount of genetic screening is smarter or more powerful than a dumb animal's sense of smell. When two healthy animals with desirable traits refuse to mate, there is always a good reason for it; taking away that early warning system via turkey baster (or now: straight up dinking around with genes) can lead to problems. It's not a huge concern, though -- nothing that can't be worked around. My main concern with GMOs is actually how other organisms adapt to them. But again, nothing I'm panicked about.

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Guest El Chalupacabra

As far as I am concerned, GMO food fear is pretty much in the same vein as people who are all about gluten free. Like gluten, a lot of people don't even know what GMO is...they just know its something to be avoided.

 

GMOs generally don't bother me at all. In fact, man has been producing GMOs since man started breeding animals and growing crops. This is just the modern incarnation of it. The only real, legit concern I see about GMOs is when you have hybrid animals created and things go wrong, IE Killer Bees. But I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

 

 

 

GMOs (and related categories- fears over factory farms, pesticides, non-organic, etc.), are the leftist's version of "creation science." That is, quackery and pseudo-science peddled by charlatans to play on dumb people's emotions, rather than rooted in anything scientific. You got your mega-church pastor passing the collection plate so he can buy a new BMW on one hand, and Whole Foods marking up items by 200% to draw in the lemmings on the other hand. It's all just marketing. The exact same song, just different instruments.

 

Agreed. The right has their "outrage" over cloning body parts and even people, citing its playing God or some such. GMOs in food is the leftist flip side of that coin.

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The only real, legit concern I see about GMOs is when you have hybrid animals created and things go wrong, IE Killer Bees. But I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

 

 

Which was accomplished through mating. No science fiction there, except for the stupid lab assistant who inevitably leaves the grate open.
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I have no problem with GMO food. Or pesticide-sprayed, non-organic food either for that matter. Pavonis' sentiments are spot on: We've been practicing genetic engineering of our food crops since the dawn of agriculture. Practicing genetic eugenics if you will. Now that may be on a slightly different plane than doing such in a lab, where you are inserting DNA from other organisms. But even cross-species DNA exchange occurs in nature, so that is not completely unheard of. I just view this as a vital step for technology to advance our modern agriculture. I have contempt for places like the EU that issue blanket bans against GMO food. This despite the fact that there has not been (to my knowledge) a SINGLE adverse reaction EVER reported from a GMO food crop. I wonder if those starving kids in Africa would be so sanctimonious? I bet they'd take our GMO seeds and be thankful for them.

 

Now CM's sentiments I will agree and disagree with. The whole marketing hype-- absolutely. This topic is a rallying cry for leftist feel-good sentiment (usually accompanied by a lack of scientific knowledge).

 

But I would not go so far as to write off any criticisms as hogwash, as there ARE critiques to be made. However, they are generally more ecologically nuanced and don't deal directly with food safety per say.

 

-Pesticide resistant GMO crops has undoubtedly caused a more blanket use of said pesticides than a more sustainable IPM based program would call for. This increased exposure has caused advance selection pressure in the target organism populations. As a result, we are seeing the emergence of pests that are now resistant to our go-to pesticides. This might have happened anyway, but GMO production unquestionably sped up the process and will continue to aggravate it.

 

-GMO crops can cross-pollinate non-GMO field. This can result in non-GMO farmers not being able to sell their product at their desired markets through no fault of their own. An even more nefarious result can be that these innocent farmers have their fields inspected by the Monsanto goons, and they find themselves facing lawsuits for unauthorized theft of intellectual property. Again-- through no fault of their own.

 

Just a couple, it's late and I don't feel like going into factory farms, organic production vs. sustainable production, etc. Maybe some other time.

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You make a pretty good point about the resilience of pesticides now because of these modifications.

 

I often think about how sterile we make kids at school. I used to get all kinds of dirty playing in the school yard but now it's a squirt of the hand sanitizer and lots of it instead of just washing hands. And there's almost no fun toys left to run around on the playground.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Potatoes were thought to be poisonous because they're related to the nightshade. But that was just misinformation. The idea of eating tubers was rather off-putting back in the day. They were never actually poisonous, though.

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I remember that misinformed nightshade connection, but I also thought that potatoes under went "plant eugenics" ... ;) ... selective breeding in order to reduce toxic alkaloids. Wouldn't that also class as GMO? Or do GMOs literally have to be diddled with by lab coats?

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I'm not aware of any deliberate modern efforts to reduce alkaloids in potatoes. May have happened in the past, though, at small scales.

 

Modern GMOs are lab-based efforts to cross biologicals with unrelated biologicals, if my understanding is correct. Technically it's nothing we've not done before. Pretty much everything we eat regularly is the result of long-term breeding efforts. So it's a matter of degrees and of the tools used.

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There actually aren't that many GMO approved crops in the US. Corn is a big one, as is soy. There are very few other fruits and vegetables thatare gmo. However, it's in most processed foods, so it is pretty prolific in our food supply. However, it is avoidable if you choose to do so.

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Pavonis, I could make a substantial distinction. Even within cross-species breeding of plant crops, you are still breeding within the plant kingdom. So you are attempting to cross one plant with a closely related plant. Within the classically defined version of GMO's, you are typically integrating bacterial genomes with plant genomes, so you are synthetically (as opposed to naturally) swapping DNA across kingdoms of organisms. I personally don't see the distinction or methodology to be that meaningful, but I guess to some people it constitutes "Franken-Foods."

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But, Evo, what difference does it make where the protein sequences originated? A genome is just a list of proteins, more or less. There's only so many of them in nature, and retroviruses have naturally been mixing up DNA sequences longer than we've been doing it in the lab. Kingdoms and phyla, et al, are just human-imposed classifications on the world. While useful to us, the natural world is not concerned with the maintenance of boundaries the way we are. Are you saying, then, that the layperson is afraid of "Franken-foods" because they're uninformed? Gasp!

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Well pavonis, as I said, the distinction is fairly meaningless to me, as DNA is DNA. The same base pairs across every species. But it's the exact sort of argument I could see an anti-GMO group trying to advance. And of course they are uninformed with their "Franken Food" gibberish. I suspect that they actually envision the research and development of these plant crops as looking like something out of Frankenstein's laboratory.

 

On a different note, but completely related to the GMO thing, I came across this article on Stem Cell Meat. THAT is freaking cool and could completely revolutionize meat production, doing away with the need for expansive feed lots, acres of feed production, the pollution impact of manure, etc. It's meat that you could take and grow on the space station. And from an ethics standpoint, as a vegetarian, I would probably not have a problem eating it because you're not really slaughtering a fully sentient organism that can feel pain. You are harvesting grown meat absent a brain (or lots of other parts). But I can just imagine what a field day the GMO crowd would have with this were it ever to be perfected and commercially viable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's fine, but I don't think we should be patenting gene sequences, and we need to massively reform copyright and patent law if we're going to allow any sort of ownership claims. I'm also worried that we might accidentally sterilize major species of crops via accidental cross-breeding, like those scientists who were trying to make purple flowers more purple and ended up making them white instead.

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