wed evening debate – GM foods, yay or nay?

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  • wed evening debate – GM foods, yay or nay?
  • whats the collective view on them then?

    me? i'm a yay.
    GM foods have the potential to provide greater yields, on more marginal lands, which will be needed to feed the ever increasing populations. there has not been a single case where GM food was scientifically found to be bad for our health, most opposition seems to be based on moral/ethical or misinformed arguments. i reckon misunderstanding in the general public has had a massive impact on why, in the UK, GM is not a commonplace food source (although anyone who eats soya products is likely to be eating GM unknowingly). the whole monsanto screw-up (and it was a total screw-up) scuppered GM tech use in the UK… if only they'd not done what they did…

    but here is my caveat…

    the monsanto case shows, imo, that if genetic traits of the crops are held my multi-nationals, they're probably not going to work well in the UK.
    many of the GM developments are done in govt funded institutes, alongside the multinationals. once the product is released, the rights tend to be given to the multinationals.
    if we are to have GM which is beneficial to the population (better yields, better nutritional value etc) then the patents/the rights/the knowledge of the crops need to be held by the public, for the public good. sure, they can be used by the corporations, but as monsanto show, when one corp has the rights, it doesn't work.

    yay or nay? and why?

    aP
    Member

    I'm more concerned by the vectors bringing unexpected traits with them.

    Premier Icon stumpyjon
    Subscriber

    From a what I eat point of view, no issues at all.

    From an environmental point of new I'm nervous about releasing something with the potential to reproduce into the wild (but then I'm no geneticist so that may not be warranted).

    From an ethical / commercial viewpoint, I'm a little sceptical, the big companies have done this purely for profit and I'm not sure it will make much of an impact on food poverty / sustainability etc.

    I'll caveat all that as uninformed guess work as the topic hasn't stirred me enough to do any research.

    From an ethical / commercial viewpoint, I'm a little sceptical, the big companies have done this purely for profit and I'm not sure it will make much of an impact on food poverty / sustainability etc.

    hence my belief that it should be owned by the public.

    anyways, all companies do things for the benefit of themselves, t'is capitalism…

    yet to come up with much on the env impact, most of the stuff seems to be incredibly biased.

    FWIW i'm writing my dissertation on this stuff (well, not specifically GM, but agri as a whole), so its all interesting 🙂

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    hence my belief that it should be owned by the public.

    then nothing at all would be done as we can't agree on anything

    Test, Check, Evaluate, Experiment, Report & Consider is my preferable method, as opposed to "quick burn the witch" approach

    then nothing at all would be done as we can't agree on anything

    and this is where informing the public that it is safe comes in…

    i actually believe that corps could do it fine, but the public won't trust them as;

    the big companies have done this purely for profit and I'm not sure it will make much of an impact on food poverty / sustainability etc

    its a double edged sword i reckon – people don't want the corps to have it as they think they will take advantage, but it'll not get done unless someone forces it (which the corps would, but perhaps the govt wouldn't)

    Test, Check, Evaluate, Experiment, Report & Consider is my preferable method, as opposed to "quick burn the witch" approach

    thing is, thats already been done – it gets opposed on grounds of morals/ethics/misunderstanding.

    no GM crop has been found to be dangerous, and they're used extensively in the US/china/soya industry… no one there really takes issue with it, like we seem to here in europe.

    Premier Icon CHB
    Subscriber

    Hungry monkey, I think you are 100% correct.
    I was at an M&S environmental/Plan A seminar the other week.
    Professor John Beddington was presenting, and I became more convinced than ever that GM has a role to play in our future. Like any other scientific/technical tool it has to be harnessed in the right way.

    I always say that GM elephants don't scare me (don't like it…you can find it and shoot it). GM microbes scare the bejeaburs out of me.

    For crops you really have to look at the specifics. My interest is in GM corn, for bio-polymer production. Given than much of this in produced in huge US mono-cultures I do not see much risk in cross contamination.

    It's the future, but it needs well regulating.

    ooOOoo
    Member

    It's too powerful.

    Premier Icon CHB
    Subscriber

    ooooooooo, you remind me of one of those 1950's sci-fi movies, where at the end, when it has all gone wrong but some pronounced chin all-American hero saves they day they declare "such things were not meant for men to know!".

    As a species we are past the toddler stage. It's up to us to progress and make sure we don't mess up the play pen.

    AdamW
    Member

    I am not so sure, and I am a scientist.

    I don't want there to be very few types of wheat, for example. Or corn – biodiversity will be shot.
    I am also concerned about 'owernship' of genes. Whichever blithering idiot though that you could patent something that we already own within our cells or another organism does was corrupt/stupid. This will lead to companies like Monsanto owning most crops, especially if they find a 'terminator' gene to make all seeds sterile.
    I am concerned about cross-contamination.
    I don't believe GM crops will deliver the quantities of yields that will most probably be needed by mid-2100s. The massive change in yields produced since the end of WW2 is unlikely to be matched with GM.

    I am also concerned about things like pesticide-resistant crops. This means you can pour more of the pesticide on the crop to kill off the bugs. But then evolution steps in and bugs that are more resistant to the pesticide turn up so you have to put a hell of a lot more on.

    I reckon that we should just stop breeding so much. If there are fewer people there is less demand for more and more crops. Simples. 🙂

    Premier Icon CHB
    Subscriber

    AdamW, also agree with you 100%. Hence the "heavily regulated" bit of my post. To be honest I don't know if it will give the yields (lets face it gene therapy in medicine has not yet delivered what we hoped!) but if it does and is delivered in a way that does not benefit a few multinationals then it SHOULD be good.

    ooOOoo
    Member

    We are too selfish, too short-term and too greedy to manage it properly.
    What effect will it have on the 7th generation after us? Who cares?
    Genetic engineering will only be as good as the genetic engineers.
    If you can't control your food without microscopes, computers and genetic level manipulation I think you are robbing farmers of their local control.
    What's the rush? Why not continue with normal agriculture and keep it as a backup?
    I love new technology but being blinded by novelty and impatience is childish.
    Just a few thoughts.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    morals/ethics/misunderstanding = burn the witch

    john beddington – legend…

    AdamW – biodiversity is already shot. with GM you get different varieties which can do different things. a paper (i hop this works) i was reading today even suggested that GM crops could be 'tailored' to have almost medicinal properties…
    its probably true that absolute yields can't be increased much, however in those marginal areas, GM does have the potential to increase yields, through pest resistance, saline resistance and drought resistance.

    if the genetics are owned (and i also disagree with the ownership of genetics anyway) by the public for the public good, the monsanto thing may never need to happen again…

    things like biocontrol are, i reckon, going to have a massive impact on pesticide use in the future…

    finally (before i hit the pub), the upcoming peak-phosphate (estimated at approx 2030) is also going to cause huge problems if we are to continue to rely so heavily on NPK fertilizers – another area in which GM gives us that little extra leeway with our global food production.

    I love new technology but being blinded by novelty and impatience is childish.

    crude, modern, GM has been around since the 60s (main variety of (iirc) barley was created by hitting it with vast amounts of radiation to cause mutations in the DNA – the best mutants were picked out, and thats what you now eat… (think its called Golden Barley, but i can't be bothered to go through my notes now 🙂 )

    on this note though…
    GM is essentially picking the best traits from the crops and breeding them together into an even better crop.
    so its pretty much just like a high-tech lab version of selective breeding (give or take), which is something we've been doing for thousands of years.

    we're just doing it better, more selectively and more efficiently, in a way that we can (to an extent) guarantee better results.

    imo

    ooOOoo
    Member

    I don't go for that argument. The level of control it can give is many times greater than selective breeding, and it can happen many times faster. That's why I think it's too powerful.
    Is it really a technology developed for a need, or is it just doing clever things because we can? We already control a lot of this planet.

    Premier Icon flap_jack
    Subscriber

    We shouldn't be eating grains anyway. Go caveman !

    i genuinely think we need it.
    we have a predicted 50% rise in the global population in the next 40 years. the WTO (or is it FAO?) predict that that will require a 100% increase in grain production to feed the new population. partly due to numbers and partly due to an increasingly energy rich (i.e. meaty) diet.

    conventional agricultural yields are pretty much as high as they are going to get, there is increasing pressure to lower presticide use (for env reasons), ditto water use, peak-phosphate is going to mean we need to reduce fertilizer use, and its not like the amount of land on the earth is increasing.

    we have the technology to do it, it is ALREADY being done in other places… we can create enough crops, with less fertilizer, pesticides and water, on more marginal lands which are currently not under use…

    ultimately it is a population problem, however i cannot see us going down a malthusian route whereby masses die off through starvation, when there is the technology there to feed them…

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    No

    There is no need – its nothing to do with reducing hunger just increasing profits. No GM crop yet has increased yeilds

    Monsanto have deliberately contaminated the worlds soya, roundup ready crops have released their genes into weeds so they are now herbicide resistant.

    Its a pandoras box – we must stop it. Terminator genes – if they cross over into other crops then its hello world starvation.

    GM is essentially picking the best traits from the crops and breeding them together into an even better crop.
    so its pretty much just like a high-tech lab version of selective breeding (give or take), which is something we've been doing for thousands of years.

    This is wrong – its about introducing genes from other plants or even from animals into crops – this cnnot be done by slective breeding. No terminator gene is available naturally nor round up ready genes.

    TJ, did you read the caveat?
    yes, profit is involved, its inevitable… if, though, they are created for the public good – the patents are owned by the people, then they can be created in a suitable and fair way.

    as i said above, critics fall into one of 3 categories – moral objectors, ethical objectors and misinformed objectors.

    unfortunately the very strong anti-lobby has had huge media coverage.

    a LOT of GM is nothing more sinister than attempting to improve resilience of crops, and improve the nutritional value of the crops.

    throughout my dissertation research i have interviewed numerous people from across the entire food supply chain in the UK – from farm laborers to those involved in policy and R&D.

    one said a total NO to GM
    a few had reservations – needs to be done properly, needs more research, but not 'never'
    the majority believe we should be doing it now.

    what they all said was that conventional agriculture does not have the capacity or ability to double production.

    btw, as i'v also said, the yield increases are expected in areas where the potential yield of regular crops are not met, through soil salinity, drought, pest or fertilizer issues.

    GM CAN increase yields in these areas.

    porterclough
    Member

    Yay

    Let's feed the planet instead of being irritating gits.

    Premier Icon Lifer
    Subscriber

    We could free up untold acres for food production by moving away from cotton and back to hemp.

    IMO the ownership is the biggest problem, all very well saying the public should own it but I think the same about land! Also what effect on the land do high yield GM crops have?

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    hungrymonkey – have you found any instances of yields increasing? My understanding ( from a very lay point of view) is that they have not. You say yield increases are expected – the evidence so far is that this simply is not true.

    We have plenty of food – infact a surplyus at teh moment – its just n the wrong places. More food could easily be grown – a move away from meat is one and other luxury crops.

    You have bought into the hype from agribusiness

    Genes have already crossed from gm crops into weeds. All the worlds soya is no contaminated by GM – this was done deliberately by monsanto to so they could sell there GM soya on the grounds all soya was GM.

    less GM is being grown now than was in the US – partly because it has not lived up to the hype and party because there is no market for it

    Its purely about profit – nothing to do with decreasing hunger.

    porterclough
    Member

    Here's what Norman Borlaug said about some of the misinformed trendy objectors to the green revolution of the 50s and 60s:

    some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels…If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things"

    Plus ca change…

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    porteclough

    If I thought it safe and though it would do anything to reduce hunger then fine – however all the evidence is that it is not safe with gene escape and crossover and that it does not increase yields – more very controlled research perhaps but it simply is not needed nor safe at the moment

    porterclough
    Member

    MMR repeat anyone?

    I don't know about anyone else but I'm tired of people taking views on these matters based on nothing more than what sounds trendy (oo, big business is bad, science is bad, let's be effing space cadets).

    It's easy if you aren't hungry.

    Sorry this nonsense makes me angry.

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    PorteRclough – BUT IT DOESN'T INCREASE YIELDS! So it won't prevent hunger.

    Edit – roundup ready genes getting into native plants / weeds will decrease yeilds.

    Premier Icon votchy
    Subscriber

    Nay for me, education and contraception to prevent the population growth that the planet (seemingly) cannot support.

    ooOOoo
    Member

    You think about how much oil we use to make our food now – any GM crop designed with that assumption could fit in very differently once that source of energy and fertilizer is gone. Not sustainable.

    I appreciate that I haven't felt hunger like people in certain parts of the world. I don't believe that GM is the only way out of those problems. Maybe to the agri-tech firms it is, but then if your only tool is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

    I'm much more concerned about the effect on ecosystems and the countless species that aren't human beings. Genetic engineers don't work weekends or evenings but nature is happening 24/7.

    porterclough you sound like the typical short-term thinking, science is new & great & shiny we-must-use-it person. What you forget is we already have food.

    If the rest of the world want to do it then fine but I fully support keeping this island GM free. If after 100-200 years we find we fully understand it and it's effects then fine, use it then.

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