Are GM seed fears realistic?

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  • #26
Ryan_m_b
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Yes, nutrition can be argued as an advantage. But GM foods may not be cheap which means it is still not accessible to the poor ( which negates its advantage ). Maybe it can be grown in places where not much water is available, but it also comes down to affordability of these seeds (which is patented not free) especially in poor countries .

But I would put it to you that you are only assuming that the cost would be high. Part of the http://www.goldenrice.org/" [Broken] is to provide these nutritional GM crops at an affordable price. Whilst some companies may employ unethical business practices not all of them would, in addition companies that design GM products specifically for the third world are not going to set them at unaffordable prices.
 
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  • #27
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One problem with GM is less the genetics and more those who are disseminating said genetics; to wit, Monsanto who has arranged for local legislations in India and Iraq to make it illegal to save seeds. In tandem with this and their genetically modified strains which they sell for much larger sums, the native farmers have to have a perfect season just to make due, and suicide rates have sextupled. Meanwhile, said same company deliberately plants their crops near small farmers in the states, wait for some cross-pollenation to occur, then sue the competition out of business. Further, said same company again has seen their genetic strains turning up in the wild, contaminating even heritage sites beyond recognition.

Genetic modification isn't necessarily bad; it just has the potential to do great damage; not unlike some any other invention... but in the hands of people who prioritize their own prosperity over that of the community, it becomes a deadly weapon.
 
  • #28
Evo
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But I would put it to you that you are only assuming that the cost would be high. Part of the http://www.goldenrice.org/" [Broken] is to provide these nutritional GM crops at an affordable price. Whilst some companies may employ unethical business practices not all of them would, in addition companies that design GM products specifically for the third world are not going to set them at unaffordable prices.
Actualy the golden rice project wants to offer the rice for free.

Golden Rice will reach those who need it at no additional cost
Those who need the product of this new technology most are those who can least afford buying a mixed diet, rich in essential nutrients. This has been taken into consideration by the creators of Golden Rice technology, Professors Peter Beyer and Ingo Portrykus, and the crop protection company Syngenta, who have donated it for humanitarian use in developing countries, free of charge.
But the countries it's been donated to are refusing it due to scare tactics by anti-GM groups.
 
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  • #29
Ygggdrasil
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Ironically, some of the greatest advantages of using GM crops are environmental. Although people like to tout things like golden rice, the vast majority of GM crops in use are those engineered for herbicide resistance, namely resistance to glyphosate (Round up). Glyphosate is a relatively safe, broad-specturm herbicide. It is able to kill many species of weeds, and because it biodegrades quickly, it is less harmful to the environment than other longer-lived herbicides. While glyphosate would kill most normal crops, GM crops have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate, allowing farms to use glyphosate for weed control in fields where glyphosate-resistant crops are growing.

Being able to control weeds using a single herbicide versus a cocktail of many herbicides, many of which are less environmentally-friendly than glyphosate, is a huge advantage of GM crops. Yes, treating fields with glyphosate still has environmental consequences, but it is much better than most of the alternative chemicals used for weed control. Thus, these GM crops reduce the amount of agricultural chemical that these farms use, and allows the farms to use chemicals that are much more environmentally-friendly than their alternatives. Furthermore, whereas farms used to have to till their fields to plow up weeds and mix herbicides into the soil, glyphosate is effective enough to allow farmers to keep tilling to a minimum. Reducing the amount of tilling on the farm reduces soil erosion, prevents runoff of agricultural chemical into water supplies, and reduces CO2 emissions because the farms do not have to run their heavy machinery as often. Of course, since the companies that sell GM crops are the same companies that sell agricultural chemicals, they do not often tout these environmental benefits as it necessarily shines a bad light on some of their other products.

However, I would be remiss if I did not also mention that the widespread use of glyphosate is contributing to the development of glyphosate-resistant "superweeds." Should these become more prevalent, this advantage of glyphosate-resistant GM crops would not be so great.

For more info see the following piece from the NY times. It focuses on the problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds but in the process talks about the environmental benefits of using glyphosate-resistant crops: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?emc=eta1
 
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  • #30
Evo
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Ironically, some of the greatest advantages of using GM crops are environmental.
An excellent example Ygggdrasil.
 
  • #31
russ_watters
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If GM food cannot control inflation, what advantage it would have over regular crops.
It can't control inflation, but it is still better at mitigating price inflation than non-GM crops. As I said, ultimately, the primary benefit is that GM crops are cheaper for the farmer and the consumer.
Also i am still not convinced that all GM crops are better than regular crops . Certainly a few of them have definite advantages.

If GM food is marketed as having these advantages (disease resistant, more produce ) but yet cannot reduce food prices it would not make a difference in many countries.

[separate post]But GM foods may not be cheap which means it is still not accessible to the poor ( which negates its advantage ). Maybe it can be grown in places where not much water is available, but it also comes down to affordability of these seeds (which is patented not free) especially in poor countries .
I've never once seen GM food marketed, much less marketed as having a certain physical advantage. Again, ultimately to the consumer, the primary advantage is the price is lower. If the price wasn't lower, there'd be no reason for farmers or consumers to buy them.
 
  • #32
russ_watters
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Remember it isn't just about increasing yield but providing crops to areas where no crops grow.
Whether true or not, that's still an issue of cost. If it were cheaper to import crops than grow them, people would import them.
 
  • #33
russ_watters
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One problem with GM is less the genetics and more those who are disseminating said genetics; to wit, Monsanto who has arranged for local legislations in India and Iraq to make it illegal to save seeds. In tandem with this and their genetically modified strains which they sell for much larger sums, the native farmers have to have a perfect season just to make due, and suicide rates have sextupled.
I'd like to see citation of that. It wouldn't make any sense for a farmer to buy a GM seed if he could make a better profit from a non-GM seed.
 
  • #34
Ygggdrasil
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The US National Academies commissioned a study on the effects of GM crops in the US, and this study was published in 2010 (the full report is available at https://download.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12804). In a summary of the report, the NY Times writes:
"The report found that the crops allowed farmers to either reduce chemical spraying or to use less harmful chemicals. The crops also had lower production costs, higher output or extra convenience, benefits that generally outweighed the higher costs of the engineered seeds."
(https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/business/energy-environment/14crop.html)

So yes, the GM seeds are more expensive, but at least for farmers in the US, the benefits from using these seeds allow the farmers to recoup the extra cost.
 
  • #35
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I've never once seen GM food marketed, much less marketed as having a certain physical advantage.

when i said GM food, i meant GM seeds as marketed by some corporates. And they certainly been marketed as having more advantage.
http://www.monsanto.com/products/Pages/monsanto-agricultural-seeds.aspx" [Broken]
 
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  • #36
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Ironically, some of the greatest advantages of using GM crops are environmental. Although people like to tout things like golden rice, the vast majority of GM crops in use are those engineered for herbicide resistance, namely resistance to glyphosate (Round up). Glyphosate is a relatively safe, broad-specturm herbicide. It is able to kill many species of weeds, and because it biodegrades quickly, it is less harmful to the environment than other longer-lived herbicides. While glyphosate would kill most normal crops, GM crops have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate, allowing farms to use glyphosate for weed control in fields where glyphosate-resistant crops are growing.

Being able to control weeds using a single herbicide versus a cocktail of many herbicides, many of which are less environmentally-friendly than glyphosate, is a huge advantage of GM crops. Yes, treating fields with glyphosate still has environmental consequences, but it is much better than most of the alternative chemicals used for weed control. Thus, these GM crops reduce the amount of agricultural chemical that these farms use, and allows the farms to use chemicals that are much more environmentally-friendly than their alternatives. Furthermore, whereas farms used to have to till their fields to plow up weeds and mix herbicides into the soil, glyphosate is effective enough to allow farmers to keep tilling to a minimum. Reducing the amount of tilling on the farm reduces soil erosion, prevents runoff of agricultural chemical into water supplies, and reduces CO2 emissions because the farms do not have to run their heavy machinery as often. Of course, since the companies that sell GM crops are the same companies that sell agricultural chemicals, they do not often tout these environmental benefits as it necessarily shines a bad light on some of their other products.

However, I would be remiss if I did not also mention that the widespread use of glyphosate is contributing to the development of glyphosate-resistant "superweeds." Should these become more prevalent, this advantage of glyphosate-resistant GM crops would not be so great.

For more info see the following piece from the NY times. It focuses on the problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds but in the process talks about the environmental benefits of using glyphosate-resistant crops: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?emc=eta1
This is one of the positive environmental impacts from using genetic modification. Another which I can think of off the top of my head is phytodetoxification.

There's an article on this in Nature from 2000 but it's not freely available. Here's the citation I have for it from my Mendeley:

Bizily, S P, C L Rugh, and R B Meagher. “Phytodetoxification of Hazardous Organomercurials by Genetically Engineered Plants.” Nature Biotechnology 18.2 (2000) : 213-7.

Basically we can develop plants which are able to clean up the pollution we have caused. This article deals more with mercury pollution in wetlands and coastal areas. There are trees which are able to detoxify the mercury found which is very harmful to humans and other animals.

I honestly think the positive implications of genetic modification are endless, we obviously have to do this in a very conscientious way and make sure we uphold proper procedures prior to introduction to the wild but still... most of the negative connotations surrounding genetically modified foods are from ignorance and fear mongering.

As a side note, I don't think the reason golden rice hasn't been able to be sent to nations for human consumption is directly 'out of fear'. (That's to say the countries aren't refusing to use it based solely on fear of GM foods) It's more out of the fact that it hasn't been approved yet for human consumption and it's lost its funding grant (has it received it again). (AFAIK) The human consumption part is a valid concern IMO. There are valid arguments against the restrictions and requirements though, which mostly ARE due to fear etc..
 
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  • #37
turbo
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Please read this article about over-promising and under-educating farmers in poor countries WRT GM seed. Farmers have to pay a steep premium for GM seed, which will not breed true, so that they have to buy new seed every year. A year or two of poor crops, and the farmers are so far in debt that they kill themselves. Sad.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html

I'm just saying turbo, don't buy everything you read in the dailymail. It is by far the worst media source from the UK and is equivalent to FOX. Lying and making stuff up is there forte.

I mean look at the obviously biased position they take from the start:
The GM genocide
Then:
But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.

I honestly can say I do not think that the daily mail should be cited as a source by any person at any time.

I'll look for a separate source on this matter though.
 
  • #39
Ryan_m_b
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Please read this article about over-promising and under-educating farmers in poor countries WRT GM seed. Farmers have to pay a steep premium for GM seed, which will not breed true, so that they have to buy new seed every year. A year or two of poor crops, and the farmers are so far in debt that they kill themselves. Sad.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html

The Daily Fail really isn't a good source, they're mental racists with a hate for science and all things left. Having said that even if it is true that farmers have to pay for GM crops that isn't really the fault of the crop, it is the fault of the business practice.
 
  • #40
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Please read this article about over-promising and under-educating farmers in poor countries WRT GM seed. Farmers have to pay a steep premium for GM seed, which will not breed true, so that they have to buy new seed every year. A year or two of poor crops, and the farmers are so far in debt that they kill themselves. Sad.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html

This is actually a well-known myth. First of all, no one is forcing farmers to buy seeds. They are more than welcome to continue using their own seeds, buy regular seeds from seed companies, use seeds from seed banks etc. Paying for GM seeds is not qualitatively different than paying seed companies that use artificial selection.

Second of all, The New Scientist published an article a while back stating that GM cotton in the clear over farmer suicides.

Third, a UN presentation states that the causes of suicide among farmers can be attributed to

- Financial Stress -constant financial pressure related to the “Farm Crisis”and ongoing drought and flood which add to the economic problems
- Loss of independence and control: many of the issues are not within the farmer’s control –disease, weather, government policy, but the debts are personal
- Sense of Loss: repeated sense of hopelessness, loss of crops, loss of land, loss of income, loss of community, loss of family farm, loss of a way oflife
- Geographical remoteness and the potential for social isolation
- Untreated Mental Illness: Lack of access to mental health services in rural areas and the stigma attached to treatment
- Depression arising from exposure to agricultural chemicals/pesticides may increase the risk for mood disorders and ultimately suicide

Fourth, there are many studies support this analysis, such as

Raj Patel, Stuffed and Starved, Portobello Books, London, 2007
Nagraj, K. (2008) http://www.macroscan.com/anl/mar08/pdf/Farmers_Suicides.pdf [Broken]
Meeta and Rajivlochan (2006) Farmers suicide: facts and possible policy interventions, Yashada, Pune, pp. 75-101.

To paraphrase Harriet Hall, although Hall was speaking about antidepressants, science again does not give us the black-and-white answer that we desire and we must remind ourselves that, in general, we cannot rely on media for accurate information about science. It is dangerous to reduce an ongoing crisis to the ideologically-driven pseudoscience.
 
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