Americans Munch Away on Biotech Crops They Say They Oppose-Go Figure

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The folks over at the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology have released a new poll that dishearteningly shows that most Americans don't know that they've been safely eating foods made from ingredients derived from biotech crops for more than a decade. According to the poll, 46 percent oppose introducing genetically modified foods into the food supply; 54 percent say they would be unlikely to eat such foods; and 60 percent say that they have never eaten such foods. Sigh.

As I've pointed out so many times, so far there has not been a single scientifically documented case of anyone suffering so much as a sneeze, cough, or stomach ache from eating foods made from current varieties of biotech crops. Also, every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated current crops have found them safe for people to eat. 

I can't help but wonder how people might have answered poll questions phrased more like:

(1) Do you favor or oppose crops enhanced by biotech to protect themselves against pests and diseases?
(2) Do you favor or oppose crops enhanced by biotech to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides?
(3) Would you eat foods made from crops enhanced to protect themselves against pests and diseases using advanced biotech methods?
(4) Does it bother you to learn that you and your family have been eating foods made from such biotech pest protected crops for more than a decade?

For some reason–I suspect activist propaganda–the words "genetically modified" sound vaguely menacing.

NEXT: Why Is Mort Zuckerman Wearing a Band-Aid on His Forehead Right Now on Fox News Channel?

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  1. Ron, I think we`re all somewhat reflexively Luddite.

    You should consider adding a question to your poll that conveys the message that GM crops are much more productive, so the consequence of discourage use of them is more pressure on natural habitats. Greater farm productivity would be one of the best ways to increase will habitats.

  2. Another Reason newsflash: Most people stupid, hypocritical

    Who’da thunk it?

  3. “(3) Would you eat foods made from crops enhanced to protect themselves against pests and diseases using advanced biotech methods?”

    What if the plant thinks I’m a pest? What will it do to me? I just don’t want to take a chance.

    The seeds of our own destruction, so to speak.

  4. Ron,

    This is mostly a failure on the media’s part. The media constantly reports bad science put out by environmental groups as facts with no reference to who is saying it or their agenda. Further, biotech is big business and the media is always suspicous of big business. If I got your new from the major networks I wouldn’t think biotech food was safe either.

  5. Ron, you forgot to include the insidious link between opposition to GM foods and opposition to abortion.

  6. Going on record as being for or against “biotech” is silly. Are we, figuratively, talking about Aspirin or Thalidomide? They each have their strenghs and weaknesses, but use of the latter without enough research caused some ugly problems.

  7. Ron, you might enjoy this article from last month on genmod cotton: They modified the cotton plant to remove a natural poison from the seeds. The rest of the plant still produces the poison (protecting the plant from insects), but the seeds are now edible for humans. Since cotton plants produce a significant amount of seeds high in protein, this is good news for the third world farmers who grow cotton. They will be able to grow plants that produce two valuable products rather than one.

    A summary of the work is here.

    The research article is here.

    I’m excited about this because it’s a way that genetic engineering can help the third world (where cotton is a major cash crop) and an application of RNA interference.

  8. Wow. That is awesome Thoreau. I wonder what cotton seeds taste like.

  9. John,

    Pour some gin over them and . . .

  10. What happened to that stupid court case where a farmer was successfuly sued because some gen-mod seed got into his field, without his doing, and it was deemed unlicensed use or something?

    I might be scrambling more than one stupid ruling into this.

  11. thoreau,
    That’s awesome. I can’t wait to hear Rachael Ray say “Eee-Vee-Cee-Ess-Oh”

  12. It is only gonna take one disaster. The tweaking starts slowly and is put forward as evidence that safety testing isn’t needed in this area. Over the decades, the tweaking gradually increses until something bad happens. then we will be linking back to today’s discussion. A lot. And Ron can do the song and dance he is developing over in the global warming context. Ol’ Sammy bookmarking now.

  13. Present company exepted, most people are friggin’ morons.

    I’m afraid of genetically modified foods!
    I’m afraid of nuclear power!

    Am I just shouting in the wind here?

  14. Any competent farmer will be all too happy to explain that all of our agricultural products are the result of genetic engineering. Corn plants used to produce only one or two tiny ears. Wheat’s ancestors were more like grass than anything you’d associate with food. The crops themselves are results of slow genetic engineering, using selective breeding rather than monkeying with the plant’s DNA. The only significant difference between the two methods is that the second is faster.

    Anyone who lives in farm country has seen rows of crops marked with a seed company’s name and a long number. That’s so the farmers can remember what varieties are planted where. The differences between those seeds are the result of biotech.

    In other words, there is nothing new or scary about GM food. Nothing at all. We’ve been eating GM food since the advent of agriculture.

  15. Guy,

    I don’t have the link handy, but I think that the guy’s crop was so purely composed of the Monsanto corn that accidental contamination could be safely ruled out. It’s not like had planned to let the land lie fallow, and a corn crop unexpectedly appeared. πŸ™‚

    This is not to say that I agree with patents of monopoly for anything, including plants.

  16. I can’t wait to hear Rachael Ray say “Eee-Vee-Cee-Ess-Oh”

    Huh?

    As far as taste, the researchers who made the seeds say they taste like chickpeas. And apparently there are some edible cotton varieties, but they don’t have the poison in any part of the plant so they’re very prone to pests. This variety still has the 100% all-natural pesticide everywhere except in the seeds, so it’s easier to grow.

    Anyway, supposedly there was at one point a product similar to peanut butter made from edible cotton.

  17. J sub D,

    Add to that list transfat and cell phones. I sometimes wonder if we are not entering into some kind of dark anti-science dark ages. You know the people in the late Roman Empire didn’t wake one day and read a headline that said, “we are now in the Dark Ages”. It happened slowly over several generations. Whether it be organic food, or herbal remedies or faith healing or denial of evolution, people on both sides of the political spectrum seem more and more superstitious and less scientific in their thinking.

  18. Sam Franklin,

    Yea, I remember a documentry about this with Steve Martin playing a dentist.

  19. ..there is nothing new or scary about GM food. Nothing at all. We’ve been eating GM food since the advent of agriculture.

    And that pomeraian puppy is just a genetically modified wolf. I could go on and on and on about this, but I’d just be preaching to the choir here.

  20. EVCSO=Extra Virgin Cotton Seed Oil – duh
    Or are you unfamiliar with America’s favorite hottie.

  21. thoreau: Thanks for the great link and you’re absolutely right about the advantages of biotech for poor farmers. It may also be possible to produce an allergen free peanut too.

  22. Sam

    We already have disasters in food production.

    We call them “famines” and “crop failures” and “insect plagues.”

    It is virtually certain that there will be a blunder sometime, just as there are disasters in structual engineering. Are you willing to give up highways, bridges, railroads, skyscrapers & large buildings because structual engineers make mistakes? There are disasters in chemical engineering. Are you willing to give up using fertilizers because of what happened in Bhopal?

  23. It may also be possible to produce an allergen free peanut too.

    Be careful about removing those dangerous allergens. Somebody might get hurt.

    Oh, wait, a minute…

  24. John,

    The anti-technology fools masquerading as environmentalists are a malign force that needs to be reckoned with. I wish I was joking.

  25. People aren’t morons, folks. The poll questions are (surprise!) horrible.

    Question #2 in particular – who would be for “harmful” pesticides?

  26. I know who Rachel Ray is, I just forgot about her propensity to say EVOO.

    First a Rachel Ray reference, now the Iron Chef is here. How long before Alton Brown shows up in this thread?

  27. Iron Chef,

    Thanks, I didn’t catch the “harmful” skew. But most people are still morons!

  28. Guy Montag: You may be thinking of convicted seed thief Percy Schmeiser. I know that calling him a seed thief will provoke the anti-big business commenters here, but the fact is that farmers are not stupid–no one is making them use corporate seeds and if they don’t find them advantageous they won’t. Schmeiser did find them advantageous and he wanted those advantages without paying for them, unlike his neighboring farmers who did pay for them.

    Disclosure: I own no Monsanto or other biotech seed company stocks.

    Here is the latest that I could find on his case:

    Environment groups lose bid for status at farmers’ appeal
    25.nov.06
    The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
    REGINA — A Saskatchewan Court of Appeal judge was cited as denying intervenor status to two environmental groups that had asked to be included in a court battle over genetically modified canola.
    The story explains that a lawyer for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and Friends of the Earth Canada appeared in court Wednesday to ask Justice Stuart Cameron to allow them to intervene in an appeal by two organic farmers.
    Those farmers are appealing a Court of Queen’s Bench decision that denied them class-action status in a case that pits them against multinational companies Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.
    The farmers claim they and others like them suffered losses due to contamination of organic fields and crops by the introduction of genetically modified canola. The appeal asking for class-action status is set to be heard in December.
    The two environmental groups attempted to wade into that appeal, claiming the case is a matter of public interest and has environmental implications.
    But Cameron ruled the appeal is not based so much on the subject matter of the actual lawsuit — that is, the potential environmental issues — but rather on the requirements of The Class Actions Act.

  29. In other news, Americans continue driving cars even as they rail against unsafe driving and whine for street lights and stop signs! Moron Americans keep depositing their money in banks even as they demand Congress implement meddlesome “regulation” and “oversight” of the financial industry!

  30. Ron Bailey,

    Ah, thank you much! Apparently my bad memory of the badly done G Gordon Liddy story (I think that is where I heard it) cascaded into something as factual as a NYT or TNR column.

    CDonsider this my retraction.

  31. Are you willing to give up highways, bridges, railroads, skyscrapers & large buildings because structual engineers make mistakes? There are disasters in chemical engineering. Are you willing to give up using fertilizers because of what happened in Bhopal?

    The thing is, these disasters don’t replicate themselves. With genetic tweaking that is the difference. potential for self replicating disater both at the food level, and at the level of the food eater.

    Another potential problem with a genetic engineering disaster is that it may take decades to figure out the link between the gm tweaking and the health problems caused. Partly this is because health problems can take a long time to develop. This is partly because it is hard to trace the causation chain of some health problems precisely. It is also partly because there will be a hired and paid for crowd of professional denialists once anybody gets an inkling of a problem.

    We still don’t know anything about AIDs other than it came out of Africa around the time people were being injected with experimental monkey brain products. (Oh, that and you can keep it in check with expensive and profitable drugs).

  32. “For some reason–I suspect activist propaganda–the words “genetically modified” sound vaguely menacing.”

    The reason is pretty simple – people are naturally cautious about messing with things that we don’t understand very well.

  33. The reason is pretty simple – people are naturally cautious about messing with things that we don’t understand very well.

    Dan T’
    I would guess that most people did not “understand” steam power when it was introduced. That’s a miserable argument.

  34. Dan T’
    I would guess that most people did not “understand” steam power when it was introduced. That’s a miserable argument.

    It’s not meant to be an argument, just a reason.

    Then again, I imagine if somebody walked up to you with a syringe of liquid and said “we have no idea what this is or what it will do, but do you mind if we inject it into you anyway?” you probably wouldn’t agree to it.

  35. First a Rachel Ray reference, now the Iron Chef is here. How long before Alton Brown shows up in this thread?

    Hey! I would have been here sooner, but Emeril kept humping my…well…my leg. Coincedently, I have a fairly cool and comedic model I can use to show you how this works.

    Giada never returns my calls. πŸ™

  36. Also, while it’s probably true that most people didn’t understand the steam engine, at least some people understood it.

    In the case of genetics, nobody right now understands it very well.

  37. Hey Dan–Do you “understand” all (or any) of the technology you are using right now, or is it “magic?”

  38. Sam Franklin: Do you really feel safer when you eat one of the 2300 varieties of current crops produced using radiation mutation? That is, blasting plants with nuke radiation to see what new traits they exhibit with only the fuzziest idea of the hundreds of genetic modifications that were produced? This is not to scare you, but to point out that even using really crude methods, it’s easy to produce safe crop varieties. BTW, organic farmers can and do grow varieties produced by radiation and chemical mutation.

  39. The thing is, these disasters don’t replicate themselves.

    Locusts. Next.

  40. Thoreau, John

    Coincidentally, I learned yesterday via Wikipedia that Crisco was originally made out of cottonseed oil and the name is an abbreviation of “Crystallized Cottonseed”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisco

    So there you have it. Edible cotton tastes
    like Crisco.

  41. Hey Dan–Do you “understand” all (or any) of the technology you are using right now, or is it “magic?”

    I personally don’t understand much about it, which is why I don’t open up my computer and start “modifying” things.

  42. Are we saying most people are weird? That they will accept, say, a God with an elephant’s head, but not an ear of corn with larger than previous kernels? Oh, c’mon.

  43. I personally don’t understand much about it, which is why I don’t open up my computer and start “modifying” things.

    How do you know then, that Intel isn’t slowly turning you into one of their soon-to-be-awakened legion of super-obedient Intel Inside? androids?

    How do you know they aren’t? Can you prove that they aren’t?

  44. The reason is pretty simple – people are naturally cautious about messing with things that we don’t understand very well.

    We mock what we do not understand.

  45. On second thought, better you go sit naked in the middle of a tundra field. Little chance that way of coming into contact with technology that might “affect” you in some inknown way.

    And when the polar bears start munching on your femur, don’t resist! It’s all-natural.

  46. “unknown” :::sigh:::

  47. Ron,

    I would feel safer if the FDA had tagged GM products with some rigorous labelling requirements in 1992, instead of basically doing / requiring nothing.

    despite potential problems like drift of modified pollen, I think people should have the right to grow and/or consume whatever they want.

    However, labelling requirements would have allowed families like mine to effectively opt out of the grand experiment. While it is technically possible to do the kind of research you need to do to avoid the foods I want to avoid, it is not practical, primarily because the food suppliers are much more consolidated and strategic than their customer base.

    My wife does spring for Mennonite chicken (whatever that is), but that is about the best we can do.

  48. J sub D,

    Pestilence humor! I have missed it so! Now that Alton is here perhaps we can have some of that souffl? humor I have missed so much since the 1960s?

    Dan T.,

    It is easier than you think. Just don’t let the smoke out or it will stop working. Oh, and don’t accidentally add any magic gravel to the hard drive either, or it will quit working too.

  49. You may be thinking of convicted seed thief Percy Schmeiser. I know that calling him a seed thief will provoke the anti-big business commenters here,

    Or maybe the ones who think that there’s still a difference between disregarding a patent and committing theft. You know, like the fact that one is cause for litigation, and one is cause for a criminal trial.

  50. I would feel safer if the FDA had tagged GM products with some rigorous labelling requirements in 1992, instead of basically doing / requiring nothing.

    Why would this make any difference? There is zero reason to believe that genetically modified foods are harmful at all, so why would a label saying “this product contains something that no one has any rational reason to believe poses any risk” make you feel better?

    I think I just answered my own question. Never mind.

  51. I imagine if somebody walked up to you with a syringe of liquid and said “we have no idea what this is or what it will do, but do you mind if we inject it into you anyway?” you probably wouldn’t agree to it.

    Another stupid argument. Biotech capitalists do have an “idea” what it is and what it will do.

    Dan T. When are you going to admit that you just post stupid shit for the fun of it?

  52. “And, he gave it for his Opinion, that whoever could make two Ears of Corn, or two blades of Grass to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of Mankind, and do more essential Service to his Country than the whole Race of Politicians put together.”

    – Jonathan Swift, “Gulliver’s Travels” Part II, Chapter 7

  53. Sam Franklin: There are already labels for foods that do not contain genetic constitutions modified by careful scientific methods — just look for the “organic” label. Your family can buy those and pay 30 to 50 percent more. But then you may be eating foods whose genetic constituions have been modified somewhat haphazardly by radiation and chemical mutation.

  54. Just try it! Chocolate-covered cotton is delicious!

  55. Why would this make any difference? There is zero reason to believe that genetically modified foods are harmful at all, so why would a label saying “this product contains something that no one has any rational reason to believe poses any risk” make you feel better?

    Because there are foods out there that have met the burden of proof of proving themselves safe, or at least only a certain amount harmful. Given a choice between a food with a track record of safety, and a food without a track record of either safety or unsafety, I think it is rational to choose the proven food, and perhaps even rational to pay a premium for making that choice. this was a rational choice that some food suppliers obviously did not want ppl like me making and basically set up a system where it is prohibitively difficult for consumers to excercise choice in this manner. They won. I lost.

    When I hear passionate arguments against food labelling, I really have to wonder about good faith on the part of the anti-labelling advocate.

  56. I am in agreement with Sam Franklin.

    All this stuff is dangerous because y’all can’t assure us that something won’t happen. I suggest we reverse-GM everything at least back to when the one guy was doing his pea plant experiments with the green ones and yellow ones and whatnot. Until then, all we can do is ‘duck and cover’ and hope for the best. Risk is evil. We should ban it, especially the very limited kind, because those are the sneaky-bad ones.

  57. Now that Alton is here perhaps we can have some of that souffl? humor I have missed so much since the 1960s?

    Souffl?s are no laughing matter. Laugh too hard while baking one of these delicious mountains of fluffy goodness and it will fall flatter than a republican revolution.

    And that’s not Good Eats?.

  58. There should be warning labels on food that warn me that I may be allergic to it.

  59. Sam Franklin: As I pointed out–you can already get labeled non-GMO foods–why isn’t that enough for you? In any case, for those who may care, here are some of the reasons why mandatory labeling is not all that it’s cracked up be. Generally governments mandate labels when they are based on scientific information about safety or nutrition. Since genetically enhanced crops present no safety or nutritional differences from conventional crops, the FDA determined that they do not need mandatory labels. And don’t be naive, activists know that mandatory labels would be treated by an uninformed (as the Pew poll has shown) public as warning labels.

    BTW, my prediction: One day soon we will have labels on 80 percent of our foods saying that they may contain biotech ingredients and they will be largely ignored by the public as most other labels are.

  60. Wheat, corn, oats, chicken, beef, mutton, pork, apples, pears, strawberries, et al are all genetically modified foods. That’s a fact, Jack. Get over it. Because Dan T. doesn’t understand how a computer works does not extrapolate to nobody understands bioengineering.

  61. “As for labeling, it is true that the United States does not require foods made with genetically ehnanced ingredients to be identified as such. That’s because our food and drug laws require that a product be labeled only if the information is relevant to human health or safety. Sadly, there is one exception to this reasonable rule-organically produced foods. Organic farmers managed to bamboozle the feds into allowing special labeling requirements for their products. Thus, if some consumers get spooked by unfounded activist claims that biotech foods are harmful, they may be lured into buying labeled organic products.”

    Bamboozling aside, what I have always really wanted to know as a consumer is whether the food is GMO or non-GMO. First, the “Organic” certification requires too many things I don’t care about. Second, while it is technically illegal to label GMO as “organic” in the US, none of the enforcement or compliance efforts are directed at this requirement — there is lots of auditing, but not on the GMO / non-GMO issue that I am inclined to care about.

  62. Sam Franklin: But why should those of us who accept scientific evidence pay for your concerns about genetically enhanced crops?

    Organic, like halal, kosher, and cruelty-free are all process labels that have nothing to do with safety or health. That’s why they are voluntary and not mandatory.

  63. This thread is pretty amazing – simply pointing out that it’s not unreasonable to be weary of eating things that have not been eaten before means that I think computers run on magic and that we should be scared of all technology.

    Reasonoids, I get it – you’re all smarter than the average person. Maybe someday science will allow you develop a third arm that you can use for patting yourselves on the back.

  64. Reasonoids, I get it – you’re all smarter than the average person.

    By equating yourself with the average person, you underestimate the average people.

  65. Reasonoids, I get it – you’re all smarter than the average person. Maybe someday science will allow you develop a third arm that you can use for patting yourselves on the back.

    I read that Bailey article. I think it was called “The Arms Race.”
    Anyway, you’d be there telling us how having a third arm isn’t fair or is dangerous.

  66. You know, I thought the Dan T. impersonators were funny, but somebody pointed out to me that there’s a downside: What if somebody decides to turn it around and start having fun by posting under somebody else’s name? Pretty soon it could all descend into chaos.

  67. Thoreau,

    That’s why impersonators should at least change a letter in the name. Like Pan T.

  68. Trivially speaking, 2000 years ago (or 3000 or 5000), when NO food was “fiddled with” by man, people lived to the grand old age of the late 20’s, if they were lucky.

    I would say that eating food whose development has NOT been assisted by man is bad for your health. I think there should be warning labels on Organic food. “WARNING: PEOPLE WHO ATE FOOD JUST LIKE THIS USED TO DIE BEFORE THEY WERE 30”.

    Or not.

    Cracker’s Boy

  69. That’s why they are voluntary and not mandatory.

    Yes, I am suggesting a voluntary non-GMO certification, paid for exclusively by food suppliers who wish to utilize that certification. I don’t think there is anything unlibertarian about that proposal, and I don’t consider it a bamboozle. The law may lead to damages due to genetic drift and similar husbandry claims between farmers, with potential damages to be paid by GMO drift, which is my guess as to the real reason that you would oppose my voluntary labelling proposal.

    Disclaimer: there are some areas of food labelling that should be mandatory (eg, precise ingredients list), but a non-GMO cert. is not one of them.

  70. Because Dan T. doesn’t understand how a computer works does not extrapolate to nobody understands bioengineering.

    So JsubD, you’re saying that no testing of future GE foods is ever going to be needed? Anything anybody comes up with should be assumed 100% safe?

  71. And if for some reason, they did decide to require that non-non-GMO certified foods were labelled as such, I would not consider that as any kind of cause for concern or genuine loss of liberty either. I have trouble keeping a strait face when ppl pretend it would be.

  72. Dan T wrote:
    So JsubD, you’re saying that no testing of future GE foods is ever going to be needed? Anything anybody comes up with should be assumed 100% safe?

    Does DanT even read the articles?

    From the Article. Also, every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated current crops have found them safe for people to eat.

  73. Sam–Odwalla already does this. I’m sure many others do as well.

    But no, I don’t think anyone here could fault a voluntary labelling initiative and, in fact, would encourage it.

    Considering the level of paranoia over GM food, that should be quite a bit of value to some people. Not me, but hey, go crazy if it does have value to you.

  74. Freedom Monkey, the very idea of testing something indicates that you’re uncertain about it. But JsubD feels that we can trust all future GE foods because otherwise you want us back in the dark ages or something.

  75. From the Article. Also, every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated current crops have found them safe for people to eat.

    I clicked the “safe to eat” link in Ron’s blog entry, but found no support for this proposition.

    I would imagine that, at best, every independent body that has studied the question has failed to find any danger in the particular GMO foods it studied. That is not the same thing tho.

    Is there another article I missed here?

  76. The thing is, these disasters don’t replicate themselves. With genetic tweaking that is the difference. potential for self replicating disater [sic] both at the food level, and at the level of the food eater.

    Well, we might have self-replicating “disaster” at the food level. But how do you figure at the level of the eater? Are you saying that you’re afraid that your DNA might be contaminated by gene-mod crops? Because if so, you’re sharing the most common delusion about GM foods. Organisms more complex than bacteria don’t absorb genetic material from their food. Sorry, but it’s so.

    We still don’t know anything about AIDs other than it came out of Africa around the time people were being injected with experimental monkey brain products. (Oh, that and you can keep it in check with expensive and profitable drugs).

    You remember that Bill Engvall bit about stupid people wearing signs so the rest of us know who they are? Well, here’s your sign. Wear it with pride.

    Also, while it’s probably true that most people didn’t understand the steam engine, at least some people understood it.

    Not when it was first introduced. People knew it worked, but they didn’t really understand how it worked. Watt built the first practical steam engine in 1765; Carnot didn’t establish the theory of steam engines until 1824. That’s sixty years before we really knew how steam engines worked. For all Watt really “knew” about how steam engines worked, he might have been building something that would blow up the world. Now, it was reasonable for him to assume that the work he was doing wasn’t that dangerous. So, with genetically modified food, even though we don’t know every possible consequence of what we’re doing, we can make reasonable assumptions about the dangers of what we do.

    If you want to wait until we have perfect knowledge of genetics to use genetic engineering, fine; go live in Europe. What we’re doing is taking an infinitesimal risk that gene modification is dangerous, weighing it against the huge benefits that genetic modification can give, and deciding that the risk is worth the benefit. What you’re doing is looking at the risk and declaring that its existence makes the benefits not even worth considering.

    I personally don’t understand much about it, which is why I don’t open up my computer and start “modifying” things.

    Again, the people who perform genetic engineering know waaaaaay more about genes than you apparently do about your computer. If we had no knowledge of genetics, your argument would hold some water. Since we have a fairly extensive knowledge of genetics, it doesn’t. Yes, we still have a lot to learn about genetics; that doesn’t mean that we are dangerously ignorant on the subject.

    Given a choice between a food with a track record of safety, and a food without a track record of either safety or unsafety, I think it is rational to choose the proven food, and perhaps even rational to pay a premium for making that choice.

    You’re pretending that a genetically modified food is something that is created ex nihilo. Every genetically modified food has a safety record, because they’re almost exactly the same as their unmodified counterparts. Unless there’s some good reason to suspect that the specific modification made will make the food less safe, there’s no reason to suspect that genetically modified food is less safe than unmodified food.

  77. Reasonoids, we have to understand that if Dan T. doesn’t understand it, it must be presumed dangerous. Undoubtably, some people were afraid of the environmental and cultural implications of the wheel.

  78. What you’re doing is looking at the risk and declaring that its existence makes the benefits not even worth considering.

    When did I say that?

    It’s more like most people here are assuming there is no risk and if you think there is, you must be really stupid.

  79. Well, we might have self-replicating “disaster” at the food level. But how do you figure at the level of the eater? Are you saying that you’re afraid that your DNA might be contaminated by gene-mod crops? Because if so, you’re sharing the most common delusion about GM foods. Organisms more complex than bacteria don’t absorb genetic material from their food. Sorry, but it’s so.

    One example would be a genetic manipulation of an animal that caused the animal to develop a prion, which causes a disease in a human who eats the animal with the new prion.

    Another example would be a genetically modified food that causes a livestock animal to produce a harmful prion.

    Of course, science didn’t seem to know about prions until the late 20th century, which in and of itself should give some pause here.

    Not that I am hung up on prions, per se, but some of you seem to need a better mental picture and that example serves.

  80. J sub D

    “Undoubtably, some people were afraid of the environmental and cultural implications of the wheel.”

    Considering some of the driving I see every day, I think the doomsayers may have been right on that one. πŸ˜‰

  81. I can’t wait to hear Rachael Ray say “Eee-Vee-Cee-Ess-Oh”

    It annoys me that she says “EVOO” and then says “Some extra virgin olive oil”…

    What’s the point?

  82. You know Sam, you could grow your own food and/or raise your own livestock. That way, you know exactly what you are eating, if GM is such a concern.

    Of course, as noted in another recent thread, paying a nominal fee for the knowledge and skills of other people in the form of processed foods, neckties and radial tires, frees up our time up to do other more productive (and moneymaking) things. Such is life in the modern world.

    Feel free to buck that trend.

  83. Sam Franklin:
    I clicked the “safe to eat” link in Ron’s blog entry, but found no support for this proposition.

    Too bad, I’m not responsible for your level of reading comprehension.

  84. Could we have an entire day of nothing but HFCS and GM foods on Hit and Run?

  85. Dan T:
    the very idea of testing something indicates that you’re uncertain about it.

    That’s a ludicrous statement. Pilots inspect their aircraft before every flight.

  86. Now that Alton has thrown cold water on the souffl? jokes, I am relegated to waiting for the raw meat advocates to infest this space.

    IIRC, the sermon goes something like: meat could be eaten raw before big business took over meat production, added stuff to the meat and made the government tell everybody it need to be cooked.

    After thant, the KFC conspiracy folk can’t be far behind.

  87. Freedom Monkey,

    Um, we (okay, I have not piloted an aircraft since 1992) inspect our aircraft before and after every flight to be sure that all of the important pieces are actually on the way they are supposed to be on.

    After certain repairs, a test pilot checks it out before we, the lowly line Aviators, get to drive.

  88. Inspecting and testing are different concepts.

  89. Just because there hasn’t been a GM food disaster yet means there’s no risk? That’s like playing russian roulette and just because the gun didn’t go off this time, you assume it’s safe to keep on pulling the trigger. Until these crops are proved 100% safe, we shouldn’t be growing them.

  90. “Until these crops are proved 100% safe, we shouldn’t be growing them.”

    Would you mind telling me what action – in the entire universe – is 100% safe? Standing still? There might be a 100 ton space rock about to hit the exact spot where you’re standing.

    [Oh, no! What am I doing? I fed the troll!]

  91. Natural crops are 100% safe from a GM crop disaster, that’s what.

  92. Two things;

    First, this “we’ve been modifying organisms forever” argument sucks. Carefully selecting for small physical changes over generations isn’t at all like altering an organisms DNA to produce a new protein. I’m not overly worried about GM foods, but I am certainly more confident eating the offspring off some particularly large tomatoes I grew last season than eating a tomato modified to express a flounder “indigenous” gene, that is, if there were such a thing.

    Second, this business about people being stupid. It’s all a matter of perspective. Exceptionally smart people likely perceive the average man’s comprehension and problem solving skills in much the same way the average man would perceive the skills of the mildly retarded. There are some big assumptions here, one being that the difference between the comprehension and problem solving skills of two people with a 130 and 129 IQ is the same as the difference between two with a 70 and 69 IQ. And, I suppose, how these folks perceive these skills in each other. It’s interesting to think about though.

  93. Dan T. If you knew anything at all about agriculture, you would admit that all food crops are genetically modified through selective breeding. And I thought The Origin of Species was required reading in high school.

  94. I don’t know everything about the physics involved in an atom bomb, but that doesn’t mean I can’t surmise having atom bombs laying around is bad.

  95. Can any type of food be proven to be 100% safe? From what I understand, one can even OD on H2O.

    – Rick

  96. “Natural crops are 100% safe from a GM crop disaster”

    That’s like saying ‘Neanderthals were 100% safe from car accidents.’

    It’s also a non-sequitur, as I asked “what action…is 100% safe”. Relying on ‘natural’ crops does not protect us from the myriad [all natural] disasters which can befall those crops.

  97. Dihydrogen Oxide is a dangerous compound and should be outlawed.

  98. Funny how those most vociferously complaining about genetic manipulation of plants involved in producing foodstuffs are also the ones having absolutely no problem with embyonal stem cell manipulation. Wonder why?

  99. Sam Franklin:

    Explain to my exactly why I should be willing to be subject to restrictions on my behavior and food consumption based on your superstitions, rather than you take the burden upon yourself by paying extra for food produced the way you like it? Because that’s what you’re advocating: the use of force to compel those who do not agree with your superstitious beliefs to pay more and constrain their own behavior so you can feel better when you chow down.

  100. Explain to my exactly why I should be willing to be subject to restrictions on my behavior and food consumption based on your superstitions, rather than you take the burden upon yourself by paying extra for food produced the way you like it?

    all I wanted was a voluntary certification (of non-GMO, rather than (or perhaps supplemental to) “organic.” I said I wouldn’t be net out of shape if they required suppliers who did not seek the certification to label in that regard.

    I just can’t map the things I am suggesting here to your query.

  101. “net out of shape”

    should be

    –bent out of shape–

    “(of Non-GMO,” should be –(of non-GMO),–

  102. Nature causes illness. Nature causes death. Nature is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Nature should be avoided in most cases which is why we have civilization and science instead.

    db, Sam Franklin (Dave W’s) point is obvious: all he wants is for people to volunteer to do things his way and, if they don’t, force them. You have a problem with that?

  103. Why can’t I just be Sam “The Butcher” Franklin (as played by Al Melvin)? What happened to quasibill? Why can’t gaius marius resolve to do at least one post a day?

  104. Sam Franklin wants people to volunteer to certify their food. And he wants is NOW.

    Sam… just wait. If there’s a market for it, someone WILL volunteer.

    What you want is to compel someone to volunteer to do something you want. See: volunteer.

    Cracker’s Boy

  105. Actually, Sam and Ron, I believe that (with the organic exception) labelling foods as GM-free is actually prohibited by the FDA.

    And “as I’ve pointed out so many times,” if it weren’t for 1) massive government subsidies to R&D, including university research, 2) patents, and 3) food libel laws and other restrictions on the free flow of information, all this debate would be moot.

    I recall Ron has been soft, to say the least, on patents and R&D subsidies in the past.

  106. Interesting comment Kevin Carson. Are you saying that patent attorneys are worse than useless? Because once in a while that feeling creeps o’er me.

  107. And by “interesting” I really mean, likely to be correct and something I hadn’t thought of b4.

  108. Sam,

    What if HFCS was made using GM corn? Would it be more or less dangerous?

  109. Dan T.,

    Atom bombs laying around? I wold rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it.

    Same with my shotguns.

  110. RSDavis,

    Are the DHMO/Scorched Earth Society folk right behind you?

  111. Sam Franklin,

    Because StB is already taken.

  112. What if HFCS was made using GM corn? Would it be more or less dangerous?

    Moot point. I spoke out on the issue extensively last year at HnR and the food suppliers lissened to me. HFCS is history. It is seeping out of our favorite products and being replaced by sugar more everyday.

    In other words, I won on that.

  113. J sub D:

    re: “If you knew anything at all about agriculture, you would admit that all food crops are genetically modified through selective breeding.”

    I get what you’re saying, but “genetically modified” is a term of art that only refers to manipulation of an organism’s genes outside of the organism’s normal reproductive process. Breeding is not genetic modification, which is why they have two independent terms for two distinct processes. I’m not sure that artifically mimicking nature is as safe as working within nature, though I guess that’s part of nature too. (apologies to L&R)

  114. Breeding is not genetic modification…

    If the traits sought after are passed down to offspring, then it most certainly is genetic modification.

  115. “Are the DHMO/Scorched Earth Society folk right behind you?”

    I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

    – R

  116. “If the traits sought after are passed down to offspring, then it most certainly is genetic modification”
    No, no it’s not. You have not midified anything. The genes were already there in the parent plants. It’s true that sexual reproduction might alter genes, but that’s not what you are talking about, that is, passing traits.

  117. RSDavis | December 8, 2006, 2:56pm | #

    “Are the DHMO/Scorched Earth Society folk right behind you?”

    I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

    – R

    That’s just what you want us to think.

  118. So, does this mean that Soylent Diesel must be labeled as “free range” rather than “natural”?

  119. That’s just what you want us to think.

    No, I’m not playing – I really am this dumb. Dumb like a fox. πŸ˜‰

    – Rick

  120. “If the traits sought after are passed down to offspring, then it most certainly is genetic modification.”

    Traits are made of genes, but genes are not traits. A trait selected from an existing library of traits does not modify the genes in the traits. The selection does modify the dominance part of the gene sequence next to the trait, but it does not modify the trait itself, just the trait’s rank.

    Splicing genes (selected fish traits + tomatoe = Bruise resistant Tomatoe) in a trait is not the same as the basic mutations; neither of which are the same as trait based classic ‘Natural Selection’. Key traits are either added into the sequences and marked-up, this does not happen in nature, nore in classic selectionfarming; or an existing trait is altered, forced mutation of genes in a trait, which happens in nature, but not classic farming.

    And the real issue (for me) is not whether GMO foods are ‘safe’, but rather when a patented organism decides it wants to move to someone elses field. Such organisms are usually reistant to many herbicides, (except the patented one, e.g. RoundUp Ready), and as such likely become weeds rather readily once they have broken the terminator seed status. Organic farmers so infected stand to be sued by the patent holder if they do nothing to stop the infestation; but the only way to really do anything about such resistant superplants is to use the patented hebicide. Using herbicide on an ‘Organic Farm’ will kill the Organic status for Years. This is where the hardship is on those who neighbor GMO farms. Beng at risk of losing that hard to get status.

    Possibly the rules are to blame, but that is the way things are now.

  121. I would think if one is an organic farmer, it behooves them to keep their crops as isolated as possible, no?

    Personally, I like bug-free food…

    – Rick

  122. The problem most half-educated academic-leftists have with genetically altered food, is the fact that we don’t know the long term consequences of genetical modifications.

    It’s the same issue as with the nuclear reaktor of Chernobyl. We have seen that immidiate health problems had gone away after a decade (like child mortality or leukemia), but we still don’t understand the damage to the cells itself steming from strong doses of gamma radiation.

    I think the same goes for the “unnatural” alteration in genetically engineered crops. They worry about the long term health problems due to human intervention. They argue that it is the same as with artificially generated snow, which is not the same as natural snow on a microscopic scale (due to the shorter time-frame of creation, they ice-crystal can’t develop its full crystal structure). You only experience a difference, if you an expert in some winter sport, because the feel of the snow is different.

  123. So, then, how long before your fear is allayed?

    – R

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