Forget About Biotech Crops in Bee Disappeances—It's Cellphones!

|

Last week, I analyzed the Sierra Club scare campaign that suggests that biotech crops might be responsible for colony collapse disorder in which bees are disappearing around the world. Now the Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, is reporting that another high tech culprit could be responsible–mobile phones. No, really they are! To wit:

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world—the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops… Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left"…

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo , who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."

One problem with the biotech crop theory is that bees are also disappearing in Europe which plants very little in the way of biotech crops. Of course, Europe is chock-a-block with mobile phones. But why now? It's not as though cellphones have just started emitting bee-confusing radio waves in the last year.

Tuskegee University biologist C.S. Prakash wryly notes: As Sherlock Holmes said, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Anyway, whole Independent article here.

Kudos to Prakash.

NEXT: McMeltdown

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Bee careful…

  2. And of course, because current generations are so special and unique, it will matter not at all that bee die-offs happen periodically.

    No, the current events must be unprecedented and catastrophic and must be, oh, whats the word, anthropogenic and illustrative of the Evils of Technology.

    Same old tune, in other words, history and facts be damned.

  3. So, will the killer bees save us?

    I welcome our African apian friends. Sting me! Oh!

  4. Why are they giving the bees mobile phones anyway? Don’t they communicate through dancing, and not through sound?

  5. Well, it’s not totally out in left field. I remember hearing something a while back about how locust swarms could be disrupted by blasting them with certain EM frequencies, because they apparently “coordinate” through something similar. Insects do all sorts of weird stuff. Maybe the bees are afraid they’ll get brain cancer from cell phones.

    Anyway, RC Dean is right. What’s the history of bee populations? This theory has the whiff of Luddism about it.

  6. This is obviously sales propaganda put out by the telcos. They figure that people like me, who have resisted buying a cell phone until now, will be enticed by the possibility of bee reduction. Nice try.

  7. albert einstein was a biologist? who knew? there really ought to be a corollary to godwin’s law, that when einstein is invoked for anything outside of physics (and often with a totally false quote), the citer is automatically presumed to be talking bullshit.

    albionite, it’s not just out in left field, it’s over the fence. brodeur’s last stand.

  8. edna

    I think the bees might be invoking the precautionary principle. They’re thinking “zzzz…cell phones!…zzz…these might cause brain tumors….zzzz…best avoid them altogether….zzzz.”

  9. I don’t play dice with the uni-, wait…God doesn’t play roulette with…how does that go again? I’m so absent-minded.

  10. Thanks, Ron, for bringing your usual derisive tone to coverage of this phenomenon. You’re absolutely right: the rapid collapse of honeybee populations must be met with skepticism, and until there’s absolute certainty about the cause, no action whatsoever should be taken.

    There’s no known precedent for what’s happening now, is therr? Unfortunately, the world isn’t a tightly controlled experiement. In recent years, humans have rolled out several new families of pesticides, hundreds of transgenic GM crops, and deployed billions of high-frequency low-power wireless devices. Those alone encompass changes to many variables at once, and the culprit may be somewhere else entirely — a microorganism, changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, L. Ron Hubbard’s engrams(TM), whatever. Heaven forbid there be a moratorium on planting GM crops, or the latest generations of cellphone towers in agricultural areas be shut down, for instance, until they can be eliminated as causes.

    If doctors put a patient on six medications at once and the patient shows a life-threatening reaction, they don’t calmly, methodically try eliminating one medication at a time. They stop administering all of the questionable ones and reintroduce them carefully.

    Scientists are putting theories out there — including some that won’t hold much water. This is true, especially since those most knowledgeable about radio waves generally don’t know much about bees, and the ones who know the most about bees seldom have a current and thorough knowledge of the nature of every GM crop introduced in the past decade. But these theories need to be put out there and given an adequate airing before they can be eliminated. It seems as though you’d prefer that only the one that’s correct get a serious hearing. I’m sure actual scientists would like it if the scientific process worked that way, too. It would save them the trouble of all that tedious experimentation stuff.

  11. This article needs to be posted on Armageddon Online! But hey….the 4 year’s to live after the bees die, Einstein theory, correlates with the end of the Aztec calendar. 2012.

  12. there are about 20,000 known species of bees in the world today. Many of which do pollinate when the honeybee will not.(or in this case cannot). Take of course into consideration that the populations of wild bees has been severely depleted in past years, but there are still enough to do the job of pollination. One such bee is the blue orchard bee…orchard bees visit up to 1600 flowers daily and pollinate about 90-99% of them. WHereas a honeybee visits about half as many, and pollinates only a few dozen. Usda studies suggest that 250-300 orchaed bees can do as much pollinating as a hive of honeybees which numbers about 30-40,000. The trick is for farmers to encourage these bees to the property.
    At any rate in my experience I have seen a few different types of bees pollinating my field and greenhouse crops including bumblebees and sweat bees and those pesky cucumber beatles…. as well as the honeybees whose colonies I rent from a local beekeeper…. I have not heard any reports of colony collaspe in my neck of the woods, but…. time will tell.
    Source of info on the orchard bees: Rodale encyclopedia of organic gardening…

  13. Somebody please explain to koppleman what a straw man is. I would, but I’m kind of sleepy today.

  14. “those pesky cucumber beatles”

    Are those the ones that live in octopus’s gardens?

  15. POLL: WHO HERE THINKS THAT RALPH-A-MINUTE SHOULD BE UNDER THE SEA?

    DATELINE: Bellingham, WA

    The roving reporter has discovered that Ralph-a-Minute’s Yellow Submarine service has been damaged by Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, according to Michelle. The yellow submarine, which once served as a meeting place for all the lonely people went helter skelter.

    “Oh! Darling” cried Michelle out! “You’ll have to carry that weight! You’re becoming a real nowhere man!”

    This is the roving reporter signing off.

  16. Thanks, Ron, for bringing your usual derisive tone to coverage of this phenomenon. You’re absolutely right: the rapid collapse of honeybee populations must be met with skepticism, and until there’s absolute certainty about the cause, no action whatsoever should be taken.

    I thought this was one of his better posts, better than his last one about the bees. At least he took seriously the idea that gm crops could possibly be responsible and gave some persuasive reasoning of why they might not be(e). For Mr. Bailey, that is progress.

    Probably the next good step would be for a beekeeper to sue for the environmental damage. Because cell phone tower providers are quite consolidated (a “natural oligopoly” if you will), it should be pretty easy to get them all in one suit and apportion the honey and crop loss damages.

  17. As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

    …if and only if you have considered every possibility.

  18. the market has spoken.

    if bees can’t compete, well, that’s tough nuts. they can go the way of buggy-whip manufacturers.

    or are you in favor of subsidies for BIG BEE?

    big bees, plus extinction hier

  19. Somehow there must be a way to pin this on George Bush? I’ll just bet that stem cell research would help. Also, more taxes on the super-rich, those driving SUVs, and REASON subscribers.

  20. There’s no known precedent for what’s happening now, is therr?

    Google is your friend, s.m. Bee populations worldwide collapsed in the ’70s (due, it is believed, to pesticide use).

    Bees everywhere are vulnerable to harsh winters.

    The current collapse is variously blamed on cell phones, bad weather, genetically engineered crops, mites (but only if you listen to what actual, you know, entomologists think), and a virus.

  21. Koppelman, here’s the problem:

    At any particular moment in time, at least one “bad and unexplained thing” will be going on. Bees may be dying, or frogs. Or there may be too many bees or too many frogs. A river may be drying up, or a river may be flooding. The weather may be getting warmer, or the weather may be getting cooler. There may be more Yeti sightings and less Loch Ness monster sightings, or even the reverse.

    If we took your approach seriously and stopped doing anything new – or anything of recent vintage – every time something unexplained happened, we could never do anything new at all. Ever. Because even if we demonstrate conclusively that cell phones aren’t hurting bees, next year there will be an algae bloom somewhere and someone will claim that cell phones are causing THAT. And the year after that, someone’s breast implants will explode and someone will say that cell phones are causing THAT.

  22. ‘Tuskegee University biologist C.S. Prakash wryly notes: As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” ‘

    There’s a third possibility. Maybe Tuskegee guessed the real reason bees are declining yet.

  23. If true, it’ll be a boon to the bee removal companies.

    albert einstein was a biologist?
    Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”
    I doubt it; the supposed quote seems to be nuttin’ more than MSM scribblers parroting each other.

    No, the current events must be unprecedented and catastrophic and must be, oh, whats the word, anthropogenic and illustrative of the Evils of Technology.

    Bees won’t return to a hive if they get a whiff of Al Gore’s mighty alpha-male pheromones (perfume).

  24. I would like to check the correlation between EPA funding and varrious environmental problems.

  25. Dave W.,

    Exactly how much expertise with GM crops do you have?

  26. But what about those near-dead hives with the few survivors badly diseased? Cell phones wouldn’t cause that. I don’t think we need to look further than the Bee smallpox/aids/ebola/whatever.

  27. …if and only if you have

    infallibly?

    considered every possibility.

  28. Mother nature is quite capable of wiping out a species all on her own. Human intervention may be sufficient in some cases, but it is not necessary for all cases.

  29. Steven Crane-

    But you see, the market for honey is not completely laissez-faire, so this isn’t a real market. So there’s probably a law that we can blame.

    The one thing I know is that the disappearance o of bees is not Matt Damon’s fault.

  30. Exactly how much expertise with GM crops do you have?

    In this thread, I said that Mr. Bailey put forth some nice evidence that GM crops are not killing the bees. Was it naive of me to say that?

    I did do a wee bit of research to try to determine whether cell phone towers are shielded from liability in the case that it turns out cell phone towers did in the bees. I seem to recall some federal liability-shielding legislation for cell phone towers in the 1990s, but (not being a tort lawyer) I can’t remember for sure and GOOGLE wasn’t quickly helpful. If you know history, maybe you can let us know if my memory is correct about the special law for cell phone towers, Grotius.

  31. But what about those near-dead hives with the few survivors badly diseased?

    Maybe it takes a village to give a bee an immune system appropriate for a bee. There is a reason that Utah puts beehives on the cop cars, you know.

  32. Dave W.,

    Exactly how much expertise with GM crops do you have?

  33. One thing that high honey prices do is drive up the price of mead.

  34. One thing that high honey prices do is drive up the price of mead.

    And that’s a crying shame.

    And where do you get your mead, Grotius? Anything in particular that you can recommend?

  35. carrick,

    I had some of this the other day and it was quite good.

  36. They don’t put much trust in natural selection. Somewhere there must be bees resistant to the effects of cellphones. They will have a survival advantage and replace all the other bees, right?

  37. I’ve seen their website before, but have never tried their products.

    I started making mead about three years ago, so I don’t buy commercial products anymore. However, I have friends that frequently ask where they can buy mead.

  38. carrick,

    Well, they have good stuff. You may be able to buy their products locally as well. There is a store in my area that carries their products (along with other mead producers).

  39. Exactly how much expertise with GM crops do you have?

    Far more than you and Mr. Bailey. Also, see my previous answer.

  40. Grotius, thanks for the info.

  41. Dave W.,

    So do you do or have you done much bench science re: GM crops?

  42. http://www.bienenarchiv.de/forschung/2004_lernprozesse/Electromagnetic%20Exposure_Learning%20Processes.doc.pdf

    “How Electromagnetic Exposure can influence Leaning Processes – Modelling Effects of Electromagnetic Exposure on Learnning Processes.” (Stever and Kuhn at ‘Campus Landau’).

    Conclusion, Outlook

    A first explorative study has not indicated a changing behaviour when the bees have been irradiated.

  43. Dave W.,

    Or any bench science in that area?

  44. Can we just get a whole buncha metsicans to do the job the bees arent doing now?

    Oh well, I am allergic to bees anyway

    they give me hives

  45. Or any bench science in that area?

    Grotius, I had some question on the table directed to you. You give me good, thoughtful answers to mine and I will get around to your new question.

  46. carrick,

    No problem. I loves me some mead. 🙂

  47. Dave W.,

    Both of Ron’s posts on bees have been fine posts.

    So, have you done any bench science in the arena of GM crops?

  48. Has anybody here ever driven across vast expanses of farmland off an interstate or other divided highway? How was your cell signal in those places? I rarely get a signal, and when I do its from some strange provider I’ve never heard of. Bees in these areas shouldn’t be hurt by signals.

  49. Oh, the only qualifications I have for discussing GM crops is this one: I took an ecology course in which one of the main units of discussion was GM crops. We read, amongst other things, that 1999 paper on monarch butterflies.

  50. Both of Ron’s posts on bees have been fine posts.

    That wasn’t the question. The questions were, to paraphrase:

    1. Do you agree or disagree with my gm crop related comment on this thread?

    I suspect you agree, which is why this may not be the best thread to have a discussion about why my knowledge and wisdom is superior. If we agree, that simply don’t matter here, and would seem to be unnecessarily divisive just when we have found some nice common ground.

    2. Are there any special laws protecting cell phone tower providers from tort liability?

    Now, c’mon — I know you can give me responsive answers to those questions. You just have to focus hard on what I am asking and direct your answer to the specific thing I am asking you. When you get a responsive answer fixed in your mind, then just type it in and hit “Submit Comment.” Simple as pie!

  51. “knowledge and wisdom is superior”

    should have been:

    –knowledge and wisdom is superior–

    (but really, that is a side issue)

  52. Dave W.,

    Do you agree or disagree with my gm crop related comment on this thread?

  53. Dave W.,

    Do you agree or disagree with my gm crop related comment on this thread?

    You forgot the part about typing the responsive answer. See, Grotius, you have to do that before “Submit Comment” or else I can’t see your answer at this end. 🙂

  54. Dave W.,

    I already gave you the answer I had in mind.

  55. Dave W.,

    Have you done any bench science re: GM crops?

  56. Do you agree or disagree with my gm crop related comment on this thread?

    I just realized that my question might be ambiguous for you. I want you to respond either that you agree with what I said here, or, alternatively, that you disagree with what I said about gm on this thd.

    Technically you could answer “yes” indicating that you do either agree or disagree, without specifying which it is, but that is not helpful.

    Being a genius I probably should have phrased it more clearly for you.

  57. Dave W.,

    Consider the context of your earlier statement on Ron’s fine blog posts on bees.

    Being a genius I probably should have phrased it more clearly for you.

    Well, I don’t debate geniuses. Too far above my level. So I’ll bow out now.

  58. I already gave you the answer I had in mind.

    Oh, I hadn’t realized that you are one of those who prefers non-responsive answers. Well, my answer to your question about bench science is: 42.

  59. There’s this robin that attacks my office window every day…I think he may be after my cell phone. I never see him attacking the window when I take my cell phone with me.

  60. Consider the context of your earlier statement on Ron’s fine blog posts on bees.

    Yes, let’s. Mr. Bailey made an earlier blog post where he was being cavalier about the possibility that gm was killing the bees. I criticized him for being cavalier about that possibility. Then he comes back with a second blog post, wherein he is not cavalier about the possibility, but rather addresses it, and rejects it because of the whole dead bees in Europe thing. Then I come on the thread to say that Mr. Bailey did a creditable job in addressing my concerns from the last thread. At this point, I am thinking that I am happy to have had the opportunity to be a positive influence on Mr. Bailey’s rhetoric, that Mr. Bailey is happy that his rhetoric is improved, and that you will be happy because you like Mr. Bailey. But, still, you don’t seem happy, Grotius. That is a puzzlement even for a genius.

  61. Dave W.,

    Mr. Bailey made an earlier blog post where he was being cavalier about the possibility that gm was killing the bees.

    Bailey wasn’t being cavalier at all as anyone remotely familiar with the literature on this subject should realize.

    You are wrong and you remain wrong.

  62. Dave W.,

    Here’s a question: have you actually read the monarch butterfly study that received so much attention?

    Did you know (before I pointed it out) that Bt was used by organic farmers? Did you know that it was a naturally occuring bacteria found in the soil as well as in some some insects?

  63. Here’s a question: have you actually read the monarch butterfly study that received so much attention?

    I know better to assume that a butterfly study applies to bumblebees. That is a “bench science” basic.

    I know better than to assume that a study involving some GM crops, previous known, applies to different GM crops now known or to be developed in the future. That is another “bench science” basic.

    I know better than to assume that “Bt” is co-extensive with all the crop modifications that can potentially hurt bees. Bench science basic number 3.

    I know that when carrick says that gm must be “closely monitored” then he means closely monitored, and is not just whistlin’ Dixie. Replicating matter, and matter that shares a food / host with replicating matter, requires close monitoring indeed. A jammed gun or bomb can cause a couple extra dead soldiers, maybe even US soldiers, if that happens to be the nation the armament was sold to. However, this GM stuff can lead to much bigger catastrophes. Cause of the replication. It doesn’t mean that gm killed the bees. it also means we shouldn’t gloss over that possibility too quickly, as Mr. Bailey was trying to do before accepting my gentle correction with grace and verve.

  64. You give me good, thoughtful answers to mine and I will get around to your new question.

    Always the mark of a BSer. Until you answer Grotius’ question, we have no reason to believe your outrageous claims.

  65. Misc corr dep’t:

    “I know better to assume”
    –I know better than to assume–

    “co-extensive”
    –coterminous– (shout out to Doherty)

    “shares a food / host with”
    –shares a food / host relationship with–

  66. Dave W.,

    I know better to assume that a butterfly study applies to bumblebees. That is a “bench science” basic.

    So, you’ve never read it?

    It doesn’t directly apply, of course, but no one ever claimed that it did, so your point is off base. Indeed, since the discussion specifically concerned in part the general issue of GM crops it was important to bring up that particular study.

    I know better than to assume that a study involving some GM crops, previous known, applies to different GM crops now known or to be developed in the future. That is another “bench science” basic.

    See my second comment above.

    I know better than to assume that “Bt” is co-extensive with all the crop modifications that can potentially hurt bees. Bench science basic number 3.

    See my second comment above.

    I know that when carrick says that gm must be “closely monitored” then he means closely monitored…

    GM crops are very closely monitored and they pass rigorous testing regimes prior to introduction. So what’s your point exactly?

  67. Dave W.,

    Indeed, at least three federal agencies (that I know of) concern themselves with the various aspects of GM crops.

  68. Dave W.,

    It also means we shouldn’t gloss over that possibility too quickly, as Mr. Bailey was trying to do before accepting my gentle correction with grace and verve.

    Ron didn’t gloss over anything and that remains my point of disagreement with you and why I answered the way I did.

  69. Dave W.,

    However, this GM stuff can lead to much bigger catastrophes. Cause of the replication.

    What are the exact dangers of GM crops?

    In other words, what specific scenarios do you have in mind?

  70. GM crops are very closely monitored and they pass rigorous testing regimes prior to introduction.

    Supposedly the Flavr Savr tomatoes were withdrawn because they failed to predict that the picking machines would smush the tomatoes in the fields.

    When I ask Mr. Bailey about Dolley’s premature death, he suggests that maybe she got arthritis due to an inactive lifestyle. Does he support this conjecture by pointing to a hundred or thousand clones that didn’t prematurely die or get arthritis because they were allowed decent exercise? No. because there ain’t a study like that.

    True these are just anecdotes, but in light of anecdotes like these, it is tough to believe your unsupported blanket assertions of “rigorousness” and “monitoring.” Citing us a butterfly study on a bumblebee problem don’t help establish confidence in the process neither. Nor do the FDA’s 1992 regulations specifying what kinds of testing are required.

    None of this means that gm killed the bees. But it does mean that Bailey’s second post reflects an attitudinal improvement over his first.

  71. crimethink,

    One of the problems for anti-GM types is that non-Western nations have gone forward vigorously in pursuing GMO technology, both in its application and its development.

  72. Dave W.,

    True these are just anecdotes, but in light of anecdotes like these, it is tough to believe your unsupported blanket assertions of “rigorousness” and “monitoring.”

    (A) Dolly was never meant to be an animal for sale to the public.

    (B) The sort of testing we’re talking about concerns health and safety testing, not testing for whether a particular product marries up well with picking machines.

    Citing us a butterfly study on a bumblebee problem…

    I didn’t do that and it isn’t bumblebees that people are concerned with. It is bees used in the production of honey.

  73. In other words, what specific scenarios do you have in mind?

    Glad you asked.

    http://tinyurl.com/2psnl9

    http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0417-tina_butler.html

    http://www.avert.org/origins.htm

    These are what catastrophes involving replicating matter look like.

  74. Dave W.,

    Indeed, to my knowledge Dolly was the result of an experiment to see if cloning was possible and to determine issues related to cloning.

  75. The sort of testing we’re talking about concerns health and safety testing, not testing for whether a particular product marries up well with picking machines.

    “Rigorous” testing using handpicked specimens. That is a joke, right?

  76. Indeed, to my knowledge Dolly was the result of an experiment to see if cloning was possible and to determine issues related to cloning.

    And what was supposed to happen if Dolley did not perform as planned?

  77. Dave W.,

    Smallpox was not created via GM technology; it is a naturally occurring disease. Furthermore, at best the issue concerns the development of new viruses, not the enhancement of crops, etc.

    Cane toads? How about deer in New Zealand? Species have been and will continue to travel across bioregions on the Earth with or without the help of human beings.

    HIV? So you’re back to a naturally occuring virus again.

  78. Dave W.,

    The point of course is that Dolly was never meant for human consumption, for introduction into the general population of sheep, etc. It was the result of an experiment.

  79. Dave W.,

    Anyway, I’d like to see you come up with a specific threat associated with GMO technology.

  80. Dave, first of all Mr. Bailey was not ridiculing the idea that GM products were causing CCD. He was ridiculing the Sierra Club for jumping on CCD as a justification for halting GM.

    While the hypothesis that GM products could cause CCD is generally valid, it can easily be “disproven” because CCD is happening all around the world including Europe where the prevailing animosity to GM products dramaticaly limits it use. If you Google on CCD, you will see that this idea has generally already been dismissed. Therefore, the Sierra Club is using a disproven hypothesis to drum up support for their political positions. For this, they deserve every single bit of ridicule they get.

    The cellphone hypothesis at least benefits from the fact that cellular technology is ubiquitous. However, it still seems to be easy enough to dismiss.

    The key fact is that the abondoned hives are not being repopulated by other honey bees or raided by other species. Since the honey in the hives is a very valuable resource, this indicates there is a “problem” with the abandoned hives.

    So much more likely scenarios would include increased usage of new pesticides which both slowly kill the bees and render the hive unsuable. Alternatively would be a new microbe which has the same effect.

    The most frustrating “feature” of so many people in the green movement is the quick acceptance of the most remote possibility of some new technology causing problems in nature while disconting far more likely natural causes.

  81. Smallpox was not created via GM technology; it is a naturally occurring disease.

    More generally, it was caused by a population shift that caused a naturally occurring microbe to become prevalent in a place where it was not prevalent before. However, a population shift is not the only way to cause a microbe to become more prevalent than it was before. The concern is that GM will cause a microbe to become more prevalent it was before. One way is if a genetic change to an animal cause that species to become a vector, when the species was not a vector before.

    Another possibility is that a gm change to a species food will cause the species to become a vector. You may want to read up on why hamburgers have more dangerous e coli than they used to. You may also want to read about how trichonosis (sp?) was wiped out in North America, and about ongoing efforts to prevent Mad Cow. True, the dangerous e coli story, the trichonosis story and the Mad Cow story do not necesarily* involve GM changes to the food, but they do demonstrate more generally that changes to the diet, from any source, can have unforeseeable microbe implications.

    Some microbe implications are small, like the e coli problem. Others can be big, like smallpox.

    Cane toads? How about deer in New Zealand? Species have been and will continue to travel across bioregions on the Earth with or without the help of human beings.

    Right, it depends upon how much DNA is being changed and how fast. If DNA is shifted in sequence relatively slowly, then the catastrophes tend to be infrequent and relatively small scale.

    As the pace of genetic manipulation picks up, the risk increases.

    HIV? So you’re back to a naturally occuring virus again.

    One that existed for a long time before mankind decided to eat it (or taint a test batch of a vaccine with it, not clear which). Imagine a gm tweak that has us eating a species we didn’t used to eat — a species that was not cost effective as food, but becomes so. How many “naturally occurring” virii do you think mankind will pick up that way? Do you think the new virii acquired in this manner will be as bad as HIV, or more manageable like the bad e coli?

    FOOTNOTE:

    * actually th e coli problem may implicate gm, because it may have been gm which made the corn cost effective to feed to the cattle, which in turn changes their digestive pH, which, in turn, causes the bad e coli to flourish where it previously did not. Or maybe cows would be fed corn these days irregardless of gm. Tough to say.

  82. You know, we wouldn’t have all these super-bugs floating around if Pasteur hadn’t discovered penicillian.

    F*cking scientists . . . who needs them anyway.

  83. it can easily be “disproven” because CCD is happening all around the world including Europe where the prevailing animosity to GM products dramaticaly limits it use.

    Well, I am not sure this is necessarily the last word, but like I said above, i thought it was good of Bailey to point this out, especially if he is going to be derisive about people for overplaying the risk.

    Hypothetical questions for you though:

    If CCD was happening substantially less in Europe than North America, for reasons unknown, would you take that as evidence that gm was to blame, or would you demand more proof? How much more?

    Further hypothetical: let’s say, at that point, I was able to show that a gm change to some plant caused the bees to eat pollen they previous did not eat and that this toxic pollen compromised the bees immune systems causing them to succumb in large numbers to infection. Would you have the maker of the gm plant pay for the bee die off because the gm plant caused the tragedy? Or would you have the maker of the gm plant not pay because it could not have foreseen the damage to the bees?

  84. Hypothetical questions for you though:

    What if the first nuclear device really did set the atmosphere on fire? Where would we be then? Isn’t this enough to justify a moritorium on new nuclear plants?

    If you want to discuss hypotheticals that explain why CCD is happening, then bring it on. It should be amusing anyway. But there is no point in postulating “what if” on topics that have already been disproved.

  85. Mr. Crane!

    hilarious!

    Perchance was that you that served as the scale model in the “compare human size with giant bee”?

    hmmmmm.

    Hey Farces – just sit out a few plays, okay? People weren’t ready for Vizzini, either. Just hit the sidelines for a few minutes….

  86. If you want to discuss hypotheticals that explain why CCD is happening, then bring it on. It should be amusing anyway. But there is no point in postulating “what if” on topics that have already been disproved.

    It is more interesting to know how you feel about tort liability for gm mishaps before one happens rather than after.

    I already know how you will feel, once we are in ex post mode, so that is uninteresting to me. Ex ante, on the other hand, you might have something interesting to say from a legal and/or economic incentives standpoint.

    Certainly in your engineering you don’t limit your concerns to problems that have come to pass. Same thing with the law.

  87. Liablity for any new product that results in harm — many questions first.

    How was it developed and tested?

    Was an established processed followed? Did all the actors participate in good faith? Was negligence invovled? Was deception or fraud involved?

    Was independent peer review involved (independent lab preferably; government agency less-preferable)?

    What went wrong? What was the scope of the problem? Was it forseeable? Did some unexpected convergence of independent activities occur?

    GM is no different than any other product development. I have no problem with civil damages assigned when products go wrong. The magnitude of the damages should differentiate from wrongs that were forseeable versus those that weren’t.

  88. FOOTNOTE:

    * actually th e coli problem may implicate gm, because it may have been gm which made the corn cost effective to feed to the cattle, which in turn changes their digestive pH, which, in turn, causes the bad e coli to flourish where it previously did not. Or maybe cows would be fed corn these days irregardless of gm. Tough to say.

    More specifically, the developer of GM corn has no liability if some toddler eats a hamburger from a chain resturant and dies from e-coli.

  89. “irregardless”

    very tough to say. yes.

    hier

  90. Liablity for any new product that results in harm — many questions first.. . . . Was it forseeable? Did some unexpected convergence of independent activities occur?

    Let’s give you some answers then. Let’s say that the gm plantmaker spliced a gene from a plant A where bees do eat the pollen, into a plant B where bees traditionally don’t eat the pollen. Let’s say the gm engineers did this for the purpose of increasing insect (other than bees) resistance of plant B. Let’s say the gm’ing did not cause plant B to secrete any new toxins or allergens or anything like that, but rather that it subtly changed the scent of plant B so that the bees now ate the pollen they had previously avoided, being tricked by their sense of smell into eating poison.

    As far as what the gm plantmaker did, he tested the new plant B (let’s say plant B’) to make sure that its fruit was not toxic to humans. The gm plantmaker did no tests involving bees. The gm plantmaker did read Grotius’s butterfly study and relied on that and similar studies to determine that it did not believe there would be ecological damage.

    The defendant gm plantmaker argues no liability because the damage was unforeseeable. The plaintiff farmer, who lost his honey and crops, argues for liability because testing was not “rigorous” (as promised by Grotius) and that the damage was sufficiently foreseeable because of the nature of plant replication, the eating habits of bees and the role of bees in producing crops and honey.

    Put yourself in the guise of lawgiver. Liability in this case? What else do you need to know? I can answer any questions about the hypothetical facts you may have.

  91. More specifically, the developer of GM corn has no liability if some toddler eats a hamburger from a chain resturant and dies from e-coli.

    well, that is an easy one because failure to cook the burger is an intervening event. Hypothetical variation:

    Let’s say that feeding the cow a gm plant changed the pH in the cow’s tummy such that a different e coli strain emerged: one that was both deadly and heat resistant.

    Should there be any liability there, either on the part of the gm plantmaker or on the cattle ranch who fed the corn? Let’s say that both the gm plantmaker and cattle rancher knew that the corn would change the nature of the intestinal flora of the cattle, but did not consider that a cooking resistant flora was a possibility. Toddler’s estate out of luck?

  92. Dave, I do not share your fixation on GM. I don’t have the time or energy to spend on your deeply involved hypotheticals.

  93. I don’t have the time or energy to spend on your deeply involved hypotheticals.

    Fine, we will reconvene after an actual gm catastrophe, if one ever occurs and if HnR chooses to cognize it, and then you can tell me all the predictable arguments about why whatever happened was completely unforeseeable. That will be less interesting, but it will tax your time and brain less.

    Believe it or not, I am not fixated with gm.

    Being a lawyer, I am fixated with the tort law and labeling aspects of gm. But that is not the same thing as being fixated with gm.

  94. This thread looks so cool with the filter!

  95. This thread looks so cool with the filter!

    But then how can you tell whether it is me or hak that is doing the “trolling?”

    I thought maybe my web page switch would mess up the filter, but I guess not. There is a good picture of me at the new site for Stevo to splice into that Time photo. Other than me, none of the other Farceses live in Canada, tho.

  96. That’s not a bad photo, Dave. However, my tools are pretty poor, and I’d probably need a larger, higher rez photo to do you justice. Although I tried.

  97. thanks, Stevo. Funny!

  98. Dave W.,

    Aren’t the cell phone towers indemnified from liability under U.S. telecom law?

  99. As Bill Maher stated on his show last night…

    This is just natures way of saying

    “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.