Feb 18 2014

GM Potatoes and Disease Resistance

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108 responses so far

108 Responses to “GM Potatoes and Disease Resistance”

  1. Mlemaon 18 Feb 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I’m so dismayed that Mother Jones would interview a neurologist for his opinion on GMOs.

  2. Mlemaon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:11 pm

    I’ll link people also to your article on Golden Rice, and how people who opposed it are “wicked”.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/golden-rice-a-touchstone/

  3. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:44 pm

    People who oppose it may not be evil people, and they probably think they’re doing the “right thing”, but what they’re doing IS wicked (the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that). They are depriving hundreds of thousands of people in indigent populations a safe and ready way to get vitamin A, a deficiency that is having devastating effects, essentially for no good reason other than that they’re GMOs.

    I wish I had more time to respond to your utter inanities, Mlema, but I do have other things I have to focus on. In reality, you’ve got nothing, and your kind of denialism is most certainly akin to anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation, heavy on fear and misinformation, light on actual science.

    So yes, those who state that the people who oppose Golden Rice are doing an evil by perpetuating a devastating malady unnecessarily, because of misplaced, and arrogantly first-world, ideology.

  4. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Better to interview Dr. Novella, who is not swayed by ideology, than the myriad ideologues who currently dominate the GMO narrative with their misinformation. Dr. Novella is uniquely qualified in this particular area in being able to point out the fallacies and unreasonable arguments anti-GMO activists forward, so in that regard he is a very appropriate choice.

    I guarantee you that you get any number of the world’s biologists agricultural scientists, and they’d say the same things as him. Sure, there are the few cranks out there, but they constitute and extreme fringe minority (a la the occasional biologists who are also young-earth creationists).

  5. Davdoodleson 18 Feb 2014 at 8:48 pm

    “I’m so dismayed that Mother Jones would interview a neurologist for his opinion on GMOs.”

    Who, apart from an anti-GMO activist, would you have not been “dismayed” by?
    .

  6. Davdoodleson 18 Feb 2014 at 9:02 pm

    It is amazing to me how so many people can immediately see the ridiculousness of the “Big Windfarm” gambit when it comes to climate change denialism, and yet will happily raise the “Big Pharma” gambit regarding alternative nostrum peddlars and “Big Monsanto” gambit re GMO.

    And the “shill scientist” gambit, and all the other logical fallacies they would easily recognise when brought against something the ideologically identify with.
    .

  7. MaryMon 18 Feb 2014 at 10:09 pm

    This is such a great use of the technology. There are over a dozen sprays of fungicide each year that this could prevent. And it does have everything going for it–wild relative gene, not something grown by seed so pollen is a red herring, and yield benefits.

    But yeah, the argument that there’s already a potato (Sarpo) means we don’t need this? Really? You want to rely on one strain that’s not a popular one for commercial growers? Every other day in the year they say we need more diversity. Go figure.

  8. sonicon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:33 pm

    There were billions of people before any GMO’s. Clearly the human race can survive without them.

    Why does any one think they are needed now?

    BTW- yukon gem is blight resistant, was bred by standard means and has been with us for over 10 years.

  9. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:34 pm

    But yeah, the argument that there’s already a potato (Sarpo) means we don’t need this? Really? You want to rely on one strain that’s not a popular one for commercial growers? Every other day in the year they say we need more diversity. Go figure.

    I think one problem is that they don’t realize that they often make pro-monoculture arguments. The argument that unexpected consequences come from novelty, if it were applied consistently, would consider non-monoculture crops to be risky because, whether by breeding or by GM, we produce new genes and new combinations of genes, creating the risk. The popular appeal to species purity gives them an undefined, presumably monoculture ideal to judge real crops by. All crops are effectively guilty by default, and they don’t seem to realize that such impossible standards make agenda-driven selective enforcement easy to rationalize. They’re using the naturalistic fallacy to make a double-standard. The organic farming industry is exploiting and further encouraging that mode of thought.

    I’d rather judge crops by how well they fulfill their role, how safe they are, and so on, rather than how they deviate from a nostalgic yesteryear that wasn’t as good as advertised.

  10. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:39 pm

    There were billions of people before any GMO’s. Clearly the human race can survive without them.

    Why does any one think they are needed now?

    I smell burning straw man.

    We aren’t arguing that they’re necessary for human survival, only that GM can improve crops and the worldwide standard of living if we apply the technology correctly. We also measure human prosperity to higher standards than mere survival.

  11. NNMon 19 Feb 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I’m all for genetic improvements.
    But I have one concern: especially when you mention “there is no risk of cross-pollination or contamination”…
    (By the way, did you really say “contamination”? lol)
    I’m worried that we could be limiting diversity. Without diversity, one disease could have dramatic consequences, when everyone gets used to an abundance of potatoes (as the example). We need more mixing and new varieties, to give us a chance, that some would survive an epidemic. They should let nature mix things up.

  12. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I definitely agree on the need for diversification, and I’d even say we could use GM to aid the process alongside natural recombination. One part is generic diversity to provide stability against catastrophe, and another part is optimizing the crop for the regions where they’re grown. I’m sure there are also a lot of cooks who’d appreciate having a wide selection of a crop for just the right flavor, texture, and such for a dish.

  13. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2014 at 3:48 pm

    sonic,

    “There were billions of people before any GMO’s.
    Clearly the human race can survive without them”

    If you can’t detect the fallacies in that argument…
    I don’t know how someone can spend so long on a sceptical blog and not have some of it rub off. Really, it completely astounds me.

  14. sonicon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Bronze Dog-
    Not everyone thinks GMOs are needed for humanity to continue.
    Some people want them banned entirely, for example.

    Here is the quote from the “Royal Society”
    “It would be perverse to spurn this approach at a time when we need every tool in the toolbox to ensure adequate food production in the short, medium and long term.”

    Sounds to me like we need them to ‘ensure adequate food production…’

    Here is what the agronomist in Brazil (a major user of GMO) has to say–

    “The concrete results show that, of general form, is possible to affirm that transgenics have offered for some [farmers], for some time, easier management, in terms of the homogenization of decision processes related to herbicides and control of some pests. However, this has very severe consequences for those involved. And even for those who benefit in the short term, the results seen in the medium and long term do not allow optimism.”

    This implies they have not been used correctly in Brazil. Perhaps we should only allow people who l=will use them correctly to have them.

    Who are they?

  15. BBBlueon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I'm so dismayed that Mother Jones would interview a neurologist for his opinion on GMOs.

    Mother Jones didn't interview a neurologist, they interviewed a skeptic who happens to be a neurologist.

    There were billions of people before any GMO’s. Clearly the human race can survive without them.

    The human race would also exist without antibiotics.

    Recently became acquainted with the term "Gish Gallop". Is that a general term that can be properly applied to arguments made by fervant anti-GMO types or is its use limited to the evolution-versus-creation argument?

    Just FYI for those interested in the subject: Stem rust of wheat is another facinating (to me, at least) example of the interaction between humans and plant pathogens over the centuries.

  16. rezistnzisfutlon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:32 pm

    The issue of monoculture and diversity was in existence before GMOs came into the picture. ANY crop, including the much vaunted organic, can be grown in a monoculture setting. The real question is, at what point is it truly detrimental and/or a hazard?

    Simply removing technologies and making them unavailable to farmers isn’t the right answer. The reason GMOs are developed is because they solve many of the problems farmers have as well as reduce the cost of production, which is a savings that passes onto the consumer. Currently, only a handful of GE cultivars are actually used widely. Most farmers are well aware of the dangers of monoculture, not rotating crops frequently enough, and diversity (most of them are smart people who are far more versed in this subject than we are).

    I understand what monoculture is, it’s just that the term is often thrown around arbitrarily. It’s like when anti-GMO activists talk about pesticide residue on crops, then show the MSDS for a particular pesticide, but ignore the question of whether the residue on the food is in quantities that are harmful or whether there is a cumulative effect. Similar questions need to be asked about “monoculture” and “diversification”.

    Just the simple matter of tilling a field and planting a crop, no matter what variety or type of agriculture being used, has a resulting ecological effect that is against the “natural order” of diversity. Any act taken on a ecosystem has resultant selective pressures, there is no way around it. At what point is a “monoculture” regarded as harmful to us? 100 acres? 1000? 10,000? What are those harms exactly?

  17. rezistnzisfutlon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Most of the arguments against GMOs are red herrings as they can be applied to non-GM crops as well. The other question, more in response to Sonic, is why shouldn’t we use GMOs, or any particular one? I have yet to see a compelling argument against. Best practices in agriculture isn’t really an argument against GMOs, either.

  18. TheFlyingPigon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Sonic, why didn’t you post links to our quotes? It would help put them in context… did I answer my own question?

    For “It would be perverse to spurn this approach at a time…”:

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1942/1807.full

    It’s a single-author paper by Jonathan D. G. Jones, so it’s odd that you attributed it to The Royal Society.

    And for “The concrete results show that, of general form…”:

    http://gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14851

    Obviously, that’s a badly translated (by Google) version. Here’s the Portuguese original:

    http://www.ihu.unisinos.br/entrevistas/520591-a-transgenia-esta-mudando-para-pior-a-realidade-agricola-brasileira-entrevista-especial-com-leonardo-melgarejo

    TFP

  19. DietRichColaon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Hello! This is my first attempt at contributing to this community (well, other than a horribly naive letter to the SGU regarding the placebo effect which I hope Dr. Novella promptly deleted). I will fully admit my skepticism infancy, so please argue my line of thinking here (just be gentle about it if you can).

    I read the Mother Jones post, and just had one concern regarding Dr. Novella’s response to the idea that GM is a 21st-century phenomenon. The article states

    “but according to Novella, humans have been using selective breeding to create more desirable versions of plants and animals for thousands of years.”

    On the one hand, I understand why that statement is true, and does refute the idea that the GM phenomenon is new to the 21st century. However, in terms of addressing the actual concerns of the anti-GMO people when they bring up this misconception, is this not a form of the “argument from antiquity”? Just because humans have been selectively breeding traits for thousands of years does not automatically negate the concerns that doing so could have negative consequences anymore than saying a natural remedy had been used for thousands of years means it is effective.

    Now, I don’t know many anti-GMOers personally. I tend to fall more on Dr. Novella’s side of this topic. So maybe my problem is that I don’t understand the point they are trying to make when they bring up that our relatively “new” ability to manipulate genes. If the only point that anti-GMOers try to make with this idea is purely a technology fear-mongering one with no other valid reason behind it, then I see the legitimacy of Dr. Novella’s argument in countering this idea. But if they are trying to raise concerns that our technological ability to manipulate genes is new and we don’t understand all the consequences, then this statement of us having already done this for thousands of years does not, in and of itself, address this concern and smacks more of the aforementioned logical fallacy.

    But I am trying to make an effort to stretch my skeptical muscles, so I would really appreciate some feedback. And when I initially read the Mother Jones post, this particular section read so much like what I’ve seen regarding arguments from antiquity that it bothered me. Or at the very least that if one wasn’t careful and intentional in saying what they were refuting, they could misstate this fact or be interpreted as making an argument from antiquity (and thus providing false legitimacy to this kind of logical fallacy). But, all the more reason I’d appreciate some thoughts from seasoned veterans.

  20. sonicon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:42 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-
    I haven’t said nobody should use GMO’s, I’m asking why we need them.
    I think the current use of GMO’s gives a short term benefit that has been outweighed by the longer term negative.
    This is not to say the technology can’t be useful in the future or doesn’t have possible applications now.
    But the way it is being used seems to cause more problems than it solves.

    I agree that there are many bad arguments against GMO, but that is no reason to ignore the actual impacts from the years of evidence we have available.

    BBBlue-
    Good point. You think there are benefits from antibiotics that outweigh the downsides of their use so the fact people survived without them makes them useful. I agree.
    And why do we GMO’s?

    TFP-
    you hint that I misquoted or something. Did I? I’m no better at translating Portuguese than Google is…

  21. TheFlyingPigon 19 Feb 2014 at 6:07 pm

    sonic,

    I wasn’t hinting that you misquoted anything, except for the strange attribution of the one quote as coming from the “Royal Society” instead of the author of the paper (the attribution of the other quote was also vague). The problem is that brief quotes like that can be easily manipulated to imply things that were not meant by the person who said them – context matters. It’s therefore a good idea to include links, or at least proper attributions, when you are quoting outside sources.

    TFP

  22. rezistnzisfutlon 19 Feb 2014 at 6:37 pm

    …the longer term negative.

    What longer term negative is there?

    …actual impacts from the years of evidence we have available.

    What impacts? What evidence? That is, what impacts that are unique to GMOs that cannot also be attributed to conventional/organic crops? What evidence do we have of the “long term negatives” that you claim exist? As far as I know, there isn’t anything other than what we already know and mitigate for from all forms of agriculture.

    This is one of the problems with the anti-GMO argumentation, is that there really aren’t any arguments they have that are unique to GMOs. There are problems with agriculture (some that are helped by the use of GMOs, by the way), no one is doubting that, but those problems have to do with ALL of agriculture, balanced by the need to adequately feed the Earth’s populations.

  23. Senexon 19 Feb 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Wow, who would think people that identify themselves as healthy eaters can have such a dark side? Steve never fails to impress not only with knowledge but his ability to treat irrational arguments with respect as he just deconstructs woo woo beliefs with unfailing politeness.

  24. hardnoseon 19 Feb 2014 at 7:45 pm

    The foremost pro-GMO argument is usually that ways must be found to provide enough food for an ever-growing population.

    Not only is the human population expected to continue growing, it is also expected to become increasingly “Americanized” (or “westernized,” if you prefer that). Being Americanized, to me, means driving the biggest car you can afford, and never riding a bike or walking, even if you are only going one mile. It means eating food that is mostly processed to death or artificial. It means spending endless hours being entertained by technology. And it means, very often, getting chronic diseases by the time you are middle-aged, or before.

    I can see that being poor and starving really sucks. But being Americanized also sucks, in different ways.

    Many otherwise rational skeptics think Americans are getting healthier every day, because of medical advances. That is a myth promoted by Big Drug. If you carefully study the data (and I have), you will see that it is complicated and hard to interpret. And that it does NOT show that medical advances had a big role in improving health. The biggest factor was the discovery of antibiotics in the mid 20th century, which dramatically reduced the death rate of children. Aside from that, most of the evidence is unclear.

    Anyway, there is a mad rush to make the whole world just like us, based on the assumption that we are doing great, and constantly improving.

    I am not an environmentalist or anything like that. But I can’t help knowing that everything has limits. The ability of life on earth to survive while assaulted by all kinds of toxic pollution, not to mention the dangers of climate change — well I can’t see it continuing much longer. Especially if population keeps growing, and developing nations are encouraged to consume mass quantities of petroleum, just like us.

    Instead of worrying how to feed them all on processed junk food (and then of course, providing them with drugs for hypertension and diabetes), we should be worrying about whether there is any way this insanity could be prevented or at least slowed.

    No I don’t want people to starve. I just don’t want to encourage them to be like us, and to stamp out all traditional lifestyles (which is some cases are much healthier than ours).

    And most of all, I wish the population could somehow be leveled off. I don’t see any how. But the pro-GMOers seem to think there are no limits, and human cleverness can always somehow find a way.

  25. BBBlueon 19 Feb 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Sonic,

    As with antibiotics, based on my understanding of the evidence, I am satisfied that the risk-reward calculation favors GMOs, and so far, the hypothetical arguments offered against their use have not been persuasive.

    There is great tension between those who condemn modern agriculture and its reliance on unsustainable petrochemicals and monoculture, and those who make a living within that system. As someone who is involved in production agriculture, GMOs represent a win-win situation; decrease dependence on conventional pesticides and facilitate environmentally friendly farming practices while maintaining production levels and product quality, if not improving them.

    Yes, I understand the arguments about GMOs increasing pesticide use rather than decreasing it, and that reliance on GMOs will only make farmers more dependent on evil corporations, but I don’t consider those to be adequate reasons for condemning the technology as a whole. GMOs represent the potential to improve crops in many ways and the argument that all GMOs represent an unimaginable threat is ridiculous to me. 

  26. rezistnzisfutlon 19 Feb 2014 at 8:19 pm

    hardnose,

    I regard most of those arguments as strawmen for the use of GMOs and of those who support their use, as well as non sequiturs from the topic of GMOs. For one, you’re making a LOT of assumptions and, from what I can tell, baseless predictions about how the rest of the world will regard GMOs. It also uses the conspiracy theory-like argument that the American lifestyle and culture is being, rather forcefully, foisted on the rest of the world whether they want it or not, and it assumes that cultures would otherwise be static and resistant to change if America (or some other equivalent) wasn’t present in the world. Furthermore, it assumes that everything American is unhealthy and bad, that whatever chronic diseases we are dealing with today is due to the “American lifestyle”, that everyone is being forced into choices they’d rather not make by “Big Whatever”, etc. ALL strawmen, all factually incorrect, all presumptive, and all not really relevant to the topic at hand.

    You do seem aware that population control by attrition isn’t really a viable, or humane, solution. I tend to agree that population booming is an issue, but most of that is coming from developing countries, with some developed industrialized nations having negative population. Just that alone suggests the opposite of what you’re claiming, that “Americanization” is somehow causing a population boom that is (currently) unsustainable.

    I would suggest that many of the traditional cultures and lifestyles are what’s responsible for the population problems, not “Americanization”. In traditional cultures and lives, it was necessary to have many children as many of the children did not live to adulthood. Children were often also used as resources for the family unit and society. As their societies develop, modern medicine and technology improves longevity, decreases infant/child mortality, and improves quality of life, yet their culture is still one that having many children is not only desirable, but necessary.

    In other words, a cultural clash between old-world life and new-world realities. Most developed nations passed this phenomenon decades ago (for the most part – there are still segments of society that promote high levels of procreation, mostly from religious groups who cling to old cultural ideals, but even they aren’t having as many children due to modern realities that simply can’t ignore).

    With the advent of modern communication, ever-increasing populations, inevitable globalization (in terms of cultures and societies, not economics), change will occur whether you and people like you want it to or not. Cultures change, that is just the way it is and the way it’s been throughout history. Clinging to old ways of life just out of principle even though there are better ways of existing isn’t virtuous, it’s foolish. Worse yet, making up scenarios that don’t exist and utilizing fallacious thinking in order to justify rationale isn’t admirable, it’s actually rather despicable.

  27. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 9:16 pm

    The foremost pro-GMO argument is usually that ways must be found to provide enough food for an ever-growing population.

    You’re certainly not describing me, hardnose. I want technology to be used to improve the quality of life and survival rate across all ages to decrease the reproduction rate and gradually lower the world population. Famine isn’t keeping the population down because human reproduction, despite what Civ-like video games tell you, isn’t based solely on food production. If each individual child has a higher chance of living to adulthood and parents can control how many children they have, they tend to have fewer children and invest more resources per child.

    Not only is the human population expected to continue growing, it is also expected to become increasingly “Americanized” (or “westernized,” if you prefer that). Being Americanized, to me, means driving the biggest car you can afford, and never riding a bike or walking, even if you are only going one mile.

    Nice racist tirade, there. Of course, I’d like to know what the latter vague claim of “Americanization” is based on and how it’s measured. Frankly, I wonder if you’re trying to paint generalized improved quality of life as “Americanizing/westernizing” in order to make it appear bad by association. Here’s your woo hipster brownie points for railing against a parody of the mainstream, by the way.

    And, for all the nasty things you can say about America, despite the (over-)abundance of food, we don’t have a high reproductive rate. And it’s not because of sterility.

    It means eating food that is mostly processed to death or artificial. It means spending endless hours being entertained by technology. And it means, very often, getting chronic diseases by the time you are middle-aged, or before.

    1. What’s so bad with processing or artificial? Be specific and define your terms as precisely as you can.

    2. What’s wrong with being entertained by technology, so long as it’s got a healthy social component? Heck, some people like me are introverts and need some “me-time” entertainment, too. Is it the entertainment part and/or the technology part that you’re implying to be bad? If it’s the technology part, it reminds me of one racist troll I had who was calling me a nerd and claiming that enjoying geeky hobbies like D&D along with other people doesn’t count as “real” socializing.

    If it’s about the lack of exercise, that’s a fair point, and I’m open for suggestions about how to encourage exercise without trampling on individual rights.

    3. You do realize that the more likely people are to live regardless of genetic predispositions, the more likely they are to have chronic and geriatric conditions, right? Would you rather we cull the weak at early ages?

    Life is a sexually transmitted disease with high potential for morbidity and a 100% mortality rate. If it doesn’t kill you in the early stages, it will kill you later, after you’ve had a chance to suffer complications in the intervening stages. Them’s the breaks. We just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

    I feel obligated to make a reference to the ending of Mass Effect 3. From what I’ve gathered via geek osmosis, a bunch of AIs decide to kill off all sentient biological life in the galaxy every 50,000 years so that there’s no perpetual biological-vs-AI war. In one memetic variation “I know you don’t like being killed by synthetics so I made some synthetics to kill you every 50,000 years so you won’t be killed by synthetics.”

    I can see that being poor and starving really sucks. But being Americanized also sucks, in different ways.

    Wow. Seriously? You went there?

    Many otherwise rational skeptics think Americans are getting healthier every day, because of medical advances. That is a myth promoted by Big Drug. If you carefully study the data (and I have), you will see that it is complicated and hard to interpret. And that it does NOT show that medical advances had a big role in improving health. The biggest factor was the discovery of antibiotics in the mid 20th century, which dramatically reduced the death rate of children. Aside from that, most of the evidence is unclear.

    Citations, please. Now.

    Anyway, there is a mad rush to make the whole world just like us, based on the assumption that we are doing great, and constantly improving.

    I think America is in decline right now. We’re still advancing technologically, but that’s not going to last with the educational system crumbling and politics growing ever more conservative.

    No I don’t want people to starve. I just don’t want to encourage them to be like us, and to stamp out all traditional lifestyles (which is some cases are much healthier than ours).

    Food supply and culture don’t have to be tied so closely together as you’re making them. I want to stabilize the population and let individuals decide which cultural practices they want to live.

    Also, a lot of the time I hear people railing against cultural imperialism, they seem to imply we should force people from other cultures to accept their ancestral traditions because the Westerner knows that’s what’s best for them. And it probably because it makes for better, “more authentic” tourism, too.

    My view of culture is much the same as my view of species: Change is natural and inevitable, so there’s no point in pretending there was a “pure” moment worth preserving. There’s also nothing inherently wrong with going cross-culture.

    And most of all, I wish the population could somehow be leveled off. I don’t see any how. But the pro-GMOers seem to think there are no limits, and human cleverness can always somehow find a way.

    I have never met anyone who expressed or even implied such an opinion. Methinks you’re constructing a mannequin out of hay.

  28. sonicon 19 Feb 2014 at 10:28 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-
    One longer term problem is that we have corn borers that are Bt resistant.
    Another is the ‘super weed’ that is immune to round-up.
    Dow chemical is all ready preparing ’round up 2′ and the GMO’s associated with that.
    The person I quoted from Brazil is not talking hypothetically.

    TheFlyingPig-
    You are correct, I usually do give links to the quotes.
    That was sloppy.
    (The quote from the ‘royal society’ was in a paper Dr. N. linked to.)

    BBBlue-
    I’m trying to talk evidence as well.
    I have given a quote from a chief agronomist from Brazil- a place where GMO’s are heavily used- to the effect that the problems they are creating are worse than the problems they purport to solve.
    I appreciate your opinion on this matter, but I’m not sure the longer range outcomes are on your side.
    Perhaps you can enlighten me on that.

  29. Kawarthajonon 19 Feb 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Dr. Steve – I really appreciate your perspective on GMO, especially in your last article on the subject in which you laid out the arguments for and against (http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-gmo-controversy/). I think you wrote a really balanced article on the subject and it is VERY difficult to get a balanced opinion these days (just look at the comments for your GMO articles). It is also difficult to take a balanced view, which you seem to do, despite extremism from both sides.

    IMO, GMO may be useful, but they are not the solution to our global problems. At best, a piece of the puzzle. I don’t believe they deserve to be universally panned, as they are by the anti-GMO bloc, or to be universally lauded as the ultimate solution, as they are by the pro-GMO lobby. Even with effective GMO crops, the world will still need solutions to the many problems we face, particularly our ever increasing population, our increasing need for energy and global warming, not to mention pollution. Eventually, these things will overwhelm even GMO’s promising characteristics. I’m not sure what the answer is, but thanks again, Steve, for your helpful perspective.

  30. rezistnzisfutlon 20 Feb 2014 at 12:07 am

    …despite extremism from both sides.

    What extremism are you seeing from the pro side here?

    …or to be universally lauded as the ultimate solution, as they are by the pro-GMO lobby.

    Can you provide examples or citations that indicate any pro views GMOs as some sort of panacea? Can you show anywhere where any pro has said that they think GMOs are the solution to our global problems? Most of us regard GMOs no more or less than one tool in the box out of many in agriculture. Most of the time, pros spend their time putting out fires antis start, dispelling misinformation and correcting factual inaccuracies as well as errors in thinking.

    Most pros realize that, even with GMOs in the picture, there are legitimate problems with agriculture. And that’s the point, really, in dispelling the misinformation, because we recognize that serious and meaningful conversations need to be had. The problem is, antis tend to obfuscate and distract from real issues by spreading misinformation, ignorance, and fear-mongering, and that is taking us backwards. We want to address the real issues, but that’s going to be difficult when all the noise being made by antis is distracting people from these. We are seeing the fruits of this now (no pun intended) in Hawaii where legislators are under tremendous pressure to ban GMOs and adopt purely organic practices. These kinds of conversations are preventing us from moving on with real issues in agriculture.

  31. rezistnzisfutlon 20 Feb 2014 at 12:20 am

    One longer term problem is that we have corn borers that are Bt resistant.

    So? Pests will develop resistances to any form of pesticide no matter what it is. That’s just evolution. The most we can hope to do with the tools we have is rotate them so that it takes longer for these resistances to build up, but it’s still only a matter of time.

    Another is the ‘super weed’ that is immune to round-up.

    This is a misconception related to the first point above. “Superweeds” will develop no matter what we do. Here’s a good article from Andrew Kniss on the subject of “superweeds” that hopefully will be enlightening, especially in showing how the term “superweed” is a misnomer.

    Dow chemical is all ready preparing ’round up 2′ and the GMO’s associated with that.

    This is actually good, and inevitable. It’s better than going back to more destructive and toxic pesticides. The development of pesticides is an ever-present arms race that likely will never end.

    The person I quoted from Brazil is not talking hypothetically.

    It’s clear that you misconstrued their concern, and is directly related to your ongoing misunderstanding of the need to continually develop pesticides as well as to educate all farmers on best practices. What they are saying is that we cannot be over-reliant on technology in the long term because of the ability for organisms to develop resistances.

    Your misunderstanding about evolution and resistance reminds me of many arguments made by anti-vaxxers, who seems to think that the best and only solution to organisms’ development of resistances is to just do away with all vaccines and antibiotics. It should be obvious that this is an absurd conclusion that would be disastrous if it were ever implemented.

    We will likely never overcome the development of biological resistances to, well, anything we throw at it. All we can do is try to stay ahead of it as much as possible. None of what you’ve suggested is lost on scientists or on farmers, and both groups are well aware of the issues and are diligently working to stay ahead of it. Abandoning their efforts and adopting archaic forms of agriculture simply is not the answer going forward, and does not evade the same issues anyway.

  32. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 12:53 am

    rez, how would you feel if we determined that pesticide resistant, or pesticide-producing plants were not the best way forward in pest management?

  33. rezistnzisfutlon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:47 am

    Mlema,

    I would always go with the most efficacious and sensible route. I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that I’m somehow married to the notion of pesticide resistant or pesticide producing crops, that I would promote their use even if there were more effective means out there. The reason I promote their use is that they are the most effective means that, as it so happens, allows the use of a far less toxic and more environmentally friendly pesticide, or doesn’t require the use of chemical pesticide at all.

    The question should be, how would I feel about not using them considering that, for the time being, they are the most safe, effective, and environmentally friendly choice available? The answer is obvious, to me, that they should be used.

    So, to answer your question, if they weren’t the best way forward in pest management, I would want to know what is and then I would promote that.

  34. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:02 am

    ok thanks for your answer

  35. hardnoseon 20 Feb 2014 at 9:10 am

    Bronze Dog — by “racist” do you mean anyone who disagrees with you in any way?

  36. sonicon 20 Feb 2014 at 10:11 am

    rezistnzisfutl-
    I think you are overlooking what is called ‘selection pressure’.

    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v26/n2/full/nbt1382.html
    Insect resistance to Bt crops: evidence versus theory
    “Evolution of insect resistance threatens the continued success of transgenic crops producing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins that kill pests…. The field outcomes documented with monitoring data are consistent with the theory underlying the refuge strategy, suggesting that refuges have helped to delay resistance.”
    By interspercing non-GMO (refuges) with the GMO we slow the spread of the resistant pests. It is the concentration of the pesticide that allows the resistance to spread. (That’s called selection pressure, I think?).

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/327/5972/1439
    Monsanto has revealed that a common insect pest has developed resistance to its flagship genetically modified (GM) product in India. The agricultural biotechnology leader says it “detected unusual survival” of pink bollworms that fed on cotton containing the Cry1Ac gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which codes for a protein that’s toxic to many insect pests. In a statement to Science, Monsanto claims that the finding from western India “is the first case of field-relevant resistance to Cry1Ac products, anywhere in the world.”

    The varients of the bollworm that would survive eating that cotton came into existence before the cotton did by chance.
    It wasn’t until the cotton existed that the environment that would allow the propagation of that varient to go forward existed.

    Perhaps an analogy with the overuse of antibiotics is in order.

    Am I misunderstanding evolution and resistance?

    I think we might be better off discussing other solutions to pests.

  37. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 10:22 am

    Of course not. I mean your statement suggests judgment of things based largely on their racial or national origin, rather than on their objective merits. It artificially clumps various things together by vague cultural association into a package deal and declares guilt by association instead of judging on a case-by-case basis. It also obfuscates our real arguments by conjuring racial stereotype-derived straw men to rail against.

    Popular example: A lot of quacks bash “Western” medicine and seek to create a racial double-standard that allows “Eastern” medicine to be coddled. To my knowledge, there’s no purpose for dividing medicine by which hemisphere it came from, aside from its propaganda utility as a racist dog whistle. On one hand, it displays favoritism towards Easterners by implying that they’re superior to other human beings by virtue of being immune to the human cognitive failings scientific methodology exists to counteract. On the other hand, it can also be viewed as demeaning to Eastern culture by implying that they’re naturally bad at the scientific mode of thought and are compensated for this disability with some sort of magical insight.

  38. Steven Novellaon 20 Feb 2014 at 10:41 am

    Issues of farming best practices and sustainability all predate and are independent of GM: Pesticide resistance, herbicide resistance, monoculture, cross pollination, the need to buy seeds each year (exist with hybrids) and even the unpredictability of phenotypes with genetic modification, which many argue is far greater with hybrids and mutation farming than GM.

    GM offers more options in addressing all these issues. For example, pesticide use results in decreased insect predators and the need for more pesticide use, which results in resistance. Usse of Bt crops has allowed for less pesticide use, with recovery of insect predators, and a further decrease in the need for pesticides. It essentially has reversed this cycle. But – you cannot over-rely on just one pest strategy. It has to be part of an overall sustainable approach.

    Asking why we “need” GM is the wrong question. The major unstated premise is that “need” (however that is defined) is the correct threshold.

    The real question is – what is the risk/expense vs benefit profile of specific GM crops in the context of specific farming practices. Certainly many famers choose GM crops because they feel this balance is positive. I think the evidence supports this.

    Further, we have limited GM crops at the moment, but there are many GM varieties in the pipeline with very interesting traits, including disease resistance, improved nutrition, drought tolerance, and improved yield. Saying that “we have survived” misses the huge point of sustainability. Some argue that current farming practices are not environmentally sustainable, for example because of the nitrogen that gets into the ground water. Even setting aside population growth, this is a huge problem. There are already GM crops in the pipeline that have more efficient nitrogen extraction. This would result in the need for less fertilizer, and less nitrogen getting into the environment. This would be a huge improvement.

    There are even research programs trying to figure out how to transfer the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to cereal crops. Imagine not needing any nitrogen fertilizer.

    Why the hell would we not continue such research programs?

  39. SteveAon 20 Feb 2014 at 10:43 am

    Hardnose: “If you carefully study the data (and I have), you will see that it is complicated and hard to interpret. And that it does NOT show that medical advances had a big role in improving health.”

    I think you’re confusing health with lifespan. There’s little evidence to suggest that modern medicine has increased maximum lifespan, but has increased, to a huge extent, our chance of attaining it.

    Think of someone’s life as a winding road strewn with landmines. The road ends in sheer drop. When you get to the end, you fall off and die (with old age, your body’s self-repair systems begin to break down and vital functions accumulate errors to the point where they can no longer sustain life). Modern medicine doesn’t increase the length of the road, it just clears some of the explosives out of your way (smallpox, cancers, septicaemia, AIDs, appendicitis etc etc).

  40. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 11:56 am

    I think that’s a good analogy, SteveA. One thing that disturbs me when the general idea behind that analogy gets brought up is that some alties will go ableist and say that the people who aren’t genetically agile enough to dodge the mines aren’t “worthy” of health, and certain medical practices are bad because it gives them a better chance to weaken our gene pool.

  41. hardnoseon 20 Feb 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Oh Bronze Dog, I see. Making generalizations about any group of humans is, according to you, “racist.” I never knew that “American” is a race!!

    The generalizations I made about Americans could be verified statistically. I have lived here all my life and about 90% of everyone I have ever met fits the stereotype.

    America (the USA, I mean) is a leader of modern industrial techno-life. The world copies and follows our example. We are leading the whole world towards its glorious end.

  42. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I have a hard time believing that you could be missing the point so badly. It’s not about the term “American” itself. It’s about how context and associations. You’re using American stereotypes and majority trends to manufacture straw men to rehearse your prejudices rather than address what the individuals here actually say. You’re also using the term to obfuscate the real issues about health and food supply. You’re trying to use statistics about majorities and pluralities within a nationality to generate innuendo about individuals after they’ve explicitly rejected those views you complain about.

    I have lived here all my life and about 90% of everyone I have ever met fits the stereotype.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that your prejudice is influencing your perception and making you ignore anything about them that deviates from the stereotype and highlighting the moments when they conform to it?

  43. sonicon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:34 pm

    No question, the research should continue.
    But we might as well acknowledge what the actual results have been thus far- why not?

    I think pesticide use is up due to GMO.
    Here is the scientific peer reviewed literature on that-

    http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract

    the story here-

    http://grist.org/food/superweeds-story/

    (Nitrogen fixing would be grand- bacteria do that now (not plants) and I read a story about how bacteria have been discovered that can be used with all sorts of plants to fix nitrogen. There hasn’t been much follow up yet, we shall see.)

  44. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Here’s another way to approach the issue, hardnose: What was your purpose in bringing up and emphasizing “Americanness?” How did you think people would react to seeing you talk about a broad group some of us belong to as if it were monolithic instead of addressing the individuals who are present? How did you think people would react to you flaming a group for holding assumed rationales that we do not agree with?

  45. BBBlueon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Sonic,

    “I have given a quote from a chief agronomist from Brazil- a place where GMO’s are heavily used- to the effect that the problems they are creating are worse than the problems they purport to solve.”

    Just to provide some context…

    Sr. Melgarejo is a technical advisor to INCRA, and INCRA’s mission is to preserve and enhance the small family farm model in Brazil. Neither INCRA nor Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development can be considered as something analogous to our own USDA or state Departments of Agriculture and Sr. Melgarejo’s statements indicate he is far from an objective government agronomist. Of course, that does not make him wrong, so consider what he said in the referenced interview:

    Sr. Melgarejo bases his comments on herbicide resistant and B.t. plants only. He makes the same arguments referenced elsewhere among anti-GMO interests, fails to acknowledge the possibility of practices that can mitigate resistance hazards, yet doesn’t let that stop him from making a broader statement about GMOs…

    “This technology definitely has its appeal. It promises great results in terms of better and healthier products. Also promises reduced environmental impact, increased productivity and profitability for large and small producers, with lower risks to consumers. And still plays with very complex hopes: promises drought resistant, tolerant to acid soils, plants that cure diseases, among other dreams of humanity plants plants. Unfortunately none of this has been confirmed. To date, these claims remain restricted to marketing campaigns and demonstrations signers of technology.”

    Accepts the Séralini study as fact…

    “However, this change in the positions of CTNBio not seem like something one might expect. Consider for example the fact that after publication of study stating that maize NK603 causes cancer in rats…”

    And his primary point is that…

    “By reducing the number of producers and the range of products offered, the expansion of monoculture and the advancement of transgenic crops cause a vicious cycle that amplifies the difficulties of families staying in the field. Note: requiring economies of scale and being deleterious for family farming, this technology leads to the reduction of rural population and eventually making it impossible to provide services that are critical to the country life. Schools, health centers, lines of milk collection become unfeasible when the population is sparse. So, we can say that the expansion of GM joins the trend of weakening the social fabric necessary for the permanence of man in the field.”

    If one’s goal is to preserve small family farms in rural Brazil, then Sr. Melgarejo has a point. As agricultural systems become more technology-based and focused on cash crops, farms tend to become larger and many farm families head for the cities. Look at what has happened in China over the last couple of decades or in the US since WWII; is that good or bad? If one think’s it is bad, I suppose they would sign on to Sr. Melgarejo’s agenda and say whatever is necessary to advance it.

    However, as is so often pointed out by skeptics, one should be honest about their motivations and goals and not try to achieve them by misrepresenting the facts.

    As an aside, I ran across this:

    "It seems a long while since a small group of poorly-funded consumers and environmentalists fought a long and tenacious battle in the late 1990s to stop the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified soya into Brazil. They were finally defeated in 2003 after President Lula said that so much GM soya had been illegally smuggled in from Argentina that he had no choice but legalise it, at least for one year. It was a cruel irony that this capitulation came at the hands of a progressive government."

    As with reports out of India, if greedy Monsanto really is forcing their technology on farmers, why are farmers stealing it? Is Sr. Melgarejo trying to save farmers from themselves?

  46. Steven Novellaon 20 Feb 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Sonic – you misread the paper. Right from the abstract: “while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 56 million kilograms”

    Herbicide use is up, however. (It is very common in GM discussions for herbicide and pesticide use to be confused, and the paper you cite has confusing wording. They use “pesticide” to refer to “insecticide + herbicide” but other sources use pesticide to mean only insecticide, and that is how I have used it.)

    Herbicide use is up, but this reduces tilling, which is arguably worse. The best sources I found agree that an approach involving low (but not no) tilling, and multiple herbicides with some resistant and some non-resistant crops is the best approach – again, one tool among many, strategically used.

    With the GM plants we have now, in my opinion they are a net positive, and would be even more so if best practices were more consistently followed.

  47. Steven Novellaon 20 Feb 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Here are some other reviews showing decreased pesticide use:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23635915
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17880042

  48. Ekkoon 20 Feb 2014 at 3:16 pm

    “I have lived here all my life and about 90% of everyone I have ever met fits the stereotype.”

    Confirmation bias is an insidious thing, isn’t it?

  49. BBBlueon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:28 pm

    "With the GM plants we have now, in my opinion they are a net positive, and would be even more so if best practices were more consistently followed."

    Excellent point, and in addition, what is often missed when discussing GMOs in places like India or Brazil is that the pirating of GMO seeds does not lend itself to a systematic application of best practices. When a new technology is introduced to agriculture in an above-board, transparent, properly sanctioned manner, there is usually an education and training process that goes along with it. Farmers who pirate a technology make reluctant students.

     

  50. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Dr. N – herbicides are pesticides

  51. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:36 pm

    also, I would refrain from referencing literature from PG Economics. They’re regularly commissioned by Lobby Groups whose members include all the biotech giants, specifically to produce such papers. Your second source I think is much better, but the paper is several years old and pre-dates the more recent increase in pesticide use and toxicity for GM crops. We’re now being advised to utilize management systems that have been advised for decades by agricultural scientists.

    There’s more to say but no time at the moment.
    thank you

  52. Steven Novellaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:45 pm

    On further exploration I see that the term “pesticide” is used broadly to refer to all sorts of things, including herbicides. I will change my use of the terminology to reflect this.

    So, to be clear, GMO has reduced the use of insecticides.
    Changes in herbicide use are more complex, I find references that indicate increased and decreased use. Those that indicate an increased use relate this to the development of resistance, which can be mitigated. And this has to be judged in the context of tilling and other weed-control methods.

  53. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:48 pm

    but just so i don’t get jumped on beforehand: I acknowledge the profound reduction in pesticide use at the onset of the use of RR and bt crops.

  54. Mlemaon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:49 pm

    oops! Sorry Dr. N – i shouldn’t be writing incomplete thoughts.

  55. BBBlueon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Mlema,

    Also caution you to beware of data associated with uses of pirated seeds that were grown without appropriate outreach and education from the manufacturer and technical experts.

  56. Lumen2222on 20 Feb 2014 at 4:57 pm

    The attacks wondering why a neurologist would be interviewed about GMOs are disappointing. The article title clearly indicates that the focus was about the health effects of GMOs. Why would a medical doctor NOT be interviewed on this issue? Granted more than the health effects were covered, but the arguments regarding GMOs are so vast and broad that it’s no longer possible to focus on one issue. The comments just fill with people angry about Monsanto, and linking to “Bitter Seeds”.

    I suspect that this wild breadth of argumentation is necessary for the Anti-GMO activists to keep things going. It’s become a tactic (conscious or not). Some of them could out-gallop Gish. It would appear that in the GMO community being an “activist” means you can claim expertise in all areas, where being a mere doctor apparently means commenting outside your field of expertise is a no-go. I think some of these people belong over with the Anti-Vax activists. The thought process is similar.

  57. Lumen2222on 20 Feb 2014 at 5:29 pm

    So essentially the anti-GM lobby has done everything it can to stigmatize GM and require labelling so that the label and stigma can be used as a circular argument against GM.

    This is actually the crux of why I oppose labeling. If you read the anti-gmo websites it’s very clear that they view the labeling of GMOs as a first step, not an endpoint. They view it as “education” of the public so that there will be broader support for banning GMOs down the road. However the reality is if GMOs pose no health risk (which as a general group they do not), then all it amounts to is fear mongering. There is no education involved, just making people afraid of their food supply in the hopes they can be worked into a hysterical mob that can be turned against politicians who are very sensitive to public fear and outrage. This strategy has worked in other countries, so it should be no surprise that some are trying to employ it here.

    The labeling laws in other countries are often used as “proof” in arguments, in painfully circular logic. Because: Europe. I even watched a rant clip of Bill Maher going on about how “even in CHINA GMOs are labeled”. Before I saw that I would have said that it was impossible for the argument “the Chinese government is doing it” to resonate with an American audience, but the mistrust of GMOs is so ingrained that people will still assume that a government that maintains complete denial about the air quality and human rights abuse will ban GMOs “because it so clearly the right thing to do.” Which was basically Maher’s argument.

  58. hardnoseon 20 Feb 2014 at 7:46 pm

    “What was your purpose in bringing up and emphasizing “Americanness?” How did you think people would react to seeing you talk about a broad group some of us belong to as if it were monolithic instead of addressing the individuals who are present?”

    Yes Bronze Dog, we should always talk about specifics, and never generalize. Each individual person is separate and unique and has nothing in common with others. There is no way to group individuals, that would be discrimination.

    You sound like a third grade teacher lecturing their class about prejudice, with no understanding of how our minds work.

    We group everything into categories and we could not think otherwise.

    I am an American, so I am hardly being “racist” when I generalize about Americans.

    America has been the world leader for quite a while. It has been the most successful in many ways, and has been the creative leader in technology.

    This great success has had some very unfortunate consequences. Still, many developing nations want to be just like us. The want to drink Coke and drive cars. They don’t know how quickly and easily their health can be destroyed by our lifestyle.

    And anyone who is concerned about global warming ought to think about what will happen as all the remaining traditional societies follow our example.

    Someone did point out that people in the advanced countries don’t have as many children, and if that continues to be true, maybe we will survive. But if it is true, then we don’t need GMOs.

  59. hardnoseon 20 Feb 2014 at 8:05 pm

    “[I have lived here all my life and about 90% of everyone I have ever met fits the stereotype.”

    Confirmation bias is an insidious thing, isn’t it?]

    No, I am always glad to notice counter-examples. Recently someone told me he gave up TV. A small percentage of people I know make time for physical exercise. A small percentage don’t eat processed food.

    But here is a typical confirming example: A man was telling me that he loves to walk, and that he used to walk to work every day. I asked why he stopped, and he said “I stopped because I finally got my car fixed.”

    Another example: I went to a doctor because of an injury, and the nurse asked me what my pharmacy is. I couldn’t figure out what she meant, until I realized she thinks every older American must be on drugs.

    These are just a couple of examples of the kind of thing I notice all the time. Americans are not healthy and, in general, they don’t care. Being sick is kind of a status symbol, because it means you belong to an advanced technological culture.

  60. rezistnzisfutlon 20 Feb 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I don’t have time to make any detailed responses right now, but about the supposed increase in pesticide use GM crops are said to entail, the reality is, as usual, it’s more complicated than that. For one, which pesticides are used and in what context are just as important as how much pesticide is used overall. Glyphosate, for example, is far less toxic (less toxic than table salt) and more environmentally friendly than nearly all other pesticides out there. Some reports about pesticide use include Bt as a “pesticide” when that is arguable (many, if not most, plants are pest resistant to one degree or another, so at what point do we consider any plant a pesticide?). Some GM crops don’t have anything to do with pesticides as it relates to the genetic modification, and some require far less pesticide than their conventional counterparts.

    We also should not ignore that conventional AND organic crops use chemical pesticides, many which are far more toxic than what is used on GMOs. If there is to be a conversation about pesticides, these should be included as well – it is irrational to criticize GMOs and ignore the use of them in other crops.

    I could say more but I can’t stay on any longer. Here is a decent article, among many, regarding this topic:

    http://www.biofortified.org/2013/01/the-muddled-debate-about-pesticides-and-gm-crops/

    As usual, anti-GMO activists oversimplify (to be fair, some on the pro side do this as well, but with less deleterious effect) or just get it wrong.

  61. Bronze Dogon 21 Feb 2014 at 12:10 am

    hardnose, I don’t see answers to those questions in your posts, just evasion and straw men.

    Yes, I recognize that categorization is necessary in language. That was never the issue. The issue is in the purpose and context, not inherent in the act of categorization itself. You’re not telling me why it’s rhetorically necessary and relevant for you to bring up that category and rail against the points of view of people who are not participating in this thread. You should be focused on challenging our points of view because we’re here instead of throwing stones at people beyond the virtual horizon.

    The only reason I can think you’d make those posts is because you want to use propaganda tactics like guilt by association and reinforcing a popular false dichotomy. Your current evasiveness combined with feigning social naivete seems to be your response to being called out on it.

  62. BillyJoe7on 21 Feb 2014 at 6:19 am

    Hardnose has a narrative. We don’t fit that narrative, but he’s not going to let that stop him from telling his story. It takes some skill to adjust your argument to the audience, but it seems hardnose has not yet developed that skill, so we’ll just have to cop it for those who he’s haranguing against.

  63. sonicon 21 Feb 2014 at 8:20 am

    Dr. N.– mlema-
    Pesticide includes both herbicide and insecticides.

    So to quote the paper I linked to–
    http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract
    “He arrived at this estimation: Since GMO crops were introduced 1996, U.S. farmers have used 404 million more pounds of pesticide than they would have with just conventional crops.”

    The use of insecticides is apparently on the rise as well–
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/04/pesticides-gmo-monsanto-roundup-resistance_n_1936598.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

    “However, within six years of the GMO corn’s arrival, superbugs that could withstand Bt appeared. They spread dramatically this summer,added Ostlie. Growers are now applying insecticides to supplement the failing GMO trait…”

    In the beginning the use of these declines– short term benefit. But I think the record is showing that over time we use more than we would have without the short term benefit– long term negative.
    I think the problems are largely foreseeable given evolution of resistance and selection pressure.

    I’m thinking the antibiotic analogy isn’t too bad.

  64. sonicon 21 Feb 2014 at 8:22 am

    rezistnzisfutl-
    Let’s discuss farming methods that require no herbicide at all.

    BBBlue-
    I compliment you when I say you are a lousy quote miner.

    What Melgardo says-
    “Just as it is true that plants insecticides that kill caterpillars trying to chew its leaves, allow for some time to save on insecticides and facilitate control of certain insects. But this has only been shown to be valid in the short term. In the medium term, which has been observed is the opposite: there is a need to use stronger and more toxic pesticides, more frequent and more severe, increasing costs and reducing the profitability of crops. To give you idea: according to press reports, this season, with the attack of caterpillars that should be controlled by Bt crops, the cost of soybean production in Bahia, went from $ 100 to $ 200 per hectare. For cotton, spending rose from $ 400 to $ 800 per hectare (Economic Value, 03.12.2013)”

    Another example-
    He does not take Serilini as fact, he is shocked at how quickly it was disregarded despite 14 members and former members of CTNBio asking for a re-evaluation of the product.

    I’m saying the evidence thus far indicates that the benefits of GMOs (round up ready and bt) have had short term benefits, but are now displaying long term problems- problems one might expect given the selection pressures being created by the system.
    That is either true or it isn’t, it really doesn’t matter which side Melgardo parts his hair.

  65. Steven Novellaon 21 Feb 2014 at 10:04 am

    Sonic – It seems like we are looking at the same evidence but coming to different conclusion. Here is where (I think) we agree.

    Bt GM crops have reduced the use of insecticides (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Multi-state+trials+of+Bt+sweet+corn+varieties+for+control+of+the+corn+earworm%2C+Helicoverpa+zea+(Lepidoptera%3A+Noctuidae).) , but also have resulted in the developed of resistance to Bt.
    This resistance has resulted in an increase in the use of insecticides overall – from their reduced level following Bt.

    Here is where I think we disagree.

    The net effect of this is not a long term negative. Overall levels of insecticide use are still reduced from pre-GMO baseline, with improvement in the overall insect profile in crops (more insect predators, fewer pests).

    Using integrated pest management (IPM), the negative effects of resistance can be mitigated significantly. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20942488
    Also, the development of new pest resistant GM varieties will also help this process – stacked resistance is like using multiple antibiotics simultaneously to minimize resistance – a proven technique.

    Further, all insecticide use results in resistance and IPM is the way to go regardless. The use of Bt varieties has been a valuable additional tool in IPM – a net long term positive.

    The same basic story is true of herbicide use, although there are a few more wrinkles. Overall herbicide use has been increased by GM herbicide-resistance varities. But, this increased overall use includes less toxic herbicides, and so the overall toxicity may, in fact, be reduced. Also, increased herbicide use has come with the reduction in soil tilling, which is arguably worse for the environment. There is also the factor of overall land usage for crop production – greater yields (through reduced losses to pests) reduces land use. But – advantages are mostly realized when herbicide resistant crops are used as part of integrated sustainable best practices, and can be a net negative if used as a single simple solution.

    On the balance, the GM crops have been a net positive – both short and long term – if you look at the whole picture. But there have been negatives from overreliance on simplistic solutions. The consensus that seems to be emerging now is best practices involving an integrated solution with GM as just one piece to the puzzle.

    The bottom line remains – it is the overall farming practice that matters, not GM vs non-GM, but GM can be a very helpful tool to this overall strategy (not a panacea, just an additional helpful tool). The problems that people point to (including your alleged long term negatives) are not problems with GM but problems with farming practice.

  66. Bronze Dogon 21 Feb 2014 at 12:36 pm

    The bottom line remains – it is the overall farming practice that matters, not GM vs non-GM, but GM can be a very helpful tool to this overall strategy (not a panacea, just an additional helpful tool). The problems that people point to (including your alleged long term negatives) are not problems with GM but problems with farming practice.

    That message is one that needs to be reiterated many times. GM is just one new tool in civilization’s toolbox. We acknowledge that, and we’re in favor of GM so long as it’s used safely and effectively. Safety and efficacy depend in part on how new cultivars fit in with other farming practices. There’s plenty of criticism worth exploring regarding how the big agricultural companies grow their crops. Fixating on their use of GM because it’s new and strange isn’t going to address the old problems, and being ruled by fear of the unknown is only going to encourage stagnation. When we look at GM technology, we see one tool with the potential to mitigate those problems, so it’s worth learning how to use it, which includes learning how not to misuse it.

    That’s by far the most common pro-GMO stance I’ve encountered in my circles. We don’t think of the technology as a panacea that will save us overnight, and it’s not an endorsement of disproportionate recklessness. It’s not easily reducible to black-and-white slogans, and it requires a willingness to accept complexity.

  67. hardnoseon 21 Feb 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Bronze Dog,

    Ok, well, I guess I am very skeptical about the idea that our civilization is so wonderful, everyone should be just like us. And I guess I see GMOs and Big Ag as part of that. I wish we could leave the world alone.

    If we don’t expect an ever-growing human population, then we don’t need GMOs.

    The complexity of nature is infinitely beyond our understanding. We see our technology progressing rapidly, and that gives the illusion that we know almost everything. But we still know very little.

    It is not true that most DNA is junk, just because it does not code proteins. A lot of it regulates, switches genes on and off, for example. Who knows, maybe there are also genes that regulate the regulators, and so on. We simply do not know.

    Genetic engineering is not precise.

    My hope is that the disastrous errors that are sure to occur will not be viable, and will not cause any harm. But who knows at this stage.

  68. rezistnzisfutlon 21 Feb 2014 at 1:55 pm

    “Let’s discuss farming methods that require no herbicide at all.”

    This is naive, and unrealistic, when it comes to feeding populations. We’ll not be able to provide adequately for the population anytime soon without pesticides, that’s just the reality of it. I’m all for developing tools and methods that reduces the overall use of the, as well as develops the use of more benign forms of pesticide, but the notion that we can just do away with them is, again, overly simplistic and unrealistic.

    Also, it’s a strawman to think that how we can reduce, or even eliminate, the need for pesticides isn’t already being taken into consideration. That’s one of the reasons why developing GE crops with built-in pest resistance is so intriguing, because the very design is to reduce the need for chemical pesticides. So, it’s being considered, but there is no way around the need for them.

  69. sonicon 21 Feb 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Dr. N.-
    The paper reports on a study conducted for two years.
    Two years is ‘short term’ and the results will be positive.

    It’s when we look at longer time frames that the problems show up–

    http://www.organicauthority.com/blog/organic/gmos-put-pesticide-use-on-the-rise-new-study-finds/

    Initially, use of insecticides dropped between 1996 and 2011—by nearly 30 percent. But numbers are now rising, according to Benbrook, “The relatively recent emergence and spread of insect populations resistant to the Bt toxins expressed in Bt corn and cotton has started to increase insecticide use, and will continue to do so.”

    http://www.croplife.com/crop-inputs/insecticides-2014-insect-pressure-solutions-on-the-rise/
    “THE use of soil-applied insecticides on corn increased dramatically in 2012 and is expected to continue to rise as growers react to larger corn root-worm challenges. That’s the observation of crop consultants, farm chemical dealers and industry sources.”

    So with the current GMO’s we have had large increases in pesticide use- herbicide in particular- and the initial reduction of insecticide use is being reversed after 10 or 15 years due to the selection pressures produced by the GMO’s.
    I believe those are the facts.

  70. sonicon 21 Feb 2014 at 2:32 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/rise-of-superweeds.pdf

    “Recent studies have shown that herbicide use could be reduced by more than 90 percent—while maintaining or increasing yields and net farmer profits—through practices based on the principles of ecological science that reduce weed numbers and growth (Davis et al. 2012; Coulter et al. 2011).”

  71. BBBlueon 21 Feb 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Let’s discuss farming methods that require no herbicide at all.

    You mean the kind that requires burning diesel fuel in tractors used for cultivation? Or how about flaming? Yes, flaming, a practice some organic farmers use that involves tractor-mounted propane torches to physically burn weeds. Then, of course, there are weeder geese and hand hoes. Oh, and lets not forget systems that accept weeds as native vegetation and allows them to compete with crop plants for water and nutrients; just the ticket for drought-stricken California. By all means, lets discuss those. The foundation of integrated pest management is to consider all methods at one's disposal, and all the farmers I know are already doing just that. For instance, over the last 15 years, our operation has converted thousands of acres to no-till and that has reduced herbicide costs dramatically. Farmers area always looking for ways to increase profits, and pesticides represent only one tool among many in the shed.

    I compliment you when I say you are a lousy quote miner.

    As I said, I provided those quotes directly from the same interview you quote to provide context. To say Sr. Melgarejo is a "chief agronomist" is misleading, he is a technical advisor and advocate for agrarian reform in Brazil. He quotes "press reports" as if they were objective data, offers superficial arguments regarding the consequences of resistance, fails to acknowledge the possibility of mitigating practices, and does not address the fact that farmers have pirated seeds and may be using them under the radar in ways that are irresponsible. As for implying that he has not drunk the Kool-Aid on Séralini, why would anyone be surprised that an organization does not take that study seriously unless they take it seriously themselves?

     

    There is a legitimate discussion to be had regarding the issue of pest resistance, but Sr. Melgarejo's shallow and biased analysis of GMO use in Brazil does not advance an understanding of the subject. More to the point, and at the core of the GMO debate in this forum, Sr. Melgarejo condemns all GMOs based mainly on his political and social principles rather than science.

     

  72. Steven Novellaon 21 Feb 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Sonic – you have not contradicted my position. Over 15 years insecticide use was significantly decreased. Now it is starting to increase – just in the last few years, but has not exceeded pre-GM levels and there is no reason to think that they will. It has already been stipulated multiple times that we need (and many farmers are using) integrated pest control to minimize the creation of resistant pests. Developed of stacked resistance will also help.

    Why, then, are you extrapolating into the future very recent trends, without considering methods that are being used to change those trends?

    Your conclusion about long term harm is an unwarranted projections, not something that has happened, and you haven’t addressed the reasons for rejecting such pessimistic projections.

    I can likewise talk about all the wonderful things GM is going to do, but I acknowledge this remains a potential until it happens.

  73. BBBlueon 21 Feb 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Re: "The Rise of Superweeds—and What to Do About It"

     

    The authors present the false dichotomy that farmers can be divided between those dependent on pesticides and those who use "agroecological methods". There is nothing new about practices involving crop rotation, cover crops and mulches, judicious tillage, composted manure; some combination of those elements can be found in virtually every farming operation.

    Although agroecology-based practices show great promise for helping farmers control weeds without negative consequences, they have been discouraged by (1) federal farm policies that favor production of the same crops year after year, (2) a research agenda that favors monoculture and is greatly skewed toward herbicide use as the primary weed control measure, and (3) the lack of adequate information and technical support to help farmers change their methods.

    (1) You'll get no disagreement from me on this point. The ethanol debacle is all one needs as justification for keeping government out of farming decisions. However, the authors then advocate for government support of sustainable and organic practices as if there is no question regarding the superiority of those systems.

     

    (2) The vast majority of farms in the US can be considered monocultures to one degree or another. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that most agricultural research is done within that framework. Monoculture has its weaknesses and hazards just like any agricultural system, but it has not succeeded because there was a lack of understanding of polyculture or agroecology.

     

    (3) Helping farmers change implies that change is necessary. Furthermore, by suggesting there is a lack of adequate information and technical support, the authors seem to be saying that farmers would adopt different methods if only it weren't for the fact that they are so ill-informed. The US has the absolute best system in the world in terms of outreach from research institutions to farmers, and there are many researchers at those institutions engaged in projects involving sustainable and organic practices. Farmers are aware of their options.

  74. BBBlueon 21 Feb 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Sorry for all the extra spaces. Just imagine they are strip crops for beneficial insects.

    http://bit.ly/1h6xjK6

  75. roundthedebateon 21 Feb 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Look it folks the people that are in love with GMO products should be allowed to consume them all they want. Just keep them away from me and my crops; alert, they can’t and when they contaminate your crops they will sue you for everything you have. I prefer blue corn to any DNA boggled corn that is good for feeding unsuspecting animals and fueling internal combustion engines.
    In the end there will not be enough water to grow incredibly demanding annual crops that feeds incredibly demanding meat that will try to feed a population without bounds.
    How much arable land is there on the planet?

  76. rezistnzisfutlon 22 Feb 2014 at 12:03 am

    Sonic,

    Union of Concerned Scientists is a devoted anti-GMO activist group – just because they have “scientist” in the title doesn’t make them correct. You may have well posted something from Natural News. Do you have anything substantive to back up your claims that “superweeds” is something that can be avoided if only we banned GM crops? Or perhaps “superweeds” are an artifact of natural selection that will occur whether we use GM crops or not, and best practices should be employed, whether it’s GM or not.

    Also, your vaunted organic isn’t immune to pest resistances, and yes, organic uses chemical pesticides (many that are far more toxic and environmentally destructive than inorganic pesticides).

    The notion that we should just stop using pesticides is absurd. It’s like saying that we should ban the use of gas cars and only use electric ones, or we should ban cutting down trees because logging is destructive to the environment.

    If we ban pesticides altogether, we’d be living at the mercy of pests year-to-year. We’d have years of devastating famines, and there would be limited food production. This romantic ideal about small family farms living in verdant fertile valleys offering their crops to the local farmer’s market is, sorry to say, not realistic and not the best way to provide for the population, by a long shot.

    What I see from this kind of first world paradigm is a kind of arrogant ignorance akin to “let them eat cake” We see it all the time with those who oppose Golden Rice. This mindset seems to go hand-in-hand with naturalistic fallacy and nirvana fallacy.

    We’re so far removed from the agriculture process these days that most people are wholly ignorant of it, and get what little they know about it from their favorite pundit or local co-op. Farmers are starting to speak up, because of the misinformation flying around, but we take for granted that we no longer live in a society where most families have to run family farms because we don’t have the technology to do otherwise. Modern agriculture has allowed us to pursue other ways of life without starving. It has allowed us to have a steady stream of a wide variety of foods at all times of year, from different parts of the world, whether they are in season where we are or not. This is unheard of in history. In fact, the availability of food is so great that obesity has become an issue (something I think we’ll tackle once we adjust to this new normal).

    This is one reason why anti-GMO is so much like anti-vaccination, is that it takes for granted what we have, and is ignorant of how things used to be. If suddenly we didn’t have vaccines and antibiotics anymore, those who were previously poo-pooing them would be up in arms. Most of us just don’t know what it was like back in the day before them, when most people knew at least one person who has been struck by polio, measles, malaria, or smallpox.

    No one is denying that there are issues with agriculture that need to be addressed, but they aren’t with GMOs. In fact, there isn’t really anything within the anti-GMO narrative that is applicable to GMOs, and certainly nothing that warrants banning them. The problem with anti-GMO activism is that it distracts from actual issues that need to be addressed, but because of the noise anti-GMO activism has generated, they aren’t getting the attention or meaningful conversation they need. Furthermore, because of anti-GMO sentiment, helpful technologies are being stymied and costs are remaining unnecessarily high.

    No one is saying that GMOs should be created or used willy-nilly or that companies should be given carte blanche, but banning them is certainly not the answer. I would go a step further and say that if biotech companies are going to have their feet held to the fire, then so should organic and conventional. And that brings me to the absurdity and hypocrisy of activists who want to ban GMOs, doing so by regulating them out of existence, but don’t say a word about the safety and efficacy of their vaunted organic, which we know virtually nothing about in regards to safety and efficacy. Organic seed makers put out new hybrid and mutagenic seeds all the time, but there isn’t a single bit of testing done on them. This is a big reason why we find anti-GMO arguments irrational, because it ignores the same safety issues with organic that they claim exist with GM crops.

  77. ChrisHon 22 Feb 2014 at 12:43 am

    “Also, your vaunted organic isn’t immune to pest resistances, and yes, organic uses chemical pesticides (many that are far more toxic and environmentally destructive than inorganic pesticides).”

    One of those is lime sulfur. It was not available for a while since there was an issue with the one company that made it, but it is now on the shelves.

    It is very effective for somethings. It helped with some pear rust, but using it according to the instructions the bark on my small pear tree turned white. And it will kill some trees, so never ever spray it on apricot trees.

  78. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:06 am

    This biofortified piece that rez linked to kinda reads like pesticide apologetics, but the discussion that follows is interesting. An organic farmer weighs in:
    http://www.biofortified.org/2013/01/the-muddled-debate-about-pesticides-and-gm-crops/

  79. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:07 am

    “On further exploration I see that the term “pesticide” is used broadly to refer to all sorts of things, including herbicides. I will change my use of the terminology to reflect this…So, to be clear, GMO has reduced the use of insecticides.”

    GMOS have reduced the use of herbicides and insecticides, therefore, we say: it has reduced the use of pesticides (which can be herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)

    “Changes in herbicide use are more complex, I find references that indicate increased and decreased use. Those that indicate an increased use relate this to the development of resistance, which can be mitigated. And this has to be judged in the context of tilling and other weed-control methods.”

    glyphosate tolerant and bt GMOs reduced the need for pesticides, including herbicides. Better yet, they were relatively* benign as far as toxicity goes. And better yet for farmers, they reduced the need for careful planning and preparation, monitoring, etc. 99% of GMOs growing now are pesticide producing or pesticide tolerant commodity crops like corn, soy, cotton, beets, etc. They were marketed for ease of use and improved yield (as insurance against crop loss due to pests). They were adopted readily. The USDA has since reported that in some regions farmers suffered a financial net loss because the additional expense of the patented seeds was unwarranted. After the bt was growing for a period of years, research started into what was actually a good bt crop formulation in order to avoid the development of resistance. The EPA then began to mandate that refuges be planted. EPA experts recommended 50% refuge with two high-dose cry concentrations (?not sure that’s the right terminology, but i mean enough of two different Cry concentrations to kill the bug that ate it) Currently 5 or 20% refuge is required, depending on total acreage. We’re still studying ecological effects of plants which express these toxins throughout the plant and throughout the growing season. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that bt crops have increased resistance to these Cry toxins at a speed that could have been delayed indefinitely if the use had continued as judicious pesticide applications, as part of IPM. Similarly, RR crops encourage dousing fields intermittently. And as weeds build resistance, dousing again and again and again. Yes, this encourages resistance and means an increase in pesticide use. So, ultimate increase in volume of less-toxic pesticide, and return to more toxic pesticides – in conjunction with pesticide resistant plants that will again lead to increased resistance.
    *make no mistake, glyphosate is toxic, and RoundUp contains inert ingredients that are far more dangerous than glyphosate. it contains a polyoxyethylene alkyl amine (most are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, and a study done by Monroe on Vision, a glyphosate product by Monsanto, revealed that it contained 1,4-dioxane at a level of 350 ppm. 1,4-dioxane is carcinogenic, and is known to damage the liver, kidney, brain and lungs.) Also a mutagen and lethal to amphibians, depending on concentration. So, the increasing volume of Roundup is of course a concern, regardless of it’s toxicity relative to other pesticides.
    and some research on non-target species affected by cry toxins:
    Reduced fitness of Daphnia magna fed a Bt-transgenic maize variety.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18347840?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn
    Effects of activated Bt transgene products (Cry1Ab, Cry3Bb) on immature stages of the ladybird Adalia bipunctata in laboratory ecotoxicity testing.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18712501

    I think if we all agree that Integrated pest management is the way to go, we have to ask, do these pesticide and p.resistant crops have a role to play, as the industry advocates? It says: good practices must be employed to prevent resistance. So what does that mean? Well, we’d like to think that the refuge strategy is one way to mitigate resistance. But experts say it’s too little, and probably too late. Monsanto et al are working on new pesticide resistance traits, and stacking traits, so that pesticides more toxic than roundup can be employed in rotation. Even this isn’t in keeping with good IPM. Rotation doesn’t mean rotating toxic pesticides. Everything that bt and RR crops were designed and marketed to do is contrary to “good practices”. They’ve been tailored to the current agricultural paradigm with regards to federal subsidies of commodity crops, which are planted in monoculture. This is the corporate goal: patent commodity seeds which are planted in vast monocultures and require the pesticide you make to be used in conduction. If this is evil, it’s an anonymous sort of evil, because corporations are like AI – they function according to the laws which have been written to govern them, while always serving the ultimate goal of profit. When the supreme court decides that corporations are people and money is speech, then corporations have the power to write the very laws that govern them. What do we expect? Monsanto is operating in full capacity of the law and its mission to make money for itself and its shareholders. Did you know that until this year farmers who received federal payments were prohibited from growing anything but what they were receiving such funds for? I’m so glad to see a change in the current farm bill in that respect.

    When industry advocates advise that farmers need to employ IPM and “good farming practices” or whatever, it’s a bit hypocritical. Agricultural scientists have been studying and developing such techniques, and the government has been encouraging and supporting such techniques, and farmers have known about such techniques, for a long time. But the industry lobbies Washington to write the law in a way that supports products that in turn support monoculture of commodities. Groups like Union of concerned Scientists has been advocating that we “plant the plate”.
    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/expand-healthy-food-access/plant-the-plate.html

  80. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:07 am

    To decide for yourself if and how GMOs might fit into IPM, wikipedia has a good overview:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_pest_management
    more information:
    http://www.wildlifehc.org/new/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Integrated-Pest-Management-and-Wildlife.pdf

    This potato could be helpful in the same way that other blight resistant potatoes are helpful. This new plant is an Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated potato to potato transfer. This is the least mutagenic application of the technology. The fact that the crossed plants are closely related means that the risk of unpredicted, unwanted mutation and disregulation are reduced. Also potatoes are asexually reproduced, which makes risk of other kinds of problems less too. Good!
    However, even closely related plants crossed using other transgenic techniques like biolistic transfer are more prone to phenotypic changes than distantly related species which are traditionally bred. Therefore, it’s misleading to group plants as transgenic or cisgenic with regards to how they should be assessed for safety. Each transgenic “event” is unique. (it’s for another discussion, but if anyone cares to investigate the technology themselves it will become apparent that all-encompassing statements about gmos give us away as non-experts.)

  81. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:08 am

    The USDA has a division called the National Resources Conservation System
    http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/national/home/
    which provides info on IPM and a host of other management tools for farmers and everyone.
    They have a national information system which includes 4 regional IPM centers, as well as assistance based on regions and individual crops
    http://www.ncipmc.org/regional_centers.pdf
    and a global program:
    http://www.oired.vt.edu/ipmcrsp/?src=draft_home

  82. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:08 am

    More integrated pest management please (the NRDC weighs in)
    http://www.nrdc.org/health/pesticides/ipm/ipm.pdf
    The UN says one third of the world’s food is wasted annually
    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/html/story.asp?NewsID=45816&Cr=food+security&Cr1#.UwhQZF5n-ys
    The UN supports food cooperatives as the answer to world hunger. This is at odds with the consolidation of corporate ownership of biomass – “land grabbing” happening globally, along with consolidation of energy ownership.
    In an earlier discussion on this site I linked to the UN’s assessment of global agriculture and the way forward in “feeding the world”. I’ll try to find it again eventually, but I don’t recall GMOs playing a major role. If anything, I personally think disease resistance with careful evaluation employing newer “-ologies” might be of benefit.

  83. Mlemaon 22 Feb 2014 at 3:09 am

    sorry for all that. Just pretend I was visiting once each day for the last four days :)

  84. sonicon 22 Feb 2014 at 10:06 am

    Dr. N.-
    Real negatives that have actually occurred– we have worse weeds (harder to kill) and worse insect pests than we had before. And they will be with us from now on in some cases.
    http://www.roundupreadyplus.com/About-Us/In-The-News/Articles/Pages/Palmer-Amaranth-The-Unwelcome-Guest.aspx

    http://phys.org/news203697204.html
    “During the period since the introduction of glyphosate-resistant crops, the number of weedy plant species that have evolved resistance to glyphosate has increased dramatically, from zero in 1995 to 19 in June of 2010,” Mortensen said.
    This list includes many of the most problematic weed species, such as common ragweed, horseweed, johnsongrass and several of the most common pigweeds — many of which are geographically widespread.

    The purpose of ’round up ready’ was to make weed management easier.
    It did, for a while, now we have weeds that are more difficult than before.
    Perhaps it is time to discuss the methods of farming that require little or no herbicide. Avoid the problem entirely.

    BBBlue-
    I used to get nasty whitefly infestations on the grapes. Now I grow alyssum around the grapes– no more white fly problem. The bugs that eat whiteflies like to live in alyssum.
    Sweet.
    Do you have much experience with cover cropping?

    rezistnzisfutl-
    The Union of Concerned Scientists is a mixed bag.

    Recent studies have shown that herbicide use could be reduced by more than 90 percent—while maintaining or increasing yields and net farmer profits—through practices based on the principles of ecological science that reduce weed numbers and growth (Davis et al. 2012; Coulter et al. 2011).

    That’s what is interesting. Apparently there are farming methods that use little or no herbicide that work just fine.
    Do you know what the methods are? I’m pretty sure this isn’t about ‘organic’ as defined by the USDA.

  85. BBBlueon 23 Feb 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Or perhaps “superweeds” are an artifact of natural selection that will occur whether we use GM crops or not, and best practices should be employed, whether it’s GM or not.

    Nothing particularly super about "superweeds". The only thing that makes them different is a tolerance to a specific herbicide. I have direct experience in dealing with glyphosate resistant marestail and flaxleaf fleabane that had nothing to do with GMOs. No big deal, saw it coming, and it was handled without heroic measures by rotating herbicides and a little bit of cultivation. Farming, any kind of farming, represents an artificial manipulation of an ecosystem, and farmers understand that their practices, whatever they are, have consequences that must be anticipated and dealt with.

    What I see from this kind of first world paradigm is a kind of arrogant ignorance akin to “let them eat cake”

    Not so much let them eat cake as let them be subsidized by the taxpayer. Advocates for organic farming systems and have been lobbying D.C. and their state legislatures for many years to level the playing field. There are some exceptions, but pound for pound, organic produce is more expensive to grow, and organic produce often commands a premium price, which puts it out of reach of many low-income families. Organic advocates don't expect low-income families to suck it up and eat cake, they want the taxpayer to buy the cake for them because they contend it is a more wholesome product. Back in 2011, I attended a national conference for organic growers where one of the best-attended breakout sessions focused on the Farm Bill and ideas related to how it could be used to support organic agriculture. One popular ideas was co-opting Republican language by using phrases like "providing new opportunities for business". Other ideas included reducing direct payments to farmers (i.e., unpopular subsidies for things like not growing a particular commodity) and redistributing that money to sustainable and organic programs; linking food stamps (SNAP) to local and sustainable sources; and setting aside land for young organic farmers. The Farm Bill was recently passed and it contains a few modest wins for the organic-sustainable-local crowd. Of course, those wins pale in comparison to the amount of taxpayer money channeled to conventional agriculture. If it were my call, I would not prop up any agricultural system, conventional or organic.

    Monsanto et al are working on new pesticide resistance traits, and stacking traits, so that pesticides more toxic than roundup can be employed in rotation. Even this isn’t in keeping with good IPM. Rotation doesn’t mean rotating toxic pesticides.

    I suppose you can have your own personal definition, but to many who actually farm, IPM means considering all management strategies, not just ones considered "good" within the context of polyculture or "agroecology". And yes, IPM may include rotating pesticides. UC's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program has long been considered the standard-bearer for IPM.

    They’ve been tailored to the current agricultural paradigm with regards to federal subsidies of commodity crops, which are planted in monoculture. This is the corporate goal: patent commodity seeds which are planted in vast monocultures and require the pesticide you make to be used in conduction. If this is evil, it’s an anonymous sort of evil, because corporations are like AI – they function according to the laws which have been written to govern them, while always serving the ultimate goal of profit.

    Publicly traded corporations are beholding to their shareholders, which means they are obligated to make a profit. The primary goal of private corporations and business enterprises is to make a profit which benefits employees (they get to keep their jobs and have an opportunity to prosper) and owners as well as providing something the public wants or will also benefit from. Farmers are businessmen and women first and farmers second. If they are not, they won't be farmers for long. One of the great things about capitalism is that it harnesses an individual's ingenuity and ambition to produce something, and if unfettered by government, a business will usually arrive at the most efficient and profitable means of making a product. If left unchecked, some enterprises may run roughshod over the environment, and so I would be the last one to argue that businesses should not be regulated to constrain selfish behavior. However, that does not mean favoring a particular type of business with taxpayer money for reasons that are not consistent with good science and risk-reward calculations. The fact that "evil" so easily creeps into your comments related to corporations causes me to suspect you are approaching this as a advocate for a particular socio-economic model first and as a skeptic second, or maybe not at all.

    I used to get nasty whitefly infestations on the grapes. Now I grow alyssum around the grapes– no more white fly problem. The bugs that eat whiteflies like to live in alyssum.

    There are many anecdotal success stories for biological control, and some very real ones too. It's wonderful that you have a little first-hand experience, just don't extrapolate too far. There are many biocontrol success stories in commercial agriculture, but it certainly is not a panacea, it is but one tool among many. Biocontrol strategies are not only judged on their pest control potential, but also on their profitability.

    Do you have much experience with cover cropping?

    Loads. They have their place, but again, are no panacea. For instance, in northern California where water is generally more plentiful (this year is an exception) and costs less, a farmer has a few more options in terms of cover crops than do those in southern California where water is much more expensive. Just as an example: drip systems are often considered to be the most efficient irrigation alternatives, but don't lend themselves to maintaining a cover crop. There is a trade off between water use and cost and the benefits of a cover crop. Another example: if you drive around the San Joaquin Valley at this time of year, you will see orchards in bloom and barren orchard floors. Bare, firm, moist soil absorbs more solar radiation than ground covered by vegetation and that heat is re-radiated at night, which provides a certain level of frost protection during bloom and fruit set; as much as 2-3°F, which can mean the difference between a good crop and no crop at all. By the time the spring frost season is over, trees are starting to shade the ground and that makes it hard to establish a cover crop, although it can be done. But still, when one grows a cover crop, they have to supply water to two crops, so to be successful, cover corps must support their own costs. One can grow border strips on adjacent land to provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, but that often means a farmer is taking land away from his cash crop, so again, it has to pencil. Another complication is that border strips and riparian areas are also habitat for vertebrates like rodents that can contaminate crops with human pathogens, so certain food safety standards obviate the use of such strategies (organic growers often find themselves at a disadvantage with respect to food safety and human pathogens). It's complicated, but the bottom line is that where cover crops are not employed, it's usually not because the farmer is ill-informed of their potential benefit.

    That’s what is interesting. Apparently there are farming methods that use little or no herbicide that work just fine. Do you know what the methods are? I’m pretty sure this isn’t about ‘organic’ as defined by the USDA.

    I noted some of the non-herbicide controls in an earlier comment, so I won't repeat them here. There are others as well, but suffice it to say that farmers are not only good at figuring out what control strategies are the most profitable, but they also have a commitment to their land and preserving their business for future generations. Therefore, profits are usually not measured based only on this year's crop and practices, but on long-term goals and expectations and an understanding of consequences. Sustainability is also a business concept.

  86. Mlemaon 24 Feb 2014 at 5:00 am

    BBBlue,

    I recognize a couple of the quotes from your comment as being from me. I’d like to reply because I think you are misreading me, and it may be my fault for not expanding too much. It was such a long comment to begin with.
    you wrote:
    “I suppose you can have your own personal definition, but to many who actually farm, IPM means considering all management strategies, not just ones considered “good” within the context of polyculture or “agroecology”. And yes, IPM may include rotating pesticides. ”

    I would hope that within the context of my full comment, and the links for several sources of information on IPM, it would be clear that I wasn’t relying on my own definition of IPM. I think it’s erroneous to develop a definition based on how you personally think it’s used. IPM advises that pesticides are used as a last resort and are tailored to the pest, crop and environment. IPM employs prevention first. I believe it’s hypocritical for Monsanto to advise use of IPM systems to deal with resistance, because if IPM was used in the first place, we wouldn’t have this entrenched resistance and we could use glyphosate and bt to treat in the context of IPM.

    “The fact that “evil” so easily creeps into your comments related to corporations causes me to suspect you are approaching this as a advocate for a particular socio-economic model first and as a skeptic second, or maybe not at all.”

    You are a suspicious fellow! You aren’t really addressing what I said about evil and corporations. I defend corporations against accusations of evil by explaining that corporations do what they’re designed to do: make money. It’s up to us to assert through our democratic actions what power we want to give to corporations, for example, to “run roughshod over the environment” as you say, or to determine what our safety laws are, or anything else for that matter. A corporation, or even a person, shouldn’t have more political power than any other person just because they have more money and are allowed to use it to influence a government that’s supposed to belong to individual citizens, not corporations.
    I’m interested in what “socio-economic model” you think I’m advocating.

  87. Steven Novellaon 24 Feb 2014 at 9:46 am

    I like this discussion. Despite some of the posturing, I think it reflects that there is a pretty strong consensus for some basic principles.

    The best approach to sustainable farming is an integrated approach that uses all available tools intelligently, including minimizing selective pressures that would result in resistance to whatever strategy we use.

    The real contention seems to be over the role of GMO in such a strategy. My personal read of the consensus of experts is that there is a solid role for GMO.

    What is difficult to interpret is the role that GM corporations have played. I do not think I have detected any clear consensus. What I find are opinions that seem overwhelmed by politics, ideology, and interest.

    What I can say is that the specific claims of the most vocal anti-GM advocates about Monsanto and other corporations (suing for accidental cross-pollination, for example) are clearly not true.

    But the more subtle points are difficult to nail down. Have the companies “encouraged” monoculture, or an oversimplistic use of their products? Are they late to the game in advocating IPM, and only as a CYA strategy? Perhaps. What is the role of farmers in such decisions? What about regulations?

    My opinion also is that what the corporations have arguably done (not the clearly false myths) does not clearly rise to the level of corporate “evil.” This is obviously subjective, but it seems they have, at worst, over-hyped their products and encouraged use of their products. To me that is baseline behavior for any corporation or industry. Perhaps they have not lived up to the spirit of regulation and best farming practices, but I also detect that public pressure and criticism is slowly bringing them into line (for example, voluntarily making their seeds available for independent research, and paying lip service to IPM). Corporations do need watch dogs, I agree.

    What I consider corporate evil is not just profit-motivated self-promotion, but doing something that is clearly immoral and trying to get away with it by lying or covering up. Or, engaging in a public campaign of deception in order to perpetuate a harmful but profitable practice. The tobacco industry denying the connection of smoking to cancer comes to mind.

    Again – I admit this is subjective. People will obviously argue over whether or not Big Agro engaged in deception to perpetuate harmful farming practices. I haven’t seen any smoking gun yet, but I am open to evidence.

  88. sonicon 24 Feb 2014 at 11:23 am

    BBBlue-
    I’m not sure how the farmers are supposed to know about the results of using these chemicals-

    http://www.nature.com/news/genetically-modified-crops-pass-benefits-to-weeds-1.13517
    Few studies have tested whether transgenes such as those that confer glyphosate resistance can — once they get into weedy or wild relatives through cross-pollination — make those plants more competitive in survival and reproduction. “The traditional expectation is that any sort of transgene will confer disadvantage in the wild in the absence of selection pressure, because the extra machinery would reduce the fitness,” says Norman Ellstrand, a plant geneticist at the University of California in Riverside.  But now a study led by Lu Baorong, an ecologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, challenges that view: it shows that a weedy form of the common rice crop, Oryza sativa, gets a significant fitness boost from glyphosate resistance, even when glyphosate is not applied.

    http://www.earthlyhappenings.com/2012/03/weeds-now-immune-to-roundup.html
    NPR reports that back in 1993, when Monsanto asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve Roundup-tolerant soybeans, it dispensed with the issue of potential resistant weeds in two modest paragraphs. It told the agency that “glyphosate is considered to be a herbicide with low risk for weed resistance.”

    In ’93 resistance wasn’t supposed to happen, and it isn’t until 2013 that it is recognized these genes might escape and go wild.

    When exactly did the farmers become well aware of the effects this program would have?

    Why would someone water a cover crop at this time of year?

    (You’re right- what works in one place might not work in another. Alyssum around grapes works everywhere, I think though.)

  89. roundthedebateon 24 Feb 2014 at 3:30 pm

    you might start looking for your evidence coming to light about covering up studies showing the deleterious effects of the use of atrazine. There are scientists (you may have regulation but show me where the process is often co-opted) out there that were gagged when it was time to make damning claims about the use of atrazine.
    Oh, and look into the Corp. Syngenta.
    Thanks for allowing these posts as I wish to engage anybody in a debate about the present day use of GM products and how the industrial and political manipulation involved often skews the sensible use of many of these products.

  90. BBBlueon 25 Feb 2014 at 4:18 am

    Hey Sonic,
    In regards to the study on the fitness of weedy rice: The response in the weed species is very similar to what I would expect from a cross between any non-GMO cultivated variety and a closely-related wild species, and in fact, the investigators acknowledge the possibility that tightly-linked genes independent of those responsible for EPSPS over-expression were responsible for the observed effects. In addition, according to the investigators, other researchers have speculated that increased EPSPS expression could have a fitness penalty. Furthermore, there are no data that demonstrate these differences convey an advantage in an agricultural setting and at the time of publication, there were no commercial GMO products utilizing the type of resistance studied. The investigators noted that Monsanto concluded that over-expression of EPSPS to obtain glyphosate resistance was not sufficiently effective for commercial application although ongoing research in China suggests in may be very effective in tobacco and rice.
    In short, while such possibilites should and are being explored, there is nothing in that particular study to support the proposition that all GMO plants represent an unmitigated threat to either the natural or agricultural environment.
    The vast majority of todays herbicide-resistant weed species got that way as a consequence of conventional herbicide use, not GMOs. For instance, the increase in unique resistant cases for selected crops as reported here has been greatest for wheat, and there are no commercial varieties of GM wheat grown in the US, or as far as I can determine, none anywhere in the world.
    As for your other reference: I don’t understand why one would think that inane, demonstrably false statements like “However, widespread use has led to farms being overrun by weeds that have become immune to chemicals. Food prices are expected to rise as farmland becomes swamped with weeds that are immune to poisons.” have a place in this discussion.

    When exactly did the farmers become well aware of the effects this program would have?”

    Farmers are well aware of the selection pressures they apply. There have been many examples of pesticide resistance over the decades and their cause is well understood. As noted above, the most common cause for herbicide resistance is the application of herbicides, not gene flow or anything specific to GMOs. Regardless of what they are told by salesmen and marketing-types, farmers (at least all those I have talked to in developed countries) understand that exposing generation after generation of a pest to the same pesticide mode of action will often result in resistance. The advent of GMO crops did not introduce them to that concept. The Weed Science Society of America is a good source of information on the subject.

    “Why would someone water a cover crop at this time of year?”

    “…if you put water on plants, they grow.” Seriously, one cannot always count on winter precipitation in this neck of the woods. No Polar Vortex here; temperatures were near 80°F today and we have had only one modest rain event since last summer. Farmers have even had to irrigate dormant trees and vines to ensure there is adequate soil moisture leading into the spring. Good news, though, rain is in the forecast this week.

    (You’re right- what works in one place might not work in another. Alyssum around grapes works everywhere, I think though.)

    When it comes to biocontrol in agriculture, nothing works everywhere. And then there is the matter of just because something “works”, doesn’t mean that it is practical or economically feasible.
    Ran across this and thought it was worth the read: “Risk of Regulation or Regulation of Risk? A De Minimus Framework for Genetically Modified Crops”

  91. sonicon 25 Feb 2014 at 1:11 pm

    BBBlue-
    I wouldn’t think that all GMOs are the same. It would be possible to produce a plant that currently occurs in nature using the technique- right?
    So there isn’t anything about the technique that causes problems- it is the way the technique is used that might lead to unintended consequences.

    My second link was no good, here is a better one-
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/03/monsanto-scientists-superweeds-NPR

    Apparently the scientists knew these genes would spread– I guess they fibbed to the EPA to get approval. Perhaps a bit of ‘nod nod, wink wink’ if you can deal with Monty Python references.

    I live in the drought area- worst in at least 40 years, maybe 100 or more. No rain.
    Central valley.
    I don’t water- haven’t watered in months, my cover crops are growing fine– wheat, vetch, pea, oat, mustards, favas… all fine. Plenty of water on the ground every morning. (So are my food crops BTW asperagus coming in early but I’m not complaining- oh, so tasty.)

    I’m guessing you are dealing with soil that has little organic matter and is exposed to the elements (little or no mulch).
    Right?

  92. BBBlueon 25 Feb 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Asparagus? Somewhere in the Delta, perhaps?

  93. sonicon 25 Feb 2014 at 6:20 pm

    BBBlue-
    No, I live in sac. county. Where I live used to be orchards- the main contribution to farming technique from around here is the use of dynamite.
    Did I mention I live on hardpan? Well, it used to be. So much to learn about soils and soil improvement and fertility.

    I think our approaches are rather different. I’m concerned about what happens when the fossil fuels run out and we can’t transport food over long distances so easily. I’m thinking the methods will need to be simple- no fossil fuels no exotic chemicals…

    I think a large commercial farmer has very different concerns right now.

    Do you ever deal with equipment that is controlled by the Raven GPS and software?
    That’s almost the opposite of what I do. :-)

  94. BBBlueon 26 Feb 2014 at 2:17 am

    Sonic-

    No offense, but your second Monsanto reference is not much better. At the time, Monsanto was not really wrong, and even today, one can say that, relative to the resistance hazards of some other herbicides, glyphosate is not the worst offender. Here’s a little history: Well before GMOs were commercialized, Monsanto had a patent on Roundup and it’s use was limited because it was so darn expensive. At one time, $75/gal was an awesome price for farmers and the public paid 2 or 3 times that amount, if not more, if they wanted to use it in their yards. Monsanto’s patent expired in 2000, and prices dropped to around $35/gal or less for generic lables. What was once a luxury was now much more affordable and the use of glyposate increased dramatically. If you want to blame anyone, blame farmers for using too much of a good thing. Many farmers knew better, but some couldn’t resist the bargain. Monsanto didn’t twist anyone’s arm, especially after the patent expired.

    I’ve said that farmers are well the aware of selection pressures they apply and they are. Some make bad choices despite what they know. Some are compelled to make bad choices due to economic realities. But that has little to do with the technology itself. How much information does it take before we deem it safe to exploit new technologies? How much sway shall we allow ill-informed Internet doomsters? Most basic chemical manufactures have strong stewardship programs to train farmers in the interest of maintaining the effectiveness of their products. The development and registration of a pesticide is a very long and expensive process and it is in everyone’s interest to preserve the efficacy of herbicides and all pesticides by using them in a responsible manner. I suppose that is the crux of the matter; can GMOs be trusted in the hands of farmers? Based on my risk-reward calculation, if approached with eyes wide open and properly vetted, I think the answer is yes.

    I’m no stranger to hardpan. Once upon a time, fig growers in Fresno County used dynamite to blast holes in the hardpan for individual trees.

    I think you and I will face serious water issues before we have to worry about fossil fuels running out. Sacramento Valley water interests have the southern San Joaquin Valley by the short hair. If the drought continues, things will get very interesting in California over the next decade.

    I know a Sacramento County organic walnut grower who has great success with cover crops. We have had occasion to compare notes, and all I can say is that Kern County might as well be Mars for all its similarity to normally water-rich Sacramento County.

    In a lot of ways, GPS in California specialty crops is still an answer in search of a question. I am aquainted with it in ag aviation (crop dusting), and it has become indespensible for note taking and GIS, but the use of products from Raven and others for things like on-the-fly variable fertilizer and seeding rates are not applicable to the crops I work with.

    Special Treat: Pictures from the SJV today

  95. Mlemaon 26 Feb 2014 at 8:07 am

    “The best approach to sustainable farming is an integrated approach that uses all available tools intelligently, including minimizing selective pressures that would result in resistance to whatever strategy we use…The real contention seems to be over the role of GMO in such a strategy. My personal read of the consensus of experts is that there is a solid role for GMO.”

    Well, I’m tired of working so hard to try to wrestle a little critical thought out of Dr. Novella. He seems to develop his narrative around what he senses might be the “scientific consensus” on each aspect of the GMO issue. As a result, he’s moved away from anything resembling skepticism and has adopted the industry’s rhetoric, continuing to dismiss contrary facts as “naturalistic fallacy”. Likewise, he’s naive regarding the tactics employed by companies like Monsanto in order to expand and maintain their market. He’s oblivious to the industry’s influence in academia and government, and he blithely accepts Jones’s claptrap on transgenics and global warming, nitrogen-fixing cereals, etc.
    The potato research was funded by grants from UK taxpayer money at a cost of 5.3 million dollars so far. It’s resistant to one strain of blight (and not the most aggressive one), and it will take more years to develop the multi-strain resistance comparable to any of the several varieties of “Sarpo” potatoes already on the market and favorably received by cook and taste testers. Controls were blight-prone varieties and not blight-resistant non-GMO potatoes.

    “Almost everything I hear about [industrial agriculture] is a myth,” says Novella. “It’s such an emotional issue—a highly ideological and politicized issue—that what I find is that most of what people write and say and believe about it just fits into some narrative, some worldview. And it’s not very factual or evidence-based.”

    He sorts out myth-based worldview from fact in agriculture, but he doesn’t know that “pesticides” can be herbicides or insecticides.

    Please, I would hope that he would at least investigate the technology. He’s a doctor and would be able to draw his own conclusions with some legitimacy. It’s inappropriate to make a blanket statement like “GMOs are safe”. It’s not different than saying “cars are safe”. And if he’s relying on regs to prevent damage, he ought to at least know what they require in the way of testing. What are his conclusions based on? The “tons of tests”? Well, my experts say they don’t exist. If the European review upon which the AAAS bases it’s opinion is the best we’ve got, we’re in trouble. All different GMOs, all different animals, limited parameters and inappropriate controls. Even then there appear to be problems in some cases. That’s the basis for “GMOs are safe”?

    Whatever. It’s like “the Emperor’s New Clothes”. Everyone agrees there’s something there, but I just don’t see it. It’s a cleverly crafted narrative, but it’s nakedness to those who aren’t afraid to look.

  96. SteveAon 26 Feb 2014 at 8:32 am

    Mlema: “He sorts out myth-based worldview from fact in agriculture, but he doesn’t know that “pesticides” can be herbicides or insecticides.”

    Pesticides can be used against slugs too. Neither herbs nor insects. So where does that leave you?

    It’s sensible and useful to maintain a distinction between pests that are plants (weeds in other words) and anything else.

    I often use these terms in a professional capacity and would never use ‘pesticide’ as a catch-all in the way you describe. I (and everyone I know) use ‘herbicide’ to describe a chemical used for weed control, and ‘pesticide’ for all non-plant pest chemical control (insects, molluscs, annedlids etc). To do anything else would be terribly, terribly confusing…

  97. sonicon 26 Feb 2014 at 10:00 am

    BBBlue-
    The regulations can be relaxed.
    But that means the labeling would have to be complete (GMO in food). Regulation versus full disclosure- that’s the trade here-
    Otherwise people will start to disbelieve the assurances of government that the food is safe and start buying from growers they know.
    Oh, that’s all ready happening.

    Of course we could give all the 10 year old shot guns.
    “It’s not the technology that’s a problem, properly used shot guns are fine tools.”
    Uh, huh. (I’m only partly joking with that comment– well mostly, but… there is a point there, no?)

    Kern county, huh? Mars is hospitable by comparison.
    Let’s hope it rains soon, shall we? Yeah, the almond and peach are both in blossom all ready– I’ll take the rain, thank-you. (I liked the pictures).

    Bakersfield? Is Bob Wills still king?

    Mlema-
    The point was to make pest management easier.
    http://mssoy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/HR-WEEDS-PALMER-AMARANTH1.pdf
    easy- right?

  98. BBBlueon 26 Feb 2014 at 11:35 pm

    SteveA-

    How one refers to -cides is often a local thing, but there is a hierarchy of sorts and fungicides, nematicides, molluscicides, miticides, herbicides, bactericides, insecticides, algaecide, rodenticides, etc. are all properly considered to fall within a larger group called pesticides. I agree that many people do not consider weeds or plant pathogens to be “pests”, but they are within that context.

    Where this is most evident is in the regulatory environment. If a product is registered as a pesticide and the label makes a claim like “kills”, “controls”, “disinfects”, or “sanitizes, its officially a pesticide regardless of your usage. Here in California, for instance, data on illnesses due to pesticides are often misleading because they include things like sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and other antimicrobials used outside of agriculture.

    If one really wanted to avoid confusion, they would specify the appropriate -cide prefix.

  99. sonicon 27 Feb 2014 at 2:58 am

    BBBlue-
    You are probably right about the water being more of a problem than the oil.

    It is raining here- I say bring it on.

    When discussing homicide, one might want to specify suicide, for the morosely inclined.

  100. BBBlueon 27 Feb 2014 at 3:09 am

    Sonic-

    If by Bob Wills you mean C&W, then yes, the plague is still upon us.

    There are still peaches with buds that are tighter than a bull’s ass at fly time, as they say, and some that bloomed almost a month ago. Lots of variation among varieties, but yes, bloom is early.

  101. SteveAon 27 Feb 2014 at 10:18 am

    BBBlue.

    Thanks for the feedback. (FYI What counts as a ‘Pesticide’ in California would be called a ‘Biocide’ in the UK.)

    No arguments here.

    My point was to hold up a mirror to Mlema’s uber-pedantry.

  102. Steven Novellaon 27 Feb 2014 at 11:43 am

    Mlema wrote: “Well, I’m tired of working so hard to try to wrestle a little critical thought out of Dr. Novella. He seems to develop his narrative around what he senses might be the “scientific consensus” on each aspect of the GMO issue.”

    Seriously? I thought we were having a productive exchange. And what is wrong, exactly, with trying to figure out what the scientific consensus is? I include in my process reading all sides, including farmers. Obviously this is a complex area, and there are lots of opinions, but trying to understand what the science says seems like a good place to start.

    “As a result, he’s moved away from anything resembling skepticism and has adopted the industry’s rhetoric, continuing to dismiss contrary facts as “naturalistic fallacy”.”

    The “industry rhetoric” card has been played by others. It’s a cheap shot, and not helpful. I try to call the science for what it is, no matter which side it supports. I have also already acknowledged, multiple times, that corporations look after their own interests, hype their own products and services, and require watchdogs and regulations. I am happy to call companies on their bullshit, and do so all the time.

    Tell me when I have dismissed contrary facts. I don’t accept anything at face value, especially in such a controversial area, so sorry if I don’t swallow your own narrative wholesale. Further, as regular readers here know well, facts can be cherry picked and taken out of context. Not accepting the interpretation of a fact is no the same thing as rejecting fact. Finally – the naturalistic fallacy is about logic, not facts, so your last statement does not even make sense.

    Regarding the potatoes: ” It’s resistant to one strain of blight (and not the most aggressive one), and it will take more years to develop the multi-strain resistance comparable to any of the several varieties of “Sarpo” potatoes already on the market and favorably received by cook and taste testers.”

    The point is that a program of understanding the genetics of disease resistance and imparting them to multiple varieties could give us a tool to keep ahead of pathogens, while traditional breeding methods might be too slow. This is just the first product. It’s not a revolution, but it indicates that the research program has potential. This is one area where GM technology can be particularly useful.

    Regarding safety testing, I am looking at the research. Safety is always ultimately subjective – how safe is safe enough? At present we can say that there is no clear evidence of any health risk from any GMO product. I have also been very clear that individual GMOs have to be assessed individually, and I favor further testing. But there isn’t much of a reason to suspect that any particular GMO is risky just because it is the product of GM technology. Hybrids and mutation farming also introduce new genes. Phylogenetic distance is a factor, but it depends on the genes.

    The bottom line is that I have not seen any evidence or heard any coherent argument for why we should be particularly worried about using GMO and require prohibitively high standards of safety testing, while all other plant breeding gets a pass.

    I do think that at the center of fear of GMO safety is an irrational disgust reaction at something that seems unnatural – the “frankenfood” effect. It is based on a false notion that there is something special about the current state of any species’ genetic makeup. You hear things like – they are putting “fish” genes in the crops. When, we already share many genes with fish.

    If you have a rational or evidence-based argument, I am all ears.

  103. sonicon 27 Feb 2014 at 5:48 pm

    BBBlue-
    I have some peach blossoms in that state. Never heard it described that way. I like.

    I fear I wander off topic here-
    I’m trying to minimize the water usage. I’m trying mulches, shading, hugelkultur…
    What methods do you see working?

  104. BBBlueon 02 Mar 2014 at 1:06 am

    Everyone besides sonic, please ignore, and forgive my far-off-topic comments.

    sonic-

    Not sure if you are a backyard gardener or someone trying to make a living off the land or someone in between, but if you have the resources and it suits your soil, your crops, and your overall operation, subsurface drip is usually tops on the list of efficient irrigation systems; a minimum of evaporation from soil surface and very controllable. Can be a real pain in the ass, though.

    Is your primary desire to save water because it is a significant direct cost and you pay based on usage or because you think it is the “right” thing to do? Many people think that irrigation water not taken up by the plant is wasted water, and that is not necessarily the case. Groundwater recharge suffers when water is not “lost” below the root zone. For the most part, as long as it doesn’t run out to the ocean or evaporate into the atmosphere, you may get another crack at using it.

  105. sonicon 02 Mar 2014 at 8:42 am

    BBBlue-
    Thank-you.
    I’m trying to save water due to costs. I’m concerned about difficulties in delivery in the future as well.
    I live fairly close to the river– the water that goes past the root zone goes back to the river- nearly 100% from the studies I’ve seen. It can’t be ‘wasted’.

    It’s been a pleasure- let’s meet again more on topic. :-)

  106. BBBlueon 02 Mar 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Sonic-

    Mine as well.

    Cheers.

  107. Mlemaon 04 Mar 2014 at 4:56 am

    Dr. N – sorry for the delay in responding. Surgery :P

    I’d love to have a productive discussion with you. Neither one of us is an expert and I suspect we might both learn something. Where do you want to start?

    Let’s take one of the recent statements you’ve made about GMOs as a group. i don’t care which one. I keep thinking of several, but let’s just start with regulation. First, you need to investigate the technology as far as relative mutagenicity (it is affected in part by which methods are used), and the sorts of unexpected phenotypic changes that have been evidenced. Then tell us what the regulations are and show us how they address that relative risk. You’ve characterized regulations as strict, and safety assessments as extensive. Please tell us more about what those requirements are so we can see how you’ve come to characterize them as such.

    (this jumps over your statements about the equivalency of conventional and GMO – including your beliefs on the “precision” of transgenics – so if you’d rather start there, that’s fine. Show us how much less biolistic transgenics affect the genome than conventional hybrids with regards to disregulation and phenotypic changes. Remember, this doesn’t mean we must see a face on our corn or all is well.)

  108. Mlemaon 04 Mar 2014 at 4:57 am

    that face after “surgery” wasn’t supposed to be a stupid grin face. Although the pain meds are having their affect.

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