Jan 11 2016

Should There Be Mandatory GMO Labeling?

GMO labelCampbell Soup has just announced that they are switching sides in the GMO labeling debate – they are now in favor of federal mandatory labeling for all products that contain genetically modified organisms. This has perhaps opened up a new chapter in the debate.

In response Mark Lynas, a journalist who, after researching the topic, is staunchly pro-GMO, has responded with an interesting essay agreeing with this move by Campbell.

Let me state up front that I think the answer to mandatory labeling is no, but let me also walk you through my thinking on this complex issue.

The Scientific Case

I will start with the easier question – is there scientific justification for mandatory labeling of GMOs? The answer here is clearly no.

What we have, through the FDA and USDA, is a regulatory system that reasonably assures the public that GMO foods are safe and nutritionally equivalent. In terms of food safety and quality, labeling is therefore redundant.

There is also no particular reason to fear that products of genetic engineering have specific risks, or that they are more likely to have unintended risks than many other methods of producing new cultivars. Why label GMOs and not hybrid crops, or those that result from mutation farming or the use of technology to force species to breed that cannot mix on their own?

The very notion of GMOs is a false dichotomy. Opponents then argue that transgenic GMOs, using genes from distant species that could not mix in nature, is different than the other methods. This is factually wrong and logically dubious.

First, horizontal gene transfer allows for genes from other kingdoms to mix into plants and even animals. In fact it was recently discovered that most sweet potatoes today have a gene derived from a soil bacteria, incorporated naturally thousands of years ago.

More importantly, who cares? The source of a gene is irrelevant, only its effect in the organism matters. Putting a fish gene in a tomato does not give you a fishmato, as anti-GMO propaganda suggests (and actually has convinced many naive people that such tomatoes would be fishy). Fish and tomatoes already share about 60% of their genes.

The case against the safety or equivalence of GMO products has utterly collapsed, and so some in the anti-GMO camp resort to other arguments. For example, many people will bring up patent law or the effect of current GMOs on agricultural practices. They don’t want to support GMOs because they don’t want to support those practices.

These arguments are also the product of successful anti-GMO propaganda. Mostly, they are tangential to the GMO issue. If you have a problem with patents, you should know that seeds that are the products of hybrid and mutation technologies are also patented. If that is your issue, then you should be in favor of labeling all food derived from patented seeds.

Issues of farming practice are complex, but let me just say here that using GMOs is not a decisive factor. GMO technology may help, may hurt, or be completely neutral to farming practice depending upon the specific organism. Why should Arctic Apples be labeled because you don’t like that corn is grown largely as a monocrop? It misses the point entirely.

The bottom line is that there is no scientific or rational reason to label GMOs.

The Political and Practical Case

The scientific question aside, there are political and practical issues with labeling that make the issue more complex.  These issue essentially boil down to one of strategy.

The anti-GMO crowd has brilliantly used the labeling issue to fantastic propaganda benefit. Of that there is no question. It puts those who are pro-science on the GMO issue in a no-win situation.

The anti-GMO crowd has used the labeling question to frame the issues of GMOs as one of public choice. If you are anti-labeling then you are anti-choice. Companies who are anti-labeling are trying to hide something nefarious from the public.

Mark Lynas, who in his essay is pro-Federal GMO labeling, thinks that the only way to take this propaganda victory from the anti-GMO activists is to just give in to federal mandatory labeling. He argues that reassuring people with the science is not going to work.

From the perspective of a company like Campbell the political calculus also seems clear. First, they would much rather have one Federal labeling law than a patchwork of state labeling laws. The latter would be the worst-case scenario for any food company, and I can understand why they would want to avoid this.

Second, companies are concerned (rightly) about their brand reputation. Campbell is essentially concluding that the anti-GMO activists have won on this issue, and their only choice as a company is to go with it. If they oppose GMO labeling, then they can be portrayed as hiding something and being against consumer choice.

Campbell is also openly pro-GMO, and they state so in their press release. In essence they have decided to be “out and proud” as users of GMO technology.

Mark Lynas and Campbell seem to agree on this strategy – get rid of the choice issue, be out and proud, and then just educate consumers about the safety and benefits of GMOs. The sky won’t fall, consumers will be reassured that nothing is being hidden from them, and then comfort level with GMOs will rise.

Mark also argues that once we have a federal mandate to label all GMOs, this will flip the narrative on the anti-GMO crowd. Now, if they try to go beyond labeling to banning, they are the ones who are anti-choice. Mark feels that politically they won’t be able to push for banning once labels are mandatory.

I am not convinced.

I think all of Mark’s points have some validity and are strategically interesting. However, it does come down ultimately to predicting the future – how will the complex organism of society respond?

I think it is naive to believe that the anti-GMO crowd will not push for banning once they have labeling. They have successfully demonized GMOs and the companies who produce them, largely through misinformation, distortion, cherry picking, and outright lying. Now they want to capitalize on that groundwork by labeling GMOs.

If they win on that front, they will increase, if anything, their demonization of GMOs. They will push for banning, county by county, state by state, and also push for federal laws to make producing or using GMOs all but impossible.

That is partly what the labeling issue is about also. Make it such a burden that companies will choose to go GMO free for the practical and propaganda benefits (even in the absence of any scientific reason).

Look at the organic label in the US. The USDA resisted an official organic label for years, based on scientific grounds. There is no evidence that organic produce is safer, healthier, or more nutritious, and so labeling will confer no benefit to the consumer.

They eventually relented to the argument that they could have a limited organic label, and explain to the public that the label is not a claim for any superiority, it only has to do with the method or production not the final product, and only serves the purpose of standardizing the use of the term “organic.” Their efforts were utterly futile.

After the USDA organic label came into effect, the organic industry exploded, based on the false impression that organic produce is superior, and supported largely by the legitimacy that the USDA label conferred. All of the USDA caveats were promptly forgotten, if they were ever even noticed.

I fear the same will be true for a GMO label. All of the government and scientific caveats about why food with GMOs are being labeled will be forgotten, and anti-GMO ideologues will use the mandatory labeling to argue that GMOs are not safe.

I guarantee you that there will be those who will argue that the government relented on mandatory labeling because they know that GMOs are not safe. They did so to cover their own behinds, without admitting any prior malfeasance. That will become the narrative. “If GMOs are safe, then why are they labeled,” will be the argument.

In the end, as Mark acknowledges, it comes down to public education. So why not educate them about why labeling is pointless, and even counterproductive.

Conclusion

Mandatory GMO labeling is actually misinforming the public. It perpetuates a false dichotomy, a misunderstanding of agriculture, and conflates different crops that have nothing to do with each other. The public will falsely believe that “GMO” means “evil pesticides,” even when they mean, “vitamin A added,” or something similar.

Mark is also missing a third option – voluntary labeling. Campbell is already labeling their products that contain GMOs. Companies can do this on their own, and test the market response.

What we really need is a federal law that preempts state laws that would create a ridiculous burden on companies. Mark seems to agree, but argues that politically this will not happen, so we might as well cave.

I say we fight the good fight. We need to change the political climate. I think it is actually happening to some degree. The vacuousness and deception of the anti-GMO propaganda machine is starting to get exposed. Let’s see how that plays out before we repeat the mistake of the USDA organic label.

124 responses so far

124 Responses to “Should There Be Mandatory GMO Labeling?”

  1. LittleBoyBrewon 11 Jan 2016 at 11:48 am

    There is a simple solution. The companies that wish to produce GMO free products can form an association and create guidelines and some type of trade mark or label which can be applied to member companies products to advertise the fact their products are GMO free. It is then in that organization’s best interest to make sure all member companies comply. Would that not be more effective than instituting a government led testing program where the performance incentives are less clear?

  2. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 12:06 pm

    LittleBoyBrew,

    How is that different (or more useful) than the current situation? Many companies already mark their products “GMO free” or “No BGH”, etc. All it does is perpetuate the existing irrational fear of GMO.

  3. Pete Aon 11 Jan 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Why not just add a label to *all* food: This product may contain GMOs. It’s amazing how unfussy people become when they are really hungry.

  4. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 12:42 pm

    “The bottom line is that there is no scientific or rational reason to label GMOs.”

    The main concern with GMOs right now, I think, is gene silencing technology. Very short double-stranded RNA sequences are being used to turn off target genes. It is difficult or impossible to know whether non-target genes may also be affected.

    It is not known whether these micro RNAs can survive digestion and enter our blood and cells, with unpredictable consequences. Monsanto’s researchers say they can’t, but what do you expect Monsanto to say? Is it smart to trust Monsanto, and its friend the FDA, with your life and health?

    Some researchers have found that ingested RNAs can influence gene regulation in mammals. That is scary because gene regulation is barely understood.

    Many people want to avoid GMOs because of this kind of the uncertainty and unpredictability and the fact that non-Monsanto researchers have found reasons for concern.

    Not labelling makes us even more suspicious.

  5. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Any time that you single out ONE (otherwise irrelevant) factor, that characteristic will immediately gain an unwarranted significance. Unfortunately, research shows that people often remember hearing some related news item about a particular product, but they frequently misremember whether the news item was good or bad. So when some factor is touted in big letters on the side of the carton, consumers often simply assume that it must be important or else they wouldn’t advertise it.

    Although they would like you to believe that this is all about “freedom of choice” and “truth in labeling”, the Anti-GMO INDUSTRY is simply trying to gain a competitive advantage and probably an additional reason to be able to charge higher prices — see “Organic Foods”, or simply “New and Improved”.

    Why not focus on the important things like whether or not it is actually proven to be safe? Personally, I’d like to see the identical label/logo on anything that I’m considering putting in my body. Something along the lines of:

    This product may or may not contain material that has been genetically modified, perhaps by selective breeding, hybridization, forced mutation, irradiation, selective gene insertion or any other means. In any event, it has be extensively tested for safety. It is FAR more likely to be safe than the crap you get at the “Natural Food Store”.

    The last line may need to be reworded, but you get the idea.

    Industry always complains about excessive regulation, but this might actually be easier and cheaper for them. They could more easily adjust product formulations when needed by changes in seasonal availability or differing suppliers. Of course, they lose one artificial “benefit” to advertise, but they’ve always got the old standby “Mine tastes better”.

  6. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 12:46 pm

    The micro RNAs are assume to survive digestion in the insects that are meant to be killed by it. And they are assumed to not harm non-target insects or non-insects.

    There are too many assumptions. There is too much blind faith in new and barely tested technologies.

  7. Lumen2222on 11 Jan 2016 at 12:56 pm

    I find I keep vacillating back and forth between Dr. Novella’s stance, and Mark Lynas’. Precisely because it IS an issue of predicting the future.

    One more piece of evidence for Dr. Novella’s argument:
    We can clearly see in the current Anti-GM arguments that government labeling is already viewed as “evidence” of danger in GMOs. The argument that other governments require labeling or ban GMOs (usually European governments but sometimes China is called out as well) is held up as Proof Positive that there must be a danger. Else why would these governments be regulating the this way?

    And if you go deep into the anti-GMO websites and read the discussions it is very common to see labeling discussed as a “baby step” to “raise awareness”, with end result always being “getting rid” of GMOs and having “healthy natural” food.

    So the goals and tactics of the Anti-GM crowd really are not obscure. The only question is predicting the future of how will the American public eventually react?

  8. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Hardnose,

    Come back when you have some actually evidence. We’ve been manipulating the food supply for thousands of years — mostly by trial and error.

    Any alternative method, including simply natural selection, is AT LEAST as likely to have unintended consequences, simply because there are far more genes involved and orders of magnitude more potential interactions.

  9. Steven Novellaon 11 Jan 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Here is a good summary on miRNA safety and other issues:http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11103-013-0089-1/fulltext.html

    The money quote: However, as pointed out by an RNAi expert Phillip Zamore questioning the possibility of survival of the “very fragile” small RNAs in the digestive tract and cross-detection between plant and animal RNA sequences, “MicroRNAs function in cells at remarkably high levels” and “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent trying to stabilize single-stranded nucleic acids in the bloodstream, let alone the digestive tract, and unmodified RNA has never been found to survive.”

    Seems pretty unlikely whatever remnants might remain in food would have any effect. You can never be 100% positive, but the risks vs benefit seem very beneficial.

  10. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Steve Cross,

    The RNA interference techniques they started using within the past couple of years are very different from natural gene regulation processes. They are creating sequences that never occurred in nature, which living things have not evolved with.

    Because gene regulation is extremely complex and barely understood, it is not wise to mess with these systems. Unintended non-target effects cannot be predicted.

    And we cannot assume that these artificial RNAs never survive digestion. How can you be sure they survive digestion in the target insects, but never in non-target insects or non-insects?

    Some researchers have found RNAs surviving digestion in mammals. Of course Monsanto’s gang of researchers got different results. But I doubt they tried very hard, or that they understood exactly what the non-Monsanto researchers were doing.

    Do you want to base your opinion on research funded by a company with a giant financial interest in the outcome?

  11. steve12on 11 Jan 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Why can’t you EVER provide a link HN?

    Seriously, I’m not being rhetorical – can you answer that question? You must be getting this information from SOMEWHERE – why can’t you ever provide the source?

  12. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 1:36 pm

    http://www.nature.com/cr/journal/v22/n1/full/cr2011158a.html

    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31975/title/Plant-RNA-Paper-Questioned/

    “the miRNAs in question were ingested as part of plant tissues, not as unprotected RNAs, a possible explanation for their ability to survive the animal digestive tract.”

    “One thing that Zhang, Zamore, and Lam seemed to agree on is that unanswered questions remain, such as whether the RNAs are further modified in some way to pass digestion and how they affect human physiology.”

    This controversy has NOT been resolved, although Monsanto does try hard to squash research it doesn’t like.

  13. daedalus2uon 11 Jan 2016 at 1:40 pm

    The quantities of artificial RNA are tiny compared to the “natural” RNA that the organisms that comprise food used to sustain their metabolism. The artificial RNAs are not chemically different. They are still susceptible to the same digestive enzymes that digestion uses to digest the many orders of magnitude more abundant “natural” RNA from food.

    At worst, the RNA would act like a virus. Viruses need very specific conditions to find a cell they can replicate in and reproduce. A random strand of RNA isn’t going to have the specificity to enter the right cell, activate the right transcription programs, and generate more RNA and peptides to replicate itself.

  14. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 1:45 pm

    steve12,

    The reason HN never provides a link is because he gets most of his information from the other side of any question — WHICH IS JUST AS LIKELY TO HAVE A GIANT FINANCIAL INTEREST.

    As noted by many above, marketing and potential advertising advantages can often play a huge role in these debates. They should be all about the science, but instead they are often all about the dollars. Both sides can (and often are) guilty of this, but that is why it is important to understand the science and make your own judgments rather than blindly accepting either sides talking points.

  15. DanDanNoodleson 11 Jan 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I think a lot of people conflate their mistrust of corporations with GM technology, which makes convincing them otherwise virtually impossible, since scientific arguments don’t address their actual concerns. It is really disheartening to see how widespread the ignorance is.

  16. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 1:47 pm

    “A random strand of RNA isn’t going to have the specificity to enter the right cell, activate the right transcription programs, and generate more RNA and peptides to replicate itself.”

    Basically, we don’t know what it might do, and that is the reason for concern.

  17. MaryMon 11 Jan 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I created a storify using Croco-duck and fish-banana to show how much anti-GMO arguments were like creationists. I also go on a little rant about syringe produce. https://storify.com/mem_somerville/syringe-plants-cut-it-out

    I am also very interested how this will play out. But the best thing about the Campbell’s story was it illustrated how stupid the Vermont law is. They would have to label plain Spaghettios, but not the meatball ones. This is the mandatory system they want? WTF?

    Federal labeling will never keep pace with the next technology activists hate (editing, robot weeding, synthetic bio, whatever is next). They are much better off with voluntary labels like Campbell’s is doing, paired with a Kosher-like system that they already have for folks with philosophical objections to GMOs and all the other tech they want to avoid.

  18. Lukas Xavieron 11 Jan 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Basically, we don’t know what it might do, and that is the reason for concern.

    If that’s really the reason, then surely you should be much more worried about the random mutagenic methods. Crops produced via chemical or radiation mutagenesis can be put right out into the market with neither labeling, testing, nor any idea what the final result is… and they can be called “organic”.

    Are you calling for labeling of such crops? If not, why not?

  19. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Lukas,

    You just don’t understand Hardnose. His philosophy of life is very simple:

    Science doesn’t explain Everything, therefore Science understands Nothing.

    And:

    Life was better in the “Good Old Days” and we know this is true because “Good” is part of the name.

  20. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 4:18 pm

    “Science doesn’t explain Everything, therefore Science understands Nothing.”

    I have never once said anything like that.

    But at this blog the philosophy seems to be that anything that calls itself science has to be all good.

    Any extremist philosophy is just an excuse to stop thinking.

    If you automatic response to GMO technology is it must ALL be good because it’s a product of science, then you are not interested in thinking.

  21. Karl Withakayon 11 Jan 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Ahhh, the good old days….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twWMRYX5SLQ&feature=youtu.be&t=1m21s

  22. MaryMon 11 Jan 2016 at 4:29 pm

    There’s another issue with the organic label. Even with its government sanction, the purists are fighting with each other for the pureness of it. And this will go on and on forever as well: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html

    And what some of the nutters want? To remove vaccines from organic approval. I’m not kidding. The Organic Consumer’s Association (same folks who fund the Folta et al witch-hunt) want vaccines removed from the list because they might be GMOs. https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/nosb-testimony-gmo-vaccines-organic

    The standards will never be pure enough for some. This is why a 3rd party system like Kosher is precisely what they need. And the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.

  23. Sylakon 11 Jan 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I think Mark Lynas has interesting points. If the labeling was honest and apply too ALL food, meaning that Organic and conventional product should be also label “obtain by hybridization/ Chemial Mutagenesis for X” as much as product obtain by other genetic modification mean, than yes. But those label would be confusing and misinterpreted and counter productive. and when people are confused that’s when they can get fool by propaganda. And Anti-GMO propaganda and lies has such a foothold right now. Also the media are so much complaisant with the organic movement, giving them voices and merits without even asking questions. And I think Like Dr Novella, they already demonstrated that they have no limit to their ideology, they don’t care making stuff up and being dishonest. So no it won’t stop them. It’s a cult, based on a romantic belief of what “life” , food and farming are. On a belief that there’s a way to be Farming that’s “natural” or as “nature intended “. Which is of course ridiculous, farming is not in any way natural. If people wanted to live 100% natural, they will remove all clothing and eat wild plant and hunt small animal with bare hands.

    But of course in a way farming in born from or intelligence, form a evolutionary advantage we got, so using or Science and technology IS natural, because we use what evolution give us. We can twist that any way you want.

    They will push for banning. There’s going to be a series of stories ( or more propaganda and marketing piece) about organic farming in canada called “le garde manger” on a private TV network ( they probably got money for it). The article is froma french newpaper http://www.ledevoir.com/culture/television/459299/television-revolution-par-la-terre. since this is a made in Quebec. Just a quote from the a person that’s interview for the pieces, Jean-Martin Fortier ( I’ll translate it),
    «This is a big, we are going toward big revolution, but I’m a romantic, I’ll let myself get carried with that» .

    The best one come from Benoit Girouard president from l’union Paysanne ( a small defense group for small farmers, who actually are not unreasonnable a lot of time) A naive and ignorant at best.
    « It’s the chemical and conventionnal farming that’s new in history. We come from 10 000 years of Organic agriculture» And goes go out to blame every problem, desertification, biodiversity, water proble etc he lis all ( which yes some of them are true but also true for all agriculture too) of agriculture to this “interlude in history”. he, of course, forgot to mention how science and tech have manage to reduce those problem, not tradition.

    Do I need to explain how wrong this is? Yeah I wish we go back to those time were farmers were barely able to farm enough for their family and were everybody had to work like crazy in the fields to survive! hurray! ( like not even 100 years ago, and were their practice were not necessary better for the planet since they had not way to know). So yes, they are motivated by belief, the same kind of belief as Alternative medicine and pseudo-science, and if we let them have one inch, they ram the door with a monster truck. They already have the advantage, people believe in it, people are well meaning, but misinformed.

  24. Lumen2222on 11 Jan 2016 at 4:39 pm

    “This controversy has NOT been resolved, although Monsanto does try hard to squash research it doesn’t like.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446746/

    It’s not just Monsanto that has questioned and poked holes in the initial paper. Multiple independent studies have failed to replicate their results, and those that are getting some success are seeing much smaller amounts and have not been able to rule out alternative explanations. The constant framing of this as “Monsanto” vs “real science” is simply not accurate.

    So it’s possible that the miRNAs are surviving digestion, but not probable. And after that it’s also improbable that they are capable of having any kind of real impact on health in the small quantities that have been found.

    As a layperson this whole thing reads to me like an elaborate form of hypochondria. These worries aren’t responding to any specific sickness or health impact. Just a lot of upset about how this “might” impact health. But there is tenuous evidence that the mechanism that is being worried about is even possible, let alone having an impact.

  25. Steven Novellaon 11 Jan 2016 at 4:52 pm

    The original paper was not even about GMOs.

    The miRNA scare is complete bullshit. As many scientists (not just Monsanto) have pointed out, we eat millions of natural miRNA in our food every day. At worst the research (which had not controls and needs to be replicated, BTW) showed was that a very few of them get into our blood. But there is no reason to worry more about miRNAs from GMOs than non GMOs.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/the-very-real-scaremongering-of-ari-levaux/

    and HN, serious straw man there. No one here ever argued that all things sciency are good. You have, however, taken the position many times that our current relative level of ignorance effectively can be treated as if we know nothing.

  26. Lumen2222on 11 Jan 2016 at 4:52 pm

    If you automatic response to GMO technology is it must ALL be good because it’s a product of science, then you are not interested in thinking.

    I don’t think you understand what science is my friend.

    Science is about evidence. “Show Us”. So that we might look at the evidence together and come to a conclusion.

    There is no other form of knowing that is this democratic and insists that all information be available to everyone. No one here believes only what Monsanto or what the Anti-GMO people say. They are looking closely at what both say as well as what independents say, and evaluating the information, scrutinizing the arguments, discussing it, and drawing conclusions. From ALL of it.

    I have never met someone who is rejecting “science” as a method who is interested in anything other than telling everyone else what to think. Because if they can’t provide evidence, and make a logically consistent argument from that evidence then the only recourse they have left is “because I say so” or “trust me” or “don’t trust them” or “god said” or “that side is evil” or “this is how it has always been” or any other number of reasons that basically mean you should stop thinking and believe as you’ve been told.

    But science insists that if you look at the best evidence and make the best conclusions then you need to accept the answer you are getting (until the evidence changes) even if you don’t like. Even if it upends what you always believed. There is nothing more fair and egalitarian and freeing and uncomfortable than that.

    If you’re not uncomfortable then you’re not thinking for yourself.

  27. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Hardnose said:

    “Science doesn’t explain Everything, therefore Science understands Nothing.”
    I have never once said anything like that.
    But at this blog the philosophy seems to be that anything that calls itself science has to be all good.
    Any extremist philosophy is just an excuse to stop thinking.
    If you automatic response to GMO technology is it must ALL be good because it’s a product of science, then you are not interested in thinking.

    Its called sarcasm … get used to it. You may not have ever used the specific words, but when you say crap like “Basically, we don’t know what it might do, and that is the reason for concern” IMMEDIATELY after several people have patiently explained that we DO know quite a lot and the risk is very, very small, well then, the net effect is the same.

    Of course all science is open to debate and new evidence, but your 4 or 5 year old cherry-picked articles are not good evidence to suggest that there is nearly as much uncertainty as you claim.

    You’re the only one here with an extremist philosophy. Everyone else is looking at the preponderance of evidence.

  28. steve12on 11 Jan 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Steve Cross:

    “You just don’t understand Hardnose. His philosophy of life is very simple:
    Science doesn’t explain Everything, therefore Science understands Nothing.”

    Ha! Great Steves think alike – you’ve independently summarized Hardnose just as I did:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/are-people-with-autism-psychic/comment-page-1/#comment-103548

    At least we can say that we have high inter-rater reliability for the fella….

  29. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 5:18 pm

    steve12,

    Well, HN’s philosophy is pretty obvious. Even Steve N’s response to HN mentioned “You have, however, taken the position many times that our current relative level of ignorance effectively can be treated as if we know nothing.”

    Maybe we can start our own:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Steve

  30. steve12on 11 Jan 2016 at 5:25 pm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Steve

    How did I not know about this????

    Thanks Steve!

  31. MikeBon 11 Jan 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I would never VOTE for labeling, because those pushing such legislation are clearly bonkers.

    However, I would like to see labeling happen in such a way as to pre-empt the labeling loonies…

    …and so we could watch nothing happen.

    Yes. Labels go on food. People keep buying them. Nobody grows warts on their tongue.

    And we get to laugh & laugh at the GMO freakout afterward.

  32. Lukas Xavieron 11 Jan 2016 at 6:43 pm

    If you automatic response to GMO technology is it must ALL be good because it’s a product of science, then you are not interested in thinking.

    You know, if you want to complain about being strawmanned, you’ll get a lot more traction if you don’t immediately go on to strawman people yourself. Kinda makes you look like a hypocrite.

    Also, dodging direct questions doesn’t help, either. So, let’s try this again: Would you support the labeling of crops produced by mutagenic methods? If not, why not?

  33. hardnoseon 11 Jan 2016 at 6:48 pm

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/the-very-real-scaremongering-of-ari-levaux/

    That article admits that RNAs can survive digestion. The pro GMO crowd was denying it but now it seems they can’t deny it anymore?

    But he says it’s nothing to worry about since we have been eating RNAs all long. Yes, but not unnatural RNAs created by genetic engineering!

    “The notion that miRNAs may drive some of the interaction between us and our food is incredibly new and totally cool.”

    Yeah it is cool, and they are starting to get an idea of the amazingly complex messaging systems that go on within and between cells. But that should make us more cautious, not less.

    I think maybe software developers, like me, might have a better appreciation of what can happen when you f-k with a system you don’t fully understand.

  34. Steve Crosson 11 Jan 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Geez Hardnose … You are SO predictable!!

    Another 4 year old “Gotcha” which has already been addressed (and demolished) earlier in this thread.

    As we keep telling you, you must read BOTH sides of the argument — not just the cherry-picked crap provided by your ideological pals, who are just as financially motivated as anyone else.

  35. Pete Aon 11 Jan 2016 at 7:28 pm

    MikeB, It worked with compulsory E-number labelling. A short-term glitch then people quickly found something else to worry about and lobby for.

    I’ll start the silliness after GMO labels have become mandatory: All food items that contain animal products must have a label that clearly states whether or not the animal(s), and any animal(s) that they might have eaten, were vaccinated against disease.

  36. Pete Aon 11 Jan 2016 at 7:47 pm

    “I think maybe software developers, like me, might have a better appreciation of what can happen when you f-k with a system you don’t fully understand.”

    That is why “Software Engineering” has become such a laughable term to everyone who knows what 21st Century engineering actually is. Software developer: someone who thinks that peer review means peering at the screen and endlessly reviewing what is wrong with the system, rather than ever reviewing what is wrong with the software developer.

  37. Lane Simonianon 11 Jan 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Here is one possibly damaging GMO for human health: genetic modifications that allow wheat and other crops to withstand higher herbicide use. Certain pesticides have already been linked to various cancers and neurological disorders.

    The possibility is that the more lethal compound in Roundup is not glyphosate but the adjuvant polyethoxylated tallow amine. The following is quite technical and deals with the adjuvant and male infertility but the problem likely goes well beyond that.

    Detailed mechanisms of action identified

    The team found that Roundup increases intracellular Ca2+ concentration by opening L-type -voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels – thereby allowing Ca2+ to enter the cells – as well as targeting the endoplasmic reticulum IP3 (inositol triphosphate) and ryanodine receptors (both Ca2+ release channels), leading to Ca2+ release and overload within the cells, setting off cell death. The mechanisms involved were inferred from experiments with specific inhibitors that cancelled out the effect of Roundup as well as Ca2+ influx; and confirmed by the increase in radioactive tracer 45Ca2+ uptake by testis incubated with Roundup at 36 ppm. These events were prevented by the antioxidants Trolox and ascorbic acid, which counteract the reactive oxygen species (see below) responsible for the oxidative stress. Activated protein kinase C, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, and the mitogen-activated protein kinases such as ERK1/2 and p38MAPK all play a role in eliciting Ca2+ influx and cell death.

    Roundup also decreases the levels of reduced glutathione (GSH, the tissue’s own antioxidant) as consistent with oxidative stress, and increases the amounts of thiobarbituric acid reactive species (TBARS) and protein carbonyls, which are signs of oxidative damage from reactive oxygen species to lipids and proteins respectively. Exposure to Roundup stimulates the activities of a whole collection of enzymes supporting the down-regulation of GSH levels.

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Glyphosate_Roundup_and_Human_Male_Infertility.php

    The activation of p38 MAPK leads to the formation of peroxynitrite which breaks down the tight junctions in the intestines (“leaky gut”). It is certainly possible that the heavier use of herbicides on wheat crops have contributed to the vast increase in what is labelled but sometimes misdiagnosed as Celiac disease.

    Moreover, peroxynitrite also breaks down the blood brain barrier. They contribute both to various forms of cancer–by preventing the dephosphorylation of phosphatidylinositol inositol 3,4,5 biphosphate-and to Alzheimer’s disease by preventing the activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3,4 kinase via nitration. In the first case, you have cell growth without cell death and in the second case neuronal cell death without the regeneration of neurons. Thus, people with cancer rarely get Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa.

    Much more testing is needed on both glyphosate and polyethoxylated tallow amines before it can be concluded that Roundup is safe when used on or near crops. The World Health Organization has somewhat controversially taken up the discussion of a possible cancer link.

    No matter what anyone says here and no matter how forcefully they say it, this debate is far from over.

  38. Pete Aon 11 Jan 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Lane Simonian, Which do think carries the greatest risk to human life:

    1. Worrying about GMOs.
    2. Worrying about shortening our life by eating bacon.
    3. Worrying that each and every alcoholic drink shortens our life.
    4. Driving a car.
    5. Driving a car while worrying about items 1-4.
    6. Driving a car while engaging in a heated debate about items 1-5.
    7. Chilling out.

    Something is definitely going to kill us. It is extremely unlikely to be a Campbell Soup product — irrespective of what is printed on the label! The opening of its packaging and the heating of its contents are orders of magnitude more hazardous than eating the contained product. Caveat: Your mileage may vary.

  39. MaryMon 11 Jan 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Relying on the AIDS-deniers, homeopaths, and anti-vaxxers at I-SIS will probably shorten your life enough so cancer won’t catch up to at the end of a long life anyway. Not to worry.

  40. BBBlueon 11 Jan 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Establishing a brand is expensive and hard to do. Organic growers were able to enlist the USDA in their efforts to do that when they got their Certified Organic label. Now they’re hoping to continue the collaboration.

    Ever since this became an issue, I have agreed with Steve: we should fight the good fight and trust in science and our ability to communicate the truth. Unfortunately, the more I hear from retail and elected government officials on the subject, the less optimistic I am. For the most part, retailers do not want to draw fire, so they have focused on trying to convince Congress and the public that labeling will increase food costs, at least partly because they know science-based arguments are difficult for most politicians to understand. I wish we had an effective science advocate in the Senate willing to take a stand on this, but all it seems to take is a well-orchestrated phone call and email campaign by the anti-GMO crowd to render the subject too hot to handle.

    I hope Mark Lynas is right because I think we are going to wind up with mandatory labeling of some kind, not based on the merits of his argument, but because retailers and decision makers will play the percentages and decide the fight is not worth it.

  41. weingon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:25 am

    If a food product is labeled GMO-free, is there testing done to verify this? Will there be penalties if a GMO-free rice, for example, is found to contain a percentage of GMO rice? Wouldn’t it be easier to assume that all food contains GMO and only GMO-free needs a label?

  42. Sarahon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:39 am

    Feels like we’re losing on this battle. I can’t imagine what we can do to stem the tide, except continue to refuse to buy so-called “organic” and support GMO where possible.

  43. lagaya1on 12 Jan 2016 at 1:23 am

    When Monsanto creates a cheaper and superior marijuana, this debate will be over.

  44. BBBlueon 12 Jan 2016 at 1:27 am

    Weing – I am most familiar with the Non-GMO Project. Whole Foods & Sprouts participate, among many others. Here are their standards:

    http://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/non-gmo-project-standard/

    There is testing as well as auditing, but it is not a perfect system and I don’t think it is accurate to say that every bite of Non-GMO Project food is completely free from GMO material. Kinda like USDA Organic products, which have established tolerances for conventional pesticides.

    Since this is a non-governmental, voluntary program, penalties are things like warnings, extra scrutiny and testing, double secret probation, and in extreme cases, egregious, repeat offenses may get you kicked out of the program…maybe, if you are not too big or important. Kashi cereal was one of the more high-profile examples of Non-GMO Project system failure.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/kashi-cereal-hot-water-over-genetically-modified-controversy

  45. BBBlueon 12 Jan 2016 at 1:39 am

    Edit: I erred in saying the Kashi issue was a Non-GMO Project failure. It was a Kashi failure and to try and clean up the mess, they used the Non-GMO Project to verify some of there products after they were called out on GMO content.

  46. Lukas Xavieron 12 Jan 2016 at 7:01 am

    Much more testing is needed on both glyphosate and polyethoxylated tallow amines before it can be concluded that Roundup is safe when used on or near crops. The World Health Organization has somewhat controversially taken up the discussion of a possible cancer link.

    Which is a fine argument for clear labeling of products according to pesticide use or reviewing safety margins. However, it’s not an argument for blanket labeling of GMO products.

  47. DanDanNoodleson 12 Jan 2016 at 8:48 am

    Lane Simonian:

    Here is one possibly damaging GMO for human health: genetic modifications that allow wheat and other crops to withstand higher herbicide use. Certain pesticides have already been linked to various cancers and neurological disorders.

    First, just for the sake of accuracy, there are no GM varieties of wheat.

    Second, while concerns about herbicides are valid, this is not a GMO-specific problem. All industrialized farming, organic included, uses pesticides. In fact, if pesticide use is your concern, then you should be vehemently pro-GMO; more pesticide is used on organic crops per acre, because organic pesticides are less effective.

    Third, “higher herbicide use” is a relative thing. Even for those varieties of GM foods which have been specifically changed this way, the increase has been relatively minor; the data I have seen said 10-15% more. And there wasn’t that much to begin with — despite the characterization by anti-GMO zealots of “slathering” or “bathing” or “dousing” crops, about one pound of Roundup is used per acre of land, which is about like to spreading a can of soda across half a football field.

  48. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 9:12 am

    That Scientific American article acknowledged that miRNAs can survive digestion in mammals, not just the target insects. This had been strongly denied by the Monsanto researchers — oops I guess even Monsanto can be wrong.

    People who have a sense of how complex and poorly understood the RNA messaging systems are should be concerned about the possibility of artificially created miRNAs entering our bloodstream and cells.

    If you are not worried about the effect this may have on your own long-term health, you should at least consider that the general public ought to have a choice.

    Someone suggested that we can assume all food is GMO unless labelled as non-GMO, and maybe that is the most practical option. But the public still needs to be educated about possible risks.

    It is true that some in the anti-GMO crowd are ignorant and unscientific fanatics. However many others are scientists who are aware of how difficult or impossible it is to predict the unintended effects of artificial gene regulation, at least at the current level of understanding.

  49. MaryMon 12 Jan 2016 at 9:13 am

    That’s a good point about compliance for the labels. In the Vermont law, you have to label Spaghettios, but not Spaghettios with meatballs. So you know some anti-GMOer is going to be running up and down the aisles to spot breaches in the labeling. The state will have to follow up on this, test them somehow (with what money?), and then the offender is charged $1000/per product/per day.

    That means it’s very expensive to get the label wrong.

  50. Steve Crosson 12 Jan 2016 at 11:31 am

    Hardnose,

    That Scientific American article you are so proud of is FOUR YEARS OLD!!

    And those studies have NOT been replicated — a few have found much smaller levels of miRNA but not enough that they researchers have been able to rule out experimental error or other unknown causes.

    If you would actually read and try to understand the evidence on both sides of the issue, you wouldn’t consistently sound like such an ignorant buffoon

  51. Steve Crosson 12 Jan 2016 at 11:46 am

    Hardnose,

    Sorry, that was unnessesarily rude. Believe it or not, the cat hit enter before I had time to self censor my normal cantankerousnous .

    But when your supposed “point” has already been refuted several times in this same thread, and it is obvious you have not bothered to read or understand the rebuttal, well, then, you kind of lose all credibility.

  52. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:03 pm

    “Hardnose,

    That Scientific American article you are so proud of is FOUR YEARS OLD!!

    And those studies have NOT been replicated — a few have found much smaller levels of miRNA but not enough that they researchers have been able to rule out experimental error or other unknown causes.

    If you would actually read and try to understand the evidence on both sides of the issue, you wouldn’t consistently sound like such an ignorant buffoon”

    That Scientific American article was linked by Steve N. Is he an ignorant buffoon for linking a FOUR YEAR OLD article?

  53. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:04 pm

    My point was never refuted here or anywhere.

  54. Pete Aon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Hardnose, There is nothing natural about eating orange carrots, for example. Should we warn the public about the possible risks? The risks are irrelevant, what is of fundamental importance is the risk-benefit ratio. Each time we swallow it carries the risk of choking to death therefore it is not safe to eat or drink anything, however, the benefits of eating and drinking far outweigh the risks (potential harm).

    What is natural? It includes such things as arsenic, lead, mercury, salmonella, and botulinum. Apples contain arsenic amongst their circa 150 chemicals. The toxicity (harmfulness) of something depends on dosage. E.g. drinking far too much water per day will result in death. The failure to take both dosage and risk-benefit ratio into account results in dangerous ideas and practices such as anti-VAX.

    You wrote: “People who have a sense of how complex and poorly understood the RNA messaging systems are should be concerned about the possibility of artificially created miRNAs entering our bloodstream and cells.” Considering that we don’t yet know the effects of all the millions of ‘natural’ miRNAs in our food, how should we label food? WARNING This product contains hundreds of thousands of different types of miRNA, any or all of which are possibly harmful.

    The Scientific American article states: “Did you know, for example, that foods you eat are allowed to contain mold, hair, insect parts, and even rat poop? All of those bits of organisms which we inadvertently eat have DNA, and – you guessed it! – miRNAs, too.” Don’t worry, it’s all natural. Bon appétit.

  55. mindmeon 12 Jan 2016 at 12:51 pm

    The government doesn’t require anyone to label things “has gluten”, “not organic”, or “made in factories with poor feng shui.” Companies are happy to get your business telling you things are gluten free, organic, kosher, low carbs, all natural, free range, etc. At some point the government may want to step in and define when a product can be called something, like “organic” or “free range”. Companies are only too happy to abuse definitions in pursuit of sales. We’ve seen this with, say, the supplement industry. It seems the rule, not the exception, that labels on supplements are works of fiction.

    I would not want the government to increase my food costs by requiring companies to comply with labeling laws unless they are justified: there is good evidence a label helps me make a better, healthier food choice. A label, remember, just isn’t about slapping a label. Companies may have to change manufacturing processes, spend money on compliance, and set aside money for future liabilities. This will all be passed along to the consumer. So, I like companies have to put nutritional information and calorie counts. I want to know if a product is giving me my RDAs and how many calories are contained in the product. A label telling me the company has bad feng shui (or contains GMOs) tells me exactly nothing and helps me in no way whatsoever. Even if a majority of people all are under the belief poor feng shui affects the nutritional content of food, I’d be happy food costs are not partially contingent on the madness of crowds or the tyranny of the majority. There’s sober second thought in place.

  56. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 1:58 pm

    http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038%2Fcr.2015.25

  57. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 2:36 pm

    http://www.nature.com/cr/journal/v25/n4/full/cr201525a.html

  58. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 2:39 pm

    ” These data indicate that plant miRNAs from foods are absorbed by cells of the mammalian digestive tract and packaged into microvesicles, which protect them from degradation. The miRNAs are then trafficked via the bloodstream to a variety of tissues, where they are capable of regulating the expression of mammalian genes.”

  59. Steven Novellaon 12 Jan 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Also keep in mind the miRNA issue does not apply to any GMO currently on the market.

    Going forward regulators and scientists will have to decide how much of an issue this is. From everything I read so far, it seems very unlikely to be a real concern. Specifically, there is no reason to suspect that miRNA from GMOs are different from one in non-GMO food.

    This points to the vacuously of the “GMO” category – it contains many techniques and excludes many others, based on arbitrary ideology, what “feels” natural.

  60. steve12on 12 Jan 2016 at 3:28 pm

    HN:

    What evidence is there that miRNA from GMOs would behave any differently than miRNA from other cultivars?

  61. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 3:40 pm

    “From everything I read so far, it seems very unlikely to be a real concern.”

    From a lot of things I read so far, it seems very likely to be a real concern.

  62. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Beware of wishful thinking.

  63. steve12on 12 Jan 2016 at 3:52 pm

    HN has time to type a lot of bullshit, but never time to answer specifics.

    Instead of answering my direct question (really a reiteration of Steve’s question asked several times) about why miRNA from GMO would be different than miRNA from any other cultivar, HN writes:

    “From a lot of things I read so far, it seems very likely to be a real concern.”

    and

    “Beware of wishful thinking.”

    Really?

  64. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 4:27 pm

    An artificially created miRNA that would not occur naturally could have unpredictable effects. As I said way back on the first comment page.

    Life evolved gradually over billions of years, as I am sure you have enough science literacy to know.

  65. steve12on 12 Jan 2016 at 4:41 pm

    HN

    So you’re reasoning is that we can’t be 100% sure that there won’t be “unpredictable effects” because “Life evolved gradually over billions of years, as I am sure you have enough science literacy to know.”

    But modern day crops did not. They were manipulated via breeding, and failry recently. Why would the source of genetic manipulation – direct vs. indirect – make a difference in how the miRNA?

  66. Steven Novellaon 12 Jan 2016 at 4:42 pm

    HN – you have been answered. You have not answered the replies.

    The created miRNAs are not fundamentally different than ones found in nature, they are just targeted at specific gene segments. They are not magical.

    In any case, miRNAs are not relevant to currently available GMOs. The science showing that they survive digestion is very preliminary, and even if true it seems to be a minor effect without any special relevance to GMOs.

    It is a classic misdirection for baseless fear mongering.

  67. Lukas Xavieron 12 Jan 2016 at 4:48 pm

    hardnose:

    From a lot of things I read so far, it seems very likely to be a real concern.

    Let’s, for the sake of argument, just accept that evaluation. In that case, this would be an argument for carefully testing new GMO crops that generate new miRNAs. However, it would not be an argument for blanket labeling of GMO of all types.

    And since I’m already repeating myself: Given that random mutagenesis methods (such as the ones allowed for use with so-called organic crops and require no safety testing at all) might very well also generate new miRNAs with unpredictable results, would you support the labeling of such products? If not, why not?

    Third time’s the charm.

  68. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 5:00 pm

    If it is possible to genetically engineer plants that have miRNAs that activate tumor-suppressing genes, then it should be possible to, accidentally, make plants with miRNAs that de-activate tumor-suppressing genes.

    For example.

  69. MaryMon 12 Jan 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Not that anyone thought that the National Academy would be listening to HN, but in case you weren’t following their recent GMO series: they had active researchers come and talk about the miRNAs. It is clear that credible researchers have all abandoned the idea, and that the original Zhang work has not been replicated and is considered artifactual.

    Vivian Vance (who has that company based on the idea, and those patents…) has to claim that feeding mice large quantities of artificial stuff and shoved down their throats affected the tumors, and that somehow will translate to something. Always cling to the fringe in science, right?

  70. Pete Aon 12 Jan 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Sexual reproduction is a sexually transmitted disease that always results in death. There are only two things that have 100% absolute statistical certainty when the sample size is 1: you were born; you will die. This being just one example of when Bayes Theorem does not apply to reality.

  71. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 6:30 pm

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.201500137/abstract

  72. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 6:43 pm

    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpls.2015.01113/full

  73. Pete Aon 12 Jan 2016 at 6:50 pm

    MaryM, I’m sure that anyone in the National Academy who is listening to HN would be delighted to know the sources of HN’s ‘knowledge’, here’s one:

    “And yes, by the way, he [Rupert sheldrake] is one of my heroes.”
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/lobbying-for-quackery/comment-page-1/#comment-102088

  74. Pete Aon 12 Jan 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I forgot to add the links:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake
    http://skepdic.com/morphicres.html

  75. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Gene silencing technology is used in creating some GM plants.

    Some research has found plant miRNAs surviving digestion and being transported to the blood and cells of mammals.

  76. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 7:06 pm

    That is true Pete A the “skeptic” websites don’t like Sheldrake. If you have blind faith in their opinion, that is all you need to read about him.

  77. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Steve N said: “miRNAs are not relevant to currently available GMOs.”

    However:

    http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/540136/the-next-great-gmo-debate/

    “Some GM plants already use RNA interference to disable unwanted enzymes, or to kill viruses or pests. The Flavr Savr tomato—the first genetically modified crop to be approved in the United States, back in 1994—harnessed the mechanism to block an enzyme that makes tomatoes soft, so they could ripen longer on the vine. Like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready cotton and corn, the Flavr Savr was a GMO. Its seeds have an extra gene that manufactures a specific RNA molecule. Since then, companies have engineered a few other plants to take advantage of RNA interference. This year a Granny Smith apple genetically modified to silence a gene that turns apple slices brown won clearance from regulators. Before that, the Hawaiian papaya industry was saved by plants engineered to produce RNA that defends against the ringspot virus. And Monsanto is awaiting approval to sell corn plants that use RNA interference to kill the western corn rootworm. That plant is the first GMO to incorporate an insecticidal RNA into its genetic makeup.”

  78. hardnoseon 12 Jan 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Pete A must feel very threatened, and is desperately trying to change the subject.

  79. Pete Aon 12 Jan 2016 at 7:28 pm

    This is a skeptic website. For some strange reason, I don’t have blind faith in either you or your heroes.

  80. Lukas Xavieron 12 Jan 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Sheldrake is a fucking fraud. If you want evidence, just read his “research”. The guy wouldn’t know proper experiment design if it ate his eyeballs.

  81. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 6:52 am

    If you automatically disbelieve any alternative to a mainstream consensus, you are not a skeptic.

    The word “skeptic” has taken on a new meaning. Now it is often used to mean blind faith in the consensus of authorities. Really the exact opposite of what it used to mean.

    Mainstream science (allied with big corporations and the press) is sort of like what the Roman Catholic church used to be in the middle ages.

  82. Mr Qwertyon 13 Jan 2016 at 8:07 am

    All the while the word “hardnose” seems to be taking on a new meaning here. Now it seems to be almost synonymous with a word “troll”.

  83. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 10:50 am

    I am providing important information, that is not trolling.

    You were told miRNAs can’t survive digestion but some research shows they can.

    You were told gene silencing is not used in current GMO technology, but it is.

    WHY are you accepting incorrect, incomplete, and misleading information?

  84. steve12on 13 Jan 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Hardnose

    “You were told miRNAs can’t survive digestion but some research shows they can.”

    BS. That was granted to you. You refused to answer the follows form there.

    And this is why you are indeed a troll HN.

    Not because you’re wrong on just about everything for the same reasons over and over. It’s because your engagement of others is not genuine. It’s limited to when you feel you have some strategic advantage.

  85. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I’m a troll because I don’t answer every question? Some questions don’t make sense and it would not be a good use of time trying to answer them.

    I am here to provide alternate perspectives. I am also here to learn about what atheist/materialists really think. I have done it for many years, by reading books and websites that I basically disagree with. This helps me figure out if my opinions are valid or not, and whether they need to be revised.

    I spend very limited time reading things I already think are true. It’s boring. Most of you seem to be here just to have your materialist philosophy validated. I doubt you ever read about the alternatives.

  86. daedalus2uon 13 Jan 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Regarding the microRNA that HN seems to be so concerned about. Here is a new paper showing that human physiology uses microRNA effects to regulate the gut microbiome.

    http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/abstract/S1931-3128%2815%2900497-7

    The gut microbiome has ~10x more cells and ~100x more DNA than the rest of human physiology.

    Even a very highly varied diet is not going to have the genetic diversity of the gut microbiome (most food is other euaryotes (plants and animals) and human and eukaryote DNA is largely shared).

    The diversity of microRNA from gut bacteria is 100x larger than the microRNA available from any single eukaryote used as food (assuming similar DNA levels in eukaryotes used as food), and most food has been denatured due to cooking, and RNA is quite fragile anyway, and many GMO foods don’t have DNA in them (oil from GMO seeds, sugar from GMO beets, HFCS from GMO maize).

    If human physiology already uses microRNA to control the gut, very likely it must have mechanisms to overwhelm dietary sources of interference which are likely to be small from any particular food, and nothing specific to GMOs.

  87. steve12on 13 Jan 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Oh God HN:

    “I’m a troll because I don’t answer every question?”

    No, straw man. You’re a troll because you purposefully dodge questions that put your points in jeopardy, and only answer those that (you feel) give you a strategic advantage in the argument.

    “I am here to provide alternate perspectives. I am also here to learn about what atheist/materialists really think. I have done it for many years, by reading books and websites that I basically disagree with. This helps me figure out if my opinions are valid or not, and whether they need to be revised.”

    OK, that’s fine. Just don’t dodge questions that put your points in jeopardy while answering others, lest you be a troll

    “I spend very limited time reading things I already think are true. It’s boring. Most of you seem to be here just to have your materialist philosophy validated. I doubt you ever read about the alternatives.”

    Let’s see if I can understand this:

    It’s NOT too boring to repeat the same things over and over, as you do.

    It’s also not too boring to answer questions where you feel you have a rhetorical advantage, as you do.

    But it IS too boring to answer questions that might prove your point wrong. YawnFest!

    Now I get it – it’s called you’re full of shit. Engage for real or be a troll. Up to you.

  88. Pete Aon 13 Jan 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I shall reiterate Dr Novella’s previous reply to hardnose:

    “HN – you have been answered. You have not answered the replies.

    It is a classic misdirection for baseless fear mongering.”

    Hardnose is indeed an anti-science, anti-materialistic, fear-mongering troll, whom has an agenda that is remarkably similar to the DiscoTute’s Wedge Strategy for incorporating Intelligent Design Creationism into school science lessons.

  89. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 4:23 pm

    “If human physiology already uses microRNA to control the gut, very likely it must have mechanisms to overwhelm dietary sources of interference which are likely to be small from any particular food, and nothing specific to GMOs.”

    Very likely, in your opinion, no research needed.

  90. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 4:42 pm

    “I shall reiterate Dr Novella’s previous reply to hardnose:

    “HN – you have been answered. You have not answered the replies.”

    That is not true, Steve N did not answer me. He claimed that miRNAs definitely do not survive digestion, and he claimed that miRNAs are not currently used in GMO technology. He did not bother to check the information he got from pro-GMO sources.

  91. daedalus2uon 13 Jan 2016 at 4:56 pm

    There has already been multi-generational “research” showing no adverse effects.

    Here is one of the largest studies ever done, and which shows no adverse results. It looks at the entire US population of farm animals, which have been eating mostly GMOs for the past number of years. It covers over 100,000,000,000 animals (100 billion).

    https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/jas/articles/92/10/4255?highlight&search-result=1

    By every measure the animals appear to be healthier over time, as GMO content of their diet increases. I am not claiming that GMOs in the diet are responsible for the improved health, but there is no hint that GMOs are producing any ill effects.

  92. Pete Aon 13 Jan 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Oh FFS, hardnose! I’ve told you before about the mess that you keep making of yourself by continually pissing into the wind. We are sick and tired of your relentless partial regurgitations of articles published on the websites: Answers In Genesis; DiscoTute and its affiliate The Center for Science and Culture; Rupert Sheldrake; and every other source of anti-science bullshit that you can find, including homeopathy, ESP, the paranormal, etc., etc.

    The only thing that you are any good at is your consistency with repeating the abjectly pathetic retort: “I never said that.”

    Calling you a troll is an insult to trolls — you aren’t anywhere near to becoming smart enough to be classified as an Internet troll.

  93. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 6:02 pm

    “By every measure the animals appear to be healthier over time, as GMO content of their diet increases. I am not claiming that GMOs in the diet are responsible for the improved health, but there is no hint that GMOs are producing any ill effects.”

    Farm animals have very short lives. It might take more than a couple of years for certain adverse effects to occur.

    Look at the rate of dementia in elderly Americans, for example. No, we don’t know the cause, but we can’t assume it has nothing to do with GMOs.

  94. hardnoseon 13 Jan 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Pete A,

    Have you considered trying meditation? You seem to be very stressed. Maybe some herbal tea would calm you down.

  95. Pete Aon 13 Jan 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Hardnose, You are by far my best means of calming down, by having really good belly laughs at the ever increasing mess that you are making of yourself on this blog.

    It is so easy to push your buttons because you have so many buttons to push 🙂 Caveat: I only push the buttons of self-proclaimed psychologists who are also self-proclaimed software developers that have stated how easy it is to f_ck up a system that they don’t understand!

    Don’t worry, if you eventually manage to find a way of discrediting me, you only have circa 7.4 billion other people to discredit before *you* can finally calm down and relax.

    Your comment to me makes it blindingly obvious to everyone that you have never undergone any clinical training in the field of psychology.

  96. steve12on 13 Jan 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Typical HN Horseshit:

    “That is not true, Steve N did not answer me. He claimed that miRNAs definitely do not survive digestion”

    OR he said…

    “The science showing that they survive digestion is very preliminary, and even if true it seems to be a minor effect without any special relevance to GMOs.”

  97. daedalus2uon 13 Jan 2016 at 8:32 pm

    The microRNAs in the paper I linked to are from human cells, not food. The reason they are in the gut is because the host put them there.

  98. RickKon 13 Jan 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Hn said: “Look at the rate of dementia in elderly Americans, for example. No, we don’t know the cause, but we can’t assume it has nothing to do with GMOs.”

    You’re right. A greater percentage of the population is living long enough to suffer age-related dementia. We should consider that GMOs are leading to that increased longevity.

  99. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 7:06 am

    “A greater percentage of the population is living long enough to suffer age-related dementia.”

    That’s exactly what they say about all the horrible diseases that are increasing. It is an evidence-free propaganda statement.

  100. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 7:07 am

    daedalus2u,

    Furthermore, RNA interference technology is relatively new, so farm animals have not been exposed to it for very long.

  101. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 7:09 am

    look out we are nearing that 50 comment barrier. remember comments-page-2, or something like that.

  102. TomJLon 14 Jan 2016 at 7:20 am

    Dementia? This is largely a result of an ageing population, which in itself is an indication that people are healthier, because you know, they’re living longer.

    Btw, recent evidence from multiple population-based studies suggest that the age-standardised prevalence of dementia is actually decreasing. This means that whilst the numbers of people with dementia is increasing (due to longer life expectancy), people are actually developing it at later ages than in previous years. Again, indicating that something is modifying the risk, possibly healthier lifestyles, being able to manage vascular diseases better etc. None of which supports your GMO hypothesis.

  103. SteveAon 14 Jan 2016 at 7:23 am

    HN: “That’s exactly what they say about all the horrible diseases that are increasing. It is an evidence-free propaganda statement.”

    Are you denying that the human body’s ability to repair itself declines with age?

    If you’re not denying it, don’t you think it’s a very good reason why ‘horrible diseases’ would become more prevalent with age?

    Also, modern medicine has not extended the human lifespan in absolute terms, but the number of people living past 70, 80, 90… increases every year. The longer you’re around, the better the odds that something ‘horrible’ will eventually catch up with you.

  104. arnieon 14 Jan 2016 at 8:34 am

    We have here further evidence that the more frequently and aggressively HN is responded to, the more frequently and aggressively he regurgitates his tired old irrelevant and wrong nonsense. In other words, the more we feed him, the more he regurgitates. Is the benefit really worth the cost? Obviously, though, it’s not easy to ignore his obvious ideology driven misdirection.

  105. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 9:44 am

    “Dementia? This is largely a result of an ageing population, which in itself is an indication that people are healthier, because you know, they’re living longer.”

    As I said, evidence-free propaganda, repeated tirelessly.

    People are sicker because they are healthier.

  106. RCon 14 Jan 2016 at 10:09 am

    “People are sicker because they are healthier.”

    Animals are relatively healthy for a good chunk of their life, then they get sick and die (if not killed in a traumatic fashion). This is how life works.

    We’ve managed to extend that healthy period several decades.

    The fact that people still get sick and die at old age isn’t evidence that they aren’t generally healthier. It’s a non-sequitor

  107. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 10:51 am

    Yes I have noticed that people die of old age. How they die and how sick they are for how long before they die is the question.

  108. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 10:52 am

    And I will tirelessly repeat this once again — your claim that old people are sicker because people are healthier is evidence-free. If you want to keep mindlessly repeating it, you should come up with evidence.

  109. steve12on 14 Jan 2016 at 11:16 am

    The mortal/morbid change over time point HAS been addressed to you about 1000 x Hardnose. You’re a liar.

    I’m really going to quit w/ Hardnose now. Myself et al. have said it before, but I’m not answering his insipid posts anymore.

    Not because he’s wrong invariably, but because his engagement is in bad faith, the very definition of a troll. He is neither trying to enlighten or learn.

    I reserve the right to mock.

  110. steve12on 14 Jan 2016 at 11:18 am

    An I will mock immediately:

    What was your “dissertation” about HN?

  111. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 11:53 am

    information systems

  112. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 11:54 am

    statistical analysis of information systems

  113. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 12:39 pm

    how the meaning of symbols is derived from their contexts

  114. Pete Aon 14 Jan 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Any particular reason why it took a triple Axel to answer such a simple question (other than total incompetence)?

  115. hardnoseon 14 Jan 2016 at 5:53 pm

    If you have nothing intelligent to say, you can always resort to insults.

  116. Pete Aon 14 Jan 2016 at 9:15 pm

    It took you three attempts, spread out over 46 minutes, to answer the extremely simple question: What was your “dissertation” about HN?

  117. Steve Crosson 14 Jan 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Pete A,

    I was kind of curious about the 46 minutes too. I guess he was disappointed that you didn’t immediately respond with some kind of figurative “bow to his obvious awesomeness”.

    Or else it took that long to google something IT related that he hoped would sound impressive.

  118. hardnoseon 15 Jan 2016 at 10:51 am

    “What was your dissertation about” is not a simple question! Obviously you have not asked it before or you would know.

    Providing a quick answer to that question definitely takes some thought.

  119. hardnoseon 15 Jan 2016 at 10:52 am

    And my answer, even in three parts, doesn’t tell you much about the actual research I did.

  120. Steve Crosson 15 Jan 2016 at 2:29 pm

    hardnose:

    And my answer, even in three parts, doesn’t tell you much about the actual research I did.

    So enlighten us … the first things that spring to mind are either compiler optimization or data-mining.

  121. Pete Aon 15 Jan 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Steve Cross, No job interviewer in the UK would’ve patiently waited 46 minutes to obtain the answer to such a simple question. It takes far less than 46 seconds, let alone 46 minutes, to detect abject bullshit.

  122. Steve Crosson 15 Jan 2016 at 3:12 pm

    PeteA,

    True enough. I just wanted him to realize that no matter which type of BS he flings, someone here will always be able to detect it and call him out.

  123. jsterritton 18 Jan 2016 at 10:12 am

    @HN

    “information systems”

    “statistical analysis of information systems”

    “how the meaning of symbols is derived from their contexts”

    “And my answer, even in three parts, doesn’t tell you much about the actual research I did.”

    Your answer in three parts tells us nothing and is highly dubious. Surely you have described your dissertation to someone before. And surely your dissertation included an abstract. What you have provided here is not even a title. Why not tell us the title of your work? Provide the abstract?

    HN, I believe you are lying about your credentials and accomplishments as you have so many times before in these pages. This is an easy enough accusation to refute, but I don’t think you’ll do it.

  124. Andreason 19 Jan 2016 at 2:45 am

    Just saw this on slashdot: evidence that research results out of an Italian lab have been manipulated to support claims of detrimental effects of GM crops.
    http://www.nature.com/news/italian-papers-on-genetically-modified-crops-under-investigation-1.19183

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