Eastern Ohio Freethinkers Message Board › Genetically modified food.

Genetically modified food.

user 44368812
Group Organizer
Dennison, OH
Post #: 42
I recently read a short article on the dangers of Genetically modified foods. I know this has come up at a past meeting but there wasn’t much follow-through and I felt it deserved more discussion.
It seems much of the discussion is emotional and some completely uninformed, but does it have merit?

Wikipedia says
Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically, genetically modified crops. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise[1] than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding and somaclonal variation.
Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato.[2] Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These may have been engineered for faster growth, resistance to pathogens, production of extra nutrients, or any other beneficial purpose. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed, although as of July 2010 none are currently on the market.[3]
There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops pose no greater risk to human health than conventional food.[4][5][6][7][8][9] However, critics have objected to GM foods on several grounds, including safety issues,[7] ecological concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact GM plants (and potentially animals) that are food sources are subject to intellectual property law

The controversy I have seen breaks down neatly into three categories.
#1. Is GMO safe for human consumption?
#2. Are GMOs safe to release into the environment?
#3. Who owns the GMO and for how long?

My thoughts
#1. Is GMO safe for human consumption?
Considering many known plants can be carcinogenic and 41% of Americans will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime I see this is a valid question.

#2. Are GMOs safe to release into the environment?
This is the stuff low-budget Sci-Fi movies are made of. We are all aware of the damage caused when a new organism is introduced into an existing environment. (Kudzu in the south, rabbits in Austrlia, cats in the Hawian islands.) While it seems to be a major potential issue, specifically altered GMOs( altered for larger fruit, longer season or quicker growth) actually represent a smaller risk than the current Exotics we have scattered around the globe.

#3. Who owns the GMO and for how long?
For me this is the scary question.. If I invent a new widget I own the rights to manufacture this widget for a specific timespan. I can come back later and renew my patent or copyright for another span of time. This protects my efforts and makes perfect sense if I wrote a song or designed a new type of computer.

What happens if this invention can self-replicate. This differs when it comes to ownership of the 5th or70th generation of crop grown for food by our descendents. What happens when my crops cross with the GMO crop in the field next door? Do I suddenly have to split all profits with a faceless corporation in another country.

And to push this into the Sci-FI realm, what happens in a few decades when we discover how to boost intelligence in animals. Right now the main function of my dog is as a companion, noise maker, and part-time doorstop. Suppose some company like Monsanto creates the sentient dog or monkey. Interesting, but because of patents and copyrights, it will amount to generational slavery. Should we really be allowed to patent a living organism.

I would really be interested in your opinions.
Scott McPeak
A former member
Post #: 5
I've read quite a few claims and reports against GMO's but more so far, the only thing I've actually seen as presented evidence is fear of what could possibly happen or incidence and situations taken way out of context.

1. I view the whole GMO debate on par with that of Global Warming. In both cases we have our world's top minds and most educated thinkers examining the research and presenting their findings based on the evidence collected. Both are similar in that the vast majority of those scientists arrive at the same conclusions. Global Warming is happening and the dangers of GMOs have not panned out under scrutiny.

That doesn't say there are no dangers that exist, but certainly not of the caliber that we all often read about, such as eating it mutates our genes and causes cancer, or causes the body to store up poisons, or creates other adverse effects. Quite often the rallying cry is "we need more research", but there has been quite a bit of research done, which the anti-GMO crowd is either unaware of or simply dismisses.

Here is a link to a site that lists some 600 peer review studies that have been done on GMO products in which none seem to find any of the dangers that are often touted by anti-GMO proponents.


2. I honestly do not see any more danger of utilizing GMO plants as being any different than using other non GMO plants. In both cases there is a chance of cross pollination that can occur from wind blown pollen or on the bodies of pollinating insects/animals. The largest concern of GMO's are those that have defenses to specific disease or animals that run the risk of them developing immunities. One manner in which to combat this is to have a field of non GMO product grown next to a GMO field to ensure that the ability of an organism to develop defenses is minimized by maintaining those traits from the non GMO crops. I read that it is a highly effective strategy, unfortunately many crop growers do not utilize effectively, fully, or at all.

3. GMO ownership is a business question. Obviously a company that develops a strain of something with major benefits should be allowed to profit from it to recoup their research and development costs, however that being said, there should be some form of limitation in order to eliminate the chance of monopolization. I also disagree with legislature that protects a company from any adverse effects their product may cause. And finally, it is wholly ridiculous to expect that a company should be able to pursue legal action against another grower if patented strain pollutes a neighbors field because of cross pollination. Said farmer should be halted from harvesting and cultivating a crop if it is shown to have been altered through pollination, but the onus is on the patent holder. Either they need to pay a fair amount to the farmer for damages incurred for polluting their crop.

As for patenting a living organism? It depends. What level of intelligence and sentience are we talking here? In the very least a method of rating these kinds of characteristics need be developed and maintained through a non involved entity. If you are talking about something approaching, or even surpassing, the human intelligence then resoundingly no. But if you are talking about an organism such as a bacterium that consumes something like petroleum or plastics as a means for environmental clean up then I would agree to that.

But in all cases there should be a limitation on how long one could claim ownership of patents and production. Allow a reasonable amount of time to regain investments, but at some point it does need to become open to society.
user 44368812
Group Organizer
Dennison, OH
Post #: 44
very good and well considered points.

Obviously this is primarily an emotional issue to many people. We are all sensitive to change and to be honest we have about 40 years of science fiction books and movies dwelling in our subconscious, each one pulling at the threads of our confidence.

I think asking the doomsday scenario question is good, (and reassuring when compared to the way we normally go about blindly destroying our environment,) but when the homework is done and the data is in we should look at the results. If the results show no danger then we have to be prepared to move on to the more important issues at hand. That is not easy for most of us to do.
A former member
Post #: 7
Touched on GMO's at our monthly get together and I'd made mention of pretty eloquent guy on facebook, David McAfee. He is an atheist who's written a few books on the subject of atheism, but pursues discussion on various topics based on skepticism. Recently he'd started a conversation on GMO's that I enjoyed.

Here's the link on facebook

I'm not sure if his page is open to the public or if you have to like it first so here are a few links that some posters presented on GMO's

Over 600 studies done on GMO's (including independent studies) that have found no serious health risks associated with them.

There is also quite a bit of confusion about bt-corn. Another link provided in that discussion explains what bt-Corn is.

I often enjoy reading David's topics because they often create intelligent and thought provoking discussion and when David himself comments he follows a non aggressive approach. He simply asks for evidence to be provided to back up claims, statements or beliefs. His topics range from religion and supernatural beliefs to conspiracy theories, bigfoot and even alien abductions to thoughts on free will and morality.
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