Genetically Modified Food and Such

Bill Mattocks

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From the department of "that scares the pudding out of me..."

http://www.biofueldaily.com/reports/Doubling_A_Gene_In_Corn_Results_In_Giant_Biomass_999.html

And, to make the circle of terror complete, they want to feed it to cows.

Yeah. They've never heard of Mad Cow Disease. Nope. Let's screw with our food supply by jacking up genes at random and if we like what they do, bing, off to the races!

I am going to go live in a tarpaper shack in Montana. Maybe. OK, probably not. But still.
 

Blindside

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From the department of "that scares the pudding out of me..."

http://www.biofueldaily.com/reports/Doubling_A_Gene_In_Corn_Results_In_Giant_Biomass_999.html

And, to make the circle of terror complete, they want to feed it to cows.

Yeah. They've never heard of Mad Cow Disease. Nope. Let's screw with our food supply by jacking up genes at random and if we like what they do, bing, off to the races!

I am going to go live in a tarpaper shack in Montana. Maybe. OK, probably not. But still.

I'm sorry but what does a prion based disease have to do with genetic modification of food crops?

You do understand that your dog, your cat, your horse, your tomato, your potato, much of the wood your house is built out of, and much of the TP in your bathroom is made from organisms all "genetically modified" from their native stocks? Why are you so scared of tinkering done directly at a genetic level rather than those done through breeding programs?
 
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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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I'm sorry but what does a prion based disease have to do with genetic modification of food crops?

You do understand that your dog, your cat, your horse, your tomato, your potato, much of the wood your house is built out of, and much of the TP in your bathroom is made from organisms all "genetically modified" from their native stocks? Why are you so scared of tinkering done directly at a genetic level rather than those done through breeding programs?

Because breeding programs occur over time, to allow repressed genetic defects to express themselves before they enter the human food stream. Tinker with a gene directly, and you don't know what else you're changing, which does not express itself until after you've eaten what ate it.

Remember all that stuff about most DNA being 'junk'? And now it turns out that it's mostly not junk, but they're not sure just what it does? And how one gene can control one thing, like eye color, only later they find out that it also has a role in other things that express themselves in more subtle ways, but only in combination with other genes that we thought had only one function?

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

We don't know what the stuff does. Poke it here, something comes out there, and we think we know what's what - only later we admit that we don't and didn't, but no 'oops', instead we just ignore the potential for damage and shuffle on to the next great screwup.

And by the way, not the wood MY house is built of. My house is 83 years old, and was built of 'heart pine' which was the center of pine trees that were over 200 years old when harvested. So no, no genetic manipulation there. And the wood is so dense, termites can't eat it.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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I'm also afraid of monoculture, which is what you get when all the plants grown as foodstock come from the same clone plant. Get one mutated disease that hits that crop and you lose ALL the crops, because they all have the exact same resistance - or lack of it. And of course, that doesn't include the Monsanto plants that the wind carries into other farmer's lots and then they get sued for freaking patent infringement, or corn genetically altered to produce sterile seeds, so you MUST buy your seed every year, no matter the plant - no more seed corn.

Yeah, I'm afraid of genetically-altered foodstuffs. Bad idea. Bad science. We'll kill ourselves with it.
 

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Genetic modification of plants has been going on for a long time, and there haven't been any horrible occurrences from such things.

When you're dealing with plant genetics vs animal vs human genetics, you're not even comparing apples and oranges.

For example, what is known to be harmful to humans (polyploidy), has actually been quite beneficial to crops throughout the years, and this was before anyone even knew about such things. This has been naturally occurring, and to artificially encourage it doesn't upset any balances.

Even in today's society, there are experiments with livestock and polyploidy, and such experimentation looks quite promising. The way I see it, if those ribeye and porterhouse steaks that I enjoy can be brought to me cheaper, and taste just as good as the normal diploid ones, then so be it!
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Genetic modification of plants has been going on for a long time, and there haven't been any horrible occurrences from such things.

I don't think that is sufficient. We literally do not know what the largest percentage of the DNA we're twiddling with does. I used BSE as an example because the emergence of the disease in humans is just now becoming visable, nearly 15 to 20 years after the diseased meat was ingested. We may not know what we've done until we'd basically committed mass suicide.

When you're dealing with plant genetics vs animal vs human genetics, you're not even comparing apples and oranges.

Oh yes I am. We are now creating plant strains that contain animal DNA.

For example, what is known to be harmful to humans (polyploidy), has actually been quite beneficial to crops throughout the years, and this was before anyone even knew about such things. This has been naturally occurring, and to artificially encourage it doesn't upset any balances.

That we know of. And that's just one example. We have no idea what happens to corn DNA that has strands of fish DNA inserted to assist in preventing freezing damage.

You talk about 'what is known' but we 'know' nearly nothing about what MOST of the DNA in animals and plants even does. What is known is what we get from poking around and seeing what happens. Great for expanding the field and learning, but not so great for inserting directly into our food base. I'm all for GE experimentation and learning. But we're going directly from 'it works in the lab and we think it does this' to 'great, lets eat it!' Not smart.

Even in today's society, there are experiments with livestock and polyploidy, and such experimentation looks quite promising. The way I see it, if those ribeye and porterhouse steaks that I enjoy can be brought to me cheaper, and taste just as good as the normal diploid ones, then so be it!

You haven't addressed other issues besides health, not that those aren't already significant in themselves.

There are insufficient disclosure laws - we already eat GE food, and don't know it, because the makers aren't required to tell us.

Patent laws currently allow GE food to be patented, and then denied to those who do not or cannot pay the license, thus destroying farmers or ranchers who can't or won't grow GE foods and animals.

GE foods are not generally engineered to be 'more healthy' for humans but to ship better, to look more enticing, and to have higher yields and perhaps better taste. How good it might be for us is not even on their agenda.

And again - monocultures are bad. One mutated disease comes along that strikes a particular crop and you lose ALL the crops, because they're all genetically the same plant. We lose diversity, we may murder ourselves by starving to death.
 

Grenadier

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I don't think that is sufficient. We literally do not know what the largest percentage of the DNA we're twiddling with does.

On the contrary, genetic engineering has been a pretty hot topic in the world of science, and gene therapy looks to be a very promising field, much more so than any human embryonic stem cell field...

I used BSE as an example because the emergence of the disease in humans is just now becoming visable, nearly 15 to 20 years after the diseased meat was ingested. We may not know what we've done until we'd basically committed mass suicide.

The question is simply this, though, did this disease just suddenly pop up out of nowhere, or has it always been there, and that we simply became advanced enough to detect and diagnose the disease?

There are some folks out there who are griping about the increase in cancer rates, but they didn't realize, that the rates had actually been decreasing, and that the so-called increase was simply due to better detection and awareness.

Oh yes I am. We are now creating plant strains that contain animal DNA.

A very good idea.

That we know of. And that's just one example. We have no idea what happens to corn DNA that has strands of fish DNA inserted to assist in preventing freezing damage.

The DNA that prevents freezing damage to fish encodes for the production of natural anti-freeze compounds, that have no mutagenic effects, and so forth. It's not going to change the fact that it's still corn with just a few harmless compounds being expressed. After all, many of us eat fish, and haven't exactly died from such material.

In addition to this, such glycoproteins are expressed in very, very small quantities, orders of magnitude lower in terms of concentration, compared to using organic solvent-like compounds. This way, you don't have any disruption of the solvent conditions within an organism.

The DNA cannot affect other parts of the plant. All it does is code for the production of specific compounds, that are harmless to the plant, and the consumer.

On another note, did you know that there are also various anti-freeze proteins that naturally occur in plants as well?


And again - monocultures are bad. One mutated disease comes along that strikes a particular crop and you lose ALL the crops, because they're all genetically the same plant. We lose diversity, we may murder ourselves by starving to death.

There are plenty of food crops out there, and plenty of diversity already. We're not solely dependent on one specific strain, and have contingencies for cases where a disease happens to wipe out a particular crop. It's not going to be like the famine in Ireland.






I'm not going to beat around the bushes here. I am quite biased on this matter, since I'm a researcher in the field of structural biology / biochemistry.

There has been no scientific evidence showing that genetically engineered food is harmful, since what we have been ingesting has been naturally occurring throughout the centuries (polyploid crops, for example). If such material did have any effects on our lifespans, it would probably occur far down the road, to the point where we're going to die of other causes first.

What some individuals are doing, is simply trying to amass hype by putting things in contexts that scare the average individual. For example, if I told you that I was going to flavor people's foods with a chemical that was used to make a gas that would poison enemy soldiers in World War I, and a metal that is used to make drain cleaner, I could probably start a bit of a panic amongst those who have no knowledge of chemistry. After all, sodium chloride (table salt) is made from those two deadly compounds.

Or, I could say that I'm going to make people ingest another substance, that when a lab rat is given 10 times the normal human dose, that it will most assuredly die. Of course, I forgot to mention that forcing a rat to drink 80 ounces of water in a single setting will kill it.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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On the contrary, genetic engineering has been a pretty hot topic in the world of science, and gene therapy looks to be a very promising field, much more so than any human embryonic stem cell field...

You sidestepped my statement. Genetic engineering is indeed both 'hot' and interesting and it also holds much promise. My point is still valid - we don't know what most of the genes in the typical DNA strand do.

The question is simply this, though, did this disease just suddenly pop up out of nowhere, or has it always been there, and that we simply became advanced enough to detect and diagnose the disease?

I have no idea. I suggest erring on the side of caution, and not simply assuming that 'it was always there'.

There are some folks out there who are griping about the increase in cancer rates, but they didn't realize, that the rates had actually been decreasing, and that the so-called increase was simply due to better detection and awareness.

I have made no such statement.

The DNA that prevents freezing damage to fish encodes for the production of natural anti-freeze compounds, that have no mutagenic effects, and so forth. It's not going to change the fact that it's still corn with just a few harmless compounds being expressed. After all, many of us eat fish, and haven't exactly died from such material.

Your assurance to the contrary, we simply do not know what the long-term effects might be. You may be right - or not. Such things do not have to be tested, do not have to be approved, and we as consumers don't have to be told about them. Typically, we're not.

You spoke of hybridization that has been going on for centuries, and you're right. But no cross-species hybrid ever inserted bacteria genes into a soybean plant. We are crossing barriers here that could never happen on their own. We don't know what the long-term effects of that might be.

In addition to this, such glycoproteins are expressed in very, very small quantities, orders of magnitude lower in terms of concentration, compared to using organic solvent-like compounds. This way, you don't have any disruption of the solvent conditions within an organism.

As I understand it, it doesn't take much in the way of quantity for a variety of pathogens to wreak utter havoc on a human body.

The DNA cannot affect other parts of the plant. All it does is code for the production of specific compounds, that are harmless to the plant, and the consumer.

The DNA affects all parts of the plant. A snippet of e.coli used to increase a corn plant's tolerance of 'Roundup' herbicide is in every cell of the plant, so it is in the seed we eat and the mulch we feed to cattle.

And the modification wasn't even to make the corn more edible, tastier, healthier, or anything else - it was so that farmers could dump a much more lethal dose of a strong herbicide on weeds in their farms without killing the corn plants. The corn plants will, of course, take up that herbicide like any plant would; it just won't kill it now. So we have THAT to contend with as well.

On another note, did you know that there are also various anti-freeze proteins that naturally occur in plants as well?

No doubt. Not sure that's relevant.

There are plenty of food crops out there, and plenty of diversity already. We're not solely dependent on one specific strain, and have contingencies for cases where a disease happens to wipe out a particular crop. It's not going to be like the famine in Ireland.

No, actually, we don't. I've read some of those arguments. I grew up in the cornfields of Illinois, and those eggheaded scientists don't know what they're talking about. If the corn crop should fail, the farmers can plant wheat. No, they can't. Their equipment alone costs half a million dollars or more - and it's for corn and soybeans. No wheat. And you can't simply plant soybeans in place of corn, they are meant to be rotated - one puts nitrogen into the soil and the other takes it out. Man, I read these "let 'em eat cake" statements by non-farmers and I get really mad - they're a pack of freaking idiots.

We are not are not in a monoculture situation yet - we seem to be heading that way, however. Monsanto would definitely like it.

I'm not going to beat around the bushes here. I am quite biased on this matter, since I'm a researcher in the field of structural biology / biochemistry.

I eat food. I would like the right to know if the food I am buying has been genetically engineered or not.

There has been no scientific evidence showing that genetically engineered food is harmful, since what we have been ingesting has been naturally occurring throughout the centuries (polyploid crops, for example).

No cross-breeds that cannot otherwise breed, however, such as plants crossed with bacteria. That changes the playing field completely. As you said, apples and oranges.

If such material did have any effects on our lifespans, it would probably occur far down the road, to the point where we're going to die of other causes first.

Oh, that's comforting.

What some individuals are doing, is simply trying to amass hype by putting things in contexts that scare the average individual. For example, if I told you that I was going to flavor people's foods with a chemical that was used to make a gas that would poison enemy soldiers in World War I, and a metal that is used to make drain cleaner, I could probably start a bit of a panic amongst those who have no knowledge of chemistry. After all, sodium chloride (table salt) is made from those two deadly compounds.

Sorry, I am not going into the box with the tinfoil hat brigade. I make no such claims. I am simply saying that there is insufficient accountability in this field - foods are modified at the gene-splicing level and put into the human food supply directly, with minimal testing and no oversight by the US government required, and no labeling or notification needed.

If it is so safe, how about putting it on the label? Consumers should have the right to decide if they want to buy it or not.

The companies involved in genetic engineering at the gene-splicing level are going well out of their way to stay under the radar. They don't talk about what they do, the only time the public finds out is when they patent it, they won't answer questions about what foods they've modified and how, they won't label their products voluntarily, and they generally scurry like cockroaches to hide from media or consumer attention.

If it is safe, they should not mind telling us what they've modified, how, and labeling it so we consumers can have a choice.

Just tell me what's wrong with that - nothing to do with safety claims, just consumer choice. Why can't we be informed?
 
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