GM Cassava to help Africa's poor.

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Skeptical, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    You also have to accept that some of the studies showing unwanted results are, in fact correct with a confidence level of 95%. Brushing them under the carpet, or claiming they are a nonsensical statistical anomaly doesn't alter that fact. In fact, statistics - and God knows, I've done enough of them, can never "prove" anything. They can only suggest something to a given degree of confidence.
    As "crackpots" will favour the results favouring thier stance, GMO supporters do exactly the same. As a result, statistics simply cannot be trusted on thier own.
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  3. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    I think you missed the point.
    If 20 studies are done, with 95% confidence limits, to see if A = B, then (assuming A does not, in fact, equal B), we will expect on average 19 results showing A not = B, and 1 showing A = B.

    The incorrect result is also, as an individual study, within 95% confidence limits, but is wrong.

    (It is not exactly 19 out of 20, of course. This is just a rough average over many, many studies.)

    If you do enough studies, then some will come up with wrong answers, even when these are done using rigorous and excellent science. All that is required then, is a politically motivated lobby group to cherry pick those studies with incorrect answers, and quote them. A lot of people who do not understand how junk science works will be convinced that black is white.

    To get to what is real, you need to take the average result of hundreds of studies - not individual studies - and ignore the outliers. This is what government organisations such as the FDA and the USEPA do. So the best way to find what is real is to access the summaries of those, and similar government and research organisations, that are not biased towards or against GM.

    Here in New Zealand, we had a Royal Commission into Genetic Modification. The commissioners listened to literally thousands of submissions, including every anti-GM zealot who popped out of the woodwork. The politically active lobby groups paid for all sorts of so-called experts to come from various other countries to present their views. In spite of the energy and anger of those organisations and their members, the final finding of the commission was that there was no reason to consider GM to be unacceptably hazardous, and the nation should continue to research GM, with appropriate safeguards.

    Personally, I agree with the commission's findings, and I agree with the results that come from good science. I strongly disagree with the pseudo-religious anti-GM groups, who make their conclusions first, and then look for outlier studies to quote to support the pre-formed conclusions.
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  5. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    Look Skeptic, I don't like bad science (or creative numbercrunching) any more than you do. But to keep calling the anti-lobby as zealots and suchlike doesn't help matters any. I'm quite convinced the pro-lobby is equally zealous in defence of the technology. No research is deliberately designed or programmed to find the wrong findings. If anomalies are found, there is usually a damn good reason why. In fact, these often highlight new and unexpectd phenomena, and usually lead to a heap of further research to find out what the hell is going on, and to see if the results are repeatable. Don't forget, I've worked at a number of commercial labs in my time, and I've seen how these things go.

    I've never defended any wierdo religeous groups, nor would I. I just want to see best practise throughout the industry. I don't want profit driven companies to take liberties with dependent people either who might not be able to stand up for themselves. Checks and balances. That's all I want.
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  7. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    That's fine.
    I am not a fan of corporations, and neither do I trust them. But strongly 'enthusiastic' quasi-political opposition groups are just as bad. Or just as dishonest.

    Take Greenpeace, which opposed Shell Oil dumping their 'used up' oil rig, the Brent Spar, at sea. Since they actually had no rational reason to oppose the dumping (and remember, they dumped their own damaged ship at sea), they invented a 'reason'. They said the rig contained waste oil and toxic chemicals. It did not, and they had not reason to believe it did. They just fabricated that idea.

    Corporations and enthusiastic opposition groups both should not be trusted. Both will "massage" the truth to get their message across. I would urge you, and iceaura, and anyone else interested in this area, to concentrate on reputable organisations for the truth. Universities, research institutes, government health and environmental bodies and so on. Neither corporates, or the quasi-political lobby groups can be trusted.
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    And everyone here agrees with that statement, as it stands.

    Now, what kinds of safeguards on "research" are appropriate when considering Monsanto's ambition to convert Africa, SE Asia, and Indonesia into an archipelago of plantations for its many disparate and widely varied GM manipulations, for private profit and with almost completely externalized risks?
    Good advice. Otherwise one ends up believing quite fantastic things, and incorporating wildly unrealistic suppositions into one's world view.

    Look at this, for example:
    And so forth and so on ad nauseum - gross ignorance, utter foolishness, complete naivete in the face of corporate operations and corporate agendas,

    continual repetition of corporate propaganda talking points - everything from ranting about Greenpeace to attempting the conflation of ordinary breeding and introduction of new crops with GM manipulations of all kinds and to all purposes.
  9. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Whether these are propaganda talking points or not are irrelevent. They happen to be correct. Introduction of novel foods throughout history has been careless and without suitable precautions. The GM period is the first time that serious safety studies have been carried out.

    Iceaura, you have used the Irish potato blight several times as an example of how careless introductions can cause harm. How much in the way of studies do you think were done then? How many studies are done now? Certainly hundreds for each introduction.

    Corporates will always do what is profitable for corporates - not because they are evil, but because their duty is to their shareholders and the bottom line value of their shares. Some constraint is needed, and this is supplied via government regulations. In the USA, you have the FDA and the EPA. Here in New Zealand, we have the Food Safety Authority and the Ministry for the Environment. Those guys impose rules which the corporates have to obey. These include testing regimens for novel foods and crops like GM.

    The end result of all of this is shown by the simple fact, that you have failed to acknowledge, that in 15 years, no significant harm to human health or the environment has ever been seen from GM foods and crops.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    They are deceptively phrased and/or factually wrong.

    They are sales pitches for a corporate agenda.
    How would anyone know whether they were seeing such significant harm of those kinds?

    We do know there's been a couple of very close calls on disaster that were prevented by luck (the incorporation of brazil nut genetics into soybeans headed for human consumption might easily have killed thousands of people directly). And we know that no one is competent even, let alone engaged, in monitoring for ecological and economic and political trouble at this level of complexity and fundamentally radical manipulation.
    It wasn't careless. It was far more carefully done than the current Monsanto operations.

    Hundreds of studies were done then (by everyone from local landlords to the British government), and more than fifty years of large scale field trials.
  11. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    The above about the introduction of the potato to Ireland.
    What a joke!

    Iceaura. If you don't know, do not fabricate.

    The truth is that no-one even knows who introduced the potato to Ireland or when.

    No scientific studies were done. The only 'studies' were from the fact that some people ate them and others did not.
  12. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    Skep, I'm with you on this one. It's tiring combatting entrenched (and factually incorrect) positions isn't it?
  13. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Thanks, Ultra.
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Those were perfectly good studies - very thorough, very solidly based in experiment and real world results, and often formally recorded. They covered the entire arena of potato growing - not just a couple of years of harvest measurements from carefully tended test plots, but actual growing conditions and handling circumstances and storage and marketing and the whole shebang, over more than a generation of time and weather and thousands of square miles of various soils, etc.

    That was done before the crop was accepted as a staple, with millions of people dependent upon it. That it was done informally, and by individual farmers or government agents rather than modern agribusiness concerns and their dependent research organizations, does not invalidate either the doing or the results obtained.

    That was far more thorough, and far more reliable, than the couple of year's worth of secretive and profit motivated shallow little "studies" of limited and narrow focus - all these GM manipulations get, at best. By the time the potato became the staple food source of Ireland, it had been checked out very, very thoroughly.
    He might try correcting the factually incorrect - rather than repeating his own utter bullshit, as quoted above.

    He might try representing the supposedly "entrenched position" accurately, and responding to it honestly, instead of deflecting with essentially dishonest irrelevancies such as Bt toxicity in food, etc.

    That seems to be difficult, for some reason.

    Instead, we get this kind of bizarrely obtuse irrelevancy plus the by now expected and predictable gratuitous insult:
    Does any part of my argument depend on - or even mention - who the fuck "introduced the potato to Ireland"? Does anyone here care who introduced the cassava root to Africa? Why is that comment on this thread, and what "fabrication" of mine does it even pretend to deal with?

    Here's Wiki, with the standard setup:
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011
  15. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    This is a science forum. Don't just spout opinion. post data.
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    It's called argument, not opinion.

    You have yet to post any relevant data, your assertions are false, and your arguments are comedy, so far.

    If you want to delete your own bogus and harebrained opinions posted so far, I have collected some of the silliest in a quote box above, for your convenience in assembly. You can start with your assertion that Monsanto has nothing to do with the introduction of GM cassava into Africa - that one is sort of central to the rat's nest of nonsense you are attempting to pass off as "science" here.
  17. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    I do not recall saying Monsanto had 'nothing to do with it', but if I did, I agree that was careless. However, the GM cassava for Africa is not a money making project for Monsanto or anyone else. It is financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is purely for the benefit of poor farmers in Africa.

    It is not, of course, the first time corporates have assisted programs for the poor. It is good PR for them, and we should all welcome such involvements. The development of 'golden rice' could not have happened if corporates had not agree to waive patent rights on a number of GM technologies.

    Sadly, the full benefit of golden rice has yet to be experienced, as Greenpeace and other anti-GM groups fight against its introduction, and thereby kill hundreds of thousands of children unnecessarily.
  18. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I quoted you, above and earlier, and responded originally with links and arguments showing what Monsanto's monetary interest was in this project - a considerable one. If they can sell this, use the charity aspect of their untested and poorly established superior cassava to get rid of the restrictions on their dealings with the agricultural economics of Uganda et al, they stand to make billions.

    The risks will be borne by the farmers and local communities. Maybe they will be lucky - no way to tell, at the moment: no studies, no investigation, just a few years of even research level development and that on another continent.

    That was data, in support of my argument. You responded with insult and unsupported opinion, which we see you continue to repeat - that Monsanto has no monetary interest, that no one will make money on this GM cassava, etc.

    This Greenpeace sounds like a really powerful, dangerous organization - they seem to be kicking corporate ass worldwide, in the service of their inexplicable agenda. But last I heard, the golden rice had a few problems in actual deployment - some practical difficulties. You run across anything like that? This kind of stuff:
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011
  19. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    Very interesting article you've linked there...although possibly more alarmist than justified...

    This in particular, while technically accurate if they did not test, is slanted writing...

    I wanted to see if there were other articles that mentioned similar problems...and I found this one:

    Right, I remember that now... so, modify for a desirable trait, get a surprise...

    And apparently, this is the oversight protocol:

    So...'wait for something big to go wrong' is the oversight protocol, essentially???

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Anyway, we didn't cover stability in my chapter on genetic modding in Biology...I have to finish up work now...but stability means that the inserted genes may or may not, depending on who's doing the talking, remain stable-meaning they could become something else. Considering that plant viral DNA is used to insert the genes in many cases...hmmm.
  20. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Re iceaura's reference.

    This was prepared by the Institute for Science in Society. This is one of those very political activist groups I am not allowed to call crackpots. Whatever name I give them, they are not to be trusted, since their political 'enthusiasm' is such that they will always "massage' their data.

    To give you an idea of the "woo" factor in iceaura's reference, here is a lecture by Dr. Mae Wan Ho, who is the leading 'brain' in this organisation.
    She believes that water molecules, by quantum magic, communicate through every cell of the body, and permit "precognition, telepathy, remote viewing, entanglement, and so on."
    Here is a quote from her lecture : "The quantum coherent organism is a macroscopic quantum being with an ever-evolving wave function spread throughout the entire universe, entangling the wave functions of other quantum beings." Such wisdom! Such bulldust.....

    Iceaura, if you want to be taken seriously, please use reputable references.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Neither, apparently, are you inspired to post coherent refutation of the simple, factual assertions I found summarized capably in that article.

    I have no idea whether the site hosting the article is woo woo or not - I don't follow them, and don't care. Deal with the article linked, as is, and eschew the argument from innuendo that has served you so poorly thus far.

    When you assert that a dozen or so years of sporadic and troubled and "issue" ridden experience with a couple of examples of actual field-deployed GM modified commercial agriculture, which is all we have to examine, is a demonstration of the "safety" of such modifications in general broadcast uncontrolled on a planetary industrial scale, you have no business calling anyone else a crackpot.

    You have been posting really bizarre, fantasy world assertions throughout this thread (I compiled a dozen or more, above, in a quote box - I am not allowed to call you a crackpot either, for some reason) and then linking to irrelevant quotes from the media reps of Monsanto's favorite research institutes while denying Monsanto's role in the main issue of the OP. Hello?
    Go with the "technically accurate", since the entire point I was making is that no, they do not test. And yes, it is impossible to assert "safety" without at least a pass at evaluating these factors.

    And when people attempt to flat out conceal them - actually hide them behind deceptive rhetoric and false comparisons and over-simplified descriptions - that needs to be called.

    For one thing, a lot of the factors they can't test, as of now - especially the ecological, sociopolitical, and long term medical ones. They have hardly begun to establish baselines or norms or operational descriptions for the larger environment, to compare with the effects of the modifications, in the ecological realm of possibilities. That alone would take a generation or more. Then there is ordinary economics, politics, medical and health stuff -

    we have thousands of years of experience with ordinary domestication and agriculture, which has been sporadically saving our ass all along here as we move the frontiers one step at a time with legitimate research and genuine advances. The GM stuff, some forms and innovations, jumps a chasm of ignorance into a huge pile of complexity- we have no experience, no rules of thumb, no foundation for solid intuition. It's flipping dangerous, especially politically and economically but also ecologically and medically, and if the people who are doing it don't realize that we need to put a leash on them.
  22. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    I do not bother with sites that are based on bulldust. So, no. I am not going to waste my time refuting point by point a whole lot of intellectual garbage. If you want me to debate with you, then quote from reputable sources.
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No one is asking you to bother with any "site".

    The source was an article, linked in full. I see nothing disreputable about it, aside from a tendency to rhetorical questions of an alarmist nature toward the end.

    If you prefer, I can post the entire thing here - your thread here is also based on bulldust, but that seems to be no barrier to your attention in general.

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