GM Cassava to help Africa's poor.

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

  1. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    If you have a valid point, then post it, and attach a backing reference from a reputable body. If you do not want to do that, then do not expect me to waste my time.

    On testing of GM foods, here is a reputable description.

    It is necessary to establish substantial equivalence before a GM food can be approved. That is, it has to be considered as safe as an establsihed food. A GM apple would need to be seen as just as safe as a conventional apple. This 'substantial equivalence' concept is needed since some conventional foods (like potatoes) are not exactly 100% safe. So to require a GM food to be safer than its conventional counterpart would be unnecessary and unfair.

    To establish substantial equivalence, the following is done, and I quote.

    "Currently hazard identification tests routinely employed in the safety assessment for foods derived from genetically engineered plants typically include compositional analysis, toxicological and allergenicity testing (FAO/WHO, 2001). Nutritional assessment, though not a safety issue in itself is also carried out where appropriate to detect any significant unintended nutritional changes or intended nutritional modification that could affect the nutritional status of individuals consuming the food (FAO, 2008)."

    I am perfectly aware that anti-GM organisations and undoubtedly you as well, want GM foods to be tested to a point way beyond anything that has ever been done in the past, except for drugs. However, once substantial equivalence is demonstrated, the experts working for such organisations as the US FDA are happy. If the top experts accept it, I am not prepared to take the criticisms of non experts very seriously.
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Already done, couple of times - you had some objection to the hosting site, last time, and refused to even read it.

    Then you posted PR claims from the head of one of Monsanto's supported research institutes, as data.

    Now you are posting, apparently as data (?), bureaucracy-speak from one limited agency partially dealing with one small side issue not even directly relevant to the OP - which deals with Africa, not the US.
    You are quoting bureaucratic assurances from the Reagan era US governmental body that is, even as we speak, scrambling to cover its ass over allowing trans fats from industrial hydrogenation to be incorporated in the majority of the American diet.

    Not only do these "experts" lack the time, resources, and jurisdiction to even begin to handle such issues as African farmer dependency on Monsanto's manipulated crops,

    not only are these agencies in multigenerational bed with multinational companies fifty times their size and wealth,

    but it's only been a couple of decades since this stuff was even invented.

    Nobody has established the bounds of prudence and safe use of this stuff, because it is brand new. There are no suitably authoritative "experts" capable of assuring the safety of many of these GM manipulations, because there is no suitable body of established knowledge in the relevant fields.
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  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That's true of everything - aviation, cellphones, computers. No one has any boundaries or safe usage guidelines for air travelers who are exposed to dangerous levels of cosmic radiation. We have yet to see the multigenerational effects of those high doses of deadly radiation on humanity. Heck, we've only been flying at those altitudes for a few short decades.

    Should we ground all commercial aviation until we completely understand the risks?
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I think if Delta Airlines were attempting to set up a transportation system that required daily one hour flights at 30,000 feet for everyone - pregnant women, old people with glaucoma, everyone - if they wished to obtain food at ordinary prices and convenience, then that should be prevented until careful studies had been done and the safety of such exposure established.

    But you are talking of relatively trivial concerns, in matters comparatively well understood: Cell phone radiation does not reproduce itself and spread into other appliances, computers do not put out chip seeds that incorporate themselves into the landscape and make havoc, and we know this.

    If there were real concerns, with examples and obvious mechanisms, that your cell phone could launch the exponential reproduction of its radiation emission capability in any electrical circuitry it came near, would you support a general attitude of prudence in the face of, say, Verizon's demand for universal and ubiquitous cell phone distribution, including the economically enforced replacement of all printed media by cell phone apps and services supported by Verizon?

    Again we see the false comparison with the known and familiar, much smaller risks and far less complex situations with many decades of closely related experience, used to conceal the issues with GM tech. That is the most disturbing aspect of this: the people doing it seem blind to even the obvious possibilities of disaster in what they themselves are doing.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I agree. And if we had a system where everyone - pregnant women, old people with glaucoma, everyone - were force fed GMO's, then I would agree that we should take action against that.

    Computers do indeed propagate viruses, and those viruses do indeed incorporate themselves into other computers and cause havoc. As more and more of our society depends on computers that risk will increase. It's one thing to have a virus infect your computer game - quite another to have it infect the drive-by-wire system in your car (or in the aircraft you are flying in.)

    Ah, that's the key point. We are more comfortable with the familiar, even when we have decades of experience with both the technologies listed above and genetic engineering. A camper is horrified to hear that a fecal coliform bacteria has been detected in the watershed of a river he swims in - but then has two beers and gets in his car to drive home. A fecal coliform bacteria sounds disgusting and unfamiliar, whereas driving while not even legally drunk is something that's a lot more familiar (and palatable) to a lot of people.

    All technologies have risks. Good management of those risks are critical. As we learn more, we discover more potential risks - and learn more mitigation strategies - for all those technologies. That's a good thing overall. GMO's pose risks both to people (difficult to predict allergens etc) and to the environment (alteration of existing species, changes in the biome of an area) that must be managed carefully. They also do a lot of good for us, which is why they have been worth the risk.
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Why are you changing the subject? No one was talking about taking action against force. Delta would not be forcing anyone to fly in their planes, there.

    Monsanto and its fellow GM corporations are working hard to create a situation where everyone has to pay a lot of money and go to a lot of trouble to avoid their genetic manipulations - not just in food, but farming and fuel and clothing and recreation and essentially all aspects of ordinary life. In such a situation, requiring unusually careful attention to the risks of those manipulations is reasonable.

    And that is just one aspect of this issue.

    You just aren't going to deal with the issues, are you. OK.
    I haven't seen a realistic evaluation of the good that they do, greater than what could be done without them. But let's assume there is some, and that it is significant.

    Nevertheless if as you observe they must be managed carefully

    and if as I point out they aren't, and allowing them to be widely employed for corporate profit makes even marginal management of them impossible

    and furthermore that the risks are huge - far greater and more diverse than anything you have mentioned for comparison or dealt with in description,

    the question becomes what to do. We agree that the current policies are not reasonable (risks completely unmanaged, not even accurately estimated). But how to bring these reckless corporations under some kind of reasonable regulation?
  10. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member


    What do you think reasonable restrictions on GMO crops would look like then?


    As much as I think GMO's could, and eventually are going to disrupt something; I really think those of us with concerns won't be able to stop it until the point where it inevitably does have a serious consequence that punches through the collective craniorectal insertion on this matter.

    Also, worrying about it just adding needless extra adrenaline and cortisol to my already-overtaxed innards, and is self-deleterious.

    Basically, being the collective moron-a-thon we are...well, again, we're going to have to whap our heads into the wall before we do anything about it.

    Because that's the way we are.
  11. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    iceaura seems to have a propensity for comparing apples with oranges. The comparisons of GM foods with airlines, cell phones, Irish potato blight and the rest are really laughable. I think the only comparison so far with any validity is with BSE. And BSE was full diagnosed, and remedial measures in place within a few years of the situation beginning.

    If similar problems existed with GM crops or foods, then we have had 16 years to discover them, analyse them, scientifically describe them, and diagnose remedies. It has not happened. Iceaura is still whispering into the wind, and getting nowhere. That is simply because there is no data to imply realistically any serious problems.

    The whole anti-GM movement relies on lousy science and innuendo. If you do not have data, you invent it, or hint at undiscovered problems. Guys, this is a science forum. In science, we use data. Not imaginings.
  12. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    The thing of it is, there does not seem to be continued monitoring.

    What I'm saying is, there may be minor problems we're not yet aware of because we aren't looking...and those could give us clues to what aspects of GM might be genuine worries, and which ones are of no real concern.

    We have had time to do a goodly bit of research on the safety( or lack thereof ) of these crops...but nobody seems to have really done so.

    We're just surging ahead with widespread use. So this assures that if there are any drawbacks to the technology, we're not going to find out about it until it impacts us in a way that's obvious to everybody, not just the nonexistent researchers monitoring these crops.

    That's gambling with our ecology and food supply.

    Worse, we're using it as a one-shot approach that the crop pests will adapt to, meaning that this technology will only be a temporary fix, no matter how good it might have been.

    Am I against it completely? obviously not. Am I for just assuming it's safe though? no. I'd much rather see cautious, slow introduction of GM crops, keeping it in certain areas only, and making sure the genes weren't getting out into other plants-a big concern.

    I'd also much rather see sustainability become a focus, rather than keeping on with the stupidity of "We can make monoculture work! really we can!"

    No, monoculture croppage, despite the efficiency of scale involved, needs to be replaced with combination planting, rotation, and fallowing.
  13. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    Yep. I agree with Chimpkin on this. There is evidence of environmental damage and there is evidence of health problems. I've already drawn attention to the widespread deaths of helpful insects, poisionous pollen and interberrding of gm/non-gm strains. To pretend otherwise is just plain self-delusion.
  14. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    What is lacking, pretty much 100% on posts about the harm from GM, is references from reputable bodies to support those views. Iceaura got his knickers in a twist because I refused to respond point by point to one of his references, which came from a site written by people more influenced by superstition and dogma than by good science.

    If you feel GM causes harm, then please post appropriate references from reputable sites, and I will look at the information. You might even convince me, if the studies involved are good science.
  15. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    *Sigh* considering the link I went through to find the first one of these was the National Science Foundation website...I want to see how you discount it, because I believe you will.

    Now I can see a problem with that lab study-the caddis fly larvae in the wild aren't going to eat just crop debris...but the caddis fly is part of the base of the ecological chain-there's a whole host of small predators who eat them. You impact caddis fly populations, you impact small birds-natural pest control in their own right, recreational fishing-which a lot of people value here, and don't game birds eat caddis fly?. Impact the small birds and fish, and you're also hurting the raptors-so more rodents eating the crop.
    ..Unintended consequences...
  16. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    First a pro site talks about concerns
    Then eyewitness accounts of illness from GM tubers
    Then politicians on both sides cannot agree what is safe
    And a resource I found that will be useful for anyone with an interest.

    All in 5 minutes web-hunting. The anti and the pro stuff is just as easy to find. And i don't think Monsanto is any more honest than greenpeace and "loony" pro scientists are paid to be as disingenuous, evasive and as radicalised as the "Loony" anti lobby, who incidentally do actually have some good people in amongst them..

    Ahh. Grashopper, seek and it will be the answer that allows the question.. Ommm Ommm...:itold:
  17. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    It is not a case of discounting data, unless the data comes from a disreputable source. Here, it is a case of determining the importance and meaning of data.

    You presented a study that shows Bt protein in stream water next to where Bt GM corn is grown. OK, fine. I accept the data.

    I looked though for two vital extra pieces of data.
    1. How much Bt was in the water. All they said was 'detectable' amounts. Since 'detectable' is a sum determined mainly by how sensitive the detection instrumentation is, that means very little.
    2. How much is needed to cause harm. This was also not stated.
    As a result of the lack of information, that reference really conveys no meaningful conclusion.

    Your second reference was pretty meaningless also. Bt is a modification designed to kill insects. When fed to caddis fly larvae, they die. That just shows that the Bt is doing what it is designed to do.

    If you think killing insects is some kind of ecological crime, well that leads to certain conclusions. However, a big part of what farmers do is kill insects, by a wide range of measures. If killing insects is a crime, then farmers are criminals. Sorry, I have little sympathy with that view.
  18. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    I am not quite sure you understand what I mean by 'reputable'. Let me explain. Reputable in science, at its strictest, means peer reviewed papers in scientific journals with good reputations. I am not quite as strict as this, and I am happy to accept articles in science magazines like Scientific American, that have a reasonable record of accuracy. I am also happy with web sites from reputable universities, research institutes and government departments.

    However, myspace, totalpolitics, and biofortified hardly meet even this lower standard.

    Your first reference, actionbioscience is probably OK as a reference, under normal circumstances. However, the author of this article blows the actionbioscience paper out of the water. Arpad Puztai was sacked from his research job for incompetence, over a botched testing of GM potatoes. The anti-GM industry hailed him as a martyr, and have financially supported him ever since as a spokesman for the anti-GM view. He cannot be considered unbiased in any way whatever.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  19. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    You don't get how damage to the base of the ecological food chain is going to cause damage, disruptions, and possible problems all up the food chain?:wallbang:
    You just shrug and go, "Oh well?"

    Look, why don't we just keep using DDT? You do know why we quit using it, right? Mexico still uses it, it still works...

    No, the study's not conclusive. But it's enough data that it certainly ought to be looked into, not just shrugged off.

    What about wasps, spiders, ladybugs? if it kills those too then it's killing off beneficial predator species.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  20. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    I'm sorry if eye witness accounts don't cut it with you since they represent real people with real problems with the products - obviously the pro-lobby prefers to ignore them. Pretend it's not happening and pay them off out of court as usual..Are you really so naieve?
    Politicians are your representatives. If thier opinions don't matter as the peoples representatives, then who'se does? I suggest you change them to ones you like if you don't like what they're saying.
    I'll find more, better sources in time. I'm tired now. But you know I will, so why the charade? It's only wasting my time..
  21. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    The problem is that you have not demonstrated any damage to ecology. I see this all the time. An isolated study, which shows an interesting point and is extrapolated way beyond what its authors intended. Bt can kill caddis fly larvae. Accepted. It is interesting. How meaningful is that? Probably not very. Lots of things can kill caddis fly larvae, and many are already in the environment. How much harm do they do? Probably very variable - lots in some places and not at all in others. Does Bt corn cause a problem? Probably not.


    Eye witness reports are about the least reliable source of evidence you can find. I have been in at least three university lectures on exactly this topic, presented by researchers in psychology who test the human animal's ability to view something and report it accurately. The sad thing is that most people (probably including me) cannot.

    I am not naive. In the GM debate, there are several views. The anti-GM lobby has repeatedly shown it is prepared to "massage" data to get the 'facts' they want. The corporates, of course, cannot be trusted.

    That is why I insist on reputable sources, written by real scientists.
  22. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    Well sources such as this That show clear health risks are fine for me and the rest of the food industry. So far you have rejected every single piece of evidence on the basis that "you don't like it." Well these guys know a hell of a lot more about it than you, and they're very concerned. Try actually reading it, it is contributed to by the european federation of biotechnology proferssor mark van montague. There's nothing "Wacko" about him.
  23. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    Kinda weird. That reference is in favour of GM. Why are you posting it as a negative?

    I do not reject references 'because I do not like them.' If you or iceaura or someone else posts a good reference, I will treat it with the respect it deserves.

    I get kind of jaundiced, though, when I get references from web sites that are far more political than scientific. There is plenty of material on GM on proper scientific references such as Science or Nature or SciAm or New Scientist or Sciencedaily and so on. Try them.

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